Religion

Bedrock Faith

The Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia, was cut from a single block of stone in the 12th century.

See also Rock-Cut Architecture.

Oh Well

In the early 1960s, a computer analysis showed that six different authors had written the Epistles of St. Paul.

That would be big news, but it also showed that James Joyce’s Ulysses had been written by five people — none of whom had composed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Holiday for Vowels

“In an old church in Westchester county, N.Y., the following consonants are written beside the altar, under the Ten Commandments. What vowel is to be placed between them, to make sense and rhyme of the couplet?”

P.R.S.V.R.Y.P.R.F.C.T.M.N.
V.R.K.P.T.H.S.P.R.C.P.T.S.T.N

— Charles Bombaugh, Facts and Fancies for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1860

Click for Answer

Finding the Holy Grail

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_da_Vinci_(1452-1519)_-_The_Last_Supper_(1495-1498).jpg

There’s no chalice on the table in Leonardo’s Last Supper

… but there is one on Bartholemew’s head (far left).

“Earthquake Panic”

A panic terror of the end of the world seized the good people of Leeds and its neighborhood in the year 1806. It arose from the following circumstances. A hen, in a village close by, laid eggs, on which were inscribed the words, “Christ is coming.” Great numbers visited the spot, and examined these wondrous eggs, convinced that the day of judgment was near at hand. Like sailors in a storm, expecting every instant to go to the bottom, the believers suddenly became religious, prayed violently, and flattered themselves that they repented them of their evil courses. But a plain tale soon put them down, and quenched their religion entirely. Some gentlemen, hearing of the matter, went one fine morning and caught the poor hen in the act of laying one of her miraculous eggs. They soon ascertained beyond doubt that the egg had been inscribed with some corrosive ink, and cruelly forced up again into the bird’s body. At this explanation, those who had prayed, now laughed, and the world wagged as merrily as of yore.

— Edmund Fillingham King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, 1860

Omnipotence Paradox

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Creation_of_Adam.jpg

If God can do anything, can he make a rock so big that he can’t move it?

Wait a Minute …

Every May and December, thousands of Catholics gather in Naples to witness a miracle: The dried blood of Saint Januarius, which is kept in small capsules, liquefies when it’s brought near his body.

Januarius was martyred in 305, and the “miracle of the blood” has been happening since at least 1389, which is pretty impressive.

But investigator Joe Nickell notes that a thixotropic gel such as hydrated iron oxide remains highly viscous until it’s stirred or moved. And the same miracle is claimed for several other saints … all in the Naples area. Hmm.

Baaackstabber

Canny sheep sometimes resist going down the slaughterhouse ramp to their deaths. So workers sometimes train a goat to go down first, triggering the herding instinct and solving the problem. The goat isn’t harmed and can be used over and over for this purpose.

It’s called a judas goat.

Group Portrait

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mahakumbh.jpg

This is the largest gathering of human beings in the history of the world — in January 2001, 70 million Hindu pilgrims met in Prayaga, India, for a religious festival called the Kumbh Mela.

Three years later, 30 million met in Ujjain.

Equidistant Letter Sequences

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Code_de_la_Bible.png

If you take the text of Genesis 26:5-10 and break it into lines of 33 characters each, the words Bible and code appear, word-search-style, in the resulting grid.

That looks pretty nifty, but in fact you can find almost anything in a long text if you look hard enough. Using the same technique in 1997, Australian mathematician Brendan McKay found that Moby Dick had predicted the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, including the assassin’s first and last names, the university he attended, and even the motive (“Oslo,” referring to the Oslo accords). That Melville — what a genius.