Archive for November, 2012

Betraying Democracy For Theocracy

Posted in belief, culture, faith, Government, politics, religion with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2012 by chouck017894

Theocracy is an ugly form of government which is touted by some faith system merchants as being presided over by God, while in real time all temporal management is to be dominated by a priestly order which claims rule by “divine sanction.”  In other words, it is sham authority.  In this twenty-first century the prime example of this type of governing is Iran.

Theocracies are alway ruthless and quick to condemn and dispose of any perceived threat to whoever happens to oppose the self-proclaimed mouthpiece for the ultimate being. All allegiance to such a set up is compulsory and the multitude is to accept it on blind faith even though there is never any real supportive evidence for the claims of godly choice of leader or the practices that are demanded.  It is this horror of social interaction that the forefathers of the United States sought to avoid, and they thus established the wise declaration that church and state must be kept separate.

That protective provision for maintaining true democracy as featured in the US Constitution has been the glue which bound diverse people from many lands in respectful acceptance of spiritual equality, which consequently made the US one of the mightiest nations in history.  Unfortunately, that strength and influential power which resulted from tolerance of diversity is a lure that cannot be resisted by ego driven conspirators.  If such persons can imagine that they speak for God, it is also easy for them to imagine that they should command the world.

Since the last half of the twentieth century and into this twenty-first there have been a glut of false prophets and self-proclaimed mouthpieces of God seeking to chip at that tap-root of the Constitution and replace it with their interpretation of “biblical values.”  All these ego driven pretenders of sanctity have attracted whole regiments of followers who are encouraged to mistake their ego for their spirit or their soul, and contribute multimillions to the “ministries” that would systematically destroy liberty and freedom for all.  Here, listed alphabetically, is a record of ten major “faith” pretenders that seek destruction of the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state.

