Merry #$@@*% Not Even Christmas Yet Carols. Everybody singalong!

1Minion’sOpinion has already blogged on the stupidly early start to the playing of Christmas music in stores. Hell, around here, some stores already have big displays of Christmas crap for sale (Costco, you are jerks).

Stolen from Loltheist, the dirty rotten blasphemers.

Stolen from Loltheist, the dirty rotten blasphemers.

Well, that only goes to show, you can’t beat tradition. So, since its the holiday season, its time to start the war on Christmas. So let’s fight fire with fire.

Here are a couple of traditional Canadian carols sung by the Arrogant Worms. Sorry, no real video, just silly animations and cartoons.

And for all my international fan(s), here are the Worms with the Canadian national anthem (Alberta style. Apologies to Minion, out in Saskatchewan)

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Categories: Fun


Lolcat Awards, for RBL books relevant to my interests, Oct. 17.

The latest Review of Biblical Literature edition is up on the RBL blog (

As is the custom here at the Thinking Shop, I award three of the reviewed books the venerable LOLCAT AWARD for being relevant to my interests.

Yes, indeed, the three books that I most want my university to buy for its library gets a custom made lolcat!

What could be a higher honor?

(The awards go for the content of the book, not how good the reviewer thought it was). So, who are the lucky three this time around?

Billie Jean Collins
The Hittites and Their World
Reviewed by Dirk Paul Mielke

Description: Lost to history for millennia, the Hittites have regained their position among the great civilizations of the Late Bronze Age Near East, thanks to a century of archaeological discovery and philological investigation. The Hittites and Their World provides a concise, current, and engaging introduction to the history, society, and religion of this Anatolian empire, taking the reader from its beginnings in the period of the Assyrian Colonies in the nineteenth century B.C.E. to the eclipse of the Neo-Hittite cities at the end of the eighth century B.C.E. The numerous analogues with the biblical world featured throughout the volume together represent a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the varied and signicant contributions of Hittite studies to biblical interpretation.


Pekka Lindqvist
Sin at Sinai: Early Judaism Encounters Exodus 32
Reviewed by James N. Rhodes

Description: Sin at Sinai is a study in the interpretive life of the biblical drama played out around the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. In the course of the history of post-biblical Jewish reception the episode – which may not be the climax of the entire pentateuchal story, but due to its narrative setting is at the core of the Covenant theology – rises into a position of a central junction. It troubles authors and sages of post-biblical Judaism throughout the centuries: a controversial incident, a portrait of an archetypal rebellion, which compels the commentators to seek the truth beyond obscure words and turns of the intrigue. This study illuminates the questions of how early Judaism rewrites the story, how it reacts to it, and why it does so in the way it does. The book sheds new light over the controversies inside Judaism as well as between it and the gentile world. It also contributes to an increased understanding of the Jewish-Christian controversy during the first centuries.


Nicola Laneri, ed.
Performing Death: Social Analyses of Funerary Traditions in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean
Reviewed by Aren Maeir

Description: This volume represents a collection of contributions presented by the authors during the Second Annual University of Chicago Oriental Institute Seminar “Performing Death: Social Analyses of Funerary Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean,” held at the Oriental Institute, February 17-18, 2006. The principal aim of the two-day seminar was to interpret the social relevance resulting from the enactment of funerary rituals within the broad-reaching Mediterranean basin from prehistoric periods to the Roman age. Efforts were concentrated on creating a panel composed of scholars with diverse backgrounds — anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, art historians, and philologists — and the knowledge and expertise to enrich the discussion through the presentation of case-studies linked to both textual and archaeological evidences from the Mediterranean region. Fundamental to the successful realization of this research process was the active dialogue between scholars of different backgrounds. These communicative exchanges provided the opportunity to integrate different approaches and interpretations concerning the role played by the performance of ancient funerary rituals within a given society and, as a result, helped in defining a coherent outcome towards the interpretation of ancient communities’ behaviors.


