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Why the Non-Stop Punchline Shouldn’t Come as a Surprise

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Mega spoiler alert regarding the new Liam Neeson flick Non-Stop via Breitbart. Stop reading now if you’d like to be surprised when you go to the theater to see Lady Mary on the big screen.

The hero of the movie about a plane being hijacked is an observant Muslim.

Wait, it gets better.

The terrorist is a 9/11 family member. Yes, you read that right; the terrorist is a 9/11 family-member who lost a loved-one in the World Trade Center on that terrible September morning.

It gets worse…

After 9/11,  this 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist then joined the military but found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.

And now…

The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.

It gets worse…

The villain’s sidekick is a member of the American military willing to murder 150 innocent people for a payday.

It gets worse…

The one passenger on the plane who is forever helpful, kind, reasonable, noble, and never under suspicion is a Muslim doctor dressed in traditional Muslim garb including a full beard.

Screw you, Hollywood.

Wikipedia’s summary of the film had a kinder, gentler, more bureaucratic approach to the biased plotline:

…as soldiers who were appalled by the lack of security at U.S. airports before 9/11, they hoped that framing [Neeson] as a terrorist will lead to drastically increased security.

Great. A propaganda film that uses the American military to advocate for the increased empowerment of the TSA. What next? A film featuring American soldiers deployed on the edge of the communist world spending their precious time dressing up in drag, defending  gay rights on base? (Cue musical number Springtime for Obama.)

As bizarre as it may seem, the plotline of Non Stop shouldn’t come as a surprise. Liam Neeson, the film’s star, has been contemplating converting to Islam since filming Taken 2 in Istanbul in 2012:

Movie star Liam Neeson has admitted he’s afraid to convert to Islam because of how locals in his home town would take it.

The Northern Irish actor thinks Islam “is the answer” after experiencing the Muslim call to prayer while filming Taken 2 in Istanbul.

But the 61-year-old doesn’t want to go all the way because people in Ballymena, Co Antrim, may be annoyed with his decision.

…“It wouldn’t go down very well in Ballymena.

“They would say to me, ‘You’re a Muslim? Are you a Catholic Muslim or a Protestant Muslim?’ ”

Perhaps he’ll be able to answer that question in Non Stop 2. Having edged out Son of God for top rating at the box office this weekend, it doesn’t look like the blatantly anti-American tone will disappear anytime soon, despite the lackluster ratings. Casting suggestion for the sequel: Katy Perry as the flight attendant demonstrating an appropriate use of a Muslim pendant as a non-blasphemous work-wardrobe accessory. It’d be nice to see her cover up for a change.

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Thank God! Who Is He, Again?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Matthew McConaughey thanked God for his Oscar win last night and the conservative crowd went wild.

McConaughey’s speech sparked a feeding frenzy for conservatives to outdo each other when it came to applauding him, while simultaneously taking shots at liberals. Rick Perry tweeted Monday morning, saying, “Texas boy counting his blessing.” His tweet linked to a Breitbart piece titled “Matthew McConaughey Praises God in Acceptance Speech, Hollywood Crowd Grows Quiet.” On Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s site, the speech ran as “Matthew McConaughey rattles Oscar crowd, wins hearts by thanking God.” Fox News got in the game with the headline, “Matthew McConaughey one of few to thank God in Oscar acceptance speech.” And so on.

As the Daily Beast points out, McConaughey’s God-nod was most likely reassuring to a Christian population that’s been ostracized more than not:

In recent decades, religious figures are often found more often in niche movies, wrote Cieply, or if they are in major pictures, they “are often hypocrites and villains, driving plot lines that make, at best, a token bow toward the virtues of a faith-based life.”

One need look no further than a recent episode of the hit Scandal, in which the evangelical female vice president who murdered her gay husband claims she is not culpable because the devil made her do it.

Fair enough. I’m sure the Son of God giddiness also contributed to the Tweetfest, despite the fact that McConaughey never did specifically go beyond the name “God,” let alone drop “Jesus” during the speech. He did, however, express conviction that Miller Lite is served in heaven, which I’m sure won over the Duck Dynasty crowd.

What most conservative Oscar watchers failed to lavish with praise wasn’t the mere thanking of God, but the praising of Him by singer Darlene Love. The career backup singer celebrated 20 Feet From Stardom’s Best Documentary win by singing the refrain from the hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow:

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

The refreshingly simple, faith-laced, joyful lyrics made up the majority of her acceptance “speech” and were received with a full-house standing ovation led by an incredibly enthusiastic, non-religious Bill Murray. Where’s the barrage of Tweets about that?

McConaughey returned to his pot-smoking, bongo-banging self by the end of his speech, concluding with:

…whatever we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to and whoever it is we’re chasing — to that I say, alright, alright, alright. And then I say, just keep livin’.

It’s a generic statement that illustrates God is “whatever” and “whoever” and, therefore, “alright, alright, alright.” I have yet to read a conservative commentary that points out the many ways this level of ambiguity has eroded our nation’s ability to put faith in the God of our ancestors, let alone have faith in ourselves, both as a free nation and as individuals with free will. But hey, that’s cool; an actor said the G-word on stage and it got captured by social media, which makes it count.

Alright, alright, alright.

