The de-secularisation of Turkey.

February 15, 2014

Pro-secular rally in Istanbul.  Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Miguel Carminati.

Pro-secular rally in Istanbul.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Miguel Carminati.

“I don’t believe that Muhammad was a prophet. I don’t believe in the existence of a prophethood institution. I find it absurd that anyone could claim receiving special revelations from god. To me, that’s impertinence. Muhammad must have either lied or had hallucinations.”

– It is victimless declarations of non-belief such as this by Turkish intellectual Sevan Nisanyan, that resulted in his harassment by officials, to the point where Nisanyan is now serving a prison term on trumped up charges relating to construction regulations, masking the real reason for his incarceration; blasphemy. He isn’t the only non-religious person in Turkey to be punished in recent times for ‘blasphemy’. In April 2013, Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say, received a 10 year suspended sentence for tweeting a poem deemed offensive to Islam, by 11th century poet Omar Khayyám.

The crackdown on secular freedoms in Turkey has increased over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reign. The Prime Minister is arguably the most powerful since Ataturk, and the most likely to radically change the direction of the country. It is clear that Erdogan is fostering religious polarisation in Turkey to an inevitable violent and oppressive end. He appears to regard secularism as Muslims having the privileged and inherent right to grant and rescind protections to minorities, rather than equal protections under the law with no single faith or ideology – including his own – permitted that privileged position. This of course, isn’t secularism. It is tolerance, offered by a prevailing religious ideology whose adherents have decided they are the ones with the inherent and privileged right to grant tolerance. They offer no justifiable explanation for this God-like mentality. Erdogan is cut from the same anti-secular cloth as all other supremacists who demand special protections for their one particular ideology.

As part of his crackdown, the Prime Minister announced that mixed gender dorm rooms would be outlawed, and a policy of gender segregation implemented by the end of 2014. In recent years, he has also attempted to criminalise adultery, and ban alcohol in certain areas. Turkey under Erdogan ranks 154th out of 179 on press freedom (below Afghanistan). All clear attempts to impose strict Islamic ‘morality’ on a secular country. Perhaps Erdogan’s most worrying stance is on blasphemy, for which he demanded:

“…international legal regulations against attacks on what people deem sacred, on religion”

– In essence; Blasphemy laws. Erdogan, the Prime Minister of a secular country, wishes to enforce restrictions of what he deems to be ‘offensive’ to religions. No other concepts – political ideologies – seem to be a concern for Erdogan. Does he deny that people also hold political beliefs to be as sacred as religious beliefs? What is considered an “attack”? Cartoons? Critiques? Who has the right to define that? Well, apparently the Prime Minister has decided what is and isn’t an “insult”. Speaking to Kanal D TV’s Arena program, Erdogan said:

“These descriptions [the term “moderate Islam”] are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”

– If you identify as a moderate Muslim, the Prime Minister of Turkey believes you have insulted the faith. To insult the faith, Erdogan believes the state should be in the business of punishing this.

As seems to be the case with all of those demanding blasphemy laws protecting their specific religion; there is often a very clear double standard. There is never a demand to punish those who burn the American flag, or antisemitic rants by Muslim media outlets, or threats of state punishment for Muslims who insist that non-believers will infact burn in the pits of hell, or for putrid homophobia.

Throughout history, and across national borders, antisemitism often begins at the premise of a vast Jewish conspiracy lurking in the shadows, waiting to control the World, different from the rest of us and plotting to destroy. Today, it is the mantra of the far-right; both political and religious. In the past, Martin Luther perpetuated the sentiment in the 16th Century with his 1543 work “On the Jews and their lies“, which I write about here. Erdogan seems more than willing to demand blasphemy laws when it offends his religious sensibilities, whilst at the same time being as offensive as possible to other groups:

“The Jews have begun to crush the Muslims in Palestine, in the name of Zionism. Today, the image of the Jews is no different than that of the Nazis.”

– This is a quote from 1998. Further back, in 1974 Erdogan wrote, directed, and starred in his own play entitled “Maskomya”, an acronym for “Masons, Communists, Jews”. The historian Rifat Bali, who specialises in the history of Jewish Turks, said of the play:

“…a theatrical play that was staged everywhere in the 1970s, as part of the ‘cultural’ activities of MSP Youth Branches. The unabbreviated version of Mas-kom-Ya is Mason-Komunist-Yahudi [Mason-Communist-Jew]. It is known that the play was built on the ‘evil’ nature of these three concepts, and the hatred towards them.”

– It is without doubt that the antisemitism of the Prime Minister fuels the antisemitism of the wider population in Turkey. In March 2005, Arslan Tekin, a writer for Yenicağ, not so subtly made it clear to readers that he believes Jewish people themselves should feel responsible for the rise of Hitler:

“Can a Hitler rise in America? It can happen… What was [true] for Germany before Hitler came to power is [now] exceedingly true for America. Big banks, big TV organs, big newspapers, all the tools that can trap the public opinion are in the hands of the Jews… Politics is run by them too.

“What is the proportion of the Jewish [population] in America of 200 million [sic]. Must not even be two percent. They have an image beyond what their numbers merit. I am sorry for the Jews… How come they do not think about the effect their disproportionate ‘grandeur’ would have on the majority of the [American] people! In Germany, Hitler did not rise just single-handedly. He only answered the questions asked by his people.

“Hey Jews! The world cannot bear to have another Hitler [because of you]. Your disproportionate [presence]; your recklessness; your daring to burn the world for [even] one Jew, makes the American people and everyone in the world ask the question: ‘what’s happening here?’ Do you know how the US is seen now? [It looks like] the biggest Jewish empire of the world.

“I, like everyone else, am seeing this situation… Hitler’s Mein Kampf must be read especially by the Jews.

“A madman like Hitler does not just come about [without a reason]… The book which you define as ‘nonsense’ has set the world on fire. The Jews should think about the reasons [why].”

– A Turkish, Islamist writer here has managed to blame Jewish people for the horrifying events of the holocaust and the imperial desires of Hitler. I’m not sure it gets more insulting than that. This is absurd victim shaming, coupled with bigotry and hostility that tends to go hand in hand with Islamists of all nationalities. It is similar logic to extremists blaming their tendency toward blowing people up, on the country that those victims come from.

Similarly, columnist Yusuf Kaplan of the daily Turkish newspaper Yeni Şafak, wrote conspiratorially:

“Jewish desire to dominate everything in the Western countries, and the way they easily and arrogantly exploit organizations and individuals to serve Jewish interests, may end up causing a short circuit within the democratic institutions of the West. Their nosy interference with everything, and their actions beyond the reach of their size, have already started to draw serious reactions in the Western countries. Because the Jewish paranoia is blown to extreme, forced and artificial dimensions, it can explode any day and take care of them [the Jews] and cost them dearly.”

– It is an ironic peace on paranoia. Ironic, because it is actually the paranoid delusions of non-Jews over the centuries, convinced of a World-wide Jewish conspiracy, that led directly to the inevitable conclusion, with the rise of Hitler. Had this same piece been written in order to shame Muslims, and claim an Islamic conspiracy for World domination, the writer would now most definitely be in jail in Turkey, and the piece used by anti-secularists like Erdogan, to promote his attempts to enforce blasphemy legislation.

The paranoid delusions continue, with Erdogan himself who, on commenting on the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, said:

“What is said about Egypt? That democracy is not the ballot box. Who is behind this? Israel is. We have the evidence in our hands.”

– The ‘evidence’ later turned out to be Bernard-Henri Lévy – a French man, also happens to be Jewish – in 2011 telling a news conference that he doesn’t like the Muslim Brotherhood. For Erdogan, this was enough to claim a vast Israeli conspiracy. Such irrational, absurd, and dangerously paranoid people should not be in positions of power. They should be in therapy.

As a result, growing numbers of Jewish people in Turkey (there are currently around 15,000 Jewish people in Turkey, mainly in Istanbul) are beginning to leave the country, through fear of the social consequences of the government’s promotion of antisemitism. The deputy chairman of the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel, Nesim Güveniş, told Hürriyet:

“Look at the environment in Turkey at the moment. We are uncomfortable with being ‘othered’. I am more Turkish than many. But we couldn’t make them believe it.”

– This is the result of de-secularisation. The poisonous notion that minority groups that are in some way conflicting with the prevailing ideology, are not to be considered equal to adherents to that prevailing ideology, whose rights are then oppressed, or who are at least made to feel less of a citizen. Secularism is the only defence against such a hideous notion.

It isn’t just Jewish people that are victims of the emerging antisemitic, Islamic supremacist ideals in Turkey. The BBC tells the story of an ex-Muslim, who converted to Christianity, and was secretly filmed at a Christian summer camp by Turkish media, who then branded him “an evil missionary”, which in turn resulted in him losing his family. I am yet to find an example of any Muslims in Turkey being similarly harassed for preaching Islam to non-Muslims.

In 2007, Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal – both converts from Islam to Christian – were arrested and on trial for “insulting Islam” by trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The appalling deed? Well, apparently they had said that Islam was a:

“…primitive and fabricated religion.”