The Runners Up:

Rein Bos
We Have Heard That God Is with You: Preaching the Old Testament
Reviewed by Jordan M. Scheetz

Brevard Childs
The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul: The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus
Reviewed by Paul E. Trainor

Desta Heliso
Pistis and the Righteous One: A Study of Romans 1:17 against the Background of Scripture and Second Temple Jewish Literature
Reviewed by Lars Kierspel

Jörg Lanckau
Der Herr der Träume: Eine Studie zur Funktion des Traumes in der Josefsgeschichte der Hebräischen Bibel
Reviewed by Bart J. Koet

Martin Mosse
The Three Gospels: New Testament History Introduced by the Synoptic Problem
Reviewed by Pheme Perkins

Charles Puskas
The Conclusion of Luke-Acts: The Significance of Acts 28:16-31
Reviewed by Deborah Thompson Prince

Huub van de Sandt and Jürgen Zangenberg, eds.
Matthew, James, and Didache: Three Related Documents in Their Jewish and Christian Settings
Reviewed by William Varner

Werner Schmidt
Das Buch Jeremia: Kapitel 1-20
Reviewed by Wilhelm J. Wessels

Herman J. Selderhuis
Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms
Reviewed by Randall McKinion

Andrew Sloane
At Home in a Strange Land: Using the Old Testament in Christian Ethics
Reviewed by Andrew Davies

Robert Stein
Reviewed by Joel F. Williams

Alan Thompson
One Lord, One People: The Unity of the Church in Acts in Its Literary Setting
Reviewed by Bobby Kelly

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Hutterites driven to apostasy?

The Lethbridge Herald reported yesterday (story isn’t online) that the legal fight over whether the members of the Wilson Hutterite colony near Lethbridge will be exempted from provincial requirements to have photographs on their driver’s licenses. It is apparently contrary to their interpretation of the second of the Bible’s Ten Commandments which forbids making graven images or worshiping such images. This is an particularly strict interpretation not shared by many other Hutterite colonies who do allow some photographs (although often not formally posed ones. There are a few different sects of the Hutterian Bretheren, some embrace technology like computers and what not, others do not.

It is a religious freedom issue and I can understand how the Wilson community could feel quite strongly about the issue, but I don’t think this particular issue is serious enough to warrant making exceptions in provincial regulations

Hutterites were granted an exemption for around 30 years but when Alberta brought in new, high tech licenses a few years ago to prevent identity theft, the Brethren lost their privilege to opt out. As I understand it, their new licenses would not actually display the photos, but the province would include the images in a common database.  The matter went to the courts, they won, but then there were provincial appeals.

I posted about the issue back on July 25 reporting that the Supreme Court of Canada decided in favour (4-3)of the province.

The Globe and Mail had a story about it in July:  “The goal of setting up a system that minimizes the risk of identity theft associated with driver’s licenses is a pressing and important public goal,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the majority. “The universal photo requirement is connected to this goal and does not limit freedom [of] religion more than required to achieve it.”

The Herald is reporting today that a decision came down on Thursday that the court will not allow the Hutterites to reargue. Greg Senda, the lawyer for the Wilson Colony, is quoted as saying:

“Now they’ll have to decide how they can continue to adhere to their faith”. “They now have to read down deep in their souls and decide what to do.”

While I understand their feelings, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for their cause at all. No one is asking them to “worship” the photos and the principle of one law for all should be regarded as at least as important as a principle as religious exemptions. The Hutterites are asking for special rules to get around what amounts to a trivial complaint and inconvenience.

People should not get what they want just because it is claimed to be part of their religion.

The issue is far bigger than their own concerns about photography and idolatry. Many people in Canada would love to have religious exemptions from all sorts of obligations. I normally don’t like slippery slope arguments but in this case the slide is pretty appropriate.

Should biology teachers be expected to teach evolution or sex education if it is in the curriculum? Of course. Their own religious convictions should not be allowed to interfere. Should the proper government officials be obligated to perform marriages for same-sex couples if such unions are lawful? Absolutely. It should not but up to the couple to find a Justice of the Peace who would be willing. In the delivering of government services, there should be little if any allowance for the individual provider to refuse to perform her or his duty on on religious grounds. In any case, the regulation in question is not as egregious as demanding that pacifists crew artillery pieces for the army.

A groovin' image

A groovin' image

By the same token, people should expect that it is not a  light thing to exempt some people from the obligations others have to live under. It is unfair to expect the government to provide special allowances  for one group who do not want to demonstrate  in the same way everyone else does that they have the proper qualification to lawfully drive on public roads.

Part of the idea of photo I.D. is to make sure the person carrying the license  while driving is the person named on the darn thing and that there is protection against identity theft. I’m sorry, but photo I.D., databases, microchips in credit cards are just the way the world is. It is a bigger issue than the Alberta government or even the Canadian government.

