Archive for the ‘Beliefs and Superstitions’ category

Calling a Myth a Myth

April 20, 2010

Recently, there has been a a bit of a brew ha ha over a biology text book titled Asking About Life because, within the text, it refers to the ancient Hebrew creation story as a “myth”.

Firstly, the Biblical creation story would  most definitely classifies as a myth. Secondly, there’s nothing inherently insulting about that. In fact, it’s probably it’s only redeeming quality. Myths are an important part of world culture; every society has them. The fact that the movie industry is currently the largest export America has is a testament to the social importance myth making has on human psychology.

So, why bother writing anything debunking a 3 thousand year old myth? Because, the only reason the use of the word “myth” is considered controversial is because there exists a large percentage of the population of our country that is not aware that the story is a myth. And who’s fault is that? They, apparently, have been told throughout their lives that the universe exists solely because a big powerful creature wished it into existence, and then revealed that knowledge to a single group of nomads living in the middle east.  Why? God only knows. I do get the impression that very few of them have actually ready the story, though. I mean, if I were under the impression that I could get the history of the entire earth written down on a single page, I would definitely read it. And, once anyone reads Genesis, it pretty much debunks itself.

The first problem that comes up is that there are at least two creation stories in the Bible, one right after the other; and they don’t agree. Most people when speaking of the “creation story”, are referring to the first one, which starts at Genesis 1:1, and ends at Genesis 2:3. Reading beyond that point is apparently seen as extra credit by most fans of the book, because the differences that come up make the two pretty incompatible. The second story (The Eden story) starts at Genesis 2:4,and continues onward.

In the Genesis 1 story, God (Elohim) creates the earth through a period of 6 days.
In Genesis 2, the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim), created the heavens and the earth in a single day.

“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.”

-Genesis 2:4 (NAS)

And, because he is able to make the earth in a single day, it is pretty obvious to me that the god in Genesis 2 is a much more powerful god.

In Genesis 1, the earth was formed over a series of 6 days
In Genesis 2, the earth and heavens were created in a single day

In Genesis 1, Man and woman are created at the same time
In Genesis 2, man is made first,”formed” from dirt, woman is created later out of a rib bone once Yahweh Elohim realized that the man he made needed help (tending the garden, presumably)

In Genesis 1, Light is created right away, but the sun, moon, and stars (the sources of the light) aren’t created until day 3. Also, the grass, trees, and other chlorophyll dependent plants are created on the 2nd day, prior to the creation of the sun.

In short, it’s about as mythical a story as you  can get. Adam (or Adom, since Semitic languages have no vowels) isn’t even a proper name, it simply means “man”, the primordial man, or mankind in general).

Other hints that it is a myth:

Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock.
-Genesis 4:20

and this one

His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute.
-Genesis 4:21

And then, of course, the flood came, killing their descendants, no one lives in tents or plays the flute anymore.

Well, both Genesis 1 and 2, as well a lot of other stuff in the Bible is indeed mythology. And it’s not insulting to call it such. After all, how in the world would the ancient Hebrews know anything about the formation of the world?

It’s a myth through and through. All cultures on earth have myths of some sort. Proposing that the Hebrews did not is ridiculous.

James Randi Celibrates Homeopathy Week

April 17, 2010

And now, a few words from James Randi on Homeopathic medicine:

Conceptually, homeopathic ideas aren’t new, just repackaged. Primitive peoples all over the world have been known to use homeopathic ideas in their ancient magic rituals. It’s a shame some people revert back to superstition so easily.

PERHAPS the most familiar application of the principle that like produces like is the attempt which has been made by many peoples in many ages to injure or destroy an enemy by injuring or destroying an image of him, in the belief that, just as the image suffers, so does the man, and that when it perishes he must die. A few instances out of many may be given to prove at once the wide diffusion of the practice over the world and its remarkable persistence through the ages. For thousands of years ago it was known to the sorcerers of ancient India, Babylon, and Egypt, as well as of Greece and Rome, and at this day it is still resorted to by cunning and malignant savages in Australia, Africa, and Scotland. Thus the North American Indians, we are told, believe that by drawing the figure of a person in sand, ashes, or clay, or by considering any object as his body, and then pricking it with a sharp stick or doing it any other injury, they inflict a corresponding injury on the person represented.

-James Frazer, The Golden Bough, Chapter 3 Section 2 Homeopathic or Sympathetic Magic

Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

April 4, 2010

Happy Zombie Jesus Day, everyone!

Some of you may not be aware that Jesus wasn’t the only zombie that rose from the dead that day; the liberal media often tries to cover it up.

