Flotsam - February 08

  (20 February 08)
  by Greg Spearritt

…found floating on the sea of cyberfaith…
Some Serious Leg-Pulling
Spare a thought for 80-year-old Yanadi Kondaiah, an Indian holy man renowned in his local area for an ability to predict the future and for having curative magical powers in his right leg. Unfortunately, he became ‘legless’ in more ways than one when two strangers approached him for advice about a medical problem. News.com.au tells us they returned to thank him by offering him a drink, to which it appears he was partial. They took him to a spot on the outskirts of his village 550km north of Hyderabad and, while he was drunk, brutally amputated his ‘magical’ leg and left him for dead. Mr Kondaiah was found by locals and is recovering in hospital.
Seeing the Sacred – in Court 
Also in India, in the eastern state of Jharkhand, two Hindu gods have been called as witnesses in an argument over ownership of a temple. ABC News reports that local man Puran Chandra Halder is challenging the assertion of Manmohan Pathak that the temple, dedicated to the popular god Ram and the monkey god Hanuman, belongs to his family. A judge has issued notices to Ram and Hanuman, whose names appear on Halder’s petition to declare the temple public property.
A Nation of Believers 
Over 80% of Americans believe in God, according to a recent US poll of 2,455 adults. The survey by Harris Online also showed belief in miracles at 79%, heaven and angels at over 70% and hell/the devil at more than 60%. Just 42% accepted evolution, beating belief in creationism by a whole 3 percentage points. More than a third of respondents believed in UFOs and ghosts. 25% overall claimed to attend church once or more each week.

Safely Avoiding the Topic 
Late last year the New York Catholic Archdiocese released a  comic/colouring/activity booklet  designed to warn children about  sexual abuse by adults. In the booklet, a guardian angel (who tells us, incidentally, that God and  angels are “persons”) gives advice: messages include the importance of not keeping secrets from parents, not being alone in a closed room with an adult and not accepting gifts unless it’s okay with parents. News.com.au reports that the publication, titled ‘Being Friends, Being Safe, Being Catholic’, has been criticised for taking a moralising tone which could be counter-productive – and for not explicitly pointing out that priests could be among potential abusers. In fact, a word puzzle in the booklet lists ‘priest’ and ‘nun’ as “people you can trust”. 

New Word for the Week
Do you suffer from pareidolia? More than a few eBay customers do, it seems. Pareidolia, as Wikipedia tells us, “describes a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant”. The next time you see Jesus in your chest x-ray or a profile of the Virgin Mary in your soup, you'll have a name for your condition. But don't let the name put you off when there’s serious money to be made. The WPBF.com website tells of the Jesus and Mary pancake which recently fetched US$338 on eBay.


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