"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!"

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Location: Australia

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.


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Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Now lies the earth all Danae to the stars,"

Spencer TUNICK : - Melbourne, Australia

"Now lies the earth all Danae to the stars, And all thy heart lies open unto me." is part of the poem 'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal', by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

So, who was Danae?

In the Greek Mysteries, Danae was a daughter of King Acrisius of Argos and Eurydice. Now, King Acrisius didn't have any male heirs. (Usual story, the guys need a male heir.) So anyway, he asked an oracle what to do. The oracle told him to go to the ends of the earth where he would be killed by his daughter's child. (Doesn't sound too hopeful for the king so far and I figure he might be rethinking the "male heir bit.") His daughter, Danae, was childless and because King Acrisius didn't like the idea of being bumped off by the child of his daughter, he shut her up in a tower, some say cave, so she couldn't well, you know, do the wild thing. But Zeus, the head god honcho came to her in the form of a beam of sunlight, and impregnated her. Others versions of the mystery say that Zeus came to her as a shower of gold. Soon after, their child Perseus was born. So Danae is the virgin mother of Perseus, and Zeus is his daddy. Who's your daddy!

So, what's the point about Danae? Not a lot really, except that I thought the reference might be a good hook to the article I am going to share with you today. Danae, is nearly always depicted in art as naked and waiting in anticipation, I guess, for that beam of sunlight which is going to impregnate her. No doubt she was pretty bored locked up and all that, so she probably had all sorts of time to laze around naked and dream of god superheros who would do the wild thing with her. Now, one night, she must have been lying there "all Danae to the stars," (naked), when in pops Zeus for a bit of sunbeam fornication. The rest is history. Well, not quite, but history and myth seem to intertwine quite often and most people don't seem to worry nor concern themselves with it.

To be "all Danae to the stars" is to be naked, or nude. (You may not be terribly interested in the Greek Mysteries or with poetry, but I bet that got your attention.) Well, I was watching television the other night and I happened upon a documentary exploring the works of the artist photographer, Spencer Tunick. Some of you may have heard of him before. He is a photographer who takes group photos of crowds of nude people. You can see some of his work here. The documentary was about his project where he travelled around the world convincing people from many countries to pose naked for him against or near well-known national monuments or places.

He prefers to use large groups of naked people so that they become like the paint on a picture. In other words, so that their bodies become part of the medium for his installations. What struck me about the documentary was the different cultural attitudes associated with trying to get a large number of people to be part of his photographs. I think the documentary mainly concentrated on work done during the early 2000s, when he wasn't perhaps as well known, because I notice after that, he had less trouble being able to harness a large group of participants.

The brits had no problem posing for the pictures, and a few hundred turned out to accommodate his artistic vision. Even though some people might consider the brits to be uptight, they seem to be not uptight when it comes to art. It was entirely different in Japan, where even though they may have communal bathing houses etc, he was only able to get about 4 people who were willing to pose nude for him. And in France, it was a similar thing, (at least during the filming of the documentary we are talking about), as he found it difficult to get more than one or two people willing to pose nude for him in front of the Louvre Pyramid. There was a kafuffle, and he was nearly arrested. The French may be liberated in their attitudes towards art, but no posing naked without permission.
In Russia it was a similar story, there were strong cultural traditions against nakedness, so it meant that only a brave few turned up to pose in their naked glory. In Africa, ditto. In fact, in one long conversation with a woman in the documentary, she would only pose naked if money was exchanged hands. In Montreal, he had much more success, a few thousand turned up to have their picture taken. In some South American countries, he got a lot of people, but not many women. Many South American countries have quite macho cultures and according to some of the men interviewed, a woman would be lowering herself to pose nude at such an event. Which I can only interpret as, "It is ok for a male to show off his pecker."

But in Melbourne, Australia, approximately 4 thousand turned up in the rain, to bare their bums for art. The rain did eventually clear up enough so that some photos could be taken. I have to say that it warmed the cockles of my heart to see so many naked Australian bums praying to the god of sunshine. There were no reports of mysterious sunlight copulations. It must have been Zeus's day off. Or perhaps there weren't any virgins there! :)

Funny :)


Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"

"Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink" is a line from the famous poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the poem, the narrator or speaker is a sailor on a ship, which is becalmed and surrounded by water that he cannot drink. By extension, this is perhaps how many atheists feel. They are surrounded by religious people and their rituals, none of which make a great deal of sense to them, nor do they feel that they should be compelled to partake in any of them.

