Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Category: Christian Bigotry

The Ten Commandments

So a few years ago, in an apparent attempt to squander hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars defending against lawsuits which will inevitably result in failure for the state, Arkansas passed a bill requiring that the ten commandments be posted in front of the statehouse. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Jason Rapert.

Yesterday the monument was installed on the State House lawn.

Hours later, at 4:30 AM, before the ACLU even had a chance to submit its lawsuit*, an apparently mentally ill man that professes “for our salvation we must have faith in Jesus Christ”** rammed his vehicle into the monument and smashed it into a zillion pieces.

Now, naturally nobody should go around illegally smashing property; I’m very much against it, and I hope this guy gets the combination of hospitalization and jail time that he needs and deserves. But honestly, guys in the Arkansas state legislature, this was a losing proposition from the start. I find it hard to generate a lot of sympathy. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why.

It doesn’t serve its stated purpose

The monument during its brief period of verticality

State Sen. Jason Rapert, the Christian zealot behind this whole mess, has stated in the bill (and which was parroted by Christian commentator Todd Starnes) that the reason for putting the ten commandments on the Statehouse lawn is because:

The Ten Commandments, found in the Bible at Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, are an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Arkansas

Really?

Which commandments would those be? Is there a law in Arkansas about only worshiping Jehovah of Sinai?

Will the police arrest anyone making a graven image?***

Christ on a Stick! Is there a law against taking the name of the “lord” in vain?

Will the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Arkansas Division) beat people who keep the Wal-Marts and fast food restaurants in Arkansas open on Sunday?

If a child tells their mother to go fuck themselves, will they end up in juvie?

Killing, yeah, and stealing, too, but both of those are hardly unique to the Ten Commandments, Christianity, or Judaism. In fact, I can’t think of a culture that didn’t prohibit those, including, especially, pagan cultures, so it hardly qualifies as an example of the ten commandments being “the moral foundation of the laws and legal system”.

Adultery? Well, it’s illegal in the UCMJ, yes, but you won’t get locked up for it normally.

False witness? Yup, we’ve got perjury laws on the books, but see above about killing and stealing.

Coveting? That might be something Oceania’s Thought Police might like to be able to arrest someone for, but in this country, it’s not against the law to think. Yet.

So no. Nothing in those precious ten commandments has anything to do especially with “the moral foundation of the laws and legal system.” In fact, if anything, our current system of law has much more to do with Germanic common law, inherited from the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, via the English colonies. You know, juries, personal rights, due process, that sort of thing that most people would normally associated with “the foundation of … the legal system.”

It’s Inherently Sectarian

Most people don’t realize that there are a lot more than one version of the ten commandments out there. Jews, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, they all have their own variations on the theme. You pick one for inclusion in an officially sanctioned and endorsed display by the state, and you explicitly establish whichever denomination of Christianity you picked (and let us not even consider for a moment that Rep. Rapert chose a Jewish version, because he didn’t) over all the other ones, and all the Jewish denominations, you didn’t pick.

Unless you carved one with a zillion footnotes with alternate versions, wordings, and so forth. But That doesn’t make for a good, pithy, “my religion is what’s important, not yours” statement, which is exactly what this stupid monument was intended to do.

It says “screw you” to the non-Christians

Pretty much by definition, if there’s a monument that has been explicitly established by a state government, placed on government property, and that monument not only has the historical context of a particular religion, but actually says:

I AM the LORD thy god

Thou shalt have no other gods before me

You ain’t my “lord” Jehovah of Sinai. You’re just a jumped-up desert god from a foreign folk who somehow managed to glom onto a winning formula to lie to people and tell them you’re the only god out there (although Asherah might have a word or two to say about that). And then turn right around and contradict yourself by admitting there are other gods. You might be a fine god for the Jews, but you make a piss-poor one for everyone else.

And the legislators in Arkansas, not caring at all, of course, stuck their finger in the eye of every Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Atheist, Shinto, Amerindian religious follower, Wiccan, neopagan, and of course Asatruar out there, among many others. But they don’t care, because there are more Christians than the rest of us put together.

For now.

Fortunately the law is on our side, and the United States provides for protections against the sort of religious triumphalism that Rep. Rapert and his supporters were trying to impose. The reason we have individual rights and limitations on the powers of government is precisely to circumvent the sort of mob-rule mentality that says “there are more of us, so we can do what we want.” It is precisely to protect the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority. Republicans used to be all about that sort of thing. I hope they get back to that core principle.

__________

* Which would win because, unlike the Texas monument it attempts to emulate, this hunk of granite isn’t in the context of a whole bunch of similar displays from a variety of religions and sources.

** Insert you-must-be-mentally-ill-to-be-Christian joke here.

*** Consider here the irony of making a graven image of the Ten Commandments. Ahem.

Is Christmas Pagan?

So over at Renew America, one Gina Miller (not the woman who sued the UK to try to prevent the Brexit being implemented, as far as I can tell) has an article up proclaiming loudly that Christmas is not pagan or ‘holiday’ (sic). Let’s take a walk through this together, shall we? (I’m quoting the whole thing below, in the interests of not wanting to have anything taken out of context. I’m sweet that way.)

Each year around this time, in Facebook posts and elsewhere, we are certain to be lectured by well-meaning Christians on the “sinfulness” of celebrating Christmas. Their arguments can be persuasive. “In the Bible, God never told us to celebrate Christmas,” they say. “Christmas has its roots in paganism,” they say. So that must mean we’re just dupes celebrating a pagan ritual when we ignorantly think we’re gratefully celebrating the birth of Jesus. Who wants to celebrate what God never told us to celebrate and which supposedly has its roots in paganism? Not me! But are those things really true?

