Friday, December 24, 2010

A History Lesson About the Winter Holidays, with a Dash of Common Sense and Lick of Sarcasm...

In case any of you have been missing the fun, there's a new fundie who, I have to give him credit for actually putting his name on his comments, decided it would be fun to try to mock me (they say it is the highest form of flattery...), but, as everyone should be warned, generics and knock-offs are certainly not the same. (I think any of you who have tried store-brand spaghetti sauce know what I mean.) Plus, being as there are two brandons (who'd of thunk it?), this one is not to the one whom I dedicated my garbage post too, but the one who thinks he's witty (but not gay...)
To My Fundie Fan, brandon: Let's deal with the first comment you left, shall we? You decided to try your hand at dialogue (and, while not bad for a beginning to our lovely site) you failed on a few key points: You said:
Fundie: So, you hate God?
Gay Jay: No, I don't believe God is real. I just hate fundies because they are hypocrites.
Didn't your mother ever tell you to say "not like" instead of hate? It really send the wrong tone. You were right on your first point though, a bravo to you for the key distinction: I can't hate something that isn't real, but I can hate the hypocrisy of the "moral majority." Kudos!

You followed up with:
Fundie: Do you buy Christmas presents for your family and do you receive presents for Christmas from your family?
Gay Jay: Yes, I love to buy Christmas presents and I loved that new scarf Aunt Bea got me last year.
Kudos again! You realize that, though one can hate the actions of others (isn't that one of your big mottos? Hate the sin, love the sinner? I know, it is a cop-out, but then again, I'm not the one preaching you really have to love everyone, am I?) Oh, and Aunt Bea? I think your confusing Ms. Bea Dickson with one of my relatives... she's not. My Aunt Bea is dead. And it hurts. A lot. Thanks for that. I don't think I can go on... But then again, I think I can.

But then you said (and, just for reference, this is where you got off track a little--okay, perhaps a lot!)
Fundie: But wait! If you don't believe in God, then you don't believe in His son, Jesus, so then that makes you the hypocrite for celebrating Christmas. If you don't believe in God, then there is nothing for you to celebrate at Christmas time. Giving or receiving Christmas gifts at Christmas makes the atheist an atheistic hypocrite.
My, so much hogwash in so short an amount of text--you make Jerry Falwell proud! (and that's no easy feat!) So because I like to get together with my family and show my love for them by buying them presents (or making them on the leaner years) and sharing food, love and laughter makes me a hypocrite? Newsflash, Brandie: Christmas has never been about Christ. It's always been about showing love for your fellow man, an idea much older and much more noble than sky god's raping of a poor village girl and shaming her before all his "chosen people."

In fact, celebration of the winter solstice goes back thousands of years--a time when people were observing the metaphorical death of the earth, the getting together to share supplies, each other's company, and make sure everyone would be okay for the coming winter months. It was a time to reflect upon the years work--harvest, hunting, what-have-you--and make sure everyone in your family or village was going to be okay. The buying of gifts is the natural evolution of that sharing of needs to wants as people and technology made life easier.

