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Archaeologists Find Oldest Paintings of Apostles in Roman Catacombs

Posted by Mats on 26/06/2010

AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito

A cameraman films a painting discovered with the earliest known icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul in a catacomb located under a modern office building in a residential neighborhood of Rome, Tuesday, June, 22, 2010. Restorers said Tuesday they had unearthed the 4th-century images using a new laser technique that allowed them to burn off centuries of white calcium deposits without damaging the dark colors of the original paintings underneath. The paintings adorn what is believed to be the tomb of a Roman noblewoman and represent some of the earliest evidence of devotion to the apostles in early Christianity.

ROME — The earliest known icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul have been discovered in a catacomb under an eight-story modern office building in a working-class neighborhood of Rome, Vatican officials said Tuesday.

The images, which date from the second half of the 4th century, were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb that also includes the earliest known images of the apostles John and Andrew. They were uncovered using a new laser technique that allowed restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the dark colors of the original paintings underneath.

The paintings adorn what is believed to be the tomb of a Roman noblewoman in the Santa Tecla catacomb and represent some of the earliest evidence of devotion to the apostles in early Christianity, Vatican officials said in opening up the tomb to the media for the first time.

Last June, the Vatican announced the discovery of the icon of Paul — timed to coincide with the end of the Vatican’s Pauline year. At the time, Pope Benedict XVI also announced that tests on bone fragments long attributed to Paul “seemed to confirm” that they did indeed belong to the Roman Catholic saint.

On Tuesday, Vatican archaeologists announced that the image of Paul discovered last year was not found in isolation, but was rather part of a square ceiling painting that also included icons of three other apostles – Peter, John and Andrew – surrounding an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd.

An Atztec tomb, the oldest known paintings of Peter and Paul, the graveyard of the gladiators, the world’s oldest shoe and more. The latest discoveries from the ancient world.

“These are the first images of the apostles,” said Fabrizio Bisconti, the superintendent of archaeology for the catacombs, which are maintained by the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology.

The Vatican office oversaw and paid for the two-year, euro60,000 restoration effort, which for the first time used lasers to restore frescoes and paintings in catacombs. The damp, musty air of underground catacombs makes preservation of paintings particularly difficult and restoration problematic.

In this case, the small burial chamber at the end of the catacomb was completely encased in centimeters (inches) of white calcium carbonate, which under previous restoration techniques would have just been scraped away by hand. That technique, though would have left a filmy layer on top so as to not damage the paintings underneath.

Using the laser, restorers were able to sear off all the layers of calcium that had been bound onto the painting because the laser beam stopped burning at the white of the calcium deposits, which when chipped off left the brilliant darker colors underneath it unscathed, said Barbara Mazzei, the chief restorer.

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Bible Beliefs Prevents Superstition

Posted by Mats on 27/01/2010

The Wall Street Journal: “Look Who’s Irrational Now”

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway takes a look at stereotype made popular by the media: Christians are irrational, superstitious people, through and through. But does the evidence back that up?

Hemingway starts with a claim by notorious rabble-rouser Bill Maher, who snuck into our under-construction Creation Museum last year while filming for his anti-religion film Religulous.

“You can’t be a rational person six days of the week and put on a suit and make rational decisions and go to work and, on one day of the week, go to a building and think you’re drinking the blood of a 2,000-year-old space god,” Hemingway quotes Maher as saying earlier this year.

Last week, however, Baylor University released a comprehensive study, “What Americans Really Believe,” that challenges the idea that religious people are more irrational or superstitious than those who reject religion. In fact, the poll—conducted by the Gallup Organization for Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion—revealed that “Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology,” and indicates that irreligious and those from mainline Protestant denominations are “much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.”

The poll produced an index of belief. On average, 31 percent of those who never attend a house of worship expressed “strong belief” in occult and the paranormal, compared to only 8 percent of those who go to church more than once a week.

Hemingway also uses the new poll as ammunition against detractors of U.S. vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, whose connection to creationism has drawn significant criticism (see Is She Really a Creationist? and News to Note, September 13, 2008 item #8). According to Hemingway, 36 percent of survey respondents belonging to the United Church of Christ (Barack Obama’s former denomination) believed in the paranormal, versus only 14 percent of those in the Assemblies of God (Sarah Palin’s former denomination).