  • “Alliance Defending Freedom” = (FDF) “Freedom” in this designation is deliberately misleading; the only freedom sought is to promote the prejudices of an Arizona based organization of TV and radio far right preachers as a tax-free religious group.  It is money and prejudice, not spirit, that guides them.  Gullible believers have shelled out nearly thirty-six million dollars to this group that seeks to overturn the federal law which bars tax-exempt churches (or other non-profit organizations) from intervening in partisan elections.
  • “American Family Association” = (AFA) “American Family” makes it all sound so reputable and patriotic, but this Mississippi based “association,” founded by Reverend Donald Wildmon, functions largely by abhorrent artificiality.  For instance, the AFA staffer Bryan Fischer alleges that Adolf Hitler invented church/state separation.  Apparently Fischer thinks that Hitler was present in the 1700s when the US Constitution was written.  Of course the AFA likes to portray abortion as sin, that gay persons do not deserve equal rights, that the AFA should be free to promote their faith system interpretations in public schools, etc., etc.  These bigoted hate mongers boast that they operate nearly 200 radio stations nationwide, and by stimulating their extremism the AFA has raked in nearly eighteen million dollars in 2012 in the name of God.
  • “Concerned Women for America” – (CWA) The “concern” is allegedly to “bring biblical principles into all levels of public policy.”  (Related blog: A Short Example of Biblical Values, Oct. 2012.)  The CWA was organized in 1979 by Tim and Beverly LaHaye (yeah, that Tim LaHaye, author of religious horror books), and it was started at that time as an opposition group to the Equal Rights Amendment.  Tolerance and trying to understand each other apparently is not a sacred obligation for them, and the CWA therefore opposes equal right for gays, promotes the teaching of creationism in science classes, and similar absurdities.  This is claimed to be “the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization,” and it garnered over ten million dollars in 2012.
  • “Council for National Policy” =(CNP) This “council” is small potatoes, drawing in not quite two million dollars in 2012, but it typifies the shadowy operations of the radical right.  The CNP is another Tim LaHaye scheme, and its purpose is coordinating meetings of “invitation only” religious right front men to develop strategy for political control (GOP).
  • “Faith and Freedom Coalition” (FFC) Founded by Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition.  Again the “freedom” striven for by this group is not to benefit all of god’s diverse people, but to entice conservative religious voters to certain (GOP) candidates which the FFC desired.  With revenues of nearly five and a half million dollars in 2012, the FFC hosted a forum of GOP presidential contenders in four states.
  • “Family Research Council” = (FRC) Here again a word in their title is deceiving; the word “research.”  This “council,” headed by Tony Perkins, is the principal religious right organization in Washington DC.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has actually designated this outfit as a hate group.  This “council” sponsors a program annually, the “Values Voter Summit,” to promote far-right politicians who favor bans on reproductive freedom and on gay equality, and who favor amending the Constitutional church/state safeguard, and who favor injecting creationism into public school science classes, and similar attacks on God-approved diversity.  But hate is profitable: nearly fifteen million dollars was collected by the FRC in 2012.
  • “Focus on the Family” (earlier known as Alliance Defense Fund) = (FOF) This outfit was founded by James Dobson.   The “family” that this outfit is concerned about is the right-wing political family, not the every-man family which embraces all diversities of human nature.  This Colorado based organization is really focused on pressuring state and national law makers in such things as abortion rights, denying equal rights for gays, and the rest of the typical hate obsessions.  Fanning such obsessions is lucrative, and the FOF revenue for 2012 was around one hundred and five million dollars.
  • Jerry Falwell Ministries/Liberty University/Liberty Counsel = Here is a multimillion dollar empire built on stilts of bigotry and hypocrisy.  With revenues of over five hundred twenty-two million dollars (principally from Liberty University), there is churned out a constant irritation of partisan politics.  Liberty Counsel, based at Liberty University, serves as a religious-right legal unity that specializes in lawsuits aimed at undermining church/state separation.
  • The Pat Robertson religious business empire = One of God’s most long-winded busybodies, Pat Robertson built a worldly empire for himself by selling ego-titillation as spiritual magnification.  The anchor for this fixation was the purchase of a broadcasting license that became the Christian Broadcasting Network, which allowed him to preach to stay-at-home seekers his bias take on what God allegedly wanted.  Mining the airways proved extremely lucrative, and in pursuit of shaping even more minds he established the Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.  Featured in the private University are two legal groups; the Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, and the American Center for Law and Justice.  Ungrateful for his democratic springboard, Robertson has unendingly expounded in far-right and political invective, even stating that the church/state separation clause in the Constitution was a “myth.”  His ego-motivating “700 Club” is nothing more than a forum for promoting extreme right-wing ideology; it is imagined godly favoritism that brought in revenue for 2012 of over four hundred million dollars.
  • And lastly, we have the “United States Conference of Catholic Bishops” = Considering how the Catholic Church governed over most of Europe through the centuries which history records as the “Dark Ages,” we have every right to question the spiritual motivation for the bishops fueling the “cultural war” in the United States.  Catholicism has not exactly proven itself to be an infallible faith system through its two millennia of spiritual posturing.  When bishops indulge themselves in lobbying Congress in Washington DC, it is not for the benefit of all the diverse people that make up the citizenry of the nation; it is an attempt to force principles of the Catholic faith system upon everyone—just as they did in the Dark Ages.  The creative power that is personified as God has decreed that life is to be expressed in broadly diverse modes, and it is not up to any faith system to sit in judgment of that diversity.  The bishops’ formation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty is pure hypocrisy when its purpose is an ultra-conservative stand on such things as reproductive rights, on who is allowed to love who, marriage equality rights, birth control, school vouchers, and seeking federal funding for their highly prejudicial church-affiliated social services.  With revenue in 2012 of over twenty-six million dollars, we can pretty much judge just where their true spirituality rests.

This short list of religious right groups certainly is not complete, but it does exemplify the most threatening pressure groups plotting against true democratic governing.  There is nothing of any genuine spiritual worth in attempting to force others into some man-formulated performance of honoring the creative Source: that is greed and pretense at its worst.  Under almost any other form of government such attempts at sabotaging the government’s founding principles would rightfully be construed as traitorous.

Regional Influence On Faith System Origins

Posted in belief, Christianity, culture, Hebrew scripture, random, religion with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by chouck017894

In the real estate profession there is a dictum that insinuates the value of any given property, and that quality-gauge is tersely summed up as location, location, location.  Oddly, that real estate saying can help us understand the personality traits of the major organized faith systems that are active in our world today.  Location and the timeframe in which each faith system began its development served as the gene pool for its offspring (ie beliefs), and from these grew the idiosyncrasies that now characterize their interrelated practices.  Stir into this mix any noticeable seasonal changes and astronomical positions that predominated in that timeframe and the results become local interpretations of universal/cosmic interactions.

