Archive for May 2009

Bill Donohue Mocks Rape Victims on TV

May 31, 2009

When can a man openly mock rape victims in the national media and get away with it? Not only get away with it, but still be seen as a honorable man to look up to? Simple, this man just needs to be Bill Donohue and all kinds of unbelievably vile crap can come out of his mouth with no repercussions.

People often times have difficulty believing some of the historical allegations of injustice performed by the Catholic Church, but this is happening right here in the present, in front of the cameras, and people are letting it go. Bill Donohue is the worst spokesman the CC could ever have. I believe he alone is the cause of most of their decline in membership over the last few years, yet he retains his job. Why? Running a prostitution ring lands you in jail, but running a child molestation ring turns out to be a pretty cushy job.

The Wolverton Bible

May 31, 2009

Preview image from Basil Wolverton’s graphic Bible.

Adam being created from the soil. A little the the Sandman in Spider Man comics

Adam being created from the soil. It looks a lot like the Sandman in the Amazing Spider-Man comics

Jephthah (Judges 11)

May 30, 2009

One of the “quirkier” stories in the Bible.

The Ark, Yahweh’s Throne

May 30, 2009

Ugh, why did we gold plate this thing?

Ugh, why did we gold plate this thing?

The Ark of the Covenant is more than just a prop from an Indiana Jones film, it’s in the Bible! What is it, you ask? Well, we know it was an important story in Judah, but not in northern Israel, since it is never mentioned in the E source, and that it was the claim to fame of the priests of the Temple of Jerusalem. According to their claim, it was mysteriously housed in the temple in a back room called the Holy of Holies to keep it out of the curious eyes of the public. It was mythically used as a storage vessel for the broken pieces of the Ten Commandments and carried before Joshua’s army into battle. Oh, yeah, and God sat on it.

Was the Ark an invention of the Deuteronomist to encourage people to make the trip to Jerusalem to worship at the temple? In the middle ages churches would often claim to have a relic of some sort or another to increase tourism. If a religion enthusiast heard that a church had the thumb bone of a saint or the death shroud of Jesus, they made the trip to see it. Hell, I just read a testimonial of a lady to traveled to Italy to see a piece of meat in a jar that she hole heartedly believes is the result of the transformation of a Eucharist cracker! So, it works. Joshua, who is largely tied with the Ark, is largely a legend. There may have been some military leader named Joshua at some point, but there’s no evidence to make us think so. The cities mentioned as having been conquered are real cities and do show signs of having been set afire at some point, but the dates of the destruction layers are hundreds of years apart and it appears that the Hebrews were merely taking credit for every military victory in the area. Perhaps the Ark is a legendary invention as well. Or perhaps it was a ceremonial alter that gained legendary status. Or maybe god asked some desert people to make him a chair?

Storywise, the Ark makes it first appearance in Exodus:

“Have them make a chest of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. (Exodus 25:10)

A gold seat was put on top for Yahweh to sit upon:

And thou shalt make a mercy-seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.

And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold; of beaten work shalt thou make them, at the two ends of the mercy-seat.

And make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end: of one piece with the mercy-seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof.

And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.

And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.

And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 25:17-22)

Not sure why a seat would be needed for a god. Perhaps Yahweh was still resting from his six day creation exercise.

Once they started marching around the desert, though, the Hebrews would carry it in front of them (Numbers 10:33).

And, whenever they ran into some undesirables and needed that little godly touch, there was, apparently, a ceremony performed to tell god to “rise” and “return”. Kind of like a séance of some sort.

Whenever the ark set out, Moses said,
“Rise up, O LORD!
May your enemies be scattered;
may your foes flee before you.”

Whenever it came to rest, he said,
“Return, O LORD,
to the countless thousands of Israel.” (Numbers 10: 35-36)

Even after they got to Canaan and got to build a real army, Joshua would have his troops carry it before them:

So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, (Joshua 3:14)

And there is a thrilling story in 2 Samuel about the amazing power of the Ark. It tells of a priest that wasn’t properly prepared to touch it (didn’t say the necessary prayers or burn the right incense or whatever) and got smote. The ark was being carried on an ox cart on a tour of Zion. The cart hit a bump and the Ark was about to tip off the holy cart and into the ditch. The driver of the cart reached out his hand to steady the Ark, which was, of course, the last mistake he ever made. BAM! Smited. (2 Samuel 6)

Both Isaiah and Samuel speak of the throne on the Ark:

Mmm, that's good incence

Mmm, that's good incense

“…the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark.” (2 Samuel 6:2)

“O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Isaiah 37:16)

Weird stuff, indeed. I’ve always figured all the “Yahweh on his throne” stuff was leftovers from a much earlier period of Judaism, but the P source is dated (according to Richard Friedman) to the reign of King Hezekiah (715 – 687 BC), and many people have dated it to the Babylonian Exile. That seems a bit late for all this hoodoo voodoo stuff, but who knows. There are some pretty weird beliefs out there today, who knows what people thought back then.

Hitchens and Blackwell on Hardball

May 29, 2009

Pre-Christian Christianity

May 28, 2009

gabriels revelationAn ancient tablet found in the West Bank (the one in Israel, not Minneapolis) and dating to 100BC mentions a messiah dying and being resurrected after 3 days. Was the central tenant of Christianity a popular Jewish tradition at the time? Of course it was, why even ask. If you don’t think so, you’ve been asleep at the wheel, ,my friend. Dying and rising gods are a dime a dozen. But, I digress.

The text is known as Gabriel’s Revelation and even though much of it is damaged, the telltale text is there. Israel Knohl, an iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, translated the words as:

“In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you.”

