Archive for the “Metaphysics” Category

Aimless metaphysics of all sorts

This is Ishtar: pronounced "Easter".<br>Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. Her symbols (like the egg and the bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols (or did you actually think eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?). After Constantine decided to Christianize the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus. But at its roots, Easter (which is how you pronounce Ishtar) is all about celebrating fertility and sex. (Origin uncertain.)Easter is coming. I know that, not because I see it on the calendar. Oh no. I know it because of the bullshit and lies that people are passing around about it. An example of this is the picture here, one I’ve seen posted by several folks on Facebook, which has the following text:

This is Ishtar: pronounced “Easter”.
Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. Her symbols (like the egg and the bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols (or did you actually think eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?). After Constantine decided to Christianize the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus. But at its roots, Easter (which is how you pronounce Ishtar) is all about celebrating fertility and sex. (Origin uncertain.)

There is a mixture of truth and lies here. The true part is that eggs and bunnies are fertility symbols. Also, there’s a chance the name “Ishtar” may have been pronounced, by some ancient people, “Ee-star” or “Ee-ster.” But the odds are much greater that it was pronounced “Eesh-tar” or “Eesh-ter.” (Sadly, it’s hard to be sure how any given ancient name was pronounced when its language hasn’t survived into modern times.) And Ishtar was a fertility goddess.

As for the rest, which comprises the majority of what this picture claims … it’s lies, all lies! I’ve already covered a lot of this in a post a few years ago that covered the same false ground, and it was covered by the Daily Beast a year ago (WebCite cached article).

Simply put, the similarity between our word “Easter” and the ancient name “Ishtar” is merely coincidental. They don’t have a common origin, and aren’t related at all. The former comes from an Indo-European root which originally referred to the dawn; the latter derives from an Afro-Asiatic root referring to a leader or chief.

What’s more, any similarity between the name “Easter” and that of the Babylonian goddess fails in non-Germanic languages, which have very different names for the holiday. Since the Romans didn’t speak a Germanic language (they spoke Latin, in which the holiday’s name is Pascha) there is literally no way Constantine I could have made a holiday named “Easter” “represent Jesus” in the manner described!

As for Emperor Constantine, he never “Christianized” the Roman Empire. He didn’t even come close to doing so! All he did for Christianity was to declare tolerance for it. He also attempted (ultimately disastrously, for his part) to meddle in its affairs, by convoking the Council of Nicaea. The Christianization of the Roman Empire happened only over a period of time, and it mostly happened after he died.

One last thing: Neither the egg nor the bunny were symbols of Ishtar. The most common symbol associated with her, that we know of from archaeological and historical evidence, is the lion. Now, it’s true that, occasionally, lions also have been linked with Jesus, but this linkage hasn’t been very common, historically.

The bottom line is, if you see this picture posted on somewhere on the Internet, especially on Facebook or Twitter or some other place that allows interaction with the poster, please take the time to correct him/her on this. Only a very little research is required to debunk the lies in this picture. Let’s put an end to this foolishness already!

Photo credit: Origin unknown; frequently transmitted on the Internet.

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Storm clouds gather over the scene outside the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th Street in Leawood, Ks, following a shooting on Sunday, April 13, 2014. / John Sleezer, the Kansas City StarBy now most of my readers will have heard about the shootings in Overland Park, KS yesterday. Given this happened on the eve of Passover, that Jewish locations had been targeted, and even though KCTV in Kansas City reported the suspect had yelled “Heil Hitler!” while in a police cruiser, officials were at first reluctant to admit this was a hate crime. As of this morning, and as the Kansas City Star reports, they finally made that concession (WebCite cached article):

A 73-year-old southwest Missouri man with a long history of anti-Semitism is suspected of killing two people outside Overland Park’s Jewish Community Center and then a third at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.

After officers arrested Frazier Glenn Cross — an Aurora, Mo., man better known as F. Glenn Miller — Sunday afternoon, authorities said he went on a rant inside the patrol car. Though Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass wouldn’t say what Cross hollered, a television crew captured him on video while he was handcuffed in the back of the car.

“Heil Hitler,” Miller yelled out, and then he bobbed his head up and down.

The hateful creature who’s accused of these shootings is fairly infamous for his ardent white supremacy. He even has his own Wikipedia page, which mentions, among other things, his brief war against the United States government in the late ’80s. He also goes by a number of names … F. Glenn Miller, Fraiser Glenn Cross, and just Glenn Miller. The Southern Poverty Law Center has been keeping tabs on him, too, and not just because he’s just the sort of nasty hateful prick they keep track of … he’d actually conspired to assassinate Morris Dees, head of the SPLC.

