Contacting SlackerBabbath
Send message Forward
Add to friends Favorites
Add to group Block user
 Blog archive :

First | Last

Next 10

Previous 10

Advanced view
from date
to date
on date
Sunday, June 07, 2009


Think about Hell for a moment, what is the scene that you imagine?
Most people would imagine a very hot place, lots of fire, demons walking around with pitchforks torturing the damned, although I've never fully understood why demons would have pitch forks because pitch forks were used during harvest time to move bundles of hay onto the backs of carts, which I just can't see happening in Hell.

So where did this image of a flaming Hell where souls suffer eternal damnation come from? Well it comes from the Christian version of Hell, and it has inspired the standard depiction of Hell in books and films which in turn inspires our own standard image of Hell, but the Christian version of Hell, like Christianity itself, developed from earlier religious ideas, the first clue to the origins of our concept of Hell is that it is almost always considered to be underground.
Before people started believing in good souls going to the heavens, they believed that that the heavens were only for cirtain deities and that everyone who died, whether they were being punished or rewarded, went to the underworld.

The Judaism that Christianity developed from didn't, (and still doesn't) have a notion of Hell in the Christian sense. They believe in an underworld called Sheol that has a place called 'Gehinom' (also called 'Gehenna' in the Christian rendering of the name. It also lends its name to Islam's Hell, 'Jahannam'.) within it. The name 'Gehenna' is, derived from a geographical site in Jerusalem known as the 'Valley of Hinnom', ('Ge Hinnom' literally means Valley of Hinnom) one of the two principal valleys surrounding the Old City. Garbage from the walled city was burned there, but in ancient times, it is believed that children were sacrificed to the pagan god Molech in Gehenna, a practice that was outlawed by King Josiah (2 Kings, 23:10)
Apparently, priests would bang on drums so fathers would not hear the groans of children being sacrificed, fires were kept burning and the valley became the garbage dump of the city. The dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals were also thrown there, so you can imagine the scene and how it inspired Christianity's version of Hell.

But Gehenna is not actualy Hell in the Christian sense, but rather a sort of 'Purgatory' where people are judged based on their life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. It's basicaly a waiting room and apparently the longest one can dwell in Gehinom is 11 months, during which time the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to 'Olam Habah' ("The world to come")
So, according to the religion that Christianity developed from, we're all going to Heaven, eventualy, once our souls have been purified, so if the doom laden Christian version obviously didn't come from that source, where did Christians get the idea of a Hell full of fire and brimstone?

It was the Egyptians who first developed a version of Hell with a lake of fire within the underword with demons who punish the guilty souls for all of eternity, it originates with the VERY ancient (predating Judaism by at least a thousand years) Egyptian funerary text 'The Book of the Dead'. (basicaly a 'guide' or book of instruction to the afterlife)
According to the Coffin Texts, (a collection of ancient Egyptian funerary spells written on coffins beginning around 2000 BC) the underworld contained fiery rivers and lakes as well as fire demons (identified by fire signs on their heads) which threatened the wicked. Representations of the fiery lakes of the fifth "hour" of the Amduat (another Egyptian funerary text) depict them in the form of the standard pool or lake hieroglyph, but with flame-red "water" lines, and surrounded on all four sides by fire signs which not only identify the blazing nature of the lakes, but also feed them through the graphic "dripping" of their flames.
This is obviously what inspired whoever wrote the Book of Revelation, this image of Hell was also used by Hippolytus of Rome in about the year 200 AD and has continued to be used by Christians ever since.
This is also quite interesting because the whole Christian notion of ascending to Heaven originates with Egyptian beliefs too. Like the rest of the world, the Egyptians believed in the underworld, but they believed that their pharoahs were deities in mortal form who, after the death of their bodies would ascend into the Heavens to join the other deities. The notion of monotheism originaly came from Egypt too in the form of Atenism

