"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)
Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."
"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"
I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe. Like Arthur Dent from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", if you do not have a Babel Fish in your ear this blog will be completely unintelligible to you and will read something like this: "boggle, google, snoggle, slurp, slurp, dingleberry to the power of 10". Fortunately, those who have had the Babel Fish inserted in their ear, will understood this blog perfectly. If you are familiar with this technology, you will know that the Babel Fish lives on brainwave radiation. It excretes energy in the form of exactly the correct brainwaves needed by its host to understand what was just said; or in this case, what was read. The Babel Fish, thanks to scientific research, reverses the problem defined by its namesake in the Tower of Babel, where a deity was supposedly inspired to confuse the human race by making them unable to understand each other.
Beepbeepitsme has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts.
"Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?" Alexander Pope
"The primary function of myth is to validate an existing social order. Myth enshrines conservative social values, raising tradition on a pedestal." Ann Oakley
"Some treat their longing for God as proof of His existence." Mason Cooley
"The god of the Christians, as we have seen, is the god who makes promises only to break them; who sends them pestilence and disease in order to heal them; a god who demoralizes mankind in order to improve it. A god who created man 'after his own image', and still the origin of evil in man is not accredited to him." Johann Most
"In love, we worry more about the meaning of silences than the meaning of words." Mason Cooley
"My philosophy is such that I am not going to vote against the oppressed. I have been oppressed, and so I am always going to have a vote for the oppressed, regardless of whether that oppressed is black or white or yellow or the people of the Middle East, or what. I have that feeling." Septima Clark
"Secular humanists suspect there is something more gloriously human about resisting the religious impulse; about accepting the cold truth, even if that truth is only that the universe is as indifferent to us as we are to it." Tom Flynn
"If the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet who employs those faculties and that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussionI unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape." Thomas Henry Huxley
Project Gutenberg is the oldest producer of free ebooks on the Internet. The collection was produced by hundreds of volunteers.
"Give the right man a solar myth, and he'll confute the sun therewith." James Russell Lowell
"Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone. Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon. Show me slowly what I only know the limits of. Dance me to the end of love." Leonard Cohen
"If God is male, then male is God. The divine patriarch castrates women as long as he is allowed to live on in the human imagination." Mary Daly
"If the people were a little more ignorant, astrology would flourish - if a little more enlightened, religion would perish." Robert Green Ingersoll
"In other words (so to speak): not two and also not not two." Magellan's Log V
"History is, strictly speaking, the study of questions; the study of answers belongs to anthropology and sociology." W.H. Auden
"Archaeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been." Jim Bishop
"To excavate is to open a book written in the language that the centuries have spoken into the earth." Spyridon Marinatos
"Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed." Thomas Henry Huxley
"The place has changed but little since Diana received the homage of her worshippers in the sacred grove. The temple of the sylvan goddess, indeed, has vanished and the King of the Wood no longer stands sentinel over the Golden Bough." Sir James George Frazer
"Babylonian king (1792BCEâ€“1750BCE) who made Babylon the chief Mesopotamian kingdom and codified the laws of Mesopotamia and Sumeria." The American Heritage
"We are ourselves history and share the responsibility for world history and our position in it. But we gravely lack awareness of this responsibility." Hermann Hesse
"Astrology: do we make a hullabaloo among the stars, or do they make a hullabaloo down here?" Mason Cooley
"Readers are plentiful: thinkers are rare." Harriet Martineau
"The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun." Thomas Paine
"Zoroaster was thus the first to teach the doctrines of an individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment, and life everlasting for the reunited soul and body. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence.â€ - Mary Boyce
"My esoteric doctrine, is that if you entertain any doubt, it is safest to take the unpopular side in the first instance. Transit from the unpopular, is easy ... but from the popular to the unpopular is so steep and rugged that it is impossible to maintain it." William Lamb Melbourne
"With reason one can travel the world over; without it it is hard to move an inch." Chinese proverb.
"Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. Bribery and corruption are common. Children no longer obey their parents. . . . The end of the world is evidently approaching." Sound familiar? It is, in fact, the lament of a scribe in one of the earliest inscriptions to be unearthed in Mesopotamia, where Western civilization was born. C. John Sommerville
"The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago ... had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands." Havelock Ellis
"It (myth) expresses and confirms, rather than explains or questions, the sources of cultural attitudes and values... Because myth anchors the present in the past it is a sociological charter for a future society which is an exact replica of the present one." Ann Oakley
"Starry, starry night. Flaming flowers that brightly blaze, swirling clouds in violet haze, reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue." Don McLean
"NOT from the stars do I my judgment pluck, and yet methinks I have astronomy, But not to tell of good or evil luck, Of plagues, of dearths, or seasonsâ€™ quality..." William Shakespeare
"Moreover, the universe as a whole is infinite, for whatever is limited has an outermost edge to limit it, and such an edge is defined by something beyond. Since the universe has no edge, it has no limit; and since it lacks a limit, it is infinite and unbounded. Moreover, the universe is infinite both in the number of its atoms and in the extent of its void." Epicurus
"Most people today still believe, perhaps unconsciously, in the heliocentric universe every newspaper in the land has a section on astrology, yet few have anything at all on astronomy." Hannes Alfven
You're the Cheshire Cat. Your mysterious aura and your penchant for riddles keep your friends guessing. You dislike staying too long in any one place. Your advice is always sound, if somewhat enigmatic. The sum total of this is that people are always following you and you just WANT TO GET AWAY!
