Archive for June, 2009

The Old Rugged Cross

Posted in Bible, Christianity, culture, history, religion with tags , , , , on June 27, 2009 by chouck017894

Long, long before the Christian movement began, the symbol of the cross was used across the world for more life-affirming beliefs than as used today with a tortured dead male body hanging upon it.  In fact the cross symbol was appropriated from Pagan mythology by the Christian movement around 250-300 CE to replace the cult’s original symbol that had consisted of two arced lines suggestive of a fish form–for planet Earth had then only recently (c.60 BCE) entered the Age of Pisces.

Babylonian, Egyptian and other Near East cultures had long used the cross symbol as a sacred emblem, not necessarily as an object of worship but as emblematic of the power that gives forth with life.  For this reason the cross was referred to as the “tree of life,” and it was not uncommon to show the cross with leaves and blossoms, sometimes even fruit, springing from it.   In ancient Rome, even the Vestal Virgins wore crosses suspended from their necklaces.  The ancient city of Nicaea of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, built in 316 BCE was laid out in the form of the cross.

To quote from Time Frames and Taboo Data (TF&TD, page 191), “The cross was a focal  point in Babylonian mysteries long centuries before it was made the central symbol for Christianity.  Worship of or before the cross–the mystic Tau–was simply because the T-form stood as representative of the god Tammuz (personification of nature) resurrected every spring.  Those initiated into the mysteries were marked upon the forehead with water with the sign of the mystic Tau, a cross, as a mark of new life.   The T symbol had always implied the salvation of life, being as it was one of the symbols for the male organ of generation.”  In other words, the T-cross represented for them the means of creation and renewal of life and the ecstasy of that divine release. 

The use of the cross in connection to the Christian movement apparently arose out of Egypt and regions of Africa where the familiar Pagan symbol, the ankh or Crux Ansata, was eagerly embraced.  In the early third century CE, Tertullian (c. 160-c250 CE), the Latin ecclesiastical writer regarded as one of the greatest of  the Latin Church “fathers,” complained bitterly that the Church of Carthage was infected with the Pagan symbol–meaning the Crux Ansata–the sign of life.  Again from TF&TD, “Thus the cross emblem used first by Christian cult members in Egypt had absolutely nothing to do with the crucifixion of the cult’s central figure.  The symbol gradually became shorn of  its loop ‘handle’ to become the simple Tau cross and was  first  employed on the sepulchers of Christian cult members.  This is a revealing clue: the symbol professed belief in life–the sustenance of life–and not as the gross reminder of a savior’s torture and death.

On the other side of the world the Aztecs, who never heard of Jesus Christ, would address the Cosmic Principle–the life affirming principle–from some high point by standing erect with arms outstretched as a living  model of the mystical T symbol. 

It was around the years 250-300 that the “fathers” of the Christian church chose to identify more with the harsher interpretation drawn from the gospel story of Jesus’ crucifixion, which provided a rich launching base for judgment-passing and apocalyptic threats.  Thus the early peace-suggestive fish emblem was discarded in favor of the symbol of Roman instruments of  torture and death which, they rationalized, more compellingly symbolized the doctrines of sacrifice.  And as an added plus, the cross symbol also inflicted upon the followers a subliminal sense of trepidation and unworthiness.

Our Legal Environment

Posted in Atheist, culture, history, life, politics, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2009 by chouck017894

Rules of the game: That is what cultures and societies establish and speak of as “laws,” and which, ideally, institute a framework of conduct that presumably serves to protect the majority.  But when a minority faction becomes the majority that occupies the seats of law policy for the nation, the likelihood of impartial interpretation of law becomes dubious.

As noted in the earlier posting, Democracy Under Siege (June 20), perfidious factions (extreme religious right) have for years sought to chip away at the safeguards that were established in the United States Constitution in a disloyal attempt to jam their religious interpretations into government rule.  If a wall is not maintained between church and state the result is theocratic bedlam, and gross orgies of persecution and harassment are enthroned as divine justice.  The clerical rule of Iran through the last few decades is a good example of such a divinely brutal system.

