Yet that’s exactly what John Pentland, a pastor in Calgary, Canada, will be doing this Sunday in honor of Earth Day.
The blessing is a way of remembering the blessings of life and the joy of riding, he tells the Calgary Herald:
I have to admit it does seem weird, but it is not just about the metal bicycle. It is more about honouring our bodies and the body of the earth. It is about the gift of wheels. It is about remembering people who have died cycling this past year. It is about being active. It is about creating a safe city for all. It is about community and the solidarity of fellow riders.

Meditation teacher gathers Consciousness Explorers Club in ‘collective wonderment’

Staying in Canada, Maclean’s magazine has an interesting article about a meditation teacher by name of Jeff Warrren.
imagesCACGOXM7Yes, we also did a double-take, but it’s not a mix-up with Warren Jeffs, the polygamous cult leader who is using his life sentence to sharpen his creative writing skills by issuing idiotic prophecies he claims are dictated by the Mormon version of Jesus Christ.
Warren, we learn, is Toronto-born journalist, a meditation instructor, and author of The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness.
The latter is filled with the kind of stuff that reminds us that skeptic James Randi asserts ‘New Age’ rhymes with ‘sewage.’
Anyway, a year-and-a-half ago Warren started the Consciousness Explorers Club — “an attempt to rescue spiritual and meditation practice from dour fundamentalists of all persuasions.”
According to Maclean’s
At school, he was, in his words, “a disregulated partier,” and it was only after he developed ADD in the wake of a massive brain injury—high on psilocybin mushrooms in his final year, he fell 30 feet out of a tree—that he became fascinated by what he calls “all these flavours of consciousness that people aren’t really aware of.”
The magazine says that Warren, who is “staunchly anti-guru,” see meditation as “the key to understanding how thoughts, emotions and sensations truly function and a method to improve how they function.”
Warren now plans to move the Consciousness Explorers Club out of his living room and turn it into what he calls a “21st-century community centre,” where meditation enhances and encourages social justice, activism and creative innovation. [...] “The whole point of this is first you work on yourself,” he says. “But you do it so you can be more efficient at helping others.”
Jeff has been studying meditation with the Buddhist teacher Shinzen Young since 2008. Maclean’s says Young has created a “system of 13 meditation techniques that synthesize several contemplative techniques (mostly Buddhist), while largely stripping them of their religious content.”
Warren now teaches those techniques himself several times a week, in workshops that typically last seven weeks, and which cost almost $400. [...]
The novelist Barbara Gowdy started meditating with Warren in the hope of reducing the debilitating back pain from which she suffers. To a skeptic like her, his jargon-free approach was irresistible. “He reminds me of a young Ram Dass,” Gowdy says, referring to the renowned American guru. “He could be a cult leader if he wanted. But he’s too kind and open. He genuinely wants to help.”
Last year Warren spent a month on a solitary meditation retreat, under the supervision of self-proclaimed ‘fully enlightened being’ Daniel Ingram, author of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book.
He chronicled his experience in the New York Times, and if you ask me I’d say he didn’t exactly have a good time.

Islamic city council bans female flatulence in Indonesia

An Islamic city council in the Indonesian province of Aceh, which follows Sharia, has banned female citizens from passing gas.
Sayyid Yahia, mayor of the city, told media that a ban was needed, as farting does not go well with the Islamic values of modesty. “Muslim women are not allowed to fart with sound, it’s against Islamic teachings,” he said. Meanwhile, the Indonesian Feminists Association told local media they will attempt to block the smelly law as they deem it discriminatory.
Talking to The Wadiyan, mayor Sayyid Yahia said the law aims to save people’s morals and behaviors. “When you see woman fart loud, she appears like a man. But if she sit sideways and pass it quietly, she looks like a woman,” Sayyid said.
Although the proposed law does not ban “quiet fart,” passing gas with sound is actually not uncommon in Southeast Asia, particularly for women consuming potatoes and peas. Obviously, women maintain that they feel healthier, farting loud. Fathima Khan, a medical doctor at the Al Banni Islamic Hospital in Aceh’s capital is critical of the proposed law: “There is no need to question this practice, let alone regulate it, because people do it for their health and safety,” she said.
The mayor declined to give The Wadiyan details of what the punishment would be for violators. While another member at the City council, who wished not to be named, said if convicted by
Fart bannedthe sharia court, the offender could receive 20 lashes for small farts and up to 3 months prison time for larger ones.
On another note, the local Islamic scholars were mostly divided over the law. Well-known Muslim activists like Bshar Abdulla voiced his objection, “How to pass gas is not regulated in Sharia. There is no mention of it in the Koran,” he said on his Twitter account. However, “the Islamic tradition and the values of modesty does not support women farting loud,” said Mehmood Hussain, a scholar and stenchy supporter of the law.
Under the new regulation, the mayor says that only women in the public space are going to be monitored. “It will be the responsibility of the husband to make sure that his wife upholds Islamic values at home”. He also argued that there is no scientific evidence supporting health benefits of passing gas, in Koran.
The City council will be evaluating the regulation in a week, after which it could turn into a by-law.

