...And So I Said: #2
Nuns Should Fly!


...from 'Wash Me'

Unlike the previous, far more impassioned installment, today's And So I Go is submitted merely for possible amusement. If you have a Calvin or Hobbes hidden deep inside you, you'll understand. This brief feedback comes from another Miracle Whip article, which told the tale of a car so in need of a wash, the owner such a slob, that a filthy face could be seen in the grime - hopefully totally embarrassed - by certain people at certain angles, etc., etc. Of course, no one thinks it's the face of Grizzly Adams or your dead Uncle Roscoe - it has to be Jesus! Who else makes cameos in dirt? (I'll say one thing about the Judeo-Christian deities - toilet walls, freeway underpasses, pretzels, sandwiches - they classy! But it was imagining a giant Virgin Mary battling the Statue of Liberty in Times Square that got my juices flowing - Lib's torch shooting jets of fire while Mary does gravity-can-go-fuck-itself Crouching Tiger moves across skyscrapers....ahhh. It's thoughts like that that keep me from getting any work done. Rodan vs. Mary? That will require several illustrations? Gamera vs. Mary? Giant fiery turtle flying through the air? That takes me through lunch today. The Virgin of Monster Island?!? OMG! MECHAVIRGIN vs. MARYZILLA?!?! Oh, I'm so there. My day is set! If she did just one of these things - fought just one giant monster - I'd be so Christian I'd burn myself at the stake. I might even convert for a single flying nun! Alas, mythologies being what they are, myths, that'll never happen.

Mathyoo replied...
If there were a Jesus, and he wanted to remind people to strengthen their faith, wouldn't he just appear on the Today Show or Letterman, or something? I doubt he'd appear on some random guys tailgate. To paraphrase Denis Leary: "He has a bigger budget than that."

And So I Said...
You'd think.

These 'Christian' 'miracles' are like something Ed Wood would do. Bad special effects you can do better at home. Jesus should be the Spielberg of miracles! Nuns should fly! The pope should shoot lasers out of his eyes! Kali statues should patrol the streets! Tom Cruise should rule Earth! But no.

And most of these OMG-There's-Jesus '
miracles' happen because something got really dirty or damaged - A] Unimpressive, B] Tacky, and C] Suggests Christians should really wash more - or they 'see' Jesus in a tree trunk - A] When a cloud looks like an elephant in a chef's hat, it's not a miracle proving the existance of elephant chefs, B] From another perspective, it looks like something else or nothing at all C] because it's a shape, one of an infinite number of shapes all around you, most of which will look like something else.

And the '
crying Mary' statues! Getting old! Enough! Have her on Regis! Or giant-size in Time's Square on live TV, causing a stunned Dick Clark a terminal heart attack, and then she raises him from the dead! On Live TV! Or wrestling the Statue of Liberty! Mary vs. The Sphinx! As stunned Katie Couric wets herself and the pope explodes in butterflies! Live! Have her show up at everyone's front door with a pizza and then turn something into a giant kitten that speak French! Or into a walnut or something. Anything. "See?" she'd say.

That's a miracle.

Ride of the Valkyrie: 'Attack formation Leviticus VI, on my mark...'


Where There's Smoke, There's Fire, Brimstone: Most Churches IRS Investigates Violate Law

IRS: Charities Overstepping into Politics

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - IRS exams found nearly three out of four churches, charities and other civic groups suspected of having violated restraints on political activity in the 2004 election actually did so, the agency said Friday.

Most of the examinations that have concluded found only a single, isolated incidence of prohibited campaign activity. In three cases, however, the IRS uncovered violations egregious enough to recommend revoking the groups' tax-exempt status.

The vast majority of charities and churches followed the law, but the examinations found a "disturbing" amount of political intervention in the 2004 elections, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said.

"It's disturbing not because it's pervasive, but because it has the potential to really grow and have a very bad impact on the integrity of charities and churches," Everson said in an interview.

The tax agency looked only at charities, churches, and other tax-exempt organizations referred to the IRS for potentially violating laws that bar them from participating in or intervening in elections, including advocating for or against any candidate.

