Partisan says get a grip, stop religious violence; Rod Dreher disagrees (?!)

August 3, 2008

Context means a lot.

At a religious service on a state college campus, a congregant violated etiquette at communion. Some reports noted that sect members bullied the congregant on the spot. The congregant fled the service, according to some reports. An advocacy group for the religious sect demanded apologies, legal action, and ostracism for the congregant. Threats of violence against the congregant started rolling in. The congregent was told he will be murdered.

A professor at a good, small midwestern state college used his pen to urge calm among the sect’s members. Threats of violence are foolish, he says. Calm down, he said.

The professor tried to put things in perspective: Threatening murder for a violation of communion etiquette is beyond the pale, one of the dangers of violent religious sects. Such actions are the opposite of American tradition.

But then the prof took a step farther: This religious sect is functioning on superstition, he said. He said the superstition can be exposed, and he would use his skeptical powers to expose the superstition, to show everyone that threats of death on such issues are unwise, unnecessary, and to be avoided.

Rod Dreher, who last week complained in his column about the lasting damage that bullies can do to kids in schools, weighed in on the communion/death threats matter with a column this week in the Dallas Morning News.

How did Dreher weigh in?

A. He calls for an end to bullying, and urges calm.
B. He says religious wars started this way, and he urges calm.
C. He calls for an end to bullying, but urges the professor to lay off debunking the religion.
D. He calls the professor hateful, and supports the side that issued the death threats.

See below the fold.

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World’s oldest joke, about flatulence

August 3, 2008

Oh, the life of the globe-trotting, Indiana Jones-style archaeologist!

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub brought you the world’s oldest animation.

MFB brought you the world’s oldest playable musical instrument.

And now, with a tip from Dr. Bumsted at Grassroots Science, the world’s oldest joke. It’s a one-liner about flatulence.

Academics have compiled a list of the most ancient gags and the oldest, harking back to 1900BC, is a Sumerian proverb from what is now southern Iraq.

“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap,” goes the joke.

Perhaps it loses something in the translation from Sumerian. (The oldest animation comes in at 5,200 years, the oldest joke at about 3,900 years — cartoons lacked punch lines for more than 1,000 years?)

“Jokes have varied over the years, with some taking the question and answer format while others are witty proverbs or riddles,” said Dr Paul McDonald, who led the study by academics at the University of Wolverhampton.

“What they all share, however, is a willingness to deal with taboos and a degree of rebellion.”

My students complain my jokes are too dry as it is. Should I try to work these into the presentations?

As today, world leaders make good foils for ancient humour, particularly Egyptian pharaohs, as shown by this 1600BC joke:

“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? Sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile – and urge the pharaoh to go fishing.”

One Roman jape dating back to the 1st Century BC details the Emperor Augustus touring his realm and coming across a man who bears a striking resemblance to himself.

Intrigued, he asks the man: “Was your mother at one time in service at the palace?”

The man replies: “No your highness, but my father was.”

Full press release on the World’s Ten Oldest Jokes, from the University of Wolverhampton and the full list of the jokes from Dave TV, below the fold.

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