Archive for September 2009

Happy Blasphemy Day (there is no Todd!)

September 30, 2009

Today (9/30/09) is Blasphemy Day! What to do, what to do …

It sounds fun but, it can be pretty hard to do. Blasphemy is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. One individual’s actions or speech could be completely pious in their eyes, yet still be considered blasphemous by someone else. So, in a sense, you don’t even need to try. Or, if you do try, you might not be successful.

Here’s a definition of blasphemy from Wikipedia:

Blasphemy, in the context of religion, is reference to God, in a manner declared by God, to be offensive to God.

As interpreted by his followers, of course. Here on earth, a blaspheme is really nothing more than the offense of a theist. If a blaspheme is made in the forest, and nobody hears it, is it still a blaspheme? If you’re an atheist … of course not. I’m sure theists still think it is, but they think that gods are snooping on them all day.

Ok, some blasphemous things:

  • Christianity: Blaspheming the Holy Spirit (not Yehweh or Jesus) is unforgivable (Luke 12:10). I have, however, also seen it translated as denying the Holy Spirit. So, is simply denying a god a blasphemy? Didn’t Peter deny Jesus 3 times (or 9, if you’re one of those)? So, would have blasphemed Jesus. Since, he only blasphemed Jesus and not the Holy Spirit, he’s probably ok, but still … you would think that his denials would have affected his standing amongst the saints. Maybe that’s why he’s stuck on door duty in heaven (bouncer for all eternity). Well, he may not have had the guts, but I deny the Holy Spectre with all my might. Dr Fate, that’s my guy.
  • Judaism: In Leviticus 24:16, the death penalty is the punishment for blasphemy, but it still doesn’t really define what blasphemy is. Assuming that other crimes punishable by death qualify as blasphemy would not be logically correct (i.e., all oranges are fruits, not all fruits are oranges).
  • Islam: This one’s easier. Speaking ill of Muhammad is a blaspheme (which is quite strange, since he is not god, just the messenger of god). So, Muhammad is a douche bag. Done.
  • Buddhism: You might think there’s no blasphemy in Buddhism. You would be wrong: In 2007, Buddhists in Thailand petitioned the government to enact a blasphemy law. Of course, it might have been purely social, but they must have thought there was a good enough reason to give their religion a protected status above all criticism.

So, in short, blasphemy looks to me to be nothing more than the follower of a religious movement getting worked up about something. Which didn’t prevent Ireland from passing an arcane, unenforceable, and outdated law this year.

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Pope Should Reclaim His Religious Past

September 29, 2009

Pope Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI, is urging Czechs to “reclaim their Christian heritage“.

Visiting the Czech Republic 20 years after a Velvet Revolution overthrew the nation’s communist regime, Pope Benedict XVI called on one of the world’s most secular societies to reclaim its Christian heritage as the basis for “true freedom.”

Well, I would also like to take part in the spiritual awakening of the world by urging Pope Ratzinger to reclaim his religious heritage. Worship Odin! After all, this Jesus figure that seems to dominate the Pope’s religious attention has never once even visited the German homeland. So, it is a bit ridiculous for there to be so many German Christians. I mean, if a god/man can’t take the time to even visit … he could even have used that mind reading trick he used on Paul and popped right inside of a few German skulls. Germany was converted by individual’s with dubious morals and it was met with a bit of resistance. So, embrace your pagan heritage, Pope! You know you want to.

Swinging The Ol’ Chicken Around

September 28, 2009
Swing, batta, batta, batta ...

Swing, batta, batta, batta ...

I’ve always enjoyed reading about religion, but somehow this ritual has escaped my eye. Chicken swinging:

“Hecht holds the bird, waves it three times above his head, and says the prayer of Kapparot (or Kapparos, depending on heritage). He prays that his sins will be transferred to the bird and he will escape the divine punishment that he deserves. The prayer is more than 1,000 years old, and countless Orthodox Jews will recite it in the days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which begins at sundown Sunday. Hecht says waving the chicken isn’t the point of this ritual.

