Monday, November 29, 2010

Religious Laws Long Recognized by U.S Courts

Sam Harris Speech at Idea City (Critique of Faith) 2of2

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sam Harris Speech at Idea City 1of2 "Critique of Faith"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Virgin Births" in history

To many that grew up in western culture; the story of the "immaculate conception" or the virgin birth may seem unique. I must say that we are not here to convert,convince, or connive; but merely to inform the reader that there are many "Virgin Birth" stories throughout history.It is a high possibility that this theme was borrowed from surrounding cultures.The following is a short list of "asexual" births.
  1. Mithra-born of a Rock
  2. Buddah-born of the virgin Maya
  3. Romulus and Remus-born of Silvia (vestal Virgin)
  4. Krishna-born of the virgin Devaki
  5. Horus-born from the "Virgin of the World" Isis
  6. Jesus- born of Virgin Mary
  7. Dionysus-one version of 3! has him being born of the "Virgin" Semele
Here are a few quotes from early church fathers; who often had to deal with this issue a lot.
From the Christian apologist Origen (185-254A.D)
"We [Christians] are not the only persons who have recourse to miraculous narratives of this kind." [Origen, Against Celsus 1, 37
 Justin Martyr (103-165A.D)  speaking of Jesus
"He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you believe of Perseus." [Justin Martyr, First Apology, 22] 
 In his book "The 12 Caesars; Suetonius describes the "Virgin birth" of the emperor Augustus. In the "myth" Augustus mother is laying on the floor of the temple of Apollo, when the God impregnates her." 
Other "Virgin" births stories include Plato!,Scipio Africanus and many others.  What is important to understand here; is that in ancient times men who lived great lives were "deified" after death. That is to say that their lives were embellished with super natural occurrences; as a way of honor and respect. Today we eulogize; at funerals. The word means "good words" in Greek . Someone who may have been a fast runner may have been said to "fly;" or a strong man may have said to accomplish superhuman feats. Such as moving large rocks or killing large numbers of enemy troops single handed in battle. Today we exaggerate, but not as much as they did back then (or do we??).

Suggested reading:
Justin Martyr;Origen any of the early church fathers and the Greek classics.Many of these writings are free online. Also a study of world mythology, and world religions would do well. then you start to see the influences of one on the other.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mithraism and Christianity (Similarities and differences pt 2)

 We look briefly at the similarities between Mithraism and Christianity. I will be brief but I suggest you follow the links for further detail.
  1. Mithra and Christ---Celebrated birth on Dec 25 (Winter Solstice)
  2. Mithra and Christ---Had similar "communion" ritual; where wine was taken to symbolize blood; and meat eaten to symbolize flesh
  3. Mithra and Christ--- Born Supernaturally (I.E. No human father)
  4. Mithra and Christ---Ascend to Heaven
  5. Mithra and Christ---Last Supper stories
  6. Mithra and Christ--- Baptism-except that Mithra`s followers baptized in OX blood!
  7. Mithra and Christ--Resurrect Easter(Ishtar,Astarte etc)
Mithra worship predates Christianity by over a thousand. years. It was a Persian religion that spread westward and was popular during the rule of the Roman Empire. Of course this is not to say that Christianity equals Mithra-ism in any way.It is just to point out similarities and the obvious fact, that many deny; which is simply that cultures and peoples influenced each other. No religion was immune. Not Christianity,Judaism, or Islam, not one.
 recommended reading:
Mysteries of Mithra:Franz Cumont  (1956)   You can probably find this real cheap on Amazon if interested.
Read the ancient classical texts; there are too many too list but a few examples are Justin Martyr,Commodian,Lucian,Tertullian,Plutarch. in them you will find the ancient discussions concerning the origin and influences of these early movements. Take this quote as an example by the early Christian apologist Justin Martyr.
"For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body; "and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood; "and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn (Justin Martyr, (1st) Apology .66)." 
The problem with his argument of "devil imitation;" is that Mithraism predated Christianity by 1500 years!      Be well.Cheers!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Influence of Zarathushtrian faith on the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Continuing our them of "Similarities and Influences," I submit the following article on the Zarathustrian Influence on the three major religions in the world.