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Did the Arab Empire Invent Islam?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Was Islam manufactured just to unify the Arab empire? Politically incorrect questions... #history #religion #war #god #empire #secular

Page 63 of Did Muhammad Exist?:

Reminder: #Muhammad is as historical as #MickeyMouse and was invented for the same purpose... #empire. Page 63 of Robert Spencer's Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam's Obscure Origins #religion #history #God #truth #Christianity #atheist #secular

Page 208 of Did Muhammad Exist?:

"The realm of political theology, then, offers the most plausible explanation for the creation of #Islam #muhammad and the #Quran." - page 208 of Robert Spencer's amazing Did Muhammad Exist? #history #truth #god #religion #empire #war

Page 338 of Disinformation:

"Marxism was such a raw, ill-defined and malleable system of government that one could make if it whatever one wished." -Pacepa and Rychlak, excerpt from #disinformation page 338 #history #marxism

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18 Reasons Why You Wish You Were in Israel Right Now

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

With 49 states buried in snow and most schools in the northeastern U.S. looking at anywhere from 7-10 snow days to make up, our country is ready for a warm up of national proportions. Throw on your heat lamps, put on a bathing suit under that fleece, and cuddle up to these 18 (the number of chai or “life”) warm images of sun, beach and desert (sweet, hot desert) from Israel.

Waking up before sunrise - totally worth it! </p>
<p><a href=Just an abundance of #beauty. #HulaValley #Israel #freedom #River #Mountain #Green

Good morning! בוקר טוב! Bonne journee! Доброе утро! Всем прекрасного солнечного дня! #flowers #instaflowers #nature #4simply4 #ig_treasures

Flowers of the Negev Desert. Цветы пустыни Негев. #israel #ig_israel #gf_israel #e_srael #hapitria #allunique_pro #israeli_moments #Israel_PhotoGraphers #ig_treasures #4simply4 #nature #desert #negev #naturehippys #Naturehippys #ig_captures #ig_captures_nature #power_group #ihavenicepic #nature_uc #awesome_foto #floralfix #_nature_features #ig_diamondshotz

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Introducing: A Deity Who Makes Sense

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

PJ-Deity-1

“HEAVENLY Father,” take to thee

The supreme iniquity,

Fashioned by thy candid hand

In a moment contraband.

Though to trust us seem to us

More respectful—“we are dust.”

We apologize to Thee

For Thine own Duplicity.

That’s by Emily Dickinson, the wonderful 19th-century American poet who churned out almost two thousand poems in almost total obscurity, too shy to publish more than a handful of them during her lifetime.

“Heavenly Father” is a retort, couched in acid irony, and also a plaint. We are not supposed to be anything much—dust, iniquity. Creating us was a momentary lapse, a glitch. The father is not presumed to be proud of what he has wrought.

And yet, if the creations are that flawed, why blame them for their failings? It seems like a double insult—to be fashioned as something iniquitous, then also held accountable for it. Dickinson raised here a profound question about moral responsibility and the relationship of the creator to his imperfect handiwork.

The poetess died at 55 in 1886, and “Heavenly Father” is considered one of her later poems. That means she wrote it about a hundred years before the publication in 1975 of Raymond Moody’s Life After Life, the first major, groundbreaking book on near-death experiences. At that time, thanks to advances in resuscitation medicine in the 1960s, there was a sudden surge in the numbers of people—ordinary people, not mystics or spiritualists—saying they had had a direct experience of the deity. They gave descriptions of a being more logical, or reasonable, than the one Dickinson had accosted.

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3 Principles of a Biblical Diet

Saturday, March 1st, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in July of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…

In recent posts I revealed a few personal pieces of our lives, mostly focusing on the economic impact of a health crisis. However, life-changing events such as these seldom come in isolation. This perfect storm arose out of our lifestyle and diet, devastating my husband’s health and testing our faith.

In the span of a weekend my hard-working husband Mike went from a “Top Gun” insurance-fraud investigator to a bedridden patient, while I morphed into little more than a trembling caregiver. Without our realizing it, his lifestyle of constant traveling and eating on the road along with my budget-conscious (rather than health-conscious) efforts at home created unthinkable consequences.

Without any real symptoms, over a period of years he quietly developed chronic deep vein thrombosis. After a stint in critical care, surgery, and high-power medications, we exhausted all medical avenues to dissolve the clot.

The surgeon came in sporting a “you-did-this-to-yourself-big-guy” attitude and handed us a one-way ticket into a nursing facility. He declared that nothing more, medically, could be done. He explained, in a clear “good-luck-with-that” tone, that Mike’s body had to heal itself. He needed to “forge new veins.”

The finest health-care system in the world could only stop the progression of the clotting — which, arguably, is profound. Nonetheless, medicine had nothing further to offer us other than opiates, Warfarin, insulin, and around-the-clock, skilled care.

No cure, not even an injection of hope.

The fluid in his legs wasn’t going away “any time soon.” Which translated to him not getting out of bed any time soon. What fluid remained in six months, they said, would become permanent — an inconceivable thought.

My oldest daughter developed a theory and a plan. In the process we discovered these simple principles that had a profound impact on Mike’s recovery and my life.

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The New Morality: Crying Over Served Cake

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

sign

In this day and age, why would you be stupid enough to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to deny someone services?

There are plenty of ways to avoid entering into a business transaction without having to appear discriminatory at all. When I worked for a private repair shop and encountered a client who seemed to be more trouble than they were worth for whatever reason, we used to simply say, “I am sorry, but we cannot provide service.” If people questioned why (which they did, very often and with plenty of attitude), we just kept repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry, we cannot provide the service.” No one interpreted us as being discriminatory, or went as far as attempting legal action. We were simply annoying, so they moved onto a business that was willing to enter into the transaction. No harm, no foul.

