A Century Ago, These Poorly-Done Trick Photos of the Spirit World Had Many People Convinced

These turn-of-the-last-century photos are a visual cabinet of curiosities, all the more wondrous for having convinced anyone, at any point, that spirit mediums and visits from beyond the grave are real.

On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me very much to learn that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was convinced that the images below were genuine. While his famous protagonist was a cynic who believed in evidence, logic, and reason, Conan Doyle himself was P.T. Barnum‘s proverbial sucker, a man so keen on believing in the existence of the paranormal that he went to his grave with the certitude that fairies exist, based on a hoax photo made by two young girls.

Anyway, this is what you would have seen at a séance a hundred or so years ago:



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Fight Against Polio is a Foreign Cause for Muslim Anti-Vaxers; Assaults on Vaccination Teams Also Cost Kids’ Lives

The polio virus has crippled and killed hundreds of thousands of children. Starting in 1957, the disease was finally, decisively eradicated (thank you, Jonas Salk) — except in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Those countries are plagued by sectarian Muslim violence, and unfortunately, Muslim fundies tend to be anti-vaxers. They’ve gotten it into their heads that polio-fighting programs are really Western-led campaigns to make Muslims infertile. As a result, terrorist groups have waged a long intimidation campaign against medical teams and even against families looking to get their children vaccinated. In recent years, dozens of vaccination workers have been assassinated.



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It’s Been 14 Years Since the Mass Murder/Suicide of an African ‘Ten Commandments’ Cult That Took 788 Lives

Most people have at least a passing familiarity with the 1978 Jonestown massacre. But few have heard of the remarkable similar events that shocked the world 14 years ago today, a continent away, in Kanungu, Uganda.

Close to 800 people perished, and maybe more, some 530 of them in locked church that was set ablaze. The rest were stabbed, strangled, beaten, and very likely poisoned to death. The carnage was the handiwork of an all-black Christian doomsday cult that had split off from the Roman Catholic Church, and that called itself the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, or MRTC. (Note: We’ll have to assume that “Thou Shalt Not Kill” had somehow been temporarily suspended when the cult members murdered their prey.)

From the get-go, in the late eighties, the Vatican wanted nothing to do with the group, but the MRTC was nonetheless based on Catholic doctrine: members venerated Catholic icons, and the leadership consisted predominantly of defrocked priests and nuns. At the peak of their influence, they managed to attract around 5,000 members.

Followers’ dedication to the Decalog was obsessive:

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Blood Drive: After Crashing Into Church, God-Besotted Woman Stabs Her Husband at Altar for ‘Worshiping NASCAR’

On Sunday, like millions of Americans, Tennessee resident Stephanie Faye Hamman drove to church. The reason you’re reading about it is that she deliberately kept on driving when she got there — crashing right through the double doors.

Ms. Hamman could have walked; the church is across from the apartment she shares with her husband, Steven. But something — God, she said later — told her on Sunday evening to grab a knife, get in her Toyota Celica, drive through the church entrance, lay down by the altar, call her husband, and wait for him to arrive. And then:

Mr. Hamman stated he found his wife lying in front of the altar, and as he checked on her, she stated, ‘The devil is in me’, and stabbed him on the right side of his chest with a large kitchen knife, [police chief Mark] Johnson said. “Mr. Hamman stated he pulled the knife out of his chest and fled the scene. He went back to the apartment where he waited on police and EMS assistance.”


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When Someone Casts Doubt, Is Death the Appropriate Punishment?

There’s an interesting discussion about Christian forgiveness going on at the Patheos blog Formerly Fundie, in the wake of pastor Mark Driscoll‘s purported apology for being an angry, manipulative dick. After a bit of thread drift occurred, this comment from a Donna L caught my eye:

If I believe that Jesus is the only true pathway to God (and I do), then causing someone to reject Jesus is real hurt. Jesus said it would be better for such a person to have a millstone put around their neck and be cast into the sea.



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