The United States skated close to the edge of disaster through eight years under a president that thought he had been divinely chosen to direct policy and the course of action that the nation should follow.  But his appointment had not been by majority choice of the people as it should have been, but by a Supreme Court that was heavily indebted to a Republican power base which had stacked the court with five doctrinally “conservative” Catholic “justices” out of nine seats.

When that court-elected president neared the end of his detrimental term in office, the US Supreme Court under Chief Juistice John G. Roberts, a doctrinally conservative Roman Catholic, openly indicated that the court was s willing to render wide-ranging decisions that would reverse time-honored trends in jurisprudence.  Those desiring a theocratic takeover of the nation were ecstatic at the decisions of the court that limited citizens’ rights to challenge government support for religion!  Anti-evolution propaganda thus gained muscle to combat well-proven evidence of evolution and inject into schools the biblical myth of creation as “scientific creationism.”  The Supreme Court also chose to ignore medical  evidence as a consideration in some abortion cases thus imposing  theocratic limits upon rules that had been established in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade.   And true to doctrinally conservative interpretation of law, the court increased pressure on scientists and educators to alter or even suppress scientitic research and findings that conflicted with the schema of the religious right.  Religious theory was/is being wedged into government policy.

With the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court the nation is now confronted with having still another Roman Catholic added to the Supreme Court, making the religious beliefs of SIX out of nine justices a drastic imbalance in the court’s point of view.  Having a Latina woman on the court is, in itself, a wonderful declaration of democratic principles.  Unfortunately, we should be excused for wondering can such an ideologically imbalanced Supreme  Court remember that narrow dogma is NOT the mark of wise democratic justice?

Faith-Ba$ed $cams

Posted in Atheist, Bible, Christianity, life, religion with tags , , , on June 22, 2009 by chouck017894

Con artists like to set up their investment fraud operations amid groups of  persons that are inclined to avoid rational inquiry and analysis.  It should not be surprising, therefore, that through the last few decades, as religious fanaticism has garnered considerable public attention in the United States, there was a virtual plague of such operations targeting those of faith.

Oil hustling and “biblical prophecy” may sound  to be improbable bedfellows, but they made for a hot and tainted love match for at least a generation.  In the last few decades multimillions of dollars were poured into penny-stock oil schemes lured by hustlers utilizing biblical passages that supposedly prophesized that great wealth lay hidden beneath the sands of Israel.  In addition a passage from the book of Ezekiel was cunningly interpreted that Armageddon will be triggered when a confederacy of nations attack Israel to “take a great spoil”—implying it meant oil—and spiritual craving and greed for material riches mated in frenzied fornication in the hearts of true believers.

Among the biblical references used by the oil hustlers have been verses from Deuteronomy 33 where Moses allegedly viewed the Holy Land from Mount Nebo and foretold the blessings that awaited Jacob’s  twelve sons.  The blessings alluded to “precious things” (verse 16) locked beneath the earth and “treasures hid in the sand” (verse 19); and in verse 24 it says “…let him (Asher, second son of Jacob and Zilpah, Leah’s maid) dip his foot in oil.”   This was just too good for con men to ignore, and here are a few who built upon these biblical gems.

In the 1960s a wealthy man in California, Wesly Hancock, confided to wide-eyed believers that he had dreamed that Jesus advised him that he would find black gold in the Holy Land.  Even the divinely inspired Pat Robertson praised Hancock saying that Hancock would tap into the “… largest oil field ever discovered.”  Uh-huh.  Those who answered the call to drill with Hancock lost all their investment.

In the 1990s a man named St. Clair, a deacon of an Illinois church, lured around sixty individuals to invest in oil wells.  The deacon falsely told them that two oil wells had been drilled and were already producing oil.  In truth no well had been ever been drilled.  The deacon raked in over a cool $8 million before he was exposed and sentenced to fifty-one months in jail. 

Between 1993 and 1999 a Florida-based church, Greater Ministries, had nearly 28,000 investors worldwide, all having been promised that their divinely inspired investments would double.  By the year 2000 Greater Ministries had taken in $578 million while the trusting church goers mortgaged their homes, maxed out their credit cards, or cashed in their retirement funds to invest—only to discover that they had been swindled by the church leaders. 

