Archive for June 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Eucharist Miracle of Lanciano

June 30, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Eucharist Miracle of Lanciano

The Miracle of Lanciano is a claim that, in Lanciano Italy circa 700 CE, a particular instance of the Eucharist (a Christian rite in which bread, usually in the form of a cracker, and wine, sometimes grape juice, is consumed in imitation of the story of the Last Supper), physically turned into a chunk of meat and some blood. Since, in the Catholic version of the ritual, the food is believed to change into the body and blood of the god/man Jesus, the chunk of flesh is supposedly a piece of Jesus’ body. The chunk of meat is currently kept in a jar.

Personally, I find it hard to fathom that even a die hard catholic would believe this story, silly as it is. Even in Catholic theology, the Eucharist isn’t supposed to literally turn into a piece of meat and some blood, it’s a spiritual change. To believe it turns into flesh is pure magic and superstition, not religious reverence. Not to mention that faking this particular miracle would be easy even for a poor stage magician.

None of the claimed “facts” of the can be proved or disproved because they are pretty general in nature. The evidence may indeed be a piece of meat, even human meat; human flesh would be easy enough to get from a cadaver. So, how can this be debunked? Merely by questioning it. Why would the Eucharist suddenly “literally” turn into meat when millions of Catholics all over the world merely chewed on a cracker? Why would a supernatural being with the ability to create the universe perform such a meaningless miracle in a small Italian town at a time when evidence could not easily be taken and communication was so poor? Surely, a miracle a bit more convincing would convince a lot more people, thereby saving a lot more souls. That fact that this miracle is so seldom brought up even by believing Catholics is a testament to it’s dubious nature.

The Ultimate Zen Experience

June 28, 2010

A Total lack of self awareness. It must be such a serene and peaceful experience.

“The Raytown farmer who posted a sign on a semi-truck trailer accusing Democrats of being the “Party of Parasites” received more than $1 million in federal crop subsidies since 1995.”

A pure capitalistic system would not, of course, have any welfare programs, either for businesses, like farmers, or for individuals, like the un-employment insurance and social welfare programs that makes Republicans see red.

“Crop subsidies are different, he said. “

Ah, special pleading, the last resort of a scoundrel. Take a million, then bitch when someone else gets a dollar. He must have balls the size of bowling balls.

It may be fashionable to bitch about wall street bail outs, but farmers that take millions in hand outs from the government when their business doesn’t go as planned should probably shut up. They’re a business, right? Same as any other. Sink or swim, right?.

A true republican would just sell the farm, to Con-Agra to pay your mortgage before they ever took a big government handout.

There is also a huge subsidy going on right now, benefiting members of the clergy,

“The Freedom From Religion Found­­ation, along with 21 of its California members, has filed a nationally significant federal lawsuit in Sacramento to challenge tax benefits for “ministers of the gospel,” commonly known as “the parsonage exemption.”

Are Republicans, then, supporters of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s case?

The parsonage exemption became an issue a few years ago when Rick Warren tried to claim $80,000 a year as “housing allowance”. Aw, the simple life of a minister.

Religious schools will even make their faculty lay ministers so they can cheat on their taxes, as well.

According to professor Erwin Chemerinsky on last weekend’s FFRF podcast, erasing this handout can bring in another $500,000,000 a year to the government’s income, all without raising taxes! Can’t think of any reason that a true fiscal conservative would oppose it. It sounds like Good News to me.

God of the Week: Serapis

June 28, 2010

06/28/2010: Serapis

Serapis was an ancient Greek/Egyptian synthesis of the gods Osiris and Apis created during the Tolemaic empire. Though the gods used to created the synthesis where Egyptian deities, the statues of Serapis were Greek in appearance, modeled after Zeus.

Have the Courage of Your Convictions, Texas

June 27, 2010

The Texas GOP has unleashed their new platform on the world. As Politicalcorrection.org puts it:

“The Texas Republican Party’s new 25-page platform is chock-full of absurd policy prescriptions, many of which are based on the most absurd of conspiracy theories. “

In addition to banning oral sex (yes, they actually want to make it illegal, as in you can be arrested for it), the Texas GOP is wants to keep the darn Supreme Court from making those darn decisions:

“Further, we urge Congress to withhold Supreme Court jurisdiction in cases involving abortion, religious freedom, and the Bill of Rights.”