– State punishment for words that offend authoritarian ideologies, is so utterly grotesque, no secularist would seek to justify it. The government of Turkey is working to ensure that Islamic supremacy replaces secularism as the base ideology upon which all other considerations – sexuality, gender, expression – must be held against under the law. This is dangerous.

In 2010, after several nations began to refer to the Armenian genocide as a genocide (genocide as a term dates to 1943, not 1915; the beginning of the Armenian genocide by the Caliphate), Erdogan issued a threat to restart the genocide if we all insist on calling it a genocide:

“In my country there are 170,000 Armenians. Seventy thousand of them are citizens. We tolerate 100,000 more. So, what am I going to do tomorrow? If necessary I will tell the 100,000: OK, time to go back to your country. Why? They are not my citizens. I am not obliged to keep them in my country.”

– This nasty little threat summarises the mentality of the Turkish Prime Minister perfectly. It is the mentality of a dictator who thrives on controlling others. Indeed, Turkish novelist and screenwriter Orhan Pamuk was taken to court for daring to utter his belief that the genocide, was a genocide. The charges were dropped the week the EU began a review of the Turkish judicial system, predictably.

And so, if you’re Jewish, a Christian convert from Islam, a non-believer, a moderate Muslim, a critic of the long dead Caliphate, or Armenian; the “secular” Erdogan is more than willing to threaten your fundamental rights whilst claiming this to be secular in nature.

As previously noted, when a state – especially a state like Turkey, with almost a century of secular governance – works to protect one authoritarian ideology, when it punishes criticism or satire of that one authoritarian ideology, when the state’s values start to mimic the dictates of that one ideology, when that one authoritarian ideology starts to creep into judicial procedure, when that one authoritarian ideology is permitted privilege above all others; the result will always be social unrest and oppression. This is true in Turkey. Less moderate Muslims in Turkey suddenly seem to have a new found sense of superiority. The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul has been bombed in recent years; in 2007 three Christians – Necati Aydin, Tilmann Geske and Ugur Yuksel – were kidnapped, bound, and brutally murdered by religious fundamentalists; Father Andrea Santoro was shot dead in Trabzon by a 16 year old with “Islamist sympathies”. Being Jewish, or an ex-Muslim in Turkey is becoming increasingly dangerous. Similarly, non-Muslims and secular Muslims, take to the streets, as they did in 2013, to protest an increasingly anti-secular, authoritarian system of governance. The predictable result, was government brutality.

One thing is certain; if a state becomes increasingly supremacist, under the power of an increasingly despotic, paranoid, bigoted and oppressive anti-secular leader; its accession to the EU should not be considered.


The God of the gaps.

December 4, 2013

It could be said that the final and most impressive and awe inspiring gap in humanity’s understanding of the fundamentals of the universe, is a unifying theory of everything. The gap in our understanding is often filled by an ill-fitting “God” hypothesis. We are a species blessed with curiosity and I have no doubt that a unifying theory that brings together quantum field theory and general relativity without the need for a creator, will slowly become apparent as we progress our understanding. Until then, the God of the gaps will continue to endure.

Placing God or Gods within the gaps of scientific knowledge is a phenomena as old as civilisation itself. It is a simplistic means of explanation, when tools of inquiry seem too limited to ever understand the complexity of nature. It is often propped up by what appear to be logical ‘proofs’ – the Cosmological proof for example – full of flaws, but the fact remains that there is not a single time in history when the God-of-the-gaps explanation has turned out to be the correct explanation for anything.

Before we had any understanding of the nature of earthquakes and no concept of seismic waves or geographical faults, humanity chose other beautifully creative explanations. The Greeks were terrified of the wrath of Poseidon. It was a concern for most that an angered Poseidon, with his trident would strike the ground so hard and furiously, that the entire planet would shake violently, that tidal waves would surely follow, and that cities might collapse. This particular explanation had such power that sailors – fearing tidal waves created by Poseidon – would sacrifice a horse to the god before an expedition. Alexander the Great is said to have ordered the sacrifice of four horses to win the good graces of Poseidon at the Syrian shore, before the battle of Issus.

Huitzilopochtli was the Aztec god of war and of the sun. He was believed to be in control of the daily rising and setting of the sun. In order to ensure that the sun rose and fell as it was supposed to do, Huitzilopochtli required human blood for fuel. On Toxcatl – a festival day – a Priest would tie a victim to a sacrificial stone, and slowly cut open the abdomen with a flint blade. The still beating heart of the victim would be held toward the sun, as a show of respect to Huitzilopochtli. Human sacrifice – including children – were considered essential for the appeasement of the Gods. Gods placed within the gaps of human knowledge.

We have known for quite some time that a lunar eclipse is the result of the Earth being in between the moon and the sun. The Vikings however thought very differently. According to Viking mythology, two wolves named Skoll and Hati spent their lives hunting the moon. At the very moment a lunar eclipse occurs, the Viking night would be full of frightened screams of those running for cover. This was their nightmare coming to life. Vikings would charge out into the night with swords and shields, believing that if they made as much noise as possible, the wolves would be distracted long enough for the moon to escape. Similarly, the Serrano Indians believed that a lunar eclipse was the result of evil spirits trying to eat the moon, and that it was the tribe’s role to make song and dance in order to distract the spirits so the moon could escape.

There was therefore a time when if you were to encounter a sceptical Serrano Indian, and ask “So where does the moon go?” she might answer “I don’t know“. This lack of knowledge – this gap – is not evidence for evil spirits eating the moon. It is simply a gap in knowledge. To accept that you do not know, is the first step to searching for truth.

The Anishinaabe peoples of the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada tell a wonderfully rich tale of the creation of rainbows. One day, Nanabozho – a spirit – had noticed that all flowers in the meadows were the same. Completely void of colour. He took his paints out and began to paint the flowers. Roses were painted red. Daffodils yellow. Suddenly, two birds chasing each other swooped down and dipped their wings in Nanabozho’s paints. Nanabozho chased them away. The two birds flew toward a nearby waterfall and as the tips of their wings hit the water, it left a streak of colours. They flew back and forth through the mist of the water, creating more and more colour. Nanabozho was overjoyed with the beauty the birds had created in the sky, that he decided that a rainbow would appear where ever light was shone on the mist. Thus, the creation of rainbows.

Supernatural explanations for natural occurrences are a product of our curiosity and our wonder. But we are also rational beings. We have remained rational despite centuries of dogmatic authority often attempting to silence rational inquiry. It is impossible to suppress humanity’s natural reason. There will always be a Galileo. Indeed, if we were to wipe the memory of all knowledge from the collective human mind, we would eventually rediscover gravity, atomic theory, evolution, genetics and medicine. But we would never come to the exact same Theistic conclusions, with the same Gods or Prophets or doctrines. We’d have new myths from rainbows to sexuality. They would be entirely different. There would be evolution, but there would never be Christianity.

We might well say that some of history’s mythical stories may be beautiful and colourful, we must also note that they often contain a sinister tone by way of their demands for sacrifice, for worship, and for war. We see this today, when the Christian story of Sodom & Gomorrah is used to dehumanise gay people; when permanent Bishops in the House of Lords are given the privilege of legislating on behalf of the rest of us based on how much they believe in their particular myth; when the Jewish Mohel mutilates the genitals of a child and sucks away the blood; when not accepting Jesus or the resurrection myth might affect your prospects of running for public office in US; or when Muslims claim rightful ownership over Jerusalem by invoking the al-’Isrā’ wal-Mi’rāj story. Despite the intolerant and exclusive behaviour these baseless myths encourage, they are still given an unearned respect in shaping discourse, and politics. They are perpetuated in schools as truth. Thus, the God-of-the-gaps is not simply a failed science, it is a failed and dangerous political idea that affects all of us.

When we hear those insist that “God is the first cause“, and “you can’t get something from nothing, therefore, God” it is prudent to remember that all they are doing is repeating the timeless tradition of placing a God in the gaps in our knowledge. It is not an explanation, but a wild guess. A simplistic but inadequate science that has always failed every time it has been invoked. It is okay and necessary to indulge our natural and spectacular curiosity, to mind the gap, and to say “we don’t know yet“.


The importance of Moses

August 15, 2013

529px-Moses_Pleading_with_Israel_(crop)

It is difficult to over exaggerate the importance of Moses to the narratives of the three major religions. The Talmud refers to the Pentateuch as the ‘Book of Moses’. Jesus mentions Moses’ supposed Prophecy if the Gospels are to be believed. The Qur’an speaks of the exodus as if historical fact, with Moses (Musa) being a key Prophet for the faith. All three rely on his existence, and his deeds. All three rely on the story of the Exodus. If the stories of Moses & the exodus fall down, all three major faiths fall down with it.

It is of course obvious, that the first five books of the Bible contain massive inconsistencies and errors. This in itself is not enough to dismiss the entire text, given that it isn’t considered the exact word of God (as the Qur’an is) but it is enough to question the legitimacy of the claim that the first five books were penned by one man; Moses. It has been the opinion of most scholars for around the past century, that the first five books were written by multiple authors. There has been disagreement over how many authors there may have been, when they were composed, when they were edited and put together. Despite the disagreements, it is generally accepted that multiple hands are at work with the first five books.

