Wednesday, December 31, 2008

John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance"

Those were the days, my friend. And some of us old enough to remember will find this video an emotional blast from the past - sad, entrancing, familiar, yet strangely hopeful. Dylan sang "The Times They Are A-changing," but maybe he was wrong. The actors change, but the play's the same. Hope is bound up, defined and recharged by keeping on keeping on.

Welcome to 2009.




h/t to Cynical-C

Republican rule and financial ruin

[Photo of Bobby Jindal by Richard Alan Hannon]

Consider the rule of Republican politicians: California under Schwarzenegger is bankrupt; Jeb Bush left Florida in dire financial straits; George W. Bush has run the United States into the ground; and then we have Louisiana.

The state of Louisiana is important because the governor of Louisiana is considered by many in the Republican Party to be a potential candidate for president in 2012. Bobby Jindal, the former Hindu turned fundamentalist Roman Catholic exorcist, has been seen in public in states like Iowa which generally portend a presidential interest.

Why would anyone other than Rush Limberger think Jindal an appropriate candidate for the presidency?

The New York Times tells the sad story, writ over and over again in the pages of the Republican playbook, as it has taken shape in the bayou state.

Once upon a time, Louisiana was rolling in oil money. Not so long ago, in fact, Louisiana had an $865 billion surplus. It was time to spend said the pols, including the chief cheerleader for fiscal irresponsibility, Bobby Jindal.

So first off, taxes were cut, to the tune of $360 million. Jindal said that was "terrific news" and gleefully signed the tax cut bill into law.

"Admonitions on fiscal prudence went unheeded, as they have so often here, and the bill is now due."

As The NYT put it, "Mr. Jindal entered office this year with the happy duty of spending a $1 billion surplus -- and he and the legislators promptly did so, appropriating millions of dollars for highways, ports and a medical research facility, and widely dispensing tax breaks, including one to parents of private school students. The cheery mood in the state Capitol continued all spring, as the legislators then decided to roll back a much-hated income tax increase earlier in the decade, costing the state hundreds of millions in revenue in coming years."

Louisiana is looking at a $341 million deficit this year and next year the budget deficit is projected at $2 billion.

Guess what's gonna get cut! Health care and higher education. That might hurt Jindal's plan to partly privatize Medicaid!


So what's new. Under Republican rule the rule is the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. With all the evidence to the contrary, how the hell do Republicans keep fooling so many people with the pretense that they are the party of fiscal prudence when, historically, the Republicans lead us from one depression to another?

To paraphrase another observer of the America scene, the stupidity of the American people cannot be underestimated.


You can read the entire NYT article by Adam Nossiter here. There's more here.

Beck be a bad Mormon says Focus on da Family

[Glenn Beck image from The Daily Gotham]

The irony is delicious. My god is better than your god, but if I talk the right language, I can fool you into thinking that we both believe in the same god.

So might have thought that damn Mormon, Glenn Beck. Perhaps one of the nastiest SOBs cluttering the airwaves in our time, Beck found Jesus back when he was 35, got hisself born again and has lived for Jesus while castigating liberals ever since. Now he has written a book containing a sentimental little story called "The Christmas Sweater." Beck says the "Christmas sweater is the metaphor for me of the atonement of Christ."

Focus on the Family, the organ of da christianist bozo, James Dobson, thought the book was nice, and so invited Beck to do an interview, which he did. The interview was posted on FOF's CitizenLink website.

Oops! A bunch of militant fundy christianists got their shorts in a knot about that! Beck is a Mormon, for Christ's sake! Well, they didn't say "for Christ's sake," but that's what they meant. Mormons can't know Christ. They bow to a different god.

For example, this paragon of christianist virtue, one Dustin S. Seger, pastor of the Shepherd's Fellowship in Greensboro, N.C., wrote that "They use Mr. Beck's story as a way to show that hope can be found in God, which is true enough; the problem is that Mr. Beck's god is not the Triune God of the Bible nor is his Jesus the Jesus of the Bible."

Oh, oh.

And Monkey, er, McConkey of Underground Apologetics, says that promoting a Mormon as a Christian is not helpful to the cause of Jesus Christ." Mormonism is, he says, a "false religion."

Of course. What is the "cause of Jesus Christ," according to McConkey? Oh, right. It has to do with the time Jesus told his disciples to beat the crap out of everybody who disagreed with them when he sent them out to evangelize the country folks. Well, actually, he said to shake the dust off their sandals, and get out of town, which is pretty much the same thing.


With the uproar rising, FOF pulled the interview from CitizenLink. Heh, heh!


A pox on all their houses in 2009!



For a spicy tidbit on Beck, click here.

New Bible to be written by real people


Zondervan, the largest publisher of Bibles in the world, got a brilliant idea. Why not have real people write the Bible?

Why not, indeed?

So Zondervan put together a "Bible Across America Tour." In a 42-foot motor home, Zondervan reps are rolling across the country "to enlist thousands of Americans to each handwrite a verse for its latest 'America's NIV' Bible."

Wow!

Each person involved will pen "a single verse on actual thin-stock Bible paper, which will give America's NIV an unprecedented index of 31,173 contributors, one for every verse of the Bible."

Moe Girkins, prez of Zondervan believes "that a completely handwritten version of the NIV Bible by people from all across our country will help America rediscover the Bible in a fresh, new way."

Yup!

I want to write the verse in which god tells parents to stone their children to death if they fail to observe the Sabbath!

I'll betcha they'll have a ton of editors working on this to ensure that some wacko doesn't write something that doesn't belong in the good book. It's a good thing, too, 'cause the folks in the first few centuries messed up pretty badly at times and that's one of the reasons why the Bible is so darn confusing in places. Well, the later scribes made a lot of mistakes, too.


Do you think this is a gimmick to help Zondervan sell more NIV Bibles? Nah, they wouldn't do anything like that!

Get yourself a Jesus chair for the New Year


Isn't it beautiful? Just what everyone needs to get properly seated as we roll into 2009!

You can buy it for about $700 at Nim Pot Centro De Textiles in Antiqua, Guatemala.

h/t to Ship of Fools

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

They offered a Bible class and no one came


The christianist wingnuts in this country have been on the warpath for years to bring the Bible into our public schools, claiming that it has been the lack of prayer and Bible reading that has led to our educational decline, moral lapses, pestilences like evolution, and the election of Barack Obama.

Well, up in Coweta County, Georgia, high school students are offered Bible classes as electives, but no one cared enough to sign up!

Two years ago, Georgia authorized Bible classes as electives in public schools. Dean Jackson, representing the Coweta County School System, says "Since this came up, we have not had anyone ask to explore the class."

No one!


Well, hell's bells, the problem is, according to wingnut state Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, a Repugnican (of course), is that school districts have not promoted the Bible courses!

Williams goes on to protest that none of this is about "proselytizing," but about biblical literacy. Ha, ha.