If you want to see what Miller really thinks, you can check out his World Wide Web page. He bares all his freakish, irrational, conspiratorial rage there. (Note, that link is to a WebCite cached version of his page; I will not dignify this monster by linking his site directly in my own.)

As I noted in another post a couple weeks ago, it’s impossible to separate white supremacy as it exists in the U.S. from Christianity. It’s a direct product of the Southern Baptist sect in the post-Civil War south. At its core are a lot of legends derived from Christian tradition. Anti-Semitism has its origins in the history of Christianity, the result of Christians being offended that Jews insolently refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah.

I note that Miller obviously wasn’t too smart about his anti-Semitic shooting spree; none of the people he killed were actually Jewish. So he’s not only a monstrous, hateful creature, he’s a pathetic, moronic loser too.

P.S. CNN’s Belief blog attempts to absolve Christianity of any blame for Miller’s supposed murders by announcing he’s not a Christian, but rather, an Odinist (cached). The article then suggests he’d become an atheist. Either or both of those may be true, but whether they are or not is beside the point. The cold fact is, there would be no anti-Semitism in the occidental world … among Odinists, atheists, or anyone else … if not for Christianity’s centuries-long history of persecution of Jews. Moreover, Miller’s Odinism (whether he still espouses it or not) is a direct product of Nazi party propaganda, with the Nazis themselves having been inspired largely by their Christianity, not by whatever neo-pagan trappings they attempted to wrap themselves in.

So, nice try, CNN, but no dice. I’m not stupid enough to fall for it.

Photo credit: John Sleezer / Kansas City Star.

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Bible-openThe nation’s Christofascists continue relentlessly using government to promote their dour religionism. It’s a tired refrain, but it’s a campaign these people simply will not let go of, no matter what happens and no matter how illegal it may be. The latest example comes from the Bible Belt (er, Bobble Bay-elt) state of Louisiana. As the Associated Press reports via WWL-TV in New Orleans, a bill naming the Bible Louisiana’s state book is moving through the legislature’s machinery (WebCite cached article):

Lawmakers are moving ahead with a proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana’s official state book, despite concerns the bill would land the Legislature in court.

A House municipal committee advanced the bill Thursday with an 8-5 vote, sending it to the full House for debate.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn’t designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.

“It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature,” he told the House committee. Again, later he said, “This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana.”

The illogic of Carmody’s claim is hilariously laughable. He actually thinks people are going to believe him when he says that making the Bible Louisiana’s state book can’t possibly be construed as an “exclusion” of other holy works. To the contrary … of course it’s exclusionary! Of course it promotes Christianity over other religions! What else can possibly be the result of such a pronouncement?

Deciding that “the Bible” is Louisiana’s “state book” leads inevitably to the question, “Which Bible?” There are many Bibles to choose from. The original bill specified that the official “state book” was to have been a particular copy of the Bible in the Louisiana State Museum, one which happens to be a King James translation (cached). But that specification was removed from the bill, I assume because it would have opened up a sectarian can of worms. After all, the King James Version was first written for the Anglican Church in order to help sever it from Catholicism. So selecting that particular Bible as Louisiana’s “state book” could have been offensive to Catholics, not to mention Orthodox or other kinds of non-Protestant Christians. Gee, how nice of Carmody to have been that accommodating, no?

Given that Louisiana is a religionist state with a fiercely religionist governor, I expect this bill will pass and become law. There are lots of Bible-worshippers there who’re desperate to use their state government to promote more Bible worship.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Torches and pitchforks (from 1931 Frankenstein) / Courtesy of Word Spy / original URL: http://www.wordspy.com/words/torch-and-pitchfork.aspThere’s a running pattern among militant Christianists talking about rebellion and revolution in order to force their dour religionism on the entire country. Of course, they’re not admitting that’s their goal. Oh no. What they really want — they say — is “religious liberty.” That makes it sound as though they simply want to worship as they want, in their homes and churches. If that were all they actually wanted, I wouldn’t have any problem with it, nor would any other non-believers I know. But it isn’t. Rather, they follow the reasoning:

  1. I have certain beliefs.
  2. One of them is that everyone must follow my religion
  3. Therefore, if I have “religious freedom” …
  4. I must be permitted to force everyone to live by my doctrines.

That’s the religiofascist’s syllogism.

That these people have been forced to deal with things they personally dislike and view as contradicting their beliefs … such as gay marriage … is something they can’t and won’t tolerate. Since they haven’t been able to use the courts to roll some of these things back, they’ve increasingly decided they’re entitled to get their way via extralegal means.

So naturally, Christofascists have been chattering lately about revolt. I’ve blogged about this in the past. But as Right Wing Watch reports, another sanctimoniously-outraged religious activist, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, implied he and his fellow Christofascists may be forced to rebel (WebCite cached article):

Mat Staver recently appeared on the “Light of the Southwest” Christian television program on God’s Learning Channel where he warned, yet again, that America is headed toward a second American Revolution led by conservative Christians over the issues of gay marriage, abortion, and religious liberty.

