Archive for the ‘Beliefs and Superstitions’ category

Modern Christian Mythology: Ritual Satanic Abuse in the ’80’s

July 7, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Ritual Satanic Abuse in the ’80’s

Remember the 1980’s, when pretty much everyone in America was either abused by or accused of being in a satanic cult? And Ronald Reagan was in office, too. Ah, good times. It all seems to track back to 1980, which saw the publication of a book entitled, Michelle Remembers. Michelle Remembers contained the supposed “recovered memories” of satanic ritual abuse by it’s author, Michelle Smith. Once published, it caught on like wild fire among evangelical Christian circles, and it started a wave of “recovered memories” all across the nation. The book has since been pretty thoroughly discredited for containing uncorroborated events and highly unlikely scenarios (hey, when the Church of Satan threatens to sue for libel, it’s pretty bad). But, at the time, no one seemed even remotely interested in questioning the book and it was viewed as an accurate testimonial of a victim of a secret nationwide underground ring of satanists groups that were continually killing babies and sacrificing animals (and, of course, continuously re-hiding the remains so they would never be found). Several other books were published in it’s aftermath, most where also discredited.

Not only where the existence of these satanic cults called into question, but the entire practice of “recovered memories” and the use of hypnosis in therapy was ended by all credible therapists. For a couple of light reading books about the belief in recovered memories and the chaotic mess sloppy investigation can cause, see Remembering Satan and Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. And, of course, there’s also the Salem Witch trials, which should always be kept fresh in our minds.

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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.

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: The Garden of Eden

June 9, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: the Garden of Eden

Who wouldn’t want there to exist an earthly paradise? Especially one that not everyone knows about; keep the real estate affordable.

Like other parts of the book of Genesis, the Eden story is paralleled in Sumerian mythology, specifically the Epic of Gilgamesh, which predates the compilation of the Hebrew sources by over a thousand years:

The Sumerian poem “Enki and Ninhursag: A Paradise Myth” begins with a eulogy of Dilmun, describing it as a place that is pure, clean, and bright, where there is neither sickness nor death. Similarly, the characterization of the serpent, the eating of the fruit of the tree, and the deprivation of human immortality, are all paralleled in the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh”, in which the legendary hero succeeds in obtaining the “plant of life” only to have it stolen by a serpent, thus depriving him of immortality.
“From Ancient Writings to Sacred Texts: the Old Testament and Apocrypha” By Solomon Alexander Nigosian

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All the Angry Atheists

June 2, 2010

Cries of “Angry Atheist” have been going around on the ol’ interwebs, lately. Only now they are being picked up by all kinds of folks. Notably, David Sloan Wilson seems to be upset that “certain atheists” (he mentions Dawkins, but then uses Hitchens as an example for some reason) believe that science is a perfectly suitable tool for getting along in the universe (not sure if religions that make the claim get a free pass or not). He makes an appeal to the “beneficial” aspects of religions. These claims usually refer to individuals feeling of belonging, good will, and such, even though these feelings are far from being any sort of a unique contribution of religion.

It most certainly does not do any harm for individuals to gather together to sing songs and join hands. To live out a piece of meaningful theater. If they were aware that that’s what they were doing. The problem is, most of them do not. And even those that do are perfectly happy letting letting others hold on to age old belief systems that do not apply to the world we live in. And that’s just plain wrong. When people hold irrational beliefs, it affects us all.

Would I handle the mild irrational beliefs of a UU member the same as the more irrational beliefs of a fundamentalist? Well, yeah. I would also treat any irrational belief an atheist had the same. I usually ask them if they really believe what they say, and why. And, perhaps, to clarify it, if it’s a belief I’m not familiar with. I probably shouldn’t go that far, but I guess that’s the angry atheist in me.

Micheal Dowd recently gave a very good example on the Infidel Guy show (paraphrased): Imagine you’re driving from Pittsburgh to Portland Oregon and your GPS hasn’t been updated for 150 years. It would most certainly make your trip a lot more difficult, full of unnecessary turns and dead ends. Since religious belief systems are usually based around the predominant understanding of the world at the time of their creation, religious institutions, and those that adhere to their beliefs, are driving with an outdated GPS. In the case of Christianity, a 2,000 year old one.