These idiots promoting biblical study in the schools are ALL about proselytizing! Their talk about biblical literacy is bullshit. You can't teach the bible in public schools because every single teacher brings his/her personal interpretation to such a program. How would a fundamentalist, as opposed to a non-christian, teach the first two chapters of Genesis? Or the Exodus? Or the Song of Solomon? There is no consensus, even among Christian groups, as to what the Bible says or what the Bible means, or even what the Bible contains!


So, it's a good thing no one showed up. Now if we could only get clowns like Tommie Williams to shut up!

A 100-mile constitution-free zone

[Border Patrol training photo - LA Times]

BSAlert tells a frightful and cautionary tale for those concerned with personal freedom and constitutional liberties.

Although the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects Americans from "random and arbitrary stops and searches," there has "always been an exception" and that exception prevails at our country's borders. "There, the longstanding view is that the normal rules do not apply. For example the authorities do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a 'routine search.'"

What is the meaning of "border"? "According to the government, it is a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the 'external boundary' of the United States."

Here's the problem: "As a result of this claimed authority, individuals who are far from the border, American citizens traveling from one place in America to another, are being stopped and harassed in ways that our Constitution does not permit."

Consider that if you live anywhere in Florida you are within that 100-mile wide strip and thus subject to being stopped and searched without any suspicion of malfeasance.

'Tis another in a series of scary episodes in how Americans are losing the very freedoms that so many millions have fought and died for since our inception as a country!

Read more here.

The greatest country in the world by Bill Maher




You don't even need to like Bill Maher to realize the truth in this segment.

h/t to BSAlert

A myth busted and Robertson's pissed

I've been taken in, slightly, by those who claim that the recession has increased attendance at worship in our nation's churches, temples and mosques.

Well, hell, that's what The New York Times said! The paper "based this conclusion on a 'spot check of large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation,' and reported that since September, '[P]astors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions -- deep empathy and quiet excitement -- as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore: Bad times are good for evangelical churches.'"

Hmm. That doesn't make sense on the face of it. Roman Catholic and mainline Protestants are not considered "evangelical" churches.

Steve Benen tells us that "Slate's Jack Shafter dug a little deeper and has his doubts" about this renewed religious enthusiasm. It seems that Gallup has reviewed "almost 300,000 interviews conducted by Gallup so far in 2008" and they show "no evidence that church attendance in America has been increasing late this year as a result of bad economic times."


This one I love because it seems the TV preacher freak, Pat Robertson no longer loves George W. Bush, while at the same time is "remarkably pleased" with Barack Obama. Bush has done too many stupid things, thinks Robertson (who should know from stupid!).

One more tidbit: God is gonna get Rick Warren for giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration, says Wiley Drake, a "radical Southern Baptist Pastor." Obama, says Drake, is an "evil illegal alien" and Warren's invocation is "an abomination before God..."

Heh, Heh!


More here.

Was the bailout a scam based on a lie?

[Photo of Henry Paulson from Yahoo]

Joshua Holland, writing at AlterNet, notes that more and more people are coming to the conclusion that Paulson's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) "was a boondoggle of an intervention that's flailed from one approach to the next, with little oversight and less effect on the financial meltdown."

There's more, however: Holland suggests that TARP (involving hundreds of billions of dollars) "was sold to Congress and the public based on a Big Lie."

In other words, the so-called "credit-crunch" may have been mythical. Holland quotes Columnist David Sirota who came to the conclusion that the American public had been scammed, that "'the major claims about a credit crisis that justified Congress cutting a trillion-dollar blank check to Wall Street were demonstrably false,' and the threat of a systemic banking crash was used by the Bush administration to overcome popular resistance to the 'bailout.'"

There's much, much more, to the effect that as usual, the rich got richer and the rest of us got screwed. Royally.

Read Holland's entire article here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

God's "truth" and the penumbra


Janie B. Cheaney, in a World magazine article titled "The invisible crown," suggests that the world is "distressed," and that while we know many things, we don't know the most important things. "For all our discoveries and advances over 6,000 years, something stubbornly stays hidden. They are penumbra; life itself eludes us."

First off, you notice she's a creationist who believes, against a monumental mass of evidence, that the world and all that exists is a mere 6,000 years old!

Somewhere she found the word "penumbra" and figured she could work it into an article. If you don't know, penumbra (singular) derives from from the Latin paene "almost" and umbra, meaning "shadow." The plural, which appears to be the way she uses the word, is penumbrae.

There are several definitions of the word. Cheaney seems to have chosen this one: "something that covers, surrounds, or obscures."


In her article she refers to the beliefs of John Derbyshire, a conservative who writes for the right wing National Review. Poor John has lost his faith and no longer believes in the virgin birth or the incarnation. Cheaney says that Derbyshire "accuses Christianity of being anti-science" because "Christianity establishes itself on a (sic) 'historical' event that defies reality, namely the incarnation. We are asked to believe that a human female was impregnated by a non-human spirit and gave birth to a god-man." Derbyshire thinks such a doctrine is "ridiculous."


Cheaney responds by proclaiming God has given humanity special honor. He did this first of all by making humans "'a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor.'" That's what creation is all about.

(What that really means is elusive. We know from nothing about angels -- The Bible tells us that in some cases they are friends of God and in other instances, they are his opponents.)

Secondly, God has given us special honor by incarnation--by becoming a human being in the form of Jesus: "Thought an unbelievable condescension ... our Lord considered it no shame to knit Himself into the creation He designed and blessed." She quotes a hymn by Brian Wren which says, "Good is the flesh that the Word has become. Good is the body, for good and for God."

(She uses the right word, there - "unbelievable.")

The third way God gave us special honor was by resurrection. "As Christ's physical body snapped the bonds of death, His spiritual life blooms and multiplies." Jesus' resurrection ensures that believers will also revive and live forever in heaven.

All of this, Cheaney claims, is "Not scientific, but hardly anti-science. It's rather beyond science, in the realm of the unknowable." We know lots of things, she says, "But we don't know how life began and we don't know the force that holds all its tiny components together. For all our discoveries and advances over 6,000 years, something stubbornly stays hidden. They are penumbra (sic); life itself eludes us."

We just have to hang on and believe all kinds of nonsense that has no basis in reality and eventually God will show us what is up.


This is the kind of junk theology that permeates the world of fundamentalist Christianity and Creationism.

If you tend to think that Cheaney has something of importance to say, I offer the following for consideration:

The myth of the god man permeated the ancient world and is found is almost all cultures in various forms. A virgin birth is very much part of the myth and many facets of the Christian nativity story appear also, e.g., the cave, shepherds, wise men bearing gifts, etc. Osiris-Dionysus was called "The wondrous babe of God, the Mystery" and "He of the miraculous birth." One scholar writes of the Elusian mysteries: "The mystic child at Eleusis was born of a maiden; the ancients made for themselves the sacred dogma 'A virgin shall conceive and bear a son,' by night there was declared 'Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.'"

Most interesting is that an early church father, Justin Martyr, aware of various points of coherence between the myths of paganism and Christianity, wrote: "In saying that the Word was born for us without sexual union as Jesus Christ our teacher, we introduce nothing beyond what is said of those called the Sons of Zeus."

