Saturday, December 29, 2007

Calling all Kiwis

New Zealand Builds a Nest Big Enough to Save Kiwis
Progress being made in New Zealand to save the various species of Kiwis:

...There are five species of kiwi, a smaller nocturnal relative of New Zealand’s now-extinct moa, and, more distantly, the emu and the ostrich. All kiwi species are listed on the country’s endangered species list. But two of them, the Rowi and Haast Tokoeka, are down to fewer than 300 birds, earning them a place on New Zealand’s “nationally critical” list, its most extreme category of endangered species...

Fortunately, New Zealand has the right attitude:

...So New Zealand’s government agencies have partnered with local communities, nonprofit groups like Save the Kiwi and commercial operations like the Willowbank reserve, to tackle the problem by trying to protect the birds until they have a better chance of defending themselves...

Captive breading and egg collection are risky policies, but for the Kiwi they have resutled in progress:

...Eggs are taken from kiwi nests in the wild and incubated in places like Willowbank. The newly hatched chicks are then taken to protected areas, many of them on isolated islands off the coast without predators, for about a year until they are big enough to fend for themselves. Then they are returned to the place their egg was found.After a slow start, Operation Nest Egg is picking up momentum. Its success rate is rising, and similar programs are starting throughout the country...Mr. McLennan is cautiously optimistic that Operation Nest Egg will stem the kiwis’ decline...“Because the rates of decline are relatively low at 2 to 5 percent, you don’t have to add many birds back into the population to make it break even,” he said...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nativity, WTF

Unholy dust-up at Nativity church

Once again, our War on Christmas is put to shame. Our Nativity battles are minor league compared to this:

...Members of rival Christian orders have traded blows at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, with four people reported wounded in the fray...Reports say some Orthodox faithful encroached on the Armenian section, prompting pitched battles with brooms...

Brooms! How very Wiccan of them! Now try to visualize this scene in your mind:

...police formed a human cordon to separate the battling dark-robed and bearded priests and deacons, said to number about 80...

US Dominionists are really slacking off. Then again, maybe they had a hand in it:

...One report says the dispute started when the Greek Orthodox contingent wanted to place a ladder over the Armenian portion...

Hmm, ladders!

(Thanx to Green Ghost for the link.)

The Flushing Remonstrance

A Colony With a Conscience

Remarkable opinion piece on the history of religious tolerance in the USA by Kenneth T. Jackson:

...Religious tolerance did not begin with the Bill of Rights...this republic really owes its enduring strength to a fragile, scorched and little-known document that was signed by some 30 ordinary citizens on Dec. 27, 1657...

Even thought the Dutch were remarkably tolerant, the provincial director general of New Amsterdam was fed-up with with the Quakers, who were quickly getting a reputation as troublemakers. He signed a harsh ordinance against the religious group and bared anyone from harboring them. A man named Edward Hart, along with other like-minded individuals, quickly signed a petition protesting the general's act:

“...We desire therefore in this case not to judge least we be judged, neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand and fall to his own master...the power of this world can neither attack us, neither excuse us, for if God justify, who can condemn, and if God condemn, there is none can justify..If any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egress and regress unto our town...For we are bound by the law of God and man to do good unto all men and evil to no man...”

Adding more import to this historic document is the fact none of the signers were Quakers. Predictably, the general had Hart and others arrested or jailed. Some were made to recant. One farmer, John Browne, was banished but eventually made it back to Amsterdam to plead his case. He won! The harsh ordinance was overruled.

Jackson ends the piece poignantly:

...The Bowne house is still standing. And within a few blocks of it a modern visitor to Flushing will encounter a Quaker meeting house, a Dutch Reformed church, an Episcopal church, a Catholic church, a synagogue, a Hindu temple and a mosque. All coexist in peace, appropriately in the most diverse neighborhood in the most diverse borough in the most diverse city on the planet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Nice Yule Adventure and Articles

Earth-based spirituality fosters respect for environment, others

I did not want to forget about this positive article in The News Leader from Central Shenandoah Valley:

STAUNTON — On Saturday, whether alone or in covens, area residents who call themselves Pagans will celebrate Yule, a celebration of the changing seasons on winter solstice. “As Pagans, we celebrate the turning of the wheel,” said Elaine Sutherland. “This is a celebration of nature.” Nature is a focal point for the wide variety of Neo-Pagan religions in Augusta County that stress a communion with the Earth and all people on it....Sutherland said she was attracted to Wicca and other nature-based religions because of the equality of men and women, celebration of the elderly and belief in treating the Earth and others with respect and dignity...