Article by: Mehta,Kayomarsh          
Zarathushtrianism (also known as Zoroastrianism) is one of the oldest monotheistic religions. First taught among nomads on the Asian steppes, Zarathushtrianism was the state religion of the three great Persian empires, Achaemenian, Arsacid and Sassanian. The Persian Empire extended from India to the Mediterranean. Because of its lofty character, it had a remarkable influence on other world faiths: to the east on Northern Buddhism, to the west on Later Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The date of Prophet Asho Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) varies from 1700 BC to as far back as 4000 B.C. according to some Greek authors. The date of Asho Zarathushtra is not as important as the date with the teachings of  Asho Zarathushtra. What Asho Zarathushtra taught is perhaps the very oldest and surely the most accurate code of ethics for man. It might indeed be said that Zarathushtra was the discoverer, or at least the uncoverer, of individual morals.
Belief in an all Wise, all Powerful and Eternal God - Ahura Mazda, (Ahura meaning the Creator and Mazda meaning Infinite Wisdom) laid the foundation for all religious faiths. Asho Zarathushtra was the first to teach the doctrines of an Eternal soul, Equality of men and women, Freedom of Choice (to be able to choose between good and evil), Individual Judgment, Heaven and Hell, Resurrection, the Last Judgment (Renovation) and the coming of a Savior. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The Jews were in captivity in Babylonia. The great Persian Emperor Cyrus liberated the Jews from their captivity in about 550B.C. History records that he made no attempt to impose his Zarthushtrian religion on his subjects. He allowed the Jews to follow their own religion and assisted them in rebuilding the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. His inscriptions bear witness to the fact that he encouraged each of his subjects to live a good life according to their own tenets.
“This was only one of the many liberal acts recorded of Cyrus, but it was of particular moment for the religious history of mankind; for the Jews entertained warm feelings thereafter for the Persians, and this made them more receptive to Zarathushtrian influence”. From  Zarathushtrians-Their Religious Beliefs and practices by Dr. Mary Boyce.
The Hebrew scriptures pay tribute to the sterling merit  of Asho Zarathushtra’s rule of conduct, when they speak of the law of the Medes and the Persians as one “which altereth not.”  The Jews regarded Cyrus as a messiah, and therefore one who acted in Yahweh’s name and authority. Yahweh is quoted as “Cyrus will bring forth justice to the nations,….He will not fail….. till he has established justice in the earth.”  Isaiah 42-1,4.
The Jews were intimately connected with their Persian Zarathushtrian conquerors, both socially and culturally. From the times of the Pharaohs of Egypt down to our times, no people had treated them so well as the Persian Zarathushtrians. What the Persian Zarathushtrians did for the Jews is unique in the annals of mankind. The treatment of this kind was therefore all the more bound to lead the Jews to study the institutions, laws and faith of their conquerors. The claim is therefore for a very great and completely surrounding, enveloping and supervening influence of the Zarathushtrian Monotheism, Angelology, Immortality, Soteriology, Judgment, Resurrection, Millen Heaven and Recompense upon the same of the Jews developing during the post captivity period in Babylon.
The Jews found many congenial elements and similar ideas in their faith. Both had many common beliefs such as belief in one God, coming of a Messiah and a strict code of behavior and ethics.  The Jews had progressed much in their ethical and spiritual conceptions after their release from the Babylonian captivity. This progress happened to be for the most part in just those doctrines which were commonly held by millions of Zarathushtis among who they lived. Perhaps the foremost among these is the belief in Future Life. Those portions of the Old Testament which were written before the Exile scarcely mention it. They knew no reward for their deeds other than what they found on this earth. Their hopes were centered on this world and prosperity in this life.
The Exile, however, made a great difference in the Jewish thinking in this regard, for it is during this period and thereafter that we find for the first time in their recorded history the expression of hope in the other world. There is an entirely new note struck in the words such as these in the later Isaiah:
“Let thy dead live, let thy dead body arise; Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is the dew of the heroes, and the earth shall cast forth the shades.” Canon Cheyne, a great Old Testament scholar in his book The Origin of the Psalter mentions:  “The threefold division of sins into those of thought, word and deed in Ps. XVII 3-5 is thoroughly Zarathushtrian. …A knowledge of this great religion is necessary to the full equipment of an Old Testament scholar,….. …had it (Judaism) not come into contact with Zarathushtrianism, Israel would historically speaking have struggled in vain to satisfy its greatest religious aspirations.”
Also, in Daniel:
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Even after the Exile this lesson about the Immortality of the Soul was not assimilated by all Jews, notably by the Sadducees. But, the people who professed this new doctrine were called the Pharisees, meaning Persians. Zarathushtrian influence on the Dead Sea Scrolls has been unanimously accepted by historians.