Hemingway, who also cites a 1983 book and 1980 study in support of the recent conclusion, concludes with a quote by Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton: “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are.”

As such scholars as Rodney Stark (in For the Glory of God) have concluded, belief in the Creator God is a requisite foundation for belief for in a logical, orderly, understandable universe. Without that basis, why should atheists think the universe can be scientifically understood?

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A Theologian Answers the Atheists

Posted by Mats on 24/01/2010


A Theologian Answers the Atheists

FATHER THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, LC

Unless you’ve spent the last few years in a mountain hermitage, you have almost certainly run into the latest rash of anti-God books.

And a rash it is, since the very mention of a Supreme Being makes these professional atheists break out in hives. But they are scratching all the way to the bank, as several of these recent diatribes have become best-sellers, showing once again that religion-bashing never truly goes out of style.

In the wake of The Da Vinci Code, a series of books have jumped on the lucrative religion-debunking bandwagon.

It started with The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, and has been followed by Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, Daniel C. Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and more recently by Christopher Hitchens’ 2007 work God Is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

These best-sellers are accompanied by reams of lesser works, attesting to the power of atheism as the newest cottage industry.

Though varying slightly in tone and emphasis, these books bear a remarkable resemblance to one another.

First, they all latch onto the worst historical errors of religious people and extrapolate them to apply to all believers everywhere.

Thus the meekest Buddhist monk off in Nepal is guilty by association of the crimes of the most fanatical Islamic suicide bomber, and Francis of Assisi and Billy Graham are tarred with the same brush as Osama Bin Laden and the Ayatollah Khomeini. All religions (and believers) are thrown together into the same pot as if they were interchangeable. No attempt is made to distinguish between religious fanaticism and religious belief.


One example that illustrates this well is the authors’ silence concerning the many marked benefits of religion to humanity. The atheists deliberately ignore the mountain of evidence available — empirical evidence — that ties charity to religious and specifically Christian belief.


The authors jump to the conclusion that the root of any problem isn’t the radical strain of religion in question, but belief in God itself.

Second, all of these authors toss impartiality out the window in their passionate campaign against God.

One of the more irritating aspects of these books is the studious avoidance of arguments and examples that would contradict their preconceived thesis. The selection of data is so thoroughly biased that one often has the sensation of reading cheap propaganda.

From their biblical citations to their historical examples, the neo-atheists pick and choose their information with barely a veneer of objective investigation.

One example that illustrates this well is the authors’ silence concerning the many marked benefits of religion to humanity. The atheists deliberately ignore the mountain of evidence available — empirical evidence — that ties charity to religious and specifically Christian belief. The founding of schools, hospitals, orphanages, universities, hospices and general aid to the poor has marked Christianity from the outset, yet finds no acknowledgement in these works. Whenever they are forced to acknowledge some good action of a religious person, they are quick to say that such benevolence was done in spite of their religion rather than because of it.

Third, despite the facade of novelty presented by these authors, there is really nothing new in the arguments they raise.

They seem to be only now discovering Sigmund Freud or Friedrich Nietzsche or Charles Darwin and presenting their findings as if they had unearthed the Holy Grail, when, in fact, these arguments have been mulled over and often surpassed in the intervening 150-odd years since these thinkers had their heyday. The result is that they present their warmed-over criticisms with the flourish of a comic fencer confidently declaring touché at every turn, while never really striking his opponent.

The fact is that, try as I might, I could not find in these books one pro-atheist argument that hadn’t already been better expounded by Voltaire or Comte or Feuerbach or Marx or Russell or Freud himself — all of which had already received ample attention, and thoroughly compelling refutation.

This is especially important for those who wonder whether these new atheists have discovered a fatal flaw in Christianity and in religion in general that could topple religious belief. In reality, it’s just the new, K-Mart version of the same old song and dance.

In the following weeks, I will address some of the recurring criticisms against God and religion found in the neo-atheist tracts.

This series bears the title A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God. Though I am answering the objections of atheists, these essays are not written especially for them. I am writing rather for Catholics who may feel threatened by these books, and who are looking for answers to share with their friends or others who may challenge them on these points.

Many Catholics instinctively know the criticisms raised in these books are specious, but lack ready answers to reply to those who come at them with such protests.

I hope to supply them with the answers they seek, and in this way to respond to the call of the great apostle Peter, who urged Christians: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15-16).