Talk about this ruining their religious way of life is just rhetorical hype. It is not as if the Hutterites are being orced to photograph themselves regularly or are being banned from praying, or forbidden to wear their distinctive clothes in public. One hyped up Christian news service even claimed in their headline, Hutterites Ordered to ‘Commit Idolatry’.  No one is ordering them to do a damn thing, except to get their photos taken if they want to drive on the public roads legally.

Similarly, I think bans on burkas in public should be resisted quite strongly. People should have the right to dress as they please. Yet, I would not extend that right to exclude people from walking into banks or other secure facilities when their faces are covered, or being photographed for passports or driver’s licenses with their faces covered.

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I got a very interesting comment on my facebook account this morning. A former student who is now travelling in Yemen says the Thinking Shop is blocked!

Yemen has decided that your website is too risky, and has thus blocked all access to it, while sites like is still available. Uhhhggg

COOL! Censorship. Gotta love it!


I think it might have been the Muhammad cartoons I posted for blasphemy day.

From Europe News

From Europe News


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Non-Religious Biblical Studies Group




I raised the issue a while back in this post, and got a small, but enthusiastic response. I was contacted this morning about plans for a meeting in New Orleans. If you are interested, feel free to come along!

Dear colleagues,

As the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) approaches, some of us have discussed the possibility of forming a group that would approach the Bible from a strictly non-religious viewpoint. Although no single mission or purpose has been established yet, some our objectives could be to:

1. Promote scholarship of the Bible from a non-religious viewpoint.

2. Produce scholarly critiques of religionist biblical scholarship, and how it functions to maintain the authority and value of the Bible in the modern world.

3. Form a counterweight to the Evangelical Theological Society, and perhaps engage in cordial dialogue and debate with its members through written formats and through joint sessions.

You are free to propose any alternatives, or add your own, to our proposals at that meeting. We can send out a more specific agenda about a week before the meeting begins.

If you are interested in discussing the viability of such a group within the SBL, or alongside the SBL, please join us on Friday, November 20, 2009 at 6:30pm at the Marriott Hotel. Feel free to contact us at the e-mail addresses below.


Hector Avalos (

Jim Linville (

Ken Pulliam (

John W. Loftus (




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Sheffield University saved from total irrelevance.

Ok, that was a bit of an exaggeration…

The news has been going around for a few days. Sheffield University has stepped back from the brink of a bad decision and the world renowned Department of Biblical Studies will remain. I’m so happy I’m breaking out in lolcats!

There were complaints that the decision was being rushed through without adequate consultation or study of the implications, let alone informing those concerned in a timely way and even backtracking on plans to fill vacant faculty positions (this seems typical of how universities make decisions). There was a huge outpouring of support for the department with scholars from around the world writing letters to the chancellor (including me).

Most folk in the Bible blogging community know how important Sheffield is, and have been celebrating its re-won future since, I think Thursday.

For those readers of mine from outside of Biblical Studies, here is why we should all breath a sigh of relief.

It is one of the most innovative and creative departments in the world and its faculty have been at the forefront of many of the major developments in the secular, historical and literary study of the Bible for many decades. To abolish it would be to squander a legacy that made Sheffield U. an international player in religious and cultural studies. Despite  being a relatively young university (at least in European terms), its reputation in these fields has made it the equal and superior to many older institutions. Universities really benefit from depth and history, although ultimately, it is the people who are there at the moment who determine the quality of education. Still, to squander a growing legacy that inspired not only the students but the faculty themselves seems unwise.

Sheffield was well  on its way in those areas with biblical studies. To cut it would have been a serious miscalculation, putting short term financial concerns ahead of a hard-won legacy and potential for the future. As I wrote somewhere else, “Penny wise and profoundly foolish”.

Anyway, this is the email I got today from the Society for the Study of the Old Testament:

Dear SOTS member,

Greetings again from Viv Rowett, membership secretary. I am happy to pass on the following from Prof. Cheryl Exum of Sheffield University:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

On behalf of staff and students in the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, I thank all of you who wrote to the Vice-Chancellor on our behalf. There was such a volume of mail that I haven’t been able to respond personally to each of you who sent me a copy of your letter to the Vice-Chancellor. I do plan to answer individually all the messages that were copied to me, but in the meantime I wanted to send a word of heartfelt thanks. Your letters were extraordinary, and I was deeply moved by the level of support.

