Sunday, March 23, 2008

May You Be Touched by his Noodley Appendage!

Just a few days ago, a statue was erected at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Tennessee, to honor the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pastafarians are rejoicing around the world!

Here is a transcript of the statement said during the erection...

Statement at Installation Ceremony March 21, 2008
We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows us, its citizens, the freedom of speech. I have chosen to put up a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to represent the discourse between people of all different beliefs. The many faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds of Cumberland County’s residents make our community a stronger richer place. I respect and am proud that on the people’s lawn, the county courthouse, all of these diverse beliefs can come together in a positive dialogue. Here, we are all able to share the issues close to our hearts whether it is through a memorial to the soldiers killed fighting for our country, the Statue of Liberty honoring our nations welcoming promise to all, a group’s fight to stop homelessness, or powerful symbols of faith. I greatly treasure this open forum between everyone in the community.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a pile of noodles and meatballs, but it is meant to open up discussion and provoke thought. Being able to put up a statue is a celebration of our freedom as Americans; a freedom to be different, to express those differences, and to do it amongst neighbors -— even if it is in a noodley way.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Easter is Coming! But Where Did it Come From?

Easter is a very ancient holiday, that to the dismay of most conservative religious folk, predates Christianity. The Venerable Bede, a christian scholar from around the year 700, has ascribed the name, "Easter" to the Saxon Mother Goddess, Eostre. As far as the holiday itself, the earliest roots can be directly traced to the Spring Equinox, in the Roman veneration rites of Cybele/Attis.

This religion predates the Christian religion by many hundred years. As the roman society was changing into a more Christianized form, the early Roman Catholic Church kept most of the original Holidays so as to not disrupt the lives of their (mostly pagan) countrymen, and make it easier to integrate their Christian views into the existing culture. The ultimate goal being that of converting the masses in a sort of indirect way. We know this worked, as most of the Western world is now thoroughly Christian, and has lost the true meanings and origins of their Holidays other than the general party line as portrayed by the church.

The Story of Cybele and Attis...

Cybele was one of the great mother goddess figures from the ancient world. She originated from Phrygia, but was adopted by most other Roman area cultures. Metaphorically, Cybele was seen to be the personification of the ripe, fertile earth and of the provider of the life force itself. She also had a lover, Attis (representing plants and animals), who was born of virgin birth and was believed to die and be resurrected every year when the Spring Equinox rolled around. This sounds pretty familiar doesn't it? The early Christians explained it away rather conveniently, by saying the far older Cybele/Attis were created by the Devil to deceive man, proving once again that the old gods having been replaced, typically became the new religion's demons and devils. The holiday has since transformed into a totally Christian holiday, representing basically the same thing (the re-birth of life from the dark of winter) ever since. Though most Christians do not understand this. The see it simply as the day Jesus was resurrected, and the timing of the Spring Equinox being but a coincidence.

It is all very similar to Christmas, but that is another story...

Now, what about those all those silly bunnies and eggs? This brings us back to the namesake of the holiday, Eostre, whose sacred animal was a hare. Back in the old days of Europe, after the fall of Rome, Germanic barbarians took over after the Roman Empire fell. One of their main celebrations was in honor of the goddess Eostre, and was celebrated at Spring Equinox in a manner similar to Cybele/Attis. This custom was found in most areas of Anglo-Saxon influence until around the time that Catholicism took hold. It is still found in the German celebrations of Oschter Haws, where a bunny is said to lay colored eggs in nests to delight children on easter morning. This custom was brought to the United States by German immigrants to Pennsylvania, and is still practiced to this day. The eggs originally being seen as symbols of life and birth.

Many Christian churches, having gotten on the bandwagon to reduce "Pagan" influences, have started having celebrations with names like "Resurrection Sunday", and dropping the name of Easter. By doing this, they are actually being more true to the original Pagan meaning and origin of the holiday, though they do not know it and most likely would not understand if told.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some Christians Finally Accepting the Inevitable...

(CNN) -- Several prominent leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention said Monday that Baptists have a moral responsibility to combat climate change -- a major shift within a denomination that just last year cast doubt on human responsibility for global warming.