One of these religious rituals is baptism. The words "baptize" and "baptism" are of Greek origin. They simply mean to wash or to immerse. (Greek: baptizo, wash or immerse) The word itself takes on a religious context when it is used to describe a ritual, which is specific to the given religion. A water rite is a rite or ceremonial custom in which water is used as the central religious feature, in which a person is immersed or bathed as a symbol of religious indoctrination or ritual purification. So, a baptism can be seen as a water rite or a water ritual, which has religious significance. There are other baptisms, which do not involve water as the purifying element, such as fire, earth, wind and even blood. But I am essentially discussing religious water rituals or rites in this article.

Water has played an important role in many religions and beliefs around the world. It has represented the source of life and the source of birth and rebirth. Water was used to cleanse the body and thus by extension it purified the body. This has lead water to be considered as extremely symbolic and at times sacred. Water is therefore a key symbolic element in ceremonies and religious rites.

Water was and still is in some places perceived as a god, goddess or a divine agency. Once water is assumed or inferred through religious belief to have a divine agency, it ceases to be neutral or passive. Under these circumstances it is considered to have powers and capacities of transformation, removal of sin or to transfer its divine or holy powers to the recipient through religious ceremony. In this way, water often represents the border between the natural world and another supposed supernatural or spiritual world.

The concept of purification with water, either religiously symbolic or as a literal act of cleanliness is probably older than recorded history. Pagans purified themselves with fire, incense, blood sacrifice; they even purified themselves with a winnowing fan. But the most used, most widespread tool of pagan purification was water. A pagan is basically anyone who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim. So pagans were anyone who pre-existed or lived outside the religious constructs of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This of course includes the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, the ancient Romans and the Greeks, and anyone else who lived in any other part of the world who wasn't one of the Abrahamic religions. Prior to the foundations of the "big 3" this word, "pagan" would have described everyone who existed in the world, or who had ever existed. (Though it wouldn't have been a term they would have used to describe themselves. They would have called themselves whatever was the appropriate term for their religious practices.) After the foundations of the "big 3", the word, "pagan" is used to describe everyone else who ISN'T a member of the "big 3."

Pagan water purification rituals were used in the ancient world and are written about in the Old Testament. Homer mentions the washing of hands before prayer, and the purification of an entire army with water (Iliad, 1.313). The Greeks even had priests, kathartai, who specialized in purification with water. After the conspiracy of Cylon in Athens in 632 BC, a fellow named Epimenides of Crete purified the entire city with water. (Diogines Laertius 1.10.3)

Those of us who live in a predominately christian nation, or who have a predominately christian worldview, find it difficult to consider these religious water rites as baptism. Yet the intention, motive and action are in many instances identical. It is only that this actions or intents were not performed invoking in the name of the Abrahamic god/gods.

The mystery religions of that period often included ablution rites of either immersion or a washing of the body for the purposes of purification or initiation. Other concepts said to have been associated with these forms of cultic baptisms included the transformation of one's life, the removal of sins, symbolic representation, the attainment of greater physical vitality, a new beginning, spiritual regeneration. It is believed that all ancient religions recognized some form of spiritual cleansing, renewal or initiation that was accomplished through a washing or immersion in water.

So why were water rituals or baptisms performed in the ancient world? Basically for the same reasons that they are performed now. They are performed because of the belief that water can be or is embued with special divine properties.

These divine or religious properties are considered to have the power to either literally or symbolically: -

  • 1. purify the individual, or the object of evil forces or sin.
  • 2. purify the individual or object in preparation for death or for an afterlife.
  • 3. symbolically represent initiation into a specific religion and its tenets.

In many cases, it is all of the above. What is the main difference is the divine power. or religion to whom the ritual is attached.

So, let's have a look at some of these water rituals/rites or baptisms.

