Friday, September 10, 2010

Burn a Koran Day called off; Ground Zero “mosque” agrees to move

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Review: Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity

Posted: 09 Sep 2010 05:47 PM PDT

Will Change Everything You Thought You Knew About the Bible

Diana Agorio's Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianityis a masterful tour-de-force into the realms of ancient culture, astrology and religion, one that offers a revelation of truly Biblical proportions. Agorio's thesis is that Christianity and Judaism have their roots in the ancient cultures of West Asia (Mesopotamia, the Levant and Anatolia), Egypt, and the influence of the Greeks during the Hellenistic (the period of the successor kingdoms to Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire). The book traces the evolution of key religious ideas and practices in the ancient world, from their Bronze Age roots through the Iron Age, the Persian Period, and the Hellenistic, illuminating how they changed and why.

The myths of the ancient world are central to this story, and Agorio brings them alive with consummate skill. The myths were represented in the star patterns of the zodiac, and priestly knowledge of the stars was an important source of their power from the days of ancient Sumer on. Just as the myths were written in the stars, so too they were dramatized in ritual, with sacred temple prostitution and drug use. In the Levant, the region of West Asia which includes Palestine, the Iron Age brought another, far more disturbing practice: child sacrifice.


The sexual practices of the ancient world come alive too: Agorio explains how the institution of the 'sacred marriage' became commoditized, particularly in the Persian period, when the power of the priesthoods of West Asia was at an all-time low. Particularly shocking to modern sensibilities is the ancient practice of pedophilia, which was correlated with the rise of the storm gods and chariot warfare in the mid-second millennium BCE. Much later, Plato's idea of 'Platonic love' celebrated man-boy sexual relationships—and these practices, when combined with the idea of sacred sex, exerted a seminal influence on Christianity.

Contrary to Biblical myth, the Hebrews emerged in the land of 'Canaan' (Palestine) as an indigenous people, scarcely different from their other Semitic cousins in the Levant. Agorio explains that ethnic identities did not exist in West Asia until the Persian period, and West Asia as a whole was characterized by remarkable cultural similarities, with relatively minor regional differences. Like other Levantine peoples, the Iron Age Hebrews worshipped Baal Hadad and Anat/Ishtar/Astarte, the great Goddess, as well as Yahweh, a more local deity. Indeed, the myths of Baal later formed the template for the Biblical myths of Abraham. And throughout the Old Testament, the influence of the Star Chart casts a very long shadow, as Biblical heroes and prophets ranging from Moses and Joshua to Jonah prove to be modeled on 'pagan' gods and heroes.

Agorio's deconstruction of the Biblical myths places the writing of most of the Old Testament solidly in the Hellenistic, a time of resurgent priestly power after the relatively secular government of the Persians. Whilst this late dating of the Biblical texts, known as 'minimalism', is controversial to religionists who ardently insist on ludicrously-old dates and equally-ludicrous literal interpretations of the myths, the truth is that the literary styles and the contents of the texts themselves clearly mark them as Hellenistic.

But if Agorio's conclusions about the Old Testament seem revolutionary, her treatment of the New Testament is earth-shaking. Even readers who are familiar with the 'mythicist' hypothesis that there never was a historical Jesus are in for a shock. Agorio explains that Jesus was essentially a Palestinian, Semitic version of the savior-god Adonis. Inasmuch as Jesus' story in the Gospel of Mark perfectly follows the Babylonian Star Chart, from baptism to death and resurrection, it reveals a profoundly disturbing theology of child sacrifice and ritual drug use articulated in opposition to emergent Judaism. The apostle Paul, in turn, is revealed to be another sacred-drug-user and boy-lover, and a eunuch to boot, a member of a despised and radical Roman subculture who engaged in these practices. Paul's own letters (the authentic ones) take on a whole new light: Paul, like Leviticus before him, condemned homosexual relations between freeborn adult males which were outside the confines of the 'sacred marriage' practice in his cult. His supposed condemnations of homosexuality in Romans chapter 1 were in fact condemnations of "lustful" same-sex liaisons. The letter to Philemon proves to be a sordid and chilling request for Paul to keep the slave Onesimus as his personal boy-toy.

A bold challenge to entrenched religious obfuscation,Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianitystrips away the facades of faith to reveal the Bible's true and sordid origins. If you read no other book on the origins of Christianity and Judaism, read this one. Meet the gods who became men, and the boys who became gods.

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Burn a Koran Day called off; Ground Zero "mosque" agrees to move

Posted: 09 Sep 2010 02:51 PM PDT

Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, announced today that he will cancel his Quran-burning event this Saturday, because Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has agreed to move the Park51 Islamic Community Center to a new location.

Even after General David Petraeus warned that American troops overseas could die as a result of the event, and after video of protests in Afghanistan and Indonesia, among other Muslim-majority nations, made it to the mainstream media, Jones had held firm, saying, "The general needs to point his finger to radical Islam and tell them to shut up, tell them to stop, tell them that we will not bow our knees to them. We are burning the book. We are not killing someone. We are not murdering people."

