Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

From Sorceress to Saint

In May 1920, Joan of Arc was declared a saint by the Catholic Church, almost 500 years after being burned at the stake for heresy.

After claiming she heard voices telling her to liberate France from English rule, she helped lead French forces as a teenager. Pro-English clergy captured her, found her guilty of heresy, and burned her at the stake in 1431, at age 19.

But a quarter century later, in 1456, Pope Callixtus III authorized a posthumous retrial for Joan, an ardent Catholic. The retrial officially declared her innocent, after 115 witnesses were called.

Almost five centuries later, Pope Benedict XV declared her a saint. He only declared four people as saints during his tenure. That number has increased dramatically with the last three popes, who have each declared dozens and dozens of people as saints.

According to this Washington Post graphic, the three most recent popes have surged the rate of saint declarations. This 2015 graphic actually considerably understates Pope Francis’s number, since his current total now stands at 56 people delcared as saints, meaning his bar should actually be larger than that of predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.

Source: Kevin Uhrmacher, graphics editor, Washington Post.


From Sorceress to Saint: Final Canonization of Joan of Are Has Worked This Change in Her Official Ecclesiastical Status (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 16, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 14th, 2020 at 10:11 am

Posted in Religion

America’s Attitude Toward the Clergy

Clergy and religious leaders were losing influence and leadership in many different areas of life.

in philanthropy:

Look at the governing boards of such organizations as even the Red Cross, the Committee of Mercy and similar societies, and the astonishing fact reveals itself that the clergy are effectively boycotted! The very men on whose co-operation and good-will success in appealing for funds mainly depends are carefully excluded from membership; acknowledged to be essential in the gathering of the money, they are allowed no voice in its disbursement.

in politics:

As they forfeited no rights of citizenship by becoming clergymen, it would seem that it is as much their duty to be interested in politics as any one else. To be sure, for partisan politics in their public ministrations there is and should be no place, but there are always grave moral questions back on the political setting, and on these the clergy should constantly speak, just because they are clergymen.

Strange things have been happening in Washington. Certain “missions” from abroad have been here. They came about war and peace and international relationships. Naturally they were much entertained, not only in a private way, but also officially. Yet so far as we have been able to learn at not one of these official hospitalities were any clergymen present — their absence being markedly in contrast with their presence at certain of the foreign embassies, where they do these things better. Of course politicians were there, so were representatives of the army and navy; also the people with large pocketbooks, but the one class that should have been invited first of all was not invited at all. Why?

in the social realm:

The boycott which prevails so effectively in our political and philanthropic worlds is just as effective in the social world. For some reasons the hospitalities and social courtesies commonly extended to prominent men are rarely extended to the clergy… under penalty of loss of votes.

It was a very able (Episcopal) Bishop, the head of one of the largest dioceses in the East, who was thus addressed in his Diocesan Convention: “May I venture to make the suggestion that you go more about among your people in a social way? Thereby they would know you better and you would greatly increase your influence for good.”

Promptly the Bishop replied: “I heartily agree with my brother and thank him for his suggestion, but since I have been in this city I have received exactly three invitations to dinner and have accepted them all. What more can I do?”

This seems to be connected to what was, at the time, decreasing religiosity in many circles. President Woodrow Wilson, asked four years later in 1922 whether he believed in evolution, replied: “Of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.”

And now the vice president is Mike Pence.


America’s Attitude Toward the Clergy: Member of the Profession Discusses Its Lost Leadership and Suggests Reasons for the Change — Exclusion from Politics and Ostracism from Social Life (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 14, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 10th, 2018 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Religion

What the New Army Expects of Its Chaplains

As American involvement in World War I escalated dramatically, more and more chaplains were needed to provide religious guidance and support for soldiers.

“There are now sixty-six chaplains appointed to the regular army, representing every Christian denomination. The scheme of the General Staff for the new army provides one Chaplain with every new regiment ordered. This will mean that in six months, at the latest, about 300 clergymen will be called from their parishes to work with American troops at home and abroad.”

You may not think of chaplains when they think of Americans deployed overseas in wartime, but 23 chaplains died during World War I while on active duty.

As for the reference to chaplains “representing every Christian denomination,” the first Buddhist chaplain was added in 2004 and the first Hindu chaplain in 2011. An effort to install the first atheist chaplain in 2015 was rejected by military lawyers, in a controversial decision.