Circumstances that prevailed in a region where a faith system originated will always continue to color the customs of that faith system.  The regional environment in a definable timeframe accounts for the characteristics of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Brahmanism, etc., etc.  In other words, it was never divine communications directed at certain chosen persons that “revealed” spiritual qualifications of those faith systems in any particular region: it was some material insecurity in the regional environment which inspired attempts to explain natural cause and effect.

The regional circumstances and the timeframe in which a religion originated served to influence its interpretation of an imagined deity’s personality and psychological profile, which in turn shaped the doctrines which, it was hoped, would favorably influence that imagined deity.  Thus today we find ourselves bound to primitive hand-me-down values of conduct that vary from “faith” to “faith,” and which have shaped doctrines that often defy rationality.

Of the three western highly structured but competing religions, there is the peculiarity of each of them claiming descent from the same seed-bearer named Abraham, an alleged ancestor which none of these faiths have ever been able to authenticate.  All three also claim the same angels—Gabriel, Michael, etc; and they claim linkage to the same lands and they claim a singular Creator-God.  But that God has, apparently, given each of them conflicting data on how the faithful are to win that God’s conditional love.  Understandably, this has caused more spiritual, social, economical and physical distress and suffering throughout the world than is appropriate if they are, as each of them claims, a legitimate representative of the omniscient Creative Source.

The precepts of the faith that would develop as Judaism, for example, were accumulated and developed in the central hill country of Canaan (Judah) around the little settlement  of Jerusalem (c. early 8th century BCE).  The more urbanized Hebrew tribal groups to the north had established a kingdom, Israel, which had fallen to Assyrian invasion.  There was not then and never had been a united monarchy Israel/Judah as priest written Old Testament accounts imply.  (Suggested reading: The Bible Unearthed, by Finkelstein and Silberman.)  Priests in little Jerusalem, situated in the highlands of Canaan between the major competitive powers of Egypt and Assyria, were understandably nervous about their precarious position.  Thus to intimidate those powers and psychologically arm the Judean people, the priest composed “history” presented tales of a god-chosen people possessed of unconquerable strength.

Around the mid-eighth century BCE when the Hebrew scriptures were beginning to be compiled, the Earth happened to experience exogenous disturbances in its rotation, and these coincided with a reverse in Earth’s magnetic field.  This is the timeframe in which the “prophet” Isaiah is cast.  It was in this timeframe also that Babylon and China found it necessary to devise a new calendar.  It should be noted here as well that it was c. 776 BCE that the first Olympiad was inaugurated in Greece, and that event was unquestionably in connection with earlier events concerning the celestial object we today call Venus which had disturbed the heavens through previous generations.

On the other side of our planet in this same timeframe, the ancestors of the Mayans also remained wary and kept nervous watch on the heavens, especially on the planet Venus.  What these worldwide concerns with the heavens reveal is that Isaiah and the later minor “prophets” such as Joel, Micah and Amos were actually astronomers who were concerned about planetary interaction with Earth, first with Venus, and later the disturbed movements of Mars in the timeframe 763-765 BCE.  Add to this timeframe of worldwide disturbances that the traditional date for the founding of Rome is 753 BCE–and that site was dedicated to Mars, which was personified as the god of war.

In Egypt, long before the Jewish faith was concocted, there was a tradition of “the coming messiah,” which was referred to as Madhi.  The point here is that in all ancient pre-Jewish cultures the reference to a Messiah alway carried planetary meaning.  It never referred to any human champion charged with the mission to save or rescue certain people, but referred to expected planetary conditions that were to bring forth new circumstances for all human life.

Christianity is the world’s only city-bred faith system, and it is a product engendered out of Rome and Antioch.  In the timeframe which we consider to be the sixth year of our Common Era (CE), Judah had long been annexed by Rome.  By the late 50s the proportion of Jews in the Roman Empire was over twenty percent.  There had previously arisen a new Pharisaic party of the Humanistic Jews, which had evolved out of the teachings of Hillel the Pharisee (30 BCE).   This was felt to pose a possible threat to the Roman economic structure, for Hillel’s humanistic approach did not accept the practice of slavery, which was the backbone of Roman economy.  (For this reason there is no condemnation of slavery to be found in the New Testament.)  The Pagan Roman Empire always sought to embrace the diversity of its conquered people, and that characteristic is somewhat reflected in the earliest “gospel” writing of Mark, written c. 55-60, and Matthew, written c. 70-75.