The US State Department had today issued a global travel alert for Americans, citing potential anti-American demonstrations, and Interpol had issued a global alert to its member countries warning of strong likelihood of violent attacks.

CNN reports that the FBI visited Jones a few weeks ago, and again on Thursday. No report was offered of what was discussed.

In a news conference today, Jones announced that he is cancelling the event because the leader of the Park51 Islamic Community Center (the "Ground Zero Mosque") has agreed to find a new location. Jones and Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida will visit New York on Saturday.

Pastor Terry Jones with Imam Muhammad Musri. Image: cfnews13

In related news, Rackspace Hosting terminated DWO's website hosting agreements because the two sites violated the hate speech provision of Rackspace's acceptable use policy, according to Rackspace spokesman Dan Goodgame.

Related articles:

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Lazarus Rising: Is The Religious Right Ready To Be 'Born Again' In The 2010 Elections?

Posted: 09 Sep 2010 09:05 AM PDT

The past two years have been difficult for the Religious Right. President Barack Obama opposes the agenda of the religious-political movement, and congressional leaders have generally turned a deaf ear. Some commentators even pronounced the Religious Right dead.

But claims of the Religious Right's demise are often premature. Like Frankenstein's monster, the Religious Right has proven hard to kill.

Religious Right groups are waging a massive under-the-radar campaign this fall to register church-going voters, drive congregants to the polls and elect favored candidates. These organizations believe their allies in the Republican Party are poised to make significant advances, and they want to make sure that one or both houses of Congress move to GOP control.

Upcoming events include:

Sept. 10-11: Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference & Strategy Briefing, Washington, D.C. Former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed is attempting a comeback with a new Religious Right organization. This D.C. event will be the group's first major public conference, and Reed – a political strategist implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals – claims to be raising $32 million to steer conservative Christians to the polls.

Sept. 17-18: Values Voter Summit, Washington, D.C. This annual event, sponsored by the Family Research Council and its allies, has become the leading Religious Right conference in the nation. A number of GOP congressional candidates will speak to the hundreds of attendees. In addition to the FRC, sponsors include the American Family Association, the Heritage Foundation and Liberty University.

Sept. 19: Pray & A.C.T., Washington, D.C. This nationwide project, which calls for 40 days of fasting prior to the elections, is endorsed by a broad coalition including evangelist Lou Engle, Newt Gingrich, Chuck Colson, Mike Huckabee and Southern Baptist lobbyist Richard Land, among others. The D.C. kickoff is Sept. 19 and the closeout event is Oct 30 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The coalition aims to "transform the culture" by "voting in all elections only for candidates who affirm the sanctity of life in all stages and conditions, the integrity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty and respect for conscience." Pray & A.C.T. organizer Engle depicts politics as a battle between good and evil, between "kingdom power" and "this present darkness."

Sept. 20: 40/40 Prayer Vigil. Sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, this nationwide 40-day event claims to focus on personal spiritual revival. However, it begins with a prayer for voter registration, includes a prayer for Christians to run for office and ends with a prayer for "discernment of candidates" and for "God's people to vote."

Sept. 26: Pulpit Freedom Sunday. During this event sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund, evangelical pastors nationwide will be encouraged to violate federal tax law by endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit.

The Religious Right And The GOP: BFFs?

Why so many events and projects that feature voter mobilization or other activities tied to electoral politics?

The Religious Right's fortunes are closely tied to the Republican Party's. When the GOP lost power in Washington in 2006 and 2008, the Religious Right also took a hit. Its legislative proposals have stalled, and it finds itself unable to counter legislation, court appointments and other actions it opposes.

Eager to regain power in the nation's capital (and in state legislatures), the Religious Right is going all out to do whatever it can to help its political allies get elected to public office.

Voter registration, mobilization and get-out-the-vote efforts are key to the effort. Polls show that regular churchgoers are much more likely to vote Republican. In addition, a recent poll conducted by the Pew Forum found that 74 percent of evangelicals say they are likely to vote in 2010. Religious Right groups are eager to keep this segment of the GOP fired up until Nov. 2.

A steady string of conferences, voter registration events, voter-guide distribution and other activities will help.

What About The Tea Party?

Some political analysts have speculated that the Religious Right has been overshadowed by the Tea Party movement.

This is an oversimplification. The Tea Party remains a wild card, but there's no reason why this movement cannot exist alongside or in tandem with the Religious Right. Although they don't see eye to eye on every issue, the Religious Right and the Tea Party share the same goal: drastically changing the political calculus in Washington.

It is true that the Tea Party – a loosely structured conglomeration of anti-government activists – remains divided over social issues. Some activists want to incorporate these issues into the movement, while others want to keep the focus on matters like low taxes and deregulation. Because the Tea Party is decentralized, there is no reason why the factions that favor adding social issues to the plate can't pursue that goal and work with the Religious Right.