Since Mrs. Miller doesn’t actually link to any examples of people saying this, it’s difficult to suss out whether this is actually happening. It would have been nice, and unfortunately without something specific for her to be chewing on, this has the look of a straw man. Fortunately, Google is a fine mistress, and I was able to quickly find a few examples of the question of whether or not Christmas is Pagan, from good, upstanding Christian ministries and groups; should be easy to find the sorts of Christians that Mrs. Miller is talking about, right? Let’s take a quick look:

I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. 

This much we know: Before there was December 25, there was January 6. As early as the second century, Christians celebrated Jesus’ appearance at the Jordan and his baptism by John on January 6. Some time later they expanded this festival to include Christ’s appearance at birth. Christians called it Epiphany, or manifestation. So the meaning of the first Christmas was not pagan; it was a celebration of the Word manifest in flesh.

We’re not celebrating a pagan holiday because the pagan holiday was the saturnal and we’re not worshipping the god of Saturn, or whatever the content was.  We are not doing that.  If you listen to the words of the song “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,” the original was written with the Christmas tree being a type of Jesus Christ.  You look at the words and the gospel is in the words of the Christmas tree.  So this is not a Christmas tree that we’re putting in our house as an idol to some tree god, or something like that.  No, this is a tree that we are using as a cultural expression that can be invested with religious meaning for the Christian.  

Oh, hmmm… Maybe it’s not so easy after all.

Heh… I’m just having a bit of fun; I do know there are Christians out there who don’t like Christmas and condemn it as Pagan. But they’re not the majority, by a long shot. And in fairness, they’re not complaining about the holiday; they’re complaining about the trappings and customs that have been attached to it (more about that later). But finding pro-Christian stuff was a lot easier. Goodwife Miller continues.

While there is no specific instruction in the Bible to honor or celebrate the birth of Jesus each year (and no, of course we don’t know the actual date of His birth), neither is there any prohibition of it.

REALLY??? Is a committed conservative Christian actually making an argument that, “if it’s not specifically prohibited in the Bible, it’s okay to do”??? ‘Cause I’m very sure there isn’t any “thou shalt not commit abortion” or “thou shalt not have gender reassignment surgery” or “thou shalt not have sex wearing a Pikachu costume” passages in there.

The Bible says this is okey-dokey!

Interestingly, there really is a concrete Biblical prohibition on one cherished Christmas custom:

2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

But as for using the literal words of the Bible as a guide to what one is and is not allowed (or compelled) to do, I’ll leave it to Jed Bartlet to have the final word:

But I digress. Gentlewoman Miller continues…

Further, when you read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, it is clear that heaven and earth celebrated that miraculous event. Can you imagine the breathtaking awe felt by those humble shepherds at the sight of the multitude of heavenly host praising God on that powerful, wonderful occasion?

Well… no. Your Bible does say:

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So a bunch of angels appeared in the desert, and the shepherds looked around and said “WTF just happened?” but nothing about heaven and earth celebrating what happened. Again, since Mrs. Miller doesn’t provide any passages to back up her assertion, it’s hard to tell. Maybe she’s thinking of Luke 19:40 (which has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth, by the way)???

I can think of nothing more worthy of annual remembrance and celebration than the birth of Christ, alongside the celebration of His resurrection from the dead (the supposed “paganism” about which we are also lectured by those same well-meaning Christians. “The root word for Easter is the name of a pagan goddess!” they say). These events are part of the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Well, the word Easter does come from the Old English word Eostre, which was, according to Bede, a Heathen goddess. So… yeah. That’s probably why different languages have different words for things, and many languages call Easter a variety of different words related to the Hebrew word for Passover, “Pesach”. English being a Germanic language and all…

But I think this is at the heart of the problem with Mrs. Miller’s article. She is confusing the complaints about customs, language, dates, and the like, with the significance of the holiday in the Christian religion. Legitimate complaints about those things don’t necessarily mean they are complaining about the Christian symbolism associated with the holiday.

I submit to you that the truth is the opposite of these assertions of paganism. The claims that the pagan rituals in which Christmas (and Easter) supposedly are based pre- date Jesus’ birth, earthly ministry, sacrifice and resurrection from the dead are wrong. Nothing “pre-dates” Jesus. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is outside of time, because He is before time. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing – nothing – was made. He is God. His willing sacrifice to save the world was set and planned before the dawn of time and creation of the world.

Well, that’s a nice (and conveniently self-serving) theory, but just saying it’s so doesn’t make it so.

Fortunately, we have history, and archaeology, and historiography, and all the other branches of science to tell us that yes, things did happen prior to 4 BCE, when your savior-god was supposedly born. Time being linear (even if events do move in great cyclical patterns), are you actually saying that Satan literally has the power to see the future?

Let’s see a quote stating that in your Bible. Somewhere near the back, maybe?

Dame Miller continues.

All pagan (satanic) rituals, “holidays” and celebrations throughout history are nothing more than cheap imitation knock-offs of the Real Thing. Satan has always tried to set himself in the place of Jesus, to be the object of worship. Before being cast to earth, he tried the same thing in heaven. To this end, he has created myriad false religions and rituals, from blatantly pagan to sneaky, fake “Christian.” Not only are these designed for Satan to soak up men’s worship, but also to deceive men and keep them from coming to a saving knowledge of Truth found only in the Word of God.

Except, of course, that there were religions before Christianity. Heck, there were religions before Judaism, which is the spiritual basis for Christianity. Unless she’s saying that Satan founded the Egyptian religion millennia before there even was a Jewish or Hebrew people? Or perhaps he was responsible for Neanderthals worshiping the skulls of animals, or burying their dead with horns? Because that’s religion, too, and it way predates that sorry patchwork you call a faith.