Although it probably wasn't directly adopted from the Egyptians but rather via Hellenistic beliefs. 'Hellenistic' refers to the Greek and Roman mythology that was somewhat inspired by cirtain Egyptian beliefs. The Greeks believed in an underworld called 'The Realm of Hades' (Hades was the Greek god of the underworld) and below Hades was a place of punishment called 'Tartarus'
Interestingly, the Greek version of Tartarus is pretty much void of any flames and is basicaly just a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky gloom, it's the place where Sisyphus is said to continuously roll a large boulder up a mountainside, which repeatedly rolls back down again. But in the Roman version however it is surrounded by the flaming river 'Phlegethon.'
When the Hellenistic Jews translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, (known as the 'Septuagint') they used 'Hades' in place of 'Sheol' and because under Christianity, the good all go to Heaven, then it would logicaly follow that the whole of the underworld was actualy Hell, so 'Hades', according to Christianity, became Hell.

So how did Christianity come to adopt it's version of Hell? Probably via Paul the Apostle, who greatly altered early Christianity by turning it from a purely Jewish Messianic cult into something that gentiles (non Jews) could become involved in, it is often reckoned that Paul influenced Christianity as much as Jesus himself but Paul was also a Hellenised Jew.

2:32 pm - 38 comments - 16 Kudos
Saturday, May 30, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 5

So here we are, the long awaited part 5, Islam.

Man, it's been slow going! Reading up on Islam is soooooo boring. There are hardly any real miracles, although Islamic scholars believe that the Qur’an is miraculous by its very nature in being a 'revealed' text and because of Islam's tradition of not translating the Qur'an into a different language from the original, any translations you read are more of a 'literal' translation than most of the standard Bible translations, so it's like reading Shakespear.

As some of you who regularly read my blogs may know, I like to study religions so that I can attempt to knock 'em down with logic or point out historical inaccuracies, or show how a cirtain legend is actualy just based on another earlier religion's legends with the names and possibly the location changed, but there's hardly anything in Islam to knock or point out. It reads as like Abrahamic religion but without most of the mystical bullsh!t. What little there is is simply based on the Judaistic texts of the Old Testament, so I've already covered any points there in my earlier blogs, but as for the story of Muhammad himself... well there are many corroborating historical sources for his existence, so he was more than likely a real man, but he was simply a preacher from Mecca who claimed to be in constant contact with the angel Gabriel (who quoted the Qur'an to Muhammad) and who was invited to act as a neutral outsider to Medina to serve as chief arbitrator for the entire community. There was lots of fighting between feuding clans at the time and it had become obvious to them all that the tribal conceptions of blood-feud and an eye for an eye were no longer workable unless there was one man with authority to adjudicate in disputed cases. So a delegation from Medina pledged themselves and their fellow citizens to accept Muhammad into their community and physically protect him as one of themselves.

So he upped sticks, and took his Meccan followers with him.
There's a bit here that might kinda hold a mirror up to Jesus escaping his birthplace from Herod because the Meccans plotted to assassinate Muhammad before he left. With the help of Ali, (his cousin) Muhammad fooled the Meccans who were watching him, and secretly slipped away from the town.
The rest of his story is basicaly made up of Muhammad leading the Muslims against the Meccans, involving some fighting and lots of politics and eventualy conquering them and then going on to conquer northern Arabia and the confederate tribes of Hawazin, although there's very little actual fighting involved in these conquests because most of them simply sent emissaries to Medina to surrender to Muhammad and adopt Islam and he even received the submission of some local chiefs of the region who he hadn't even contacted, let alone threatened.

There's a hadith (oral tradition) known as "The Story of the Cranes" that's sorta similar to the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by Satan (which itself was based on the Egyptian myth of Horus confronting Set in the desert) which describes Muhammad's involvement at the time of migration which holds that Muhammad pronounced a verse acknowledging the existence of three Meccan goddesses considered to be the daughters of Allah, praising them, and appealing for their intercession. According to this account, Muhammad later retracted the verses at the behest of Gabriel.