In the book of Tobit, we have an allusion to “Seven Spirits” – Amesha Spentas. The Seven Spirits are also mentioned in Zechariah IV,10 and this is further expanded in Rev. V, 6. The book of Genesis seems to have been influenced by the first chapter of Vendidaad. The Asmodeus (Asmodai) of the Book of Tobit is probably Aeshma-daeva of the Avesta. He was the demon of wrath and an opponent of the Amesha Spentas of the Gathas and in Tobit, he fights with the same Seven Spirits.
Various other scholars, W.R. Alger, Von Bohlen (German), Dr. Martin Haug, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Mills, W.D.Whitney, J.E.C. Schmidt, Michaelis, Doderlin, Horst & Hufnagel, Miles Dawson and many many others have testified to the fact that the change that took place in Judaism after the Exile under the influence of Zarathushtrian contact was so great as to make it a new religion almost. We see a full evidence of it in the Book of Job. The Jewish Prophets such as the second Isaiah, Daniel and the writers of many of the later Psalms, and above all Jesus Christ were in many respects nearer to Zarathushtrianism than to pre-exilic Judaism. It is through Judaism that Christianity afterwards received an important influence from Zarathushtrianism.
 “So it was out of a Judaism enriched by five centuries of contact with Zarathushtrianism that Christianity arose – a new religion with roots thus in two ancient faiths, one Semitic, the other Iranian. Doctrines taught perhaps a millennium and a half earlier by Zarathushtra began in this way to reach fresh hearers; but again, as in Judaism, they lost some of the logic and coherence by their adoption into another creed; for the teachings of the Iranian prophet about Creation, Heaven and Hell and the Days of Judgment, were less intellectually coherent when part of a religion which proclaimed the existence of one Omnipotent God, whose unrestricted rule was based not on justice but on love. They continued nevertheless, even in this new setting, to exert their powerful influence on men’s strivings to be good.”  Zarathushtrians by Dr. Mary Boyce.
The three Magis that came to see Christ were Zarathushtrian Priests. Zarathushtis had a belief in the coming of the savior, born of a virgin mother, at least a millennium and a half before Jesus was born. Most scholars agree that Jesus  was not born on December 25, which was reckoned as the winter solstice in the Julian calendar. The Romans celebrated it very fervently as the nativity of Mithra, the Sun God that they had adopted from Iran. Mithraism was very popular among the Romans and many relics of Mithra temples found all over Europe bear testimony to it. It was a corrupted and distorted form of Zarathushtrianism. But, even in its corrupt form it stood for certain basic values such as truth, Justice, Brotherhood, Kindness and loyalty, which inspired allegiance among millions of Romans and Europeans.
Franz Cumont, a noted authority on Mithraism, writes in his book, The Mysteries of Mithra: “Never, perhaps, not even in the epoch of the Mussolman invasion, was Europe in greater danger of being Asiaticized than in the third century of our era. ….. A sudden inundation of Iranian….. conceptions swept over the Occident, …… and when the flood subsided it left behind in the consciousness of the people a deep sediment of Oriental beliefs, which have never been obliterated.”
It seems the early Christians absorbed many Mithraic traditions and festivals, but gave them a Christian interpretation and significance, such as to Christmas on December 25.
Even the main tenets of Islam which replaced Zarathushtrianism of Iran were derived ultimately from this ancient and pre historic religion, such as the belief in one supreme God, Heaven and Hell, the end of the world, Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, the five times of daily prayer, emphasis on helping the poor and the rejection of worship of images. It was through its influence on Judaism and Christianity that indirectly, if not directly, Zarathushtrianism contributed a great deal in the very making and shaping of Islam in the mind of the Prophet himself through what he borrowed from Judaism and Christianity.
A government truly worthy of the name must be in accord with religion, in perfect union with it, is a Moslem maxim. This idea did not come from a Moslem legislator but is outlined in a Pahlavi book The Dinkard. The idea of Theocracy and undoubtedly the Khilaafat thus are Zarathushtrian influences. Also, Sufism, the salt of the Islamic world is also a product of the Persian Zarathushtrian spirit. Apart from the mention of Darius and Cyrus as Zulqarnian, amongst the brotherhood of Prophets, the Koran has very little mention of the Zarathushtrian faith. It may be justified in saying that the Prophet received but little direct influence from Zarathushtrianism.
Yet the influence was more prevalent in its cultural sphere. One of the associates of Prophet Mohammed was a Zarathushtrian High priest, Dastur Dinyar. His name was later changed to Salman-al-Farsee. He was regarded by the Prophet as Ahal-al-Bait, meaning “of the family of the prophet”, that is, a member of his spiritual circle. He had widely traveled in Syria, Mesopotamia and had a profound knowledge of Judaism, Christianity besides Zarathushtrianism. It is highly probable that Prophet Mohammed was influenced by Zarathushtrianism through him.
      Bio:       ,Kayomarsh.htm

