Showing posts with label bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bible. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Paul's Propaganda At The Shrine Of The "Unknown God"

Although the Greeks worshiped a plethora of Gods, there was also a shrine in Athens that wasn't specifically dedicated to anyone. It even appears in the bible in Acts 17:23, although Paul was immensely ignorant as to its meaning, thinking that the Greeks were "ignorant to what they worshiped," or perhaps Paul wasn't ignorant of what he was saying, but saw a prop for introducing the idea of the Christian god - maybe a bit of both. Paul's antics around the Greek world are very well known. He also visited Ephesus in 54 CE, where he was eventually ran out of town for organizing the large burning of ancient Greek and Jewish texts and trying to overthrow the present religious order, but he also ended up in Athens at one point, talking to the Athenians about one of their particular shrines. What we know for certain is that Paul's sermon was basically a trick to get the Athenians to think that they had already been worshiping Jesus or Yahweh without realizing it, for Paul was one of the best propagandists the new religion had in its arsenal. I am referring to the Shrine of the Unknown God.

The Shrine of the Unknown God was not, actually, dedicated to a God that was "as of yet unknown." It was actually established as a safety net, if you will, to make sure that no local Deity was neglected or forgotten, or who, at present, remained unnamed. The Greeks were not ignorant of the fact that many Gods were around, they just didn't know if they had named them all yet. So if a God didn't have a temple or a following, the Shrine was erected as a default sanctuary. You might even think of it like a temple or shrine to all the Gods, in the sense that it is not dedicated to specifically one, but all of them. It wasn't about ignorance of Divinity, but actually the knowledge and realization that Divinity is everywhere, and whether that Divinity has been named by us or not, it is still of importance and value. Even Paul's father god, aka the Jewish god, had an "unpronounceable name." In that sense, his god was also ultimately unknown. Generally, think about how many times you've heard a Christian say, "Don't question god," or "I don't know, that's just how god works." That's called an unknown, or an unknowing. When it comes to those things and those responses, Christians have constructed a Shrine of the Unknown probably more so than the ancient Athenians actually did.

With that being said, I still don't know if it was something practiced by every Greek City or town, and I haven't even heard of a modern Hellene having such a shrine today in their homes or temples. I personally wouldn't be opposed to having one myself, although I never have felt the need, and therefore if I did so, it would largely be to respect Tradition. However, I do, after all, live in a vast place which brings me to my final point about the Shrine of the Unknown, and that is humility. For an ancient Greek or a modern Greek worshiper to think that they know everything, especially about the Gods, would be hubris. Both ancient Greek and Christian religion advises against arrogance. What can be more humble than for someone to erect a Shrine that basically says, "I admit I don't know everything?"

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Christian Witchcraft Making News: My Thoughts On "Jesus The Magician"

Christian Witches will be holding their first ever convention this year in Salem. I understand that, for some people, mixing Christianity with Witchcraft or Paganism is a starting point, because I myself used to be there. From 2008 or thereabouts, until 2009, I was a Christian Witch or a Christian Magician. Like pretty much every Christian Witch, I believed Jesus was a magic-wielding wizard, and the bible a spell book, even though Jesus never said he was such, and the people who wrote the bible hated Witches and Pagans pretty much every time they turned the page for a new entry. I didn't care, it was how I saw the world at that time. Saint Michael and Azrael were my patron angels, the foremost beings against evil and lost souls, which was something I needed at the time since I lived in my grandmother's old country home that was believed to be haunted. I would cast spells in the name of Mary, Jesus or Yahweh, and I wore a cross with a pentagram in the middle. I was very serious about it, but back in my time, Christian Witches were largely silent around my neck of the woods. Nowadays, their community is starting to gain a foothold.