The Yahwist source (known as Source J, and named so because it refers to God as ‘Yahweh’ – Jehovah – some argue that this source was produced in the 6th Century BCE as a prologue to Deuteronomistic history covering Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) places Moses as someone only able to stop God’s plagues upon Egypt. God is solely responsible. Moses, the intermediary. Whereas, the Elohim source (Source E, named so because it refers to God as ‘Elohim’) suggests that Moses was someone who openly threatened Pharaoh, and was himself responsible for bringing about the plagues. Both sources were written centuries after Moses supposedly lived.

The contradictions begin right at the start of Genesis, and proceed from there. The contradictions are actually two versions of the same story. For example, the order of creation in Genesis 1 is: plants, animals, man & woman together. Whereas, the order of creation in Genesis 2 is: man, plants, animals, woman.

So, if we can discount one Jewish/Christian myth of Moses, what about the others? Well, the most notable story is the Exodus out of Egypt. It is this story that places Moses at epicentre of Judaism, and therefore Christianity, and later, Islam. Without this, Judaism falls to the ground, Jesus’ mention of Moses in the Gospels, is irrelevant, and the Qur’an appears as nothing but a plagiarised version of the other two.

The supernatural elements of the claims about Moses certainly have no evidence. There is no evidence to suggest that a large amount of Israelites crossed a parted Red Sea, no Egyptian source that ever mentions Israelites enslaved in Egypt who later escaped. In fact, no Egyptian source mentions an enslaved Israelite population at all. There is also absolutely nothing to suggest the plagues took place. No evidence of the mass genocide of first born Egyptian sons.

We can of course accept that the supernatural elements were invented to give divine aspect, thus solidifying a story for the purpose of group solidarity and power, in much the same way as the later – more creative – stories of the Prophet Muhammad developed in order to solidify a new Arab Empire.

On a side note, one of the supernatural elements of the story – that of the genocide of first born Egyptian sons commonly known as Passover – always seemed to me to be a particularly vile ‘celebration’. There seems to be an odd obsession with linking death, to salvation within Christianity and Judaism. I have never been able to understand why Jesus needed to die, in order to absorb the sins of humanity. Where is the connection between the two? Why must Egyptian children be murdered, in order to free Israelites? I am delighted that Passover isn’t based on historical fact

The situation though, seems to suggest that even the more historically ‘believable’ aspects of the story lack any sort of evidence. Archaeologists have all but given up searching for evidence of a mass exodus of Israelites out of Egypt. There is nothing that even slightly suggests it ever happened. Ze’ev Hertzog, an Israeli archaeologist says:

“The Israelites never were in Egypt. They never came from abroad. This whole chain is broken. It is not a historical one. It is a later legendary reconstruction—made in the seventh century [BCE]—of a history that never happened.”

Similarly, renowned archaeologist Israel Finkelstein says:

“Modern archaeological techniques are quite capable of tracing the very meager remains of hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads all over the world…repeated archaeological surveys in all regions of the Sinai peninsula…yielded only negative evidence, not even a single shred , no structure, not a single house, no trace of an ancient encampment…there is simply no evidence at the supposed time of the Exodus.”

The traditional date set for the exodus at 1450bc (set, due to the mention in Kings of 480 years before the founding of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem) conflicts with Biblical description of just how the Israelites were put to work years before the exodus, here:

Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
– Exodus 1:11

– The name Rameses was used by Egyptian Pharaohs, though the first to use these conflicts with the dates given for the supposed building of the city of Raamses. As Kenneth Kitchen points out:

The first of these, Ramesses I, reigned only sixteen months and built no cities. None of the rest founded major cities either, with but one exception. He was Ramesses II, grandson of I, who was the builder of the vast city Pi-Ramesse A-nakhtu, “Domain of Ramesses II, Great in Victory,” suitably abbreviated to the distinctive and essential element “Ra(a)mses” in Hebrew.

Ramesses II reigned from 1279–1213 BC. Two hundred years after the exodus, and even longer after the Bible suggests the Israelite slaves built the city. Ramesses II’s body was buried in the Valley of the Kings, but is now in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum…. not at the bottom of the ocean after the parted Red Sea engulfed him.

The site “Islamic Awareness” also comes to the conclusion – through Qur’anic inquiry – that the Pharaoh of the exodus (as well as at the time of Moses’ birth) was Ramesses:

“In conclusion, the Qur’anic presentation of the Pharaoh of the Exodus is internally consistent and fits well with the extant egyptological data. This is also in line with the earlier studies by Hamidullah[87] and Fatoohi et al.[88] who have arrived at similar conclusions, albeit using less exhaustive and sometimes shaky evidence, that the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt before the birth of Moses until the Exodus and his (i.e., Pharaoh’s) death was Ramesses II.”

– And despite their thorough discrediting of the traditional Biblical narrative, “Islamic Awareness” offer no evidence for an exodus during the time of Ramesses. They also do not mention how Ramesses II actually died; at the ripe old age of 90, with terrible arthritis and hardened arteries… not drowned at sea, as the Qur’an claims.

The exodus would have been perhaps the most calamitous moment in Egyptian history (with the exception of Augustus’ annexation) The Biblical narrative states that:

37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside women and children.
38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
– Exodus 12:37-38

– To put this into perspective, the English city of Manchester has a population under 600,000. Less people live in Manchester than the population of Israelite men (not including women & children) supposedly breaking away from Egypt. When we include women and children, we can guess of a number higher than 1,000,000. At around the time of the exodus, Egypt’s population hit around 3 million people. This means, that around 33% of the population of Egypt escaped from a state of captivity, without any record of them ever existing.

The Amarna letters dated to the mid-1300s bc, make no mention of any huge slave revolt or inevitable economic meltdown that a 1,000,000+ slave revolt would have caused. The Amarna letters are unique, in that they are 382 diplomatic correspondence on clay tablets from that very specific period of Egyptian history. Fourteen correspondence with the Babylonians, more to the Syrians, Hatti, and Lebanon. None mention Israelite slaves or a mass revolt.

The website “Answers in Genesis” tries to argue that the Israelites didn’t just build Pi-Ramesses, but also built the Pyramids. David Down, the author of the article, and apparent archaeologist says:

“When we take the history and chronology of the Bible as written, we find that it makes eminent sense of the archaeological evidence. The pyramid builders were not people who had evolved from animals over millions of years. Rather, they were once part of an advanced civilization which built an imposing tower that soared over the plains of Babylon (Genesis 11), a people descended from a family that disembarked from the 15,000-ton ocean-going Ark (Genesis 6–8). We still do not know exactly how they accomplished all their engineering feats in ancient Egypt, but we can be sure that a people who were less than 30 generations from Adam had incredible intellectual skills.”

– It is difficult to know where to begin on such a ridiculous paragraph, but what strikes me as being at the heart of this piece, is that Down takes for granted the idea that the Pyramids were built by slaves. This is a myth. It is handed to us by Greek historian Herodotus, who claimed the Pyramid builders were slaves originally, but modern archaeology tells us that the Pyramid builders were in fact, paid labourers. Ex-director of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, Dieter Wildung says:

“The myth of the slaves building pyramids is only the stuff of tabloids and Hollywood.”

– Many of the workers who died during the construction of the Pyramids, were buried with honour, by the site, something that would not have been offered to slaves. Slaves did not build the Pyramids. Israelite slaves, descended from a family on an ark, certainly didn’t build the Pyramids.

The ‘Torah’ relies on the story of Moses for credibility with regard its laws, handed down by God, to Moses. If Moses did not pen these laws, and if multiple sources over time penned these laws, then it stands to reason that they came from already established systems of law. Around 3200BC there existed a tribe of people who lived in Egypt called the Kemet. They seem to have been a civilisation who lived a rather advanced existence, just slightly before the Early Dynastic period, and so predating Pharaoh Narmer who is identified as the man responsible for uniting the different tribes of Egypt, thus becoming known as the first Pharaoh of Egypt. The unified Egypt incorporated ideas and beliefs from the tribes that it unified, one of which was the Kemet concept of “Ma’at“. Ma’at was the principle used as a guide on law, morality, truth, and spirituality that was needed to help unify Egypt. The principle was depicted as a Goddess – also called Ma’at – who was said to be in control of the stars, the sky, law, and men. They deified the concept of Ma’at. She was essentially the main God. The guiding principles of Ma’at were set out in what is known as the 42 Declarations of Purity. Of those, 10 of which can be found in the Commandments handed to Moses. Or, possibly, given that Egypt had long been a force in Canaan and the surrounding area, by the 20th century BCE, the influence of those basic principles enshrined in Ma’at; principles that lived on in Ancient Egypt, reached the Israelites, who simply appropriated much of it for themselves.

Judaism relies on the story of the exodus for its origins. Christianity relies on the historicity of Moses for the very fact that Jesus himself mentions Moses as if a historically accurate figure from the Old Testament:

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”
Matthew 19:8

Indeed, if the first five books of the Bible are not written by Moses, then Jesus is completely wrong:

45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

– Christianity, and the claim of Jesus as a fulfilled Prophecy from Deuteronomy 18:15-22 among others, relies solely on not only the existence of Moses, but his penning at least some of either Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, if not all of it. And yet, we now know that those five books were penned by different authors, at vastly different times.