A virgin birth is important in mythology for the "son of God" must be born of a virgin. The incarnation--a god taking on human flesh depends on such a birth. Almost without exception, the various god men were virgin born. And thus, according to Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, (The Jesus Mysteries), "Osiris-Dionysis, in all his many forms, is also hailed as the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of God, yet equal with the Father. Dionysus is the 'Son of Zeus, in his full nature God, most terrible, although most gentle to mankind.' Jesus is 'Very God of Very God.' Dionysus is 'Lord God of God born.'"

So far as the resurrection goes, the god man mythology includes dying (often by crucifixion) and resurrection, the latter providing immortality for his followers.

For example, again from Freke and Gandy: "The Megalensia was a spring festival in the Mysteries of attis which, like Easter, lasted for three days. During this time the myth of Attis was performed as a passion play, just as the story of Jesus was performed as a passion play in the Middle Ages. An effigy of the corpse of Attis was tied to a sacred pine tree and decorated with flowers sacred to both Attis and his Syrian counterpart Adonis. It was then buried in a sepulchre. But like Jesus, on the third day Attis rose again. In the darkness of the night a light was brought to his open grave, while the presiding priest anointed the lips of the initiates with holy oil, comforting them with the words: 'To you likewise shall come salvation from your trouble.'"


There is no penumbra involved in any of this. The main foci of pagan mythology was reconstituted to become part and parcel of the Jesus myth.

While there may be value in the god man mythologies, they are certainly anti-science in that they propose a world view and a life style that is out of sync with reality and for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

Cheaney is right when she says we have learned many things. What she doesn't say is that as a result of that learning, many religious beliefs have had to be discarded. But she is wrong when she says we don't know how life began and how it holds together. Science has a handle on both of those things, although that's another whole subject.

And it's not a matter of hanging on, waiting for a god to make everything clear. That's our job. The kind of theology Cheaney proposes as "truth" has always merely cluttered things up and made our job much more difficult. Penumbrae is the word for her theological understandings. We need less of that and more science.


For more on the conflict between religion and science, click here.

When is a pardon not a pardon?


First George W. Bush pardoned Isaac Tousie, a real estate scammer from Brooklyn - one of those guys whose victims were always of the poor, minority type.

Then Bush revoked the pardon.

Evidently, Bush acted precipitously in the first instance, "despite the fact that the Pardon Attorney, Ronald L. Rogers, had not given a formal recommendation for it." Furthermore, Toussie was not qualified for a pardon in that "it had not yet been five years since the completion of his sentence."

But...Toussie's father, Robert, gave $28,500 to the NRC in April.


Bush's White House says George didn't know Robert or that he was a GOP donor. Oops. It appears that Bush and Toussie met about the time Robert made his donation.

The photo above is of George and Robert (thanks to Firedoglake).


What I don't get is how you revoke a pardon. Can Bush do that? On what grounds? What does a pardon mean if it can be revoked a day later? Is time the crucial factor? Can a pardon be revoked if it is done within a week? A month? A year?

What about pardons given ten years ago? Or more? Can a new president revoke those and send the pardonee back to prison?


George sure muddies the waters every time he goes for a swim!

Virginity pledges don't work

According to the latest studies, "Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control whey they do..."

That's according to Rob Stein, writing for the Washington Post.


It isn't surprising. A variety of studies over the years have discovered that abstinence education simply does not work. Nevertheless, our president, being a man of faith who needs not reality or truth, and beholden to the christianists on the right, has instructed his administration to keep blowing millions of dollars on the farce of abstinence education.

These same devoted christianists will not believe this study either, and will come up with all kinds of convoluted reasons as to why it is not valid and will insist that our schools continue to offer abstinence only classes, and pressure teens to make pledges they will not keep.

The worst part of it is that the teens get a raw deal. Less condom use means more sexually-related diseases and more pregnancies.

All in the name of god, you know.


Steins' Washington Post article is here.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel's response to Gaza attacks

[Hamas Gunman - AP Photo by Hatem Moussa]

Guest post by Bob Poris
.

I have no way of knowing how the Israeli attacks against the Gaza terrorists will end, but it didn’t have to come to this.

Israel voluntarily withdrew from Gaza in 2005 as part of a "land for peace" deal that had been pushed upon it for decades. It left prosperous businesses intact for the Gazans to use to shore up its economy.

That's not what happened!

Instead of instituting programs and policies which would benefit the citizens of Gaza, Hamas turned Gaza into a front line military base in a long-term Islamist confrontation with Israel, backed by Iran. It has rejected any attempts to negotiate a two-state solution with Israel.

Hamas began a daily barrage of rockets into Israeli towns over a year ago! Over four thousand rockets have been fired into Israel since 2005! These rockets have narrowly missed blowing up Israeli children in kindergartens and giant fuel storage facilities in built-up areas of Southern Israel.

The various cease fires have been used by Hamas to smuggle more sophisticated rockets and weapons into Israel and to build up its forces to wage terror against Israel.

Israel’s attacks are not the result of the end of the last cease fire. They are a response to eighteen months of rockets being launched against Israeli cities and civilians by the elected governing body of Gaza and seven years of attacks from Gaza, and the ideology which fuels them.

What nation on earth would have waited so long for talks to stop a war waged against it? Why should Israel be asked to not react to the indiscriminate killing of its citizens over so many years?


Why indeed?


Jeb Bush - Senator?


John Ellis "Jeb" Bush is of the opinion the damage he did in Florida as governor was insufficient and thus is planning to run for the U.S. Senate when Mel Martinez gives up his seat, in order to wreak further Bush-based havoc on the rest of the country from Washington, D.C.

Maybe. Supposedly, Jeb hasn't made his mind up yet.

That according to Politico and other political prognosticators.


'Tis a worrisome thing. The Bush brothers come in different wrapping, but the package is the same: ultra-conservative, hard-line Republican chicanery.

Jeb, being the younger brother of George W., is said to be smarter than George. That is yet to be proven, however. As the 43rd governor of Florida, serving two terms, his "smarts" were not much in evidence.

There are differences of opinion as to how smart Jeb is, but his rightist leanings and his hard line, take-no-prisoners attitude, which he tried to soften with a smirky "little boy" grin, were always on view.

Florida's moneyed Republican leaders thought Jeb was the cat's meow, but that was because he did his best to enrich their coffers. One of his first moves after setting up residence in Tallahassee, was to cut taxes for the rich. At his departure, the State of Florida was (and still is) in desperate financial straits.

Jeb's education program turned out to be a disaster. He continued to push charter schools even when the evidence indicated they were not any better, and often worse, than public schools. The linchpin of his education effort was to provide vouchers for parents to use taxpayers' dollars to send their kiddos to private (mostly religious) schools. That was shot down by the Florida Supremes.

Jeb fought to teach Creationism in public schools. This past year, though no longer governor, he worked behind the scenes with committee people he had appointed to try to again secure vouchers for private schools and the teaching of creationism in public schools.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact he converted to Catholicism (a religion which believes it has a right to taxpayer dollars) that he pushed faith-based operations in a variety of areas - including prisons; all of which were of questionable constitutionality.