  • 1. Hindus believe that bathing in the waters of a holy river, such as the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh and the Ganges in India, will purify one's life of past sins.
    a. Sprinkling of holy water on persons is called prokhshanam. In order to purify places and persons, consecrated water or punyaaham is sprinkled. In purificatory rites, water is sprinkled on the object to be purified.
  • 2. The ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile had regenerative powers, and was used to baptize the dead in a ritual based on the Osiris myth. Egyptian cults also developed the idea of regeneration through water.
    a. The Book of "Going Forth by Day" (Egyptian Book of the Dead) contains a treatise on the baptism of newborn children, which is performed to purify them of blemishes acquired in the womb. " He has made an end to hours, and likewise, counted them. In the morning, earth fills with light. Law and baptism. The one of us all, endures. It is our work under the sun." - from "The Egyptian Book of the Dead"
    b. Egyptians who lived by the laws of Ma'at took a sacramental drink, which conferred ritual purity. Ma'at's potion brought life after death to the peaceful and law-abiding citizen, but death to violent persons.
    Ma'at Responsible For: Justice, Law and Order, Immortality, Primordial Being
    c. Egypitan priests were initiated into their temple duties through baptism in a sacred pool. This pool was symbolic of the waters of Nu, (the Cosmic Ocean), which washed away all evil. The Purification Ritual for officiating priests is contained in a papyrus of the Berlin Museum, whose analysis and table of chapters has been published by Herr Oscar von Lemm, Das Bitualbuch des Ammonsdienstes, p. 4, et seq.
  • 3. In Buddhism, water is sometimes used in funeral ceremonies. It is poured and overflows into a bowl placed before the monks and the dead body. As it fills and pours over the edge, the monks recite ‘As the rains fill the rivers and overflow into the ocean, so likewise may what is given here reach the departed.’
    a. Water, which has been through religious ritual, purified or made sacred, is used in some Buddhist ceremonies to initiate priests and in ceremonies when a priest leaves the priesthood.
  • 4. In Zoroastrian initiation, the rite of baptism was performed through the use of either blood, urine, or water.
  • 5. In Judaism, the mikvah, which translates from Hebrew to mean a "collection of water," is a body of water where a person immerses herself or himself to become "ritually pure." The mikvah is used by some religious men before prayer, a bride before she is married, and by a person in the final stages of conversion to Judaism.
  • 6. In ancient Japan, Furo, or the Japanese hot bath, was originally part of a religious rite in which man merged with the divine through purification in the bath.
  • 7. The ancient Greeks had various religious rites, which involved the use of water. These religions were what are described as the "Eleusinian mysteries" as they occurred in, or were originated in Eleusis. "Thus were men initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis, and he who initiated them was called "Hydranus, the Waterer'" Tertullian says that thus men were initiated into the mysteries of Isis and Mithra; and Apuleius describes purification by water as part of the ceremonial of the Isiac initiation. Those initiated into the mysteries of the Goddess Cotytto were called Baptes, from the ceremony of Baptism, which was part of the initiation; and Eupoles, rival of Aristophanes, wrote a comedy called The Baptes, ridiculing them. That was in the time of Socrates." The Reverend Mr. Reeves. The Eleusinian Mysteries
  • a. The mystery followers were bound by an oath to keep the mysteries secret. The actual initiation was preceded by numerous rites of purification such as fasting, baptism, and confession. The Christian theologian Tertullian (ca. 155-220 CE) wrote, "In certain mysteries, e.g. Isis and Mithra, it is by baptism [Latin: per lavarum] that members are initiated ..." Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-211 or 215 CE) wrote, "... in the current Mysteries among the Greeks ceremonial purifications hold the premier place."
    b. The Greater mysteries included baptism in the sea, three days of fasting, and the completion of the mysterious central rite. These acts completed the initiation, and the initiate was promised rewards in the life after death.
    Esoteric Christianity: The Greek Mystery Religions and Their Impact on Christianity
  • c. The mystery religions often included ablution rites of either immersion or a washing of the body for the purposes of purification or initiation. Other concepts said to have been associated with these forms of cultic baptisms included the transformation of one's life, the removal of sins, symbolic representation, the attainment of greater physical vitality, a new beginning, spiritual regeneration.
    d. A bath in the sanctuary of Trophonion procured for the initiate a blessed immortality even while in this world. Before entering the cave where the god Trophonios dwelled, the person would receive a bath and was anointed with olive oil. The priests then took him to water springs where the water of forgetfulness (for the loss of memory of all that was past) and the water of memory (to recall all that would be seen) were consumed.
    Baptism: A Pre-Christian History
  • 8. Isaac de Beausobre, best known for his history of "Manichaeism, Histoire Critique de Manichée et du Manichéisme" says that "The Persians carried their infants to the Temple a few days after they were born, and presented them to the priest, before the sun, and before the fire, which was his symbol. Then the priest took the child and baptized it for the purification of the soul. Sometimes he plunged it into a great vase of water, and it was in the same ceremony that the father gave a name to the child." The Manichaeans
  • 9. New members into the Mysteries of Isis / Osiris began their initiation with a sprinkling of purifying waters brought from the Nile. The result of the baptism and initiation? "a kind of voluntary death and salvation through divine grace." (Apuleius, Metamorphosis, Book 11, 21), and "..we shall have salvation" (Firmicus Maternus, The Error of Pagan Religions, 22.1).
  • 10. Pagans at Gerasa celebrated the Maioumas, rites in which women bathed and were purified in a sacred pool outside town.
  • 11. The religious ceremony to the ancient Greek Goddess Persephone, began by ritual purification in the sea.
  • 12. The act of ritual washing is the beginning of the idea of Misogi, the physical act of ritual purification in water which is the prototype of the Shinto ritual of O-harai or purification. Misogi is a Shinto practice involving purification in a waterfall or other natural running water. Misogi
  • 13. And of course there is perhaps the best known religious water ritual, that of Christian baptism.
  • 14. In Islam, purification through ablution is an obligatory component of the Islamic Prayer ritual and prayers carried out in an impure state are not valid. This means Muslims are obliged to carry out ritual ablution before each of the five daily Prayers. In addition, a more thorough ritual is required on specific occasions.