A number of the religiously inspired oil hustlers operated out of the state of Texas.  (Surprise!)  Among them was Harold Stephens, who drove up stock prices in his oil company, Ness, and collected $3.5 million by associating his Holy Land Oil venture with apocryphal prophecies.  The two companies that he recommended to believers in holy prophecy just happened to be owned by him, and the agreement that the believers signed stated, probably in smallest print, that only his companies would receive any profits if oil was ever found.  The investors, of course, never received a cent from Holy Land oil.

Is it sinful to question how fanatic believers in “holy word” can chase material riches and still believe that they represent a creditable balance with integrity or spiritual value?

“Baby Killers” & Biblical Pretexts

Posted in Atheist, Bible, Christianity, culture, history, humanity, life, politics, prehistory, random, religion with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2009 by chouck017894

With the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor dedicated to women’s health, the delusional “pro-life” (anti-choice) crowd believe they have served god’s loving intention for mankind by indulging in killing life that is actually conscious of its life.  On the other hand, any initiated substance within a human female is imagined by them to be personally okayed by the “father” in heaven, whether through forced intercourse (rape), incest coupling, lustful abandon, or even if the pregnancy could kill the bearer of that lordly approved “blessing.”

Religious misconception (excuse the unintended pun) is the basis for such an attitude with it roots buried deep in primal tribal encouragement to “multiply” for the purpose of increasing the tribal power base.  Most all religious cults have always encouraged the same “go forth and multiply” scheme to keep their range of manipulative influence as large as possible.  It is for this very reason that so many Old Testament starring characters are  recorded to have slain even pregnant women and infants in their battles over territorial control.  That “Holy Book” accounting does not exactly support the claim by the “pro-life” crowd that god is favorably inclined to any and all new-forming human life.

If in doubt of  god’s indifference toward forming life forms maybe some inspirational incidents from “holy” scriptures will give pause for thought.  There’s good ol’  Joshua as a prime example, the savior of  Israelite/Hebrew/Jewish lifestyle.  At Jericho, Joshua made certain “…every man to woman, from young man to old man and to bull and sheep and ass..” perished; i.e. every living creature was slain, including pregnant women, allegedly at Jehovah’s instruction.  At the city of Ai Joshua “…did not draw back his hand with which he streched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitant of Ai to  destruction” –which means the slaughter included pregnant women, new borns and infants (Joshua 8:26).  “Only domestic animals and the spoil of that city…” were spared.  God’s strange obsession with material things alway seemed to accompany Joshua’s murderous campaigns.  At Hazor “no breathing thing at all was left over…” (Joshua 11:8).  This holocaustic rampage continues for pages as he went about “striking every soul within” the cities.  Etc., etc.

The  scriptural “authority” by which the anti-abortion crowd justify their indulgence in domestic terror and violence happen to have been written by mortal MEN; tribal-thinking men who regarded women as chattel to be used for men’s pleasure or to further their worldly ambitions through many offspring.  Even impregnating one’s own sister, daughters or “bond maidens” was divinely acceptable if biblical tales are to be taken as instruction.  No wonder these domestic terrorists mistakenly think that any animalistic procreation that man is responsible for is “god’s will.”   Ignored is the fact that human life has evolved and prospered because our species  (has supposedlly) developed a superior brain—which, if they believe in “intelligent design,” man was obviously expected to use to monitor the quality, not reckless quantity, of life reproduction.

Tellingly, rogue elements of the anti-choice demonstrators have been predominantly men with only a small scattering of women drawn in to present an air of diversity.  At women’s health care centers, however, the defenders have been, with only rare exception, all females.  It is telling also that the slogan “pro-life” is carried by outright murderers.  Apparently the pro-life crowd feels that it is much more righteous to ignore the fact that an estimated 20,000 unwanted newborn infants die every day throughout the world and that thousands of other helpless babies are abandoned every hour.   If the so-called “pro-life” terrorists are truly concerned about new human life, why do they ignore the millions of abadoned or starving infants around the world that are left without a chance for a decent shot at life?

 

Democracy Under Siege

Posted in Atheist, culture, history, politics, random, religion with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2009 by chouck017894

The founding fathers of the United States wisely set in place a system of checks and balances of government operation that consists of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branches to protect the foundation of democracy.  Since the early 1950s, however, there have been perfidious factions that have systematically chipped away at these safeguards under the guise of some  divine directive.