What the New Army Expects of Its Chaplains: One of Them Outlines His Views Based Upon Years of Experience with Regulars — Preaching Only a Part of the Duties (PDF)

From Sunday, June 17, 1917

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Written by Jesse

June 17th, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Scientists’ Belief in a Personal God Probed

Scientists' Belief in a Personal God Probed

A survey was sent out to 1,000 scientists by a professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr in 1917, asking whether they believed in a personal god. Dividing them into those of “greater” and “lesser” eminence. (The division into “lesser” and “greater” scientists, or really any classification of people in general whether by occupation or other category, would surely not withstand peer-reviewed scrutiny today.) About 45.5 to 50.1 percent of the “lesser” scientists declared belief in a personal god, while a notably lower 27.7 to 35.7 percent of the “greater” scientists did. When it came to a belief in personal immortality in the afterlife, 52.8 to 66.5 percent of the “lesser” scientists declared belief, compared to a quite lower 35.2 to 38.8 percent of the “greater” scientists.

Today, those numbers remain remarkably stable, if a bit down. A July 2006 survey from Pew Research Center found that 33 percent of scientists believe in God, although that’s far less than the 83 percent of the general U.S. population. Moreover, 41 percent of scientists actively didn’t believe in God, compared to just 4 percent of the U.S. population. Secularization rates among the American public have ticked up in the past decade since that survey, but they still unquestionably represent a minority of the public at large.

Scientists’ Belief in a Personal God Probed: Interesting Results of a Study Made of Selected Groups
— Their Views on the Question of Personal Immortality Also Studied

From Sunday, January 14, 1917

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Written by Jesse

January 16th, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Religion,Science

Minister Who Would Be Governor of Florida

From September 17, 1916


Minister Who Would Be Governor of Florida: Having Won the Democratic Nomination, the Rev. Sidney J. Catts Is the Centre of Stormiest Political Fight in State’s History (PDF)

Sidney Catts won the 1916 Democratic primary to become the nominee for Florida governor, but the party leaders were upset that the “outsider” pastor and insurance salesman with no political experience was to become their standard-bearer. The party went to the state Supreme Court and got them to demand a recount, which didn’t include Catts. Catts, having essentially had the primary election stolen from him upon this subsequent recount, then became the Prohibition Party’s nominee and won the general election in November, beating the official Democratic nominee William Knott handily.  Although many prohibitionists won statewide office running as Democrats or Republicans, to this day Catts remains the only candidate ever elected to a statewide office under the Prohibitionist Party banner.

And Florida never had a shady recount election with a politically-influenced court ruling ever again.

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Written by Jesse

September 17th, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Politics,Religion

Washington’s Letter Vanishes from Baltimore

From September 10, 1916


Washington’s Letter Vanishes from Baltimore: Was a Link with the Past, Recalling Memories of Constitutional Convention and the Carrolls of Carrollton (PDF)

Shortly after George Washington was elected as president, Bishop John Carroll sent him a letter on behalf of American Catholics congratulating him on the post and stressing the need to maintain religious liberty. Washington wrote back, saying, in part: “As Mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of Civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost Nations in examples of Justice and Liberality.”

More then a century later, when documents were being indexed at a cathedral in Baltimore where the letter was believed to be located, it was discovered that the letter was missing. It was not know since when the letter had been gone. This article from Catholic Review notes that the letter was subsequently found and is now housed at the the Archdiocese of Baltimore — but that it’s also not known when the letter was recovered, either!

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Written by Jesse

September 9th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Religion

Where Catholics and Non-Catholics Should Unite

From August 13, 1916

Where Catholics

Where Catholics and Non-Catholics Should United: Bishop McFaul Says They Should Work Together for the Stamping Out of Evil in a Spirit of Patriotism and Service (PDF)

Amidst a presidential campaign where non-Catholic Donald Trump has gotten into a feud with Pope Francis — that’s right, a feud with the Pope — it’s important to remember that this is actually a period of low inter-religious tension in this country. (With the exception of Muslims, it seems.) In this article from 1916, Rev. James A. McFaul suggests people put aside their religious differences in the spirit of unity as World War I raged on. The Catholic percentage of the U.S. population has gone from about 14.2 percent then to 24.3 percent now.

This gem was also enjoyable, regarding the newest form of visual media at the time:

The readers of The New York Times, I doubt not, have followed the discussion which has been going the rounds of the press regarding moving pictures. Delegations in which were both Catholic clergymen and non-Catholic went to the capital of the State of New York to urge that the youth of this country be fended from the obscene and the immoral when they sought recreation in the film theaters.

I’m sure Rev. McFaul would have loved Deadpool.