Similarly, the Qur’an, a book supposedly the exact, uncompromising, completely accurate word of Allah mentions the story of Moses, as if historical truth:

Then we sent after them (the messengers) Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they disbelieved in them; so see what the end of the corrupters was (7.103). Moses said: “O Pharaoh! I am a messenger from the Lord of all peoples (7.104). It is a duty on me to say nothing about Allah but the truth; I have come to you with clear proof from your Lord, therefore send with me the Children of Israel” (7.105).
Sura Al-A’raf

– This suggests that either Moses’ people escaped from Egypt, left absolutely no trace, and their captors wrote nothing of them, or even acknowledged their existence until God mentions it to Muhammad thousands of years later. Or, the Qur’an is not the word of God, and was instead used as a way to anchor the new Arab empire to a religion that was strengthened by the name of already established mythical names and events. Indeed, later Hadith tell us that Muhammad upon his Night Journey visited heaven, and met Moses. The reliability of both the Qur’an and Hadith, and so, Islam’s claim on Jerusalem, whither away to nothingness, if the story of the exodus is false, which is appears to be.

There seems to be very little reason to believe Moses achieved what the Holy books claim he achieved. It is as good as certain that there was no vast exodus out of Egypt; the underpinnings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam fall at their most basic hurdle. If the exodus didn’t happen, then Christianity stole it from Judaism and fabricated the words of Jesus in an attempt to confirm the Prophecies of Moses. Similarly, if the exodus didn’t happen, early Muslims must have appropriated the story for themselves, added a few bits, subtracted a few bits, but ultimately the point remains the same. Therefore, the first five books of the Bible – written by different people, at different times, for different purposes – are the most important aspects of the three major religions.

Collective enslavement of Israelites in Egypt, and their subsequent break from bondage, appears not to have ever occurred. The supernatural elements of the story can therefore be equally as dismissed as fantasy. It is more likely that Canaan slowly became Israel, incorporating Semites from Egypt, with stories of their own, crafting a new narrative for a new people. All civilisations have their creation myths. Moses was a key name to this, much like Romulus was a key name to the mythical creation of Rome. Whether Moses existed historically, may never be determined, but what is becoming increasingly obvious is that the stories attributed to Moses from the Torah, the Bible and the Qur’an, are all fabrications.


The Search for Muhammad: Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan

August 8, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Orientalist

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Orientalist

In the British Library sits a collection of Syriac New Testament fragments of manuscript throughout history. Of these, lays a version of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, known as Addition 14,461. Scribbled inside the pages, is a note from what is thought to be around the time just after the battle of Gabitha in 636 CE that reads:

“…and in January, they took the word for their lives did [the sons of] Emesa, and many villages were ruined with killing by [the Arabs of] Mụhammad”

– This is the earliest non-Islamic mention of a man named Muhammad, written just four years after his death.

It is without doubt that Islamic literature covering the life, the actions, and words of the Prophet Muhammad, is vast, and along with the Qur’an, the bedrock of Islam. From biographies, to commentaries, to translations and constant reinvention to suit a more ‘acceptable’ modern narrative (the age of Aisha, springs to mind); it goes without saying, that the intrusions into every facet of the life of the founder of one of the Worlds largest religions, is central to the Islamic faith.

It is truly difficult to know where to start, what we actually know for certain, when trying to figure out just who Muhammad was. Wading through legend, and interpretation rather than fact, is a tiresome venture. But one name crops up as perhaps the most important in the institutionalisation of Islam and the beginnings of forging the legend of the Prophet; Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.

The first thing to note, for the sake of this article, is the importance of religion, in carving a successful empire. Reza Aslan, in ‘No God but God’ notes:

“Your religion was your ethnicity, your culture, and your social identity, it defined your politics, your economics, and your ethics. More than anything else, your religion was your citizenship.”

– The significance of this will be clear by the end of this article.

The very first biography of the Prophet was produced by Ibn Ishaq; Sīrat Rasūl Allāh. The most notable problems with this, are that Ibn Ishaq was born around 704ad, approximately 70 years after the Prophet had died. He was born two decades after the fifth Umayyad Caliph, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan worked to marry together the new Arab Empire, his own legacy and dynasty (the first dynasty of the Arab empire), with a religious identity of its own. Ibn Ishaq’s biography – a collection of oral traditions – was therefore written around 100+ years (traditionally, 120 years) after the Prophet had died, and just after the Caliphate had indulged in a Public Relations effort. Not only that, but Ibn Ishaq’s work has since been lost to history. We know that Ishaq’s work was edited by al-Bakka’i, whose copy has also been lost to history. al-Bakka’i edit was then edited by Ibn Hisham, whose work (in copies) are the basis for all inquiries into the life of the Prophet that we have today. Everything else, is pieced together from Hadith, that happened to come about even further removed than Ibn Ishaq. For the basis of the life of the Prophet, Ibn Ishaq is often (though not always) taken at his word that he is trustworthy, which obviously means we must take al-Bakka’i’s word that he is trustworthy, and we must take Ibn Hisham’s word that he is trustworthy. And yet, even Islamic scholars throughout history have questioned Ibn Ishaq’s reliability:

“Imam Malik was not the only contemporary of Ibn Ishaq’s to have problems with him. Despite writing the earliest biography of Prophet Muhammad, Scholars such as al-Nisa’I and Yahya b. Kattan did not view Ibn Ishaq as a reliable or authoritative source of Hadith.”

If we cannot be certain of the legitimacy of all Hadith, and we place the collection of Hadith at a time that follows a systematic effort to institutionalise Islam by marrying its history to that of the Ummayad rulers, then I see no reason why we can be certain of the legitimacy of any Hadith. If we cannot be certain of the legitimacy of the entire biography by Ibn Ishaq, and cannot be certain of the legitimacy of integrity of Ibn Hisham’s edit, then I see no reason to trust any of it. Both of these contentions have far reaching consequences not just for Muslims, but for those of us who are critical of the Prophet. My criticisms of the Prophet come from the traditions presented of him, through the Qur’an and Hadith. My judgement that he was misogynistic and violent, are based on interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith. If neither can be trusted, than all criticism falls away. I am left with criticism of a legend; but given the structure and practice of belief that legend has inspired and the power it now has over the World, I think it less of a problem to be critical, than it is to believe.

So what do we know of the Prophet Muhammad?

Well, if we cross reference early Islamic writings of Ibn Ishaq (though again, we rely on Ibn Hisham for this) with the writings of those outside of Islam, we may get a more accurate picture of Muhammad, than relying purely on the biases of either.

St John of Damascus, writing before any Hadith were compiled, wrote:

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites. They are also called Saracens, which is derived from Sarras kenoi, or destitute of Sara, because of what Agar said to the angel: ‘Sara hath sent me away destitute.’ These used to be idolaters and worshiped the morning star and Aphrodite, whom in their own language they called Khabár, which means great. And so down to the time of Heraclius they were very great idolaters. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy.”

– St John’s birth year is contentious. Some sources insist around 675, others like Daniel J. Sahas suggest 652. Either way, he lived at a time when the Arab Empire had surged northwards and taken control of his homeland. He would be familiar with stories of Muhammad (Muhammad never stepped foot in Damascus). He lived through the iconoclast controversy, and he was a boyhood friend of the future Caliph Yazid I. He had a keen interest in people of other faiths. Interestingly, in his writings, he never refers to the new occupiers as “Muslims”. There is no “Islam”. No system of laws. The ‘heresy’ wasn’t new, Muslims are referred to as ‘Saracens’ (The Byzantines decreed that because of his supposed heresies, John of Damascus was himself of ‘saracene opinions’) and Muhammad was simply a leader of that old tradition. The chapter itself is called “Heresy of the Ishmaelities”.

St John was writing just before the accumulation of Hadith began. Around 100 years after Muhammad’s death, and well into the centralising of control toward Damascus, by the Ummayad dynasty. His writings suggest that whilst this new band of ‘heretics’ existed and were linked to a man named Muhammad by the 8th Century, they were not known as Muslims, nor were they considered a brand new religious order, separate from Christianity, with a system of values and laws of their own.

However, much of that is St John’s Christian bias. The Arabs did not consider themselves to be a heretical Christian sect. Here we see two coins. The coin on the left, is the coin of Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. The coin on the right, is the Umayyad coin, modelled on the earlier Byzantine coin…. but with the cross missing:

coin
– The Umayyad coin is dated to around 690, during a dispute with the Byzantines. The minting of new coins lead directly to war with the Byzantine Empire. And here we see the beginnings of what would become a very centralised, political Islam, through, in my estimation, the single most important Caliph in the history of the Arab Empire.

The Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan established the entity that would become an Islamic state, rather than simply conquered lands. In short, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, was brilliant. A master of empire building. A political genius. He came to power upon the death of his father, during a civil war that was tearing the fragile Empire apart. He most feared the rise of the alternative Caliph Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr and his followers. The besieging of Mecca, in 692, with over 10,000 Syrian troops, shows just how serious Abd al-Malik believed the situation had become for the future of his dynasty. Eventually the rebellions, as well as the Byzantines were defeated, and so the next step is to unify the Empire. To further the plan of unification, he needed to solidify his own claims to the Caliphate. It is around this time, that coins start to be inscribed with the name of Muhammad, linked directly to the Caliph. It is also no surprise that the Sana’a manuscripts (the earliest Qur’anic manuscripts we have) are calligraphically dated to the era of Abd al-Malik.

