Posts Tagged “paganism”

LotusNearly eight years ago, I first blogged about Christianity and yoga — and how, supposedly, they’re at loggerheads. At that time, Southern Baptist theologian Al Mohler had come out against it as un-Christian. Since then, other Christians have made their opposition to the practice of yoga known, in a number of ways, including via lawsuits.

Well, this controversy has kicked up anew. A Catholic blogger declared it un-Christian on Twitter, and complained that he was criticized for having done so (Archive.Is cached article):

The cool kids on Twitter use the term “ratioed” to describe an event where someone sends a controversial tweet that garners far more replies than it does likes. According to Twitter logic, this is supposed to be an indication that you were wrong about whatever you said.…

Yet I have found that the ratio more often indicates the correctness of a statement than it does incorrectness. That does not always hold, of course, but I think it did this morning when I fell into another ratio because of a tweet about yoga [cached]. Here’s what I said: “It’s kind of amazing to see all of the Christians who think nothing of going to a yoga class. There are many excellent ways to get in shape that do not involve participating in Hindu worship.”

Most of Walsh’s article isn’t so much a condemnation of yoga as a “pagan spiritual practice,” but a self-serving, infantile, sniveling whine about the criticism that was leveled at him. As part of his diatribe, Walsh (a supposedly Catholic blogger) cites Mohler (a very Protestant theologian). I find that little bit of irony amusing, even if it’s almost beside the point.

What is important to know, here, is that Walsh misunderstands what yoga is, as it’s practiced in America. As I’ve noted each time I’ve commented on this, it’s absolutely true that yoga began over a couple millennia ago (or more) as a Hindu practice. It’s been practiced in numerous ways since it began in classical India, however. It migrated through various religious traditions, and as it’s practiced in the occidental world, has lost any connection to its religious origins, aside from the Hindi names of some of its positions.

To be clear, American yogis and yoginis are not worshipping any Hindu gods — no matter how vehemently Walsh, or Mohler or any other Christian critics of yoga, might insist they are. What’s more, meditative practices along the lines of yoga are part and parcel of Christianity, and have been for a very long time. Meditation is embedded in the monastic and mendicant movements.

It’s time for Christianists to grow up and deal with things that seem foreign (and therefore scary) to them, rather than dismiss and castigate them as “pagan.”

Photo credit: CEBImagery, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Vox.

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Yoga Journal Conference 1I’ve commented before on occasional Christianist hissy-fits and condemnations of yoga as a profane “pagan”/Hindu practice. As I’ve said on those occasions, it’s true that what we now call “yoga” did originate as part of Hindu practice and ritual. However, it has changed through the millennia, and as it’s practiced in the occidental world, has long since lost any connection to the Hindu religion. American yogis and yoginis are not worshiping Hindu gods in any of their exercises.

But that hasn’t stopped Christians from getting their panties in knots over it nonetheless. The Kansas City Star, for example, reports that a Catholic college has renamed its yoga classes (WebCite cached article):

Yoga is designed to help bring peace and wellness to body and mind.

But at Benedictine College — a small and strongly Catholic liberal arts school in Atchison, Kan. — yoga classes per se will soon be yo-gone, out of apparent concern that use of the word “yoga” suggests advocacy for Hindu mysticism.

College spokesman Stephen Johnson said that starting this fall, both recreational classes and for-credit exercise classes that once taught yoga will likely still be taught the same way, but instead will be rebranded as “lifestyle fitness.”

“We’re changing the name,” Johnson said.

Note, they haven’t stopped the yoga classes. They’ll still be held. They just won’t go by the name of “yoga” any more. Why the college dislikes the name “yoga” isn’t entirely clear, or why yoga classes haven’t been banned altogether, isn’t clear based on the objections they’ve offered:

Complaints, Johnson said, began to come in from alumni, students, faculty and some administrators who argued that as a Hindu practice, yoga was not in keeping with Catholic-based education.

I note that mysticism and meditation — which yoga is a form of — is most assuredly very Christian. It’s been part of the religion since its inception, especially within its monastic movements. So really, there shouldn’t be much objection to it, even at a conservative Catholic college.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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Jack O'LanternHalloween is one of those odd things that most Americans don’t think much about, but a small number obsess over. It’s become a vast economic boon, being one of the most profitable retail holidays. It’s a major driver of social events, with people holding Halloween parties all over the place, and businesses hosting Halloween events, too.