Christianity, as such, was not known in the timeframe of the Emperor Nero, 54-68.  The members of the developing Jesus-cult that would evolve as Christianity referred to themselves simply as “brethren.”  Classification as “Christians” was introduced by later interpreters of history who happened to subscribe to the early Jesus-cult teachings as formulated in Antioch.  After the  forced suicide of Nero in 68, a brief civil war followed that brought the Empire to its knees as four “Emperors” battled for power between the months of June and December of 68.

The date of birth for Jesus is, to put it kindly, blurry at best, and equally uncertain is the time of Jesus’ alleged crucifixion–but  it is projected to be some time between the years 30 and 36, since Pontius Pilate is presented in the trial scene.   For all the claimed disturbing circumstances before, during and after the crucifixion, the execution death was not noted in any legal account nor by any contemporary historian.  However, the character of Paul of Tarsus (whose alleged conversion to Jesus bore extraordinary similarity to Moses’ call to faith) came upon the scene in just that timeframe. But the Jesus-cult carried no definable outline at that time.  Paul thus assumed he was called to dedicate himself to formulating doctrine and ceremonial procedures.  Oddly, there is no verifiable proof in regard to Saul/Paul of Tarsus either; his missionary role-playing is narrated in a somewhat haphazard manner.  Some investigators have contended that Pliny the Younger may have been the author of thirteen of the epistles in the NT which are attributed to Paul.  It is a fact that Pliny the Younger was noted for his epistle style writing.

Centuries later Islam developed in the arid, merciless desert atmosphere where nature seems to extend little sympathy to any form of life in its struggle to survive.  Austerity and harshness of the desert encouraged an acceptance that the creative powers offered but limited compassion for life.  There is no question that in the 6th century CE, Mohammad, who traveled widely as a caravan merchant, became aware of stories from both the Jewish Torah and the Christian Gospels.  In his youth, however, Mohammad, as most Arab tribespeople in that timeframe, had been taught to adore al-Uzza (Venus), one of three bana al-Lab, or “Daughters of God.”  The two other “daughters” were known as al-Lat, “the Goddess,” and Manat, “the Fateful One.”  These three deities were of special importance to the Arabs of the Hijaz in the time of Mohammad’s youth.  This adoration of celestial objects obviously had generated out of past traumatic celestial events in which the “daughters” were involved, and they were associated with tribulations and woe.  Thus in the Quran (53:19-26) the question is raised in regard to having formerly worshipped al-Uzza, al-Lat and Manat, calling them “…nothing but empty names which you have invented–you and your forefathers–for which God has bestowed no warrant on high.”  The meteorite stone that had been venerated formerly in connection with al-Uzza is possibly the famous black cornerstone of the Muslim shrine Kaaba at Mecca.

Mohammad’s early radical preaching at Mecca was tolerated for a while, but eventually the priests of Kaaba became concerned over his radical views and forbade him to preach among the Arabs that gathered at Mecca.  Thus he started preaching to any foreigners that happened to pass through: technically he followed the priests’ orders, but the priests of Kaaba were not pleased.

According to Islamic tradition, Mohammad became aware of a plot by the priests of Kaaba in Mecca to have him assassinated for continuing to expound his radical ideas.  This is peculiar, for such violence was strictly prohibited by those in charge of the shrine.  But according to tradition Mohammad fled Mecca at the height of summer and arrived at Yathrib, now known as Medina, on September 20–the time of the autumnal equinox, which also happened to be the time of Jewish atonement.  The popular account says that in 627 Mohammad and his followers were attacked in Yathrib (Medina) by the Meccan leader Abu Sufyan, and this is known as the Battle of the Trench.  Abu Sufyan abandoned the attack after fifteen days, and Mohammad suspected that the Banu Quraiza Jews who resided in Yathrib had aided the Meccans, and so Mohammad had all the Jewish men killed.  Mohammad then went to war against Mecca.  Capturing Mecca is known as Mohammad’s Day of Deliverance, which is said to have occurred on March 16–the approaching days of the vernal equinox, which, of course, is never alluded to.  The account of Mohammad’s “deliverance” has a rather eerie similarity to the Israelite deliverance from their alleged “slavery” in Egypt as it is related in Hebrew legend and which is celebrated by Jews as Passover during the time of the vernal equinox.