In so many different ways, since the fall of man in the Garden, the devil has deceptively imitated and mocked Christ’s ministry and message, even before they played out in time. So, no, the celebration of the birth of Christ – that we call Christmas – does not have its roots in paganism. It’s the other way around. Satan has always stolen the ideas he has from Christ’s truth, and then he twists and perverts that truth into lies and grotesque wickedness.

So… Satan can see into the future. And then arrange things so that he can create things that presage that future, but… not. Gods, this is as absurd as Satan planting fossils in the ground, or arranging photons in space so they happen to hit the Earth at exactly the right instant so as to give the illusion that the universe is more than six thousand years old. And Yahweh lets him! Her god is either a sadistic fuck who enjoys seeing the humans he supposedly loves being conned, or, well, not quite what he’s been cracked up to be.

Another point to consider is the fact that the world, currently under Satan’s lordship, despises and reviles all things of God and Christ.

But wait. Isn’t Mrs. Miller in the world, too? And of it, because she’s got a physical form (I assume; otherwise how could she hit the keys on the keyboard?) Doesn’t that make her a vassal of Satan?

Thus, we see Satan’s war on Christmas, waged by his servants the God-haters among us. If Christmas was truly based in satanic paganism, don’t you think the devil would be fine with its presence in the public square?

Oh, the “war on Christmas” canard. I was waiting for this one. How successful it has been, too. Why, the padlocking of church doors on December 24th has been a staple of our society for years. The postal service, pressed into service, routinely opens up cards throughout December, gainfully employing hordes of people with Sharpies to cross out the word “Christmas” and replace it with “Holidays”. There’s nary a mention of Christmas in print, or radio, or television.

It’s almost enough to make you wish there were churches on every corner. But those were bulldozed years ago in preparation for the final assault on Christmas.

Christianity has a collective martyr complex, but in the absence of real persecution, they seem to feel compelled to invent it. “My cashier didn’t say “Merry Christmas”! I’m just as oppressed as Christians who are killed in Somalia!”

Instead, we now see almost every major corporation aggressively scrubbing even the mention of Christmas from their businesses and advertising.

Indeed. Like A.C. Moore, Barnes & Noble, Bath and Body Works, Belk, Best Buy, Bronners, CVS Pharmacy, Dillards, Hallmark, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, JC Penny, K-Mart, Kohl’s, Lehmans, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Menards, Neiman Marcus, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Sears, Staples, Toys R Us, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart. All of whom appear on the “nice list” published by the Liberty Counsel.

It’s irksome to see the ridiculous level this corporate purging of Christmas has reached. Having been in radio for 22 years, I’ve watched as the generic word “holiday” has slowly replaced Christmas in national radio ads. It would be silly if it weren’t so devilish:
“This holiday, give the gift your sweetheart wants!” “Make your holiday cards special!” “Find all your holiday gifts in one location!” “Do your holiday shopping with us, and save!” “We have the perfect holiday gifts at prices you’ll love!”

I know it shouldn’t come as a surprise to squaw Miller, but there are other religions out there, that are just as legitimate, and legally protected, as hers is. And most, if not all, of them have holidays clustered around the winter solstice. Not to mention the entirely secular holiday of New Year’s. And as the population of the United States (and the West in general) has slowly shifted away from Christianity to other faiths, or no faith, or a mushy “spiritual but not religious”-osity (ugh), the assumption that any given person will be Christian. Saying “Happy holidays” or advertising “holiday gifts” is simply safer for retailers who want to make the maximum number of potential customers feel welcome.

It’s not “holiday.” It’s Christmas.

…and Diwali, and Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve/Day, and Yule, and Kwanzaa, and Saturnalia, and Zartosht No-Diso, and Festivus, and Korochun, and Hogmanay, and dozens more. Christianity is not the only religion out there, and retailers would be idiots for not wanting to reach out to the 30% of Americans who aren’t Christian.

No one sends out “holiday cards.” They send out Christmas cards.

See above.

No one does their “holiday shopping.” They do their Christmas shopping. No one gives “holiday gifts.” They give Christmas gifts. 

See above. Lots of midwinter festivals have gift exchange traditions. In fact, the tradition started with Roman Saturnalia and Norse Jól.

This is yet another example of the world doing its worst to obliterate even the mention of Christ – in this case, as it appears in the word Christmas.

No, this is an example of the world being inhabited by a majority of people that aren’t Christian, and don’t want to follow your insipid sexually repressive death-cult.

The giant corporations are glad to scrub Christmas from their advertising, but boy do they love to load up on national “holiday” ads in order to separate you from your Christmas cash!

Yeahhhhh, about that…

Christmas is not pagan, and it’s not “holiday.” It is part of the greatest True Story in the history of stories. How fortunate we are that God so loved the world! Jesus, stepped down from the glory of His heavenly throne and into the form of man. He was born into the world He loved so much that He willingly offered His precious, sinless life in place of ours, and all we have to do is believe and accept His free gift salvation.

Yeah, yeah. We’ve all seen The Little Drummer Boy. Your religion’s midwinter myth has been shoved down out throats on national television for decades (how’s that for being oppressed!). Doesn’t make it true.

For those well-meaning Christians who deeply believe celebrating Christmas is wrong, an offense to God, then for them, it is wrong. Let every man be convinced in his heart. But, for those of us who view it as the celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, then let us celebrate it with joy and thanks to God.