Not all the water rituals listed here preceded the concept of christian baptism, but many of them do. What is shown is that many ancient religions recognized some form of spiritual cleansing, renewal or initiation that was accomplished through a washing or immersion in water. What they all have in common, is the belief that water, through religious ritual, can confer either literally divine properties upon people or objects, or that water can symbolically represent, through religious ritual, the initiation into a specific religion or cult. The practices have many things in common. What they DON'T have in common in most instances, is the deity or divine power, which is represented through the ritual. So when a person refers to baptism as if they invented it, they are essentially ONLY referring to the water rite associated specifically with their religion.

What has Christianity to say concerning religious water rites or ritual baptisms which preceded Christianity?

"We know of an ablution in the ritual of Eleusis; the laurel-wreath oration of Demosthenes speaks of purificatory ablutions in the mystery of Sabazius; the cult of Attis had its taurobolium, and the mystery of Isis knew a sanctifying baptismal bath, as did the mysteries of Dionysus and of Mithras. Upon mature consideration modern scholarship has rejected the ideas that such rites exerted an influence on the baptismal doctrine of the New Testament," (Hugo Rahner, The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries, section 3, in The Mysteries; Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, edited by Joseph Campbell)

Yeah right... And the person who invented the first wheel, didn't have an influence on the latest Mercedes Benz.

Religious Water Rituals Etc


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Away With The Fairies"

The entirety of this article is posted here and is referenced from the above source.

There is an increasingly noisy and bad-tempered quarrel between religious people and non-religious people in contemporary society.

It has flared up in the past few years, and has quickly taken a bitter turn. Why is this so? AC Grayling argues that religion has lost respectability As one of those participating in it - and, confessedly, contributing to its acerbity - my answer might seem partisan. But both sides of the current dispute agree that it raises important questions about the place of religious belief in modern society.