Those referred to the IRS represent a tiny fraction of more than 1 million tax-exempt organizations organized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax law.

The IRS examined 110 organizations referred to the tax agency for potentially violations, and 28 cases remain open.

Among the 82 closed cases, the IRS found prohibited politicking and sent a written warning to 55 organizations and assessed a penalty tax against one group. Those organizations included 37 churches and 19 other organizations.

In the three additional cases in which the IRS recommended revoking tax-exempt status, none of the organizations were churches. The agency did not identify the three.

The IRS found tax violations unrelated to politics in five cases. Examinations of the 18 remaining groups did not turn up any wrongdoing.

In some cases, the IRS found flagrant violations of the law. In others, charities did not understand their obligations. Many activities fall into an ambiguous area that requires closer scrutiny of context and timing.

"There are very few places where you can draw bright lines," Everson said. "People have to think about this."

Among the prohibited activities, the examiners found that charities and churches had distributed printed material supporting a preferred candidate and assembled improper voter guides or candidate ratings.

Religious leaders had used the pulpit to endorse or oppose a particular candidate, and some groups had shown preferential treatment to candidates by letting them speak at functions. Other charities and churches had made improper cash contributions to a candidate's political campaign.

The IRS said the cases covered "the full spectrum" of political viewpoints.

The tax agency set up a task force in 2004 to review allegations of improper political activity. The special procedures, revealed shortly before the election, drew criticism from some tax-exempt groups.

An audit by Treasury Department inspectors found nothing inappropriate in the examinations, but it faulted the IRS for creating the appearance of political motivations by waiting too long to announce the project and contact organizations.

The IRS said it plans to continue using the task force, and its speedier procedures, for this year's election and in the future. It also released detailed guidance to charities and churches about the prohibitions against political activities.

'...Your Lawfully Wedded Husband?'
'I Do'
'And Do You Take This Woman To Be Your Lawfully Wedded Wife?'

Girl Weds Dog To Ward Off 'Evil Eye'

from The Associated Press

NEW DELHI - A 7-year-old girl wed a stray dog as part of a ritual to ward off the "evil eye" on her and her family in eastern India, a news agency reported Wednesday.

Shivam Munda's upper teeth appeared before her lower teeth — considered a bad omen by members of the Santhal ethnic group to which she belongs, the Press Trust of India said in a report from Dhanbad, a coal mining town.

Kundan Munda, a coal mine worker, said his daughter married the dog only to "remove the evil eye," a superstitious belief that some misfortune could befall her and the family, and that she would be free to marry a man later.

Friends and family participated in three days of traditional ceremonies and festivities that are part of a Santhal tribal marriage, Munda said, according to the report.

As practicing faunogamist David Hasslehoff would tell you, you don't need gay marriage to wed hot, sexy animals. Just the right religion and a valid passport.


And I See a Black Lady in My Syrup Bottle - Could There Be a Connection?!


Local Man Says Jesus Appeared In His Pancake

from NewsNet5

OHIO - A Beachwood man has found religion in his pancakes, NewsChannel5 reported.

Mike Thompson was making pancakes last weekend for his family when the pattern on one of the flapjacks caught his eye.

Upon closer inspection, he saw what he thought was the face of Jesus. He showed his wife and she agreed.

That's They keep telling me to kill...when the couple decided to do what anyone who discovers such an edible artifact does these days - they put it up for sale on eBay.

"I think the grilled cheese sandwich sold for $28,000 and the pierogi sold for a couple of thousand, so I figured start it off on eBay for $500. It's a pretty good deal," Thompson said.

Pro-Lifers to Catholics: Facilitate What You Preach

Anti-Abortion Group Backs Fired Pregnant Teacher

from ABCNews

When Michelle McCusker, 26, got a job teaching preschool at St. Rose of Lima, a Catholic school in Queens, N.Y., she fulfilled a longtime dream.

"That's what I want to do, to be able to give something to children, it's amazing," McCusker said.

But then McCukser — who is Catholic and single — became pregnant. She decided to keep the baby and informed the school early in the school year.