Forty-six influential members of the Southern Baptist Convention, including three of its past four presidents, criticized their denomination in a statement Monday for being "too timid" in confronting global warming.

"Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed," the statement says. "We can do better."

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, adopted a resolution last year urging Baptists to "proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research." The resolution said "many scientists reject the idea of catastrophic human-induced global warming."

On Monday, however, dozens of Southern Baptist leaders expressed a different view.

"There is general agreement among those engaged with this issue in the scientific community," their statement says. "A minority of sincere and respected scientists offer alternate causes for global climate change other than deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels."

The signatories pledged to do their part to fight global warming "without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change -- big and small."

The signatories include Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention since 2006; James Merritt, president of the convention from 2000 to 2002 and Jack Graham, president of the convention from 2002 to 2004. The group posted the statement on its Web site.

The signers of "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change" acknowledged that some of them were skeptics at first.

"Some of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that these are real problems that deserve our attention," the statement says. "But now we have seen and heard enough to be persuaded that these issues are among the current era's challenges that require a unified moral voice."

The Southern Baptist Convention's 16 million members make up roughly 7 percent of the U.S. adult population, according to the convention and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The competing and evolving views on climate change within the Southern Baptist Convention mirror a debate that has played out among members of the theologically like-minded National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group that represents about 30 million people in 45,000 church congregations, including many Baptist congregations.

Its Washington policy director, the Rev. Richard Cizik, has pressed for years for more action to combat climate change, saying in a recent documentary that "to harm this world by environmental degradation is an offense against God."

His advocacy raised eyebrows given that global warming sometimes conjured "impressions in people's minds of being liberal, democratic, left wing, big government, tied to population control, all these kinds of things," Cizik told CNN last year.

Several conservative evangelicals signed a letter in 2007 urging the association to rein in Cizik or encourage him to resign. The signers included James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Gary Bauer, a former presidential candidate and president of American Values.

"We have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children," their letter said. "The issue (global warming) should be addressed scientifically and not theologically."

Why would "rational" minded human beings let something as simple as scientific facts stand in their way?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The New Faces of an Old Problem?

I remember my days as a youth during the Cold War with the USSR. Many older people I knew, mostly teachers (I was a schoolboy after all), used to go to great lengths to preach about the differences between Capitalism and the horrors of Communism. It was said that the biggest problem with the Communist system, other than the appalling lack of freedom, was that creativity and initiative was stifled by the system itself. This due to the way Communism attempted to make all persons within it's grasp totally equal and the same. It was concluded that with no social/class differences, all the ills of society would be solved. We all know what really happened. The ones in the government simply used it for their advantage, at the expense of everyone else.

Now flash forward to 21st century America, and the "Triumph" of the Capitalist system. How many of our virtues have turned out to be vices? We are now living in a society where 2% of the world's population controls 80% of the world's wealth. Out of all this wealth, maybe(?) 1/8th of our population controls the lion's share of it, with most of the US population living dangerously close to the poverty mark and maxed out on credit. The same argument once made against the Communists can now be made against our own society, though in a different way.

While I walked through the local Big Boxed bastion of Greed, (I'll let you guess where), we pondered why the local area did not have any other stores like it, or why the local shopping mall remains devoid of stores other than military recruiters. This region has more than enough population and would definitely support several stores of this type. During our discussions on this topic, we surmised that the reason behind this is that with the rise of Uber-Capitalism, nobody, (meaning corporations), is willing to take a risk on anything. The only thing that appears to count is the gross outcome, and it had better be big, or it will not be done. Anything risky within our system is not done, all that is striven for is a "sure-thing". The whole effect of this is the breaking down of the classic American value system. American's have long been known as pioneers and entrepreneurs. This image has in truth been lost, as America has turned into a nation of franchises, dominated by Big Boxes, with no real innovation or freedom other than the freedom to buy more un-needed crap.

So here we come to the old argument proposed against Communism. How different are we really? Isn't the current system just anther, albeit corporate, version of the same old thing? who is really free? What is this freedom people speak of? Is it the freedom to actually say and live like you want, or is it the freedom to live within the rules established by the corporations as long as we buy their crap? Isn't this like a form of Communism, but with a different name?