"And sittith on the righthand of god the father almighty, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." - Nicene Creed
Why was the righthand the "right" side and the lefthand the "wrong" side? The reason may go back to some of our earliest observations of the sky.
In the Northern Hemisphere,the early thinkers and teachers noted that their own shadows moved from left to right, as does the shadow of a stick or a sundial move from left to right during the course of the sun across the heavens.
In that same northern hemisphere, however, if you want to check the path of the sun across the heavens, you have to face south, and the sun moves from your left to your right. Therefore, our preference for the right over the left may be based in ancient mythology, ancient astrology, ancient sun worship, where the sun was moving AWAY from the left towards the right.
Ancient sun worshippers in the northern hemisphere, (modern religions were probably influenced by these thoughts too), would have seen their god, the sun, moving steadily away from the left and towards the right. The same pattern can be seen when travelling southwards from the northern hemisphere in a ship.
When the ship is travelling from the northern hemisphere southwards towards the equator, the sun appears to rise to the left (east), reaches its highest point almost straight overhead, and sets to the right (west). When the ship is far to the south of the equator, then the sun continues to appear to rise to the left (east), reaches its highest point due behind (north), and sets to the right (west).
That this was the path that the ancients believed their god took, as it moved across the sky, was probably enough reason for them to be suspicious of the left.
Exodus 15:6 "Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy."
Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Road Trippin" (Just a Mirror For The Sun)
Let's talk about circumcision. Why not? I discuss nearly everything else, so why not yet it all hang out, so to speak...
This article will be in reference to a couple of other articles dealing with what ancient people knew about procreation and the natural world and how their cultural and religious philosophies were influenced by this knowledge and lack knowledge.. So for any of you who want a background to this article, read here and here first.
The other point I would like to make is that I am reading and analysing the bible not from a position of faith. I am looking at it in the same way I would read any other book. I am allowing myself to not only doubt the claims that are made in it, but to ask where did these claims originate and why did people thousands of years ago interpret their world the way they did. In other words, I am examining the information they had which formed their worldview.
Now, to start with, I will accept for the sake of argument, that the hebrews were historically a group of people who left Egypt. So an exodus in this sense did occur. (Exodus 2:23 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.) What was this covenant that the hebrews made with their god?
The covenant, or Abraham's Brit, occurred in 1714 BCE on the 13th of Nissan of the year 2048 from creation (1713 BCE). God supposedly appeared to Abram, changed his name to Abraham and commanded him to circumcise himself and all members of his household and all future descendents so that "My covenant shall be in your flesh, as an eternal covenant". Abraham was supposedly 99 years old at the time, and his son Ishmael, 13. Isaac, who was born a year later, was supposedly the first Jew to be circumcised at eight days.
To find out specifically what this covenant was, we need to look at Genesis 17: 2,9 and 10.
Genesis 17: 2 “And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”
Genesis 17:6 "And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. "
Genesis 17:9 “And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.”
Genesis 17:10 “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.”
Genesis 17:11 "And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you."
So the covenant with god was that god would multiply the hebrews exceedingly, that they would be fruitful if they performed the ritual of circumcision. This ritual was to be performed on every man who was a jew and in return god's promise was that he would make the hebrew people abundant and powerful.
Now where did this idea of circumcision originate? Many jews, christians and muslims will claim that it originated with the jewish traditions as that is where most people are familar with it as a religious and a cultural practice, but the oldest recorded evidence of circumcision is in Egypt. Tomb artwork from the Sixth Dynasty (2345 - 2181 BC) shows men with circumcised penises, and one relief from this period shows the rite being performed on a standing adult male. Evidence of circumcision abounds in ancient egyptian temple reliefs and egyptologists have found both circumcised and uncircumcised penises on the unwrapped mummies of pharaohs.
The egyptians seem to have been circumcising males for at least a few hundred years before the hebrews had circumcision as their covenant with god. So, why did the egyptians have male circumcision as part of their culture? What purpose did it have and what did it symbolise?
For a start, some historians have suggested that the priests of Egypt were circumcised as a sacrifice. As a way of forsaking "sinful pleasures". This sounds more like modern christian morality trying to retrofit itself into an ancient culture, because the concept of sex as sin, is not known to have been a part of the Egyptian religion. What is known is that the circumcised penis was a symbol of fertility, as can be seen in temple reliefs throughout Egypt. So, the origin of circumcision in Egypt, is more likely to be that the circumcised penis was seen as a fertility symbol.