The school — backed by the Brooklyn Diocese, which oversees Catholic churches in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens — fired her.

"The school requires its teachers to convey the faith, to convey the gospel values and Christian traditions of the Catholic faith," said Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn. The teachers' handbook clearly states that teachers "must convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions," De Rosa added, and by having out-of-wedlock sex McCusker was not conveying the teachings of the faith.

McCusker was devastated to think that she'd have to leave the school, especially mid-year.

"Just knowing that I wouldn't be able to see my kids and finish out the school year with them," McCusker said in an interview with ABC News, while crying. "It really...and it was my first teaching job so, and they took it away."

McCusker and the New York Civil Liberties Union are suing the school, claiming gender discrimination.

"Only women employees are subject to being fired for being pregnant or having engaged in non-marital sex," said Donna Lieberman, an attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union. "They don't apply that policy to male employees. That's gender discrimination. It has nothing to do with religion."

In a similar case in 2003, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the charity had violated federal anti-discrimination laws.

But what's unique about the case at St. Rose of Lima is that an anti-abortion group has sided with McCusker, claiming that the Catholic school was essentially encouraging abortion.

Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, talks about McCusker at anti-abortion rallies, saying taking away a woman's job and income for being pregnant is anti-life.

"If you take away the resources, you could unintentionally drive a woman to having an abortion," said Foster.

A 2004 survey by the Guttmacher Institute indicated that 73 percent of those seeking an abortion were doing so because they could not afford to have a baby.

"It is not pro-life to take away the resources and support that women need and deserve to bring children into this world," Foster says. "The appropriate response for the employer when they found out she was pregnant, is to say, 'Congratulations,' and, 'How can I help?'"

The legal issues are tricky in this case — religious organizations have wide latitude in employment decisions based on religious beliefs and behavior.

Last week in Hoover, Ala., a federal judge upheld the firing of another unwed pregnant teacher from a fundamentalist Christian school. The school argued that Tessana Lewis was not fired because she was pregnant but because she had sex outside of marriage. Jurors had awarded in Lewis's favor, but U.S. District Judge William Acker Jr. found that because the Covenant Classical School of Trace Crossing is a religious institution, it can make hiring and firing decisions based on its beliefs.

This Week in Edible Miracles - 2005:
Holy Honey-Mustard Afterbirth!

Internet Casino Buys Virgin Mary Snack for $10,600

from The Associated Press

An Antigua-based Internet casino that previously bought a partially eaten grilled cheese sandwich has won in the bidding for an intact pretzel that the St. Paul, Neb., sellers believe is shaped like the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

Golden Palace Casino swooped in about 30 seconds before bidding closed March 9, 2005 on the Internet auction site eBay.

The winning bid: $10,600.

"What it says to me is that this pretzel is so much more than an edible item. We only paid $3.29 for the whole bag," Machelle Naylor said.

Golden Palace spokesman Jon Wolf said the casino acquires such items for a variety of reasons: "We think the notoriety is worth it. We bought the Virgin Mary grilled cheese, we found that a lot of people are interested in seeing it for themselves to see if it (the Virgin Mary) is really there. We've taken the grilled cheese around the country, we hope to do the same with the pretzel."

Naylor's 12-year-old daughter, Crysta, said she discovered the Rold Gold honey-mustard-flavored pretzel while snacking watching television with her family on February 27.
"I just thought it was a weird-shaped pretzel," said Crysta. "At first I thought it was an 'S.' I showed it to my mom,
she told me it looked like Mary the baby Jesus."
Machelle Naylor said she her husband, Kent, believe the experience has been beneficial to their daughter because it motivated her to study the Bible. The only drawbacks were the occasional nasty e-mails accusing the Naylors of being kooks or greedy opportunists.

Mmmmm...baby Jesussss...

The Stepford Alien Bride Formerly Known As Katie Holmes

Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes Devoted to Scientology

from GameShout

Tom Cruise's pregnant fiancée Katie Holmes is reportedly spending hours a day worshipping at the Scientology church in Hollywood

The stunning actress is said to be visiting the centre, in Hollywood, up to three times a day to learn more about the bizarre sci-fi cult.