Like his brother, George, Jeb thinks the death penalty is an important method of reducing the crime rate, and thus oversaw 21 executions during his time in office, which was more than his three predecessors combined.

Jeb also parroted the Republican line regarding off-shore drilling, and pushed hard to get Congress to allow drilling off the Florida shores.

And who will forget the law he got passed to allow him to continue feeding poor Terry Schiavo? This, too, derived from his religious and political right-wing conservatism.


Politico says Jeb hasn't made up his mind about running for the U.S. Senate. Some Repugnican poohbahs in Florida figure he would be a shoe-in. They are excited about the prospect of another Bush in Washington, which indicates clearly the moral poverty of the Republican Party in Florida!

Not all Floridians agree that Senator Jeb is a good idea, however. Politico quotes Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a truly fine politician, who thinks Jeb might find the road to the Senate a bit rougher than he and his friends anticipate. Wasserman notes rightly that Jeb "left the education system in tatters," and calls him "literally the most inflexible public official I've ever encountered in my 16 years in office."

"He does not play nice with others," says Wasserman. "This is not a person who was sensitive to people who have needs and who are struggling. He's focused on people who are doing well."

Of course. What the hell else would you expect from a Bush?


All of which is to say we do NOT want or need Jeb Bush in Washington in any capacity!

How we know Jesus was the real Messiah

[Image from bluestarfolly.com]

I really should leave this alone, but sometimes something comes along that is so moronic, so illogical, and so stupid that, ripe for ridicule, it cannot be ignored!

Someone by name of Andree Seu wrote an article for the right-wing christianist World magazine called "An honest Messiah." Seu is excited because he believes we can KNOW Jesus was the true Messiah because he was honest with us.

All other Messiahs, said Seu, "especially those who have had a successful miracle-filled career, would have predicted peaceful and prosperous days ahead as far as the eye can see." He, he. He fails to disclose who these "successful" Messiahs were, unfortunately.

But that's simply a straw man that he proceeds to strike down.

Jesus, was not like those successful Messiahs. Jesus told it like it is. He warned us of all the bad things that were coming and no faux messiah would do that! Really! Jesus warned us that nations will rise up against one another and that there willl be earthquakes and famines and "pestilences."

Please. John the fisherman could have said exactly the same thing every year since the beginning of time!

But Seu goes farther. The fact that Jesus doesn't do anything to help the starving children "shores up" Seu's faith. Why is that? Because Jesus is so honest - "Jesus told us point blank to expect these tribulations," while at the same time claiming that he holds all authority in heaven and earth in his hands.

"If Jesus knew about the starving children, and still represented hiimself as the Son of a good God, then that just thickens the mystery."

Yup. Shore does. And every fundy christianist loves a good thick mystery in which he/she can believe without any evidence whatsoever!

The problem, says Seu, is that we can't know the mind of God and the angels are laughing at us for trying to figure it out and "Hey, you don't have to understand God to trust Him," and all these things will be revealed to us at some point in the future and we must remember our "only real treasure is Christ."


So, to put it all together:


We can know Jesus is the Messiah because he didn't hesitate to tell us we were in for some rough times. And our faith just gets stronger when we realize that even though he could stop war and famine and help people, he refuses to do so.

We can find peace of mind by believing that God has the whole world in his hands and the ways of God are mysterious and even though God doesn't do what we would expect any loving father to do for his children, we just have to believe and hang on to Jesus for dear life because he is the real deal -- the REAL Messiah -- and in the end everything will be revealed to us and we'll see how silly we were to worry and fuss about any of this.

Ta Dah!


Seu's entire article is here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Meditations on the Christmas Myth

[Mithra slaying the sacred bull - from the British Museum, London]

You may think Christmas is over and enough's enough and let's move on. I agree, more or less, but Christmas isn't over on December 25, it begins then. In the Western tradition, Christmas begins on December 25 and runs until the Epiphany, on January 6.

So, what the heck. As long as we're only two days into the Christmas season, it is still appropriate to discuss the myth of the birth of Jesus.


And so far as that mythical birth goes, not even fundamentalist christianists believe their Jesus was born on December 25. That's because it is relatively simple to show that no one involved in the multiple forms of the Christian movement in the first few centuries had a clue as to Jesus' actual birth date.

Some Christian groups celebrated Jesus' birth on January 6, some on April 21, others on May 1 and many not at all. It wasn't until the 4th century that the "orthodox" Church, which, by that time had gained enough power to enforce its edicts over all the various Christ groups, proclaimed that Jesus' birth would be celebrated on December 25. It was a natural fit, for paganism had long celebrated the rebirth of the sun on that date, close to the winter solstice.

It was also a natural fit because of the many similarities between Christianity and paganism. Many godmen were born on December 25:

Horus - c. 3000 BCE, born of a virgin on December 25 in a cave/manger. His birth story includes a star, wise men, a father names "Seb" or "Joseph."

Osiris - c. 3000 BCE, born in a cave of a virgin before three shepherds.

Attis of Phrygia - c. 1400 BCE - Born December 25 of the Virgin Nana.

Krishna - 1400 BCE - Born of the Virgin Devaki on December 25.

Zoroaster/Zarathustra - c. 1000 BCE - Born of a 15-year old virgin.

Mithra of Persia - c. 600 BCE - Born of a virgin on December 25 in a cave, surrounded by shepherds bearing gifts.

Heracles - c. 800 BCE - Born on December 25 to a virgin.

Dionysus - c. 186 BCE - Born on December 25 to a virgin, and being a holy child, was placed in a manger.

Tammuz - c. 400 BCE - Born on December 25 to a virgin named Mylitta.

Adonis - c. 200 BCE - Born on December 25 to the Virgin Myrha.

Hermes - Born on December 25 to the virgin Maia.

Baccus - Born on December 25.

Prometheus - Born on December 25.


In their book, The Jesus Mysteries, Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy note that all of these godly myths involved not only a "virgin" birth but the godman so derived also died (often by crucifixion) and was resurrected after which he ascended to the heavens.

In essence, these are the same myth with different names. "In Egypt he was Osiris, in Greece Dionysus, in Asia Minor Attis, in Syria Adonis, in Italy Bacchus, in Persia Mithras. Fundamentally all these godmen are the same mythical being."

In fact, by the third century BCE, many people had come to use the term Osiris-Dionysus "to denote his universal and composite nature, and his particular names when referring to a specific Mystery tradition."

Mithraism, a particular Mystery tradition, had specific connections to the Christian cult because they were so similar and existed side by side for several centuries. Prior to the ascension of Constantine, Mithraism had become a major cult in the Roman Empire. Perhaps its most important temple stood on the site of what is now the Vatican in Rome. "Here Pagan priests observed sacred ceremonies, which early Christians found so disturbing that they tried to erase all evidence of them ever having been practiced."

Freke and Gandy write, correctly, that quite often our Christian mentors have suggested these sacred Mithraic ceremonies were terrible, obscene orgies.