And here, I think, is the fundamental disconnect, and why frau Miller would have been much better served to pick a few concrete examples, rather than the straw man she ended up arguing against.

On one level, I actually agree with her. The celebration of the birth of their savior-god is absolutely a Christian thing, and there’s nothing wrong with Christians doing so. The date may or may not have been selected to coincide with a couple of Pagan Roman celebrations, but who cares? Christians can choose dates for their holidays like anyone else.

However, it should also be noted that modern (and historical) Christmas celebrations have accumulated enormous Pagan and Heathen customs over the years, many of which I’ve detailed (and will continue to detail) here on the blog as the Yuletide season continues. In fact, I hate to say it, but Jason Mankey has outlined the Christian and Pagan provenance of a host of modern Christmas customs and symbols, and done a very good job of it (I might quibble on the edges here and there, but it’s a good piece overall). I daresay when people write against Christians celebrating Christmas, they’re really referring to the Christmas trees, Santa Claus, Wassailing, drinking and overeating in general, commercialism in general, St. Lucia, Rudolf, Yule Logs, and on and on and on. And maybe they have a point, if one is so wrapped up in the Bible as to want to purge from one’s life anything that doesn’t come out of Leviticus.

The other problem with her analysis is the blind willful refusal to acknowledge that any other religion besides Christianity exists, let alone that all of them have holidays around this same time of year, that the United States is becoming steadily less Christian, even if she might not like that fact, and businesses want to try to sell goods to as many people as possible. It just makes sense to market to a full third of the population who don’t happen to share her faith, even if “holidays” becomes a handy shortcut to do so.

Merry Christmas!

And a glad Yule to you, too.

Why end with this? WHY THE HEL NOT???

Everything wrong with Town of Greece v. Galloway in one headline

This says it all.

It’s not the subheader. I expect the Christians to regard my Gods as “false”, just as I regard their god as a fraud. That just comes with the territory of dealing with folks who don’t share one’s own beliefs.

The problem is that parenthetical.

They “let” Pagans pray before public meetings. For them, the Christian majority, prayer before public meetings is a right. For us, the non-Christian minority, it’s a privilege, something doled out at the sufferance of the Christians whose nation this is, and to whom we should be eternally grateful to even be allowed to be here.

They “let” Pagans pray. Just let that sink in. That’s how they think about it.

And what they “let” Pagans do today, they can refuse to “let” them do tomorrow.

Don’t think that’s escaped their thinking, either.

Which One is the God of Love, Again?

(Cross-posted at PaganSquare.com)

Over at the PJ Media Lifestyle section (who knew PJ media even had a lifestyle section?), Dave Forsmark has a piece extolling the virtues of a new self-published novel from one of his PJ Media colleagues. I’m not going to get much into his review of the book itself, mostly because I haven’t read it and have no plans to do so, but his essay leading into the review is so rife with misinformation and unsupported assumptions and conclusions, mostly at the expense of the Norse Gods, that I felt it necessary to respond.

Please note that this is not intended to be a Christianity-bashing article. Rather, the intent is to point out that Christianity is not some pure and good religion, and the Christian God is not somehow on a unique moral plane compared to other Gods and Goddesses, as Mr. Forsmark claims. The various crimes and failings of other faiths that he brings up are to be found in Christianity in spades, and so Christianity doesn’t enjoy any special place among the world’s religions. If anything, it has more than its share of wrong-doing.

Americans have a naïve view of religion. The religious freedom that is so ingrained in our tradition — and our Constitution — has morphed beyond tolerance to a sort of anthropomorphic acceptance of pretty much anything.

Basically, acceptance of anything religious that isn’t Juedeo-Christian is somehow naïve and beyond the scope of the First Amendment. Now that the implicit Christian hegemony over American culture is being eroded, Mr. Forsmark is terrified that somewhere, someone worships a different God (or Gods) than he does. Why does that terrify him? Because he views it as an implicit criticism of his own choice to worship Jehovah, and he’s not used to that assumption being questioned (although it’s fine for him to question other peoples’ choices in regards to their choice of faith).

In other words, in order to prove how tolerant we are, we take our basically Judeo-Christian view of what religion and God should be, and assume all other religions share the same goals, have the same values and are just differing manifestation of the same loving and just God.

It is true that all too often we hear the insipid canard that “all faiths lead to the same place”, or “we all worship the same God”, or somesuch.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Agreed, but the problem lies not in the fact that not every God is like the Christian God, but that so many people make the assumption. My Gods aren’t like his God? Good!

In fact, the God of the Bible is unique in the history of the world’s religions. From Baal to Zeus, from Jupiter to Allah and Odin, the gods of paganism are capricious masters, not loving fathers. Control is their goal — when they think of humans at all — not justice or peace.

The goal of God of the Bible is justice and peace? The justice afforded to slaves who know their place, perhaps. The peace of the dead, without doubt. Just ask the firstborn of Egypt. Amalek and his people. The Midianites. The inhabitants of Jericho, Shion, Og, Ai, Makkedah, Lachish, the Gibeonites, the Libnahites, the Eglonites, the Hebronites, the Debirites, etc. etc. etc. And their crime? They were in the Israelites way. They had something the Israelites wanted. So the vicious God of the Israelites told them to slaughter them to get it.

And justice? Christians are famous for performing a curious bit of philosophical gymnastics. “If God said to do it, it is by definition good and just.” Uh-huh.

But saying so is sooooo judgmental!

No, it’s simply factually incorrect. Jehovah, the “God of the Bible”, sets the standard for being petty, vindictive, jealous, capricious, and not only directly but indirectly murderous as well.