During her visits, Katie - who converted from Catholicism to Scientology after falling for the Hollywood star - is allegedly told by leading Scientology members she is constantly surrounded by the "traumatised spirits of aliens".

The brunette beauty has allegedly withdrawn from friends and family as she devotes more and more of her time to the "religion."

A friend is quoted in Britain's The Sun newspaper as saying: "Her family are becoming very worried. They don't know what she is being taught.

"She is becoming more distant and seems to worship Scientology as much as she worships Tom."

Judas Priest's 'What Would Jesus Steal?'

Priest Accused of Stealing from Collection Plate Back in Court

from NY1

New York - A priest is scheduled to be arraigned in Queens Friday on charges he stole thousands of dollars from a church.

John Johnston, 64, is accused of stealing about $60-$100 a week from the collection plate of a church in Bethpage, Long Island, where he worked intermittently for over two decades, adding up to a total of $80,000.

Police investigating harassing phone calls made to Brooklyn's Bishop Loughlin High School arrested Johnston at his apartment in Jackson Heights on Tuesday, after they found a handgun with an expired license and thousands of dollars of allegedly stolen cash.

Police also discovered what they described as Nazi paraphernalia, including helmets and daggers. Johnston had three handguns in his apartment, all purchased legally, but the permit for one of them had expired, police said.

Officials at Bishop Loughlin complained to police that Johnston had been making "personally offensive" phone calls to the school switchboard since August. Johnston had a longstanding disagreement with the Order of Christian Brothers, who teaches at the school, according to law enforcement sources.

Johnston is being held on $1,000 bail and will be back in Brooklyn court Oct. 14. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

NJ Priest Pleads Guilty to Parish Theft

from 1010 Wins

TRENTON, N.J. - A retired priest who ran St. Hedwig's Roman Catholic Church in Trenton for 18 years pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing $140,000 from his parish.

Rev. Henry Felix Schabowski, 71, pleaded guilty in state Superior Court to one count of third-degree theft by unlawful taking. The plea agreement indicates he will be sentenced to noncustodial probation on April 7.

Mercer County prosecutors said Schabowski wrote checks on the church's account to pay for his credit card bills, travel expenses to Poland and Mexico, dental work, auto repairs, and taxes on his Middlesex County home. Prosecutors said he has already repaid the money he stole.

The Pawning of the Christ Review: Kinda Groovy, Kinda Jim Morrison

Conn. Man Sells Holy Hardware on eBay

from The Associated Press

MANCHESTER, Conn. - Thomas Haley was unloading supplies for his job at Hardy's Hardware when he said something odd caught his eye: the face of Jesus Christ on a piece of sheet metal.

Now, Haley and a co-worker are hawking the holy hardware on eBay, hoping potential bidders will agree that the blurry oil stain on the sheet metal does, indeed, resemble Jesus.

"I mean, it hasn't done anything miraculous as of yet, but seeing it is kind of groovy," said Haley, 23. "Just seeing it brightens people's day."

Haley said he was unloading a supply truck two weeks ago at the Manchester hardware store when he turned a corner and was awe-struck by the holy likeness gazing back at him from the $15.49 piece of sheet metal.

Since then, Haley and 18-year-old co-worker Jonathan Jackson have shown the piece to a few other workers and customers, and even took it on a short pilgrimage to a nearby hair salon. They say several people agreed with their assessment, although a few suggested it looks more like legendary rock singer Jim Morrison of The Doors.

"Some people said, 'Are you sure it's Jesus?' and I think, 'Who else would come to give us a sign, Groucho Marx?' " Jackson said. "I think it's a good thing. Maybe it's trying to give some people hope."

The online eBay auction for the potentially pious sheet of metal started Wednesday, but no potential buyers had placed the minimum $19.95 bid as of Saturday afternoon.

The auction is scheduled to end March 1 unless someone pays the "buy it now" price: $10,000.

