I was thinking about a discussion on last month’s Flash #226 and got to thinking about the way religion figures into mainstream comic books. Not the way religious characters are portrayed, but the way the fictional world works. I’m not familiar enough with Marvel (though I can make some guesses based on the presence of Thor), but DC seems to have an “anything goes” cosmology: current scientific theory coexists with the Christian God, Heaven and Hell, with gods and other supernatural beings from various mythologies—some of them made up, like the Lords of Order and Chaos—occupying their own corners of the universe.

That’s probably what you want for a long-term, open-ended shared universe, because it gives you the most opportunities for stories. Want to write about an alien race that lived billions of years ago, or evolved from cats? Check. Have a fallen angel join the Justice League? Check. Tie Wonder Woman’s origin directly to the Greek gods? Check. Use made-up alien gods to explain the Greco-Roman split? Check. Power up half your villains and a handful of heroes as they sell their souls to a devil? Check. Pit the spirit of God’s wrath against a 50,000-year-old immortal ex-caveman? Check. Send some characters to Heaven or Hell, but have others destined to be reincarnated over and over again? Check. Observe the hand of God at the moment of the big bang? Check.

There are a couple of limits. DC seems to avoid ascribing a particular religion or denomination to any of their A-list characters, probably so that readers can just assume it’s their own (kind of like setting a story in “Anytown, USA”). And they avoid direct portrayals of God or Jesus, probably for the same reason. Continue reading

Various outlets have reported on the recent appearance of evangelical spam—unsolicited bulk email which promotes religious messages instead of advertising products. It’s been pointed out that since CAN-SPAM refers to commercial mail it can’t be used to stop people who bombard you with other types of messages.

I’ve seen 419 scams with religious trappings for months. These are the usual “Help me smuggle $20 million out of my country” ploys with the added twist of “Oh, I’m a missionary” or “I’ll donate it to an orphanage” or “You can trust me, I’m a Christian,” usually tied to a middle-eastern nation where Christians are in the minority (because Nigeria is so passé). Of course the only thing the scammers really worship is the almighty X-MILLION US DOLLARS. It’s a cheap sympathy ploy, nothing more, made obvious by the fact that, well, it’s a scam!

Today I saw a new variation on that tactic: instead of appealing to Christians, this one was appealing to Muslims. It was all about some Muslim convert in Cuba who had been abandoned by his Catholic family and just needed to transfer $12 million out of the country… all sent from a UK-based email account.

On a side note, I’ve found myself wondering lately why so many of these seem to come from European ISP Tiscali, particularly Tiscali UK. (One came through yesterday with 119 copies of the standard footer!) I assume they must provide easy-to-get email accounts, or perhaps connectivity for a lot of Internet cafés. It also suggests that quite a few of these scammers aren’t anywhere near the (mostly) third-world nations where they claim to live.

Time to add an “outrage” category. This is just insane: A church panel has invalidated a girl’s communion because she can’t eat wheat (original article here).

The girl has celiac disease, which means any amount of wheat can cause her serious health problems. A local priest was willing to let her use a rice-based wafer, but higher-ups declared it was invalid — that if there wasn’t wheat, it didn’t count. She can either take the communion with a wheat-based wafer, or not take it at all.

For all intents and purposes they’ve excommunicated this girl because of a medical condition.

Good thing I’m not Catholic and the sacrament doesn’t involve peanuts.

I wonder if the church would be willing to pay for emergency room visits (or funerals) resulting from this kind of situation?

What does someone’s religious belief have to do with “teaching boys moral and ethical values through an outdoor program that challenges them and teaches them respect for nature, one another, and themselves?”

Everything, according to the Boy Scouts of America, who have just kicked out an Eagle Scout with 37 merit badges for being an atheist. [edit: originally linked to a Yahoo News story]

Let me point out that it takes a lot of time, work and dedication to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting. It takes several years to work through the ranks, you have to earn a number of merit badges, each representing that you have learned or demonstrated some skill (anything from wilderness survival to accounting), most hold some leadership position, and you have to finish up by organizing and running a community service project, then go through a review board. It’s tough to become an Eagle Scout, and you really have to prove yourself to get there.

So not only did this scout prove himself through years of dedication to the program, extra effort to earn more merit badges than are required, a major service project and an interview with a review board, but he refused to lie when threatened with expulsion. He sounds to me like the kind of person they should be thrilled to have on board.

So I say to Darrell Lambert: they can kick you out of scouting, they may be able to kick you out of NESA, they may even be able to take back your badge (though I’d like to see them try to justify that), but they can’t take away the fact that you were – are an Eagle Scout. You proved that beyond a doubt when you refused to compromise your principles and say you’d changed your mind.

To the BSA: you make me sick. I am still proud to be an Eagle Scout myself, but today I am ashamed to have been a part of your organization.