This is what a surveillance society looks like.

The U.K. has a shitload of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) almost everywhere you go. One local artist who realized that he was monitored almost constantly by the police decided to see how long it would take them to notice an 8 foot tall alien wandering on an empty street so he got some friends together and made it happen:

In short, it didn’t take very long for police to show up and they weren’t thrilled at the prank. Watching the video brings home just what living in such a society would be like for anyone who’s at all out of the ordinary. The idea of being constantly watched is chilling indeed and there are many who would love to replicate that sort of thing here in America. It’s already started in some places around the country. I suppose on the one hand it’s a good thing that the police are able to notice and respond to a potential threat so quickly, but it’s so easily abused and the hassle of dealing with countless false alarms is sure to cause many of them to discourage anything that would require them to waste time checking it out. Things like walking around in an 8 foot alien costume.

It also shows how unrealistic Doctor Who is. A police box suddenly appearing out of no where would be swarmed by the police within moments by the looks of it, let alone anything truly alien looking.

Found via Gizmodo.

New survey of the “unchurched” finds that 44% think “Christians are annoying.”

USA Today posts some of the results from a recent study of the “unchurched”—which isn’t just atheists with a PC name, but rather people who don’t go to church even if they believe in God. The results are interesting:

Survey: Non-attendees find faith outside church – USATODAY.com

A new survey of U.S. adults who don’t go to church, even on holidays, finds 72% say “God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.” But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites.”

Indeed, 44% agree with the statement “Christians get on my nerves.”

I know a lot of unchurched that would agree with that. My mother, who is probably closest to being a deist at this point, has expressed similar views on occasion. One spot of good news is the rise in the number of unchurched people:

More than one in five (22%) of Americans say they never go to church, the highest ever recorded by the General Social Survey, conducted every two years by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. In 2004, the percentage was 17%.

Many of the unchurched are shaky on Christian basics, says LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer.

That’s not surprising. There’s quite a few Christians who are shaky on the Christian basics so why should the unchurched be any different?

Non-churchgoers “lean to a generic god that fits into every imaginable religious system, even when (systems) contradict one another,” Stetzer says. “If you went back 100 years in North America, there would have been a consensus that God is the God in the Bible. We can’t assume this any longer.

“We no longer have a home-field advantage as Christians in this culture.”

Right, except that the majority still calls themselves Christian and exert a ridiculous amount of influence in our society. A persecuted minority you ain’t.

Most of the unchurched (86%) say they believe they can have a “good relationship with God without belonging to a church.” And 79% say “Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people.”

“These outsiders are making a clear comment that churches are not getting through on the two greatest commandments,” to love God and love your neighbor, says Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research. “When they look at churches … they don’t see people living out the faith.”

And sometimes that’s exactly what they see… and it worries them. I know it worries me from time to time. As always the folks who did the study are basically trying to figure out how to make the Christian religion palatable to people who find it unpleasant, because the Jesus Zombie always needs more braiiiiins to feed on.

Salon takes a look at “The religious state of Islamic science.”

Very interesting article about the state of science in Islamic countries over at Salon.com. Here’s a snippet:

Aug. 13, 2007 | In October, Malaysia’s first astronaut will join a Russian crew and blast off into space. The news of a Muslim astronaut was cause for celebration in the Islamic world, but then certain questions started popping up. How will he face Mecca during his five daily prayers while his space ship is whizzing around the Earth? How can he hold the prayer position in zero gravity? Such concerns may sound absurd to us, but the Malaysian space chief is taking them quite seriously. A team of Muslim scholars and scientists has spent more than a year drawing up an Islamic code of conduct for space travel.

This story illustrates the obstacles that face scientists in Muslim countries. While it’s always risky to draw generalizations about Islam, even conservative Muslims admit that the Islamic world lags far behind the West in science and technology. This is a big problem for Muslims who envy the economic and military power of the United States.

What’s so striking about the Muslim predicament is that the Islamic world was once the unrivaled center of science and philosophy. During Europe’s Dark Ages, Baghdad, Cairo and other Middle Eastern cities were the key repositories of ancient Greek and Roman science. Muslim scholars themselves made breakthroughs in medicine, optics and mathematics. So what happened? Did strict Islamic orthodoxy crush the spirit of scientific inquiry? Why did Christian Europe, for so long a backwater of science, later launch the scientific revolution?

The article is a Q&A with Taner Edis, author of An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam, and it covers his viewpoints on the troubles Islamic countries have had with keeping up with Western science. I’ve often heard that Islamic countries were once far and ahead in the study of science and often wondered why they seem to have lagged behind and at least part of the reason appears to be their inability to separate science and religion. What’s amazing isn’t so much that Islamic science has lagged behind, but that Western science somehow managed to break free from religion’s yoke allowing it to advance as far as it has.