Mormons tweak Scriptures, again • Friday March 8, 2013

As it has done throughout its history, the Mormon Church has again adapted its Scriptures — although this time around the changes introduced affect for the most part chapter headings, study helps and historical descriptions.
As The Guardian points out,
Chapter headings are considered to be a study guide rather than sacred, canonised text, so there are no concerns about alterations changing holy writ. But included alongside the scriptures and produced by the leaders of the church, they still carry the unmistakable imprimatur of authority.
The Salt Lake Tribune says
It marks the first time in more than 30 years that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated its four books of scripturethe Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price — and the changes are generating lots of buzz among members, scholars and bloggers.

Black Skin and the Seed of Cain

Experts say the biggest change is in the lead-in to Official Declaration 2, which describes the church’s 1978 announcement to lift its ban on black males holding the faith’s priesthood.
As Tresa Edmunds explains in The Guardian
What is extraordinary is the admission that in the earliest days of the church, black men were ordained to the priesthood just as white men were. Elijah Abel, a black man, even served in some of the highest governing bodies of the church. Over the years that practice not only ceased, but the history of it was largely forgotten. It wasn’t until 1978 that black men were again allowed to receive the priesthood and black women were allowed to attend the temple. Most members were unaware that there was ever a time when black people were allowed equal participation in the gospel. Trying to explain or defend the racist practice introduced toxic folk doctrines that perpetuated racism into our present day, more than 30 years after the ban was lifted. Even the recent Broadway musical Book of Mormon alludes to this with the statement that “In 1978 God changed his mind about black people”.”
Historians and scholars have known very well that it wasn’t God who changed his mind about black people, it was church leadership. [...]
[I]n this statement there is finally an acknowledgment of history, that this ban was not ever revelation despite the desire to end it with one, and that even men ordained to speak the word of God can be blinded by their own prejudice
The admission of racism is important, though it doesn’t even begin to address what LDS prophets and apostles actually taught about black men.

Racism and the IRS

Then there’s the tax issue… There are plenty of people who believe that the ‘revelation’ in which the God of the Mormon Church ended the ban on blacks in the priesthood was inspired by the possibility of a change in church’s tax-exempt status.
But as the author of that article says, “In conclusion, there was probably more than one reason why blacks were finally allowed to have the Mormon Priesthood”
18441-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Chubby-Nude-White-Woman-Holding-Her-Brests-And-Looking-Shockingly-Down-At-The-Weight-Depicted-On-A-ScaleIncidentally, that article, on a website operated by a former Mormon, includes a quote from a message posted in a public forum at The Salt Lake Tribune by Bruce L. Olson — then the Managing Director, of the LDS Church’s Public Affairs Department.
Olson was responding to someone’s “claims that the federal government threatened The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with its tax-exempt status in 1978 because of the church’s position regarding blacks and the priesthood.”
The first sentence of his response is both hilarious and sad — given the LDS Church’s record of distorting and inventing history:
It’s one thing to distort history, quite another to invent it.
Pot. Kettle. Black.


There are changes in the information about polygamy as well.
Valerie Hudson, a Mormon political science professor at Texas A&M University, commented in an email to the Salt Lake Tribune: “In these new introductions, we see that ‘plural marriage’ (notice, not ‘plurality of wives’) is to be viewed as a principle and not as a commandment, and that the ‘standard’ of marriage is monogamy.”
That’s interesting. In his book, Under The Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer says
Polygamy was, in fact, one of the most sacred credos of Joseph’s church – a tenet important enough to be canonized for the ages as Section 132 of The Doctrine and Convenants, on of Mormonism’s primary scriptural texts.
The revered prophet described plural marriage as part of “the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on earth” and taught that a man needed at least three wives to attain the “fullness of exaltation” in the afterlife. He warned that God had explicitly commanded that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same … and if ye abide not that covenenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”
Mormon fundamentalist groups — such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which has been in the news so much in recent years — came into existence when the Mormon Church LDS Church was forced to abandon polygamy.

The Mormon Church

Officially named ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,’ commonly abbreviated as LDS, theologically the Mormon Church is instead considered to be a cult of Christianity.
The Mormon Church itself claims, by way of a ‘revelation’ purportedly given by ‘Jesus Christ,’ that it is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” with which the Lord is “well pleased.”
While Mormonism has usurped and adapted many aspects of Christianity, a number of key LDS doctrines and practices — as well as claims regarding the church’s origins, veracity and position within the Christian faith — have led the vast majority of Christian denominations and theologians to declare that the Mormon Church falls outside the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.
Despite claims to the contrary, Mormons are not Christians, the Book of Mormon — which is riddled with problems — is not, as the LDS Church claims, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” and Mormonism does not have any affinity with Christianity whatsoever.
As we note at our parent site, Apologetics Index: Just like attaching a Roll Royce logo to a Volkswagen does not make the latter a Rolls Royce, using the name of Jesus Christ does not make Mormonism “Christian.” Suggesting the Mormon Jesus is “Christian” is, in fact, as dishonest as selling a counterfeit watch as a “Rolex.” After all, the “Jesus” created by the Mormon Church is far different from – and incompatible with – the biblical Jesus Christ.