Haley said that whatever money is raised will be split between him, Jackson, another worker, and two customers. But he's still a little ambivalent about the sale.

"I feel kind of bad just pawning off Christ," Haley said.


Australia Hearts Blasphemy

Catholic Boycott = Record Audience

from Sploid

Catholic fanatics in New Zealand thought they could stop South Park with a boycott, but the sacrilegious cartoon instead found its biggest Kiwi audience ever.

The "Bloody Mary" episode first riled Catholics when it premiered in the United States on December 7 - a Catholic holiday that worships the Virgin Mary!

"Bloody Mary" tells the story of a miraculous Virgin Mary statue with blood pouring out of its anus. The blood cures the sick. Pope Ratzinger investigates, along with other Catholic authorities.

Blood shooting out of the alleged mother of Jesus' anus was a jackpot for advertisers.

(Click here to watch the episode.)

Fanatics had tried and failed to stop Comedy Central from broadcasting the cartoon in the United States and later in Australia.

The Catholic League even put out a press release full of lies claiming Comedy Central had backed down.

The official Catholic Church tried its hand in New Zealand - and it was a total disaster for the scandal-plagued religion.

After demanding that New Zealanders boycott the show, "Bloody Mary" was broadcast last night to the biggest South Park audience ever. Instead of the usual 32,500 viewers, more than 210,000 New Zealanders crowded around their little television sets to see what all the fuss was about.

"I expected a bit of a rise, but not that much," a Comedy Central executive told the Associated Press.

As the massive audience enjoyed the show, about 200 seething Catholics stood outside the local broadcaster's office and whined about everything.

New Zealand Muslims also protested the episode, because they heard it was a cartoon.

Those on the losing side of the latest cartoon outrage immediately demanded new laws to prevent anything they don't like from being on television.

Survey: Four Out of Five Americans Unholy, Hypocrites

Survey: One Out of Five Americans Holy

from Religion News Service

A new survey indicates that 21 percent of Americans consider themselves holy.

The survey, conducted by the Barna Research Group, also found that 73 percent of Americans believe that a person can become holy, regardless of his past, while half of those surveyed said they knew someone whom they considered holy.

The study also asked Americans to define holy. The largest category of respondents (21 percent) admitted they didn't know how to. The highest number that had an idea said "being Christ-like'' (19 percent), while 18 percent said "making faith your top priority."

The survey's director, Christian researcher George Barna, said that "the results portray a body of Christians who attend church but do not understand the concept or significance of holiness...masses who claim they love God but who are ignorant about biblical teachings regarding holiness."


Remember When Lunatics Were Institutionalized?
Sigh, Those Were the Days...

'Saddam Tapes' Weirdo Directed by God

from Sploid

The American who translated the alleged "Saddam Tapes" says God sent him to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Bill Tierney is a former army intelligence man who now does freelance translations of Arabic documents. That's how he got a gig transcribing and translating some mysterious tapes said to be recordings of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen.

On Coast to Coast AM last week, Tierney claimed the tapes prove Iraq had a huge WMD program right up to the U.S. invasion of 2003.

A big supporter of the occupation and other American misadventures in the Middle East, he told host George Noory that his translations vindicated the White House's decision to attack Iraq. But Tierney seemed livid that nobody in the Bush administration seems to be interested in the transcriptions.

Tierney's resumé includes torturing Arabs in Baghdad and at Camp X-Ray, protesting outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo was being kept semi-alive with a feeding tube, and making bizarre pre-war claims about "underground uranium plants" in Iraq that he could drive to with his eyes closed.

Tierney actually spent a few years working for the United Nations' weapons inspectors in Iraq because he reads and writes Arabic, but he resigned under a weird cloud due to his evangelical Christian stunts.

He told the conservative magazine National Review that God gave him instructions and directions to various WMD sites in Iraq.

Unfortunately, God doesn't seem to be any smarter than the Americans or the U.N. inspectors - years after Bush began the latest war in Iraq, no such WMD sites or factories have been found.

Tierney also followed the clairvoyant dreams of a friend, but those proved just as useless as God's directions.