"According to Egyptologist, E. A. Budge ('The Gods of the Egyptians'. Dover Publications), there was a very early God of Circumcision whose job was to maintain the fertility of the Nile banks. Another early Egyptian myth contended that God circumcised himself and the blood from his penis fell and created the universe. This myth is thought by some to be the progenitor of the blood cults, in which animals were sacrificed and the blood covenants in the modern Semitic religions. Another theory, quite unorthodox, holds that the Great Pyramid (Cheops) was not a tomb at all (it contained no artifacts, no mummies, etc.) but was a temple of initiation. The young initiates to the priesthood were, supposedly, led single file through the narrow passages receiving one initiatory degree after another and, reaching what is now called the "Queen's Chamber", they were circumcised and then proceeded up the Grand Gallery towards the "King's Chamber" and their final degree. The circumcised priests were the guardians of immortality; symbols of fertility and life everlasting." (From Ancient Egyptian Circumcision & Modern Day Practices in Males)
Whichever theory is correct, circumcision was seen as a symbol of fertility and power. I don't consider it to be a coincidence that the hebrews would ALSO see circumcision as a symbol of fertility and a symbol of power, as the most powerful nation in the world at that time, Egypt, practised this ritual. Now, to understand why the egyptians and the hebrews would see circumcision as a symbol of ferility and power we have to back up a bit further historically.
So HOW was circumcision associated with fertility? Now, if you lived in Egypt you were dependent upon the flooding of the Nile and the prosperity of crops and food resources that resulted from this annual event. The flooding of the Nile rendered the narrow strip of land on either side of the river extremely fertile. Intensive agriculture was practised on these strips of land by the majority of the peasant population. So, after the flood waters of the Nile receded, sowing and ploughing would have taken place using primitive wooden ploughs. Therefore, the fertility of the soil, which was built up through flood and alluvial deposits was crucial to the existence of Egypt.
Two of the major gods of fertility were Hapi/Hapy and Min. Interestingly, some of the major fertility gods were male. Hapi is often depicted as a male with female breasts and was the god who personified the flooding of the Nile. He was honoured as it was through his actions that the land was made fertile and ready for the sowing of seed. Soil, earth, and fields have in many ancient cultures traditionally represented the female. Hapi, as the flood god, represented the male force which makes the female soil fertile for the sowing of seed.
One of the other major fertility gods in Egypt was Min. Min was once again a male god who symbolized fertility and sexuality. He was also the patron of travelers through the eastern Sahara. He was depicted as a man with a large erect penis. He is most often depicted holding his penis erect in his left hand (a masturbatory reference to fertility), and wearing the attire of a pharaoh, a feathered crown and carrying a flail. (The way he holds his flail might be symbolic of sexual intercourse as the flail forms the V while his upraised forearm seems to thrust inside the V.)
Min wasn't just a fertility god, he was also a god of male fertility who could give the pharaoh (and other men) the power to father children. As a god of male sexual potency, he was honoured during the coronation rites of the New Kingdom, when the pharaoh was expected to sow his seed. This was generally thought to have been plant seeds, although there has been the suggestion that the pharaoh was expected to demonstrate that he could ejaculate and thus ensure the annual flooding of the Nile.
Therefore, the phallic god Min, (sometimes referred to as Menu), represented the sexual potency of the pharaoh, the Great House, an aspect of the Good God considered necessary to the fertility of the Nile valley. During the annual festival of Min, men engaged in public acts of masturbation in his honour. (From Masturbation Throughout History)
One of the symbols of Min was a bed of lettuce that the egyptians believed to be an aphrodisiac, as egyptian lettuce was tall, straight, and released a milk-like substance when rubbed. A characteristic similar to the penis. Min was always depicted with an erect and uncovered phallus, and thus, in later history, christians routinely defaced his monuments in temples, and Victorian egyptologists would take only waist-up photographs of Min, or otherwise find ways to cover his protruding manhood.
However, to the ancient egyptians, Min was not a matter of scandal, but part of their religious and cultural belief system. And he was obviously a very important part, that of male fertility. He was worshipped to not only ensure the fertility of the pharoah and other men, but also to ensure the flooding of the Nile. No flooding of the Nile meant no fertile fields. No fertile fields meant no crops. No crops meant no herd animals which meant starvation and eventual death. Farming was the life's blood of Egypt and the fertility of the land was paramount to its survival.
So what has circumcision as a fertility ritual have to do with this? Why would the egyptians and consequently the hebrews, see circumcision as a means to prosperity, abundance and power? What information did they have that would have led them to such a conclusion? But more importantly, I think, what information did they NOT have?
The ancient Egyptians saw fertility and the creation of new life as primarily a male responsibility. Afterall, they had evidence of the role that the male played in reproduction. They had evidence of ejaculation, which is often refered to as seed in ancient texts. The male penis was a symbol of fertility, for as the seed was sown in the soil and field to produce fruits, so was the seed of man sown in woman to produce "human fruit." The male seed held the "spark of life."
If you believe that it is the male who contains the seed necessary to create life, it stands to reason that your culture and religion mirrors this belief. So seed, (semen) and seed for crops, may have all been considered as originating from the male of the species. Seed, which was produced EXCLUSIVELY, by men. The earth, soil, fields and womankind, may have only been considered the depository for seed and where the seed would take fruit.