Religious Right organizations are working to woo the Tea Party – or create their own version of it. The Family Research Council held a special session for Tea Party activists last year and plans to do so again during this year's "Values Voter Summit." In a recent e-mail message promoting the event, FRC President Tony Perkins noted that U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, "a Tea Party favorite," will be among the speakers.

Some right-wing figures, notably Sarah Palin, straddle both camps and may serve as a bridge between the two. But in the end, it almost doesn't matter if the two arms formally cooperate or not. Their goal is the same: elect as many ultra-conservatives to public office as possible. They can work together on this or do it on parallel tracks.

Another example of cross-pollination between the two camps is Glenn Beck. Beck, the bombastic Fox News Channel host, held rallies at the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Aug. 27 and 28. Although Beck is a Mormon, he often features "Christian nation" rhetoric on his program, and his events took on the trappings of a religious revival. Among the speakers was David Barton, a Texas Religious Right activist (and former GOP state official) who insists that church-state separation is a myth.

Polls show that many voters are unhappy over the state of the economy and high unemployment. If this sentiment creates a political shift that elects more Tea Party-friendly candidates, it's inevitable that some of those elected will also have a far-right social-issues agenda. In this sense, the Religious Right gets a free ride for its issues.

No related posts.


Pat Robertson passes the buck on bigotry

Posted: 09 Sep 2010 08:57 AM PDT

It's said that you can find justification in the bible for anything and everything. Rev. Pat Robertson found go-aheads for bigotry and discrimination, but it's not his fault — he didn't write the danged book.

During a program aired last year on the Christian Broadcasting Network that's still on YouTube, a woman with an atheist fiancé asked, "How do you think we can interact with each other peacefully when it comes to spiritual matters?"

Robertson answered: "There is no fellowship between an atheist and somebody who is a believer in God. . . . I hate to tell you, you've got to go find somebody else. . . . I mean, he's gonna be serving the Devil and you're gonna be serving God. It's just that simple."

Dan Barker, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president, rightly took umbrage and fired off a long letter Aug. 24 to Robertson, in his guise as chairman of CBN:
Barker called Robertson's simple answer "a blanket prejudicial smear against the character of all nonbelievers," and asked why it's acceptable to slur only people who don't believe in God.

"Discrimination is no longer socially acceptable. If it's shameful to be racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic or homophobic, why is it laudable to be 'atheophobic'? What gives you the freedom to engage in the irrational, fearful hate-mongering against secular people?"

Barker asked Robertson to apologize and said, "Your callous anti-family advice may have broken up a good marriage, a union between two people who obviously love each other and are searching for a peaceful way to live in tolerance. Instead of harmony, you preach exclusivity, Christian superiority and cultish segregationism."

On Sept. 2, Robertson answered from Virginia Beach, Va., but failed to apologize:

Dear Mr. Barker:
Thank you for your letter.
If you don't agree with the Bible, I suggest you contact the author and see if He won't change His mind.
Sincerely,
Pat Robertson
Chairman of the Board

Barker said he appreciates getting an answer from Robertson, but that, as a former evangelist minister, he tried for years and years to "contact the author" but finally gave up because there was never anybody home.

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Keep Looking – 9/9/2010 Atheist Cartoon

Posted: 09 Sep 2010 08:35 AM PDT

Send Pastor Terry Jones to Afghanistan to Burn a Quran

Posted: 08 Sep 2010 10:11 PM PDT

Pastor Terry Jones. AP Photo/John Raoux

I have the perfect solution for Pastor Terry Jones! Let's give him a ride to downtown Kabul in Afghanistan, and give him a Quran and a book of matches. Then we'll see just how committed to Christ and the Bible he really is!

I'll bet General Petraeus, who has strongly condemned Jones, would be happy to help out. Why, I'll bet Petraeus would love to give Jones a ride in a nice, fast jet straight from Florida to the front lines.

But maybe Petraeus doesn't want to rile things up in Afghanistan – who could blame him? So here's a better idea: Pakistan. It seems the United States Embassy in Pakistan has also condemned Jones for his self-centered, unpatriotic and foolhardy grandstanding. I'll bet they'd be glad to give him a ticket to Pakistan. The embassy could take Jones down to the center of Islamabad, hand him a Quran (they have a lot of Qurans in Pakistan) and a match, and let Jones do his grandstanding there!

It seems to me if Jones is really committed to Jesus and his Bible, he'd want to take his message right to the infidels. Why preach to Christians, they're already saved! Show those Muslims that their Holy Quran is false! Just think of the impact it would have if Jones burned a Quran in front of thousands of Muslims, right in the heart of Islamabad! Why, they'd have to be impressed by his commitment to Christianity! Surely they'd realize the error of their ways.

So pass this along to your friends, and tell them to forward it to Pastor Jones' Dove World Outreach Center. Pastor Terry Jones, we're counting on you! Go to Afghanistan, go to Pakistan, show those pagan infidel Muslims just how strong Jesus is in your heart!

Related articles:

1.       "Burn a Koran" event spurs violent Muslim protest

2.      Was "Burn a Koran" pastor arrested for child pornography?

3.      Florida church to hold Quran-burning


 

 

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