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Godslaying (Part 1)
In the month of March (before it was called by that name), the Greeks celebrated Anthesteria. During Anthesteria, the dead were believed to cross over into our world and traffic with the living. The eponymous Roman god Mars, who was not the god of war but an agricultural deity with blood-spilling tendencies, was frequently accompanied by his female counterpart Bellona, who is described by Virgil as bearing a blood-stained whip. What does she do with that whip? She drives soldiers into a battle-frenzy. By whipping them.

This is Springtime in antiquity.

The story runs so: The bloodletting of war is … Continue Reading

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Here is something that I have wanted to do for a long, long time, which is to blogify the pile of philosophy notes I still have left over from university. I was a marvelous student, but aimless. I blundered into graduating with two majors that I didn’t know what to do with, and made the bewildering choice to decline a minor in philosophy even though I had the credits to do it. Anyway, I am reasonably sure that with very few exceptions I took all the philosophy courses that were available at my little country alma mater.

The other perplexing thing about … Continue Reading

Lying for Jesus, Explained

People without religious faith are often flabbergasted by the things believers say in defense of their beliefs, not least because what can come out of their mouths is unequivocally false.  Atheists will joke about “lying for Jesus” — the idea that Christians, or people of any faith, would deliberately lie in order to prevent believers from doubting, or to bring doubters back into the fold, or even better to convince the unbeliever to believe. Could they not know they are lying? Well, it’s possible, but as far as I can detect they’ll continue to employ the lie even after the … Continue Reading

Clay and Air

Creationists point to the eye as evidence of design. This is a sorry strategy, because the human eye is not very well put together. But it isn’t the poorness of the design that gets me, though, it’s the inability to explain the poorness that I find most intriguing. This, I find, is absurdly common in religious belief. When confronted with the question of why the eye sees things upside down, for instance, the creationist must shrug his shoulders and proclaim that this is a mystery we are not meant to understand. What this really means, or ought to mean to … Continue Reading

Static Violins

People claim to talk to God all the time. Some high-profile people claim to not only hold discourse with The Almighty, but to receive hand-crafted mandates from him as well. Often these mandates involve running for public office. Or perhaps the message is broadly moral, always cessationist, some awful (but not really awful) behavior stirring the wrath of a supreme being, generally expressed in a turn of the weather. This cold snap was sent because of gay marriage, for example. Everybody must halt their support of it at once, or things will only get chillier.

At first it seems the silliest … Continue Reading

The Crone’s Illusion

Below is a repost, salvaged from the olden days, of my thoughts on the film Agora, which I most heartily acclaim.

My reaction to Agora was highly charged, and I wanted to let myself cool down long enough to write something sane, something that wasn’t a searing screed against book-burning fundamentalists. I finally got there, and lucky too, because what I ended up discovering in this film was enlightening for me.

I have a mighty respect for Roger Ebert, who has a keen critical mind, but when he calls Agora … Continue Reading

Hammurabi’s Muse

Below is a (very slightly edited) repost of something I wrote on the basis of morality, salvaged from the olden days.

It is reasonable to expect social animals to have social rules. It just makes sense – without a social contract, you don’t have a society. Human beings are social animals, and so of course we have a social contract. What religious people claim is that the social contract is the product of and dependent upon a divine contract – i.e., the relationship between humans and one or more supernatural agents. Knock out the divine contract and whoops! you’ve got no … Continue Reading

Red Riding Hood

After posting the bit on Genesis, I was challenged, jokingly I’m sure, to explain Little Red Riding Hood in the same way. Challenge accepted.

The redness of the girl’s cloak is a later embellishment. We don’t need it to understand the symbols, but it helps. This is another transformation story, only the subject matter is pretty well restricted to a young girl’s awakening to grown-up sexual experience. The wolf is an agent of transformation. One of Loki’s children is Fenrir, the Great Wolf who will kill Odin at the Ragnarok. The point of killing a god is to pass on his … Continue Reading

Genesis, Briefly

Reposting a post that I wrote on Reddit.

Standard interpretations of the first bits of Genesis are very badly done. It isn’t, and never was, a story about something that happened. What it really is, is a story about the beginning of agriculture (and also the economic triumph of agriculture over shepherding), and the abandonment of the worship of trees.

This is a very big topic, but I’ll try to do the brief version. The Tree of Life is Asherah, i.e., the Sacred Tree at the heart of the Sacred Grove, which is always deep in (or “in the middle of”) the … Continue Reading