How do I know that the ancient Egyptians considered that the responsibility for fertility as the producers of seed was primarily a male responsibility? I know this because the ovum (female egg) was only discovered by Prussian-Estonian embryologist Dr. Karl Ernst von Baer in 1827. And that in 1843 Martin Berry discovered the fact that human conception occurs when the sperm enters the ovum. While people used to believe that the male implants life into the female, they now knew that both the male and female EACH contributed half the material needed to create life. This changed forever the way the world would see human reproduction. But it did NOT change the cultures and religions which grew out of male fertility cults.
Now, back to Egypt for a moment. It is highly probable that the egyptians, who revered the instrument of human production, and bore its image in their processions, conceived the idea of offering to their main gods, Isis and Osiris, a small portion of that organ with which these deities had connected the perpetuation of the human species. (From Voltaire - Philosophical Dictionary)
Afterall, if you have the belief that seed is produced exclusively by males and that women do not contribute genetic material in order to create new life, then you most probably create a ritual which symbolises the importance of this belief. If women and men were made from seed which man produced, then the male penis would take on special religious significance. I suggest that the ritual which was created to symbolize this male power was circumcision.
So, did the hebrews take with them the religious culture of circumcision when they left Egypt? I think so. And I think they practised it for the same reasons that the ancient egyptians did. The god of the old testament promised the jews the same things that the ancient egyptians believed they were getting from their religious ritual of circumcision. They were promised abundance and power. Lots of “fruit”, (descendents), through the sowing of "seed" means economic and political power.
Which brings me to the final part of this article. You really want to know why I think the ancient hebrews created laws about bestiality and homosexuality? Or why they believed that certain sexual practices were sinful? I suggest that they made the rules about bestiality and homosexuality because the covenant with god was to make them prosperous and abundant.
Genesis 17: 2 “And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” That is, seed would be wasted if it was sown where it could not bear fruit. Therefore, there was to be NO wasting of “seed” on men or animals as seed sown there didn't bear “fruit.” All that “seed” was to be used for procreation, if a people wanted to become prosperous and abundant. Religions know that big groups are powerful groups. Lots of “fruit” (descendents) means economic and political power.
And your circumcision scar, (as small or as large as it might be), probably has its origin in Egypt, in a time when the penis was part of fertility worship. So, guys, what does it feel like to be part of an ancient fertility cult? ;)
The Bangles - "Walk Like An Egyptian"
(I had considered posting the track "The First Cut Is The Deepest" but I thought better of it. No point in rubbing salt into the wound. Oooops.. )
Most religious people claim that morality, or the group ethic is based in a religious origin. This is a common claim, made often and repeatedly by most people of religious faith. I don't see any obvious correlation between god belief and morality. Neither god belief nor the lack of it, guarantees moral or ethical human behaviour. I think that people cooperate because it is mutually advantageous. We are capable of natural feelings such as empathy, sympathy, remorse etc. Our natural abilities to empathize with other humans forms the basis of what we consider to be moral or ethical. There are rare people who are termed sociopathic, who apparently are incapable of these emotions, but for the vast majority of us these human emotions allow us, by understanding our own needs, to understand the needs of others. So, I think that morality has as much to do with our genetic origins than it has with any hierarchial supernatural construct that we have devised in an attempt to keep people in line. (By hierarchial supernatural construct, I mean god belief.) Primatologists like Frans de Waal have long argued that the roots of human morality are evident in social animals like apes and monkeys. The animals’ feelings of empathy and expectations of reciprocity are essential behaviors for mammalian group living and can be regarded as a counterpart of human morality. Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has built on this idea to propose that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, “Moral Minds” (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind. It implies that parents and teachers are not teaching children the rules of correct behavior from scratch but are, at best, giving shape to an innate behavior. And it suggests that religions are not the source of moral codes but, rather, social enforcers of instinctive moral behavior. (From Atheist Girl) I would also draw your attention to a recent study concerning bees and behaviour. Just recently scientists mapped the bee genome. They were interested to try and explain why it was evolutionary advantageous for worker bees to be sterile and to invest all their time and life caring for the eggs of a single queen bee. What they observed was that in some hives, a small percentage of bees which were usually worker bees and sterile, were actually laying eggs in the hive given the opportunity. They called these bees "anarchist bees" because their behaviour conflicted with the usual reproductive and social pattern exhibited within the hive. By mapping the genome of a "normal worker bee" and that of one of these "anarchist bees", they were able to compare the differences in their genomes. What they found was that the "anarchist bees" did not have the reproductive indicators turned off which would have made them sterile. Instead they were fertile, just as the queens were. The scientists wondered why a small % of bees exhibited with genomes which expressed this physical behaviour. They conducted an experiment whereby they seeded a hive with a queen and a much larger collection of "anarchist bees" than would normally be present in a hive. The result was inevitably disasterous for the hive. When nearly all the bees were trying to lay eggs, there were not enough sterile bees to do the work, and the social structure of the hive collapsed. It was always wondered what evolutionary advantage sterility might have considering that fertility is the key to passing on genes. And why would such a large population of bees bar one, the queen, invest all their energies and life into the