Amen to that, sister. Or should I say 'Amen-Ra'? Heh! We celebrated with our coven, we were all smiles and had a good time. A couple days later I attended a Xmas party of a distant friend of mine. For a kick, we decided to bring some frankincense and myrrh to the party. I figured most regular Xtain folk did not actually see the real-deal up close too often. We showed the resinous globs around and everyone seemed interested. Not one person had a clue what they were. I off hand said, "Well, this is what the Three Wise Men brought to the baby Jesus in the manger". You could not believe the blank stares that elicited! Not one person among about 20 knew that fact. Ah, Xtains!

Jason at Wild Hunt has an excellent post "A Blessed Solstice" all about Yule. It's a great post to point someone to if you want to expose people to the Pagan roots of Christmas.

Speaking of pagan roots, I highly recommend the book "Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide", by Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling. The authors are two German ethonbotonists who have packed their book with a ton of herbal lore. The book also includes some interesting recipies for cookies, candies, and even incense (there's a recipe for 'kyphi', the sacred incense of Ancient Egypt.) I bet you did not know the red clothes and white buttons of Santa's suite was inspired by hallucinogenic mushrooms! My suggestion is to act fast on this book: It looks like it's from a small publisher and I have a feeling it will go out of print in the not too distant future.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2nd Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon: Carl's marching orders

I can't remember exactly where I first read this Sagan quote. But Carl was finishing a lecture when an inquisitive student came forward with a question. "I have many interests," she said, " I'm not sure what I should study or what I should do. But I really want to make a difference in this world." Carl replied, "Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. DO SOMETHING."

Those words always stuck in my mind. But what can I do? I have many interests, but am I actually contributing anything to this planet?

This year, a friend told me about a workshop by an entomologist who studies dragonflies. I've had a life long obsession with insects and spiders, even participating in some research and collecting expeditions, but I knew little about dragonflies--so I decided to go.

Well, now I'm an official 'volunteer entomologist' for the State of New York in the "New York Dragonfly And Damselfly Survey". The goal of this project is to survey the "Odonate" (dragonflies and damselflies) populations of the state. Although NYState has a rich population of these insects, no thorough survey has ever been conducted.

These are significant insects. For one--they eat mosquitoes! Even your most bug-phobic friend will be enamored with that fact! Because the immature stages of Odonates are aquatic, they are indicators of water quality. Although some species can tolerate a mild pollution, most tend to be sensitive to water quality issues. A sudden drop in diversity might indicate someone is dumping something nasty into your swimming hole, recreational lake, or water supply. In a broad sense, a healthy and diverse population of dragonflies may mean a healthy and diverse local environment.

Interest by the general public for these insects is growing, some claiming "dragon watching" is nearly as popular as bird watching. And no wonder! Dragonflies are swift predators, catching their prey on the wing. They exhibit complex behaviors, such as guarding territories and performing unusual mating rituals. Close-up, many are revealed to be beautifully colored with lovely wing patters. Not only that, these insects are completely harmless: they don't have stingers. Even if carelessly handled, the largest ones are only capable of a feeble bite.

If you have a knack for bugs, a love a nature or some time to contribute, consider joining the project. It's funded through 2008. Click on the DDNYS link, and that will get you started.

Even if you are not interested in the survey, dragon watching is a great hobby. If you are a deep bio-geek like I am, you know nature focused hobbies are only as good as their field guides. Up till recently, there was not much in the book department to help the amateur identify these insects. Fortunately, that is changing. Here's two recommendations if you live in the Northeast:

"Damselflies of the Northeast: a Guide to the species of Eastern Canada and the Northeast" by E. Lam. EO Wilson described this book as "a small masterpiece". This is one of the most beautiful guide books I have ever seen. The artwork is stunning.