God reportedly told him to join the Army in 1983.

In a speech last year, he said he enjoyed torturing Arabs but was furious that his prisoners "did not break."


Let's Get Ready to Rumble!
Hell's Angels vs. Hell's Favorite Christian

Where were these guys when Phelps was doing the exact same thing at the funerals of gays? He said the same ugly things with the same twisted glee at the funeral of someone equally dead and to the equivalent horror and outrage of mourners. Oh, that's right! God really does hate fags. I now return you to your selective patriotism already in progress...

Motorcyclists Attend Soldier Funerals To Protest Fundamentalists

from Teh Associated Press

FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky, Feb. 18 - Wearing leather chaps and vests covered in military patches, a band of motorcyclists rolls from one soldier's funeral to another in hopes their respectful cheers and revving engines will drown out the insults of protesters.

The motorcycle club members calling themselves Patriot Guard Riders are trying to shield mourners from cruel jeers by adherents of a tiny fundamentalist church who picket military funerals to reflect their belief that U.S. combat deaths are a sign God is punishing the United States for harboring homosexuals. Some protesters' signs said, "Thank God for IEDs," the improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs, that kill many U.S. soldiers.

"The most important thing we can do is let families know that the nation cares," said Don Woodrick, the biker group's Kentucky captain. "When a total stranger gets on a motorcycle in the middle of winter and drives 300 miles to hold a flag, that makes a powerful statement."

Across the nation, Patriot Guard Riders number more than 5,000. They show up at soldiers' funerals to chant patriotic slogans and wave red, white and blue flags in hopes of overshadowing backers of a Kansas clergyman named the Rev. Fred Phelps.

Phelps and members of his Westboro Baptist Church have caused such a fuss that at least 14 states are considering laws aimed at the funeral protests. During the 1990s, church members were known mostly for picketing funerals of AIDS victims, and they have long been tracked as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project in Montgomery, Alabama.

The project's deputy director, Heidi Beirich, said other groups have tried to counter Phelps' message, but none have been as organized as the Patriot Guard.

"I'm not sure anybody has gone to this length to stand in solidarity," she said. "It's nice that these veterans and their supporters are trying to do something. I can't imagine anything worse, your loved one is killed in Iraq and you've got to deal with Fred Phelps."

At a recent memorial service at Fort Campbell, church protesters sang vulgar songs condemning homosexuals and soldiers. The Patriot Guard was also there, cheering to support mourning families across the street as community members came in a freezing rain to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" alongside the bikers.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a daughter of Fred Phelps and an attorney for the Topeka, Kansas-based church, said neither state laws nor the Patriot Guard can silence their message that God killed the soldiers because they fought for a country that embraces homosexuals.

"The scriptures are crystal clear that when God sets out to punish a nation, it is with the sword. An IED is just a broken-up sword," Phelps-Roper said. "Since that is his weapon of choice, our forum of choice has got to be a dead soldier's funeral."

The church, which is not affiliated with a larger denomination, is made up mostly of Phelps' extended family. A small group of them appeared last month in West Virginia outside a memorial for the 12 men killed in the Sago Mine disaster. They held signs reading "Thank God for Dead Miners" and "Miners in Hell."

Patriot Guard members only show up at funerals if invited by family. Richard Wilbur, a retired police detective, said his Indiana Patriot Guard group came to the Pvt. Jonathan R. Pfender funeral at the family's request after protesters announced they planned to attend.

"No one deserves this," Wilbur said. "If I were burying my loved one and they were out there yelling anything close to what they yell to the families of these soldiers, I know my temperament. I probably would not handle it very well."

Who Would Jesus Bang?

A Heaven with No Sex Could Give Us Pause

from Philadelphia Inquirer

To many Americans, eyebrows raise at the very idea of suicide bombers believing their heavenly reward will include sex with beautiful virgins. But aren't the 75 percent of Americans who believe in an afterlife concerned that there might not be any sex in their heaven?

Mark Twain considered the problem. In Letters From the Earth, he writes of humankind: "He has imagined a heaven and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights - the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the hearts of every individual of his race - sexual intercourse!"