Mixing Christianity with magic certainly didn't begin with modern Witches. As long as Christians have been coming to the Americas, some indigenous people and populations have combined it with their own customs, some of which included magic and spellcraft. As far as our community today, my thoughts on Christian Witches is that I have no problem with a Witch who is a Christian because they love Jesus. However, I do have a problem with a Witch who is a Christian because they are scared of the devil and hell, which was really the main reason behind my own mixing in the early days of exploring magic and Paganism. Sometimes before I would do magic work, I would say, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us," just as a precaution against the event that I was "sinning" with my practices. A lot of people keep Christianity intertwined "in case they are wrong," and those kinds of people are neither Christian or a Witch in my view. As long as they're doing it from a place of sincere longing and not simply shivering fear, I'm cool with them. If not, I may ask them why they're doing this to themselves, because there's no way anyone could be happy like that.

For some people, Christianity can be very hard to let go of itself, because it's what you've been taught your whole life. Even when I officially converted to Hellenism in 2009, Christianity still bled over into my life at times, because I had not yet started studying my new religion. All I knew was that I believed in the Greek Gods. It actually took a little while before I realized how to begin my new course in life.

When it comes to the bible, I can see how some people may interpret certain things as being magical or spell-worthy, such as the battles between Moses and the Pharaoh's magicians, the chanting of Psalms, or the prayers and stories that can be viewed through magical lenses, but I also think it's important to realize that the people who wrote it probably didn't see it that way. If we're honest with ourselves, the bible is a giant protest against Witches and Pagans, and stands against everything we hold dear, such as freedom of the mind and body, a religious reverence for Nature, and a love for the original Gods of mankind. I suppose it would all depend on the kind of Christianity you want to mix with Witchcraft, but I don't really think the bible itself is compatible. You'd have to ignore a great number of things in it.

But at the end of the day, religious freedom means any religion. If someone wants to be a Christian Witch, however they bring it together, its their own business. It's not hurting anyone, so if it makes them happy, so be it. As Witches and Pagans, we shouldn't be resenting, attacking, or shunning people for their personal religious and spiritual choices. That's not who we are, that's what we broke away from. Back in the day, I got a lot of flack from people, so I know how it feels to be thrown into a limbo where no one accepts you, and it's not fun. We would certainly find the Christian Witches far more likable than the Evangelicals in any case. So I say let people do their own thing in life. We don't have to always agree, but instead of tearing each other down, let's live in peace together.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

The Falsehoods Of Christian and Jewish Persecution in Rome and Egypt

History is ripe with crafting, especially by those who have the privilege of writing it, and Christians have taken the reins for 2 millennia. Among the most common claims are those of Christian and Jewish persecution at the hands of mean old Pagans. It bothers me because, for one, it's either false or exaggerated, and two, it's used by some modern Christian leaders to arouse hatred against anyone who doesn't follow into the kind of society and government they want.

Top Egyptologists now agree that there is no evidence that the Jewish or Hebrew people were enslaved by Egypt. They did not build the pyramids; paid workers did, and the construction of highly religious state monuments would not have been given over to slaves. It would have been assigned to people heavily steeped in the state religious order, not slaves who were outsiders. The people who built the pyramids were, one, Egyptians not Jews, and two, were not slaves. Of course, the Jewish people may have indeed had contact with Egypt. If you read the Old Testament, the adoption of ancient Egyptian religious ideas cannot be denied, but the Jews were likely a warring power that was eventually ousted from the Egyptian kingdom, and if there were some captive Jews in Egypt, they were likely not mainstream slaves or servants. However, despite these facts, modern Jewish and Christian leaders continue to propagate the story of Exodus not as myth or belief, but as historical fact. But to be fair, some modern Jews have acknowledged that Exodus is in the realm of myth. It simply isn't factual history, not only because there's no evidence for it, but because we have evidence directly to the contrary. There's a reason that Moses and the story of Exodus haven't made it into a single reputable history book to this day, because they are baseless.

The Jewish people have most certainly faced real persecution in their history, but it wasn't from Egypt. In fact, their greatest persecution ever in the history of their world came at the hands of a professed Christian named Adolf Hitler who had 6 million of them murdered.

"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter against the Jewish poison." - Hitler, April 12th, 1922 at Munich.