Actually, that was not the case. What the 3rd and 4th century Christian bishops and teachers feared most was that the faithful would discover the Christian cult had been modeled on the Mithra cult. In fact, when that charge was made by pagans, the bishops and teachers insisted it was the reverse - the Mithra cult had been modeled on the Christian cult. That was a difficult position to hold, of course, in that, as most scholars believe, the Mithra cult derived from Zoroastrianism and had begun to flourish in the first century BCE, thus existing for many years before Christianity came on the scene.

Central to Mithraism was the myth of how the god, Mithra, slew the Bull of Heaven to somehow attain the salvation of the world. The rites of Mithra included a ritual slaying of a bull in which initiates were showered with blood and thus "born again." A iconic tauroctony such as pictured was given the place of honor on Mithraic altars.

Here's what was going on in that Pagan temple in Rome where devotees of Mithra came together to worship on December 25: (It should be noted that December 24, the eve of the birth of Mithra, was a time of great joy and celebration in Rome with lights and songs and festive celebrations.)

Those who worshiped Mithra came to the temple to adore their godman who had been born on December 25 in a cave attended by three shepherds. They celebrated his miraculous birth - of a virgin. They praised him for slaying the heavenly bull for the salvation of the world; for ascending to heaven and for promising to return again at the end of time to judge mankind. "On the same spot where the Pope celebrates the Catholic mass, Pagan priests also celebrated a symbolic meal of bread and wine n memory of their savior who, just like Jesus, had declared:

"'He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.'"


These things are not taught in Christian churches or Sunday Schools. With few exceptions, they are not taught in Christian colleges or seminaries. And when they are taught in seminaries, the similarities are played down, and the differences are magnified to make Christianity appear a clear winner in the battle of the gods.

One common misconception perpetuated by Christian professors and teachers is that the pagans were sexually profligate with neither morals nor ethics. This, also, is not true. Mithraism, for example, was a highly ethical religion and required its followers to live with humility and integrity. They were to live holy lives because when the world ended, Mithra would return to judge all humankind and the evil and the wicked would be banished to hell.


These are a few things upon which you may wish to meditate during this Christmas season. Or not. If you do though, all meditations cease on January 6.

Merry Christmas/Mithramass!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays from Weston, Florida




These images were taken on December 25, in the Town Center of Weston, Florida.

What I Want[ed] for Christmas (next year?)

The following is from Robert Ingersoll’s “What I Want For Christmas” (1897)

If I had the power to produce exactly what I want for next Christmas, I would have all the kings and emperors resign and allow the people to govern themselves.

I would have all the nobility crop their titles and give their lands back to the people.

I would have the Pope throw away his tiara, take off his sacred vestments, and admit that he is not acting for God, is not infallible, and is just an ordinary Italian.

I would have all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and clergymen admit that they know nothing about theology, nothing about hell or heaven, nothing about the destiny of the human race, nothing about devils or ghosts, gods or angels. I would have them tell all their “flocks” to think for themselves, to be manly men and womanly women, and to do all in their power to increase the sum of human happiness.

I would have all the professors in colleges, all the teachers in schools of every kind, including those in Sunday schools, agree that they would teach only what they know and not palm off guesses as demonstrated truths.

I would like to see all the politicians changed to statesmen:

  • Men who long to make their country great and free
  • Men who care more for public good than private gain
  • Men who long to be of use

I would like to see all the editors of papers and magazines agree to print the truth and nothing but the truth, to avoid all slander and misrepresentation, and to let the private affairs of the people alone.

I would like to see drunkenness and prohibition both abolished.

I would like to see corporal punishment done away with in every home, in every school, in every asylum, reformatory, and prison. Cruelty hardens and degrades, kindness reforms and ennobles.

I would like to see millionaires unite and form a trust for the public good.

I would like to see a fair division of profits between capital and labor, so that the toiler could save enough to mingle a little June with the December of his life.

I would like to see an international court established in which to settle disputes between nations, so that armies could be disbanded and the great navies allowed to rust and rot in perfect peace.

I would like to see the whole world free — free from injustice, and free from superstition.

This will do for next Christmas. The following Christmas, I may want more.


This post was brazenly "borrrowed" from Unreasonable Faith.

Happy Hanuka - with Andre Rieu & orchestra playing "Hava Nagila"




As the celebration of Hanuka winds down, here's a foot-tapping performance of "Hava Nagila" by Andre Rieu and the orchestra at London's Albert Hall.

And you thought symphony orchestras were all serious and stuff!


[With thanks to my good friend, Bob Poris)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

From our house to your house

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

"Sorry, Galileo," says the Pope, 400 years too late!


About 400 years ago, a scientist/astronomer by name of Galileo discovered by virtue of a telescope that the earth was not the center of the universe and the sun did not revolve around the earth. Then this upstart know-it-all scientist had the gall to publicize his findings.

You wonder what got into him. Church dogma clearly stated that the sun revolved around the earth and the earth was the center of everything because it was the center of God's creation. Galileo was no dummy. Naive maybe. But he must have known what the Church did to people who questioned its "truth."

Galileo was not burned at the stake. He got off easy. He was merely forced to recant his beliefs to avoid excommunication and an eternity in hell. Some say he recanted "tongue-in-cheek," knowing that the clergy were a bunch of ignorant dumbasses.


It took a few hundred years, but in 1992, Pope John Paul II apologized (to whom?) and said that the church's denunciation of Galileo was "a tragic error."

You betcha.

I wonder how many hundred of years it will be before some other Pope John or Paul or Pius or Leo or Benedict will apologize for other "tragic" errors? How long will it be before the Roman church says, "Oops, yeah, we were wrong about celibacy, women priests, homosexuality, gay marriage, contraception and condoms, abortion, and stem-cell research, among other things."

Too damn long!

When is a "virgin" birth not a virgin birth?

For many Christians, the "virgin" birth of Jesus is "gospel truth" and thus fundamental to their faith. If you knock out the virgin birth, you've cut down one of the pillars of Christianity.

This is not going to be a theological discourse on the subject, but I did want to make a couple of points.

There is no such thing as a "virgin" birth. And neither Matthew nor Luke (the only places where the story appears) write of a virgin birth. If you must think of Mary as a "virgin," the correct terminology would be that she experienced a "virginal" conception. While still a virgin, Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The earliest Christians could not have cared less about Jesus' so-called virgin birth. The virgin birth became important only after the passing of several hundred years when the "orthodox" Christians (as opposed to myriads of other Christian groups) began to see Mary, not as a teenage Jewish girl, but as the "Mother of God." The idea of Mother of God derives mostly from paganism; and Mary, the Mother of God would have to be a virgin. Not only so, she must remain a virgin. That's the reason the Roman Church to this day denies that the brothers of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels were actually his blood brothers. More like cousins?

The notion of "Mother of God" led further to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which maintains that Mary was conceived without the "stain" of original sin.


Who cares? What does any of this have to do with anything? What difference does it make in one's day to day life? The stories of Jesus' birth are clearly mythological and have no basis in reality or history. They were created by two of the four Gospel writers to give Jesus "heavenly" significance. Mark's gospel, the earliest of the canonical works, fails to mention Jesus' birth and John, the latest gospel, turns Jesus into a Greek caricature - the "logos" or wisdom or "word" of God who is in fact, God.

