Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shroud of Turin Hoax

I recently saw that there was yet another tv special on the "Shroud of Turin". If you don't know what this is: the story is that the image of Jesus was "burned" into the linen shroud placed over his body (the magic of God!), so this is somehow proof of it all. For centuries, since about 1300, people have made pilgrimages to Turin, Italy, to see this item in a glass case.

Well, the church finally admitted years ago that it is a complete fraud, a church fabricated con. Some apparently are real slow getting the news. Of course, modern carbon-dating placing the cloth at around the 13th century forced them to confess. The only reason I mention it here is that they are still making and showing tv specials on it, so I'm assuming there's at least some audience out there gullible enough to believe a hoax even after it had been admitted. In one ear and out the other.

They used this to generate tourism for themselves. No telling how much money Italy got over the centuries luring people to Turin for no other reason. Now, someone intelligent would ask "why would they need to do this?", unless trying to convince people of some other story, people without enough faith, who need "tangible evidence". (someone will always be glad to provide it; why, I have a jar of Mt. St. Helen's volcanic dust for sale myself!). In other words, we don't need to fabricate a "shroud" if we know he existed. In the case of some Biblical figures, all we have is the Bible itself, no outside sources can confirm even their existence, so the church has actually harmed their own position by creating hoaxes like this through the centuries in order to "fool the gullible with fabricated proof". This makes all but the blindly faithful suspicious of everything else they say as well, so they do more harm than good to religion in the world's populace.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Resurrection: Parable or Reality?

A few years ago, the Vatican was heavily embroiled in this argument: do we re-teach the resurrection as myth and parable as it used to be taught, or do we allow the literal (or materialist) translation to continue to be used whether that is accurate or not? At the time, the only argument proposed against reverting to the 'as parable' teaching was that "some fundamentalists might lose their religion". This is the first time I've ever heard religious dogma be shaped by what some followers might erroneously believe. You're telling these people to expect their bodies to rise up after a waiting period, that their graves would be empty?

Suddenly, in the middle of these discussions, the U.S. sex scandals hit the church, and everyone's attention and time were diverted, as usual, to the more sensational, yet temporary issues. Interesting timing, as this has been going on for at least decades, if not centuries.

Has everyone forgotten the Crusades in the middle ages? Well, the first instructions to the first Christian crusaders was "the infidels now have the body of Jesus, which is in Solomon's Temple; we must go and bring back the body of our Lord to the holy city of Rome." In fact, even though some claim the Knights Templar did retrieve the body during the first crusade, this same argument was used by later popes to get the other crusaders to go back to Jerusalem again and again. The worst was the "children's crusade", in which almost all the children perished, an estimated 50,000, less than 1% returned to Europe. (This is the story behind the "Pied Piper" fairy tale, as this crusade actually had an adult leader)

Some recent 'accounts', and likely bogus, claim that some records indicate that the 'body of Jesus was removed by Pilate's soldiers the first night to a secret location because he feared a crowd might grow at the tomb which could become an angry mob'. However, this was from tv and there is no historical evidence, or even mention of these events outside of the Bible itself, not even in Jewish historian Josephus' accounts, who was an eyewitness in Rome to this era. (He did later write that the "Christians burning the homes of senators in Rome are being led by an elderly man called Jesus". It's a myth that the city was burned, only about 150 homes of politicians, simply terrorism directed at politicians to get more liberal religious laws.)

For purposes of this site, we're assuming this is simply a parable of the soul (or spirit, you know, this 'thing' that animates the matter) of a person. The body perishes, the soul does not. So the spiritual being of a human "rises after death", from its temporary house, the body, which will now return to the earth. ("Ashes to ashes, dust to dust"; our body actually recycles its atoms back into the planet within 1000 years).

I'm not sure of the significance of the "three day waiting period", unless this is a cultural ritual to give the family and friends time to arrive for a burial or at least a memorial service. (Now, the "trinity" people will say three represents the trinity, but if you can find that in the Bible it'll be news to everyone, since it was injected into Christianity during Constantine's major compromise with all the 9 dissenting factions of Christianity to keep the "Holy Roman Empire" from disintegrating.)

