Posts for Category Religion

Earth Day 2010

Remember Earth Day 2010? Neither did I until a strange voice appeared on my audio recorder
Nov 232014

Today I got out my audio recorder to use for a project involving a crocodile in my bathtub (more on that in a week or two). There were already some tracks on the memory card that I had never taken off, so when I went to play back today’s audio I was suddenly listening to the sound of my cat (who died in 2011) purring. Followed, bizarrely, by my sister talking to my niece about taking Woof Woof (stuffed dog?) with her (niece, not sister) to go pee-pee. Followed, even more bizarrely, by a man on a loudspeaker (with folk guitar in the background), laughing maniacally and saying, “We control your horizontal. We control your vertical. We give you that which is, was, will be.”*

I couldn’t figure out what I was listening to, or how it got on my recorder, and it was a little bit creepy. After a few moments I realized I must have recorded him when I was out photographing an event during one of my periods of playing at photojournalism (which for a while also involved some attempts at getting audio to go with the pictures). The timestamp on the audio file was April 25, 2010, which meant nothing to me, but I checked my photo catalog for that date and found my pictures from the Climate Rally held on the National Mall on Earth Day.

Man holding loudspeaker with Washington Monument in backgroundWhen I looked at the pictures it started to come back to me. I had arrived around 9:15 that morning, when things had barely gotten going and there were a few dozen people milling around. Off to the side was a man in his 20s or 30s wearing dress pants and shoes, clean white button-down shirt, tie, and dark sunglasses, with an American flag stuck in his hair and a battery-powered loudspeaker in his hand, talking about Jesus. The speaker was more interesting than your average person haranguing strangers about Jesus: he had a bit of an improvised poetic style, and was also listening to what was happening on stage and referencing it in his patter.

I recorded audio and took pictures of him at a few different times while I was there. By 12:15 I was done with the event; I can’t remember if I had somewhere else to be or was just bored with it. There were still fewer than 200 people there at that point, and the headline acts hadn’t come out yet. Apparently I really missed out, because eventually the sun came out and the rally got interesting, and, according to some reports, “tens of thousands” of people were there.

My pictures from the three hours I was there are uninteresting–so uninteresting that they’ve been languishing in my “to be reviewed” backlog ever since, totally forgotten. As I flipped through them today I had the audio playing in the background, and I found it a little haunting and strangely compelling–the speaker’s monologue interwoven with the music from the stage and contrasted against the rest of what was going on. So I’m posting it here as an audio slideshow for your consideration. It’s maybe a little long at just over seven minutes, and each picture is in front of you for too long because I didn’t have enough to select from, but still you might find it interesting if you put yourself in the right frame of mind and listen.

Plus there’s a guy with a cat on a leash.

I should just mention that I’m not trying to make any sort of statement about the Climate Rally itself here–it’s just that that’s what was going on while the guy was speaking, so I put the pictures in for context and to give you something to look at while you’re listening. I don’t know whether he was trying to make some larger point; whether he came out that day specifically for the rally or just decided to go preach on the Mall and the rally happened to be there. I don’t know this or anything else about him because I never talked to him to get his story, and for that reason I haven’t included any pictures of him other than the one above. Including more (identifiable) pictures of him felt like an invasion of his privacy (even though he was speaking in a public place), or maybe like co-opting him into my little art project. If I were actually a photojournalist I could have made a story about him, but instead this is a story about me listening to him, four and a half years after the fact.

Earth model in front of Capitol.
Play Slideshow

* * *

Oh, and because it seems wrong to let a post go by without making fun of someone or something, here’s the official Earth Day Menu of the food being offered by Guest Services (authorized concessioner for the rally):

Concession menu for Earth Day rally

I know there are limits to what you can efficiently and cost-effectively serve to large crowds, but didn’t someone think that this sort of rally might attract a lot of people who are vegetarian, or at least interested in healthy eating? Apparently not, because there are three choices on the menu: hot dogs, chicken tenders, and pulled pork barbecue. Also, just to nit-pick, I like that they included the accent in “à la carte” but missed the apostrophe in “Nations [sic] Capital.”


Google tells me that first bit is a misquotation from the opening sequence of The Outer Limits (video here).
I just today taught myself how to edit audio, so cut me some slack.
If you’re the person who wrote this sign, please refer to the Turnabout is Fair Play policy if you’d like to get your revenge upon me.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man

In which Bill considers biblical confusion about when midnight is
Sep 032014

I saw a man today wearing a t-shirt printed on the back with:

Don’t wait until midnight

Just as I was starting to make guesses about what was going to happen at midnight, he turned around and I saw the front:

No man knows the date or the hour

I know enough Bible to get that this is a reference to The Rapture:* Don’t think you can wait until the last minute to get yourself sorted out with God, because no one knows when he might show up and slaughter all the unrepentant masses.

But my first thought was that this is good advice for life generally: no one knows what you mean when you say midnight. If God announced that everyone should be packed and ready to go at midnight on April 18, at least half of his followers would miss the Rapture Train because they showed up at the end of April 18 instead of the beginning. That’s why lawyers don’t use midnight in contracts: they use 11:59pm or 12:01am (and if you’re listening, God, be sure to specify which time zone you’re referring to, too).

The Bible doesn’t actually cite midnight as the cause of the confusion, but we can interpret it that way:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father….Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

Clearly, one of those men and one of those women were confused about what midnight refers to. I don’t know what this house is all of a sudden, or why God’s return is being likened to a thief breaking into a house (isn’t his return supposed to be a good thing?), or why the Bible is telling us to keep watch when it is also telling us that there is no point in keeping watch because we cannot know when to keep watch, but “keep watch” obviously means “make sure your am/pm is set right on your watch and understand when midnight is.”