But some Americans don’t see Halloween as fun, they see it as downright profane. Back in my own fundie days, the circle of Christians I was part of, didn’t care for it much, viewing it as a pagan — if not Satanic — celebration that Christians had to stay away from. Influential Christian leaders like Marion “Pat” Robertson have condemned Halloween as “Satan’s night” (WebCite cached article). Some Christians who’ve shunned it even came up with a simultaneous alternative they called “JesusWeen” (cached). Yes, that’s right … JesusWeen. Another Christian anti-Halloween phenomenon are the many “Hell houses” hosted by churches around the country, this time of year (cached). Some Jews have reservations about Halloween, too, and for similar reasons.

Once in a while this tension between Halloween-as-an-all-American-tradition and Halloween-as-profane-diabolical-celebration breaks open into something unexpected. An example of this just occurred in my home state of Connecticut. Milford public schools, as Milford Patch explains, cancelled an annual Halloween parade, and some aren’t happy (cached):

Halloween has been cancelled in the Milford Public Schools this year and that decision isn’t sitting well with numerous city parents.

In a note sent home to Milford parents last week the seemingly unpopular decision was announced.

“This year the Milford School District has decided the following: Halloween parades will not take place in any Milford elementary school. The decision arose out of numerous incidents of children being excluded from activities due to religious, cultural beliefs, etc. School-day activities must be inclusive. Halloween costumes are not permitted for students or staff during the day at school.”

The sanctimonious outrage as a result of this decision has been palpable. Online petitions have demanded Halloween be restored in Milford schools. The rage has been particularly loud amid the Right-wing media, such as on Daily Caller (cached) and National Review (cached). In the eyes of the Right, this is “political correctness” (aka Leftism) run amok. The curious part about this, of course, is that it’s religiously-conservative Christians who’re the ones who usually object to Halloween (as I noted above), and nearly all of those are politically conservative, just like the rest of the Right. So I have no idea how or why there could be any clear Leftist agenda behind a school system not having its Halloween parade.

At any rate, the Milford schools couldn’t withstand the Right-wing campaign against them, and as Milford Patch reports, yesterday evening they surrendered on the matter, and explained what they had done and why (cached):

Just before 5 p.m. Milford school officials released a statement to the media regarding Halloween in schools.

The statement was written by Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser.…

We are writing to you in response to the accusations that have been made against the school system around how we celebrate Halloween in the schools.

The misinformation around the decisions the school made tied to celebrating Halloween is huge, and the spreading of untruths by parents and members of the community very disturbing.…

Ultimately, all eight principals, with my endorsement, chose to focus their energies on a family Halloween celebration, and forego the 20 minute parade in school. The thinking behind this decision was that a family event in the early evening would enable all who wanted to be a part of a Halloween celebration to do so.

Meanwhile, children who for religious or cultural reasons would not take part, could easily, and without stigmatization, not attend the event. In addition, in recognition of many working parents who have difficulty leaving work to come to school, an evening event would allow them to be present with their children.…

Sad to say, while careful and sensitive thought went into the decision to celebrate Halloween at a school/PTA-sponsored major event outside of the school day, there are those who unmercifully attacked the decision, falsely accusing the Milford Public Schools for banning Halloween.

We have been accused of being un-American, of denying children participation in an American tradition, and that we should be ashamed. We struggle to understand why we should be ashamed about the Halloween celebration that each school/PTA is sponsoring, wherein children are encouraged to wear costumes, will be given candy, will spend an hour or more in fun and games.…

There are those who feel a 20 minute parade is more important, however, and its elimination is contributing to the demise of Milford as a city and Milford as a community, as well as the demise of the Milford Public Schools.

Once again, then, we see America’s Right wing flipping out, going berserk, and mercilessly bullying people due to an outrage they’ve worked up among themselves over something they never understood in the first place. Way to go, guys. Way to go! You must be so proud of behaving with just as much immaturity as the young grammar-school kids whose Halloween parade you’ll tell yourselves you saved. Well done!

For the record — and to clear away any of the misconceptions associated with Halloween in the US — here’s the real scoop on it: Halloween as it’s celebrated in the United States, is more or less a modern holiday created by a culture which happens to be majority-Christian. Sure, it has elements of the old Celtic Samhain, as well as a few other pagan influences. But it also has more modern influences, e.g. Guy Fawkes Day. It is firmly pegged on the Christian calendar as the evening prior to All Saints’ Day (aka All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallow E’en). Halloween is, in short, an amalgam of pre-Christian as well as Christian-era practices, contorted by American commercialism into something which has completely lost any tangible connection to anything the Druids were doing in ancient Europe on Samhain, or even to the Gunpowder Plot cooked up by Guy Fawkes.

Put another way … Halloween is not a religious holiday. It is also not entirely an areligious holiday. It has little to do with Christianity, except that it happens to be the evening before All Saints Day, which is a Christian holiday (although it’s one few Christians really “celebrate” any more).

So just go to your favorite Halloween celebration, and if you have kids, let them go out trick-or-treating, and enjoy the day. But without any of the religious or ideological baggage it seems to have kicked up.