These brief outlines on how regional and celestial events stimulated belief systems of the western world are equally applicable to other interpretations of creative deities as well.  Hinduism and Brahmanism, for example, took root where lofty mountains inspired a strong impression of the energy interconnection of spirit, earth and heaven.  Another example: the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans held age-old legends of a past heavenly turmoil, and this coupled with their location in the jungles of South America, suggested to them that the gods always expected sacrifice and appeasement for continuance of life.  And in North America, the natives could appraise in the openness of the land and its bountiful wild life a stern spirit which was nonetheless wide-ranging and interactive with all life.  Thus we can see how the origin of any faith system was influenced by location, location, location.

Development of Church Franchising

Posted in belief, Christianity, faith, Hebrew scripture, history, random, religion with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2012 by chouck017894

In the timeframe in which Jesus is alleged to have brought god’s means of redemption to the Roman world, there was no word for the institutional type gathering places which we today speak of as churches.  There were gathering places, of course, where people could share esoteric mysteries and spiritual tutoring, but these places generally were not used exclusively for a rigidly controlled “faith” purpose.  The closest thing known to what we today call a church would have been in the Greek word ecclesia, a term which referred to a group of citizens “called out” and assembled for political purposes.  Loosely the word ecclesia may be interpreted as meaning “assembly” or “gathering.”

The translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy II (285-246 BCE) were commissioned to accommodate Greek speaking Jews in Alexandria.  That translation, known as the Septuagint, consequently became the version consulted by most early Christians.  Therefore, when quotes are made from the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament, they were commonly taken from the Septuagint version.  This tended to serve as the status measure for early Christian theologians.  In the Septuagint translation the word synagogue, denoting a place of assembly, was translated with the Greek word ecclesia.

Thus we have received through third century BCE translations of that Greek word the nuance that now implies an explicit holy association in words such as ecclesiastic, used to identify a clergyman or  priest; ecclesiastical, which pertains to a church, especially an organized institution; and ecclesiasticism, which implies principles, practices and activities of an institutionalized faith system.  From this usage there even evolved a body of contentions called Ecclesiasticus, a book of the Apocrypha, which is also called “Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach.

And then there is also ecclesiology, which refers to the study of the Christian Church as an institution, and the same word can also be used to identify ecclesiastical art, especially in relation to the architecture and/or decorations of churches.  Without question the most negative use of is the word ecclesiolatry, which refers to the worship of the church itself—the excessive devotion to principles and traditions mandated by man-formulated, self-serving faith systems—i.e. the customary indulgence of fundamentalists.

It was noted in a previous post, Puzzles of Faith (March 2009), that it is curious that the hierarchical setups and franchising organization for religious instruction such as are in fashion today were not proposed anywhere in Gospels.  At that time there were temples–buildings that were built by man, but they were regarded as housing facilities for some divine presence, with the structure used as a purified accommodation for a particular god or goddess.  Such structures were not designed with seating arrangements for seeker to sit and listen to priests pontificate, although priests supervised such places.

Curiously, in the first written “Gospel,” the book of Mark (which is now placed second in the NT lineup), Jesus was not portrayed as instructing Peter to establish his “church.”  Nor was the institution of a “church” ever mentioned until the later rewrites of Matthew, and then term “church” is used only two times.  In fact, it was not until Paul (a name Romanized from Saul) burst upon the scene (he is traditionally accepted as having lived c. 3-68 CE) that the term church developed, and even then there was no implication that a church was to serve in the role of a hierarchical institution.  Paul’s use of the term “church” was generalized, for he commonly spoke only of local gatherings of supporters that congregated independently in various regions, so it was not exactly a framework for a franchised faith system business.

A number of factors contributed to the gradual development of such an institutionalized method for promoting the business of faith. The nearest to any divine interpretations of the word “Christ” seems to have developed from the 300 BCE Greek Gnostics who recognized and honored the universal “Logos” or “Word,” which they revered and spoke of as the Chrestos.  The “Logos” or “Word” referred to the underlying cosmic principle, regarded in ancient Greek philosophy as the source of universal orderliness and intelligibility.  From the reverence of the Chrestos this esoteric group referred to themselves as Chrestianoi.   It was in a later timeframe that the term “Christians” was first used in the Greek-built city of Antioch, a Gnostic center, to distinguish the disciples of Jesus (Acts 11:25:26).  As a consequence, Antioch became recognized as the “mother-city of Gentile Christianity” (Acts 11:19-30; 12:1-3; 14:26; 15:30).