That is the beauty of the free market: You have choices. If a bakery simply said “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” and left it at that, a gay couple denied service might interpret the owner’s choice as being discriminatory, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. You can’t sue based on an inference. Progressives, however, rely on the courts to push their agenda because Big Government is their god. So the minute you breathe a hint of something that could be misconstrued as an opportunity for a lawsuit, they gain home-court advantage.

By simply saying, “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” you may be opening yourself up to some annoying picketing and internet memes, but what’s the worst that will do? Throw you in the same court as Chick fil-A? We all know how well that protest worked out. The bottom line is, you’re letting the free market decide your fate, not the courts.

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The New Morality Makes Animals of Us All

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

deadbirds

First exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon in 1765, Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s ”A Girl With a Dead Canary” was designed to evoke much the same emotion as PETA member Sarah Segal’s proposed memorial to chickens who were killed in a truck accident last month in Georgia. It seems like a tacky comparison that may even be read as an insult to a well-done and even pretty (if bizarre) work of 18th century art, but the bottom line is that both pieces were created for the same purpose: To tug at viewers’ heartstrings while affirming the moral superiority of a particular cultural class.

According to British historian Simon Schama, ill-fated French King Louis XVI introduced the “cult of nature” to the throne, “replacing couches and courtisans with [the] tenderness and simplicity” of Marie Antoinette’s toy farm and the well-crafted embrace of wildlife in art. “Tears were especially prized as evidence of feeling,” Schama explains, noting that, “people wept when they saw” Greuze’s painting. “Feelings …the shallow kind were embraced by the fashionable elite.” It was the attempt of a king and class to portray themselves as perfect, superior human beings.

So it goes with the Roadkill Memorial, albeit in a much more blatantly political format. A tombstone designed to dwarf roadside memorials to mere human victims of vehicular death, the proposed memorial is intended to remind all drivers to approach all of their animal relations with reverence:

Cascada said the tombstone’s visibility would make drivers’ more wary of people and chickens alike, thereby helping to avoid unnecessary accidents and preserve the lives of chickens in transport. …But Cascada acknowledged the reality of the chickens’ final destination, making the “Go Vegan” phrase a key takeaway.

“The more people who go vegan, the fewer chickens are in this situation to begin with,” she said.

Simply stating that “meat is murder” isn’t enough anymore. For PETA, the time for mere sloganeering is over. Humans are animals, don’t you get it? You’re all slabs of meat now, and some are much more important than others.

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5 Stories from Last Week Revealing Sharia’s Spread in the West

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Robert Spencer

charlie-hebdo-frontpage

Aside from the sources that reported these stories, the mainstream media largely ignored them all — of course. 

5. France: Muslims sue satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for blasphemy

An organization calling itself the League of Judicial Defence of Muslims (LDJM) has brought suit against Charlie Hebdo in the city of Strasbourg for its edition headlined: “The Koran is s–t – it doesn’t stop bullets.” They picked Strasbourg because, uniquely in the secular republic, it has a blasphemy law – a hangover of its periods of German rule.

This is not the first time Charlie Hebdo has offended Islamic-supremacist sensibilities. The International Business Times (which scrupulously avoids causing offense to the poor dears itself by punctiliously referring to Muhammad as “the Prophet,” although I doubt it would ever refer to “the Lord Jesus Christ”) reported:

In November 2011, the paper’s office in Paris was fire-bombed and its website hacked. The attacks were linked to its decision to rename a special edition “Charia Hebdo” (Sharia Hebdo) with the Prophet Mohammed listed as editor-in-chief. The magazine was  attacked by hackers again in September 2012, after it published cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

The name of the group bringing the suit, however, is a misnomer. For in fact, no Muslims were actually harmed by Charlie Hebdo, and no Muslims need any defense from it. No Muslims were physically injured by its Qur’an edition or other issues mocking Islam and Muhammad; no Muslims lost their jobs; no Muslims were discriminated against or harassed. Some Muslims may be offended by the magazine’s poking fun at the Qur’an and Muhammad, but that is the price of living in a pluralistic society: everyone has to put up with people who have values and priorities that differ from one’s own.

Ideally, this can be done in peace, and without one group attempting to assert hegemony over the others. But that is exactly what the League of Judicial Defence of Muslims is trying to do: impose Sharia blasphemy laws upon the rest of France.

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Noah Flooded with Potential for Interfaith Battle

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

All week I’ve been seeing anti-Noah posts popping up on Facebook from Christian friends who are convinced that the not-yet-released Darren Aronofsky epic must be a liberal, secularist perversion of the biblical story, morphing Noah into a drunk and spouting an anti-human, pro-environmentalist message. Where’d the controversy come from? According to Jordan Hoffman at the Times of Israel, entertainment trade mag Variety needed to drum up readership on a slow news day:

A strange agenda group for “faith driven consumers” sent out a push-poll asking if people who hadn’t yet seen the film if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed film… which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”

In other words, a bunch of opt-in Christians were asked if they were ready to see what some scarf-wearing artiste from Jew York City had cooked up with his liberal and probably homosexual friends when, you know, they weren’t drinking blood and hoarding gold. Some 98% of respondents said that, no, they were not satisfied.

It would have been a nothing story had the press release not been picked up by Variety (one of the main entertainment trade publications) on a particularly slow news day. The Internet ran with headlines that basically read “98% of Christian audiences are enraged by ‘Noah!’” forcing Paramount, which has already had plenty of tsuris with this film, to issue an explanatory press release of their own.