By coincidence there has, in this same time period, been an alarming increase in what can only be termed religious hucksterism in the United States, and this can be traced directly to the advent of television technology.  (See also May 9, 2009 blog God’s Political Addiction.)  Affordable television sets in the early 1950s brought the means for enterprising religionists to tap into a lucrative source of self-promotion, and televangelism was born.  Unfortunately, the pulpit entrepreneurs can  only offer their version of ancient mystics’ interpretations of man’s place in the scheme of things, which did not then and do not now translate as ultimate truth.

In addition, no organized religion has ever been founded or conducted on democratic principles; they are always profoundly authoritative, martially oriented, swamped by self-righteousness, and heavily seeped with discrimination.  The promised “reward” that they offer for the  “chosen” or “saved” is always pictured as a “kingdon”—which supports their code of belief that there is no god-given right to self-rule.  Man’s brain, they seem to assume, was not intended by whatever power that caused it to evolve to be used for responsible self supervision.   By their calculations man is meant only to scrounge in a subservient state and god will provide man with enlightened overseers—meaning themselves

This brings us, in a very round-about way, to the United States Supreme Court and the six justices named by the court by Republican presidents through heavy behind-the-scenes evangelical manipulation.  Thus the placement of these justices became a highly questionable factor in the 2000 US national election when the court’s alleged nonpartisan reputation became compromised with an agreement to hear disputes over suspicious election tallying—not just one intrusion into majority choice  but two times–at Republican candidate Bush’s request.  Of course there could be no higher appeal in the question of fairness of the court’s interference: it was only coincidental that three of the justices were appointed by H. G. Bush or that three others had been appointed by Reagan and another appointed by Ford.

True democratic principles collapsed under the court’s ideological interference in the presidential vote recounts.  Glaringly obvious in the court’s suspension of hand recounts of thousands of questionable ballots was the fact that the Supreme Court failed miserably as the nation’s nonpartisan guardian of the nation’s laws.

After the Supreme Court’s interference with the vote counting in 2000 there was, according to the Washington Post and ABC News, a sixty-three percent loss of confidence in the Supreme Court.  The religious right, however, has steadily gained strength from this court’s ideological leaning, and evangelical pressure can now, with fair ease, taint issues presented to this court on items such as abortion, prayer in schools, marriage definitions, creationism, etc. 

The founding fathers must be spinning…

When Fascists Rescued the Vatican

Posted in Atheist, Christianity, culture, history, politics, random, religion with tags , , , , , on June 19, 2009 by chouck017894

The papal system of  faith marketing has had a curiously long run as ruler of kings and kingdoms.  And from centuries of propaganda and ceaseless self-marketing the world is encouraged to think of the Vatican as the heart and soul of Christianity, and think of Italy as obediently submissive to any eccentricity that waifs through its doors.  But true history has recorded many flaws and deceits in the  corporate structure of the Vatican’s spiritual politicizing.  One of the many bizarre twists in the long Vatican epic began in 1870 when the Kingdom of Italy removed Roman Catholicism as state religion.

We must remember that for centuries the  papal system had reigned as the biggest landowner of the Italian peninsula with claims extending well into Europe.  Much of the land acquisition had begun in 752 with the clever forgery by Pope Stephens III of an alleged letter bearing “saint Peter’s” name.  The counterfeit letter had been fashioned to lure the superstitious Pepin, king  of the Franks, into driving the Lombards out of Italy. To quote from Time Frames and Taboo Data, “Trusting the  pope and the authenticity of Peter’s letter, Pepin was lured into giving the pope exarchate (jurisdiction) of Ravenna–the real foundation of temporal power for the papacy.  Flushed with success at his deception of Pepin, the pope then forged Acts of St. Sylvester whereby additional claims on Italy were made.”

Some twenty years later Pope Adrian I called upon Pepin’s son Charlemagne for protection when the Lombard king, Desiderius, attacked papal territory.  Charlemagne defeated Desiderius and in holy gratitude Pope Adrian presented Charlemagne with a document spoken of as “the Document of Constantine“–which Adrian had forged.  The paper was essentially a deed in which the first Christian emperor allegedly gave  most of Italy to the papacy.  Charlemagne, like his father before him, fell for the scheme, and Adrian’s handling of the shady deal made him a major actor in the Vatican’s great land grabs, for which he is honored as one of the “great” popes. 