“We’re seeing the beginning groundswell of a potential new American Revolution,” Staver said, asserting that if the government continues to trample on religious liberty, the nation will soon “run into that decision point of persecution and/or revolution.”

Here’s video of him making these comments, via Youtube:

Note that Staver isn’t precisely calling for a revolution right now (as some of his fellow Christofascists have). No, he’s predicting that, if the persecution of Christians “continues,” a revolution is going to happen. That said, there is no such persecution going on. It’s a figment of his and his fellow Christianists’ imaginations. They think that not getting their way is “persecution,” when — of course — it’s nothing of the kind. That he compares himself to Martin Luther King, Jr is particularly ridiculous … but I’m sure Staver neither can nor will see it that way.

P.S. You’ve just gotta love the irony of Staver’s group’s name: “Liberty” Counsel. You’d think this meant they want to promote freedom. But in fact, they don’t. What they want is to reduce freedom, by forcing everyone in the country — Christian and non-Christian alike — to have to live according to their own evangelical/fundamentalist version of Christianity. That’s not “liberty”; it’s Christocracy.

Photo credit: Word Spy.

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Papa Francisco na JMJ - 24072013For well over a decade the Vatican has fiercely denied that any of its clergy abused children or that its hierarchs protected the abusers. This scandal has traveled around the world and reared its head on every continent (except Antarctica), but the Church’s commanders have repeatedly insisted they’re the true victims, not the abused children, and have blamed the scandal on anyone and everyone other than themselves. So I find it remarkable that, as the Religion News Service reports, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness over it (WebCite cached article):

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests — quite a few in number, though not compared to the total number — and to ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done by sexually abusing children,” Francis said [cached].

“The church is aware of this damage,” he said. “It is personal and moral damage, but carried out by men of the church. And we do not want to take one step backward in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I believe that we have to be very firm. Because you cannot take chances with children!”

Catholic News Service provides video of the Pope, via Youtube:

Of course, the Pope’s request for forgiveness is a far cry from the sort of true accountability that people around the world have been looking for, for over a decade. But given the Vatican’s long history of excuse-making and refusal to date even to admit the possibility it might have done anything wrong, it does show a somewhat different attitude. Let’s hope Francis does take additional steps and actually holds his Church responsible for what it did.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gospel of Jesus' WifeIt’s been awhile since it was a hot topic in the news, but the so-called “gospel of Jesus’ wife” is in the news again. The New York Times reports that, after some non-destructive tests have been done on it, the fragment is probably of classical or early-medieval origin (WebCite cached article):

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.…

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.

The last time I blogged about the GJW, I’d commented on a rather rash Vatican dismissal of any possibility that the fragment could be genuine. Now that some tests have actually been done — which hadn’t been the case back when the Vatican pitched a fit over it — I don’t doubt they’ll still refuse to accept it might be genuine.

That’s a shame, because quite obviously, whether or not GJW is genuine, doesn’t mean Jesus had to have been married. It only means some classical or early medieval Coptic Christians wrote as though he had been. Sure, it seems a really bizarre idea to modern eyes, but there were lots of Christian groups that believed a lot of different things in antiquity, and a lot of those ideas were strange (even to other Christians). If you want to read a really weird account of Jesus’ childhood, for example, read the (possible) 2nd century Infancy Gospel of Thomas. In it, a young Jesus literally curses people to death. No Christians today take that seriously, but some Christian definitely wrote it, back in classical times. There really isn’t any rational reason for anyone … the robed denizens of the Vatican included … to get their knickers in knots over this.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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US DVD cover for Religulous, via MoviePosterDBIt’s no surprise that religionists aren’t fond of atheist Bill Maher. He’s been condemning their religionism for years. They get their knickers in knots almost every time the guy says something. They’re incensed that some insolent atheist dares say atheistic things … and they quite simply can’t tolerate it. The most recent example of their insane fury over the guy, comes from the keyboard of evangelical Christian Tristan Emmanuel who’s called for Maher to be “whipped” for having uttered blasphemy (locally-cached article):

Bill-asphemy: Does Maher Deserve A Whipping For Slandering God? [title]

I think it’s time to bring back blasphemy laws.

And here is why…

“… the thing that’s really disturbing about Noah isn’t that it is silly, it’s that it’s immoral. It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God… What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie.” — Bill Maher

And then he added this little ditty:

“Hey, God, you know, you’re kind of a dick when you’re in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with anger issues.” — Bill Maher.…

Here is an example of how America once dealt with the likes of Bill Maher.