The stereotypes Hoffman plays with in his commentary entertainingly highlight the unspoken rift between Jews and Christians when it comes to biblical epics. We, for the most part, stand back while Christians re-interpret our history, our people, our nation, and our sacred text in light of their own slightly Aryan (why are ancient Israelis consistently blue-eyed Brits?) Sunday School memories. This time, however, a Jewish writer/director has paired with a Jewish writer to bring a Torah story to the silver screen. That interpretation has caused Christian uproar, something the filmmakers prepared for when they sought out production partner Rob Moore, who is both a vice chair at Paramount and a devout Christian who supports the film.

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How Do You Survive When Your World Shatters?

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

“And now I know that every single day, the best and the worst, only lasts for twenty-four hours.” — Tricia Lott Williford

Two days before Christmas in 2010, amid the festive pictures of family Christmas celebrations, cookie recipes, and excited discussions about plans for the holidays, some terrible, heart-sickening news began to spread through my network of Facebook friends and acquaintances:

Stunned by some news. Please pray for a friend and her young family. The husband and father was unexpectedly taken to heaven for Christmas.

Pray for Tricia Williford as her husband went to heaven this morning. They have two little boys, Tucker and Tyler. What a sad day this is.

Three years later, I have fresh tears in my eyes as I re-read those words and I think about the shattering of lives, dreams, and families in that one terrible moment. How does a family survive such a profound tragedy? Can those shattered pieces be fused back together again? What does that really look like? I mean, in real life, starting with how you get out of bed the next day and how in the world you explain to two little boys that their daddy has died?

Tricia Lott Williford, a writer and editor — and a fabulous storyteller — had a blog at the time of her husband’s unexpected death at age thirty-five. Her bio explains, “On the day of her husband’s death, an unknown someone posted a link to her blog on Twitter with the words, ‘Please pray for this woman. Her husband died this morning.’ Overnight, her blog went viral and her community of readers grew exponentially.” Tricia continued with her long-established discipline of writing every day and shared her story, in all its brutal transparency, with friends and strangers around the world. Her story has now been turned into a book, And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimedreleased February 18th.

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FCC Monitors Your News, Komrade

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
obama-brownshirts-tpc

Image from the agitprop stock at the brilliant People’s Cube.

On Thursday, Glenn Beck declared:

“Ask yourself the question: Why isn’t anyone talking about this? This is one of the most disturbing stories I have ever heard in my entire broadcast career,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “The FCC has now decided that they need to monitor the newsrooms. They need to figure out how story selection works in the newsroom.”

The renegade broadcaster’s vitriol comes in response to a Fox News story (covered by PJ Tatler’s Bryan Preston) on the Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN) proposed by the FCC last May that was supposed to commence this week in Columbia, South Carolina:

 The FCC explained that it wanted information from television and radio broadcasters “to ascertain the process by which stories are selected, station priorities (for content production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CIN’s and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

The FCC has identified eight CINs, or key topics that the government believes should be covered.

According to the actual FCC report, the eight CINs are:

1. emergencies and risks, both immediate and long term;
2. health and welfare, including specifically local health information as well as group
specific health information where it exists;
3. education, including the quality of local schools and choices available to parents;
4. transportation, including available alternatives, costs, and schedules;
5. economic opportunities, including job information, job training, and small business
assistance;
6. the environment, including air and water quality and access to recreation;
7. civic information, including the availability of civic institutions and opportunities to
associate with others;
8. political information, including information about candidates at all relevant levels of local governance, and about relevant public policy initiatives affecting communities and neighborhoods.

It is a story so bizarrely ridden with bureaucratic newspeak that it reads like a spoof from the pages of The People’s Cube. If only we were so lucky.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who first raised awareness of the CINs in the Wall Street Journal, warned:

The FCC says the study is merely an objective fact-finding mission. The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry.

This claim is peculiar. How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry? And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?

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Student Survival Tactic: Think Big

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Most folks first became aware of Dr. Benjamin Carson when he dared to speak out against Obamacare in front of the architect himself at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. I had the privilege of meeting Ben Carson about 20 years earlier when my mother handed me his book Think Big. At the time, I was an above-average student who struggled in the public school environment. Despite being intellectually acceptable (but economically unqualified) for entrance into a prestigious private school, my own public institution refused to allow me to skip a grade because they felt I’d suffer socially.

As if being the #1 nerd in the room qualified me to be crowned Prom Queen.

An outcast, I’d spend most of my time feigning illness or sick with stress, looking for a reason – any reason – to get out of going to school. I knew my mother was right; I couldn’t run away forever. But, I didn’t have a reason to care enough to face my battles. What I needed then is what so many young people need now: A perspective greater than their own. They need to learn how to Think Big.

And so my mother encouraged me to encounter the story of Ben Carson, a young African American boy from the projects who rose out of the ghetto mindset by seeking a perspective greater than his own:

“I am convinced that knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.”

Carson’s illiterate mother required her 2 sons to turn into her 2 book reports a week. This practice turned Carson into a habitual reader, classical music listener, and Jeopardy! aficionado. His love of learning and imaginative fascination with science developed into the desire to become a neurosurgeon:

First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over. Second, not only can we not overload our brain – we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use saying that “The brain acquires everything that we encounter.”