There is nothing wrong with Christians celebrating the birth of the one they claim as savior; one who, according to the angels, came to bring peace and goodwill to all. Unfortunately, all that peace and goodwill gets lost in a mishmash of Christianized paganism dripping with sloppy sentimentality which too often results in turning the hard truth of what it might cost to truly celebrate the birth of Jesus into a ritual easily discarded on December 26.

And that's why there was so much uproar when Playboy pictured a "Maria" on the cover of its Mexican edition. Although the magazine insists the woman was not intended to represent the mother of Jesus, many saw it that way and took offense.

To become angry at Playboy for its insensitivity to Catholic (mostly) sensitivities is, of course, another method of avoiding walking the walk. In fact, according to one story in the Gospels, it is unlikely that Jesus would have been offended in the least by the Playboy cover: "Woman, what have you to do with me?"

Or, to put it another way, the "virgin" part of Jesus' birth tradition has no relevance to anything and, in fact, may be detrimental to real spirituality.


You'll find an interesting and provocative post on the virgin birth here.

A taxing situation at Christmas in German Churches


Let's say you belong to an exclusive club. You pay well for the privilege.On Christmas Eve, your club is planning a very special event with Santa and gifts and lots of good wine. All club members are excited and intend to attend looking forward to a wonderful evening with friends and family.

All of a sudden, your club is inundated with strangers and hangers-on who take all the good seats, and have the audacity to act as though they have a right to be there. They are not members of the club and thus never pay dues.

You'd probably get pretty damn angry and might even get a little "grinchy" on Christmas Eve.


In Germany, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches are still mostly funded by tithes, which are collected by the German government's tax office. Germans can opt out of paying these tithes, but they must then leave the church.

This creates a problem at Christmas, for all kinds of non-tithing Germans show up for Christmas services at Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches. That makes many good tithing Germans a bit angry and frustrated.

Some German politicos have suggested that "midnight mass on Christmas Eve should be reserved for people who have paid their church tax."

Spiegel Online reports that "Thomas Volk, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats in the southern state of Baden-Wurttemberg, said that many regular churchgoers were angry that they can't get a seat because of the onslaught on churches at Christmas."

Volk thinks that on December 24 (today), churches should admit only those people who have paid their church tax. Regular members would be given tickets to guarantee them a seat at services.


One problem remains unresolved, though. If this were to become policy, how would it be enforced.

Why not post soldiers at the doors to check tax returns?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Morning, Dec. 23, '08


Central Florida - Dec. 23

Palin's palaver - her biggest mistake


Sarah "Pitbull" Palin was not happy with the way the McCain campaign "handled" her. In spite of that, however, she continues to claim she just "loves" ol' John.

What the McCain campaign did wrong, says Sarah, was to keep her from talking to the media.

Yup! Though most of us thought, from the point of view of the viability of the McCain campaign, that was the one thing they did right.


Sarah, doesn't quite see it that way. She told John Gizzi of the right-wing Human Events' magazine that "The biggest mistake [in the campaign] was that I could have called more shots on this: the opportunities that were not seized to speak to more Americans via media. I was not allowed to do very many interviews, and the interviews that I did were not necessarily those I would have chosen."

Yes, this is the same Sarah Palin that denigrated and castigated the "liberal," "elite" media every chance she could while on the campaign trail!

[A further tidbit: She was over-controlled during the campaign, she says. She was a governor, for god's sake! She was not used to being "handled." She is "used to proving [her] abilities by calling the shots." And she noted that she relied on God's direction in all that she does - "that's good enough for me," she said, theologically.]

Right! Blame God! Sheesh!


This is all very funny. Throughout the campaign, Sarah condemned the MSM. And everytime she was interviewed by the MSM, she made a complete fool of herself. She became a laughing-stock to everyone but the intellectually- and ethically-challenged. "I can see Alaska from my house"? "I read all the newspapers"?

From the Democratic point of view, it really is too bad that she was kept hidden from the press. All that would have been necessary for an ever bigger Obama landslide was to let Palin prattle on!

"I can see the White House from my house!"

You betcha!

Pope Benedict speaks out on the "order of creation"


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican enforcer prior to his elevation to chief poohbah, is now known as Pope Benedict XVI. As Cardinal Ratzinger and now as Pope Benedict, this cleric has held to the Roman Church's line on homosexuality:

Homosexuality, in and of itself, is not a "sin." Homosexual actions are a "sin."

But, as another Vatican official said recently, homosexuality is "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound."

Benedict believes it is a contradiction of the order of creation!


Thus, yesterday, Benedict compared homosexuality to the destruction of the rainforest. It's just as important to save people from homosexual or transexual behavior as it is to save the rainforest from destruction.

Humans need to "listen to the language of creation" in order to truly understand the place of man and woman. Any sexual behavior other than heterosexual relations are "a destruction of God's work."

How would he know that? Well, he is God's vicar on earth and gets his information straight from the deity. And it is important that everyone understand the Roman Catholic Church has the right to "speak of human nature as man and woman, and ask that this order of creation be respected."


There is so much wrong with Benedict's statement it is hard to know where to start. Let it suffice to say that in God's "order of creation," homosexuality is prevalent among numerous species. It is not an aberration. And while the Roman church, aka Benedict, can speak about whatever it wants, it most certainly does NOT have the right to "ask that this order of creation be respected."

Maybe Benedict got his signals crossed and was talking to James Dobson when he thought he was connected to the Almighty.

U.S. Military plans to circumvent SOFA


[Sunday AM service at US base in Eastern Iraq. Too
many atheists in foxholes. Photo by Iason Athanasiadis]


Gareth Porter, no fan of G. W. Bush or his adventure in Iraq, writing in Asian Times online, claims that "United States military leaders and Pentagon officials ... plan to violate a central provision of the US-Iraqi withdrawal agreement requiring the complete pullout of all US combat troops from Iraqi cities by mid-2009..."

These "military leaders and Pentagon officials" will circumvent the agreement by "reclassifying combat troops as support troops."


Porter asserts that this "chicanery ... represents both open defiance of an agreement which the US military has never accepted and a way of blocking president-elect Barack Obama's proposed plan for withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office.

While he does not go so far as to accuse Bush of being involved in this deviousness, it is interesting to note that the Bush administration did a quick 180, moving from no timeline for withdrawal to a specific time-frame drawn up with Iraqi officials. Perhaps I'm being paranoid, but there is no way to trust Bush to be honest about anything; thus, we have to wonder why the roundabout. Is Bush, working with his generals, trying to put Obama in an impossible situation, where he will be forced to back off from his pledge?

Porter doesn't mention Bush, but he says "By redesignating tens of thousands of combat troops as support troops, those officials [military leaders and Pentagon poohbahs] apparently hope to make if difficult, if not impossible, for Obama to insist on getting all combat troops [out] of the country by mid-2010."

General David Petreaeus and General Ray Odierno, both opponents of Obama's plan "have drawn up their own alternative plan rejecting that timeline, as the New York Times reported on Thursday [Dec. 18]."