He had the coin above created to include an image of himself, defiantly holding onto his sword, as a warrior. Poetry of the time calls the Caliph, the ‘deputy’ of God. They go to great lengths to push this idea, and it is most prominent during the reign of Abd al-Malik.

The urgency to ensure the strength and growth of the new Arab Empire – an Empire that had already experienced civil war, and was in the midst of new uprisings – depended on creating a history of its own, intrinsically tied to the new Caliph (This happens with all dynasties of old who have spurious claims to power. Augustus adopted the title ‘Caesar’, King Henry VII of England, named his first son Arthur, linking his dynasty to the reign of the legendary King Arthur). It is the result of the attempts to centralise power more concisely and distinctly than any previous Caliph, and to solidify the new Empire, by Abd al-Malik, at a period in history by which the survival of a new state entwined majestically with the growth of the religion that it was based on. Without a powerful religious context, alongside a manipulated legend-based history, a state struggled to survive.

Unsurprisingly, the first mention of the Prophet Muhammad on any coin, was issued a year after the accession to the Caliphate, in 686, and in the midst of rebellion and civil war….. of Abd al-Malik. The coin reads: “shahāda: bism Allāh Muḥammad rasūl Allāh (“In the name of God, Muḥammad is the Messenger of God”)”. This again, coincides with the Caliph’s attempts to solidify the power of the new Empire, and link his dynasty and his Empire back to the early days, and to Muhammad. Abd al-Malik, is forging a history for his dynasty. The legend of Muhammad was the next stage in the strengthening of the dynasty through forged history.

Between 685, and 715, the dynasty that controlled the Caliphate was in the middle of perhaps one of the greatest and most impressive Public Relations ventures the World has ever seen.

Earlier Arab coins, during the period between Muhammad’s death, and the 5th Umayyad Caliph, show no mention of anything that could be linked to the Islam that evolved over the following century. No mention of Islam, or of the Prophet. They include generic phrases like “bism Allah rabbi” (In the name of God, my Lord).

Coins are one way to strengthen an Empire, but by far the most impressive, is through Architecture. Abd al-Malik oversaw the symbolic building of the Dome of the Rock, in centre of Jewish Jerusalem, on the legendary site of Temple Mount. It stands high above Church of the Holy Sepulchre, dwarfing the old Christian Church. A symbol of great power to the new Monotheism in town. Nothing says the coming of a new age, and a new dynasty, quite like crushing the old one. A symbol of authority, and wealth; great architecture is woven into the fabric of the building of Empire. This was used to stunning effect by the great architects of the Abd al-Malik era.

His son, al-Walid, upon accession to the Caliphate, continues his father’s legacy, by building the great Umayyad Mosque at Damascus, over the old Christian Basilica of Saint John the Baptist. al-Walid also became the Patron of great artists and poets at the time. The Umayyad’s were creating a brand new culture, that centred around themselves. It is for this reason perhaps that Islam, is an extremely political religion. It was necessary, for the time period.

Coins emphasising the link between Abd al-Malik’s dynasty, and Muhammad, forging the legend of Muhammad to add weight to the early days and linking it to the history of his dynasty, huge beautiful buildings on the sight of religions of conquered Empires, codifying laws through the Qur’an; this all took place to strengthen Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan’s claim to the Caliphate. He oversaw the centralising of power from reliance on tribal leaders, to a system of bureaucracy (which resulted in the Arabisation of the language of state). He reformed the military, creating official ranks of non-Arab fighters. We can trace the legends of Muhammad to, and directly following his reign. Prior to that time period, all we have are sparse references to a man named Muhammad who was simply a leader of the Arabs. What he said, and what he did, was of little to no significance. Imperial authority, Islamic authority, all resulted from Abd al-Malik’s imperial & dynastic goals.

Three things are clear. Firstly, the sudden and impressive Arab conquests around the 7th century, included and was most likely lead by a man called Muhammad, though whether his words and deeds were important to this new faith, is unlikely given that it took over a century to decide it might be wise to document his words and deeds, and over 60 years before he even appears on a coin. Secondly, Muhammad preached a Monotheism that differed to that of Christians and Jews, and was considered a heresy by non-Muslims of the period. And Thirdly, by the late 7th Century, Muhammad’s name was suddenly being used to strengthen a fragmented, and fragile political Umayyad state and to solidify the claims of one particular Caliph; coins appear with Muhammad’s name on it; Hadith are being collected in order to provide a legal framework for the new empire; Muhammad suddenly becomes a legendary and much needed figurehead for the reign of Abd al-Malik, upon his accession to a largely fragmented and warring empire.

What we do not know, and what is pure speculation at best, is the Prophet’s life before his supposed revelations, what actually happened in the cave outside of Mecca (if anything), any aspect of his life, what he ever said, and how he treated others. We simply do not know. It is far more likely that Muhammad, as presented in Islamic literature, was a figure whose legend began to be moulded by the truly brilliant Abd al-Malik, and was further added to in order to suit the goals of later Caliphs.

Islam as we know it, was intrinsically linked to the Umayyad dynasty. It was all political, all spin, all PR, and based on the geopolitical climate of the late 7th Century. The early Arabs were not Muslims as we know them today. The Fifth Umayyad Caliph carved a political empire. Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan was the great spark that lit the fire of the legend of the Prophet Muhammad.


“….children of the devil.”

June 7, 2013

783px-Sandomierz_katedra_-_mord_rytualny

As previously noted, the old Pope, Benedict XVI, upon his visit to Britain, alluded to the notion that the exclusion of God from the public sphere, lead directly to Hitler massacring the Jews. A subtle attack on the removal of what the religious perceive to be their ‘anchored morality’ provided by religion, substituted for new, “relative”, secular values, and a more open society. In my previous article, I try to counter this by providing Hitler’s Christian credentials, and point to centuries of Christian anti-Jewish sentiment that helped accommodate a negative view of the entire population of Jews. I wanted to elaborate on that particular Church-led sentiment in this article.

In the 12th Century a rather nasty little Benedictine Monk named Thomas of Monmouth started to spread the false rumour that Jews killed children, and made wine out of their blood, for ritualistic purposes. He concocted a story about a child named William of Norwich, whom, according to Monmouth, was ritualistically sacrificed by a Jewish community. The secretive but apparently extremely powerful Jewish community apparently selected a Jewish Council, to meet once a year, in order to select a country in which they would kill a Christian. They controlled the World (similar stories of Jewish World domination can still be read on conspiracy sites today). Monmouth apparently heard this story from a Christian convert named Theobald of Cambridge, who claimed the Jewish council were looking to reclaim Jerusalem, but could only do it, if they ritualistically murdered one Christian every year, and that this year, they had chosen William of Norwich.

After the rumours started, they gained pace. Spreading like fire, every unsolved child murder suddenly had a supposed Jewish element. The Jewish communities then paid the price, by being tortured into confession, and swiftly executed. A child called Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln was killed in Lincoln in 1255. A local Jewish man named Copin was accused of kidnapping, torturing, and crucifying the boy. He denied it, until he was imprisoned, and tortured, at which point he predictably confessed and implicated the entire Jewish community in a conspiracy. He was then executed.
Matthew Paris, another Benedictine Monk of the time, wrote on the murder, with disturbingly anti-Jewish rhetoric:

“This year [1255] about the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul [27 July], the Jews of Lincoln stole a boy called Hugh, who was about eight years old. After shutting him up in a secret chamber, where they fed him on milk and other childish food, they sent to almost all The cities of England in which there were Jews, and summoned some of their sect from each city to be present at a sacrifice to take place at Lincoln, in contumely and insult of Jesus Christ. For, as they said, they had a boy concealed for the purpose of being crucified; so a great number of them assembled at Lincoln, and then they appointed a Jew of Lincoln judge, to take the place of Pilate, by whose sentence, and with the concurrence of all, the boy was subjected to various tortures. They scourged him till the blood flowed, they crowned him with thorns, mocked him, and spat upon him; each of them also pierced him with a knife, and they made him drink gall, and scoffed at him with blasphemous insults, and kept gnashing their teeth and calling him Jesus, the false prophet. And after tormenting him in divers ways they crucified him, and pierced him to the heart with a spear. When the boy was dead, they took the body down from the cross, and for some reason disemboweled it; it is said for the purpose of their magic arts.”

– Note the parallels drawn between Little Saint Hugh, and Jesus. Between the Jews of the 13th Century, and the Jews blamed for the killing of Jesus. A ‘Jew of Lincoln Judge’ is given the pleasure of being compared to Pilate. ‘…. with the concurrence of all’ the boy was horrifically tortured. With the concurrence of all. The entire Jewish community.
The murder of a child, tortured and crucified, is presented as a Jewish tradition, starting with Jesus. It is supposed to present the Jews, as evil, and Little Saint Hugh as a martyr for Christ. It is a story to remind people of the apparent betrayal of the Christians by the Jews. Christian blood has always been placed on the hands of the Jews.