There's also the story of the 'Battle of Badr'
Following the emigration, the Meccans seized the properties of the Muslim emigrants in Mecca. Uprooted and with no profession, the Muslim migrants turned to raiding Meccan caravans as an act of war, deliberately initiating armed conflict between the Muslims and Mecca and Muhammad apparently delivered some Qur'anic verses permitting the Muslims to fight the Meccans, which can kinda be viewed as a similar legends of the Jews who left Egypt, banded together into tribes and raided the Canaanites.

But if any of these stories are linked in any way to the earlier legends of Judaism or Christianity, they are so loosely linked it's practicaly impossible to show that they were simply inspired stories from the earlier religions and therefore not likely to have happened at all.

So, unlike the Hebrew Bible, which is full of texts that have obviously been inspired by the earlier polytheistic religions of Canaan and Atenism from Egypt, and the Christian New Testament which is full of texts about Jesus that were obviously inspired by other earlier religions like the Persian Mithra worship and the Egyptian Horus worship, there really doesn't seem to be anything major to trip Islam up with.
So I'm afraid if you were expecting me to dig up some real dirt on Islam, my blog's gonna be a pretty boring read about a Muslim leader who apparently wrote the Qur'an, (as dictated by Gabriel) even though he apparently couldn't read or write (doesn't mean he couldn't dictate it to someone else who could though does it? ) became a religious and political leader of a bunch of people and ended up conquering quite a large area and united the tribes of Arabia into a singular Arab Muslim religious polity in the last years of his life.
Although that motife itself is something that is repeated over and over again in religion, for example the upper and lower Egyptian tribes uniting via religion to establish the kingdom of Egypt, the tribes of the Jews uniting via religion to take on the Canaanites and establish the Kingdom of Israel, Constantine using Christianity to re-unit the split Roman Empire, which all basically tells us that religion was simply just a tool used by leaders and politicians to unite people towards a common cause.

In Islam, 'Iblis' (Satan) is a jinn (or genie) who worshipped God so much that God raised him to heaven so he could worship God in the company of the angels. In contrast to Judaism and Christianity, in which he is a fallen angel, Islam does not recognise the concept of fallen angels. Angels in Islam do not have free will, therefore it's simply impossible for them to disobey God. But jinns do have free will, so when God created Adam and breathed life into him and commanded all present to recognize Adam, Iblis arrogantly defied on accepting Adam as 'khalifa' ('caretaker', an interesting term, because in the original Babylonian version of the creation of man that the Biblical one is based upon, man was made by the gods out of clay for no other reason than to take care of creation, or, the earth) on earth and disobeyed God stating that he was made from fire and therefore much superior to Adam who is made from clay. Then God threw him out of heaven.

So you see, because of Islam's belief that angels do not have free will, that then affects Islam's belief in the origins of their version of Satan. It's an example of how one belief has a knock-on effect on another belief, kinda like a 'next logical step'.
In the same way, the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God eventualy had the knock-on effect that caused the belief that Jesus was God himself, because Christianity is monotheistic, any son of a god born to a mortal woman would automaticaly be considered a demi-god, like the Greek Heracles, which is a purely polytheistic belief, so they could either back down and say he was just a mortal prophet, as Islam does, or they can go a step further and proclaim him to be God himself.
And as we know, no one likes to back down from their beliefs.

In Islam's version of Heaven, (Jannat) everyone is 32 years old (the same age as when Jesus ascended) and everyone will have the same build and stature. Their afterlife includings wearing costly robes, bracelets, perfumes; partaking in exquisite banquets, served in priceless vessels by immortal youths; reclining on couches inlaid with gold or precious stones. Other foods mentioned include fruits, milk, poultry, scented wine and clear drinks bringing neither drunkenness nor rousing quarreling. Inhabitants will rejoice in the company of their parents, wives, and children (provided they were admitted to paradise) conversing and recalling the past and Islamic texts also relate to "pure consorts" (houris), created in perfection, with whom carnal joys are shared "a hundred times greater than earthly pleasure".
So here we see an example of how culture shapes religion, basicaly each religion's version of Heaven contains whatever is important to the culture that the religion came from.