rearing of another bee's young? Essentially, sterility IS an evolutionary advantage for bee hives. Scientists refer to this sterility as "genetic altruism." "Altruistic" in the sense that the majority of bees have, through natural selection, waived their "rights" to breed, in favour of the continuation of the hive and the continuation of the species. This suggests that what we may consider as a moral behaviour or ethical behaviour, namely altruism, has been natural selected in bees and is expressed genetically. I also think that natural selection in human beings has resulted in the genetic expression of moral traits and ethical traits. Many religions preach the code of selflessness, non-ego, putting others first etc (and however slse it can be expressed); however, the majority of people, even when they say they adher to such a code, find that it is extremely difficult to put this code into practice. Personally, I think it is an unrealistic code for a number of reasons. Although I believe that conscious acts of “altruism” may be considered worthy and perhaps even noble, I doubt that it is possible to physically survive for extended periods of time if altruism didn't have a payoff for either the individual or the group to which the individual belongs. I think it is in contradition to our “genetic instructions” (yes, whatever that means - gene expression, perhaps) - to behaviourally demonstrate altruism which doesn't have a payoff. Where does this concept of self sacrifice, or putting the needs of others first originate? Well, as an atheist, I think that these human attributes and predispositions are to be found in gene expression. For example, it is demonstrated in nature that many animal mothers will place themselves in considerable harm in order to preserve their family. It is also demonstrated in nature that male animals will fight off the attentions of other males in order to preserve the pride, pack, group. In both instances they are examples of what we may consider to be "altruistic behaviours." These supposed "altruistic behaviours" though, do include a payoff to the individual and also to the group. So, even though we may incorrectly label them as "acts of altruism," they are essentially acts of self interest. So, animals and humans both has a sense of what it is preserve a group. But essentially, their interest to preserve the group through self sacrifice might merely be that of self interest. In other words, they are prepared to put self last only as an act of self interest. (Sounds contradictory, I know.) They have a vested interest in the preservation of the particular group to which they belong which may exclude their act of self sacrifice as being an act of altruism. We define an altruistic act as an act or behaviour where we put the needs of others above the needs of self. But, as I have suggested, acts of altruism can just as easily be seen as acts of self interest. For example: Politicians regularly “fall on their swords” in order to preserve that which they consider to be the integrity, or worth of the party to which they belong. Religious fanatics regularly sacrifice their very lives in order to preserve (as they see it), the belief system of the religious group to which they belong. And of course soldiers of every nation have sacrificed their lives for the same ideal; the preservation of the group/nation/political ideology to which they identify. In the example of the politician, the religious fanatic, or the soldier, the act of self sacrifice emulates the instinctual act in the animal kingdom. The political party has become the family/pride/flock. The religious group has become the family etc and the nation for which the soldier fights for has become the family etc. In other words, these groups have become for all intents and purposes, the families that we would like to preserve. If these groups (religious, political, cultural etc) become synonmous psychologically with the concept of the family or pack, are these acts ones of self sacrifice or are they an instinct to preserve self by preserving the group? When the group that one identifies with becomes synonymous with the self, the case could be made that self sacrifice isn’t putting oneself last, it may just be putting oneself first. Preserving the group might become preserving self when personal identification with the group is so psychologically compelling. Perhaps the groups and the ideologies which human beings are capable of identifying with, tap into our naturally occurring, naturally selected predisposition to preserve self by preserving the group. Like the honey bee, the lion, and animals of other species, we may only be acting upon a naturally selected predisposition to enhance survival.
How could adam and eve know that it was wrong to disobey god if they had no knowledge of good and evil? Why would an omnipresent god, (one who is everywhere at once), allow the snake to tempt eve? Why would an omniscient god, (one who knows everything), allow eve to be tempted knowing that eve WOULD be tempted?
According to the bible this is the sequence of the relevant events.
Genesis 2:8-18 "And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
Ok, that is the background. God created a garden called eden and he placed a man and a woman, who he also created in the garden and he commanded the man not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.Now also in this garden was a snake or serpent, which god had also created. (Genesis 1:25 "And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.")
Adam, who was the first to be told not to eat of the tree of good and evil must have gone on to tell eve, because when the snake tempts eve, eve replies - Genesis 3:3 "But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." The snake then goes on to tell eve that they won't die but that they will be like gods as they will know good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5 "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
Hang on. That means that adam and eve had no knowledge of what was good and what was evil as the bible states that it is AFTER they eat the fruit from the tree that they will know good from evil. So how could they know it was wrong to eat the fruit in the first place? And just as importantly, how could they know that it was wrong to disobey god and wrong to listen to the snake? Something isn't right here.
Adam and eve, after eating the fruit, realized that they were naked. Apparently being naked is a bad thing as they then proceeded to cover their "naughty bits" with a leaf or two. God gets a bit stroppy about this and says: - (Genesis3: 11 "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?") So, god now realizes that adam and eve have acquired the knowledge of good and evil AFTER eating the fruit, and that they did NOT know good from evil prior to eating the fruit.