"A Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Massachusetts" by B. Nikula, J. Ryan, and M. Burne. This book is considered the bible among Odonate fans in the Northeast. There's great macrophotography and detailed drawings to help you key-out the more problematic species.

Click on the titles to find out how to order the books. They are small press, so you order them directly from the publisher.

A more general guide is "Dragonflies through Binoculars" by S. Dunkle. Although not as detailed as the above two books, it covers the entire USA. It's a good book to start with if you just want to test the waters. It's available from online booksellers.

Among us Neo-Pagans, Carl Sagan is considered something of an Avitar, a special individual of great power who brings an important message. (If you think Dalai Lama or Ghandi, you'll have an idea what we mean by Avatar.) When I was new to Wicca, I remember mentioning Sagan and his 'Cosmos' series at a meeting. The entire room got quite at the mention of his name! I asked someone about this later. She rolled her eyes a bit, kidding me about my newbie question. "Of couse" she said, "Sagan was an amazing man, he's an incredible source of inspiration."

One of the primary characteristics of Neo-Paganism is a love of and identification with the Earth. We perform our Sabbats and Rituals to the tune this planet plays. Why not do more than pay lip service to helping the Goddess. She has done so much and shown us so much. Yet it's now so clear she needs our help. In my small way, I think now I have found an area where I can contribute. Whether it's planting trees, saving the whales...whatever, all of us should try to find some niche where we can contribute.

So Wiccans and Neo-Pagans who are reading this, listen to Carl Sagan: DO SOMETHING!

(Check out Joel's Page for more information on Carl Sagan blog-a-thon. Pic from the cover of Ed Lam's "Damselfies of the Norheast")

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John Haught Vs The Movement Atheists

The Atheist Delusion

Can hope exist in a Godless universe? Is Darwinian evolution a boon to religion--not the final nail in the coffin, as Fundamentalists would have you believe? There's an excellent interview in Salon with John Haught, author of "God after Darwin", "Is Nature Enough?" and the forthcoming "God and the New Atheism". This man has the bone fides to adequately address both sides of the science verses religion argument:

...He was the only theologian to testify as an expert witness in the landmark 2005 Dover trial... Haught testified against intelligent design, arguing that it's both phony science and bad theology. But Haught is also a fierce critic of hard-core atheists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who claim that evolution leads logically to atheism. He says both sides place too much faith in science. "Ironically," Haught writes, "ID advocates share with their ideological enemies, the evolutionary materialists, the assumption that science itself can provide ultimate explanations..."

I have good friends who are Atheists. But I think some should be mindful of the expression, "When you hunt dragons for too long, you become one yourself". One of Haught's peeves is the sloppy theology expressed in certain Atheist bestsellers:

...My chief objection to the new atheists is that they are almost completely ignorant of what's going on in the world of theology. They talk about the most fundamentalist and extremist versions of faith, and they hold these up as though they're the normative, central core of faith...They miss the moral core of Judaism and Christianity -- the theme of social justice, which takes those who are marginalized and brings them to the center of society. They give us an extreme caricature of faith and religion...

I would add that it's dangerous for people to define themselves primarily by what they are against. You risk the danger of becoming reverse image of your own straw man. Haught continues:

...The only thing new in the so-called new atheism is the sense that we should not tolerate faith because, by doing so, we open people's minds to any crazy idea -- including dangerous ideas like those that led to 9/11. In every other respect, this atheism is similar to the secular humanism of the modern period, which said that faith is incompatible with science, that religion and belief in God are bad for morality, and that theology should be purged from culture and academic life. These are not new ideas...

If I understand Haught correctly, he advocates a "layered" understanding of the universe. He gives this fun example:

...if a pot of tea is boiling on the stove, and someone asks you why it's boiling, one answer is to say it's boiling because H2O molecules are moving around excitedly, making a transition from the liquid state to the gaseous state. And that's a very good answer. But you could also say it's boiling because my wife turned the gas on. Or you could say it's boiling because I want tea. Here you have three levels of explanation which are approaching phenomena from different points of view. This is how I see the relationship of theology to science...

In the case of the boiling tea pot, all three "levels of explanation" enrich the answer as to why it's boiling. I guess this means that everyone should behave, and if anyone insists their explanation is the only reason the water is boiling--they don't get any tea! OUCH--I just burned my hand on the kettle! Heh!