In fact, did you know before a man named Jesus ever walked the earth:
  • Early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many people rejoiced during the winter solstice when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to the start of longer days and extended hours of sunlight.
  • In Scandinavia the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the start of the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, and that could take as many as twelve days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.
  • The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so that they did not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer that had been made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.
  • In Germany people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of him for it was well-known that his nocturnal flights through the sky would help him decide which of his people would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to say inside.
  • Brazilian archeologists have found an assembly of 127 granite blocks arranged equidistant from each other. They apparently form an ancient astronomical observatory. One of the stones marked the position of the sun at the time of the winter solstice and were probably used in religious rituals.
  • Ancient Egypt: The god-man/savior Osiris died and was entombed on DEC-21. "At midnight, the priests emerged from an inner shrine crying 'The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing" and showing the image of a baby to the worshipers."
  • Greece: The winter solstice ritual was called Lenaea, the Festival of the Wild Women. In very ancient times, a man representing the harvest god Dionysos was torn to pieces and eaten by a gang of women on this day. Later in the ritual, Dionysos would be reborn as a baby. By classical times, the human sacrifice had been replaced by the killing of a goat. The women's role had changed to that of funeral mourners and observers of the birth.
  • Roman times: Saturnalia began as a feast day for Saturn on DEC-17 and of Ops (DEC-19). About 50 BCE, both were later converted into two day celebrations. During the Empire, the festivals were combined to cover a full week: DEC-17 to 23.
  • Budhists: On DEC-8, or on the Sunday immediately preceding, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day (a.k.a. Rohatsu). It recalls the day in 596 BCE, when the Buddha achieved enlightenment. He had left his family and possessions behind at the age of 29, and sought the meaning of life--particularly the reasons for its hardships. He studied under many spiritual teachers without success. Finally, he sat under a pipal tree and vowed that he would stay there until he found what he was seeking. On the morning of the eighth day, he realized that everyone suffers due to ignorance. But ignorance can be overcome through the Eightfold Path that he advocated. This day is generally regarded as the birth day of Buddhism. Being an Eastern tradition, Bodhi Day has none of the associations with the solstice and seasonal changes found in other religious observances at this time of year. However, it does signify the point in time when the Buddha achieved enlightenment and escaped the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth through reincarnation--themes that are observed in other religions in December.
  • Druids and Druidesses formed the professional class in ancient Celtic society. They performed the functions of modern day priests, teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, poets and judges. Druids led all public rituals, which were normally held within fenced groves of sacred trees. The solstice is the time of the death of the old sun and the birth of the dark-half of the year. It was called "Alban Arthuan by the ancient Druids. It is the end of month of the Elder Tree and the start of the month of the Birch. The three days before Yule is a magical time. This is the time of the Serpent Days or transformation...The Elder and Birch stand at the entrance to Annwn or Celtic underworld where all life was formed. Like several other myths they guard the entrance to the underworld. This is the time the Sun God journey's thru the underworld to learn the secrets of death and life. And bring out those souls to be reincarnated." A modern-day Druid, Amergin Aryson, has composed a Druidic ritual for the Winter Solstice.
  • Inca's: The ancient Incas celebrated a festival if Inti Raymi at the time of the Winter Solstice. It celebrates "the Festival of the Sun where the god of the Sun, Wiracocha, is honored." Ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholic conquistadores in the 16th century as part of their forced conversions of the Inca people to Christianity. A local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru revived the festival about 1950. It is now a major festival which begins in Cusco and proceeds to an ancient amphitheater a few miles away.
  • Persia: Shabe-Yalda (a.k.a. Shab-e Yaldaa) is celebrated in Iran by followers of many religions. It originated in Zoroastrianism, the state religion which preceded Islam. The name refers to the birthday or rebirth of the sun. People gather at home around a korsee--a low square table--all night. They tell stories and read poetry. They eat watermelons, pomegranates and a special dried fruit/nut mix. Bonfires are lit outside.
  • Judaism: Jews celebrate an 8 day festival of Hanukkah, (a.k.a. Feast of Lights, Festival of lights, Feast of Dedication, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukah). It recalls the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. Antiochus, the king of Syria, conquered Judea in the 2nd century BCE. He terminated worship in the Temple and stole the sacred lamp, the menorah, from before the altar. At the time of the solstice, they rededicated the Temple to a Pagan deity. Judah the Maccabee lead a band of rebels, and succeeding in retaking Jerusalem. They restored the temple and lit the menorah. It was exactly three years after the flame had been extinguished--at the time of the Pagan rite.
  • Some Native American beliefs:
    1. The Pueblo tribe observe both the summer and winter solstices. Although the specific details of the rituals differ from pueblo to pueblo, "the rites are built around the sun, the coming new year and the rebirth of vegetation in the spring....Winter solstice rites include...prayerstick making, retreats, altars, emesis and prayers for increase."
    2. The Hopi tribe "is dedicated to giving aid and direction to the sun which is ready to 'return' and give strength to budding life." Their ceremony is called "Soyal." It lasts for 20 days and includes "prayerstick making, purification, rituals and a concluding rabbit hunt, feast and blessing..."
    3. There are countless stone structures created by Natives in the past to detect the solstices and equinoxes. One was called Calendar One by its modern-day finder. It is in a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and natural features in the horizon which formed the edge of the bowl. At the solstices and equinoxes, the sun rises and sets at notches or peaks in the ridge which surrounded the calendar.
DISCLAIMER: I closed the windows before I had a chance to link my sources, but if you think I may have gotten this info from your site, feel free to let me know and I'll link you!! But mostly I used Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Brittanica Online, and a few other free-lance sources from seemingly reputable individuals for the information above.