And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent;

and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised;

and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many.

-Mathew 27:51-53

Oddly enough, William Lane Craig, a man I thought believed in the inerrantcy of the Bible, says that this bit is all “poetic” and doesn’t mean what it says. But, once you start calling the world of “Gawd” mere poetry, the door to Hell may just open up beneath you …

Was Pope Pius XII a Nazi?

March 27, 2010

With the beatification of Pope Pius XII under way, there has been a lot of heated public opinion shared about him recently, including Richard Dawkins referring to him as ‘Pope Nazi’ during a speech in Australia.

Was Pope Pius XII a Nazi? No. But, he also wasn’t the hero apologists have been trying to make him out to be.

When it comes down to it, when Pius XII was faced with the greatest human atrocity of the recent age, he left a few hints in a speech or two, but, for the most part, kept his mouth shut. No heroic acts, no great deeds. Nothing to show him to be anything more than just another frail human being put into an uncomfortable situation. Should we expect anything more? Well, atheists shouldn’t, but Catholics are under the process of making him a saint, an act that only diminishes the reputation of anyone that already holds that title.

Critics of Pius XII often point to Catholic antisemitic beliefs that undoubtedly attributed to Hitler’s Jewish hatred. These beliefs did start early in the Christian churches. You might say that picking on Jews is a Christian tradition:

“You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.”

-1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

The anti-Semitic tone in early Christianity cannot be ignored. And the Catholic church’s failure to rise above it until the Vatican II, specifically in the Nostra Aetate, in the 1960′s cannot be ignored either. This council was called after Pius XII’s death, by his successor, John XXIII. So, for 17 years after WWII ended and the Nazis were out of power, 13 of those under Pius XII, the Church continued to sit idle on antisemitism.

The prima facie evidence defenders of Pope Pius XII point to was  a speech he gave on Xmas of 1942, in which, at the end, he made this statement about the situation with the Jews:

“”Humanity owes this vow to those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline””

Pretty vague. The speech was 45 minutes long, and, even though the situation in the heavily Catholic Germany was undeniable,  he did not mention the Jews by name, as many claim. And, as far as I’m concerned, the speech really counts as nothing. And I’m not trying to just dismiss the speech, I’m trying to be even handed. The current Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, is currently addressing the issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church in a letter. Putting these two injustices side by side, I think it can be said that Ratzinger is doing more than Pius XII did for the Jews in WWII. In the case of the current pope, the topic is at least the primary focus of the entire letter. And I believe that it is plain to see that for all extents, writing a speech or a letter is the equivalent of not doing anything. It may communicate intentions, but it needs to be followed by some kind of action.

There is, of course, one other claim made in defense of Pius XII: the claims that he moved “secretly” to save thousands of Jews.

“Pope Pius XII worked courageously, secretly and silently to help save Jews targeted by the Nazis’ “criminal plan … to eliminate them from the face of the earth,” said Pope Benedict XVI.”

“we discovered that secretly he saved more Jews than all of the world’s religious and political leaders combined.”

I’m afraid that without some sort of proof (it’s been 70 years, it’s ok to release information now), this sounds a bit too much like single handedly killing thousands of men with the jawbone of an ass.

So, Pope Pius XII: not exactly guilty, but definitely not anyone to be proud of. A bit of a lily-livered coward, in fact, that accommodated the Nazis to a high degree to protect his own interests. I refer to him as the Vichy-Pope.

But, is this any different than any other pope of the modern era?

Why expect any action from the office of the Pope? Sure, during the glory days of the Holy Roman Empire, the Pope’s chair was an office of great power. But, once the holy dictator was kicked off his throne, the world is free to see the office for what it is: head administrator. The office holds no power outside the church, even though it is still given a token nod every once in a while (mostly to cash in on those juicy Catholic votes).

Perhaps the office could be used for more, but it’s probably best that it isn’t. Unless the man holding the office has outside training of some sort, their is no reason to suspect that any clergy in any church has any expertise, authority, or knowledge of the world just because they know the Bible. After all, I would not expect an expert on the Iliad to be able to perform marriage counseling; nor would I expect an expert in the folk tales of ancient Ireland to be given guidance in world politics.

The office of Pope is meaningless to anyone not in the organization, why do we even expect enough out of them to even criticize them?

Exorcism in the Modern Catholic Church

March 24, 2010

Are exorcisms still preformed in the Catholic Church? You bet they are!

In Rome, the Vatican is preparing its first official English translation of the rite of exorcism, which was promulgated in 1614 and reissued in 1999. Its chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, claimed this month to have carried out 70,000 exorcisms.