Photo credit: Patrick, via Flickr.

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Stay tuned ... for the next exciting episode of ... Jerks for Jesus! (PsiCop original graphic)There’s nothing like a good disaster to get Christians talking about their faith. They’re happy to use awful events and use them for their own mercenary purposes.

Usually they do this in the form of what I call “disaster theology” in which they announce that their deity either caused the horrible event, or allowed it to happen, because too many people are disobeying him, or because of gays, or atheists, or abortions, whatever. But other times they use the event in a different way.

Take, for example, the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday (WebCite cached article). Within hours of this cataclysm that claimed thousands of lives already, a preacher used it as fodder to express his fierce, unrelenting religionism (cached):

Yes folks, this is “the Religion of Love” in action. Yep. No doubt. Just so we’re clear as to what this creep said, here it is:

Praying 4 the lost souls in Nepal. Praying not a single destroyed pagan temple will b rebuilt & the people will repent/receive Christ.

Now, I suppose one could say it’s true that Nepal is “pagan” because it’s majority-Hindu, and at least by most Christians’ standards that’s a form of “paganism.” But a desire to have a pagan religion’s places and objects of worship destroyed kind of smacks of something the Taliban or ISIS/ISIL/IS would do. I suspect Miano wouldn’t want his wish compared to the likes of them … so one wonders why he’s thinking in a similar way? Hmm.

At any rate, I invite you, Dear Reader, to go ahead and look at Miano’s responses to those who, understandably, criticized him on Twitter. He did what any militant Christofascist would do in his place … double down and insist that he’s entitled to be an insulting boor for Jesus.

Now, one could certainly say that Miano is just one guy and that he doesn’t speak for Christianity. But that’s not entirely true; he’s a credentialed preacher, which does in fact make him something of a spokesman for his religion. But also, nothing is going to happen to him because of it. Sure, he’ll get some blowback on Twitter, and a tiny bit of it might even come from other Christians. But he won’t lose his credentials, he won’t lose his ministry, and he won’t be meaningfully disciplined in any way by the so-called “reasonable majority” of Christians. The reason for this is simple: Christians quite simply never bring each other to heel for any kind of excess. They just won’t do it. Miano will continue doing what he’s always done, untouched by any consequences for his nastiness.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Christianity’s fatal flaw.

As for Mr Miano, who appears sincerely to believe everyone on the planet is obligated to become a Christian just like him, my standard challenge is still open: Track me down and make me believe what you want me to. I mean it. Seriously! Given his beliefs, Miano has no valid reason not to do so … so I invite him to give it his best shot!

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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Easter eggsThe religionists at World Net Daily have figured out that Easter is a pagan holiday. That’s right, a pagan holiday (locally cached page):

“Easter” is such a pretty-sounding word, isn’t it? …

It also brings to mind for countless millions the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. …

But brace yourself, because there’s a very dark side to this centuries-old tradition, and it has to do with the famous Ten Commandments of God.

The very first commandment of the Big Ten is perhaps one of the most overlooked in everyday life.

In just eight words, it states: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

Most Christians, whether knowingly or unknowingly, violate this very first commandment of God each year by placing before God the actual name of a pagan goddess of fertility and the dawn.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, her name is — believe it or not — “Easter.”

That’s correct, folks. The word Easter is actually the name of an ancient, heathen goddess who represents fertility, springtime and the dawn.

The author even provides what he thinks is linguistic evidence of this:

In different languages and through a variety of cultures, the name of this deity — who in reality does not even exist – is spelled different ways, including Ishtar, Astarte, Ostara, Eostre and Eastre.

Even in the Bible itself, many of God’s own chosen people actually followed the customs of numerous Easter goddesses, with her name spelled in the King James Bible as “Ashtaroth” and “Ashtoreth.”

There are just a couple of problems with this:

  1. This association only works in Germanic languages wherein the name for the holiday is similar to English “Easter” (for instance, in German, it’s Ostern). But it doesn’t hold true in many other languages spoken by Christians; for instance, in Italian, Easter is Pasqua. In that language, and in many others, this association falls apart. The claim that “all” Christians celebrate a holiday named for a pagan goddess, is incorrect more often than it is true, since the majority of Christians worldwide speak non-Germanic languages!

  2. The proposed etymology is also incorrect. The English name “Easter” comes to us from Old English Eastre, which in turn comes from older Germanic roots, within the Indo-European language family, from the Proto-Indo-European root *aus- “to shine,” a reference to the dawn (yes, it’s also related to English “east,” the direction of the dawn). The names Astarte, Ashtoreth, and Ishtar all have a completely different derivation, within the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family; the former two derive from from the Akkadian name Ishtar, whose derivation is less certain but may be related to a Semitic root *assur meaning “leader” or “chief.” Thus, English “Easter” and Akkadian “Ishtar” are actually not related at all, except in appearance only.