So adam and eve only gained the knowledge of good and evil AFTER they had eaten of the fruit, they had no idea what good and evil was before that time. If they only gained the knowledge of good and evil after they ate the fruit, they obviously did not know that it was evil/bad to eat the fruit in the first place.
Let's now discuss the issue of an omnipresent god. If god is omnipresent, that is he is everywhere at once, god must have been able to see and hear the snake tempting eve. If that is the case, why didn't he just kick the snake out of the way before it could open its yap? Surely he wouldn't have wanted adam and eve to be tempted? I dunno. Maybe he was busy finishing off the fjords at the time and wasn't paying attention.
And why would an omniscient god, one who knows everything, NOT know that the snake was going to tempt eve and that he would be successful in this venture? An omnicient god should have known that the snake was going to successfully tempt eve, so why would he have put the snake there in the first place?
I have often said: "It isn't freedom if it is only the freedom to agree." Today, I am going to elaborate slightly on this concept by suggesting that " It isn't freewill if it is only the freedom to agree." The concept of freewill is used in many aspects of our lives, yet today, it is primarily its theological use which I will be exploring.
Freewill is a basically a term for the capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from amongst various alternatives. So, I suggest that the prerequisites for freewill to occur are:1. a rational agent 2. a choice of various alternatives.
A vacuum salesman comes to my door and wants to sell me a "ridgy didge, you beaut vacuum cleaner." He tells me it is the best vacuum cleaner that you can buy. It will last forever and it has more suck than a frog’s bum on the windscreen of a car travelling at 100 miles per hour. I tell him that I don’t need a vacuum cleaner as I sweep the floor by hand and that the excess use of electricity will only add to the effects of global climate change. He tells me that I must buy the vacuum cleaner or he will send his manager around to smash my face in. Now, if I believe that he has a manager who has the power and the will to smash my face in, I might be encouraged through the threat of violence to BUY that vacuum cleaner. But would it be of my own freewill if the transaction occurred because of perceived threat of violence that would occur if I didn't comply?
Is it an act of freewill if a man holds a knife to your throat and tells you to submit to sex or he is going to slit your throat? The law says a resounding "no." The extenuating circumstance of the threat of violence negates the idea that the victim has a reasonable choice. The concept of freewill means that she would be likely to choose an alternative which HASN'T been offered. If the victim had freewill, they would more likely choose to be sitting at home with their feet up watching the TV, or some other activity which they considered favourable.
Consequently, the court doesn't tell the victim who was raped ," Sorry, luv, you had a choice and you chose to be raped without violence, instead of being raped with violence." The court recognises that the woman or man, has had their ability to choose what they consider to be a favourable outcome impaired. They recognise that neither the threat of rape, nor the threat of rape with violence, offers a choice that the individual may not would willingly agree to, if a threat had not been applied. They recognise that essentially, the victim's freewill has been severely limited because of the lack of favourable choices.
The concept of freewill under these circumstances is basically an example of the false dilemma with a threat of violence. The false dilemma involves a situation in which two alternative points of view are held to be the only options, when in reality there exist one or more other options which have not been considered. In other words, when only two options are given to an individual and neither option may be favourable to the individual and yet it is demanded that they choose one of them.
2 Chronicles 15:12-13“They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.”
Psalm 7:12 "If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready."
Is it freewill if people are told to “turn or burn? " Is it freewill if the options are "heaven or hell?" Join us or be killed, join us or go to hell - they are not options of free will. They are threats of violence where an alternative option, which the individual may find favourable, is excluded. There is no freewill if you believe that a god exists, there is only punishment if you don’t obey. That’s not free will. That is intimidation, coersion and threats of violence and suffering if you don’t join the club, buy the vacuum cleaner or submit to sex. It isn't an exercise of freewill, as freewill requires that you decide WITHOUT fear of violence or punishment.
Consent is not consent if threats of violence elicit the consent and where the options presented are so narrow that one can find neither option favourable. Consent is not of one's freewill if the threat of violence elicits the consent. Freewill is not freewill, if it is only the freedom to agree to propositions which the individual finds unfavourable, unsatistactory, or distasteful.
PS: And before anyone accuses me of picking on christians, I do recognise that islam has the same mentality.
'Gulliver's Travels,' (1726, amended 1735), by Jonathan Swift, is a satirical novel on human nature. The story loosely is about a middle class englishman, Gulliver, who goes on a sea voyage and is shipwrecked on the island of Lilliput. In Lilliput, there are basically two groups of people - high-heeled Tramecksan and low-heeled Slamecksan. The animosities between these parties run so high, that they will neither eat nor drink, nor talk with each other.
There exists a further rift between the ruling Little-Endians and the persecuted Big-Endians, who interpret in different ways the sacred text: "That all true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end."
So what does this story of Lilliput and its inhabitants have to do with current world events? As an atheist, who doesn’t have a religious dog in the fight, watching the confrontation between christianity and islam is like watching the Little-Endians and the Big-Endians (from 'Gulliver’s Travels'), arguing and going to war over from which end they should open an "invisible egg." The Little-Endians have non-negotiable faith that the only way that the "invisible egg" can be opened is by opening it at the pointy end and the Big-Endians have an equal amount of non-negotiable faith that the "invisible egg" can only be opened at the non-pointy end.