“Be it declared and enacted by the Lieutenant Governor, Council and Representatives, convened in General Assembly, and it is enacted by the Authority of the same, that if any person shall presume willfully to blaspheme the holy Name of God, Father, Son, or Holy Ghost; either by denying, cursing or reproaching the true God; his Creation or Government of the World: or by denying, cursing, or reproaching the holy Word of God… everyone so offending shall be punished by imprisonment, not exceeding six months, and until they find sureties for good behaviours; by sitting in pillory; by whipping; boaring thorow the tongue, with a red hot iron; or sitting upon the gallows with a rope about their neck; at the discretion of the court…” — Massachusetts General Laws.

Of course, Emmanuel concedes Maher has a right to say what he wants … he just doesn’t think Christians should permit him to, anyway:

[Maher] may have protection under the First Amendment to say whatever slanderous thing that comes out of his toilet bowl brain, but that does not mean Christians should turn the other cheek.

(Actually, Mr Emmanuel, you Christians are required always to “turn the other cheek.” Jesus offered no exceptions or caveats in his instructions. You must do it, every single fucking time, without fail, and without excuse. But I digress.)

Emmanuel hurls the requisite anti-atheist Bible verse (Psalm 14:1) at Maher, as though this one verse justifies any believer doing anything s/he wants to Maher because he’s an insolent non-believer. Personally, I don’t find that Bible verse convincing, and I don’t expect Maher does, either. I mean, it was written a little over 2,000 years ago by a self-righteous semi-nomadic scribe somewhere in the Near East, who obviously was angry that there were actually people in his world who dared not believe in the deity he did, and he couldn’t control his outrage over it. I certainly am not impressed by that infuriated scribe’s opinions or complaints. When Christianists throw that verse at me, I know they’ve run out of rational material and are resorting to name-calling … and that tells me everything I need to know about them, and about their religion.

Emmanuel repeatedly uses the word “slander” in his screed, as though Maher’s blasphemy is the crime or tort of slander. But it’s not. I’m no lawyer, but as I understand it, in the US, to prevail in a slander case, one must demonstrate two things: First, that the statement in question is factually incorrect; and second, that the person making it knows it to be factually incorrect. I invite Emmanuel to demonstrate that YHWH is not the “psychotic mass-murderer” Maher said he was. He would first have to show that YHWH exists in the first place, then demonstrate he isn’t the “psychotic mass murderer” Maher said he was. I wish him the best of luck doing that. He won’t be able to … but I suppose he can try.

Another tactic Emmanuel uses is to claim that by “slandering” God, Maher is “slandering” his believers. This is just a way of (falsely) personalizing what Maher said, reframing it as something other than it was. Apparently by calling their God a “psychotic mass murderer,” Maher attacked his followers. Well, too bad. He didn’t. Moreoever, to identify oneself with one’s deity and to assume anything negative said about the deity is an “attack” one oneself, is presumption of the tallest order … and irrational.

Emmanuel piles onto his illogic with the claim that blaspheming his God is the same thing as threatening the president. But it isn’t. They’re two different things. Threatening the president is one thing, and it is (sometimes) illegal. But saying YHWH is “a psychotic mass murderer” is something else entirely.

There’s a saying among non-believers that blasphemy is a victimless crime. Effectively, it is. Even if there were a God who is mortally insulted whenever anyone blasphemes him/her/it, the cold fact is that s/he/it is literally unharmed by it. Assuming YHWH exists, how can Maher calling him “a psychotic mass murderer” damage him? He can’t. Maher is a mere mortal, whereas YHWH is supposedly an omnipotent being. Maher cannot harm YHWH in the slightest way, ever. Not by his words, and not by his actions. Maher’s blasphemy also does not harm YHWH’s followers, such as Emmanuel. They can just continue believing whatever they wish, however they wish; nothing Maher says can ever prevent them from doing so.

Blasphemy hurts no one and nothing, except maybe for the feelings of believers … but then, religiofascists like Emmanuel obviously have no reservations about hurting the feelings of Maher — which he did indirectly by tossing out a quotation of Ps 14:1 which refers to him as a “fool,” “corrupt,” and “abominable,” and directly by calling Maher “morally bankrupt.” So he pretty much forfeited the moral high ground here … if he had even been standing on it in the first place.

The bottom line is that an omnipotent being like YHWH can take care of himself. He doesn’t need sanctimoniously-angry followers like Emmanuel sticking up for him and whipping people who say negative things about him. If YHWH objects to Maher’s remark, or his atheism, he has the power to do something about it. If he chooses not to, then Emmanuel should just shut his self-righteous face already and stop doing for his God what his own God will not do for himself.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Religulous DVD cover, via MoviePosterDB.

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