Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bill Maher’s Movie, Religulous

Yesterday, Fox News reported on “Bill Maher’s Anti-Religion Movie” titled Religulous (think of the word religious combined with the word ridiculous). This movie is apparently Maher’s effort to document the ridiculous nature of religious beliefs, whatever they may be, and to express his concern that all religions are bad and in effect dangerous. Maher is quoted as stating that “Religion is detrimental to the progress of society.” In the movie trailer, Maher says, “It worries me that people are running my country who believe in a talking snake” referring, of course, to the Genesis account of Eve being tempted by the serpent.

Certainly these feelings are not new. Dr. Richard Dawkins, biologist and author of “The God Delusion”, has expressed similar sentiments. However the cynical, and mocking nature of how Maher expresses his opinions are rather startling.

Some time ago, TwoMinuteBriefing expressed concern that as a society we appeared to be moving into an era where the level of animosity against religion was increasing. Bill Maher’s new movie would appear to be another indicator of this trend.

Click HERE to see the movie trailer.

CAUTION: TwoMinuteBriefing cautions its readers NOT to follow the link from the movie's website to contains some material that readers of TwoMinuteBriefing may find objectionable.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Mormon Temple is not a place of public religious worship

A decision published today by the House of Lords (Gallagher (Valuation Officer) v Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), reaffirmed the decision issued in the case of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints v Henning (Valuation Officer) ([1964] AC 420), in which it was determined that for tax purposes, Mormon temples do not qualify as places of public religious worship in Great Britain. This is apparently because Mormon temples are open only to Mormons in good standing.

The decision clarified that this was not a case in which Mormons were taxed on account of their religion, rather it was that their religion prevented them from providing the public benefit necessary to secure a tax advantage.

To read the full story click here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Woe unto them that call evil good (Isaiah 5:20)

Gossip Girl, an apparently over-sexed show about teenagers in high school, has taken the negative comments of critics and turned them into their media campaign for this coming season. The advertisements feature provocative poses of the the shows main characters with the captions, "Very Bad for You", "Every Parent's Nightmare", "A Nasty Piece of Work", and "Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate". ('Gossip Girl': A look at Season 2's ad campaign)

In 2004, the RAND institute reported that "heavy exposure to sexual content on television related strongly to teens' initiation of intercourse in the following year." (Does Watching Sex on Television Influence Teens’ Sexual Activity?)

That Gossip Girl flaunts the sexual nature of its show, and that its target audience is teenagers is indeed very concerning.

Gossip Girl is a product of The CW television network.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thinking of Christmas in August

It may seem odd to be thinking of Christmas in August, but it is for more than just sentimental reasons. The holiday season, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, are a time of year when, as Dickens writes, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute”. Typically, charitable organizations, and food banks endeavor “to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth” for it is in the holiday season “when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”

This year, however, a confluence of events makes the outlook bleak for charitable giving.

The high price of crude oil has impacted the price of virtually all consumer good, the cost of commuting to work, or anywhere else, and will cause the price of heating oil this winter to be over 30% higher than last year.

Even while less discretionary income is available, the political campaigns of this presidential election cycle, and the anticipation of expensive and hotly contested initiative elections (such as Proposition 8 on Gay Marriage in California) are tapping into those ever dwindling financial reserves.

And so, I’m thinking of Christmas in August. With less discretionary income available, and with more people in need, what will happen to the “Poor and destitute” this coming holiday season?

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Issue Specific TwoMinuteBrifing Blog

Even before the May 15th announcement by the California Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage, there appeared to be daily events occurring regarding the legal, political, and social battle over Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual (GLBT) rights.

In an effort to better cover that specific issue, TwoMinuteBriefing has created a new blog specific to that topic.

You can find this blog at:

Friday, May 16, 2008

California Supreme Court Legalizes Same-sex Marriages

(Over the next few days, there will be updates on this issue.)

Yesterday the California Supreme court issued a ruling effectively legalizing Same-sex marriage in California. Upon initial reading, the 120+ page decision appears to rely principally on California state law, and the California state constitution.

In the case, tentatively titled In re MARRIAGE CASES, the court interestingly concludes that 1) marriage is a fundamental right protected by the state constitution (p. 5), and 2) that marriage is so important it should not be denied to any loving couple (p. 120).

For those opposed to Gay Marriage, their work on an amendment to the California State Constitution becomes that much more critical. If this amendment had been in place prior to the California Supreme Court addressing this current case, the Court’s decision would likely have been different.

Read the Decision Here

See also:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Extraterrestrial Brotherhood

The official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, recently ran an article entitled, "The Extraterrestrial Is My Brother" in which Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, told the paper that it was certainly possible that life forms could exist on other worlds, and that the existence of such life would not pose a problem for those of the Catholic faith.

Funes went on to say that if intelligent life existed on those worlds, they could be considered extraterrestrial brothers and sisters.

Although the concept of intelligent lifeforms on other worlds being our spiritual brothers and sisters might seem to be a new concept, it would fit well with the teaching of the Mormon Church which has taught this principle since its foundation.

It is also worth contemplating how this statement fits in with other statements or procedural changes that have been made in recent years by the Catholic church, specifically, the return to the use of Latin in the Mass, and doing away with the concept of Limbo.

Fox News Story
Catholic News Service Story

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Online Life Affects Offline Behavior

In a TIME magazine article published Monday, May 12th, Kristna Dell reports on the impact that the use of online Avatars (personal characters created by users) can have on the real world behavior of those using the Avatars.