It is no secret that the Bush administration has long planned for a long-term military presence in Iraq. [To protect the oil wells?] The military is deeply ensconced in that country with multiple "permanent" bases, which are, in fact, US-style cities.

It is also no secret that the military exists to do military things. An Iraqi pullout might well change the configuration of the military in myriad ways, and affect the careers of numerous officers and enlisted men and women. What will they do if they can't "police" Iraq?

Hell, some of them might have to go fight in Afghanistan which has become more dangerous than Iraq.


Whatever, as Porter says, "The signals from Odierno of US military defiance of the withdrawal agreement suggest that the Pentagon and military leadership still do not take seriously the views of the Iraqi public as having any role in determining the matter of foreign troops in their country.

That, of course, has been true from day one, when George W. Bush, the absent without leave National Air Guard officer, sent troops into harm's way on a fool's mission in 2003.


Read Porter's entire article here.

Another take on U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq is here.

He who is without sin, cast the first stone


[Image from Davidkeen.blogspot.com]


There's a story in the Gospel of John which tells the tale of a woman caught in adultery. The religious poohbahs bring the woman to Jesus to ask what should be done with her in order to trap Jesus into some kind of unorthodox recommendation.

According to the Law of Moses, the woman should be stoned to death.

Jesus is silent, then kneels and writes something in the earth.

He says, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."


The story is fictitious, and is less about the woman than it is about Jew hatred on the part of the author of John (unknown), who is, in this story, trying to show how the Jews were all about the evil "law" and Jesus was about "mercy and love."

Nevertheless, it's a great story to bring up when hypocrites raise their ugly, pointy, little heads.

Like in Mandarin, Florida, at Grace Community Church. Rebecca Hancock no longer attends Grace, largely because of the lack of grace she found there. She's divorced, and appears to have been living out-of-wedlock with a new boyfriend.

Ms. Hancock claims that when her christianist "friends" at Grace Community Church learned of her wicked ways they harassed her to the extent that she decided to worship elsewhere.

That should have been the end of the story. But, nooooo....

Hancock received a letter from Grace Church stating that because she had lived in sin and had refused to give up her boyfriend, "you leave us with no other choice but to carry out the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ ... In accordance with Matthew 18:17 we intend to 'tell it to the church.'"

Hancock said the loving christianists at Grace Church, on Jan. 4, plan to tell her sins "to the church, publicly, with my children sitting in the church and my friends."

The pastor of Grace Community Church, Dr. T. Scott Christmas [that's a bit of irony], told Channel 4 News in Jacksonville, he had no comment.


What's really sad is that Rebecca is now attending another church. She failed to learn a very important lesson.

Anti-Environmental Rightists


[Mountain top removal coal mine in the Alleghenies - Alleghenyfront.org]


It's always amazing to me that so often rightwing christianist fundies side with the corporate behemoths rather than with the people.

Pete Chagnon and Jody Brown, in an article titled, "Obama's energy team has its own 'inconvenient truths,' at the christianist onenewsnow, whine that Obama may actually try to protect the environment.

They quote various neanderthals at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a right-wing think tank, who suggest that Obama's choices for energy secretary (Steven Chu), and EPA administrator (Lisa Jackson) and "energy and climate czar" (Carol Browner) are "people who don't really care about the economic effects of their policies." Or so says one Iain Murray, a global warming critic!

Murray went on Faux News to complain that these choices "undercut his [Obama's] promise to bring a new voice to the debate on environmental issues."

You have to wonder what world Murray lives in. For eight long god-forsaken years, we have had an administration that has "undercut" every attempt to institute rational environmental policies!

The one thing Obama is doing is bringing "a new voice to the debate on environmental issues"!

Another CEI "expert," Myron Ebell, cries that Obama's environmental choices "are all committed ... to what president-elect Obama says is his agenda, which is to spend an awful lot of taxpayer money on creating so-called 'green jobs.'"

Green jobs, of course, are wonderful!

And Steven Chu's appointment is worrisome because Chu "is a big advocate for replacing coal."

Coal is the biggest pollutant around and an alternative must be found!


To summarize: These dingbats on the right want to continue the Bush policy of raping the environment to enrich the people who would destroy it! They deny global warming, fight environmental protections, and want to "drill, baby, drill!" and "dig, baby, dig" even though those are the very things which will bring us down in the long run.

It is wonderful to have them carping in the background for a change, rather than directing policies of environmental destruction from a back room of the White House.

That's a bit of good cheer in this holiday season!

The World of Wal-Mart


Fun facts and figures about Wal-Mart. The folks at the Cat in the Bag blog suggest Wal-Mart should be asked to bail out the auto industry. Here's why:

1. At Wal-Mart, Americans spend $36,000,000 every hour of every day.

2. That breaks down to $20,928 profit every minuted!

3. Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.

4. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.

5. Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people and is the largest private employer. And most employees cannot speak English.

6. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the world.

7. Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger & Safeway combined. Remember, they have been selling food for only 15 years.

8. During this same 15 years, 31 supermarket chains have sought bankruptcy, including Winn-Dixie.

9. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.

10. Wal-Mart has approximately 3,900 stores in the United States, 1,906 of which are Supercenters. This represents 1,000 more than Wal-Mart had five years ago.

11. This year, 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will occur at a Wal-Mart store. (Consider that there are only 6.5 billion people in the entire world.)

12. 90% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart.


[Kudos to "Zoey and Me" at Cat in the Bag.]

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Skirmishes in the War on Christmas


Skirmish 1:

Tony Woodlief at worldmag.com thinks the American public is stupid and castigates our citizens who have turned Christmas into "bacchanalia." He refers to SantaCon as an example; "a drunken party where attendees wear cheap red outfits reminiscent of Santa Claus. ... The purpose of SantaCon, depending on whom you ask, turns on making Christmas less ... something: less commerical, less traditional, less stuffy, less virginal, less sober."

Woodlief notes that Christmas derives from "a pagan winter celebration," which isn't so bad in and of itself, but "Christians appropriated the pagan winter celebrations the way a company might buy out a competitor, keeping the location to which everyone was accustomed but gradually getting folks to think of it as having different significance."

Ah, yes, the Christians screwed up. "We succeeded in supplanting the pagan holiday, but we didn't rid ourselves of the pagans. Instead, a good many of us joined in, gradually helping to associate Christmas with over-consumption, drunken revelry, and self-centered celebration."

What to do? Give it up! "...let's publically call this big event the 'Happy Holidays,' of 'Winter Festival,' or even 'Saturnalia,' and stop--for the love of God--calling it Christmas."

"Let's give it [Christmas] back to the pagans," says Woodlief.


Skirmish 2:

Gary McCullough, director of Christian Newswire, is pretty damn snotty. Christians stole the pagan holiday. Ha, ha! Christians also stole Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving. So, there, you atheists!

Mouthy McCullough says to "our atheist neighbors ... Yes -- we stole your pagan holidays. We have trashed most of your culture; and for good reason. Pagan culture celebrated rape, slavery, and murder."

Hmmm. Methinks there are good historical reasons to blame Christians for those things!