Moving onto Rome is a far stickier subject, but nevertheless, something the Christian church has exaggerated. The evidence for Jesus is smoke-screened enough for me to question if he even existed, but let's just say he did and he was simply a religious leader. Chances are, he wasn't punished for his religious beliefs. He was probably executed because he attempted to overthrow the Roman government. Rome was ripe with new religious cults popping up literally by the day. Rome did not mind accepting new Gods into its Empire. The idea of a new or non-Roman God was not, in itself, automatically rejected. In fact, when Rome conquered an area, one of their acts would be to invite the God of those people into the Roman State. While some may have been at odds with one another sometimes violently, even the Jews eventually excommunicated the Christians from their community in 90 CE. But the 313 Edict of Milan gave everyone freedom of religion, including Christians. However, the problem was that the Christians did not want religious freedom. They wanted religious dominance, and refused to allow Jesus to be worshiped alongside other Gods.

But the Christians had a problem. They weren't having much luck converting the general population, so instead, they appealed to leaders in government, who came to admire Christianity because of its ability to control massive amounts of people. Once governments had been Christianized, the forced conversions began, one of the most famous being under the rule of Theodosius I who outlawed the old Pagan and Polytheistic religion, closed down temples, and killed adherents who refused to convert. The Vatican itself likely sits on top of the Temple of Mithras that was there before, and what temples they didn't destroy, they reserved for the purpose of converting them into churches. The only non-Christian religion that remained legal in Rome was Judaism, likely because it was the predecessor. It must be made clear, on the basis of hard historical fact, that the ancient religion left through the immense force of government, not the people. If the early Christians just wanted to be free to practice their religion and nothing else, and most people willingly converted as they would want the world to believe, then why did they feel so threatened that they had to eradicate any religion that competed? Obviously, this would have led to conflict between Christians and the people they tried to impose upon, and would undoubtedly create "persecution" of Christians and their attempt at a religious dictatorship in Europe.

One of the greatest heroes of early Christianity, Paul, was also known for having his hands soaked in the taint of persecution himself when he spent two years in Ephesus warring against the Temple of Artemis and massively burning ancient Greek and even Jewish texts. He eventually fled to Macedonia after the local population rose up against him because of his criminal activity. The Christians couldn't remain safe in many places due, in large part, to their refusal to respect the rights, freedoms and properties of other human beings who didn't agree with them. Their establishments would go on in their early history to continue the persecution of non-Christians and Pagans, one of the most tragic being the brutal murder of the renowned Hypatia of Alexandria at the hands of a Christian mob assembled by the local Bishop. The more and more the Christians gained control, the more violent things became against non-Christians.

One of the biggest claims of persecution from early Christians was that they were punished for refusing to give tribute to the State religion of Pagan Rome. This is a dishonest statement. Everyone at that time was required to pay proper homage to the State, not just Christians. It wasn't as if it said that only Christians had to do it. It was law, and no matter what your religion was, you were not above the law. I agree there should have been more religious freedom than that, but there wasn't an organized effort to only pick on Christians. Anyone who didn't obey the law was reprimanded. It would be like me refusing to pay my taxes and then claiming that the State came after me because I'm Pagan. When in reality, it's because I didn't obey the law, and it wasn't like the Christians ushered in a Utopian time of freedom when they took over. They persecuted far worse anyone and anything that didn't accept their religion or its laws and church. Only in recent history in places like Rome and Greece have followers of the old religion been able to safely be open about their beliefs without being persecuted by the Orthodox powers, and to this day, some individual Christians still carry out violent attacks on Pagan and non-Christian gatherings and properties in various places around the globe.