Mythological Influences in Islam

Monday, November 8, 2010

Similarities and Influences pt1

Today we are going to take a brief look at the origin and influences of some  religious ideas and characters.Before that; I would like to say that in order to gain a healthy understanding concerning the origins of various religions, it is important to note that (as obvious as it may seem) wars, migration and trade were key in the spread of ideas across the globe. In the Mediterranean region known to some as the "cradle of civilization;" there is a rather unique geographical feature. Three continents; Africa,Asia,Europe are virtually connected. Therefore this area of the world became the incubator for much of the worlds great ideas(and bad ones!); and it also became a fierce battle ground, as it was soon realized that he who controlled the Mediterranean controlled the "world".Around this region we have Egypt,Carthage, Italy, Greece, Israel,Syria to name a few of histories major "players." The benefit was the rapid increase in knowledge for mankind as a whole.Philosophies and religious ideas were rampant as teachers, soldiers and merchants traveled from nation to nation. Under the rule of Kings; it was common for the conquering King to replace the "gods" of the vanquished King. Often victory in battle was attributed to some deity; so to lose also meant that your "god" was defeated also.Some conquerors would not totally abolish the former religion; but would allow religious freedom. Eventually ideas would mingle and sometimes new religions would arise; this process is ongoing. If we look at Islam for instance; there are various sects, such as Sunni and Shiite. If we look at Judaism, we have various sects, such as Orthodox and Reformed. In Christianity there are hundreds of variations and sub divisions. So we can see that even in a singular religion; eventually it breaks up into sections. So Imagine if we have differing religions interacting constantly. This is what took place in ancient times and we truly had a melting pot of ideas and  none of these ideas espoused in major religious thought today are unique . Let us look at some:
We will start with the flood and creation stories because they is probably the most well known stories in the west. Let it be known that there are several "flood" stories that predate the one in the bible and the Sumerian is one of the oldest on record. In the Sumerian version, the hero of the flood is Ziusudu; In the Babylonian account it is Utnapishtim (see Epic of Gilgamesh).The ancient historian Berossus gives Xisouthros, and the Hebrew versions of course give Noah.So what is the point? The point is to show that ideas that people often claim to be unique and even go a step further in claiming divine authority are merely rehashed stories of ancient origin.
Let us look at another hero; Samson. Everyone has heard of the mighty Samson; whose strength came from his long hair.Who allegedly killed 1000 men with a jawbone of an ass(Judges 15:16).In verse 18, after all the killing, Samson is thirsty(who wouldn`t be?) v.19 "But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water...he drunk...and his spirit was revived again.(Judges 15:19)."
Now if you want to take this "hagiography"  literally then be my guest, however an understanding of history and some astronomy helps a great deal here to understand that Samson's feats are allegorical in nature..I quote from the classic text "Hamlet`s Mill": "The "Jaw" is in [space] (e.g.heavens). It (the jaw) was the name given by the Babylonians to the [star cluster] Hyades," which are in the constellation Taurus as the jaw of the bull. If we remember the classic tag "the rainy Hyades" it is because Hyades meant "watery." In the Babylonian creation epic Marduk uses the Hyades (e.g.Jaw) as a weapon to destroy the brood of heavenly monsters (Santillana & Dechend p.166)." Of course the stories are not exact; but think of thousands of years passing and the story is being shared by various languages and cultures. Notice the idea of  "the Jaw" is the same. "In South America, where bulls were still unknown, the Arawak's,the Tupi, the Quechua of Ecuador spoke of the "Jaw of tapir." In our sky the celestial "Samson" is Orion, What is interesting about this connection is that Orion is blind. Samson was also made blind.Orion is the ONLY blind constellation of myth. He was also mighty hunter, alias Nimrod. In China he is called "War Lord Tsan" the master of the fall hunt. Samson's feats included tearing a lion apart with his hands(because he was mad),tying 300 fox tails together(for no reason).What we have is a story mixed with incoherent elements of mythology. For example to understand the 300 foxes tails being tied together; one must read Ovid, who speaks of the feast of Ceres, where foxes with burning tails are chased through the circus, but still it is not completely clear. There is also a similar "Samson" in Japanese mythology. his name is Susanowo which means "Brave,Swift Impetuous male" which describes Samson exactly.The ancient Maya have Zipacna as a "Samson." This is just a crash course in similarities and influences. We will look at many more as this is just part one.Remember these stories are ancient and have been passed on for thousands of years and adjusted according to cultural preference. Notice that images of Jesus often reflect the culture that he is presented in. The same applies with these stories; they reflect the society and culture.The hero will always be the majority or ruling class. Enjoy, ask questions, refute, but above all keep an open mind.


Georgio De Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend (1969)
Epic of Gilgamesh (penguin classics) translated by N.K Sandars (1966)
Legends of Babylon & Eygpt in relation to the Hebrew tradition by Leonard W. King, M.A,Litt.D.F.S.A
pub.1918 from the Schweich Lectures in 1916 at the British Academy

Suggested reading:          A great article called Samson:Myth or fact. It is actually two articles written from the opposing viewpoints of a believer and a skeptic. I suggest you read both, they are both well written.
Books by the early christian writers: (e.g. Tertullian,Justin Martyr,Polycarp etc)
you will find them debating against "pagans" or non belevers (e.g Celsus) what is important is with the debates you will find the discussions of religious influence among other things.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...