For any sane person, he wrote, heaven would be an intolerable bore.

Not so in Islam. The Koran describes a lush garden-like heaven in which each man can be married to a bevy of beautiful, dark-eyed females called houri. The passage is open to interpretation, but scholars say these are not earthly girls who died but heavenly creatures, and, it would appear, they can be deflowered and then automatically reflower.

"Obviously the houri are there for a reason or they wouldn't be described as ever-virgin," said Tim Furnish, a professor of history at Georgia Perimeter College and author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden.

One of the inflammatory Danish cartoons played on this idea with a voice from the clouds yelling to would-be suicide bombers to stop, because the supply of virgins was running low. Many articles in the U.S. press refer to a reward of 72 virgins - a number that's not in the Koran, Furnish said, but comes from supplementary writings.

"If you take the opposite sex out of the picture, that would not be a heaven where I'd want to go," says Alam Payind, director of the Middle East Studies Center at Ohio State University and a part-time imam. Yes, it's a male-dominated vision, he said, but that was woven into the fabric of Middle Eastern culture.

Many scholars say it's misleading to harp on the virgins. The prospect of sex in the hereafter has cropped up across other traditions, including Christianity, says religion professor Alan Segal, of Columbia University's Barnard College.

Whether anyone gets to hook up in heaven depends on whether you believe in immortality of the soul or a full resurrection of the body, said Segal, author of Life After Death: The Afterlife in Western Religions.

Plato and Aristotle taught that the body dies but a conscious soul lives forever. There would be no sex for the Greek philosophers, but they could continue to do what they really loved - to learn, to teach and to think.

Segal said while modern Judaism focuses more on this life than the next, early Jews introduced the notion that martyrs would be bodily resurrected in the hereafter.

Early Christians believed that after the end of the world they'd all get their bodies back in heaven, and this led inevitably to questions about sex and marriage. On pondering resurrection of the flesh, St. Augustine decided we'd keep our sex organs for aesthetic reasons but wouldn't use them.

In the New Testament, a man asks Jesus what happens if you've been widowed and married several times. Which of your spouses will you be reunited with in heaven? Jesus says no one will marry or be given in marriage but we will be as angels.

So do angels do it? Milton asked the question in Paradise Lost, and the angel Raphael told him that when angels embrace, it is "easier than air with air" - not exactly a clear answer.

Still, heavenly sex is problematic in Christianity, he said, since intercourse for pleasure was considered "depravity." That changed somewhat for Protestants after the Renaissance. They loosened some of the sexual prohibitions and some started to consider a sexier afterlife, Segal said.

In Islam and Judaism, sexual pleasure is not considered filthy, he said, making its possible appearance in heaven less shocking.

Zoroastrians, he said, believed there was sex in heaven but people would wean themselves away from both food and sex as they got used to being dead.

A more relevant question may be whether there's sex in the other place. There certainly will be lots of interesting souls, so it may depend on how well the underworld is supervised.

In the end, the desire for our sexual selves to live beyond our short time on Earth isn't so shocking. Eternity is a long time to remain celibate.

While many motivations have been attributed to suicide bombings, the 72 virgins are sometimes used as an inducement, said Payind. "It is one of the more important enticements for the desperate, the dispossessed, the disenfranchised living in miserable conditions."

Segal points out that the virgins are used to appeal mostly to teenage boys. If you're a grown man faced with the prospect of 72 heavenly wives, he said, "you'd want some of them to be experienced."

Grand Old Parish

Church Leaders Criticize N.C. GOP for Directory Request

from The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. - Some church leaders in North Carolina have asked their members to ignore a request made this week by the state Republican Party for copies of church directories that the GOP wants to use in voter registration efforts.

A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, which covers 46 counties, said the group does not share parishioners' contact information with anyone.

"If a pastor were to seek some guidance from the diocese chancellory - the diocese's offices - we would remind him of this general policy that prohibits the sharing of personal information," said David Hains, the communications director for the diocese.

That message would apply to parishioners as well, he said.

