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National Geographic: Medieval Peru = child sacrifice + some vague pagan religion thing

National Geographic: Medieval Peru = child sacrifice + some vague pagan religion thing

More than a decade ago, Mel Gibson came out with “Apocalypto,” a movie about the bloody pre-Columbian civilizations on our side of the Atlantic. And two months ago, the February issue of National Geographic had a story about a new archeological site — Huanchaquito-Las Llamas — in Peru that bore out the movie’s thesis that Mesoamerica and South America alike were charnel houses of human sacrifice.

More on Gibson in a moment. The National Geographic piece showed that some time in the past few hundred years, a society had carried out a mass orgy of child sacrifices early in the 15th century. The question, of course, is this: What did these rites have to do with religion and faith? We will get to that.

The text from this piece has only gone online recently, hence my delay in posting commentary about it.

THE YOUNG VICTIM lies in a shallow grave in a vacant lot strewn with trash. It’s the Friday before Easter here in Huanchaquito, a hamlet on the north coast of Peru.

The throb of dance music, drifting up from seaside cafés a few hundred yards to the west, sounds eerily like a pulsing heart. It’s accompanied by the soft chuf, chuf of shovels as workers clear away broken glass, plastic bottles, and spent shotgun shells to reveal the outline of a tiny burial pit cut into an ancient layer of mud.

The first thing to appear is the crest of a child’s skull, topped with a thatch of black hair. Switching from trowels to paintbrushes, the excavators carefully sweep away the loose sand, exposing the rest of the skull and revealing skeletal shoulders poking through a coarse cotton shroud. Eventually the remains of a tiny, golden-furred llama come into view, curled alongside the child.

The grim count from this and a second sacrifice site nearby will ultimately add up to 269 children between the ages of five and 14 and three adults. All of the victims perished more than 500 years ago in carefully orchestrated acts of ritual sacrifice that may be unprecedented in world history. …

The Old Testament chronicled child sacrifice, the article says, although the writers didn’t add that God thoroughly detested the practice. Tiny detail, there.

Other than the sacrifice of virgin girls in Minoan Crete to appease demons, the Eastern hemisphere had comparatively little of it compared to the blood baths in the West.

Until the discovery at Huanchaquito (pronounced wan-cha-KEE-toe), the largest known child sacrifice site in the Americas—and possibly the entire world—was at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán (modern-day Mexico City), where 42 children were slain in the 15th century.

In Huanchaquito:

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Weekend thinking about the greatest threat to journalism and American public discourse

Weekend thinking about the greatest threat to journalism and American public discourse

Republicans have always loved to complain about media bias.

I mean, who can forget hearing the soon-to-fall Vice President Spiro Agnew proclaiming: “Some newspapers are fit only to line the bottom of bird cages.” Here’s another one: “Some newspapers dispose of their garbage by printing it.”

However, the serious study of media bias issues didn’t really get rolling until Roe v. Wade, an issue that transcended mere partisan politics — even more than the fighting in Vietnam. Slanted coverage of abortion and related cultural issues (classic Los Angeles Times series here) created a link between media-bias studies and debates about the coverage of religion in the mainstream press.

I began my full-time work in journalism in the late 1970s, when all of this exploded into public debate. Here is a big chunk of my graduate project at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, as published as a 1983 cover story by The Quill:

According to a study by S. Robert Lichter of George Washington University and Stanley Rothman of Smith College, editors, producers and reporters of the nation's "prestige" media do not share the public's interest in religion.

"They're very secular," Lichter told George Cornell. The leaders of American media are "much less religious than people in general," he added.

In each "elite" news organization, Lichter and Rothman selected individuals randomly. At newspapers they interviewed reporters, columnists, department heads, bureau chiefs, editors, and executives. In broadcast newsrooms they interviewed correspondents, anchormen, producers, film editors, and news executives. A high proportion of those contacted, 76 percent, took part in the survey. In the blank on the survey labeled "religion," 50 percent of the respondents wrote the word "none." In national surveys, seventy percent of the public claims membership in a religious group. Gallup polls indicate 41 percent of Americans attend church once a week. In a report in Public Opinion, Lichter and Rothman said:

"A predominant characteristic of the media elite is its secular outlook. Exactly 50 percent eschew any religious affiliation. Another 14 percent are Jewish, and almost one in four (23 percent) was raised in a Jewish household. Only one in five identifies himself as a Protestant, and one in eight as a Cathiloc. . . . Only 8 percent go to church or synagogue weekly, and 86 percent seldom or never attend religious services."

In the Associated Press story reporting the results of the survey, Lichter said the "non-religious aspect" of the media simply showed up in the data. "We asked the standard things, and it just jumped out at us," he said.

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Business Insider actually likes news stories about Scientology, religion and, yes, business

Business Insider actually likes news stories about Scientology, religion and, yes, business

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find an unlikely source for religion news: Business Insider, a 6-year-old web site founded by former – and disgraced -- Wall Street research analyst Henry Blodget, who is its CEO and editor-in-chief.

The site covers celebrity news, technology and all kinds of business out of New York. We have previously reported on some of their work. Some of their content is aggregated from elsewhere but they also do original reporting and commentary. Recently, that’s included everything from President Barack Obama’s tweet in favor of the Muslim youth arrested in Irving, Texas, because he brought an object to school that supposedly looked like a bomb to the decline of organized religion in America.

But its specialty is a alternative religion that is very tough for any journalist to cover: Scientology. Business Insider gave a lot of PR to “Going Clear,” the HBO film (that premiered March 29) about Scientology and is still doing follow-ups. A recent sample:

As director Alex Gibney prepares for the release of his latest movie, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” it’s hard to pass up a chance to talk to the Oscar winner about his other recent film, the HBO Scientology documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”
At a recent screening of his Steve Jobs doc, Business Insider spoke with Gibney and asked him if he’s dealt with the same harassment by members of the Church of Scientology that former members of the church shown in the film say they have received.

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New York Times misses a ghost: Why some Christian parents don't trust Common Core

New York Times misses a ghost: Why some Christian parents don't trust Common Core

As the parent of a third grader, I had my run-ins with Common Core while my daughter was in Tennessee schools. Their standards were impossibly high for her and some of the bizarre ways they recommended that math be taught turned me off. Common Core’s math standards want students to explain how they arrived at the answer rather than memorize sums; sounds good on paper, I know but in reality, it doesn’t work.

Now Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. They were introduced in 2009 and 43 states have adopted the standards, lured, no doubt, by millions in federal funds given to those that complied.

A recent piece in The New York Times tells about those who are opting out.

GetReligion readers, can you guess what they missed? I predict that you can.

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