McCullough concludes that atheists should "go get your own holiday." Then, with a massive dose of chutzpah, says atheists already have their own holiday, April 1st.

That's not a very nice thing for a christianist to say during the Christmas season which is supposed to celebrate peace and goodwill to all! WWJD?


Skirmish 3:

Inhabiting the Utah State Legislature is a Sen. Chris Buttars. A Repugnican, naturally. Buttars, for some reason, has become a leader in the fight against the "war on Christmas." That means, naturally, that he is sponsoring a resolution suggesting that retailers use the word, "Christmas" in their advertising, rather than "Happy Holidays."

Buttars, an ignoramus, says "I'm sick of the Christmas wars -- we're a Christian nation and ought to use the word."

Well, Sen. Buttars, you're a butt-head. We're not a Christian nation. Go back to school!


Skirmish 4:

Patrick Mahoney is the director of the far-right, extremist christianist wingnut Christian Defense Coalition. He received permission to set up a nativity display in Times Square on December 6.

That's over, but it's part of an effort, dubbed "The Nativity Project," which "encourages individuals and groups to display Nativity scenes in public places across America."

This is, he says, to remind Americans and "Public religious freedom and speech must be protected and promoted."

Except for those he doesn't agree with; like atheists.

The birth of Christ, says Mahoney, "promises 'peace and goodwill' to all who seek Him."

And everyone else can go to hell, right Mahoney?

What a dirtbag!


Skirmish 5:

This is sorta peripheral to the war on Christmas, but it's related and it's funny. Joel Miller got upset one day when he found himself listening to cell phones ringing and suddenly realized that there were no Christian ringtones!

Yup!

He said, "It seems that all around us now a days (sic), there are cell phones ringing ungodly, intrusive, or Satanic ring tones that misdirect people who are in need of hope and faith. Just look around and one can come to the realization that, Satan is taking over the world using cell phones."

Omigod!

What to do?

Well, "A cell phone in the hands of a good Christian is a powerful weapon against Satan." So Joel found a couple of nice ringtone sites where one can download "Christian" ringtones and fight Satan!

Get those ringtones, Christians, says Joel. "...anyone using their cell phone as a ministry to spread the word of our Lord Jesus Christ, can expect to be blessed."

Actually, if I'm in earshot of some dork getting blessed with a religious ringtone, I might just shove that cellphone where the sun don't shine!

Ringtones in public are a pain in the ass anytime, anywhere.

The Holy Land Experience at Yuletide


The Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida is part and parcel of the Disneyesque landscape that pervades Central Florida. It's a christianist fantasy, a religious version of Disney World.

Every year visitors can share in a re-creation of Jerusalem at the time of Christ; Bethlehem, too!

"Witness the nativity through the eyes of the innkeeper in Holy Land's special holiday production, Come to the Manger - A Bethlehem Christmas. See the lights, bask in the songs, and re-live the incredible evening that Jesus Christ came to earth, not as a king, but as newborn child lying in a manger."

Stop laughing.

There's more:

"The true tale of St. Nicholas, told in a Kidventure ... (complete with a round sporting boxing gloves!).


"Ye Olde Christmas Carols celebrates the birth of Jesus with HLE's a capella carolers, dressed in the style of the day to charm and delight...

"The Tiny Little Town of Bethlehem is an amazing miniature display of Bethlehem on the magical night Jesus was born.

"HLE's Christmas Southern Gospel Quartet, The Fishers of Men, perform a very special Christmas concert ...

"The story of Hanukkah unfolds in Light the Lights" - what?


It truly is "magical," a fantastical version of the mythical birth of the legendary Jesus, put together by fundy christianists.

I have no idea how Hanukkah snuck in there.

Save your money.

Christmas - It's almost over

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The history of Hanukkah

[Hanukkah in Jerusalem by Lisa Katz]

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown. If you are unfamiliar with Hanukkah or need a brief refresher course, here are some links.

A brief history of Hanukkah here.

Historical summary and Hanukkah traditions here.

And more Hanukkah here.

Here is an informative and humorous piece on why Hanukkah is spelled so many different ways.

Barenaked Ladies - Hanukkah Blessings

Hanukkah song Texas style

Happy Hanukkah


Light up the world!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Anglican true believers and Fahrenheit 451

Whenever you see an Episcopal church or what used to be an Episcopal Church in the United States calling itself "Anglican," you can bet it's a fundamentalist version of the historic Anglican tradition, and has broken with that tradition over issues such as biblical inerrancy and/or abortion and/or homosexuality.

Christ Church Anglican in Jacksonville, Florida is one of those and is now affiliated with a homophobic Anglican outfit in Rwanda.

A fledgling congregation, they have purchased land in Jacksonville upon which formerly rested a drive-in theater. Plans are underway to build a new church building on that land.

But, there was a slight problem, according to Fr. Mark Eldridge.

When they went into the old building on the site, they stumbled upon "Just stacks and stacks of old pornographic movies."

Yup. Right there. On that old drive-in's site. What pornographic movies would be doing at a drive-in theater is anybody's guess.

How did the Rev know they were "pornographic"? you ask. He put it this way: "...we didn't actually have to look at the films to know -- the titles on the outside of the cases gave it away."

Hmmm. Titles like "Solomon and his Concubines"? Or "David and Jonathan"? Or "Sampson and Delicious Delilah"? Or "Lot and His Daughters in the Cave"? or "Mary Magdalene in the Garden"?


Anyway, Eldridge and his parishioners knew they had to rid themselves of this trash. And what better way than to burn them? So a bunch of church members gathered to set them ablaze with the local fire department standing by just in case the whole damn neighborhood went up in flames.

Eldridge, being a good Christian, said, "I prayed and asked God to bless the water and the truck to make it holy water, and then jokingly called it the 'holy hose down.' And they just sprayed the land down again symbolically cleansing it and claiming it for God's glory."

Of course. What a sense of humor!


As silly and inane as all this might seem, it still bothers me. Burning? Bonfire? Doth such doings not reek of fear and paranoia?

The burning of books ( & movies) has a long history of nastiness. Often it was done by those in authority out of fear their minions might be subjected to information deemed harmful by the poohbahs.

Worse than that, though, is that burning of books quite frequently led to the burning of the people who wrote the books and then to those who dared read the books.

The Christian church burned books, their writers, their readers, witches, heretics, so-called criminals, and others who they viewed as a threat for hundreds of years. The Nazis burned lots of books.

All of which reminds me of the classic movie, Fahrenheit 451, based on Ray Bradbury's novel. It tells of a totalitarian society in which books are forbidden. The fire department exists, not to put out fires, but to burn "threats" to society, like books. Thus the title: Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which a book will burn.

Maybe the good folks at Christ Church Anglican ought to watch the movie.

Here's a clip.

Ancient Mythic Origins of Christmas

[Image from catholicexchange.com]

For an excellent summary as to the origin of the Christmas mythology, click here.

Valerie Tarico interviews Dr. Tony Nugent, scholar of world religions. Dr. Nugent is a symbologist, an expert in ancient symbols. He taught at Seattle University for fifteen years in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Thanks to Debunking Christianity.