Marvel Comics master storyteller Stan Lee took the most interesting of the Norse gods, Thor, the God of Thunder, and made him a crusader for truth, justice and maybe even the American Way… or at least Western values.

I might argue that, from a literary and mythological standpoint, Odin is far more interesting than Thor. But then again, I don’t base my religion on a comic book, so it’s something of a moot point.

But think of it from the view of the Vikings — what could be more capricious and destructive than the god of the weather?

Thor was indeed connected with the weather, but not in the simplistic way Mr. Forsmark describes. Thor is God of the winds; the same winds that drive ships on their far voyages for trade and exploration. He is the God of the rain; the same life-giving rain that is vital for the growth of crops. His hammer is used not to punish humans, but to protect them from the hostile Jotuns (giants), against whom Thor wages a never-ending war for the protection of both Gods and humans.

But of course, a self-centered destructive superhero who loves war and longs to be worshiped would make for a crappy comic book.

“Longs to be worshipped?” Mr. Forsmark has Thor confused with his own Jehovah (not surprising, since above he seemed to think that the “God of the Bible” was the gold standard against which all other divinities should be measured). Was it Thor who demanded “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me”? No; that dubious and insecure command comes from Mr. Forsmark’s God, not mine.

On the serious side, though, a misunderstanding of a leading world religion has serious implications for most of the current world conflicts.

Indeed it does. Such as Mr. Forsmark’s self-serving and almost blind misunderstanding of his own religion. He seeth the speck of sawdust in other peoples’ eye, but the hypocrite seeth not the plank in his own eye.

Even George W. Bush, who may have done more to physically confront jihad in the world in the last century or so, mouthed the diplomatically convenient canard, “Islam means peace.” Yes, and Pravda means “truth.”

I believe the actual quote from President Bush was “Islam is a religion of peace”; the word itself means “submission”. But then again, one might make the same complaint against those who say that Christianity is a religion of justice and peace…

A non-rebellious slave is at “peace” with his master, too.

Mr. Forsmark should have no problem with that. Does not his own Bible say “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”? Well, as long as the slave is beaten properly; just enough to cripple him for a few days, rather than kill him.

Now, I know full well that the Christian Bible also has passages that can be interpreted as being against slavery. But the good doesn’t erase the evil…

<snip a whole bunch of Islam-bashing stuff; I’ll let the Muslims sort him out here if they care to>

But Allah is much more like every other pagan deity… no matter how far flung.

Technically speaking, using the dictionary definition of the term, Allah isn’t pagan. But, you know, facts always have a tendency to get in the way of a good zinger.

I talked to PJ Media contributor Brian Cherry, who, under the pseudonym Brian James has recently published Ragnarok: The Hammer, Book One in a planned trilogy of novels set in the present day about the Norse prophecies of Apocalypse — hey, unlike the Mayans, the Vikings actually predicted one, you don’t have to infer it by when they calendar [sic] happens to end.

Since the end of any religion is one’s eternal destiny, we started there. Brian told me that Odin and Allah agree on the surest — and quickest — way to heaven. Not through faith in a Savior, but through sanctified violence.

“Although I’m sure the original myths many of Odin’s circumstances are borrowed directly from the bible, his personality is much closer to that of Allah. The first thing that comes to mind is that he would have loved suicide bombers.

Really? That’s more than a bit of a stretch. The slain that Odin chooses in battle to reside in Valhalla and fight at his side at the battle of Ragnarok aren’t chosen strictly for their ability to kill other people. Nowhere do we read in the sagas or Eddaic poetry about valkyries plucking someone up simply because they burned down a building full of people (we do have plenty of examples of people burning down buildings full of people—they just don’t get rewarded with being drawn into the ranks of the einherjar for doing so).

Those who went to Valhalla didn’t go there based on a belief in a savior, enlightenment or good works. You went to Valhalla based on a good death in battle. Odin would have adored warriors who killed thousands of their enemy by crashing an airliner into a building. Dying during the act would have assured their place in heaven.”

Nonsense; those who are chosen are on a battlefield. Fighting against other capable warriors; in many cases the best fighting the best, and Odin (and occasionally other Gods and Goddesses) intervening to pull their chosen. That’s not slaughtering innocent people, that’s not putting a sword through some defenseless child or old man. The chosen of Valhalla are chosen for their valor and strength of arms; the only way that is demonstrated is against other warriors. Slaughter of innocents? The God of the Bible has that down to a science, and not only commands his followers to engage in the gruesome practice, but rewards them handsomely for doing so. Neither Odin nor Thor are ever recorded commanding the Danes to wipe out a city because the Gods promised it to them. Jehovah brags about it, more than once. It’s his modus operandi throughout the entire Old Testament.

As for not needing a savior, once again, just because something isn’t Christian doesn’t make it wrong.

The Vikings also had their own 9-11, as Cherry explains.

The Vikings were also the world’s first (and arguably most successful) terrorists. They would appear quietly out of nowhere and often someplace that was undefended…a soft target. The attack on the Lindisfame monastery in 793 is not only an act of overt terrorism, but accepted by most as the start of the Viking age. 

Do Mr. Forsmark and Mr. Cherry actually believe there was no carnage before the 8th century? We might go back to the many, many examples of the Israelites in the Old Testament noted above; surely killing 3,000 Philistines is more of an act of terror than putting a few monks to the sword.

They did what they did in Odin’s name, and they believe with his blessing. 

Considering the only sources we have are the Christian targets of the raid, and they didn’t record whether the Vikings who sacked the place were shouting “For Odin!” or “For Thor!” or “For Tyr!” or “For FreyR!” or “For Freyja” or whatever, this is just a completely unsupportable assertion. But assume it’s true for the sake of argument. So what? The Israelites did much, much worse in the name of Jehovah.