Each group's indominable and non-negotiable faith encourages their adherents to believe that no matter what happens, that their fight is a just and noble battle against evil. And that the other side must be inherently evil, or at the least, very rude and uncivilized for suggesting otherwise. This "faith mentality" is what allows each side to continue behaviours which are potentially damaging, harmful, or at least non-productive, to anyone else who doesn’t share their non-negotiable faith.
Meanwhile, the skeptics, atheists, agnostics and assorted other non-believers, are sitting around scratching their heads and saying - "Excuse me, but what makes you so convinced that there is an invisible egg in the first place.?"
The Beatles - "I Am The Walrus"
"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing wax; Of cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot; And whether pigs have wings." - Lewis Carroll
Use Your Discretion. This post contains Adult Concepts.
This post is a follow-up to a previous article I posted called "Homosexuality Is Natural." In the video below, Ricky Gervais gives his comedic touch to the position that homosexuality is natural. If you haven't seen this before, and you like Gervais, I suggest you give it a watch. I find it hilarious, but then, that is me. Let me know what you think.
The below video obviously lends the Cole Porter song a little more meaning. “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let's do it, let's fall in love.” Comments are welcomed.
Gervais is an atheist. In an interview given to John Humphrys he said, "Being an atheist makes someone a clearer thinking, fairer person. . . . They (atheists) are not doing things to be rewarded in heaven; they're doing things because they're right, because they live by a moral code."
He also added that, although he doesn't believe, God , (if he exists), would like him.
Ricky Gervais - The Bible
(Sit back and have a laugh if you haven't seen this yet.)
"What I do have an interest in is the notion that the ancient mythology of the Jews should be the standard against which claims in modern science should be judged. To me, that is just plain stupid. Yes, that's right; I find it stupid to believe that the God of the ancient Jews dictated science lessons to Moses or other chosen ones." - Dr. Robert T. Carroll
What was the biological knowledge of the people in the middle east a couple of thousand years ago? How did they live? How did their lifestyle influence their worldview? Did the limited biological knowledge of the time result in not only in a shift towards a more overt form of patriarchy, and if so, could this shift towards male political and economic power have helped to create the concept of a "supreme male god"?
It's interesting to note that the supposed time span from Abraham to the time of the early church is a period of about two thousand years. It is during this time that there was a cultural change from a nomadic lifestyle which consisted of moving from place to place with herd animals, to a more settled agricultural based society. This may have occurred for the israelites when they reportedly settled in Canaan after leaving Egypt. Farming became a more important way of making a living. Grains, such as wheat and barley, were used for making bread, and were the most important crops.
As time went on, their knowledge as farmers helped them to grow fruits, including melons, figs, dates, grapes, and olives. From these practices, developed a number of religious festivals which were based on their agricultural society. Some of the major religious festivals in Israel were the Harvest Festival and the Festival of Shelters. These festivals were coordinated with the farming cycle. The Harvest Festival, also called the Festival of Weeks, celebrated the wheat harvest in the spring (Exod 23.16). The Festival of Shelters (or Booths) is an autumn holiday for the occasion of the planting and gathering of crops, and the annual harvest.
Grain and seed and the resultant propsperity and eventual dependence upon an agrarian lifestyle meant that seed would be seen as an essential element to the continuation of life. The veneration or importance of seed would be obvious in an agrarian society. There was political and economic power in being the producer of the seed. Seed was necessary to plant the grain crops. Plus it was necessary for all the fruits, such as figs, dates. Aparts from their knowledge of seeds and agriculture, people of this time period would have been aware of the copulation of their herd animals and the fact that male animals deposited "seed" into female animals who then went on to bear the "fruit" which originated from this seed.
It is doubtful if there was any recognition that either female humans or female animals contributed any matter towards the growth of the seed to the fruit. They provided the environment, or the soil in which the seed could take root and prosper. It was the male who produced the seed. The seed was probably thought of as the primary element. It was the female who nurtured the seed until it grew into fruit. The fruit, when born, was of male seed, or his seed - not of her egg or ovum as they didn't know that women produced ova. If women could not "bear fruit" even though they had received "seed", they were seen as barren, as soil was considered barren, or lifeless, if it did not produce a crop of grain or fruit.
This kind of puts in perspective to me, why Jesus cursed the fig tree in Matthew 21:19. "And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away." Was this because he had been expecting fruit and had received none? Had the fig tree failed him as a barren woman would have failed her husband? I don't know. Sounds suspiciously like it to me. Perhaps from Jesus' point of view, it was the job of that tree to produce fruit. It had been seeded and had grown to a tree, but had not produced fruit. It had disappointed him, and therefore deserved a bit of a tongue-lashing.
Patriarchy, or male power structures, therefore, may have been given a boost with this shift from a hunter/gatherer culture to an agrarian one. Certainly, it has been suggested that this huge shift in human behaviour and the resultant changes in the emerging cultures and societies, may have been the catalyst towards the creation of strongly patriarchial religious systems. The major monotheistic religions and their overt patriarchial hierarchies evolved in the spaces between nomadic and agrarian societies, not in the hunter/gatherer ones.