But who cares about all of that coincidence, eh? Your fabled god-child was born--who cares what everyone else celebrates, right? I mean, perish the thought that, not only has celebrating this time of year been in humanities blood eons before the desert-wandering Hebrews even thought up a monotheistic god who possibly might care for them, but even if you are celebrating what you believe to have happened so long ago in a manger, who cares? You celebrate this time of year, I celebrate this time of year, in fact thousands celebrate this time of year for vastly differing reasons! And even though it is good PR for all you fundies to come up with clever rhymes like "Jesus is the reason for the season," everyone has their own personal reasons for celebrating--even Christians!

Now, even though this is getting kind of long, since you may be learning something, I'll next touch on some things you said in your next comment.

You said: [...] but I felt it necessary to show the other side-the right side to his blasphemous remarks. You sound a little like John Edwards, you know that? The Other Side. Ooohhhhh, creepy! You didn't show anything but ignorance as to the history of humanity on earth, deciding instead it was all about your sky god and not the other souls who live upon the earth. And, sad to say, it wasn't even a good try, just--kind of sad...

You said: What about that teenage boy who is confused about his sexuality and stumbles upon this blog through a link from some other 'gay type' blog. He'll probably think, "Wow! You mean I can be a functioning normal adult? I don't have to listen to all that crap that's says there's something wrong with me? That there are others like me?" It'll offer some hope, some humor, some truth, all with a dash of sarcasm and satire. And perhaps even, a healthy sense of self that most gay teens don't get when they're growing up. But if you'd rather he think that he's an awful, "wrong" person in need of an imaginary friend, who should feel dirty and rotten about who and what he is, then by all means--keep talking.

You said: the truth of the matter is that he may be influencing someone away from God with the things he writes. Aw, how sweet of you to offer me hope. Not that I need it. But it's nice to know I'm thought of. :D

You said: I pray that you see the day when your son denounces homosexuality AND comes to Christ (I truly will pray for that). I'm thinking asking you to hold your breath for that won't make it happen, will it? Sigh. Well, if it gives you a purpose in life, who am I to take that away? Good luck--I mean that.

You said: I feel that sometimes the best way to show someone how they sound is to imitate them. Flattery will get you nowhere. I'm a happily married man.

You said: but I get riled when someone rips my Savior. You know what your book says: "Be angry and do not sin." Do you feel you may have committed a sin? (I personally don't think you did, but then again, I'm not living with a guilt-ridden soul that make some cling to imaginary beings either.)

And finally, I saved this for last even though you said it much earlier in your comment: You said: yet you continue to justify his actions. Fundie say what? Do you even read what mom posts? Have you heard our (HOURS!) long conversations? She has never "justified" anything about my lifestyle of choice, just as I have never condoned her lifestyle of choice (or yours, for that matter!) I'm guessing you are of the whole "tough love" school of though, eh? There's a bunch of crock that needs to be placed on the backburner and forgotten about, let me tell you! But be that as it may, while mom and I share a close friendship and great relationship, there are some things about ourselves we know we disagree on, we know we'll never see eye-to-eye on, and yet--somehow we manage to make it work out of respect. Now, she knows this is my blog--where I share my thoughts about what I read, see, hear, or generally wonder about. When I'm in her home, I expect to hear, see, or listen to things she believes strongly about, and you know what? I do. And we still make our proverbial red state-blue state friendship work. Go figure, huh? The Christian and the Atheist, something that tears most families apart since fundies seem to have a hard time with that thing called respect--it's what makes them try to legislate morality, demand to hear "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." RESPECT.

Oh, and a little blasphemy never hurt anyone--except when the Church sentenced them to death. I wonder why god can't kill blasphemer's on his own? Hmm...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Near the Beginning...:
#50: Dickering Deities...