Haught testified against Intelligent Design in the Dover Case. He makes a compelling case for spiritual people to embrace Darwin:

...Darwin's thought seems to be more important intellectually and culturally than it's ever been. My view is that theology, instead of ignoring or closing its eyes to it, should look it squarely in the face. It has everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing so. In my view, Darwin's thought is a gift to theology...

Haught address the issue of Gov. Mike Huckabee and his creationist comments:

...To admit that he "personally" rejects evolution may sound harmless enough at first sight. But when any Christians reject evolution these days, one may presume that they usually, though not always, do so on the basis of a literalist style of biblical interpretation. It's this that concerns me. Combined with the principle of private interpretation of Scripture, biblical literalism can end up short-circuiting the process of public debate, justifying almost any domestic and international policies one finds convenient. I don't know for sure that this is the case with Huckabee, but I'm still worried...

We all should be worried. I don't buy this "it's my personal" belief nonsense. That's like saying 'we hate the sin, not the sinner'. Thinking like that was a excuse to persecute witches: 'Oh, you are guilty of witchcraft, so we are going to burn you alive--but don't take it personally. We don't have anything against you--personally--it's the sin of witchcraft we are trying to eliminate. Hey, cheer up! Your body may be burnt up, but your soul will be saved in Heaven. So you should really look at it like we are doing you a favor.' Someone who is willing to discard heaps of evidence for something (in this case, evolution), and go with their personal views--is a dangerous person. They should not inhabit the highest office of the USA.

But I've already quoted too much from this wide ranging and informative interview. Please check it out yourself.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Giant Rat of Sumatra

Giant rat found in 'lost world'

I knew it was out there! I tried to warn you all. OK, you would not take my word for it, but what more convincing did you need than the immortal words of the greatest detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes:

"...Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson," said Holmes in a reminiscent voice. "It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared."

Prepared or not, it's out there. Perhaps to steel our nerves, it would be best to listen to the words of another great detective, Hemlock Stones and his "patient, doctor, and biographer" Dr. Flotsam. You can learn more about the rat here. Why not listen to the words of the great detective himself!

Xtains making the Baby Jesus proud on his Birthday

Wiccan Display at City Hall Vandalized

...Green Bay police say at about 12:45 Monday morning, someone used a ladder to remove a Wiccan wreath from the awning over the entrance to City Hall.

Is anyone surprised by this? It's a wonder how certain Xtains drool at the chance to deface the symbols of other religions. But I wonder if this would have been done to a Menorah?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pentacle and Nativity Scene at pease

Wiccan symbol added to City Hall roof alongside nativity scene

...GREEN BAY, Wis. - A nativity scene on the roof of the local City Hall will share the spotlight this year with at least one other religious symbol _ the Wiccan pentacle...

Great idea to put it on the roof! Now some jackass can't drive over it in his pickup.

...The Wiccan display added Friday consists of an evergreen wreath, about three feet across, encircling a gold five-pointed star. Perched a few feet away is a statue of Mary, in a nativity setting installed this week by City Council president Chad Fradette...

Beautiful display. I know what I'm making this afternoon.

...Fradette initially decided to install the nativity scene to defy an anti-religion group that was protesting a similar display in Peshtigo, a smaller town about 40 miles northeast of Green Bay. "So now the Freedom From Religion Foundation can pick on somebody a little larger than Peshtigo," Fradette told a city committee. The committee approved the nativity scene 4-1 Tuesday night...

I have no objection to Nativity scenes. Hey, Wiccan's have no bone to pick with the baby Jesus! Heh! As pointed out by the ACLU and other orgs, the concept of 'separation of church and state' does not necessarily excluded religious holiday displays from public property. This is especially true if some private individual or group bares the expense of setting up and maintaining the display (and tax dollars are not being uses), as happened in a town near me:

Update: Jewish Federation rescinds request, apologizes

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Presidential Debate: Science and Technology

A Call for a Presidential Debate on Science and Technology

After sitting through the recent disgraceful and Xtain pandering Republican candidate debate on CNN, this strikes me as a very good idea--actually asking candidates about issues of vital importance:

...As you watched the scores of U.S. Presidential debates, did you ever wonder why there has been no debate devoted to policy surrounding what may be the most important social issue of our time: Science and Technology...?