Don’t let  all the claims of today’s “higher theology”, or allusion to the subtle mystery of the trinity fool you. Today’s Catholic Church is just as superstitious. Father Amorth is not some lone crazy wandering the country side, he is fully employed by and endorsed by the church. This isn’t a euphemism for the grandeur of life, this if full scale belief in demons and magic rites.

“THE minor rite can be done by any priest and provides prayers of protection and assistance for people who fear they are being tempted by the devil. Prayers of minor exorcism are built in to the rite of baptism.

The major rite applies to cases of full demonic possession. The priest wears a purple stole, representing his role as a leader of the church. He carries holy water which he sprinkles over the victim during prayers. The crucifix is held aloft, representing the most potent symbol of Christ’s victory over evil. Prayers are either dedicative or indicative. During dedicative prayer, the exorcist asks God to drive out an evil spirit.

The indicative prayer directly commands the demon to leave: ”I command you evil spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, begone.””

Because a demon that can enter and control a human body is going to listen to a man in a dress, splashing special water, and holding magic talismans. Oh, wait, the magic talisman is held aloft … nah, it’s still silly.

Why are these exorcisms are being performed?

… generation Y risks a dangerous fascination with the occult fuelled by the Twilight and Harry Potter series.

That’s right, the Catholic Church is going up against what it sees as an equal enemy .. Harry Potter and Twilight. Fiction for fiction, I guess.

Saudi Arabia Sentences Sorcerer to Death

March 20, 2010

This is just great, we finally find a real honest to goodness sorcerer, and Saudi Arabia puts him to death! They didn’t even let James Randi test him!

Amnesty International is calling on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to stop the execution of a Lebanese man sentenced to death for “sorcery.”

In a statement released Thursday, the international rights group condemned the verdict and demanded the immediate release of Ali Hussain Sibat, former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Sheherazade, a Beirut based satellite TV channel.

According to his lawyer, Sibat, who is 48 and has five children, would predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

To be fair, it sounds like he practiced “white magic”. So, it’s pretty benign, really.

Seriously, though, what a bunch of superstitious fucks. Time to get into the 12th century, already.

Pope’s Miracle? or Mis-diagnosis

March 7, 2010

The healing miracle attributed to John Paul II that was rocketing him on his way to saint hood, may not have been a miracle at all, but rather a misdiagnosis (like most miracles):

Her disease worsened after the pope’s death, and her order prayed for his intervention to ease her suffering. Then after writing his name on a paper one night, she woke up the next day apparently cured and returned to work as a maternity nurse with no traces of the disease.

But according to the Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita, one of the doctors charged with scrutinising the nun’s case believed she might have been suffering from a similar nervous disease, not Parkinson’s, which could go into sudden remission. A report on the paper’s website went further, saying that the 49-year-old nun had become sick again with the same illness.

The Vatican was making no comment on the grounds that the late pope’s case was still under examination.

The Catholic church has a father god, a son god, a disembodied ghost god, a virgin women that ascended bodily into heaven, a host of angels and demons, as well as deceased holy men and women that miraculously heal mortals on earth that pray to them – in what way are they not a polytheistic religion?

The Evolution of God

March 3, 2010

Destruction of Leviathan

Everything has a beginning, including God, whether the faithful would like to think so or not. But, when was it?

The oldest parts of the Bible as we know it is (theoretically) the J an E sources, dated back to the 8th or 9th century BCE. Even a cursory glance at those parts of the Bible, though, gives us a pretty clear indication that Yahweh was viewed in a very different light than he is today. There are references to Yahweh walking though the Garden of Eden “in the cool of the day” (that’s hot, even god waited until it started to cool down)(Genesis 3:8); standing around with Abraham debating on what it would take for him to not kill the Sodomites (Genesis 18:22-33); and coming down on a cloud to stand at the door of the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 12: 4-6).

The more abstract god that we think of today would not be depicted until the later writings of the Bible.

We don’t have any original copies of any of the Old Testament writings. Up until 1948, the oldest copies of the Old Testament we had were from the middle ages. In 1948, though, a discovery in the Jordon dessert turned that around. The Dead Sea Scrolls contained multiple copies of most of the Old Testament books, and they have been dated to 200BCE to 100CE; not as old as we would have liked, but better than what we had. Though the texts do show a very careful copying of manuscripts by the scribes, there are some interesting differences between them and the Masoretic texts. Like this passage in Deuteronomy:

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
When he separated the children of men,
He set the bounds of the peoples
According to the number of the children of Israel.
For Jehovah’s portion is his people;
Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.”
- Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (Masoretic text)

became this

“When `Elyon (the Most High) allotted peoples for inheritance,
When He divided up the sons of man,
He fixed the boundaries for peoples,
According to the number of the sons of El
But Yahweh’s portion is his people,
Jacob His own inheritance.”
- Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (Dead Sea Scrolls version)

This puzzling piece of data can be explained with another recent archaeological discovery: The Ugaritic texts. In 1929, an site in Syria uncovered religious texts far older than the Old Testament.