Anyone who’s understanding of the world is that out of date will be making irrational decisions in their life: voting for unqualified political candidates merely because they sell themselves as religious,  ostracizing homosexuals, holding racist views, etc. Their entire world view will be warped. And, whether their world view is peacefully warped (they keep to themselves), or violently warped (such as with suicide bombers), it is only the right thing to do to attempt to share any insight you have. We see good, beneficial governmental reform strategies continuously undermined by a religious view point of the world, and most of those people voting that way are not violent or crazy. But, their outdated mode of thinking does make a difference in the world.

PZ Myers recently put up a post about Jainism, a “peaceful” religion that never harmed no one (specifically it was about a con man that was Jain, who was trying to get the world to believe that he can survive without eating). Despite that claim of religious accommodationalists, Jains, mostly the priests, are ascetics that have been known to injure and even starve themselves to death to attain religious insight that, according to everything we’ve been able to ascertain about the world so far, simply does not exist. It’s perfectly crazy. Why do people have to pretend to respect such viewpoints? And it’s not stupid in the way the the religious practitioner is a stupid person (well, they might be, but they shouldn’t be treated as such). It’s stupid in that it’s a wrong world view that keeps being held on to and taught as “Truth” to a whole new wave of followers so that they too can get a skewed version of “what is real” imprinted into their brain. Why are we not supposed to challenge religion?

We all owe it to each other to be truthful. True, there is no need to beat on each in the process of doing it, but letting others believe that demons inhabit the world, or that dreaming of falling will kill you is just as abusive, IMO.

That’s Vampires, Not Atheists, Duffus

May 25, 2010

Two Florida teachers have been suspended after they threw “holy water” on a college because she was an atheist. This is quite funny, because of all the practices of religious people, holy water is one that’s so silly, I never really thought that anybody actually believed it. I always thought it was just one of those stupid traditions churches do for ambiance.

Local clergy have called an emergency meeting on Monday over two teachers who were removed from their classrooms after allegedly sprinkling holy water onto an atheist colleague.

So, what’s the local clergy calling a meeting about? Is it taking a beloved religious symbol and attempting to use it as a magic talisman? Nope.

“We need to know why one teacher is allowed to teach our children there is no God and nothing is done,” said the Rev. Willie J. Rainer, husband of one of the accused teachers and  an associate pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Pompano Beach. “But the Christian teachers have been removed from the classroom even though nothing has been proven.”

What hasn’t been proven? The existence of god? The thing philosophers have been debating since before the beginning of written language? No, that hasn’t been “proven”, though pretty much every damned claim in the Christian Bible has been disproved. But, this teacher isn’t teaching atheism. If she had been, she would have been dismissed. She just IS an atheist. And, I’m guessing that these teachers have a problem understanding that because separating their jobs from their beliefs isn’t a practice they adopt.

It’s not too surprising that the “good” reverend is the husband of one of accused, though. People this superstitious just can’t stay apart from each other. Hell, she probably stays with him for a steady supply of holy water. He’s probably blessed their water pipes so their toilet bowl is filled with holy water to keep the smell of bullshit out of their house.

Anyhoo, a quick look at the Catholic Encyclopedia states that “the first historical testimony does not go back beyond the fifth century.” So, yeah. not an ancient tradition handed down by Jeebus. Just magic and superstition.  But, for some reason voodoo dolls are looked down on.

Modern Christian Mythology: Rib Count

May 19, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Rib Count

The myth that men have one more rib than women is pretty easily debunked. After all, all you need to do is step into a science class room, find the skeleton, and count. And, as silly as it may sound, it still occasionally comes up in college classrooms.

The myth originates from a literal reading of the Genesis 2 version of the creation story. In Genesis 1, first first man and the first woman are created simultaneously, but in this version of the story, man is created first out of dust, then a woman is created out of the man’s rib bone:

And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof: and the rib, which Jehovah God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

-Genesis 2: 21-22

Of course, even taken at face value, the Genesis story would in no way imply that all of Adam’s descendants would have been born one rib short of a rack. Just ask anyone missing a limb if their kids were born with the same piece of missing hardware. After all, if that was the way things worked, the practice of circumcision would only have been done once.