The Department of Biblical Studies is no longer under review and the proposal that it should be reconfigured as a Postgraduate Centre has been withdrawn. The Vice-Chancellor has asked the Faculty of Arts and Humanities to consider a short, medium and longer term plan for the Department, and a decision has now been taken that the Department will recruit undergraduates for the Biblical Studies degree in 2010. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities will work closely with colleagues to ensure that students are appropriately supported, including through the recruitment of additional staff.

We could not have achieved this without your support and the commitment and energy of our students, undergraduate and graduate. We at Sheffield cannot thank you enough.

With every good wish,

J Cheryl Exum
Professor of Biblical Studies
Director, Sheffield Phoenix Press
Department of Biblical Studies

I do like to think that the huge bulk of mail sent had something to do with the rethinking. But even if not, Sheffield has saved a wonderful program that maintains high academic and teaching standards.

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God apparently still hates fags. Is now OK with tattoos and idiots.

It’s a sign of the times…

Stolen from Portland Independent Media, well, the said "Spread the Word"!

Stolen from Portland Independent Media, well, the said "Spread the Word"!

I saw an interesting thing over at Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist Blog, who got it from The Atlantic and I thought I would pass it on here. Not only the atheists in my rapidly expanding readership might be interested but also some of the Biblical Studies folks who frequent this wee corner of the insipidnet.

It really isn’t a funny story but there is something (well, someone) to laugh at despite that.


The story concerns a violent attack on a homosexual man in Queens. The video provided shows the savage beating, the damn near killed the poor fellow. Two suspects are now in custody and are facing hate crime charges. A friend of the accused was interviewed by the TV crew and this should go down as one of  the most absurd FAIL interviews ever. The jerk defended the accused saying the victim more or less had it coming to him. He also showed off his tattoo:

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic, Daily Dish

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic, Daily Dish

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind. it is abomination.

As Mehta points out, this goofball is ok with biblical homophobia but seems unaware that the Leviticus 19:28 bans tattoos!

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.″

Ah, the selectivity of it all! Mehta rightly points out that this is a glaring example of how many other people professing to follow divine law merely cut and paste (or cut and tattoo) the bits they like and ignore all else. My bet is is that this Queenite also eats pork.

I wonder how the tattoo-twit would like Mehta’s accusation that he was “cherry-picking” Bible verses, though! The guy even said that he had been beat up and didn’t cry to the media. Did he “turn the other cheek”?

archieYa gotta do what ya gotta do…

It never ceases to amaze me how often people wear their hatred on the sleeves. To print it on one’s arm, however, is pretty over the top. Are people really that threatened by homosexuality?  Did gay marriage really kill the dinosaurs?


Oh yeah, that reminds me, there was another story I saw today on the Huffington Post. A Louisiana Justice of the Peace refuses to marry inter-racial couples because he says it would not be fair to any children of such unions, which, in his opinion, do not last long. Even so, Justice Jerkwad of the Peace Bardwell says he isn’t a racist. Yeah right.

At least he didn’t use the Bible to prove it. No one could do that, could they?

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Holy Edible Apples, Primordialman! Far Left Side ROCKS! Go there, you wont regret it! Go there, you won't regret it!

The Far Left Side is now my all time favourite internet cartoon. This one was posted a few days go.

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Meme, me Ms. von Marx! Tagged, I’m it.

A few days ago Missives from Marx tagged me in a post called You Would Never Guess Meme. I’m it. Apparently. MfM wrote:

I’m starting a new meme: you have to tell me something unusual about yourself that I probably wouldn’t guess about you.

Here’s my unusual thing: you probably wouldn’t guess it, but one of the philosophers I’ve learned the most from was G.W.F. Hegel. Reading Hegel was like reaching my own “Copernican Revolution” in philosophical thinking, as Kant put it.

Now, I’m not one for Copernican revolutions. If they want to have a revolution in Copernica, well, that’s fine by me, the government there probably are a bunch of jerks. But why should I get involved? And if I Kant afford the advertised price I won’t Hegel about it. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

Oh well, what is unusual about me? I think I’m pretty ordinary.

St MarkDr. Jim, being a perfectly ordinary St. Mark of Emphasis.

Ok, I admit I’m a little strange, but in ordinary ways. I have a Monkees CD.

What could compare to Missives’ philosophical admissions (confessions?)?