“The main part of the service,” he says, “is handing the chicken to the slaughterer and watching the chicken being slaughtered. Because that is where you have an emotional moment, where you say, ‘Oops, you know what? That could have been me.’ ” “

This archaic ritual is reminiscent of the ancient scapegoat ritual, in which a goat would be lead through the streets to suck in the sins of the community like a big sin sponge and then driven out into the desert.

The ancient Greeks had a similar ritual, but with a criminal instead of an animal. The criminal was called a pharmakos. Hellenized Jews, of course, would have been well aware of this ritual. Was this tradition applied to the Jesus myth? Well, duh.

God of the Week: Dionysus

September 28, 2009

God of the Week: 9/28/09: Dionysus

Dionysus

Dionysus was the ancient Greek god of wine and celebration and was given credit for liberating people from the toils of daily life. He was the son of the chief god Zeus and the mortal woman Semele.

Like other gods of vegetation Dionysus was believed to have died a violent death, but to have been brought to life again; and his sufferings, death, and resurrection were enacted in his sacred rites. His tragic story is thus told by the poet Nonnus. Zeus in the form of a serpent visited Persephone, and she bore him Zagreus, that is, Dionysus, a horned infant. Scarcely was he born, when the babe mounted the throne of his father Zeus and mimicked the great god by brandishing the lightning in his tiny hand. But he did not occupy the throne long; for the treacherous Titans, their faces whitened with chalk, attacked him with knives while he was looking at himself in a mirror. For a time he evaded their assaults by turning himself into various shapes, assuming the likeness successively of Zeus and Cronus, of a young man, of a lion, a horse, and a serpent. Finally, in the form of a bull, he was cut to pieces by the murderous knives of his enemies. – Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough, chapter 43.

The play, the Bacchae was written by Euripides around 400BCE. In the opening scene, Dionysus speaks to the audience, defending his virgin birth:

Lo! I am come to this land of Thebes, Dionysus’ the son of Zeus, of whom on a day Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, was delivered by a flash of lightning. I have put off the god and taken human shape, and so present myself at Dirce’s springs and the waters of Ismenus.

Three day long celebrations in his honor, known as the Bacchanalia, were held in the spring and where originally attended only by women. In later antiquity, however, his worship became the focus of a Grecco-Roman Mystery Religion, open to both genders, but requiring initiation. The celebrations became so notorious for their wild excess and suspicion of political subversion that they were eventually prohibited by the government.

The rites of the Mysteries of Dionysus were far from trivial,though,  and many relied upon them for the future of their souls, including the ancient historian Plutarch:

In a letter to his wife following the death of their young child, Plutarch refers to “mystic symbols of the Dionysiac mysteries” (into which he himself had been initiated). He consoles her with the thought that these symbols mean that their daughter was too innocent to have acquired any stain and will enjoy a happy afterlife
-Earl Doherty, The Mystery Cults and Christianity, Part One: Introduction and Survey of the Cults (referring to Consolatio ad Uxorem by Plutarch, p.611D)

Image of the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek

Glenn Beck and “White Culture”

September 26, 2009

I’m not sure what he was talking about, Katie Couric isn’t sure, and, as it turns out, Glenn Beck doesn’t know what he was talking about either. He believes Barak Obama hates “white culture”. When asks what he means by “white culture” he plays games, squirms in his chair, and looks a bit like Micheal Scott on the Office. Perhaps he was looking for a frog to boil.

When a person that is paid to talk is speechless, he might be a bit ashamed of wait he said.

Evolution of the Giant Tortoises – Richard Dawkins

September 24, 2009

Was Census Worker’s Death Anti-government Statement?

September 24, 2009

In a story that is getting more disturbing as it unfolds, a census worker was found hanged in a forest with the word “FED” written on his chest. Is the anti-government movement turning violent?