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father Thomas D. Williams, LC. “A Theologian Answers the Atheists.” National Catholic Register (March 2-8, 2008).

This article is reprinted with permission from National Catholic Register and the author. To subscribe to the National Catholic Register call 1-800-421-3230.

THE AUTHOR

Father Thomas D. Williams, LC, is dean of the theology school at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome. He has also worked extensively for Sky News in Britain covering church and ethical issues. For both NBC and Sky News, Father Williams has appeared as analyst on church affairs for CNN, CBS, ABC, and Fox News and now serves as consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News and MSNBC. He is the author of Greater Than You Think: A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God as well as Spiritual Progress: Becoming the Christian You Want to Be and Who Is My Neighbor? Personalism and the Foundations of Human Rights. Father Williams is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Centre.

Copyright © 2008 National Catholic Register


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Prominent U.S. Gay Activist Now Publicly Speaking Out Against Homosexuality

Posted by Mats on 13/12/2009

By John Jalsevac

July 3, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Michael Glatze, once a rising star in the homosexual movement, having become the editor of the popular Young Gay America magazine in his early 20s, has since left the homosexual lifestyle and is now publicly speaking out against homosexuality, and encouraging other homosexuals to leave the way of life that he says “is by its very nature pornographic.”

In a powerful testimonial printed yesterday on WorldNetDaily, Glatze  publicly reveals his conversion, and chronicles his tumultuous and unhappy journey through homosexuality, to where he is today, a recovered homosexual and a Christian, eager to lead others out of the lifestyle that claimed him for so many years.

“Homosexuality, delivered to young minds, is by its very nature pornographic. It destroys impressionable minds and confuses their developing sexuality; I did not realize this, however, until I was 30 years old,” writes Glatze in the article on WorldNetDaily.

Glatze is the second prominent homosexual rights activist involved with a pro-homosexual magazine to have publicly left the lifestyle in the last year. Charlene Cothran, the founder and publisher of VENUS magazine, formerly a pro-homosexual publication, has since become a Christian, left the homosexual lifestyle, and has radically altered the nature of her magazine, changing it into a forum by which to “encourage, educate and assist those who desire to leave a life of homosexuality.”

“Although I have lived as a lesbian for my entire adult life, it is without a doubt my soul’s purpose to use my gifts to LOVINGLY share the truth about how we got here,” Cothran wrote in the first issue of the magazine dedicated to its new purpose. “How we came to be gay or lesbian, how we came to enjoy our ‘lifestyle’ and how we came to believe that this was OK with God.”

For his part Michael Glatze relates how, after years working at the very forefront of the pro-homosexual movement, he began to have increasing doubts about what he was doing with his life. This feeling heightened, he said, after reviewing his “performance” during  an appearance on the prestigious JFK JR. Forum at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2005, in which he appeared as an “expert” on the pro-homosexual side.

“Knowing no one who I could approach with my questions and my doubts, I turned to God.” The young homosexual activist says that he had developed a relationship with God some time before, as a consequence of a painful illness that stemmed from the way he had been living.

“It became clear to me, as I really thought about it–and really prayed about it–that homosexuality prevents us from finding our true self within. We cannot see the truth when we’re blinded by homosexuality.”

“We believe, under that influence of homosexuality, that lust is not just acceptable, but a virtue.”

From that point onward, says Glatze, he simply began to call his homosexual desires what they were–lust–and by focusing on his truest self he was able to begin the long process of healing. “Healing from the wounds caused by homosexuality is not easy,” he says. “There’s little obvious support. What support remains is shamed, ridiculed, silenced by rhetoric or made illegal by twisting of laws…Part of the homosexual agenda is getting people to stop considering that conversion is even a viable question to be asked, let alone whether or not it works.”

Despite the immense difficulties of the transition, however, he says, “In my experience, ‘coming out’ from under the influence of the homosexual mindset was the most liberating, beautiful and astonishing thing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.”

He concludes, “Healing from the sins of the world will not happen in an instant; but, it will happen–if we don’t pridefully block it. God wins in the end, in case you didn’t know.”

Read the original article and coverage on WorldNetDaily:
http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56481
http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56487

Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Publisher/Founder of Popular Black Lesbian Magazine Leaves Gay Lifestyle to “Give Heart and Soul to God”
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/feb/07022801.html

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