So, why is it "all about sex?" I think that the female gods and female power structures continued to disintegrate during the cultural and societal shift from hunter/gathers and nomadic lifestyles to more settled agrarian cultures because men were able to evidence that they produced the seed needed to create life. As their crops came from seed, so did their children come from seed. In essence, men began to see themselves as the creators of life. Perhaps, they also began to see their penis' as the tools for the creation of life, as evidenced by the jewish covenant with god being a foreskin.
Prior to the development of male dominated religions, in the hunter/gatherer cultures, the creation of life was always viewed as something mystical, supernatural, mysterious AND essentially female. Afterall, women gave birth - they were the “creators of life” or the "producers of life", therefore fertility and the creation of life may have been viewed as essentially female. With the advent of agrarian cultures and the increased knowledge of natural biological processes, the idea of who was responsible for the creation of new life probably shifted from a female origin to a male one.
People became aware that females, (humans and animals), did not give birth and create life without a cause. Males may have began to see themselves as the cause of life as evidenced by sex and male ejaculation. It didn’t take a Rhodes Scholars to work out that women did NOT give create new life unless they had been with a man. Female animals did not create new life unless they had been with a male. So, I think a few misconceptions were made. Firstly there was the misconception that the male was responsible for the creation of life and that the female was merely the vessel. She did not contribute matter to the creation of new life, she merely provided “the soil” in which the “male seed” was planted.
Many biological and religious misconceptions most likely arose. Women were supposedly responsible for the lack of conception as she must be barren as soil is barren. It was not considered that the male seed may be non-productive, because it was assumed that all the elements for the creation of life were contained within his seed. Best to remember at this juncture, that the ovum (female egg) wasn’t discovered until 1827 by Prussian-Estonian embryologist Dr. Karl Ernst von Baer. Prior to that, there was no evidence that females contributed any matter to the creation of life.
Man provided the seed which women gave birth to as fruit. (the fruit of the womb) - The seed, which mankind provided was the catalyst for creation. Fruit was created from seed. Man derived power from being the seed. The fruit grew from the seed, the woman provided a vessel (womb) for the growth of the seed, but essentially the seed was male. Perhaps this is also why some cultures have considered female children to be inferior fruit as they could not produce seed, they could only receive seed.
Of course this type of agricultural thinking and the resultant religious thinking, is obvious when one looks at the language used in the bible. There are many references to seed and fruit. Not always literally used as "seed" and "fruit" as we would use them today, but also referring to seed as possible decendents and fruit as being babies. Some examples below.
1. Genesis 46:7 "His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt." (Children are all his seed.)
2. Genesis 17:7 "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." ( The covenant of circumcision.)
Why is the jewish covenant with god a foreskin? Something to do with the veneration of seed? The penis and the male sexual organs produce "seed". Is this recognition that the male through his seed, is the creator of life as the male god is the creator of life? Did this idea that males were the creators of life through their seed result in developing a religious concept that the supreme god must be male? That is - males are the creators of life through their seed so therefore god must be male? If god is male, he must be capable of impregnating women even if he doesn't have seed. (Gods can do that sort of thing, doncha know...) In fact, perhaps the head honcho would be someone who COULD get women pregnant without having to go through the usual "manly procedures.") Now THAT takes some skill. I can hear the local guys at the pub now. "See, I am so virile, I only have to look at her and she gets pregnant." ;)
3. Leviticus 12:2 "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean." (Women conceive after the planting of seed.)
4. Ezra 9:2 "For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass." (All seed is equal, but some seed is more equal than others if it is holy seed. The "holy seed" is a reference to the males of Israel spreading their seed where they shouldn't. Namely amongst the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.)
5. Genesis 30:2 "And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" (Another naughty woman who hasn't borne fruit after the seeding procedure.)
6. Leviticus 25:19 "And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety." (A reference to the earth as female which produces fruit after she is seeded.)
These are just a couple of examples, but it is obvious to me that the shift from a nomadic lifestyle towards a more settled agrarian lifestyle, coupled with the knowledge of agriculture and farming; directly influenced the gender roles within their developing religion. It influenced which gender would have which power roles and why.
Perhaps man took the credit for the creation of life a few thousand years ago based on insufficient information about natural biological processes. The agrarian cultures only enforced this belief as the sowing of crops, was probably seen as the sowing of male seed into the female earth. We still refer to the earth as female. We refer to churches, ships, houses, planes as females. Many objects which can be symbolic of the female womb is refered to as a “she”. Whereas objects which are symbolic of action, acts of creation, sowing seed, shooting missiles, etc are generally refered to as “he.” Maybe this is why the cultures which grew out of nomadic and then more settled farming communities, developed concepts of a supreme male god who, through his creation of men and women, would spread his seed across the face of the planet.
Just my thoughts on the subject.
PS. And homosexuality would have been seen as "bad" because men would NOT have been sowing their seed in order to produce more fruit.
"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power." - Thomas Aquinas, 'Summa Theologica', Q92, art. 1, Reply Obj. 1