Conspiracy theorists looking forward to the destruction of the Earth by the planet Nibiru on Dec 21, 2012 may be in for a big disappointment, say scientists digging in the forests of Guatemala.
Archeologists have uncovered a new Mayan calendar that begins on Dec 22 and runs for another 5,125 years.
"This one's mainly pictures of cats," said William H Carpenter of the Carpenter Foundation for Armageddon Studies. "This suggests the Mayans were moving in a more commercial direction before being wiped out."
Labelled 'Furry Felines and the 14th Ba'k'tun', the calendar was unearthed in the remains of what some archeologists believe may have been a Mayan gift shop built for tourists.
Whatever the origins of the calendar, its existence suggests that we may see another New Year after all.
Arguments recently broke out between para-scientists about how the world will meet its fate. Speaking at the Which End Is Nigh? conference, hosted by the Carpenter Foundation near Reno, Nevada, Damien Onan, who holds the Chair of Homeopathic History at the University of Smethwick, courted controversy by claiming that it doesn't matter which catastrophe will hit us.
"With Homeopathic History," he said, "we have learned that the greatest purity of truth is achieved by repeatedly diluting facts until all trace of them has gone.
"What you're left with," he added, "is something that retains the memory of the real truth. It therefore doesn't matter that Mayan calendars do not continue past 2012 just because there are no Mayans around to create them. Nor is it relevant that there is zero evidence for the existence of Nibiru beyond some dubious connections to Babylonian texts."
He also discounted the idea of the Earth's destruction by the black hole at the center of our galaxy. "Scientists have actually proved that black holes exist," he said, "and that there's a high likelihood of there being one holding our galaxy together. Such a weight of evidence makes this an untenable scenario in a homeopathic context."
He concluded: "The important thing is that we have an unshakeable belief that the world is about to end, and that's worth far more than any amount of so-called data. I'm certainly not buying any Christmas presents."
Following the discovery of the new Mayan calendar, Mr Onan has been unavailable for comment, but his office commented that he was, "out shopping".
Pope Promotes Punctured Prophylactics
The Vatican is about to launch its own range of condoms - with the blessing of the Pope. But the aim is to prevent disease, not babies, said a spokesman for the Holy See.
Every condom will come complete with a hole in the tip so that the faithful can protect themselves against infection while obeying the church's ruling on contraception. It's believed that the Pope is hoping to change the Roman Catholic church's image when it comes to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
"We still say that AIDS is divine retribution for those who have been led astray by the devil," said one Cardinal who requested to remain anonymous. "But our previous strategy of spreading lies about condoms has backfired. People are dying and it makes it look as though we're killing them. Which we sort of are."
There will be two products in the new range - the extra-sensitive Rapture and the heavy duty Holy Shroud.
The move is a sign that the church is trying to repair its reputation and show that it still has relevance, claimed the Cardinal.
"We can't stop people having sex," he said. "Hell, we can't even stop our own priests doing it. But we want them to be safe, even if they are going to go to hell eventually."
He refused to comment on criticisms that the hole will mean that the condoms remain relatively useless in the fight against AIDS and other diseases.
The condoms will be available only in selected churches and the first batches will be distributed directly to priests for their own use. When production ramps up, they will be made available to the public, accompanied by a marketing campaign with the slogan:
"They're holy because they're hole-y"
Early prototypes had holes created by nuns who were blindfolded to protect their virtue, the Cardinal explained. "But we just had too many accidents," he added. "And some of the condoms were slipping through unpunctured. So the holes are now made by a carefully selected group of priests who, for one reason or another, can't return to their parishes for the time being."
One Vatican-watching pundit, William H Carpenter of the Carpenter Ecumenical Foundation, says this puts a new light on the recent spat between the Vatican and the British Government over a leaked memo. The UK Foreign Office email made a number of suggestions for the Pope's planned visit to Britain, including some ideas that senior Roman Catholics apparently found insulting and disrespectful. The Vatican expressed displeasure at the idea that the Pope might open an abortion clinic or launch a new range of condoms.
"It now seems that the anger over the condom idea expressed in the memo had nothing to do with theology or ethics," says Carpenter. "According to my sources, the Vatican was more worried about protecting its brand and the possibility that marketing plans had been leaked."
Messiah Mashed by Monster
Jesus did not die on the cross - he was killed when his pet dinosaur turned on him, according to new evidence coming from the scientists working in the Holy Land.
Dr Seth Croyant, Chief Scientist with the Biblical Fact Foundation, is leading a team of evangelical archeologists based in Tel Aviv. According to Croyant, the team has uncovered several rock strata not dissimilar to those in other countries in which dinosaur remains have been found.
"And yet," he says, "these are the exact same rocks in which we find ancient tombs not unlike the one in which Christ was buried and from which he arose."
This led Croyant to re-read sections of the Gospels that deal with Christ's death. "Most of them are actually a bit skimpy on details when it comes to the whole crucifixion thing," he says. "And they're inconsistent. It looks to me like there's been some rewriting, perhaps to cover up an embarrassing truth."
Croyant says he will reveal the full details of what's he's discovered in a press conference in July, which is when he will also launch the book, DVD, iPhone app and range of apparel based on his findings. In the meantime, though, he's keen to head off criticism of his new interpretation of biblical history.
