Archive for December 2009

Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

December 31, 2009

The parable of the blind men and the elephant is often used by the religious (or general mongers of woo) to argue for the validity of their beliefs. The parable is meant to show that no body knows the whole truth, therefore (apparently) no one can ever say that the teller of the parable is wrong. The problem with the parable though, is that it is only half of the story. The blind men are confused by the elephant only because all of them have different results. But, once they follow the scientific method and verify each others results, compare them, and build a model, I have a feeling they would eventually come up with a pretty good description of an elephant.

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There were three blind men that came across an elephant. They were all unfamiliar with elephants and had no idea what this creature looked like. Lining up against the elephant, they all began to feel with their hands:

Blind Man 1: (feeling it’s tail) Well, it seems to be some sort of brush.
Blind Man 2: (feeling it’s abdomen) I’m getting much different results. To me it feels like a huge wall. One, are you sure it’s a brush?
Blind Man 1: That’s what my results show.
Blind Man 2: Ok, do you mind if I verify it?
Blind Man 1: Of course, we need to be sure (the men trade places and recheck each others work). Yes, the results do seem to be the same when I run the test as well. Would you like to verify my results?
Blind Man 2: Let’s see what Three is up to. Three, what results have you got?
Blind Man 3: (feeling it’s trunk) it’s a great rope.
Blind Man 1: Are you sure?
Blind Man 3: Oh,yeah, I’ve picked up on it’s mystical energies
Blind Man 1: Well, we’ve been verifying each others results. Let’s come over there and double check yours.
Blind Man 3: No! I don’t need anyone to check my results. I have “Another Way of knowing”
Blind Man 1&2: Get out of the way, please
Blind Man 3: In order to say you know it’s an elephant, you have to think you know everything!
Blind Man 1&2: Shut up.

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Top Ten Creationist Arguments

December 31, 2009

Protect Christmas Bill?

December 30, 2009

A new bill to protect the traditions of Christmas has been introduced by Representative Henry Brown ( R-SC) into the US Congress on 12.8.09

H.Res.951 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.

Protect Christmas? Mmmm, yes, I see. The world has suddenly been transformed into a Rankin and Bass claymation holiday special. The evil Heat Miser will soon come into town to melt all the holiday snow …. oops, I mean Christmas snow.

I get a feeling this bill could easily be crossing more than a few church/state separation lines.

Text of Bill

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
    (1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
    (2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
    (3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

Definitely an odd bill written by some one with a pretty tenuous grasp of the first amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Meaning, taking a neutral stance. Pretty simple, neither helping nor hindering. This bill would be helping and would thereby not be neutral.

Not to mention, most of the atrocious offenses against Christmas, at least the ones that I’ve seen causing boycotts by religious groups, are just businesses that decide to express inclusive messages during the holidays. Not really a lot a government bill can do about that without micro-managing private industry.

Silly, silly stuff.

2 Kings 2:23-24, For Real

December 28, 2009

Too funny not to post (2 Kings 2:23-24)

God of the Week: Osiris

December 28, 2009

God of the Week 12/28/09: Osiris

Osiris was an ancient Egyptian god, principally of the afterlife, as well as grain and fertility. He was the son of the god Geb and the goddess Nut. He was the brother/husband of Isis (times were different, apparently). Inscriptions to Osiris have been found on the Palermo Stone, which has been dated to 2,500 BCE, and the religion appears to have been practiced until the 6th Century CE.

Osiris was originally the local god of the city of Ded(u) (also called Dedet) in the Delta, which the Greeks termed Busiris, i. e. “Home of Osiris,” and where a strangely shaped pillar with circular projections separating bands of various colours was his symbol,^ At a rather early date he became a cosmic deity, and after oscillating between symbolizing either the sun or the sky, he finally developed into the god of changing nature in the widest sense. Thus he could become the divinity of the most important change, I. e. death, and could be evolved into the patron of the souls of the departed and king of the lower world, being at the same time the lord of resurrection and of new and eternal life.

-The Mythology of All Races, Vol XII, Egyptian and Indo-Chinese
by W Max Muller, Louis Herbert Gray, Editor

There have been parallels made between the Egyptian god Osiris and the Christian god Jesus by many scholars, such as E.A. Wallis Budge, Bruce Metzger, G.A. Wells, and D.M. Murdock (Acharya S) in her book Christ in Egypt. These theories remain controversial, however there are many overt similarities between the practices, such as a passion play of the death and rebirth of Osiris that was enacted as a means of worship and proselytism, as well as sacred meals similar to the Christian communion.

The Osiris religion did continue to be practiced until the 6th century CE despite all pagan religions being outlawed by Theodosius in the 4th century. It was the emperor Justinian that finally ordered all temples destroyed and the priests arrested.

Same Sex Unions in Ancient Christianity

December 26, 2009

Ancient Christian art and written documents show that not only were same sex unions tolerated in the ancient Church, they were celebrated. It fact, it looks as though the rigorous anti-gay rhetoric did not begin until the 14th century.

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine’sMonastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay “wedding” is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 – 518) explained that, “we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life”. This is not a case of simple “adelphopoiia.” In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the “sweet companion and lover” of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus’s close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as “erastai,” or “lovers”. In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

-Colfax Record, 8/24/08

It looks like the original article from the Colfax Record (written by ThosPayne) is now offline, but here a link to the cached copy. It’s a good read.

The author of the original study, Prof. John Boswell, is the author of “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe From the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century“. It looks like some pretty interesting stuff.

We are all a product of our culture. When we assume our prejudices are revealed instead of learned, it can easily lead to ill will toward others.

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

December 25, 2009

Happy Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the unconquered sun), your chance to get all your sun worship out of the way for the year.

December 25th marks the fist day the sun starts to measurably ascend in the sky. Celebrations around the time of the winter solstice have been popular for centuries, though the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti was instituted by the Roman Emperor Elagabalus at the beginning of the 3rd century CE.

Saturnalia:

The festival of Saturnalia goes back to 200 BCE. It was a week long festival lasting December 17th to the 23.  Gift giving, merry making (often leading to extreme merry making) and a reversal of the social order, with masters waiting on their slaves, were common traditions.

Christmas:

There is, of course, no mention of a any particular date for the birth of Jesus in any Christian Bible document, the earliest documents having no mention of Jesus’s earthly life at all. And, other dates were used to celebrate his birthday before December 25th was made official by the pope in the 4th century CE (the Orthodox Church still celebrates Christmas on Jan 6th). There is some evidence that early Christians thought the celebration of birthdays to be a strictly pagan custom that they chose not to participate in.

But, there is actually a Christian meme to explain why JC’s birth date should be celebrated on December 25th: the 3rd century Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus theorized that because Jesus died and was reborn on the spring equinox, then he must have been conceived on the spring equinox as well (sic), and therefore would have been born in December, around the 25th. Sounds to me like he already had December 25th in mind, especially since the average human pregnancy is 38 weeks, which would put the birth closer to December 16th. Christmas was not made an official holiday until the 4th century under Pope Julius the 1st. .