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Written by Jesse

August 11th, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Religion

Priests Block Recruiting in Quebec Province

From June 25, 1916

Quebec - cropped

Priests Block Recruiting in Quebec Province: French Canadians, Led by Their Clergy, Defy Dominion Government — Hints of Uprising Because of Bilingual Question (PDF)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. To this day, Quebec has had an active separatist movement vowing to remove itself from Canada and become independent. A 2012 poll found that 42 percent of Quebec citizens want to separate. Their “distinctive language and culture” is one of the major reasons why, and about 80 percent of the Quebec population cite French as their “mother tongue.” As the 1916 article says:

There are extremists who hint at actual physical rebellion and civil war. Not even those who are not extremists will say that such a disaster is impossible; they refer to it as extremely improbable, but add that all Quebec would welcome an opportunity to secede from the Dominion without bloodshed.

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Written by Jesse

June 25th, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Politics,Religion

A Talk With William Jennings Bryan, Evangelist

From September 10, 1911


A TALK WITH WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN, EVANGELIST: The Famous Democrat Has Taken Up a New Line of Work Though He Says He Has Not Abandoned Politics Entirely — Vigorous Views on Religion. (PDF)

Today I think of William Jennings Bryan as the anti-evolution prosecuting attorney in the Scopes Trial. But that wouldn’t be for another 14 years. By 1911, he was already a three-time Presidential candidate, and former Congressman. In a couple years, he would become Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson.

Here’s some of what he says about evolution in this article:

“I cannot accept it. The monkey may be an acceptable ancestor for some — I do not find him so. The doctrine of evolution explains but one-third of the problem, and that the lowest of the thirds — the physical. It does not explain the mind, it does not explain the soul. In his ‘Philosophy of Christianity,’ which I often quote, Fairbairn says, very soundly, that to explain man as an animal is insufficient; he must also be explained in history, and that Darwin never did. His theory is that apes are older by long aeons of time than man, yet apes are still but apes, while man is what he is. And Darwin never in the least explained the origin of life. It takes, in truth, a faith in scientists to follow Darwin or any other of the learned opponents of Christianity far greater than the faith in God required to follow the great teachers of the Bible. Science always stops or ceases to be reasonable when it comes to the creation. The first germ — it baffles all of them. There is but one answer — God created it. They never have found any theory to substitute for this And that germ was infinitely wonderful. I cannot see why God might not, as reasonably, have created man. It is that which makes me skeptical of the theory of evolution. In efforts to destroy Christianity, religion, the scientists can only form a partial theory. The Christian’s theory alone is really complete.

“And there is a repellant thought in Darwinism. It attributes man’s evolution to the law of hate — of the destruction of the weaker by the stronger. Logically, if this is the real history of our advancement, then the law of love applied will take us backward toward the beast. We all admit, in general terms, no matter what our practices may be, that only through the law of love can man find happiness, has man ever found it; it is true that nations are advancing now through love and not through hate, through peace and not through war. How, then, can hatred be the law of progress? The darwinian theory does not explain. It is an effort to escape the miracle.”

And so on. It all sounds very similar to creationist arguments today.

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Written by David

September 6th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Politics,Religion

Where Witches Flourish In This Twentieth Century

From September 10, 1911


WHERE WITCHES FLOURISH IN THIS TWENTIETH CENTURY: New York Woman Haled to Court as a Magician in Allentown, Penn. — Big Modern Communities Where Spells and Incantations Are Used Daily for Every Ill That Flesh Is Heir To. (PDF)

Meta Immerman, a dressmaker from New York, moved to Allentown. Her neighbors the Kipps noticed she was a bit odd. She walked barefoot through grass. She owned an electric flashlight. She ate nuts and raw eggs. Clearly, she was a witch.

The Kipps called police, and Meta Immerman was arrested and spent 48 hours in jail.

And that is why I won’t eat nuts and raw eggs.


Written by David

September 5th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Religion,True Crime

People Who Still Believe In Witchcraft

From July 30, 1911


PEOPLE WHO STILL BELIEVE IN WITCHCRAFT: Instances of a Superstition Recalling Bygone Days in Salem. (PDF)

Burning old women at the stake as witches is a pleasantry no longer indulged in, even in Salem, but belief in witchcraft is not altogether dead. Only a few months ago a woman in Jersey City had a neighbor haled to court on the charge of pretending to possess powers of evil and threatening to use them unless paid to desist. As the complainant had suffered a streak of bad luck, in spite of paying to ward it off, her belief in her friend, whom she called a witch, was cruelly shattered.