Near the Beginning: Dickering Deities...
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

There's Noah Counting for Taste...

You see, the fable goes something like this:

Gen 6:13-22 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this [is the fashion] which thou shalt make it [of]: The length of the ark [shall be] three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; [with] lower, second, and third [stories] shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein [is] the breath of life, from under heaven; [and] every thing that [is] in the earth shall die.
But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every [sort] shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep [them] alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every [sort] shall come unto thee, to keep [them] alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather [it] to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
We'll just assume that the chapter 7 version of Genesis was God trying to improve genetic variation when he changed his mind and said to bring 7 of most kinds of animals, and then 2 of everything else... Cause you know YWHW, all about the gene pool!

Gen 7:2-3 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that [are] not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.
I imagine Noah went something like: "Wait, what? You just said 2 of every animal and fowl, now you want seven of some and 2 of others? What the hell, YWHW?!"

In case you haven't heard, more of us will be yelling "What the hell?" in the coming days. It seems that a bunch of Christians have decided that it is wiser to spend their money on building a full-scale, life-size biblical ark than it is to help the poor, the widows, the children... You know, your downtrodden souls in need at this time of year.

Noah may have taken 400 years to build the ark but investors of a new biblical theme park in northern Kentucky plan to replicate a full-scale model in under 36 months.

The completely wooden ark, which would measure 500 ft. across, 75 ft. wide and 45 ft. high, is slated to be unveiled in spring 2014 as one of the attractions of the proposed $150 million Ark Encounter theme park.
You get those sizes down? That's literal interpretation for you. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, an area smaller than a football field supposedly carried 2 to 7 of every creature on earth for much longer than 40 days and nights! Not to mention their food supplies and tools for keeping the place sanitary--as if sanitary were even a glimmer of a thought... Of course, keeping in mind that the lions, tigers, bears, wolves and boa constrictors would eat the sheep, goats, pigs, cats... Hmm...

But, wait! The idiocy continues!:

Answers in Genesis, known for the popular Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., is partnering with Ark Encounter to raise the $24.5 million needed to build the life-size ark. People can participate by donating $100 for a peg, $1,000 for a plank, or $5,000 for a beam to construct the ark.

As of Thursday afternoon, the non-profit organization has raised about $114,000 – just one day since it launched the campaign for Noah's Ark.
In just ONE DAY they raised $114,000. (And that's not in Roman denarius...) Of course, I'm left wondering why a peg costs $100 when you can buy a dozen of them at Home Depot for only $2.99... But then again, perhaps they haven't been blessed or baptized or whatever the hell it is they do with wooden pegs these days... Of course, thinking that an ark less than half the size of a football field could hold the millions of animal species, from microscopic to Indricotherium, I can see why they'd have trouble with math...

And did we forget about the plants? Almost no vegetation would survive, let alone be actively growing, after 40 days and nights (and please note, 40 days and nights is how long it supposedly rained for--it doesn't say how long it took these waters to recede...)--even if Noah did somehow manage to keep the T-Rex from devouring those seven measly sheep, what the hell were the surviving sheep going to eat? Dead earth?

I hope they build it--I really do! Nothing better could convince anyone with at least one working brain synapse of the idiocy of believing in literal bible inerrancy than seeing this tiny boat filled with--at the very minimum--two to seven of every member of the "Family" of animals located within. (Note that I'm being generous here and allowing them to move up 2 whole scientific categories instead of trying to fit in every "Genus" or "Species" of animal... They still wouldn't all fit, FYI...) There are more issues with this "literal global flood" than there are with almost anything else located within the bibles' pages...

Of course, I realize with a belief in an omnipotent god, you can have seven hundred miracles happen to explain away this one miracle--or, "blind faith," I do believe any self-respecting fundamentalist would call it... There's a reason you guys believe in a literal ark and flood, because you lack critical reasoning skills, and nothing I say could convince you otherwise...

That being said, however, when you pack up the family and head to the life-size ark (and I do hope you realize, "ark" means BOX) in Kentucky, and you sit there and realize you could simply spit across the entire width of the ark... Remember, it's your dumb-ass belief...

For logical, well-thought out arguments which pretty much prove the story is bunk, here are a couple of websites to get your started: