Monday, April 21, 2014

Let's set the record straight on this nonsense.

Taken from the The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science Facebook Page
This image has been floating around Facebook by people who are educated (or at least claim to be) and should know better. This is complete and utter nonsense.

Easter has nothing to do with Ishtar. This is called a etymological homonym fallacy, meaning that just because two different words sound similar or identical in a given language does not necessarily mean they are related in meaning, nor do they necessarily come from the same source. A lot of words do come from similar original sources in Greek or Latin, but this is not always the case.

For instance, the word "bow." This word has several definitions, but let's look at two of them. One definition came mean something like to bend a knee in reverence, as in I bow before the King. This comes from the Old Norse word buga, which meant 'to bend.' Then there is the bow as in a string bow, like a crossbow string or a bowstring of a violin. That word is derived from an Old English word boga which means 'arch.' Then there is the bow of a ship, which largely comes from a Germanic word meaning should. Same word which comes from completely different languages from words that have completely different meanings. Just because they happen to sound similar is modern English does mean necessarily that they evolved from the same word.

The Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus is based on the Jewish festival of Passover (as it always falls on the Sunday following Passover). Most Christians do not even use a cognate of "Easter" except in languages of a Germanic origin, wherein Easter evolved from the word that means "shining/east," that is, dawn or sunrise. Hence an Easter morning "sunrise service" at your local church. Everyone else, all over the world, still calls it Passover or Pascha.

Easter eggs likewise come from Judaism not Assyria. In the Passover Seder for instance, cooked eggs are a symbol of Jewish mourning at having to live in slavery in Egypt, or like Mary Magdalene by Christ's tomb or the Blessed Mother who was weeping at the foot of the cross, which is how it came to be associated as a Christian symbol. They were first colored in early Christian art, going back centuries.

The Easter Bunny is a purely German thing. There is some artwork from the Middle Ages where Mary is depicted as a hare, but it didn't get picked up so much as an Easter symbol until Lutherans and Catholics started using hares as a symbol for the Virgin Mary in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century.

And don't even get me started on that historical inaccuracy as Constantine wanting to "Christianize" the Roman Empire. Constantine legalized Christianity and near the end made gave it "most favored religion" status in the Empire. Constantine was not baptized until his deathbed. Christians were celebrating Easter since pretty much the first century. They may not have called it Easter, as that is a latter Germanic word (see above).

The first major controversy that had a real chance of breaking up the Church in the early Church period was called the Quartodeciman Controversy. It was a very heated debate on when the Church should celebrate Easter. In a nutshell, people were arguing about whether the Feast of the Resurrection should fall on Passover (which moves around on the day of the week like Christmas) or the Sunday after Passover as a mixed date. This seems a bizarre thing to tear the Church apart over, but in the midst of crises over the validity of sacraments, it was the in thing to argue over at the time. But, suffice is to say that what we now call Easter was so central to Christians that people were willing to fight over when to have. This in itself disproves the assertion that Easter is some Christian rip off of Ishtar, an obscure Assyrian god that was not worshiped in Greco-Roman religion, except maybe a few secret religious cults, or even arguably known about in most quarters, and was not even largely still believed even in Mesopotamia after Alexander the Great's conquest.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wow

"The problem that confronts them [the new atheists] is as stark as it is simple: our morality has religious roots. Put another way: when God is rejected, the stakes are gulpingly high; the entire moral tradition of the West is put in question.
"This was the insight of Friedrich Nietzsche — and for all the different atheist thinkers and philosophers since, it remains just as true today. It’s all very well to say that blind faith is a bad idea, and that we should move beyond it to a more enlightened ethical system, but this raises the question of what we mean by good and bad, and those ideas are irrevocably rooted in Christianity. Nietzsche saw this, and had the courage to seek a new ethos amid the collapse of all modern systems of meaning. Did he find one? Yes, in pagan power-worship — the sort that eventually led to fascism. We think of him as mad and bad — but he was brave. Imagine Ed Miliband trying to follow in this tradition, gazing into the abyss of all meaning, the dark crucible of nihilism.
"The trouble is that too many atheists simply assume the truth of secular humanism, that it is the axiomatic ideology: just there, our natural condition, once religious error is removed. They think morality just comes naturally. It bubbles up, it’s instinctive, not taught as part of a cultural tradition. . . .
In his book Unapologetic (which opens with a blasting riff of annoyance at atheist arrogance), Francis Spufford notes that Christianity’s influence on secular morality is hard to see, having ‘faded indistinguishably into the background of our common sense’. For example, ‘the emphasis on people being lovable to God irrespective of what they deserve laid the groundwork for the idea of there being rights owed to people irrespective of their status, their behaviour, their capabilities’.
"A similar point has been made recently by the American writer Marilynne Robinson, in relation to the Declaration of Independence: ‘Is it self-evident that all are created equal? Only in a religious conception. Jefferson makes the human person sacred and thereby sets human rights outside the reach of rationalisation.’
So the atheists have unwittingly provoked some genuine thought about how religion has shaped our public creed of secular humanism. And it’s obvious that this shaping did not just happen hundreds of years ago, in the age of Locke and Jefferson, and then stop: Christianity has continued to influence secular humanism into our times — the American civil rights movement being a vivid example. (Last year the liberal media gushed about Revd Martin Luther King’s famous speech of 50 years ago, utterly ignoring its religiosity.)
Now the debate can move on. We should ask: why do we believe in right and wrong? How can it be that Christianity has given rise to a post-religious, secular world that accepts religious values without questioning them? Is this not rather interesting? The new atheists may not like it, but they’ve had their say. It’s time for a serious discussion."

-Theo Hobson, The return of God: atheism's crisis of faith

Monday, April 14, 2014

Yeah, that's pretty much awesome

"...seminary is not a refuge for those who have “psychological problems” or lack the courage “to get on in life.”

-Pope Francis

Having had to endure crackpots, angry middle aged white people, perverts, and nuts in seminary, all I can say is "Preach on, Holy Father."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Respect the Office

Very interesting article here on what it means to "respect the office" of President if you don't personally like or agree with the incumbent. I do not quite agree with him, but he makes a very interesting point.