More recently a woman living near Butler, Penn., was accused of being a witch. Mrs. Laupaule Orber was the victim of this ancient superstition. She was charged by Mrs. Julia Kroner, a farmer’s wife, with having gone to the Kroner barn and “casting a spell” over a cow so as to prevent her giving milk. Mrs. Kroner openly made the charge of witchcraft in court, but the Judge refused to consider it other than one of disorderly conduct. On this ground Mrs. Orber was found guilty and fined $5.

Sadly, there are still parts of the world where accusations of witchcraft still hold legal weight. Saudi Arabia even has an Anti-Witchcraft Unit. (Am I the only one who thinks that would make a great CSI spinoff?)

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Written by David

July 29th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Religion,True Crime

The Last Of The Shakers — A Community Awaiting Death

From July 23, 1911


THE LAST OF THE SHAKERS — A COMMUNITY AWAITING DEATH: Only Twenty-two Left at Enfield Colony — No New Recruits, and Shakers Are Dying Off Fast — With Their Passing the Famous Sect Will Come to an End. (PDF)

Shakers were an 18th Century offshoot of the Quakers. Somehow I thought there were more of them, but it turns out they really are an endangered religion. According to a PBS story from the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly program, there was still one Shaker community in September, 2010, and it had three members.

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Written by David

July 20th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Religion

Indians Have A Celebration Of Their Own July 4

From July 2, 1911


INDIANS HAVE A CELEBRATION OF THEIR OWN JULY 4: They Call It Give-Away Day Among the Dakotas and the Sioux Tribes, and They Give Presents to Those They Wish to Honor. (PDF)

At first I had some trouble finding information about Give-Away Day apart from this article. I did find general information about a Native American Give-Away tradition, including a blog post on the topic, and even a Christmas book called The Give-Away: A Christmas Story in the Native American Tradition. But as a July 4 tradition, I couldn’t find much. It sounded a little odd that Sioux and Dakota Indians just happened to celebrate the 4th of July. I suspected the article may have been mistaken.

Then I found a chapter from a textbook by the Montana Historical Society [pdf] which describes how agents of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs discouraged traditional ceremonies among the Native Americans. So instead, the Natives adopted their own versions of American holidays:

Even honest agents thought they were helping Indians by forcing them to abandon their traditional cultures and to adopt mainstream (majority) American culture. Agents pressured tribal members to change their social customs, dress in European-style clothing, live in rectangular houses, become Christian, send their children to school, and learn farming and ranching the Euro-American way.

Agents often outlawed Indian religious ceremonies like the Sun Dance. They discouraged give-away ceremonies, a traditional practice of honoring the Creator by giving away food, blankets, horses, and other forms of wealth. If people performed their traditional practices or religious rituals, they could lose their food rations or be arrested. They also were not allowed to leave their reservations without a pass…

Montana’s Indians knew they needed to learn new skills and find new ways to support themselves. But they refused to abandon their tribal identities and cultural traditions to survive.

They performed give-aways and held religious ceremonies in secret. They turned patriotic and religious holidays—like the Fourth of July and Easter—into celebrations of their own traditions.

In 1898 the tribes of the Flathead Reservation held their first Fourth of July pow-wow (an American Indian celebration). They staged parades, held contests, sang and drummed together, and danced traditional dances like the War Dance and the Snake Dance deep into the night. Indians on other reservations also held celebrations on July 4. The organizers assured the reservation agent that these gatherings were purely social, but they actually performed important religious and tribal ceremonies.

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Written by David

June 30th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life,Religion

Church’s Alliance With Money Alienates The Masses

From June 18, 1911


CHURCH’S ALLIANCE WITH MONEY ALIENATES THE MASSES: Rev. John P. Peters, Rector of St. Michael’s Protestant Episcopal Church, Sounds a Warning Note Against the Power of Wealth in Religion. (PDF)

I don’t have time to write more comments on this article because I’m a brand new dad and need to focus on that for a bit. But please feel free to read the article and make your own comments.


Written by David

June 14th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Politics,Religion

Religious Forward Movement Will Girdle the World

From June 4, 1911


RELIGIOUS FORWARD MOVEMENT WILL GIRDLE THE WORLD: Comprehensive Plan to Vitalize the Moral and Religious Forces, Backed by Leading Men of the Country, Will Be Inaugurated Here This Wek. (PDF)

I don’t have time to write more comments on this article because I’m a brand new dad and need to focus on that for a bit. But please feel free to read the article and make your own comments.