It's more likely that the soul leaves the body at the time of death, if it's nature is immortal. Scientists have measured an 18-21 gram loss in body weight at the time of death (the Russians detected this first, the danged 'commie athiests' - which acutally gives it more weight as they had no dogma or creed to fortify), so this may prove its existence scientifically. Remember that centuries earlier, in Greece, Socrates himself had been put to death for arguing the "immortality of the soul."

It's no accident that the celebration of this parable comes after the Passover moon, in the springtime. This is when all of nature is 'reborn' after winter's hibernation. Plants that are perennials (not evergreen) are reborn from their roots, animals that hibernate all winter now awaken and re-emerge into the world. The Passover moon is also usually the first time that its warm enough in some areas to go outdoors, make pilgrimages, backpack trips, long hikes. It's the time of year we took our first hikes in the desert, to Joshua Tree, after the cold winter. (The coldest night I've ever spent was one December night halfway down into Grand Canyon, on the Kaibab Plateau; I was so cold that I shook all night and didn't sleep)

Spring is the perfect time for a rebirth or resurrection parable to be applied to all of life. Rather than dwelling on the death, as most films and some people do, we should be instead be meditating on the rebirth.

[Cross Artwork: unfortunately I cannot read the name of the artist on this beautifully drawn print that I was given, it looks like Groffruiw - note to all artists: print your name somewhere as well as signing your work illegibly!]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Taking the Bible Literally

[Someone sent me this EMail and I just about died laughing, then realized that many people believe this literal interpretation, then blame society for "not following God's word". I added the new map of the actual nation, which represents today's reality. - EL]

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, an observant Orthodox Jew, is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following is a hilarious letter to Dr. Laura in response to her edict.

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination.

End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own a Canadian?

[It's also stated that you may rape female slaves, but if they are engaged first, then it's polite to release them afterwards. Now, if I ask first if they are engaged, can I believe them if they say yes? I certainly don't want to give up any female slaves that I can rape repeatedly..]

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbiden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them?

11. Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,
"One blasphemous liberal sinner"
(actual name changed to protect the sinful devil worshipper from being burned at the stake like Joan d'Arc)


[My NOTES: Now, obviously people say “These ideas are out of date – times have changed” – yeah? IF so, then why is this called “God’s word”, still? And is God’s word valid in some eras, NOT in others? If its invalid now, why are people still buying 3 Bibles each, on average, why is everyone claiming this is “immutable, everlasting wisdom”?

Detractors say western religion (the Judeo-Christian ones) have become “shopping cart religions” – you only buy the parts of it that you believe in. In that case, each person is creating their own “personal religion”. That being the case, the Bible then is nothing more than a “rough idea” of what should be ethical or not, and we each decide on our own. Somewhere in the Old T is says, “There was no king in Israel, every man did what he thought was right”.

That’s it in a nutshell: we EACH do what we think is right, so every person has his own “religion”. This is yet another reason it won’t work for any society or government, its all open to various interpretation – hence there are over 36,000 denominations of “Christianity” in the U.S. alone.. and if “only one” is right, that means that 99.999% of us have chosen “wrong”, and we’re all DOOMED!

I've often asked God to "smite me dead" if I'm wrong, and I'm still around, saying the same things for over 50 years now. They hated me in Sunday school, because they couldn't answer my questions, being "volunteers with the calling", but NO knowledge of theology, religion, or the Bible at all. Spiritual illiterates are teaching our kids this stuff!

"Any man who doesn't seek knowledge of God cannot be a priest in Israel"

ps - I believe Iran, and the Taliban in Afghanistan are trying to live "by the Bible", you can look at those societies and determine if "living by the word of God" works in reality for you (all we have is our opinions, right? Some will always like it, some not, true of every system really). In actuality, democracy would have prevented the American Revolution (supported by only 9%, fought by 3%) - EL