It wasn’t only in England that the idea of blaming a Jewish conspiracy for unsolved murders took form. It was only in 1965, that Pope Paul VI removed the Sainthood of Simon of Trent, admitting that there is no evidence to suggest a Jewish conspiracy in the boys death in Trento, Italy, in 1475. 15 Jewish members of the community were tortured and burnt at the stake. Jewish women were also tortured. Surrounding Jewish communities were violently attacked. And not a shred of evidence was provided connecting the Jews to Simon’s death. His father came up with the idea that Simon must have been kidnapped by the Jews, his blood used in baking the Passover Matzah.

In 1543, Martin Luther produced his work “On the Jews and their lies“. In it, Luther calls for Jews to be put to work as slaves, for Jewish schools to be burnt to the ground, for
Johannes Wallmann writes:

“The assertion that Luther’s expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment have been of major and persistent influence in the centuries after the Reformation, and that there exists a continuity between Protestant anti-Judaism and modern racially oriented antisemitism, is at present wide-spread in the literature; since the Second World War it has understandably become the prevailing opinion.”

The Nazis held dear to the ideas expressed by Luther in this work. Luther is vicious in his criticisms and his ideas for the future. He helped to purge German towns of Jews, driving them from their homes and businesses with threats and intimidation.

Luther’s work is full of “I heard this about them…” and “Someone once told me this…” before launching into baseless accusations:

“I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with this judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnaped children, as related before. I have heard that one Jew sent another Jew, and this by means of a Christian, a pot of blood, with a barrel of wine, in which when drunk empty, a dead Jew was found. There are many other similar stories.

For their kidnaping of children they have often been burned at the stake or banished (as we already heard). I am well aware that they deny all of this. However, it all coincides with the judgment of Christ which declares that they are venomous, bitter, vindictive, tricky serpents, assassins, and children of the devil who sting and work harm stealthily wherever they cannot do it openly.

For this reason I should like to see them where there are no Christians. The Turks and other heathen do not tolerate what we Christians endure from these venomous serpents and young devils. Nor do the Jews treat any others as they do us Christians. That is what I had in mind when I said earlier that, next to the devil, a Christian has no more bitter and galling foe than a Jew. There is no other to whom we accord as many benefactions and from whom we suffer as much as we do from these base children of the devil, this brood of vipers.”

This practice of not only blaming the Jews for unsolved murders, but also the hatefilled rhetoric based on nothing of substance, became prevalent, and spread suspicion of Jews throughout Europe, leading to many murders of innocent Jewish people. Martin Luther, the reformers, as well as the Catholic Church leaped on this growing antisemitic movement, and vicious new rumours sprang up. The Papacy pounced on the antisemitism of the day, and institutionalised the growing suspicion and hate. Antisemitism was very much official Church policy.

In 1555, the new Pope Paul IV issued papal bull Cum nimis absurdum. In its opening phrase, the bull states:

“Since it is completely senseless and inappropriate to be in a situation where Christian piety allows the Jews (whose guilt—all of their own doing—has condemned them to eternal slavery) access to our society and even to live among us; indeed, they are without gratitude to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return invective, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve, they manage to claim superiority.”

– The Jews, simply by not being Christian, are referred to as slaves. They are told they deserve slavery.
The Nazi precedent of forcing Jewish people to wear something that makes them identifiable as Jews, and inferior to the Christian population, was not a Nazi precedent at all. It began much earlier. The Nazis simply appropriated it. The Bull issued in 1555 states:

“Moreover, concerning the matter that Jews should be recognizable everywhere: [to this end] men must wear a hat, women, indeed, some other evident sign, yellow in color, that must not be concealed or covered by any means, and must be tightly affixed.”

– The Nazis are of course famous for the setting up of new Jewish ghettos in which they forced the Jewish populations of occupied cities and countries to live, in awful circumstances and conditions. But, much like forcing the Jewish population to wear identifiable clothing wasn’t a Nazi precedent, neither was the creation of Jewish ghettos. The Bull in 1555 states:

“…all Jews are to live in only one [quarter] to which there is only one entrance and from which there is but one exit, and if there is not that capacity [in one such quarter, then], in two or three or however many may be enough; [in any case] they should reside entirely side by side in designated streets and be thoroughly separate from the residences of Christians, [This is to be enforced] by our authority in the City and by that of our representatives in other states, lands and domains noted above.”

– The Ghetto of Rome was set up at this time, and Jews living throughout Rome were forced to move to it. Life in the Rome Ghetto was horrendous. It constantly flooded due to its location by the banks of the Tiber. The overcrowding led to apartments being built upwards, in dangerous conditions, by the inhabitants themselves, which blocked all sunlight, and often led to buildings collapsing and killing the inhabitants. It was the most undesirable part of the city of Rome, laced in poverty. Napoleon had freed the Jews from the Roman Ghetto, only to have the wall rebuilt and the poverty stricken conditions reinforced by Pope Pius VII in the early 1800s.

And so it continued. In 1823, the town of Velizh in Russia promoted the idea that a Jewish conspiracy led to the murder of a child. Local Jews were rounded up and imprisoned, released 12 years later on lack of any evidence.
In 1840, a Christian Monk was murdered in Damascus, and eight notable Jewish leaders were condemned to imprisonment, and torture, under which some died. The accusations were false.
In 1928, the Jewish community of Messena, New York, were accused and kidnapping and ritualistically murdering a Christian girl named Barbara Griffiths. She was then found alive, and described how she had become lost in the Woods and slept there.

By the 19th, 20th centuries, the suspicion had shifted from child-murdering rituals, to Jewish desire to control the World; through media, banking, left wing groups. The Papacy decided, in all its wisdom, that there was in fact two types of antisemitism…. ‘good’ antisemitism and ‘bad’ antisemitism. The good antisemitism was the Church’s crusade against the Jews trying to control the World. The irony of course being that the Vatican had controlled the World for the past 1600 years at the very least, and happened to be one of the most influential and wealthiest institutions on the planet. The idea of an international Jewish conspiracy can be found in 20th Century Christian literature, right winged literature, left winged literature, Islamic literature. It’s the new blood-libel. We seem unable to accept that it isn’t Jewish propaganda that has controlled our thoughts and actions for far too long, it is Christian propaganda.

Suspicion and hatred for the Jewish populations in Europe did not begin with Hitler. It was not motivated by secularism, by a lack of God in schools, by an attempt to separate Church from State, by Atheism, or by any other modern theories. It was the culmination of Centuries of antisemitic attitudes and rhetoric shaped by Christian communities both at local levels, by the evangelical reformers and by the Catholic Church. It wasn’t abandoned by the reformers of the 16th Century, is simply became more vicious when names with such power as Luther jumped into the argument. Hitler wasn’t reading Thomas Paine, Hitler was reading Luther. The Church, right up until the 20th Century openly preached and promoted antisemitism whilst aligning themselves with the Nazis. The Church’s attempts to deflect blame, shelter a deep rooted sense of guilt no doubt, over the fact that the attempt to eradicate the Jews entirely was the logical conclusion to 2000 years of vicious Church-made institutionalised antisemitism and blood libel.


Searching for Jesus: ‘Antiquities’ of Josephus.

April 3, 2013

flavius-josephus

Outside of the New Testament (which undoubtedly contains notable forgeries; most of the letters of Paul, for example) there appear no mentions of Jesus by which we can establish who he was, what he said, or in fact, whether he actually existed in the first place. Whilst there are no sources, apologists tend to be adamant that there are. Most notably, the writings of Josephus. And so I thought i’d address the Josephus source here, in three parts. Josephus’ Book 18 of his work ‘The Antiquities of the Jews‘, followed by the early Christian writer ‘Eusebius‘, onto Antiquities ‘Book 20‘, ending on my own thoughts. Each ‘part’ is highlighted relevantly, for convenience.

Book 18:
The passage from Book 18 of ‘Antiquities‘, often cited as evidence, is referred to as “Testimonium Flavianum“, or simply “the Testimonium“, and it is this:

“At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one should call him a man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. He was the messiah. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them on the third day, living again, just as the divine prophets had spoken of these and countless other wondrous things about him. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

– Pretty conclusive. But if we read it carefully, there are problems immediately.

Firstly, Josephus was not a Christian. He was a devout Jew. His writings are important in the history of Judaism, they show Josephus to be fully committed to his faith. His Grandfather lived around the same time as Herod, in Judea. His father lived during the time of Jesus, in Jerusalem. Josephus writings about his father, make no mention of the apparent shockwaves Jesus was sending through Jerusalem when he first arrived, according to Matthew:

“The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.”

– Apparently Josephus’ father, who lived through this ‘uproar‘ didn’t mention it to his son. All the miracles, the huge following, the darkness that covered the land for hours following Jesus’ crucifixion…. not one mention from Josephus in his history of the Jewish people, despite writing much less impressive, and far more mundane accounts of life for Jews in Jerusalem. So, already alarm bells are ringing that he would suddenly, 60 years later, write an extremely brief, yet extraordinary claim on the divinity of someone that as a Jew, he doesn’t believe to be divine in the first place. In fact, make any claim on the existence of Jesus at all, given his silence on the subject for over half a century.