That is not much different then Allah smiling on his followers for killing the helpless in his name.

Again, I’ll refer this to the Muslims. But the “if it’s not Christianity, it’s eeeeeevil” is starting to wear thin. It’s certainly a crappy form of argument.

Lindisfarne was the home of the famed monk Saint Aiden, a center for evangelization throughout northern Europe, and known for an illustrated copy of the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John known as the Lindisfarne Gospels. When Thomas Cahill wrote How the Irish Saved Civilization, he had in mind people like the Lindisfarne monks.

To the Vikings, followers of Odin, the Lindisfarne Monastery was as major a symbol of Christianity as the World Trade Center was a symbol of the capitalist West to certain followers of Allah in 2001. And there was little booty to be gained from the raid, which was conducted in as bloody a way as possible and sent shudders through Christendom. The scholar Alcuin wrote, “The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”

This is a misconception that I’ve even seen repeated among Heathens. The Vikings who sacked Lindisfarne did not do so because of any sort of ideological crusade against Christianity. Monks’ blood notwithstanding, the reason Lindisfarne was attacked was because it was a soft target with lots of loot to be had, not because it had any sort of religious significance. In fact, didn’t he make the very same point a few paragraphs above? (“They would appear quietly out of nowhere and often someplace that was undefended…a soft target.”)

Of course, then, as now, Christians had a need to see themselves as persecuted martyrs, so it’s not surprising that Alcuin saw the raid as a sign of tribulation in response to the sinfulness of the English. Symeon, on the other hand, provides a more prosaic and more detailed account: “On the seventh of the ides of June, they [the Norse raiders] reached the church of Lindisfarne, and there they miserably ravaged and pillaged everything; they trod the holy things under their polluted feet, they dug down the altars, and plundered all the treasures of the church. Some of the brethren they slew, some they carried off with them in chains, the greater number they stripped naked, insulted, and cast out of doors, and some they drowned in the sea.” – Symeon, History of the Church of Durham.

Just because the Christians were upset that some Christian relics got looted doesn’t mean that the Vikings who did the looting did so out of any motive other than plunder.

The followers of Odin did not start their war on Christianity with the attack on Lindisfarne, as Cherry explains.

War on Christianity? If anything, the reverse was true. It was the Christians who consistently spread their foreign faith into the Germanic lands, by persuasion when convenient, but by trickery, compulsion, blackmail, torture, and even mass executions if necessary. It was Charlemagne in 782 (ten years before Lindisfarne!) who slaughtered 4,500 Saxons who refused to abandon the faith of their fathers, and that was merely one in a near-endless string of atrocities committed by the expanding Christian church against those who refused to bend before it. And that is just one example out of literally hundreds if not thousands.

Odin and Allah both seemed to have a major problem with Christians. Before the Viking age of the Norse started with the attack on the Lindisfame Monastery, the pagan followers of Odin persecuted and purged Norway of Christians. This started in late 772 or early 773 AD. 

Tossing out missionaries or slaughtering thousands of innocent captives who refuse to convert. Which is the atrocity, again?

The Quran (as the inspired word of Allah) also shows an intolerance for Christians and Jews.

About this time I can hear someone who had the same history teacher as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton yelling, “Hey! What about Crusades?”

Since you bring it up, sure. I could just as easily bring up the pogroms, or persecutions of Pagans under the Christianized Roman Empire, or the multiple genocides chronicled in Exodus, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, etc. But if you want to go with the Crusades, I’m happy to play on your field.

Look, like Odin, Allah made his first appearance somewhere around the 7th Century. 

The evidence points to Odin being a very old deity amongst the Germanic peoples; Tacitus associates him with Mecury in the 1st Century work “Germania”, and there is linguistic evidence that goes much further back than that.

Conversion was more by force and violence than by rhetoric. While Obama seems to adopt the Third World position that Islam is the organic and legitimate religion of Arab regions, it’s worth remembering that Alexandria, the great city of Egypt at one time was a central city of early Christianity.

And before that it was a great center of Hellenistic civilization. In 440 CE Bishop Theophilus ordered the destruction of Pagan temples, idols, and religious works, among which was most if not all of the contents of the great Library of Alexandria. That wasn’t a Pagan, that wasn’t a Muslim. That was a Christian. So don’t pretend that the Christians are somehow blameless in all this; their hands are just as dirty as everyone else’s. If it’s bad that the Muslims took Alexandria away from the Christians, it’s just as bad that the Christians took it away from the Pagans.

So, while the Crusades, whatever their wisdom or excesses, took on the mission of “liberating the Holy Land,” to act as though it was some imperialistically religious, unprovoked attack is to pretend Normandy was an act of aggression against a peaceful country.

Most mainstream historians would disagree with that interpretation. Indeed, the very fact of the foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 CE demonstrates that it was precisely an “imperialistically religious… attack” to beat back the advances of Islam. But don’t take my word for it; here’s Pope Urban II on the objectives of the First Crusade (and he should know—it was undertaken at his urging): “Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. … They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impunity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends.” (Urban II, Council of Clermont, 1095 CE)

Now, as with most things, the motives for the Crusades were varied and complex. But to state that they weren’t motivated by the desire to re-establish the control of Christendom over the lands that the Muslims had conquered is simply incorrect.