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Written by David

June 2nd, 2011 at 9:55 am

Posted in Religion

The Remarkable Confessions Of A Country Parson

From May 14, 1911


THE REMARKABLE CONFESSIONS OF A COUNTRY PARSON: Actual Experiences of a Preacher Show Not Only the Hardships of Service, But the Lack of Business Principles in Some Small Congregations. (PDF)

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Written by David

May 13th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Life,Religion

Have Englishmen Found The Ark Of The Covenant?

From May 7, 1911


HAVE ENGLISHMEN FOUND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT? A Mysterious Expedition, Apparently Not Composed of Archaeologists, Hunts Strange Treasure Under the Mosque of Omar, Sets the Moslems in a Ferment, and May Cause Diplomatic Incident. (PDF)

If I didn’t have a new baby coming this week, you can be sure that this post would include a witty paragraph or two about Indiana Jones, archaeology in general, and this Time magazine article.


Written by David

May 2nd, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Adventure,Religion

The Strange Story Of A Society Clairvoyant

From February 12, 1911


THE STRANGE STORY OF A SOCIETY CLAIRVOYANT: One Who Teased Spirits Out of the Unknown to Edify Royalty Tells What His Clients Said and Did. (PDF)

I find so-called clairvoyants maddeningly frustrating, as they tend to pray on people in grief and frustration, giving them false hope in exchange for money. Often, lots of money. But the society folk who used the services of a clairvoyant named Frederick S. got burned in another way. In his tell-all book Recollections of a Society Clairvoyant Frederick reveals his experiences with royalty and others who came to him.

I shudder to think of all the contemporary celebrities who seek advice and consultation from psychics. What would happen if a modern clairvoyant wrote a tell-all? I don’t think there are any laws regarding clairvoyant-client confidentiality. Do people have an expectation of privacy in consulting with their psychic?

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Written by David

February 11th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Religion

The Human Aura Has At Last Been Photographed

From February 5, 1911


THE HUMAN AURA HAS AT LAST BEEN PHOTOGRAPHED: Dr. W. J. Kilner of London Succeeded in Catching on the Sensitized Plate the Halow or Atmosphere That Surrounds the Body. (PDF)

This article describes the apparent success of Dr. W. J. Kilner in photographing the human aura. Of course, there is no such thing as auras, which might explain why they didn’t actually publish any of his photographs, and opted instead to use illustrations explaining what exactly Kilner claims to have captured.

For centuries, people have claimed to be able to see auras. Kilner in fact clamed that he could see them with his naked eyes. But in simple tests, such people always fail.

In college, a friend of mine had a book about auras. It showed illustrations of different auras and explained what auras of certain colors mean about a person’s mood or personality. My favorite by far was the drawing of a person with a purple aura. The caption explained that it was the aura of a person wearing a purple shirt.

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Written by David

February 4th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Religion,Science

Important Jewish Manuscript Older Than Gospels

From January 1, 1911


IMPORTANT JEWISH MANUSCRIPT OLDER THAN THE GOSPELS: Thought by Dr. Solomon Schechter to Tell of the Beliefs of a Band of Jews Who Broke Away from the Older Body About 290 B. C. — Dr. G. Margoliouth Dates It About 70 A. D. (PDF)

This Hebrew text was discovered in the genizah (storeroom) of an ancient synagogue in Cairo, but experts couldn’t agree on what it means:

In Hebrew learning Dr. Schechter has certainly no superior. With infinite patience and with that devotion that scholars know he sought the long-hidden manuscripts under the old synagogue at Cairo and deciphered and published them.

In this instance, however, the interpretation he puts on one document of his remarkable find is questioned by another great authority, Dr. G. Margoliouth of the British Museum, who suggests a meaning for the manuscript that is of startling interest.

The fragment just published by Dr. Schechter is called by him a Document of the Jewish Sectaries. He sees in it an extraordinarily interesting account of the beliefs of a band of Jews who broke away from the main religious body about 290 Bc. C., went to Damascus and founded a cult of their own, based closely on the Jewish Law, but with an additional belief in some sort of Messiah.

Dr. Margoliouth, on the other hand, finds an entirely different meaning. To him the document is of much later date, probably of the second half of the first century of the Christian era. To his min there are two Messiahs, not one, spoken of, the first a forerunner and the second a unique “Teacher of Righteousness” — the “Only Teacher.”

He identifies the first Messiah with John the Baptists and the “Teacher of Righteousness” with Jesus himself.

The University of Manchester has scanned 15,000 of the fragments found in the genizah, and you can browse them online. More information is also available through the Friedberg Genizah Project.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Religion