Well, despite my awful liberal politics and what not, I like military and vintage airplanes. I really wish I could get my pilot’s licence. Alas, my eyes are so bad now I really hate even driving…

It all started when I was a kid living up at Lesser Slave Lake in northern Alberta in the 1960s. My best friend’s dad had a charter air service ferrying people to and fro from the various oil and forestry installations, so I spent a lot of time out at the airport. Ended up getting a few rides, too!

One summer, the forest fires were quite bad and a lot of fire fighting aircraft were brought in, and it was an impressive site. In those days, there were not built for the purpose water bombers. The planes were ex-WW 2 military aircraft converted for the purpose.

They were everything a young boy could like, BIG, LOUD and powerful, with an impressive war record too.

There were three kinds I remember:

From Canadian Military Heritage (DND CT 825)

From Canadian Military Heritage (DND CT 825)

“Grumman Avenger AS Mk. 3M, 881 Anti-Submarine Squadron, HMCS Magnificent, Royal Canadian Navy, 1950-1952.”

The Avenger was built in WW 2 and used by the U.S. Navy and other allied forces for torpedo attacks on ships and for bombing. For a single engine airplane they are huge, and dwarfed the little light planes out at the airport.

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

A Consolidated Catalina flying boat. According to the Wikipedia caption, this one was made in 1944 under licence in Canada and served with the Royal Canadian Air Force (that called the type the “Canso”). These are gawky looking things, and are simply glorious. Because they could land on lakes and take up water that way, they were probably the most effective of the planes used in the campaign against the fires that summer.

And now, my favourite:



The famous picture of some B 25 Mitchells on the deck of the USS Hornet, just before the first US attack on Tokyo in 1942.

A few of these North American B25 Mitchells operated out of Slave Lake that summer, and I thought they looked the coolest.

I spent a lot of my youth sticking together model airplanes, and I love going to aviation museums. Oddly, though, I don’t like airshows. The damn announcers get on my nerves. I can’t stand people on horrible sound systems wittering on and on (sports commentators are worse), SHUT UP AND JUST GET ON WITH THE SHOW!

Anyway, I haven’t been to an airshow in years. There is one in Lethbridge every few years, but it never seems to fall on a weekend I am free or willing to put up with the heat (August in Lethbridge can be pretty hot), or the damn announcers. When I go, it rains.

I’ve been to Duxford England and Biggen Hill and seen the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight a few times. Here are a few snaps of the Lethbridge airshow from 2005, the last one I went to with a camera. Most of the pictures I took were of black, blurred dots streaking across the sky… I’m a crap photographer.

All Sorts 006

I should know what sort of plane this is, but I don’t. Sue me.

All Sorts 002

My brother Al on the loading ramp of a C-5 Galaxy or (probably) a C-17 cargo plane of the US Air Force. The guy in green is heroically getting ready to bail out lest the plane gets overloaded when Al gets on board.

All Sorts 032

Meet the Fokkers, well, one of them.

All Sorts 029

You’ve got mail.

All Sorts 008Boeing B 17, Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey”. Probably wasn’t so polished and shiny during the war.

All Sorts 012 Wings come in handy when it is spitting rain.

The only photo I’ve ever taken that I really like:

All Sorts 011The colours just seem to be nice…

Anyway, I’m a war-mongering airplane freak peacenik.

So, who to tag in return? MfM tagged 5, so I should too. Do I have 5 friends? No, but what the hell?

It will have to be Steve Wiggins at Sects and Violence,  Ian at Terahertz, John Loftus at Debunking Christianity, Mark Goodacre at the NT Blog and Qoheleth at The Bible Critic.

So, g’wan, tell me something (true) about yourself that I probably wouldn’t guess in a a bazillion years. I won’t phone the police, I promise!

Answering the Creationists: What it would take for me to believe in God

My rather satirical and opinionated series “Know Yer Nuts” has taken aim at three Alberta creationist organizations. Needless to say, they didn’t like it much. In the past few days, two of the people behind these enterprises each asked me in comments to different posts what it would take for me to believe in God. On reflection, it is a serious enough question, and so I thought I would give it a serious answer. I hope neither think I’m being evasive here in this rambling post.

Vance Nelson of the Creation Truth Ministries put it like this: “Quick question…What evidence would you be willing to accept for God’s existence?”

Larry Dye of the Bible Discovery Centre writes:

“I was wondering if there was anything that would convince you that God exists. Even though you are an athiest, with some agnostic leanings, is there anything that would convince you that God is real.

I  find that is not a question that I can answer directly.

“It all depends.”