Josephus wrote many works on Judaism. A faith that denies the divinity of Jesus. By all accounts, the divinity of Jesus – central to Christianity – is not central, nor has any more relevance to the life of Josephus, nor his writings, than the one passing, paragraph above. And yet within that paragraph, Josephus writes like he’s a devout Christian apologist. He accepts that Jesus died, and rose from the dead. He calls him “the Messiah“, he refers to his teachings as ‘the truth‘, he accepts that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. This is not a story a Jewish writer would be perpetuating.

Every other ‘Prophet‘ of Judaism, are presented in ‘Antiquities‘ as great Philosophical leaders (to help appeal to Pagan Rome at the time). Josephus though, places Jesus above all of them, as not only a great Philosophical teacher, but also divine, the Messiah, the fulfilment of all earlier Prophecies. It would seem from that passage, that Josephus is very, very Christian.

It is the early Christian writers who linked Jesus to the prophecies of the Old Testament, in order to ‘prove‘ his divinity. The story of Herod and the murder of the innocents mentioned in nowhere but the Gospel Matthew, which concludes the story with:

“Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah.”

– This Gospel quite obviously attempts to link Jesus with the apparent Prophecies of the past. Josephus then, appears to agree with the Gospels. Josephus, a Jewish man who mentions Jesus divinity nowhere else, nor does it affect the way he lives his life, nor is he a Christian; apparently believes Jesus is the divine Son of God, fulfilling the Prophecies of the Jewish Prophets. He concurs entirely with Christian writers at the time.

Secondly, ‘Antiquities‘ was written during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. Jesus supposedly died during the reign of Tiberius. Between Tiberius and Domitian, we see the three year reign of my favourite Emperor, Caligula. We see the thirteen year reign of Claudius, the thirteen year reign of Nero, the year that saw Emperor’s Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, the ten year reign of Vespasian, the two year reign of Titus, and finally the fifteen year reign of Domitian; under whom the ‘Antiquities‘ was completed, in the last year or two of his reign. So, that’s a full nine Emperors, and around 60+ years after Jesus death. This does not count as evidence. Especially given how wide spread Christianity had become, and how much of a threat it was perceived, even as far before Domitian as the reign of Nero. Josephus himself, was born after Jesus supposedly died. The best you could say is, if it is his work, Josephus was apparently told the story, and convinced it must be true. Hearsay. Nothing more.
This is not a valid source of evidence for proof of the life of Jesus.

And thirdly, and most importantly…. it would appear that most historians agree that either the entire above paragraph is a forgery, or it is a genuine verse of Josephus, with the more ‘Christian‘ parts added later. I place myself in the “the entire passage is a forgery” camp.

For example, the passage uses the phrase “a wise man” to refer to Jewish figures throughout history, like Solomon. Never, does he use the term to refer to anyone outside of the scope of Judaism. Most other leaders around that time, are referred to negatively. The philosophical figures, for Josephus, are all those of Judaism.

The beginning of the next sentence, that directly follows the above passage is:

“About the same time, another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder.”

– What an odd line to follow such a positive passage about a wonderful, wise, Messiah, and a band of loving followers. Yet, if we take the passage out entirely, the line of the new paragraph flows perfectly from the passage preceding it, which discusses slayings, and Jewish misery. Go look for yourself…here.. Chapter 3, verses 2,3 and 4. It becomes obvious that verse 3 (the Jesus passage) is completely out of place.

Not only that, but it isn’t until the 4th Century that any Christian mentions the Jesus passage by Josephus. Three hundred years pass by, and not one notable Christian scholar, including Minucius Felix, Irenaeus, Origen, Justin Martyr, Clement, Tertullian and Methodius – all commentators on Josephus, mention this passage at all.

Origen actually mentions Book 18, but doesn’t refer to the passage at all. Did he genuinely not consider it important? Well, there is actually something more telling than that in Origen’s words from Book 1 of Contra Celsus:

“For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless–being, although against his will, not far from the truth–that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ)–the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice”

– Here Origen quite openly states that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. So, we can confidently suggest that the passage in question was not there, when Origen was reading it. So where did it come from?

Eusebius:
The first mention of the Jesus passage, comes from a man the Church refer to as the Father of Ecclesiastical History; Eusebius. He was a member of the First Council of Nicea, and a friend and biographer of the Emperor Constantine. He also happens to have been one of the most distrusted, and fraudulent Christian historians in history. The great Cultural Historian Jacob Burckhardt says of Eusebius:

“the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity”

It isn’t as if Eusebius would disagree with that analysis of himself, given that in Chapter 13 of Eusebius’s own book ‘Praeparatio evangelica‘, he states:

“That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.”

– Eusebius, in his role as courtier and biographer to Constantine, along with his work with the Council of Nicea, was a political propagandist of the Constantinian era. He writes during Constantine’s lifetime, that the Emperor had grown up around Christians. After the Emperor dies, suddenly Eusebius tells us that Constantine had a divine vision of the Cross, which led to his instant conversion. Propagandist, and nothing more. He helped to shape Christianity within that framework. And it would seem, he is responsible for the Josephus passage above, given that no other Christian scholar appears to have noted it before him. It all begins with Eusebius.

Eusebius is also the first person to record the legend of the King of Edessa writing letters to, and getting replies from, Jesus himself. Eusebius also claimed to have not only found the letters, but translated the letters into Greek. They can be seen here. The letters themselves use language from Jesus, that he absolutely doesn’t use when we look at the Gospel. In the letters, Jesus, for some odd reason, wishes to emphasise that he is separate from God the Father:

“I went out of My Father, who is in Me like I am in Him! However, the Father is the Highest, because He is My Love, My Will.”

– Coincidentally, this letter appears at a time when the Trinity was a hotly debated topic among the early Church, and Eusebius happened to believe that Jesus was separate from God, but also ‘from’ God. They were different, but attached. The Son was subordinate to the Father, according to Eusebius. Much like Jesus seems to be emphasising in the letter above – “The Father is the Highest” – conveniently found, and translated, by Eusebius. Similarly, in his work “Church History”, Eusebius is very anti-Jew. He dedicates a lot of time to writing about how awful the Jews are. For example:

“that from that time seditions and wars and mischievous plots followed each other in quick succession, and never ceased in the city and in all Judea until finally the siege of Vespasian overwhelmed them. Thus the divine vengeance overtook the Jews for the crimes which they dared to commit against Christ.”

– And so, can this hatred for Jews be linked in any way to the words of Jesus? Well, not if you look at the Gospels. But, if you look at the letters conveniently found and translated by Eusebius, we get:

“However, be steadfast in all, what you will gradually hear of Me from the wicked Jews, who soon will deliver Me into the hands of the hangman.”

– Jesus seems to confirm most of Eusebius’s views. How convenient.

If we are to say that these letters are forgeries (which pretty much every historian accepts, and it is quite obvious, they are forgeries, most probably by Eusebius for purposes of propaganda) then we cannot trust anything Eusebius says. Especially his reference to a Josephus passage that no other preceding Christian scholar seems to have noticed. Therefore, it is not a mention of Jesus.

Book 20:
The other apparent mention of Jesus by Josephus, is Book 20 of Antiquities:

“But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus, the Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned. But as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. (24) Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.”

– There are marks that certain changes have been made to this passage, though the passage itself is not completely invented, like the passage in Book 18. The change here, is the use of the term ‘Brother of Jesus, the Christ‘. If we take “Brother of Jesus, the Christ” out of this passage, it suddenly makes sense to the proceeding lines, which end:

…… and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.

– If we take this story at face value, it seems to not make much sense. After James is killed, the Jewish elders are very angry, and demand Ananus, his condemner, have the High Priesthood taken away from him, and given to Jesus….. the son of Damneus.

Why would Jewish elders care so much about the Christian Lord’s brother condemned to death? It makes no sense, and this is especially true, given that the death of James does not correlate with early Christian writings on how he supposedly died. It’s a completely different story. It’s a different James, and a different Jesus. The phrase “brother of Jesus, the Christ” was added later.

My Thoughts:
The problem for Christianity is, according to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was incredibly famous during his own lifetime:

“News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”

– And so you would expect that someone might have made some sort of reference to Jesus at the time. There might be some contemporary source, given how famous he apparently was. And yet, we have nothing. Nothing by Jesus, nothing written of Jesus during his lifetime, by any one. It isn’t as if we’re short of historical sources from that time period and that area, either. It’s just, none of them mention Jesus. As noted in my previous article, Philo of Alexandria – an impressive contemporary historian and cultural commentator in Jesus’ time – wrote nothing about Jesus, despite living in and writing about the exact area Jesus was in, throughout the life of Jesus. No mention of miracles, no mention of ‘uproar’ caused as Jesus entered Jerusalem, no mention of the many ‘Saints’ who rose from the dead and appeared to many people in Jerusalem, according to the Gospel of Matthew:

“The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.”

– No mention of anything mentioned in the Gospels. Similarly, nothing mentioned by Josephus can reasonably back up anything suggested in the Gospels pertaining to the life of Jesus. And even if it could, it would be hearsay, based on the fact that Josephus was not a contemporary of Jesus.