Over the centuries the Vatican endured many ups and downs, all the while growing holier in its suffering.  But in 1848 the then-pope, Pius IX, had to flee Rome due to  public uprisings, and he took up exile in the Castle of Gaeta in the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.  But he was able to return to the Vatican two years later in April of 1850, although French troops remained in Rome until 1870 to maintain the status quo throughout Italy.

But then on September 10th 1870, with the French troops gone, Italy declared war on the Papal States, and on the 11th the Italian army began its slow advance toward Rome, reaching the Aurelian Walls on the 19th and placed Rome under a state of siege.  In October the populace of Rome and the surrounding Campagna, a large area of mainly uncultivated plain surrounding Rome, voted for  a union with the kingdom of Italy.  The pope refused to accept the demand, and consequently became the victim  of his own political game for the people simply did not want him.  The Kingdom of Italy removed Roman Catholicism as state religion.

The savior of the Vatican  power structure appeared in 1929, however, in the form of  Benito Mussolini (who had been baptized by a Catholic priest only two years before, 1927).  Then Hitler made his own peace deal with the Vatican in 1933, and Roman Catholicism was back again as state religion.  This is not so strange, for the Fascists and the pope had many common interests, ambitions and lust for worldly power.  The Fascists looked to be unstoppable in the 1930s, and should their  political and military power have gained world control the reward for the pope would be to preside as the religious head of the world. 

Alas for the poor popes, their claims of papal infallibility didn’t stand the test.

Art and Religion

Posted in Art, Atheist, Christianity, culture, history, humanity, Middle Ages,, nature, religion with tags , , , , , on June 17, 2009 by chouck017894

“…culture does not grow only out of worship of God.”

This sane observation was made by a member of the Conservative Christian Democrats in Germany back in September 2007.  It was in response to a Roman Catholic cardinal’s sneering assessment of art in the newly opened museum built on the ruins of Cologne’s St. Kolumba Church (Columba, Irish missionary, known as the “Apostle of Caledonia”).   The cardinal, Joachim Meisner, had earlier felt it his holy duty to criticize the artist who had designed the stained glass windows for the Cologne Cathedral.

The cardinal pontificated in a sermon at the opening of the museum saying that it was dangerous to allow art to break away from religion.  He elaborated that an “indisputable connection” existed between culture (i.e. art) and religion, and if culture was “uncoupled” from worship then both religion and culture would disintegrate.

The cardinal’s choice of words–the word entartete (degenerate) in particular–slashed at painful psychological wounds to many German ears.  In 1937  the Nazi party had jockeyed for its power grab and part of their strategy was to attempt to ban artworks, especially expressionists, that they deemed counter to their objectives—the restructuring of German culture.  The artworks confiscated by the Nazis were declared to be “Entartete Kunst,”  degenerate art.

In spite of Cardinal Meisner’s claim as to what constituted proper art, art was not exactly appreciated by the early molders of the Roman Church.  In the saga of the  church, as the “fathers” floundered about concocting doctrine and dogma, most art representations–except for harshly defined crosses–were spurned.

As noted in Time Frames and Taboo Data, the 13th century saw unwelcome change thrust upon the church.  To quote: “The arts were coming out of hibernation and Nature was being restored with dignity that had been previously thought unworthy.”  (page 276)  But the art that came into church approval somewhat later (14th century) still consisted mainly of stiff, unnatural representations which continued in style until realistic treatment of space was initiated by the Florentine painter Masaccio (1401-1428).

Even then the propaganda value of art continued to be only vaguely understood by the church.  Then c. 1527 (to quote from TFTD), “The church was feeling the pressure of discontent among the masses and a strategy had to be devised to gain broader appeal.  The promotional strategy that was then undertaken (by the church) is well recognized in today’s advertising medium.  The church (under Pope Clement VII) sought to overwhelm the masses in the sensual appeal of art, music, and lavish display.”  (page 312 TDTF)

So Cardinal Meisner’s dismissal of any art display in the cathedral other than that which pleased his religious interpretations deserved the mild rebuke by the German public official.