The request, sent statewide by e-mail Thursday, said that research by the national Republican Party shows "people who regularly attend church usually vote Republican when they vote."

Chris Mears, the political director for the state GOP who sent the request seeking directories from church members, referred questions to Bill Peaslee, the party's chief of staff.

"In doing voter registration, you always go to where your base is," Peaslee said.

The request says the directories would be used for "voter registration, education and GOTV (get out the vote) purposes only."

National religious leaders criticized a similar Republican effort during the 2004 presidential election. The state party gets an occasional complaint about the request, which it has made in the past, Peaslee said.

"The Republican Party believes that people shouldn't leave their moral and spiritual beliefs at the door of the polling place," Peaslee said. "We're just appealing to one of our constituencies, just as the Democrat Party does...The Democrats may feel it's more profitable to go and do voter registration drives at a homosexual convention. We feel more comfortable going to churches."

State Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek said that party doesn't seek membership lists.

"We believe that people go to church to worship and not to sign up to receive Republican propaganda," Meek said. "I would say the vast majority of Democrats are Democrats because of their faith, not in spite of it. But that is a place that is so sacred that we should not inject politics into the church."

The Rev. Ken Massey of First Baptist Church in Greensboro said he believes the perception that more churchgoers vote Republican is correct so he doesn't fault the GOP for making the effort. But he said he would discourage members from complying with such a request from any outside group.

"We wouldn't want our friends to be selling their personal directories to someone who is selling something. That would be an abuse of our friendship. I would think the same thing about giving it to a political party," he said.

'Islamic Terrorist' Henry Rollins:
'Go Fuck Yourself!'

The Aussie PM Can Go Fuck Himself

from Sploid

On a recent flight from New Zealand to Australia a man found himself seated next to a musclebound gentleman reading a book bearing the ominous tile Jihad: The Rise Of Militant Islam In Central Asia.

He did what any hopelessly paranoid slab of quivering milquetoast would do: He reported the guy to Australia's National Security hotline.

That guy was punk rock legend Henry Rollins.

Rollins received a letter warning him of his status as a suspected terrorist from a "nice lady" in the Australian government:

The person who sat next to you on the flight from New Zealand does not agree with your politics or choice of reading and so nominated you as a possible threat. As they were too cowardly or stupid to leave their details I can’t call them to discuss their idiocy with them.

In his response to the kindly tipster the former Black Flag frontman noted the irony that the book is written by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, one of America's more conservative newspapers, and was published by Yale University, President Bush's alma mater.

The D.C. native then asked the woman to send along a message to her higher-ups:

Please tell your government and everyone in your office to go f*ck themselves. Tell them twice. If your boss is looking for something to do, you can tell him I suggest he go f*ck himself. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy. You have a nice night.

Though firmly against the war in Iraq and no fan of President Bush, Rollins is an unassailable patriot and supporter of the Armed Services. During the Christmas season he made his sixth USO tour.

"The troops, they're my heroes," Rollins said.

Lapdancing for Jesus!
...What If Showgirls Starred Mother Teresa?

Ooh, yeah, baby, just like that. Jesus likes it nice and slow and wet and ho-hey, honey, watch the teeth!

Former Stripper Not Typical Evangelical

from Associated Press

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Heather Veitch is not your typical evangelical Christian.

The 31-year-old married mother of two visits one strip club a month, paying for lap dances so she can talk to the strippers about God.

The Web site for the ministry she formed with two other women — JC's Girls Girls Girls — features glamour shots of the three that were taken by a porn film director.

The three attend porn conventions, where they pass out Bibles wrapped in T-shirts that read Holy Hottie.

Veitch's approach is based on experience: In the 1990s, she worked as a stripper and, she says, acted in a handful of soft porn movies. She plays up her sex appeal because adult industry workers relate to that, she said.

"I understand the culture of these girls. They respect that," said Veitch, whose work has received national and international media coverage.

Veitch said she doesn't keep track of how many strippers they successfully reach.

'Blessed are the bisexual strippers, for they shall inheret my paycheck. Yea.'