Until very recently, people tended not to fall out with one another if they discovered that they held different views about religion. There were three main reasons for this. Most believers did not brandish their faith publicly, society had become increasingly secular in most major respects, and memories of the past's murderous religious factionalisms had bequeathed a reluctance to revive the problem. The latter's lingering consequences in Northern Ireland anyway served as a distasteful warning.

But all the major religions have become more assertive, more vocal, more demanding and therefore more salient in the public domain. Followers of Islam were the first to push forward: protests against Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses in 1989 were an early indication of what has since become an insistent Islamic presence in the public square. Not willing to be left behind, other faiths have followed suit. In 2004 Sikhs closed a play in Birmingham, Hindus complained about Christmas stamps Christianising an Indian theme and, in 2005, evangelical Christians protested against Jerry Springer: The Opera. But it has not all been about protests.

In Britain public funding has gone to Church of England and Roman Catholic schools for a long time; now Muslims, Sikhs and Jews receive public money for their own faith-based schools. BBC radio has steadily increased the airtime available to religions other than the established one.
Requests for extra protections in law, and alternatively for exemptions from the law, to cater for religious sensitivities soon followed these developments: criminalising offensive remarks about religion, and allowing faith-based organisations to be exempt from legislation outlawing discriminatory practices, are the main examples.

The Labour Government has been as concessive and inclusive as it can be to all the religious groups in Britain. This is well intentioned but misguided, as the example of faith-based schooling shows. If children are ghettoised by religion from an early age, the result, as seen in Northern Ireland, is disastrous. In the past decade exactly such segregation has been given a publicly funded boost in the rest of the UK, at a time when religion-inspired tensions and divisions in society are increasing. The remedy for the latter should be to ensure that schooling is as mixed and secular as possible; instead, tax money has gone to deepen the problem because the Government thinks that by giving sectarianism its head it will appease it.

Yet history teaches that appeasement never satisfies appetites, it only feeds them.
In the face of the growing volume and assertiveness of different religious bodies asking for preferential treatment, secular opinion has hardened. The non-religious response has come largely from individuals who have a platform or the talent to speak; and they speak for themselves, not for an organisation.

In the US, the religious Right numbers about 35 million. Recent polls show that about 30 million Americans define themselves as having no religious commitment. But whereas the religious Right is a formidable body whose constituent churches and movements have salaried administrators, vast funds, television and radio outlets, and paid Washington lobbyists, America's non-religious folk are simply unconnected individuals.

It is no surprise that the religious Right has political clout and can make a loud noise in the American public square, whereas the non-religious voice is muted. There are two main reasons for the hardening of responses by non-religious folk. One is that any increase in the influence of religious bodies in society threatens the de facto secular arrangement that allows all views and none to coexist. History has shown that in societies where one religious outlook becomes dominant, an uneasy situation ensues for other outlooks; at the extreme, religious control of society can degenerate into Taliban-like rule.

Look at the period in which liberty of conscience was at last secured in Christian Europe - the 16th and 17th centuries. It was an exceptionally bloody epoch: millions died as a result of a single church's reluctance to give up its control over what people can be allowed to think and believe.
The famous Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 accepted religious differences as the only way of preventing religion from being an endless source of war. Religious peace did not come straight away, but eventually it arrived, and most of Europe for most of the years since 1700 has been free of religiously motivated strife.

But this is under threat in the new climate of religious assertiveness. Faith organisations are currently making common cause to achieve their mutual ends, but, once they have achieved them, what is to stop them remembering that their faiths are mutually exclusive and indeed mutually blaspheming, and that the history of their relationship is one of bloodshed?

The second reason why secular attitudes are hardening relates to the reflective non-religious person's attitude to religion itself. Religious belief of all kinds shares the same intellectual respectability, evidential base, and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies.

This remark outrages the sensibilities of those who have deep religious convictions and attachments, and they regard it as insulting. But the truth is that everyone takes this attitude about all but one (or a very few) of the gods that have ever been claimed to exist.

No reasonably orthodox Christian believes in Aphrodite or the rest of the Olympian deities, or in Ganesh the Elephant God or the rest of the Hindu pantheon, or in the Japanese emperor, and so endlessly on - and officially (as a matter of Christian orthodoxy) he or she must say that anyone who sincerely believes in such deities is deluded and blasphemously in pursuit of "false gods".