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Do You Believe in Life After Death?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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January 27, 2013: What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us

Among the nine lines of evidence that Long reviews: People who were blind from birth experience clear vision during NDEs and accurately report things they saw, usually in the operating room but sometimes even outside of it. NDEs sometimes occur during general anesthesia “when no form of consciousness should be taking place.” Virtually all people encountered during NDEs are deceased, usually relatives; skeptics who insist NDEs are a dream or hallucination-like event cannot explain why, unlike in dreams or hallucinations, that should be the case. NDEs often change people’s lives permanently, leading to enhanced spirituality or religiosity; in Long’s survey, 95 percent said subsequent to their NDEs that they were “definitely real” and 5 percent “probably real.”

And NDEs show remarkably similar features all over the world, transcending religious and cultural backgrounds. One of those constantly reported features is the encounter with the deity. Strongly religious people usually perceive the deity (and sometimes other mythological beings) in terms of their own religion; but people of little or no religion also have the encounter and speak more generally of a “being of light.”

Most dramatically of all, the phrase “unconditional love” occurs repeatedly in these descriptions. The deity is reported to be what we would call nonjudgmental; entirely accepting; and a source of overwhelming love. Yes, the news is rather good.

June 23, 2013: Near-Death Experiences: Two Books Provide More Compelling Evidence

A Russian NDEr named Victor reported: “The light was extraordinary. In it were love and peace. I was completely enveloped by love and I felt totally secure.” Miller notes that “the descriptions of [the light’s] personality and abilities and effects are remarkably similar.” Moody called the encounter “the most incredible common element” of NDEs and affirmed that “not one person has expressed any doubt whatsoever that it was a being, a being of light.”

The being of light is always singular; there is only one, never multiple beings. Van Lommel wrote: “This encounter is always accompanied by an overwhelming sense of unconditional love and acceptance.” The light knows and cares about the NDEr’s whole life and personal choices, and is always experienced as just, not capricious or errant.

February 16, 2014: Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading

To all that must be added the numerous reports of people in NDEs accurately recalling specific conversations and events that occurred—in and sometimes out of their operating rooms—while they had no brain function. Parnia recounts one case where a new doctor, dealing with a patient in a prolonged cardiac arrest, ate the patient’s lunch. After recovery, the patient described to the doctor a detailed NDE, and finished with: “And you ate my lunch!”

No, the skeptics may not like it, but doctors and their staff are hearing more and more accounts from revived patients like this one, told by a patient to a nurse in Parnia’s AWARE study:

His journey commenced by travelling through a tunnel towards a very strong light, which didn’t dazzle him or hurt his eyes. Interestingly, he said that there were other people in the tunnel, whom he did not recognize. When he emerged he described a very beautiful crystal city and I quote “I have seen nothing more beautiful.” He said there was a river that ran through. There were many people, without faces, who were washing in the waters….

What’s going on? Some scientists are suggesting, Parnia notes, that “human consciousness or the soul may in fact be an irreducible scientific entity in its own right, similar to many of the concepts in physics, such as mass and gravity, which are also irreducible entities.” If so, then consciousness is not just an epiphenomenon of the brain; it has an independent existence and could survive death. The exhaustive, multiauthored book Irreducible Mind, well-known in the field of mind-brain studies, argues just such positions based on abundant evidence.

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***

image illustrations courtesy shutterstock / Bruce Rolff /

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Manufacturing Disney Guilt By Association

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Disney Guilty

No one in the entertainment industry bears the brunt of ire like Disney. For decades, Walt Disney the man and the company he founded have taken hits from critics, reporters, and historians. On far too many occasions Disney has come up against agents of disinformation trying to tarnish its founder, and the company at large finds itself the target of media hatred. From the antics of its former child stars – as if the studio could be responsible for their personal behavior – to the recent attempts to deface Walt Disney that seem to come from out of nowhere, members of the media try to attach any scandal they can to Disney, manufacturing a type of guilt by association.

Two recent stories in the UK’s Daily Mail signal this trend. In one article, a trio of would be child molesters work for Walt Disney World, while in the other, a Disney voice actor displays his anti-Israel hatred for the world to see. Disney has no direct involvement in either case, yet the authors of both pieces go out of their way to make the Disney connection in the headlines and in opening paragraphs.

Disney fired the Arabic voice of Donald Duck after he published an anti-Israel tweet:

Disney has dropped the voice of Donald Duck in the Middle East after he said Israel should be demolished.

Wael Mansour no longer works for the global corporation – whose founder Walt Disney was famously accused of being racist and anti-semitic – after he tweeted: ‘I truly wish #Israel is demolished, I hate Zionism, I have so much hate inside me with every single child they murder or land they seize’.

He insisted his message was ‘anti-Zionist‘, claiming Israelis were just a bunch of Polish / Ethiopian immigrants roughly 70 years old‘.

Note the dig at Walt in the second paragraph there – more on that later. Mansour sent the initial tweet in August of 2013, and he announced his firing earlier this month, also via Twitter.

He told his 5,000 Twitter followers: ‘Disney decided I am no longer the official voice of Donald Duck in it’s middle-east dubbed cartoons because of an anti Zionism tweet. Proud!’

His total has since rocketed to 30,000 followers.

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Those Silly, Savage Homophobes

Monday, February 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

northernliberalelites

Bethany Mandel’s article on the irony of permitted homophobia in the African-American rap community rightly highlighted the Left’s patronizing racism towards both African and Hispanic Americans. She smartly pointed out pop culture’s double standard when it comes to reacting to anti-gay statements from Christian whites versus blacks or Hispanics. But the argument needs to be pushed further, lest we fall into the Progressive Left’s divisive Minority trap.