As an historian, it would also be false for me to sit here and write that there were never any early Christians who were persecuted simply because of their religion. Of course there were. There have always been people who faced oppression for their beliefs, even Pagans at the hands of their own States. Everyone should have the inalienable human right to believe and live the way they want. But the idea that the Christians were the holy peacemakers of the world who never hurt anyone, and the Pagans were the evil monsters who wanted to kill them all and subjugate mankind to barbarism, belongs in a Christian fiction novel, not in a history book or on the podium of any legitimate speaker.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited
* LaBorde, Sharon, Following The Sun: A Practical Guide To Egyptian Religion, 2010. Print.
* Ellerbe, Helen, The Dark Side of Christian History, Morning Star Books, 1995. Print.
* Jones, Prudence, Pennick, Nigel, A History of Pagan Europe, Routledge, New York, New York, 1995. Print.
* Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985. Print.
* Spivey, Nigel, The Classical World: The Foundations of the West and the Enduring Legacy of Antiquity, Pegasus Books, New York, New York, 2016. Print.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Deluge of Deukalion & The Noah Myth

My family and I have been living in South Beloit for about a month now. When we lived in Elizabeth, we attended the Stockton Universalist Church for a while, but eventually rescinded our membership because we didn't like the direction that the new minister was taking the church. But last week, we decided to give the Rockton church a try, because it was the closest to our new home. Unfortunately, however, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I did not like the atmosphere at all. They were all good people, but this particular church just wasn't my vibe. But something that struck me as interesting during this visit was the old biblical Noah story, as it was a topic of discussion in the program that day. It's like what Oberon Zell once said about Jesus. Oberon had spent many years learning about different savior Gods, and so when he heard about Jesus, he said, "Well that's just one more." That's kind of how I felt when I heard the detailed story of Noah. It was just baffling how remarkably similar it is to the ancient Greek story of Deukalion and the flood of the Bronze Age. If there's one thing you'll learn from studying ancient religion, it's that the bible is rarely original in its myths.

In the story of Deukalion, Zeus becomes outraged at the Bronze Age because of the barbarity of its humans. His judgement was ignited by the disgusting actions of an Arcadian king named Lycaon, who murdered a child, dismembered his body, and tried to give the remains to Zeus as an offering. Zeus, the King of the Gods, decided to wipe out the entire race of mankind by a flood. Now, if you'll remember the story of Noah, Yahweh was also disgusted with the evils of man and decided to flood them out and start over. Deukalion is approached by the God Prometheus, who finds Him and His wife to be of noble rank, and instructs them to build a chest to keep them afloat. The same basically happens in Noah. Noah and his family are found to be righteous by Yahweh and told to build an ark. The only difference is that Noah is instructed to put all the animals of the Earth on it (which would have been an outright impossibility, by the way). Once the flood waters recede, the chest of Deukalion lands on a mountain, and like Noah, He reestablishes the worship of the Divine (the Gods). It is Deukalion's hope that mankind can recover from its horrid past, just as it's Noah's hope. 

The biggest differences in the stories is, of course, Polytheism and Monotheism, and the scale of the flood. The Greek story seems to suggest that only one region and civilization was flooded, while the bible states that the entire world drowned. Common sense also tells us that there is no possible way that Noah could have put all the world's animals on one boat. One species of animal alone can have hundreds of different breeds. Then there's the problem of geography. How did the animals from North, Central, and South America get over there? Did they swim 3,000 some miles across an ocean mass? The likelihood of that happening is just as likely as the story of Noah, not very. The only way to establish any validity to Noah is to argue that it was the world as it was known back then, and not the larger world we know of today. However, even in so doing, the biblical scholars will have to acknowledge that their book is fallible, which turns the ideal of the bible on its head. And, even if such acknowledgement is admitted, there's still no way that all the animals of Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia could have all gathered on one boat. It just didn't happen. I'm not trying to bash Jews and Christians. I'm just saying that their story is what it is, a myth.

The story of Deukalion is far more likely; a comparatively small, particular region of the world suffers a massive flood, and its civilization is uprooted by it. We know that ancient civilizations sometimes came to an end by natural disasters, such as the Thera eruption. The flotation device carried only a few passengers, who managed to survive the catastrophe by using it. Once over, the area would have had ample time to repopulate, given that another, already existing civilization didn't just move in and set up shop once the land was dry, which may be a more likely conclusion. We might also conclude from this that the flood destroyed a particular culture or city, and not an entire time period itself. We know that, sometimes in history, one culture came to an abrupt end, while the one next to it kept going. So it's very well possible that this could also be the case. In short, the story of Deukalion is not a massive impossibility like the story of Noah.