The atheist adds just one more deity to the list of those not believed in; namely, the one remaining on the Christian's or Jew's or Muslim's list.

Religious belief is humankind's earliest science. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are young religions in historical terms, and came into existence after kings and emperors had more magnificently taken the place of tribal chiefs. The new religions therefore modelled their respective deities on kings with absolute powers.

But for tens of thousands of years beforehand people were fundamentally animistic, explaining the natural world by imputing agency to things - spirits or gods in the wind, in the thunder, in the rivers and sea.

As knowledge replaced these naiveties, so deities became more invisible, receding to mountain tops and then to the sky or the earth's depths. One can easily see how it was in the interests of priesthoods, most of which were hereditary, to keep these myths alive.

With such a view of religion - as ancient superstition, as a primitive form of explanation of the world sophisticated into mythology - it is hard for non-religious folk to take it seriously, and equally hard for them to accept the claim of religious folk to a disproportionate say in running society.

This is the more so given that the active constituency of all believers in Britain is about eight per cent of the population. A majority might have vague beliefs and occasionally go to church, but even they do not want their lives dictated to by so small and narrow a self-selected minority.

The disproportion is a staring one. Regular C of E churchgoers make up three per cent of the population, yet have 26 bishops in the House of Lords. Now that religion is bustling on to centre-stage and asking for everyone's taxes to pay for faith schools and exemptions, this anachronism is no longer tolerable.

And all this is happening against the background of atrocities committed by religious fanatics in America, Europe and the Middle East, whose beliefs are not very different from the majority of others in their faith.

The absolute certainty, the unreflective credence given to ancient texts that relate to historically remote conditions, the zealotry and bigotry that flow from their certainty, are profoundly dangerous: at their extreme they result in mass murder, but long before then they issue in censorship, coercion to conform, the control of women, the closing of hearts and minds.

Thus there is a continuum from the suicide bomber driven by religious zeal to the moral crusader who wishes to stop everyone else from seeing or reading what he himself finds offensive. This fact makes people of a secular disposition no longer prepared to be silent and concessive.

Religion has lost respectability as a result of the atrocities committed in its name, because of its clamouring for an undue slice of the pie, and for its efforts to impose its views on others. Where politeness once restrained non-religious folk from expressing their true feelings about religion, both politeness and restraint have been banished by the confrontational face that faith now turns to the modern world.

This, then, is why there is an acerbic quarrel going on between religion and non-religion today, and it does not look as if it will end soon.
Hat tip to Pharyngula

The Saw Doctors - 'Away With The Fairies'


Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Mary Had A Little Lamb Its Fleece Was White As Snow"

" The Virgin Births"

"Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow." But just how many virgin births were there? Virgin birth stories were fairly common in the ancient world. The pagan belief in unions between gods and women, regardless of whether they were virgins or not, is even more common. Many of the ancient gods were believed to be sons of divine fathers and human females. Why is this? In the ancient world, great men were often understood to be born of mortal women and divine fathers. But, apparently, mortal women were especially required to be virgins.

The ancient gods were often reputed virgin - born. The father- god supplied the human race with a saviour, his son, by impregnating a goddess or a mortal. This act, according to how the story goes, must not be regarded as actuated by lust. His purpose is the birth of a great saviour of mankind, and so the impregnation has to be effected without carnal intercourse.

How many gods or great men claimed to be born of a virgin? Probably thousands. Here is a short but incomplete list.