"Some other so-called scientists would have you believe that dinosaurs became extinct millions of years before God created humans," he says. "But as the Earth is only 6,000 years old, that means there was no planet for the dinosaurs to roam on, which proves the scientists are wrong. It's simple, really."
The Bible makes frequent references to dinosaurs - or 'behemoths' and 'leviathans' as it prefers to call them. There's evidence that some demons may also have been carnivorous dinosaurs, says Croyant. And some scholars have claimed that early editions of Paul's Epistles contained references to a 'Jesus Horse' which many scholars took to be a T. Rex.
"We now know this to be an Abelisaurus, or 'Abel's Lizard'," says Croyant. "That's a two-ton, 30-foot carnivore easily capable of killing a man. Maybe that's what killed Jesus, though it could still have been a T. Rex. I definitely think the Jesus Horse is what Christ rode into Jerusalem, and it got changed in the Gospels to a donkey so that it would fit Old Testament prophesies. But then, we all know how unreliable the Old Testament can be."
Not all scientists agree, however, and the new findings have prompted a furious debate about Christ's relationship with dinosaurs.
"Jesus spread a message of love," says Rodriguez Ignare of the Texas Organization for Scientific Harmony in Houston, "and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that he had any kind of relationship with anything but vegetarian dinosaurs.
"I think this new evidence has been misinterpreted," he adds, "and that Christ's death was nothing but an unfortunate accident. He was probably crushed when his tame Brontosaurus was just loved him too much."
However, both Croyant and Ignare agree on one issue
"He died for all our sins," says Croyant, "including the sins of dinosaurs."
Christ scarfs evolution papers
Two ninth grade students from Finger, Tennessee say that Jesus destroyed their biology homework.
"He appeared in a blaze of light and jes’ chewed it right up," said one of the girls - sisters aged 14 and nearly 15 - who cannot be named for fear of further visitations. "I have never been more afraid, or more excited."
According to the girls, Christ appeared in the bedroom they share with their seven brothers, none of whom saw anything but one of whom claims the girls were acting, "Kinda weird, kinda holy."
The Lord commanded the girls to hand over the papers they had written.
"The subject of the homework was evolution," said the elder girl. "I could see he was angry."
Pausing only to request some ketchup, Christ quickly devoured the papers, said "Let that be a lesson" and vanished.
It’s not the first time the girls have had dealings with supernatural forces. Two years ago, they were at the center of a storm when they discovered their gym teacher, Agnes Dawkins, was a witch. Ms Dawkins, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, was never proven innocent.
Some townspeople have criticized the school for setting homework on such a dangerous subject.
"It’s dancing with the devil," said Justice Ezekiel Torquemada, the town’s Judge and District Attorney, and who also runs the county’s leading undertaking business. "We shouldn’t be teaching our children about these black arts. Fortunately, Our Lord stepped in to prevent any damage to these young, impressionable minds. I’m not sure why he ate the papers, though. A bolt of lightning would have done the trick."
The school authorities, however, have been surprised at the reaction.
"We weren’t really expecting them to write about evolution as such," said their science teacher, Rev. Elijah Seraphim. "We just wanted them to explore how Darwin and all that stuff is a government-sponsored conspiracy to turn people away from the true faith. After all, I am the science teacher and that’s what science education is all about, seeking the truth an’ whatnot."
He added that the girls would not be penalized for the mishap.
"As their response to a paper on evolution was to turn in nothing at all, we think that deserves top marks," said Seraphim. "If God had wanted us to believe in evolution, he wouldn’t have sent his only son to eat this homework. Which is proof that evolution is wrong. What could be more scientific than that?"
The Real Face of Jesus
An Italian scientist has proven that the Turin Shroud - a sheet that bears the miraculous image of the crucified Christ - is genuine and shows the real face of Jesus. And the research was paid for by a bunch of non-believers!
Luigi Garlaschelli, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia, exactly reproduced the shroud using materials he says were easily available in medieval times.
Prof Garlaschelli laid a linen sheet over an assistant, rubbed it with an acid-soaked pigment and baked the sheet in an oven for that authentic 'biblical' look.
"The result is spooky," said businessman Jack Betise, an acknowledged expert in religion, the occult and the paranormal. "It's an exact replica of the Holy Shroud."
The Italian prof's research was funded by a group of atheists and agnostics, trying to prove that the real Turin Shroud could have been manufactured by con artists in the Middle Ages.
Two decades ago, carbon dating of the original Shroud dated it to between 1260 and 1390, but many Christians have maintained that it is the real thing - the burial cloth laid over Jesus after he was taken down from the cross.
"Professor Garlaschelli has shown, beyond reasonable doubt, that the image on the Turin Shroud was formed by direct contact with a real body," said Betise. "This completely blows out of the water any theories about it being a 'painting' or some other kind of fake. There has to have been a body. And, obviously, that body must have been our Lord Jesus Christ. Just look at the face. Who else could it have been?"
The image produced by Prof Garlaschelli was made even more realistic with the addition of blood stains, burn holes, scorches and water stains. He claims that this shows the real Turin Shroud could have been created at any time by anyone. But this is unlikely to worry the faithful, says Betise.
"That's just the usual scientism we've come to expect from these sorts of people," he said. "You know, scientists. As Homer Simpson said, you can prove anything with facts.
"In fact, this shows the strength of faith," added Betise. "Now we know the Shroud was formed by contact with the real Jesus, we can go back to dismissing mere evidence and once again glory in our beliefs."
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