The advice from the United States Institute of Standards and Technology is slightly more straightforward :

Are noon and midnight referred to as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?

This is a tricky question because 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. are ambiguous and should not be used.

To illustrate this, consider that “a.m.” and “p.m.” are abbreviations for “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem,” which mean “before noon” and “after noon,” respectively. Since noon is neither before noon nor after noon, a designation of either a.m. or p.m. is incorrect. Also, midnight is both twelve hours before noon and twelve hours after noon.

It is fair to say, however, that the shortest measurable duration after noon should be designated as p.m. For example, it would be applicable for a digital clock changing from 11:59:59 a.m. to 12:00:00 to indicate p.m. as soon as it the 12:00 appears, and not delay the display of the p.m. by a minute, or even a second. The same is true for midnight, but there is an added issue of which day midnight refers to (see below).

Hours of operation for a business or other references to a block of time should also follow this designation rule.
For example, a business might be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon or weekends from 3:30 p.m. until midnight.

Is midnight the end of a day or the beginning of a day?

When someone refers to “midnight tonight” or “midnight last night” the reference of time is obvious. However, if a date/time is referred to as “at midnight on Friday, October 20th” the intention could be either midnight the beginning of the day or midnight at the end of the day.

To avoid ambiguity, specification of an event as occurring on a particular day at 11:59 p.m. or 12:01 a.m. is a good idea, especially legal documents such as contracts and insurance policies. Another option would be to use 24-hour clock, using the designation of 0000 to refer to midnight at the beginning of a given day (or date) and 2400 to designate the end of a given day (or date).


Insert scary noises and lightning bolts here.
Matthew 24:3643, New International Version, boring parts omitted.
Oct 212011

According to nutjob Harold Camping, I should be dead now. Or soon, anyway. Sometime today. I’ve completely lost interest in this whole stupid Rapture thing but felt compelled to make mention of it here anyway, since you expect it of me. Actually I had completely forgotten about it, despite the fact that it’s on my calendar, until an alert reader sent me this commentary by a Jesuit with a sense of humor, which you can go read in lieu of anything witty from me: It’s October 21: What I’ll miss when the world ends.

You can find my previous coverage here.

Link: Why have the Apostles behind Rick Perry’s prayer rally been invisible to most Americans?

Examination of Rick Perry's links to the New Apostolic Reformation movement.
Aug 152011

Examination of Rick Perry’s links to the New Apostolic Reformation movement.

Imagine if Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer rally had been an all-day procession of Roman Catholic priests, or perhaps pastors from the Southern Baptist Convention. The sectarianism would have been obvious. It wasn’t, at least to most people, because Americans are not familiar with the New Apostolic Reformation

Update: The end is drawing nigher

The latest news on Judgment Day, which is guaranteed to happen on May 21.
Apr 072011

Did you know that Judgment Day is scheduled for May 21? If not, read my post from last year to get yourself caught up.

This week several Alert Readers sent me photos of this advertisement, which is up on buses and in subway stations here in Washington, DC:


I was distracted by the guy on the right side of the ad, who seems to be taking a sunset crap on a beach, but Alert Reader T—— pointed out the gold seal of biblical guarantee on the left. Now I can’t decide which one is funnier.

The Family Radio site* has an even catchier graphic:


That’s right: 2012 is not allowed. This fits in with comments by one believer quoted in a recent Washington Post article about the zaniness: “God has put his stamp of approval that this is the day…I don’t doubt it, and I don’t look at the possibility of May 22 happening.”

The full details of the biblical guarantee can be found in Family Radio’s FAQ:


The FAQ has this information for doubters who do look at the possibility of May 22 happening:

What if May 21 ends and nothing occurs?

The Biblical evidence is too overwhelming and specific to be wrong. Christ’s people can look with great confidence to this date because God promises His “beloved” He will not come upon them as a thief in the night.

God in His mercy has revealed the vital information needed to know the day. Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 will occur because the bible declares it. Anyone whom God has not saved will arrive at that day with no hope for salvation. God warns simply the “door will be shut.”

So what’s in store for us on May 21?

A great earthquake will occur the Bible describes it as “such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.” This earthquake will be so powerful it will throw open all graves. The remains of the all the believers who have ever lived will be instantly transformed into glorified spiritual bodies to be forever with God.

On the other hand the bodies of all unsaved people will be thrown out upon the ground to be shamed.

The inhabitants who survive this terrible earthquake will exist in a world of horror and chaos beyond description. Each day people will die until October 21, 2011 when God will completely destroy this earth and its surviving inhabitants.

It’s not clear to me from this summary what will happen to the living believers in this scenario, but I assume they’re supposed to go to heaven along with the believer corpses.

Sadly, the organizers of the Run for Your Lives (“a 5k obstacle course race & scavenger hunt, infested with Zombies”) did not get the memo. They invite participants to

CELEBRATE YOUR LAST DAY WITH US at the apocalypse party

You have survived the zombie invasion (for now) so celebrate your last day with, Zombie chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, assorted beverages and the all-important antidote, Beer.

But the event is on October 22, a day too late! We will all be completely destroyed by then and unable to participate.

Want more information? Visit the Family Radio site. Feeling optimistic? Register for the Run for Your Lives.


The Family Radio site and related propaganda are available in an impressive number of languages (look at the scrolling list under the judgment day graphic on the main page). Note that it’s not just the graphic that changes when you select a language—all the PDFs are also translated. These people are nothing if not thorough. Except that they didn’t include Icelandic on the list, so my friends in Iceland are all going to hell. If you speak Fulfulde (who knew?!), though, you’re covered.
Incidentally, the Washington Post article mentioned this Pew Research poll, which found that 41% of Americans believe that Jesus will return by 2050. Reassuringly, though, 46% do not believe this.