The underlying racism of the Progressive Left is the kind of upper-class willful ignorance rooted in eugenic supremacist theory that’s currently being swept under the rug of “progressivism,” a fanciful term for 21st century Marxism. No one could possibly believe that the same people who promote marriage equality, affirmative action, and amnesty are subconsciously racist. Unless, of course, they looked at the philosophy underlying those seemingly righteous political beliefs.

One need look no further than the Grammys for proof. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, white boys with bad rapping skills being lathered up with awards by an audience righteously congratulating themselves for marrying gays on stage to the tune of Same Love. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the white messiahs saving rap from its inherent anti-gay nature with cornball lyrics referring to his beloved genre as “a culture founded from oppression.” What next? Rapping about the ironies of 40 acres and a mule with a prop carpetbag?

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The 7 Ways Islam Kills Romance

Sunday, February 16th, 2014 - by Robert Spencer

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As couples the world over celebrated Valentine’s Day last week, many no doubt recalled the great Muslim love stories: Romeo and Juliet and Fatima and Dalia and Naima; A Midsummer Night’s Stoning; the movies Veiled Woman and When Harry Beat Sally – so many.

Right-thinking people today would find such quips “Islamophobic” and distasteful; far more distasteful, however, is the grim reality they represent. When Valentine’s Day rolled around last week, Muslim leaders rose to oppose it with a fervor they have seldom mustered against the jihad terrorists who have supposedly twisted and hijacked their peaceful religion.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department thundered that “social ceremonies such as this are a stepping-stone towards greater social ills such as fraud, mental disorder caused by alcohol, abortion and baby-dumping, and other negative ills that can invite disaster and moral decay among youths.” The Indonesian Ulema Council declared that “celebrating Valentine’s Day is against Islam.” Saudi Arabia’s feared Islamic religious police banned Valentine’s Day and hunted for people toting suspicious roses and candy boxes. A Saudi cleric who has said that “devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls, and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer” dubbed Valentine’s Day “immoral.”

In Uzbekistan, Muslim clerics preached against Valentine’s Day in their Friday sermons. In Kashmir, Mohammed Akram Wani, a student at Srinagar’s Institute of Arabic and Islamic studies, declared: “The event is anti-Islamic and Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the day because in Islam the day has no importance.” And at Pakistan’s Peshawar University, devout Muslim students decided to celebrate February 14 as Haya (Modesty) Day, which consisted of stoning students who were celebrating Valentine’s Day, firing on police who intervened, and setting several rooms of their hostel on fire.

This hostility to Valentine’s Day, some Muslims explain, is because celebrating it is bid’a – innovation, an unacceptable concept in a religion that Allah has “perfected” (cf. Qur’an 5:3), and because it has roots in Christianity and has become an excuse for drunkenness and promiscuity. But there is a deeper reason as well: Islam is hostile to romance. “Asking a Moslem about his women,” the heroic journalist Oriana Fallaci wrote back in 1964, “is like asking him about a secret vice.” The condition of those women, and the state of Islamic romance, has hardly improved since then.

A few of the principal ways in which Islam is a romance-killer:

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Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading

Sunday, February 16th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Sam Parnia is one of the world’s leading experts on death—on how people can medically be brought back from the dead, and on what happens to the mind, or soul, or consciousness, after people die.

Of UK origin, Parnia works these days as assistant professor of medicine at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. He is also directing the joint American-Canadian-British AWARE study, which he calls “the world’s largest ever study of mind and brain during cardiac arrest.” And he is the author, most recently (with Josh Young), of Erasing Death, an up-to-date exploration of both of Parnia’s areas of expertise—resuscitation from death, and death itself.

About half of this book focuses on resuscitation science—which, since the 1960s, has been able to bring people back from states of clinical death. What Parnia has to say is interesting and informative, though it is not the reason I got hold of the book; I’m more interested in what could be called the mystical angle.

Basically, in Parnia’s telling, resuscitation science is both making unprecedented advances and not doing that well. Thanks to the new technique of cooling the body of a clinically dead person, cell deterioration in the body can be slowed down, and people can be resuscitated for ever-longer periods after death has occurred. On the other hand, survival rates—the percentages of people who are actually brought back to life—are still low and have not improved since the 1960s. “It’s really amazing,” Parnia says, “but absolutely true.”

What’s needed, Parnia contends, is for the resuscitation field to be much better organized, standardized, and coordinated. At this point, the quality of resuscitation care you get at a hospital—or whether you even get it—is pot luck. Parnia thinks the situation can be drastically improved, which would not only mean bringing a lot more people back to life, but restoring a lot more of them intact instead of in vegetative or brain-damaged states.

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Middle-earth as the Middle East

Friday, February 14th, 2014 - by Timothy Furnish

Tayyip ErdoganSaruman-villains-23624791-500-360

Controversial Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been described as the savior of the Islamic world and as a new Ottoman sultan. But likening him to the wizard Saruman from The Lord of the Rings is novel—as was done earlier this week by a leader in the Turkish opposition party:

“[Turkey has become] a country where headlines and program flows can change with one phone call as if it were Middle-Earth in Lord of the Rings. The [person] who does it is like a Saruman the White who has lost all sense of shame,” Republican People’s Party’s [CHP] deputy Emine Ülker Tarhan said in a written statement on Feb. 10.

Since my two main areas of expertise are the Middle East and Middle-earth, I shall thus follow Ms. Tarhan’s example and complete the slate of leadership analogies between Tolkien’s cast of characters, both evil and good, and that of our own clash of civilizations. The template will utilize The Lord of the Rings movies rather than the books,  and not the newer Hobbit ones, for two reasons: 1) more people are probably familiar with the movies than Tolkien’s books; and 2) LotR lends itself more easily to a vast, geopolitical struggle with apocalyptic consequences than does The Hobbit.