These points of ignorance are compounded by the fact that WND is screeching about Easter’s pagan roots, but every Christmastime, they’re one of the outlets beating louder than most at the drum of the “war on Christmas” trope — and seem blissfully unaware of the pagan roots of some Christmas traditions. Then again, consistency is not really something one can reasonably expect of religionists.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

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The Indianapolis Public School system has crossed the (obvious) line of separation of church and state, not to mention religious freedom, by blocking the viewing of atheist Web sites — as well as those of “alternate” religions, such as Wicca, voodoo, New Age, and anything dealing with the paranormal. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has denounced this draconian policy:

This policy does not prohibit or even mention religious views such as Christianity. A website like FFRF.org, which educates on freethought and nontheism, would, however, be blocked under this policy. This promotes religion over nonreligion, which is forbidden under the Establishment Clause.

In her letter, Foundation Staff Attorney Rebecca Kratz pointed out that, in addition to the illegality of the policy, it discriminates against the 15% of the population that is nonreligious, the fastest growing segment of the American population (American Religious Identification Survey 2008).

The policy leaves the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions unmentioned — and therefore, one may assume, not blocked or filtered. The policy itself, furthermore, blocks site dealing with “the paranormal or unexplained events.” The scope of this could be interpreted rather widely. For instance, the excellent Web site the Skeptic’s Dictionary mentions many paranormal and unexplained phenomena, however, it also includes lessons in critical thinking that I daresay students in every school system — including Indianapolis! — desperately need to see in order to become thinking, functioning adults. The way this policy is written, it sure looks to me as though SD would be blocked.

There are many large and useful online references — such as encyclopedias (e.g. Encyclopedia.Com and Answers.Com) — which Indianapolis school kids ought to be allowed to visit, but which would also have to be blocked, because they happen to contain entries on these topics.

The category of things which are “unexplained events” could, also, be quite large. For example the Big Bang is, as yet, “unexplained” in the strictest sense of the term. Does this mean any Web site mentioning it, must be blocked? It looks that way to me. If so, virtually any site dealing with astrophysics — including bona fide education resources such as NASA’s Web site — would have to be blocked.

Seems to me the Indianapolis Public Schools have created a policy which is so vague and inclusive as to require almost every Web site to be blocked! Perhaps someone ought to rethink their effort to stifle religious dissent in Indianapolis schools.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith.

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Concerning the “gay exorcism” I blogged about earlier, the pastor of Manifested Glory Ministries in Bridgeport, CT has finally stopped being coy about the video they’d posted online but then yanked when people actually paid attention to it. Pastor Patricia McKinney appeared on CNN to “explain” what happened. (Not that she actually “explained” anything.) Video of this train-wreck interview can be viewed at the Friendly Atheist blog.

Near the start, Ms McKinney makes this statement:

I just wanted to tell the world out there that Manifested Glory Ministries Church is not against homosexuality. We do not hate them. We do not come up against them.

This claim, however, is contradicted just a few more moments into the interview, when she said:

You can come in our church, but you cannot live that lifestyle in our church.

Put these statements together, and you have, “We’re not opposed to homosexuality, we’re just opposed to homosexuality.”

That’s about as nonsensical and asinine as anything I’ve ever heard.

An interesting point — which further reveals how medieval this church’s thinking is — that Ms McKinney makes several times in the interview, is “Everything has a spirit.” This is an archaic point of view; not merely medieval, but ancient and primeval. It is also at the foundation of all fundamentalist thinking. To a religious fundamentalist, the world itself — and everything in it — is fully alive, and is part of the vast cosmic contest between Good (i.e. God) and Evil (i.e. not just Satan, but “the World,” sin, secularism, etc.). Everything that happens, emerges directly from this enormous, ongoing universal struggle. People’s behaviors and even thoughts are a manifestation of this struggle … and in a very real, and both personal and personalized, way. In many ways, fundamentalists — of any sort, not just Christian — end up seeing the world as a terrifying place. Everything around them can potentially be arrayed against them and against their cause (God). This is one of the reasons why fundamentalists tend to be so paranoid in their thinking (the gun-toting Louisville pastor I blogged about is a prime example of this phenomenon).

While Christians have traditionally viewed themselves as being “different” from the pagans who preceded them, ironically their view that all things … people, objects, even behaviors … are living, breathing, metaphysical entities (or “spirits”) with their own existence, motives and purposes, is not appreciably different from the animism that was part of most pagan belief systems.

Put bluntly, Christianity has encountered its enemy — and has become it!

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