This makes for some confusion.  In Christian tradition Peter is the declared “rock” of the Christian institutionalized structure which arose in Rome, although the earliest Jesus cult members in that city referred to themselves simply as “brethren.”  Curiously, this “rock” of the Christian faith system was first known as Simon (or as Simeon, in Acts 15:12) in the first Gospels of Mark and Matthew.  Interestingly, prior to and in this same early first century timeframe there was in Rome a highly revered interpreter of Pagan  esoteric wisdom who was widely identified by the letters PTR, which may be loosely translated as signifying “grand interpreter.”  This was a title of reverence which was widely known within Rome and therefore the title was much too valuable to discard in laying down the foundation for a hierarchical faith system in the second century CE.  Thus by around the late second century CE, when copies of copies of the earlier Gospels were being produced (revised), the assertion was then “documented” that Jesus had renamed Simon as Peter, which use the PTR letters signifying the Pagan interpreter of esoteric wisdom to play upon the Latin word for “rock.”  (More on PTR in Christianity and the PTR Factor, March 2012.)

Simon may be correctly designated from the books of Mark and Matthew as having been “the apostle of the circumcision,” for he is portrayed in these two Gospels as adamant in following strict Jewish customs.  This makes it more than just awkward to place that staunch Jewish personality in the “impure” city of Rome and having apostatized from his Jewish obligations to serve Jesus as first bishop of a gentile church.

Oddly, Paul never actually spoke of Simon-Peter as though he was the “rock” upon which all seekers should look to as the  keystone of faith.  Indeed, Paul spoke several times of the heresy being preached, which was a rather disrespectful accusation since some of the twelve apostles who allegedly had known Jesus personally would still have been alive and preaching in that same timeframe.

Nonetheless, it was the self-appointed cult activist Paul who took possession of the reins of the ill-defined Jesus movement by formulating the language and systematizing the doctrines that would later be utilized as the foundation of Christian theology.  But the full application of his theological methodology did not immediately gain endorsement.  That approval developed gradually (evolved) and was made to pivot upon the four revised Gospels and the Pauline correspondence.  It was in that adapted form of Gospels, which was compiled near the middle of the second century, that was consulted by the expanding Jesus-cult affiliates.  (The cultists were not yet called “Christians” even then, despite what is taught as church history.)  Only then, around 140 CE, did the idea of formulating a canonical authority of Gospel become a serious concern, an idea which may have been inspired by a man named Marcion, a Gnostic from Sinope (in Turkey), who arrived in Rome around 140 CE.

Four years after arriving in Rome, Marcion grew frustrated with the direction of the developing Christian doctrine which would become defined as Catholic.  His Gnostic view of things was not favorably received by the “church” fathers, although they had eagerly received his generous monetary contributions.  Thus Marcion founded his own sect, which grew rapidly.  Marcion rejected the Old Testament, assessing the Creator-god of the Hebrew Scriptures as the Demiurge, the author of suffering.  This, he theorized, meant that Jesus could not have been the Messiah promised by that god, for the Christ (the Gnostic Chrestos) expressed light and love, which Marcion did not perceive as expressed in nature or in the Hebrew scriptures.  Marcion also rejected the concept of resurrection of the physical body.  He rejected as well the concept of marriage, theorizing that it was less than loving to increase the race of man to be subjected to the ruthless whims of the creator of matter.

The Marcionite sect flourished, becoming second only to the developing Catholic theological form, and for that reason the  process of canonizing basic texts as the New Testament was undertaken.  There was as well in this timeframe an economic decline within the Roman Empire, and the edgy Christian faction sought to lure converts with the promise of the “bread of life.”  The Marcionites continued to thrive until around the fourth century, when they became absorbed into the Manichaeans (named after the Persian sage Manes).  The chief opponent of the Manichaeans was Augustine (353-430), who just happened to have been a Manichaean disciple for nine years before converting to Christian ideology.  This undoubtedly explains some of “saint” Augustine’s hang-ups regarding sex.

Like any business, the goal of any faith system is to attract as many customers as possible.  The product in all faith systems is pretty much the same—the alleged special access to a higher power.  But the essential appeal for a lasting franchise faith system rests in how the product is advertised and displayed to enchant a consumer’s ego.