  • Krishna, (Indian), was born of Devaki, the radiant Virgin. His father was the god Vishnu. (3228 BCE)
  • Horus, (Egyptian) was born to a virgin who remains eternally virginal, Isis-Meri. (approximately 3000BCE)
  • Tammuz, (Assyrian), was born to a virgin, named Mylitta. (approximately 2800BCE)
  • Perseus was born of Danae, a virgin who was impregnated by the god Zeus’ shower of gold. (approximately 1600 BCE)
  • Dionysus, (Greek), was born of the virgin Semele. His father was the supreme god Zeus.
    (approximately 1440BCE)
  • Heracles, the divine hero, was born on to the virgin Alcmene. His father was the god Zeus.
    (approximately 1288 BCE in Greece)
  • Zarathustra was born to a 15-year-old virgin, Dughdhava the milkmaid.
    (approximately 1200 BCE in Iran)
  • Romulus, Rome's founder, was the Son of the God Mars, and Rea Sivia, a mortal Vestal virgin. ( 771 BCE in Italy)
  • Karna was born of the virgin Kunti. His father is the sun god Surya, the light of the Universe, who restores Kunti's maidenhood after the act of conception. (approximately 600BCE in India)
  • Lao Tzu was born of a virgin. (approximately 600 BCE in China)
  • Alexander the Great was the son Olympia and the God Zeus Ammon. (356 BCE in Macedon)
  • The Buddha was of royal descent. Born of the Virgin Maya, “the Queen of Heaven”.
    (approximately 563 BCE in Nepal)
  • Mithras was born in a cave, on December 25th, of a virgin mother. God, in the form of light, entered a virgin, Anahita. (approximately 200 BCE in Western Iran)
  • Augustus, the first Roman emperor, born of a union between Atia and the God Apollo and conceived by a holy-snake. ( 63 BCE in Italy)
  • Attis was born to the virgin Nana. (approximately 3 BCE in Greece)
  • Jesus is born of a virgin mother, Mary. Jesus's father was the Holy Spirit. (approximately 2 BCE in Israel)

Now, I am forever being told by religious people that they are as rational and as logical as anyone else. But, I am beginning to seriously doubt this. If it is possible for a virgin to become pregnant without the usual addition of human sperm, then it is equally possible that this process could have occurred many times prior to whichever virgin is your favourite one and just as many times after. The process, whatever that is, and most attribute a supernatural cause to the pregnancy, should be no more unbelievable in each claimed instance.

So, I do wonder how someone can have at least two disjointed and conflicting concepts of biology without internal psychological conflict. By this I mean, that I am assuming that even though theists intellectually know the processes of human conception, that 2 gametes fuse to become a zygote and continue on to form an embryo and then a foetus which is eventually born as a baby; that many of them manage to believe that a child was conceived without the need of male sperm. Not only do they manage to believe that a baby was born without recourse to human sperm, but they manage to believe that it ONLY occurred according to the tenets of whichever religion they follow.

As biology shows, in order for humans to have a baby, one needs to have the presence of male sperm (XY) added to (XX, and that it is the addition of biological sperm which accounts for the sex of the ensuing child. Now, I fail to see how an incorporeal being has sperm, or a penis for that matter. So, one of the alternatives I have to explain away this claim is that ancient people were basically ignorant about the processes of conception. That, and also that virgin birth stories were common in the ancient world. In the ancient world, great men were often said to be born of mortal women and divine fathers. In fact, the concept of a virgin birth was so popular, that no prophet or saviour-god could be considered a divine incarnation without one.

Now to me, this just speaks of ancient people’s ignorance about the processes of conception. It also speaks to me of the dislike and distaste they had for women who were NOT virgins. But more than that, it speaks of a superstitious world where to gain credibility, reverence and power, you had to be a male who was sired by a “superior male.” Which is why “great men” were supposedly born of virgins and sired by a “superior male.” - a male god. The doctrine of virgin birth can be interpreted as super-patriarchal, where the male god is viewed as so powerful he can impregnate without befouling himself by touching a woman, and women are nothing but vessels. They were consdiered as vessels for male sperm and "holy male sperm" because they didn't know that women produced ova. Therefore, it was male seed that provided the spark for life, whether it was mortal male seed, or supernatural male seed, the concept was the same.

The second century Christian Justin Martyr says of Jesus, “He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you believe of Perseus.” - First Apology. So, even Justin Martyr recognized that the concept of a virgin birth was prevalent. But his reasoning seems to be that if others had “virgin births” then so was Jesus’.

"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin." - Cardinal Bellarmine (at the trial of Galileo)

They got that wrong too.

"One man's virgin birth is another man's myth." - Me

The Virgin Births

(Watch the video. I made it especially for you. Yes, you.)