Let’s start with the bad guys, and Turkey’s leader as Saruman. This is actually quite accurate, since the original White Wizard was a good guy gone bad—much as Turkey is slowly transmogrifying from a NATO member and secular, Western ally into a neo-Ottoman power dedicated to reviving political Islam in its old domains. (Just keep in mind that the real Saruman would have used a palantir, not a phone, to issue threats.) Gandalf’s former boss, however, only ever reached the status of an evil epigone; far more potent was the ancient enemy Sauron, a political and religious tyrant who demanded that all denizens of Middle-earth submit to his rule for their own good. The only possible Middle East analog of such a powerful figure would be the founder of Islam himself, Muhammad.

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What Makes You Human?

Monday, February 10th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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Have you ever gazed into the eyes of a newborn? Could you feel the pull of your soul into hers?

Hold your answer. We’ll get back to that.

At the sincere behest of a respected reader, I’ve begun a new series; the exploration into the works of Ernest Becker. Our introduction to Becker begins with Birth and Death of Meaning: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Problem of Man. 

At first blush his point seems overly simplistic.

“[D]ualism of experience–the fact that all objects have both an inside and an outside…It is one of the great mysteries of the universe, that has intrigued man since remotest times. It is the basis of the belief in souls and spirits. Man discovered it and elaborated it because of his own self-reflexivity, the real and apparent contradiction between the inside of his body–his thoughts and feelings, and the outside…These are hardly new or startling thoughts, but they help us to introduce the problem of man’s distinctive interiority…”

Becker goes on to explain that this reality “presents a poignant problem that dogs us all our life.” I would suggest that not only does it “dog us” it also imprisons or sets us free. How we view the “inside” of man, is directly related not only to our own value and happiness but our right to pursue that happiness.

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The Hypocrisy of the Media Whitewash of Islamic Blasphemy Charges

Sunday, February 9th, 2014 - by Robert Spencer

Qasim Rashid

Editor’s Note: This is Part IX of an ongoing series by Robert Spencer highlighting human rights hypocrisy and fraudulent peace activists. For Part I see “The Hypocrisy of the ‘Islamophobia’ Scam,” for Part II see “The Hypocrisy of the Fatwa Against Terrorism,”  for Part III see “The Hypocrisy of the Feminist Response to Islam’s Oppression of Women,” for Part IV see “The Hypocrisy of the Western Christian Response to Muslim Persecution of Christians,” for Part V “The Hypocrisy of the Leftist Response to Ariel Sharon’s Death,” for Part VI see  “The Hypocrisy of Ibrahim Hooper and CAIR’s ‘Islamophobic List,’” for Part VII see “The Hypocrisy of the Huffington Post’s Praise of Muhammad,” and for Part VIII see last week’s “The Hypocrisy of the Left’s Commitment to ‘Peacemaking’”

The Washington Post last week published a Religion News Service commentary: “Blasphemy charges pervert Islam’s teachings,” by Qasim Rashid. At first glance this looks like RNS and the WaPo giving space to a thoughtful moderate Muslim speaking up sensibly for the freedom of conscience. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, that is not exactly what this is. Instead of being devoted to genuine Islamic reform, Qasim Rashid’s work is largely devoted to whitewashing atrocities committed in the name of Islam and justified by Islamic texts and teachings.

Qasim Rashid has misrepresented the Islamic justifications for jihad violence and publicly objected to a piece calling upon peaceful Muslims to fight actively against jihad terrorists. He has misrepresented the Qur’an’s sanction of deception of unbelievers; misrepresented the presence of violent passages in the Qur’an; misrepresented the Qur’an’s sanction of beating disobedient women; misrepresented the nature of Sharia; and called for limitations on the freedom of speech and expression to outlaw behavior and speech some Muslims may find offensive.

Also, as I wrote last week, for Leftists like Qasim Rashid, “people deemed ‘right-wing’ are unworthy of respect, and unworthy even of basic courtesy.” It constantly amazes me how slavering with hatred and frenzied contempt are the self-appointed exponents of “tolerance” and “love for all, hatred for none” when they are confronted with those whom they regularly smear with charges of “hatred” and “bigotry.” For all his pious posturing as an observant Ahmadi Muslim, Rashid is not only chronically dishonest, but is also a spectacularly unpleasant, nasty, rude, arrogant human being.

In the Washington Post piece he lies about the basis that laws calling for the imprisonment and/or execution of blasphemers have within the Qur’an and Sunnah. Here is the difference between actual reform and hypocritical deception: a sincere reformer will confront and refute the arguments that support the doctrine he is trying to reform; a deceiver will ignore those arguments, not mention the scriptural passages or other teachings that support the doctrine in question, and pretend that the doctrine doesn’t exist at all.

That’s what Qasim Rashid does here. He assembles a case for why “blasphemy charges pervert Islam’s teachings” without ever mentioning the Islamic foundations for blasphemy laws, thereby leaving a massive gaping hole in his own case by leaving unanswered this question: if “blasphemy charges pervert Islam’s teachings,” why are there so many perverts? If the Qur’an and  Muhammad taught the freedom of conscience so clearly, why do so many Muslims misunderstand what they say, including the Islamic governments of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere?