This is more than just a curiosity or social oddity. Second Life, a highly popular virtual world on the internet which uses Avatars, has over 13 million registered users. The Second Life virtual world has shopping districts, distinct neighborhoods, parks, beaches, clubs, etc. Where previously there was concern that individuals would get lost in online chat rooms, Second Life, or other such virtual worlds provide not just a chat "room", but a complete virtual world.

World of Warcraft, which is a war game played in a virtual world, while not using Avatars also provides opportunity for individuals to lead virtual lives online. World of Warcraft has over 10 million subscribers.

Although the TIME article points out that in an appropriate therapy setting these virtual worlds might actually aid patients, it would seem that for many no real benefit is being gained. Conversely, what may be lost is not only time, but real world associations and perhaps even portions of an individuals real world personality.

Time article

China Earthquake - Five Steps from Home

Monday the Chinese province of Sichuan was hit by a reported 7.9 earthquake which has been devastating in its impact. As of this morning, casualties figures stand at approximately 12,000, with an estimated 18,000 buried in rubble in one city alone.

Virtually anytime there is an impact on the Chinese population, the numbers are large. In this case as well, the numbers are staggering. When the numbers involved in such a disaster are of this magnitude, it sometimes numbs the mind to the true nature of the individual tragedies that are taking place. Family homes have been destroyed, family members have been lost. Emotional, physical, economic, psychological, and spiritual recovery may be long in coming.

But what does this have to do with us?

Beyond the pain that we individually should feel at the suffering of any member of the Human Family, the impact can be more direct, and hence we introduce the concept of Five Steps from Home.

Whereas Two Minute Briefing usually provides the connections on how events may impact you, your community, or your organization, today we invite you to search for the links. We think you will find that this Chinese tragedy will be only some five steps from home, your home, your business, your community.

We invite your comments.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Young Evangelicals Leaving the Republican Fold?

Reports continue to surface that Evangelicals, previously assumed to vote Republican as a block, are leaving the Republican fold over issues such as the Iraq war, the economy, and even the environment.

A 2007 survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reported that approximately 15% of young white evangelicals, a traditionally solid republican block, were no longer identifying with the GOP. Older evangelicals are also re-examining their traditional party identifications.

Although there is certainly sufficient reason to debate the current administration's handling of the Iraq war and the U.S. economic situation, other questions arise from this shifting of party loyalties.

  1. Will this shift impact the balance of power in congress?
  2. Will Democrats brought into power by this shift be more moderate in their stance, and hence be at odds with the broader Democratic leadership?
This shift in political allegiance may impact relations among faith groups. Will faith groups seeking to work on common issues such as abortion or pornography, or local issues such as poverty and education, find themselves at odds over political issues, and will these political differences become a stumbling block to getting work done on those issues of common interest?

Seattle Times Article

Why is Moscow showing its big guns?

Friday, May 9th, Russia celebrated its largest secular holiday, Victory Day which commemorates its WWII victory over Nazi Germany. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Victory Day parade in Red Square included military hardware: tanks, mobile missile units, armored vehicles, and Topol missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The speech delivered by President Dmitry Medvedev to mark the occasion was softer in tone than the address given by his predecessor Vladimir Putin last year. Nevertheless, beyond being an opportunity to show renewed military strength, this display does raise several questions:
  1. Why now?
  2. What messages is Russia trying to send and to whom, and
  3. What implications do these messages have for other aspects of Russian interaction with the west.
For organizations seeking to establish business or social links in Russia, this signal is worth noting.

AP Article

Moscow Times Article

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Continuing Misperceptions of the Mormon Church

On April 30th, Timothy Egan, a writer for the New York Times, posted to his blog comments comparing the current practices of the FLDS church with the practices of the founders of the Mormonism, specifically Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor. He asserted that what was being uncovered in Texas currently was to some degree like looking at the behavior of the founding fathers of Mormonism. Mr. Egan cites as sources for his information on Mormonism Fawn Brodie (No Man Knows My History), and Jon Krakauer (Under the Banner of Heaven).

Although Mr. Egan's blog posting could be considered phenomenally uninformed, it is nevertheless very educational. It is educational in the sense that:
  1. it clearly demonstrates how old biases regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints persist, in spite of the LDS Church's efforts, even among those who might be considered highly educated, and
  2. it would seem to illustrate that whereas broad based media efforts might raise someone's awareness of a particular group or issue, it may likely be that personal contacts will be more effective in changing long held, albeit incorrect perceptions or beliefs.
Timothy Egan's blog

Elder Marlin K. Jensen's response

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pope to send text messages to youth during World Youth Day

Several news services are reporting that the Catholic Church has decided to send text messages from the Pope to the estimated 225,000 youth who will participate in the World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney, Australia in July of this year.

The sending of inspirational text messages is not new. It has been possible for years to subscribe to services which would send you a daily inspirational message.

That the Catholic Church is using this technology with the specific intent of reaching out to young people is noteworthy for two reasons:
  1. because it demonstrates their interest in the youth of their church, and in reaching out to that demographic, and
  2. because is shows their willingness to adopt new technologies.
The prevalence of cell phones throughout the world even where landlines do not exist, and the incredibly large numbers of people that use cell phones for texting rather than voice communication makes this mode of communication worth understanding for any organization which wishes to reach out to large scattered audiences, particularly young audiences.