The Documentary Hypothesis of the Old Testament had long theorized that the passages in the Bible that refer to god as “El” had originated from the northern Kingdom of Israel and that the part that refer to god with the personal name Yahweh (or more properly, YHWH) were from the southern land of Judah.

The Ugaritic texts originate from the northwest of Israel, and also use El to refer to god (or variations – Elyon meaning “god most high”; El Shaddai meaning “god almighty”; or, Elohim, which is the plural). There are some differences to how he’s depicted, though. He is the head of a pantheon, with 70 sons. 70, the number of nations the Hebrews believed to have existed (“He fixed the boundaries for peoples,According to the number of the sons of El”).

The Ugaritic texts, which have been dated from the 13th to 15th centuries BCE, depict El as a father of all mankind; a dessert dwelling .. El’s son, Yam (or Yaw), is believed to be the name sake of Yahweh. Once the Hebrews adopted mono-theism these two gods seem to have been combined, as mentioned in Exodus:

“I revealed myself to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as Ēl Shaddāi, but was not known to them by my name Yahweh.” Exodus 6; 2-3

Oddly enough, the Christian derivation of Judaism adopted a sort of pantheism again once Jesus, the anointed son of Yahweh, was given equal status with him inside the concept of the trinity. (“We affirm, too, a crowd of angels and ministers ”-Athenagoras of Athens).

Yaw, himself, seems to have originated as a sea deity, similar to Poseidon. This does fit elements of Yahweh’s mythos, most notably his infamous battle with the sea dragon, Leviathan.

Bogus Facilitated Communication

February 23, 2010

In November, there was a well publicized news story that told of a man stuck in a coma for 23 years who began to communicate with his doctors. The stellar journalistic tome that is the Daily Mail gave the story the headline of “Man trapped in 23-year ‘coma’ reveals horror of being unable to tell doctors he was conscious“.

Oddly enough, in the entire length of the story, then never once reveal how he “talked” with doctors, alluding to some miracle computer system that allowed him to chat freely with the outside world. He had another tool they never mentions: a Facilitated communicator. This story corrects the error. The patient had never communicated.

Nobody wants anybody to be stuck in a coma forever , but what we really don’t want is to be lied to. If they story had been true, it would have been great. But, what we have is a John Edwards type charlatans, whether they knew it, or were convincing themselves they could do it. Double Blind testing is a must and is the very foundation of science.

The coma “miracle recovery” crowd is much like vaccination deniers: they are both so commited to proving their point, that they have lost sight of their goal, to find a solution. They instead spend all their time trying to convince themselves they are right, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Yes, we do need to know as much as we can about an individual’s state before we make decisions about their lives, but lying about it is about as wrong as anyone can get.

Never Surrender

February 16, 2010

Lt. Hiroo Onoda was the Japanese soldier that proved that truth was stranger than fiction with his refusal to surrender for 29 years after the end of WWII. During his time hiding in the jungles of the Philippines, many attempts were made to contact Onoda and his battalion of 3 men. Notes that told them that the war was over, come down, were left for them to find. Onoda and his men did find the notes, but determined that they were a tricks meant to deceive them.

Today, like Onoda, Creationists refuse to accept any evidence contrary to their belief systems. Carbon dating, geologic stratification, fossils and their placement by complexity rather than size, DNA evidence like pseudo-genes and viral DNA, chromosomal similarities between humans and apes, developmental biology, astronomical dating of the universe, anatomical similarities between species and their ties to geological proximity rather than environmental niche, plate tectonics, bacterial resistance, race circles

Attempts to refute the evidence come down to misrepresentation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics or outright fabrications like “irreducible complexity”. But, in the end, it all comes down to one thing. A book written by ancient people, old information, says so. The people that wrote these writings didn’t know much about the Earth; why would they? They had only seen a very small portion of it and had no instruments in which to measure things. There is no fault to be found in the ancient Hebrews, the ancient Christians, or the ancient Muslims. But, we know more about the world now. And, anyone that refuses to listen to new information is destined to be left behind while the rest of the world marches forward.


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