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The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #1: Louis Farrakhan

Sunday, February 9th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Louis Farrakhan, born in New York City in 1933, started out in life as a talented musician. Training intensively on the violin from the age of six, he played with the Boston College orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony, appeared and won an award on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, and won national competitions as a teenager. In the 1950s Farrakhan—or Louis Wolcott as he was then known—took a different musical tack as a calypso performer. He recorded albums, toured, and in 1955 headlined a show in Chicago called “Calypso Follies.” In other words, Louis Wolcott could have gone on contributing something positive to society as a musician and entertainer.

But that year, 1955, in Chicago, he embarked on a different path. Through a friend, Wolcott came into contact with the Nation of Islam, an antiwhite, antisemitic, African-American organization founded in the 1930s. Wolcott joined, converted to Islam, renounced music, and—in a profound sense—was no more, having morphed into Louis Farrakhan. And Farrakhan quickly rose through the Nation of Islam’s ranks, becoming its leading figure by the early 1980s. He has also been, for decades, America’s most vicious antisemitic rabble-rouser, poisoning thousands of minds or exacerbating poison that was already there. As Discover the Networks notes:

For many years, Farrakhan has ranked among the most influential black figures in America. He draws enormous, standing-room-only crowds of listeners wherever he speaks. An October 1992 lecture he gave in Atlanta actually outdrew a World Series game played there that same night….

Farrakhan’s October 16, 1995 “Million Man March” [in Washington] drew several hundred thousand attendees….

Farrakhan has been a mentor and role model to many black radicals, among the most notable being Malik Zulu Shabazz and the late Khalid Abdul Muhammad.

Farrakhan’s venues for speeches include mosques, churches, and universities, as well as online lectures. At Madison Square Garden in 1985, he addressed a notable but typical statement to Jews: “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!”

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Slamming Torah: There’s an App for That

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
heebsilverman

Sarah Silverman, Hipster Jew Goddess.

Last week the Forward covered a “trendy Jewish spoken word” happening in the trendy neighborhood of Park Slope in the trendy part of trendy New York City known as Brooklyn. If the E! network hasn’t made you wary enough of the word “trendy” this article surely should. Basically, it’s about a doctoral student and an app techie using grant funding to study what makes Judaism trendy with millennials. And if that doesn’t set off any alarm bells in your head, let me be very clear: the title “Sermon Slam” shouldn’t fool you. Despite the religious-themed location, if God was invited to join in the party it was to sit and be talked at, not about let alone with.

For those of you unfamiliar with Judaism or hip lingo: Instead of reading the Torah portion, and perhaps even the Haftarah portion, then wrestling with the meaning of the portion through a discussion involving comparative texts, the Sermon Slam for young adults involves attacking the weekly Torah portion with a style akin to a poetry slam – rough-edged spoken verse rooted in the performer’s emotions and personal (potentially uneducated) perspective:

“Spoken word poetry has become increasingly sexy. …When you synergize that with something that sounds boring, like a sermon… it’s an ancient tradition that we’re now embracing and making our own. It’s for the people, by the people. That feels exciting to those of us in our 20s and 30s.”

I’m far from Orthodox, in fact I don’t identify as a Rabbinic Jew (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist) at all. But this self aggrandizing hyperbole annoys me more than black hatters arguing over sleeve length ever could. Seriously, is Judaism so desperate for adherents that we’re getting grant funding to make the Torah “sexy”?

It gets worse. Apparently making the Torah “sexy” doesn’t involve actually reading the Torah as much as it involves creating a postmodern pastiche of Biblical words and pop culture lingo:

References to iPhones and to Facebook popped up in the same sentence as “Kiddush.” And the hallowed Hebrew names of God, “Adonai” and “Elohim,” were uttered in the same breath as “s–t.”

And now you know why I avoid obnoxious hipster Judaism like the plague. With its goddess worship of Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham and its conversion of New York into the New Zion, this religion has nothing to do with God and Torah and everything to do with Judaizing the kind of liberal self help ethos already prolific within the New Age and Buddhist movements. What’s next for Sermon Slam, a Chopra-esque two-hour fundraising featurette on PBS?

hipsterjew

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Paul, George, Ringo & the Prophet John

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Beatles Generation in the #USSR #socialism #music #beatles

As the world mourned the loss of Soviet evangelist Pete Seeger last week, I encountered stories of real Soviets who found God, not in the hammer and sickle of the USSR, but in the smuggled bootleg lyrics of the Beatles.

How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is a fascinating narrative detailing Soviet Baby Boomers’ covert love affair with the Fab Four. Interviewing a variety of Russian Beatlemaniacs, including many post-Communist music scene movers and shakers, over the course of nearly two decades, British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead discovered that The Beatles were much more than a band in the U.S.S.R. For many Soviet teens, The Beatles were a glimpse at independence, freedom, and even God.

The idea that a rock and roll band could provoke the understanding of the intertwining of God and freedom, let alone inspire a search for the divine, is one that is largely lost on an American audience. After all, as Soviet teens risked Kremlin hellfire to listen to Beatles tracks, their American counterparts in the Bible Belt were throwing their records on bonfires, forced by a religious hierarchy that saw John Lennon and his band as a threat to Christ. Rock music then became the stuff of hippies, the class that scoffed at religious institutions and, like The Beatles, sought divine encounters and self-empowerment through eastern religions.

Arguably, the advocates of Beatles burnings did more to harm Christ’s reputation and following than John Lennon ever could. After all, as he explained, his ironic quip about Jesus was more of a warning than a declaration:

“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”

Ironically, it’s a warning that post-Soviet leaders like Vladimir Putin have heeded with their own political purposes in mind.

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