Very Interesting, indeed. But, you may ask, what about the atonement aspect of Christianity? The book of 2nd Maccabees, believed to have been written in Egypt in 124 BC, mentions the concept of atonement in chapter 12.

Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin (2 Maccabees 12:43-45)

Conceptually, all the pieces of the Jesus story would have been around a centuray before the traditional birth of the Christian savior god. Does this deny the divinity of Jesus, no. But, it does mean he’s a copy cat.

The Sacrifice of Isaac

May 27, 2009

Should I kill you, or pretend to kill you ... tough choice.

Should I kill you, or pretend to kill you ... tough choice.

The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is a controversial one; often held up as being a story of great devotion by Believers and shunned as a story of a brutal father by skeptics. A bit of deeper study of the story may make it even more controversial.

The story is attributed to the E source, originating in the northern kingdom of Israel. In the story, God is referred to as Elohim. That is, until verse 11 in which there is a sudden switch; the divine character changes from Elohim, to the “angel of Yahweh”. Because of this change and because of the content of the passage, these verses (11-16a) appear to be a later addition. Once the story switches back to the E source, Isaac is never mentioned. Abraham is mentioned walking back down the mountain, but Isaac is not. God says “because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son”. He does not say, “because you were willing” rather “because you have”. This curious wording leads some scholars to believe that in the original story, Isaac was sacrificed, but an editorial change during the compilation was made to create a more palatable story.

I have included the text, taken from the New American Standard version, below. I have replaced the references to God to the original Hebrew “Elohim” or “Yahweh” (in translations of the  Bibel, whenever god is referred to as “God”, it correlates to Elohim, when “LORD” is used it correlates to Yahweh). The E source in in italics, the Redactor’s alteration is underlined.

1Now it came about after these things, that Elohim tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

2He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

3So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

4On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.

5Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”

6Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

7Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8Abraham said, ” Elohim will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9Then they came to the place of which Elohim had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

10Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11But the angel of Yaweh called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

12He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

13Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

14Abraham called the name of that place Yaweh Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of Yaweh it will be provided.”

15Then the angel of Yaweh called to Abraham a second time from heaven,

16and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares Yaweh, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,

17indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.

18″In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

19So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.


May 26, 2009

Origins Of The Mithraic MysteriesMithraism was a mystery religion (a religion requiring an initiation rite and secrecy from non-members) popular in the Roman Empire from the first to the fourth century AD. The members met in a cave or other underground structure, known as a mithraeum, and we have found hundreds of them all over the Roman Empire (modern Italy, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece, Algeria, Israel, and many other countries). The central focus of the mithraeums are an image Mithras killing a bull, accompanied with a dog, a snake, a scorpion, and a raven. These characters are all zodiac symbols.

Is Mithras the origin of the Christ story? Jesus and Mithras do share some properties, but that’s not exactly what comparative mythology says. Comparative mythology merely points out that deities and supernatural beings before/after/during the rise of Christianity have many similar properties. Perhaps some of the concepts are basic human tendencies, like wanting to “defeat” death. Perhaps others are cultural, and many appear to be astronomical. There will be many theories, but unlike scientific theories, there is no real way to test them for validity. They can only be analyzed for probability.

Christians wanting to deny any comparisons to Christianity have claimed that Mithras was not early enough to be a source. However, we have learned from Plutarch that Mithraism was widely practiced in 67BC by Cilician pirates, putting it’s probable origin before that.

The virgin birth of Mithras was celebrated on December 25th, the same as many other mythological characters both before and after the origin of the Jesus story. The celebration of Christmas only goes back to the 2nd century, but it was not observed on December 25th until Pope Julius the 1st picked that date in 350 AD. And, even though Christian tradition today says that Jesus was born of a virgin, this does not appear to be an original aspect of the Jesus story. The earliest accounts of Jesus (the epistles of Paul are commonly dated to 50 AD and the first gospel, Mark, is commonly dated to 70 AD) do not mention a virgin birth at all. The addition of a virgin birth aspect to the Jesus story may be the result of an observations of religions called syncretism, which is the tendency of religions to adopt additional beliefs over time.

Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries by David Ulansey (recommended book)

Do Invisible Agents Control the World?

May 25, 2009

Micheal Shermer has an article in Scientific American titled Why People Believe Invisible Agents Control the World.

I think that a major reason people believe in religion is because they never view their own religion with the same skepticism that they view others. Take the Jehovah’s Witness proclamation of Jesus’s second coming in 1975 (or any of the other ones). This failure made them the subject of much ridicule. However, their prediction in no way stands out from other biblical prophecy. Jesus himself predicts the end times in the foreseeable future:

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
(Matthew 16:28)

“But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:27)

Excuses are often made for this passage. The most common one I’ve heard was that the Kingdom of God DID come in the 1st century AD. But, it was a spiritual kingdom, therefore there is no record of it, no manner of verifying it, no perceivable change to the Earth, whatsoever. And, apologists honestly do not see this as being a silly response in the least.

There is an even better parallel in the Old Testament. The Flood. God sees man is corrupt, so he sends a flood to kill all the corrupt people on the Earth. Yet, look around you. Is there not still corruption? The flood appears to be a pretty ridiculous extreme measure for such a temporarily solution.

So, why do people believe in superstitions? They want to.

Celibacy “May Be Flawed” say former Bishop

May 25, 2009

President of Paraguay and former Catholic Bishop Fernando Lugo admitted that the vows of celibacy taken by the Catholic Church aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. He had to, really, since he also admitted to fathering a child while a bishop.

Now, if the Catholic Church with it’s two thousand years of studying human nature could come to the same conclusion, they might be able to start sorting out the copious sex abuse allegations.

It does sound as though Lugo is recognizing the child as his and accepting fatherhood responsibilities, making him quite an upstanding man by Catholic standards.