I am therefore led to believe, given the veritable lack of evidence, that Josephus does not provide a mention of Jesus at all.


God the predator

April 10, 2011

One of the greatest evolutionary qualities of any animal, is the defence mechanism of the Horned Lizard. It believes it is the top of the food chain, and is blissfully unaware of any predator, until that predator is close enough to cause such powerful distress, that the horned lizard ruptures tiny blood vessels in its own eyes, and squirts blood at the predator. The blood tastes so vile, that the canine predator will immediately run away and leave the lizard alone. The one drawback is that the blood does not affect predatory birds. So the birds will still try to eat the lizard. There has been no evolutionary development within the Phrynosomatidae genus, that can act as a defence mechanism against the predatory birds.

If the Horned Lizard is to be held up as an example of intelligent design within nature, then it would appear that the “intelligent” designer overlooked its need for protection against predatory birds. What a dreadful argument for design. In the same way as the “intelligent” designer, when designing humans, gave us a vermiform appendix whose only purpose is to randomly kill us. Thanks God! The lack of defence mechanism against predatory birds, like the appendix within a human, is a sign of the misgivings of evolution, yet at the same time, pretty strong evidence for evolution.

God, up until very recently, and still in some parts of the World, is a predatory bird that we have no defence against. We are evolving a defence every so often. Society is remarkably similar to the evolution of species. Our defence against the predatory nature of God – whom we have designated as our predator, because we seemingly cannot stand to be at the top of the food chain ourselves – is logic and reason. Christians, Jews and Muslims alike find implausible and repugnant the idea that Mesoamericans were inclined for centuries to brutally sacrifice another human being every morning to ensure that the sun would rise. Even though the logic behind Mesoamerican sacrifice was essentially identical to Christian, Jewish and Islamic worship tradition. The Aztecs believed in the legend of the five suns, whom were gods that sacrificed themselves for the sake of mankind, which sounds eerily familiar to the story of another invented character from history; Jesus. Both Christianity and Aztec Mesoamericans believed the sacrifice made by their God/s sustained humanity’s place in the universe, which God/s created in the first place. The victim of Aztec sacrifice was seen to be “nextlahualli”, which simply means, paying his debt to the Gods. One wonders what kind of God requires his creation to sacrifice each other for the sake of the upkeep of his creation. It seems a little oxymoronic. But similarly, the notion that a God that has created everything (and that everything encompasses itself) would demand prayer five times a day, or driving Pope Urban II to state that war could be not only just and necessary, but also key to the advancement of spirituality, demanding fear and obsessive worship of his “greatness” despite not giving us the opportunity to agree to be born into such a wretched system in the first place. This notion that war is a spiritual necessity is not simply a product of the Papacy of the middle ages; the Orange Volunteers in Northern Ireland are a Protestant Terrorist group. They have threatened to bomb football matches, they have bombed homes of politicians and they are still active today, having sent death threats to head of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams.

On the subject of human sacrifice, the Bible is not immune to such practices. Jephthah in the book of Judges, is keen to sacrifice his daughter, to glorify God. In return for God’s help in defeating the Ammonites, Jephthah says he will sacrifice his daughter as a “burnt offering”. His daughter seems perfectly happy with this deal, but is a little bit sad that she didn’t get the chance to get laid before her dad rightly burned her to death:

When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “My daughter!” he cried out. “My heart is breaking! What a tragedy that you came out to greet me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and cannot take it back.” And she said, “Father, you have made a promise to the LORD. You must do to me what you have promised, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.” “You may go,” Jephthah said. And he let her go away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children. When she returned home, her father kept his vow, and she died a virgin. So it has become a custom in Israel for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.

– Notice the custom at the end. A needless custom, based on a situation that is nothing short of monstrous and predatory.

The predatory instincts of the faithful play a dark and deadly role in every part of the World. A Muslim friend of mine once told me that whilst his belief is that I am indeed condemned to burn in hell for eternity (apparently, saying that kind of thing, is not as offensive as drawing a cartoon of the Prophet), I don’t believe it so it shouldn’t bother me. What an interesting argument. To ignore the fact that a large amount of the population of the World, who have never met me, never spoken to me, never had the pleasure of eating one of my amazing roast turkey dinners, would take one look at me, and decide i’m heading to a fiery pit, is to perpetuate the awful trait of ignorance. Those people are ignorant to who I am. They have made a conclusion based on nothing but a fairy tale from their book. That is ignorant and preaches non-thinking. That, I cannot abide. Naturally, I believe their distinct form of hatred to be putrid and absurd, it should be ridiculed and philosophically attacked for the bullshit that it is. But he suggested that I shouldn’t care, because I don’t believe in it so it wont affect me. On a very thin reasonable level, this makes sense. To me, i’m not going to a fiery doom. To him, I am. To care about how he thinks of my eternal hell is irrelevant because I don’t believe it, right? Well then the Islamic world should perhaps practice what it preaches in that respect and not demand Fatwa’s be placed on non-believers simply because they drew a cartoon or wrote a book. To call for the death of another human being, because a book was written, is nonsensical and despicable. Religion doesn’t particularly enjoy free speech, because it wishes to perpetuate its nonsense through mass indoctrination, without question. In this respect, it is predatory.

Nietzsche – who incidentally is becoming the hell of my life with politics study – once noted that “God is dead”. The suggestion being that society has evolved to a stage where belief in God is irrational and unnecessary, whereas in time past, belief was essential. A social development that means we no longer need that objective base for our morality that anchored generations previous. I think Nietzsche is wrong. I don’t believe God was ever alive. The belief in God was a forced belief. It was through the threat of eternal hell, and in fact Earthly death for heretics – William Tyndale was famously strangled at the stake and then burnt for daring to translate the Bible into English – ensured that God would live on as a concept, in the minds of the fearful. A lack of belief in a God was punishable by death. A lack of belief in the God philosophically interpreted by the State, was punishable by death. The claim that religion has ever held an objective base for morality is as ludicrous as it is insulting. One only has to review the centuries that religion has had a deep hold over humanity, to note the horrific abuses over such trivial issues. The very first person to be executed for heresy under Christian law, was Priscillian, the Bishop of Avila, in the fourth century. Christianity was still incredibly young at that stage. It was only fifty years previous that Constantine had converted the Empire to Christianity, though he knew very little about the faith. The lack of worship of an Emperor in Rome – the Imperial Cult – would lead to public floggings and executions. It appears that as the Roman Empire was dying, the indoctrinated peoples needed to transfer that obsessive cult worship from the less and less powerful Emperor, to a new single identity, and Christianity provided that outlet. It is no surprise then, that the beatings, and the tortures, and the murders that followed if one chose not to accept the doctrines of the Imperial Cult, would transfer to Christianity also. Suddenly if you did not agree with the Theology of the Church, you were excommunicated at best, and put to death at worst.

Of course now, instead of using the fear of death to ensure blind acquiescence, religion tends to get to people at an early age, and reinforce religious morality as a basis for objective morality. We were told at school that Bible stories helped to teach kids right from wrong. What those teachers left out, were the stories of mass genocide and the systematic abuse of women, by a God who was apparently responsible for helping kids distinguish between right and wrong. A writer for The Sun wrote recently on the news that a primary school in Blackburn will be teaching certain Atheist principles (simple introduction to Darwinism) that:

I think that four years old is too young to be learning about atheism.

At that age they hardly know what Christianity is. I’m sure a four-year-old couldn’t comprehend it.

I am sure it is not appropriate to be teaching, say, Darwinism to infants. In primary schools it is difficult to get youngsters to understand theology and spiritual concepts. Children tend to struggle when you are making the first Holy Communion.

Why is he placing the teaching of Christianity above Darwinism? He is happy to teach kids a fairy story, but wishes to suppress facts that contradict his fairy story? He goes on:

I think it is still important to teach Christianity and other major religions in schools. Christianity is not as strong in schools as it used to be. I don’t think so many young people know the Lord’s Prayer or popular hymns any more.
There used to be a prayer every morning during school assemblies and that has gone now.

– I agree, it is important to teach Christianity and other major religions in school, but it is not right to teach it as unquestionable fact. He makes a major leap from teaching Christianity, as a subject, to then suddenly moaning that the indoctrination of students through morning prayer isn’t as strong any more. It is absolutely necessary to prevent indoctrination of children through morning prayer. To preach Christianity in primary school is to preach the absolute obedience to a heavenly dictator, and to ignore arguments to the contrary. That is wrong, on so many levels. At my primary school, we were forced to say morning prayer, on fear of being thrown out of the room and given lines to write at play time, if we didn’t. The predatory nature of religion.

As it stands, and to my dismay, humanity needs religion. I would never seek to ban anyones faith. I believe everyone has the right to believe whatever they chose to believe, and to practice the traditions and customs of that system of belief in which ever country they see fit. I have absolutely no problem with Mosques being built in the UK, or with the Christian Church bells never ending on a Sunday morning. I was happy to take my shoes off when walking in the spectacular Blue Mosque in the heart of the old city of Constantinople, now Istanbul. But I do hold out hope that one day society will evolve to a state of being in which organised religion is consigned to the bin of undesirable history.