Perhaps the most remarkably specific similarity between Odin and Allah is how women are used to welcome the slain warrior into Heaven. Everybody knows by now about the famed 72 virgins made available to the man who dies in the service of jihad. (What happens to these apparently specifically created creatures whose sole reason for existence is to service the jihadist after they are no longer a virgin is not spelled out, however…)

Odin has his own version of this. Valkyries meet the warrior who is killed in battle and escort him to Valhalla. Any other role is not spelled out, though Valkyries are certainly not presented as asexual creatures in any interpretation of Norse myths. Cherry speculates, “Valkyries guided/carried the hero to Valhalla. Servicing then was presumably the in flight entertainment.”

Then Cherry shouldn’t be talking about things he obviously knows nothing about, let alone writing novels about them.

The sexualized version of the valkyrie is a relatively recent phenomenon. Originally, the valkyries were envisioned more like the Greek furies; fearsome bloodstained hellions who are much more at home on a bloody battlefield than in some Asgardian sex palace. There is talk of them offering cups of wine or mead to those who arrive in Valhalla, but that’s all.

But then sex plays a central role among all the gods in Brian’s modern interpretation of the Viking’s gods, and their interactions with modern American culture.

Indeed; it should also be pointed out that if sex were envisioned as any part of the (very complex) Norse conception of the afterlife, it would likely be in Freyja’s home Folkvangr. She is said to have her pick of half of those chosen, and no definitive connection exists between her and the valkyries.

So enough serious stuff. Time to talk about Brian Cherry’s (aka Brian James) Ragnarok — easily the most fun way I can think of to get a good idea of the various personalities of Norse mythology (yes, we can call it that now, since darn few Swedes believe this stuff anymore, unlike the other religion we have been discussing).

I don’t know the exact numbers for Sweden, but tens of thousands of people still worship the Norse Gods in the United States. You know; the U.S. with the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of religion (even if that religion isn’t Christianity)?

First, forget everything you absorbed from the (really terrific) Avengers movies. Starting with the Hammer, Mjolnir.

Unlike what Marvel Comics had to say about the Hammer of Thor (or what any other myth describes regarding the use of powerful, supernatural weapons) using Mjolnir had nothing to do with the purity of one’s heart or the strength of their convictions. If morality truly dictated what tools one could use, none of the Gods would be able to pick up a Craftsman screwdriver from Sears without bursting into flames.

…and Jehovah would fall to dust from a socket wrench.

That gives you a flavor for Cherry’s tone here.

Indeed it does, and I have to say that his book rings a bell somehow. Norse Gods and Goddesses living in America? Now, where could I have heard something like that before? Oh, that’s right…

At least he got one thing right. Avengers was a terrific movie. Everything else… not so much.

Grieve Indeed the Growth of Neo-Paganism

(Cross-posted at witchesandpagans.com)

Over at Pantheos, Timothy Dalrymple, on his Philosophical Fragments blog, posted about a trip he recently made with the editor of the Pagan channel at Pantheos, Star Foster. After a pretty nice and friendly introduction, though, he lays open his bigoted Christian heart and says:

As a Christian, of course, I grieve the growth of modern Neo-Paganism. … I find the historical scholarship of the Pagan communities sorely wanting, and the philosophy and theology behind it all is not yet mature.  Although it’s always harder to hear an outsider say it, I think most thoughtful pagans agree (and many say openly) that there is, quite naturally, a lot of growing left to do. 

And then bigotry transforms into condescension as we are treated to:

It’s like watching new religions take shape right in front of you, and observing the processes that transform ideas into teachings, teachings into communities, and communities into institutions and traditions.  Sects are becoming religions.

Like monkeys in a zoo. How quaint! The cute little Pagans are starting to turn into a real religion right before my very eyes! Isn’t that adorable? It’s like they think they’re real people!

I have a bit of historical analysis for Mr. Dalrymple, if I may, who despite his self-claimed status as a “scholar of religion” seems to think that “religion” equals Christianity.

Perhaps the “historical scholarship of the Pagan communities” would be a bit more robust if Christians had not gone around systematically obliterating as many traces of our history, beliefs, and practices as they could.  Thanks to Mr. Dalrymple’s forebears, we are forced to make do with fragments, bits and pieces that we are able to cobble together to get an outline of what our ancestors believed and how they acted on those beliefs. If the Christian conversion of Europe had spilled a little more ink and a little less blood, then perhaps those of us who utterly reject the Christian world-view would be able to satisfy Mr. Dalrymple’s standards of scholarship.

Alas, we must make the most of what his forebears left us.

Perhaps the modern revival of Pagan and Heathen religions might have happened earlier, and thus would now find themselves in a more “fully grown” state at this point, if there had not been systematic oppression of non-Christian beliefs and practices. Perhaps, if there were no “Witchcraft Acts” in England, or if they had been repealed prior to 1951, we might be in a bit better place right now, compared to Christianity, which had a bit of a jump on Paganism these last thousand years plus.

Alas, we must make the most of what his forebears saw fit to allow us, in the time they saw fit to allow us.

And then we go beyond mere bigotry, beyond condescension, and into complete and utter xenophobic invalidation:

Personally, of course, I don’t want Pagans to find religion, because I want pagans to recognize that the great God above all gods become incarnate and communicated his love and reconciliation to the world through Jesus Christ, the God-man.

Because, dontcha know, Dalrymple really knows what’s best for all of us, and if only we’d listen, we’d all agree with him. Because his god is “real” and ours are just… what? Demons? Figments of our collective imaginations? He seems to ask Star with incredulity:

When you honor Hephaistos, do you believe that Hephaistos (and the whole pantheon, for that matter) truly exists or do you honor Hephaistos as a symbol for important truths and values?

I have news for you: your Jehovah isn’t “above” Thor or Odin on his best day. Your pathetic god was nailed to a cross. My God wields a giant hammer. Any questions?