Yeah. I have wondered. It was really jaw-dropping watching Anderson Cooper lob softball "what would Jesus do" questions to preachers and Dominionists:

...We have noticed that science and technology lie at the center of a very large number of the policy issues facing our nation and the world - issues that profoundly affect our national and economic security...

And I might add 'our survival as a species', yet: science and technology continue to transform our lives...We believe a debate on these issues would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities on the issues, and it is hard to imagine any candidate not wishing to be involved in such an occasion. Please join us and make Science Debate 2008 a reality...

(via Josh at TFK)

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Wiccan for President?

Wiccan politics by Puck Goodfellow

Great post at DailyKos about being born Wiccan:

...Even though Wiccans are usually WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Pagans) we are a small enough minority to face Religious Discrimination. For the most part it's little things like the constant question of ",So you cast spells?"

That's just kid stuff. I usually get "So, you worship Satan!, but I'm hard-core.

...My Religious Beliefs are actually what made me heavily anti-George W. Bush during the 2000 election...

Heh, welcome to the club.

...What would happen if I, a Wiccan, ran for office? This latest kerfuffle definitely has reinforced my feeling of being shut out of the political process.

I have a feeling my religion would be at the bottom of the list of factors precluding my run for high office. Well, probably even low office. :)

Check out the excellent comments following the post. Nice to know there are so many supportive Kossaks.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I want my Zeus TV!

Greek Gods Come to Television

Jason over at Wild Hunt asks:

...Is the world ready for a comedy television series starring Zeus, Dionysus, Apollo, and Artemis...?

I don't know. I always look at these things with a mix of anticipation and dread.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Evolutionary Conversion

Former Evangelical Minister Has a New Message: Jesus Hearts Darwin

Fun (and short) interview from Wired News with former Evangelical preacher Micheal Dowd, who now embraces Darwin. There's a number of interesting comments. When asked if 'evolutionary theology' might trump scriptural truths, Dowd answers:

...God didn't stop communicating truth vital to human well-being thousands of years ago, when people preserved insights on animal skins. God communicates through science. Facts are God's native tongue. Who of us would let a first-century dentist fix our children's teeth? Yet every day we let first-century theologians fill our children's brains...

Heh, that one's a keeper! I have to admit I'd like to see a 'fire and brimstone' pro-evolution revival meeting. If the spirit called me, I'd start knuckle walking around the tent! :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Peking Man, Science, and God

Faith, science, censorship, and the search for Peking Man

Excellent review of the book "The Jesuit and the Skull", about the man who discovered 'Peking Man':

...Teilhard De Chardin (1881-1955) helped uncover one of the most important scientific finds of the 20th century: Peking Man. The French scientist was working in China alongside an international team of anthropologists, geologists, and paleontologists in December 1929...

But Teilhard was a Jesuit priest, so his findings were subject to review and censorship by the Vatican:

...Not only did the Vatican censor Teilhard's groundbreaking scientific work in his own life, it continues to limit 2006...documents containing the Vatican's decision to censor the French priest's work remained unavailable for review...

The book combines biography, the history of evolutionary thought, and the conflict between science and religion:

...Teilhard himself saw no contradiction between his role as a scientist and man of God. Indeed, he viewed evolution as bolstering his faith. In his "The Phenomenon of Man," censored during his lifetime, Teilhard wrote that "Man is not the centre of the universe as was naively believed in the past, but something much more beautiful - Man the ascending arrow of the great biological synthesis...

This book sounds like a must read.

Chinese Turtle at brink of extinction

China’s Turtles, Emblems of a Crisis

Only two remaining Giant Yangtze Soft Shell Turtles are known to exist. A male and female, both are in captivity at separate zoos:

...The agenda is simple: The turtle must not die. Earlier this year, scientists concluded that she was the planet’s last known female Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle. She is about 80 years old and weighs almost 90 pounds...As it happens, the planet also has only one undisputed, known male. He lives at a zoo in the city of Suzhou. He is 100 years old and weighs about 200 pounds. They are the last hope of saving a species believed to be the largest freshwater turtles in the world...