So, the US passes the Bill of Rights to, you know, insure the rights of their citizens. But the Texas GOP wants to be left up to their own devices in enforcing them, mostly, as defined by the narrow constraints of their local superstitions; such as with abortion (their belief on the development of a fetus is not based on any scientific research, but rather on Jeremiah 1:5, a bronze age preacher that believed Israel was “cursed” by god for “allowing” people to choose their own religion), the sexual practices of their citizens (essentially, non reproductive sex acts would be sinful, therefor illegal, usually based on Genesis 1:22-“Be fruitful, and multiply”), and marriage rights of those born homosexual (based on the harsh and primitive prohibition in Leviticus 18:22). Of course, this tendency to believe that an all powerful magical being not only could but did decide to teach morality to all the citizens of the world by dictating a garbled incoherent book to one culture on the planet is coupled together with a Stalin-esque desire for totalitarian control over the people of the state. After all, no good Texan can follow their religion without making others involuntarily follow that religion as well.

Modern Christian Mythology: Out of Body Experiences

June 23, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Out of Body Experiences

The belief in Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), Astral Projection, or Near Death Experiences (NDEs) is not a belief held exclusively by Christianity, though the religion does have a vested interest in the belief. After all, if you can prove that there is consciousness outside of the human body, then it would be a very small leap to propose a literal existence of the soul, a key, yet unproven, concept in the Christian belief system.

While a casual Sunday afternoon spent watching In Search Of or the “History” Channel, may lead one to believe that OBEs are well known in the medical world, closer scrutiny at the actual data makes it clear that all we have are the vague recollections of personal experiences, usually of a time when a patient’s body was under extreme duress, like during surgery or after head trauma of some sort.

So, how would we, as researchers, test the claims made by an individual about an experience they had while in a disorientated state? Modern ethics keeps us from going around hitting people on the head with lead pipes, of course, so we have to wait until people have these experiences naturally. And, the only controlled environment in which OBEs happen with any regularity is in a hospital. Next, we would need to verify what they are experiencing what they believe they are experiencing. If we take the claims of OBEs seriously, they float above their body, looking down. If that is the case, they should then be able to see objects that are on top of shelves and cabinets that they could not see while they are lying in bed looking up.

And that is exactly what Dr Sam Parnia is doing. In an intense study of OBEs, cards with easily descriptive pictures on them are being placed on top of shelves in an hospital resuscitation area. As of yet, no one has been able to describe the cards.

On the laboratory side of the research, experiences similar to NDEs have been replicated by electrical stimulation and virtual reality simulations, and researchers from the University of Maribor, Slovenia have found that there appears to be a strong correlation between Near Death Experiences and the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood stream.

What really amazes me, is that anyone that experienced a blow to the head would be
so insistent that anything that they experienced while in a diminished capacity
was absolutely real.

God of the Week: An

June 21, 2010

06/21/2010: An

An (or, Anu) was the chief sky god and god of moral judgment in ancient Sumeria. He was a part of a heavenly trinity along with Enlil and Enki. Worship of An has been traced back beyond 2,500 BCE.

Modern Christian Mythology: A Young Earth

June 16, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: A Young Earth

This common myth is derived from a literal reading of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew bible. In order to find out when Adam and Eve where molded out of dirt, the ages of the patriarchs listed in the book of Genesis are added up and, presto, with only a little remedial math and a lot of really dull reading, you too can prestidigitate the magic date (October 23, 4004 BC, according to Bishop Usher).

Modern archeology, though, has shed some purer light on the origin of this myth, though:

An ancient Sumerian kings list that has been discovered seems to match up with the ages of the Biblical patriarchs. The reigns of the kings were extraordinarily long (pointing to the mythical nature of the kings listed, of whom no historical trace has ever been found). The kings were assumed by that ancients to have lived before the Gilgamesh flood myth. This Sumerian flood story was so popular, copies of it have been all around the Mediterranean, including translations in Hittite and Hurrian. The reigns of the kings listed lasted into the thousands of years, though the units they used were a base 60 measurement that could easily have been confused with the Hebrew base ten numerals. Once the conversion is done, the reigns match up with the Biblical patriarchs too closely to ignore.

Babylonian influence is evident more than any other in the primitive legends. We can demonstrate this in the case of the legend of the Deluge, of which we possess the Babylonian version; and we have strong reasons for accepting it in the case of the story of creation, which agrees with the Babylonian story in the characteristic point of the division of the primeval sea into two portions; also in the legend of Nimrod, and in the traditions of the patriarchs, the ten patriarchs of the race as given by P being ultimately the same as the ten primitive kings of the Babylonians.

-“The Legends of Genesis” by By Hermann Gunkel

see also, “From ancient writings to sacred texts: the Old Testament and Apocrypha” By Solomon Alexander Nigosian