Mr. Dalrymple lays accusations and faults at the feet of Paganism and Heathenry which are explicitly and historically the fault of Christianity. And then he has the audacity to say that it is our fault that we are not “mature” enough. Not “scholarly” enough.

Perhaps we should aspire to be as mature as Islam, whose enthusiastic supporters kill, burn, maim, and destroy at the slightest provocation because non-believers violated strictures that their believers are held to, and hold back basic human rights of women, homosexuals, and those who dare to want to follow a different faith.

Perhaps we should aspire to be as scholarly as Christianity, a significant number of whose evangelical adherents believe the Earth to be something on the order of 6,000 years old and who deny undisputed scientific observations of biology, astronomy, and geology in the process.

These are but two examples; one could of course find many more illustrations of maturity and scholarship among the “real” religions.

On second thought, perhaps we should be quite happy with the pace we’ve been setting. If that’s where maturity and scholarship lead a religious movement, we might not want to get there all that quickly. Maybe we might be able to get where we’re going with some more ink, and less blood, than the “real” religions spilled while en route.

This Time, a Real Threat: DC40

While it is the case that The Wild Hunt Blog makes a regular habit of trying to invent some Republican threat or conspiracy against Pagans with little or no actual evidence, this time I must give all due credit to Jason in alerting the community to a project and organization called DC40.

This is linked to the New Apostolic Movement, which is a real and direct threat to Pagans and Heathens (and, frankly, to anyone who doesn’t follow their narrow and non-mainstream version of Christianity). They want to see the United States turned into a Christian theocracy which leans on the side of the Old Testament “worship me or else” Jehovah rather than the slightly more moderate New Testament “worship me because you’d feel guilty if you didn’t” Jesus. But don’t take my word for it, here’s their own promotional video:

The point has already been made that, for those of us who believe in the power of directed Will to affect change in the mundane world, there is no difference between a magical Working and this sort of massive directed prayer. They’re going to be targeting their bigoted bile against each state of the Union in turn.

I will personally be organizing a counter-protest here in New Jersey on November 20. Details to come, but I encourage Pagans, Heathens, and those sympathetic to us to do the same in your community. Let the combined voices of America be heard; there is no place in the Republic for this sort of bigotry and intolerance.

An Open Letter to Anna Lucas of Peyton, CO

Dear Ms. Lucas,

I am writing in response to your letter to the Editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, dated February 13, 2010, entitled “Respect Founding Principles”. I must say that your choice of title was quite ironic, as it is very apparent that you yourself have no respect for the founding principle of freedom of belief. For example, when you state,

I am sad that the entire Academy is being conditioned to respect paganism, and that anything Christian is becoming a hate crime.

You are doing a grave injustice to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which does not single out Christianity as having any sort of favored status in this nation, but merely gives protection to “religion”:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

That very deliberate choice must, despite your personal opinion of non-Christian faiths, include all religion. Respect for Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Islam, or Judaism, or, yes, even Paganism is a cornerstone of our nation’s concepts of the rights of the individual. First and foremost is the right of every individual to choose his or her own religion, or lack thereof. And the government, particularly in a coercive environment such as a military academy, is duty-bound to respect each and every one of those choices.

When you make reference to “anything Christian is becoming a hate crime” you are being quite disingenuous. The Air Force Academy maintains several facilities for Christian worship, all of them much more grandiose than the simple circle of stones that has so inconvenienced your world-view that, Christianity being the only “true” religion, the government must therefore impose your own personal prejudice by force of law.

You display a shocking double-standard when you make statements such as,

If “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” what authority did Air Force Superintendent Gould have to order Air Force chaplains, engineers and heavy equipment operators to help build the pagan worship site? Superintendent Gould could have allowed the pagans to have their worship ceremonies at the site, but he had no constitutional authority to order anyone of any other faith to move one pound of dirt or one stone.

That is, in fact, a possibly valid interpretation of the Establishment Clause. However, the Air Force Academy also has spent millions of taxpayer dollars building and maintaining no less than three separate chapels for Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish cadets. Having thus set the precedent that some faiths are supported, the Supreme Court has maintained consistently that all faiths must thus be supported. I daresay moving a few rocks cost the taxpayers quite a few million dollars less than the construction of three entire chapels. Certainly the pagans have not yet demanded the installation of a pipe organ, let alone two, as other faiths have.

Yet you don’t seem to have a problem with that use of taxpayer money. You cannot have it both ways, Ms. Lucas; either it’s wrong to fund them all, or it’s right to fund them all.

(Photo source: Military Religious Freedom Association)

Your double-standard continues when you state,

If the worship site is on federal property and does not belong to the pagans who are using federal property to worship on, why is it any more a hate crime to place a cross on those rocks than it would be for some overly zealous pagan worshipper [sic] to place a rock in the Air Force Chapel in front of the cross?

Placing a rock in the Air Force Chapel is not a fair comparison; would you think it a hate crime to paint a pentagram on the chapel door? Or place a statue of Zeus on one of the altars? Or paint a swastika on the Aron Kodesh of the Jewish chapel? After all, if they’re on Federal property, they don’t belong to the Christians or the Jews, right?

You seem to have a mind-set that claims the First Amendment as an exclusive franchise for your own religion. Fortunately, the legal tradition of this nation runs counter to your prejudices and bigotry.

The First Amendment protects all religion, not just yours. That’s why it was right for the Academy to create the worship space in the first place, and why it was a hate crime for that space to be vandalized by over-zealous Christians.

We must respect each others right to choose, even though we might disagree with that choice. Once folks like you stop trying to impose their choices on other people, this nation will be a freer place.

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