China contains some of the worlds richest biodiversity. Yet China's wildlife has been under unrelenting pressure due to economic development. 40 percent of animals are threatened, as well as 70 percent of non-flowering and 86 percent of flowering plants.

...“It’s a very dire situation,” said Peter Pritchard, a prominent turtle expert in the United States who has helped in trying to save the species. “This one is so big and it has such an aura of mystery...

How the turtle wound up at the zoo is an amazing story:

...Fifty-one years ago, a traveling circus performed at the new zoo in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province in southern China. For a cash payment, the circus left behind a large female turtle. Zookeepers slipped the turtle into a large pond, where for a half-century it hibernated in winters and poked its pig-like snout above the water’s surface every spring. The walls of the zoo became the equivalent of a time capsule...Outside, the convulsions of modern Chinese history were scarring an already damaged landscape...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beliefnet: RIP

Well, Beliefnet was not a complete hosejob, but pretty close too. Now it can sleep comfortably in the Dominionist hands of News Corp (aka: Fox News). Yes, Murdock has purchased Beliefnet! As Jason points out on WildHunt:

...No doubt promises of independence and a glorious future are forthcoming, but I'm not sure this will be good for the already-marginalized religious minorities who were once strong supporters of Beliefnet. I wouldn't be surprised at all if, over the next few years, Beliefnet grows ever-more Christian and conservative in tone. A "family friendly" site to help promote Fox Faith films and hype new Christian book releases from (coincidentally) Zondervan...

Jason provides a great screen grab of a recent Beliefnet article, giving you a good example of what they considered 'balance' in their articles.

WitchVox, WTF?

I think it was the Atheist Richard Dawkins who said "It's good to keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains drip out your ears". Maybe we Neo-Pagans can learn a thing or two from our Atheist friends.

I know WitchVox has a policy of not "taking sides" when publishing essays from its members. But do we really need 3 different essays from Global Warming deniers? (Heh, and I sure am not linking to them.) None of the essayists offer any proof of their claims. Sheesh, anyone willing to spend 3 minutes on 'the google' can make mince meat out of their arguments. I wish I had the time to waste taking them on point for point, but all they manage are oil industry talking points or sad displays of scientific illiteracy.

But if you want to check out an article which debunks such propaganda, read BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER:
The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Just a preview, in regards to the tired 'there's no consensus among the experts' ploy:

...For example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, begins: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise"... The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and answers yes: "The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue"...Others agree. The American Meteorological Society..., the American Geophysical Union..., and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling...

So, what next Witchvox? Yule Sabbat suggestions from Holocaust deniers!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pullman and Rowling, what good company!

The sum of all fears: organized religion

According to Dominionist and Absolutist Xtians, do you know what occupies even a lower step in Hell than Neo-Paganism? ATHEISM, that's what! I guess those who protest Harry Potter, claiming it's the Communist Manifesto of Wicca, have found an even more dreadful target. Move over J.K. Rowling, make room for our friend Phillip Pullman:

...If there is a piece of art, a TV show, a column, a book, a movie, a blog, a movement, a wine bottle or sexual position that somehow deeply threatens the various ultraconservative sects of Christian-blasted America to the point where their pale, dour representatives demand boycotts and distribute angry pamphlets to try to stop people from experiencing said hunk of culture because of how negatively it portrays their seething, condemnatory God, well, it's time to break out the Champagne. Or buy that book. Or get very, very naked. Or all of the above...

What great advice. Mark Morford's opinion in the SFGate hits even more perfect stride when he identifies the target of Pullman's "The Golden Compass":

...The nefarious thing the books aim to kill is religious authority. It's about the destruction of dogma....the God of organized religion...the false deity that promotes numb groupthink, inhibits growth and abhors the feminine divine (perhaps the books' most beautiful, inspiring theme), the same paranoid, dreadful God that votes for George W. Bush because he will smite the icky gays and protect us from vile pagans and Buddhists and Muslims and feminists and frumpy genius atheist British writers. If humanity is to flourish, to get over its addiction to war and guilt and fear, this is the false God that should - that must - die...

OK, I'm sold. I feel like such a jerk that I have not read Pullman's work.