So, allow me to end with a note about fundamentalism.
Obviously fundamentalism in Islam is the big issue that most people have with Islam, but it's worth noting how Islam became fundamental in the first place.
Up until the Crusades happened during the 11th and 12th centuries, there was a period called the 'Islamic Golden Age', during which the Islamics were generaly very enlightened, peaceful people. During this period, (also known as the Islamic Renaissance) artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in the Islamic world contributed to the arts, agriculture, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology, both by preserving and building upon earlier traditions and by adding inventions and innovations of their own.
After the Crusades from the West that resulted in the instability of the Islamic world during the 11th and 12th centuries, a new threat came from the East during the 13th century, the Mongol invasions.

Islamic civilization, which had at the outset been creative and dynamic in dealing with issues, began to struggle to respond to the challenges and rapid changes it faced from the 12th century onwards. There was an increasing lack of tolerance of intellectual debate and freedom of thought, with some seminaries systematically forbidding speculative philosophy, while polemic debates appear to have been abandoned in the 14th century.
So, basicaly Islamic fundamentalism wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the Christian fundamentalism of the Crusades that resulted in a domino effect which in turn resulted in Islamic fundamentalism.
Does that in any way defend Islamic fundamentalism?
No, of course it doesn't, nothing can, but it's worth pointing it out to Christians that the problem exists today because of what Christianity did hundreds of years ago. It points out that fighting Islam is just gonna make the problem worse.
3:57 pm - 6 comments - 6 Kudos
Friday, May 29, 2009

The Mystery of the Christian/Buddhist Connection.

Current mood: cheerful

Most of Jesus' moral teachings seem to be very similar to Buddhism which was around 500 years old at the time of Jesus and quite well known in Judea at the time. They both promote the sanctity of life, compassion for others, rejection of violence, confession and emphasis on charity and the practice of virtue and interestingly both Buddhism and Catholicism use rosary beads in a very similar manner.

Will Durant, noting that the Emperor Ashoka sent missionaries not only to elsewhere in India and to Sri Lanka, but to Syria, Egypt and Greece, speculated in the 1930s that they may have helped prepare the ground for Christian teaching.

Professor Rudolf Seydel of the University of Leipzig has noted around fifty similarities between Buddhist and Christian parables and teachings.

Professor E. Washburn Hopkins of Yale goes so far as to say, " The life, temptation, miracles, parables, and even the disciples of Jesus have been derived directly from Buddhism."

The interesting thing about the story of Jesus is that such a huge chunk of the story of his life is missing. In the Biblical accounts we see him as a new born, then there's a very tiny exerpt from him as a child in a temple, and then there's a massive gap until he's in his 30s.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spent his early childhood in Egypt and there was a large Buddhist community known as the 'Therapeutae' (Sons of the Elders) that existed in Alexandria at the time

In 2007, Doctor of Asian Studies, Christian Lindtner, published a book titled 'Geheimnisse um Jesus Christus.' In his book Dr. Lindtner compares the Pali and Sanskrit Buddhist texts with the Greek gospels and determines that the four gospels were "reformulated from older Buddhist texts based on gematria values, puns, and syllabic equivalences."

There's a Buddhist tradition that claims that Jesus traveled to India and Tibet during the "lost years" before the beginning of his public ministry and there is a text, found at the Lamasery (monastery) of Hemis in Ladakh by Nicolas Notovitch, known as the "Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men." Issa is Arabic for 'Yeshua' or 'Jesus'.

The "Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men" apparently tells of the travels of a man known in the East as Saint Issa, whom Notovitch identified as Jesus. After initially doubting Notovitch, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Abhedananda, journeyed to Tibet, investigated his claim, helped translate part of the document, and later championed his views and further claimed that Jesus spent eighteen years "growing in wisdom and stature" at Nalanda, the ancient Indian university.

The 'Bhavishyat Maha Purana' - the 9th of 18 ancient narratives of the Hindus known as the 'Puranas' - asserts that Israelites settled in India, and in verses 17-32, describes the arrival of Jesus thus:

"One day, Shalivahana, the chief of the Shakas, came to a snowy mountain (assumed to be in the Indian Himalayas). There, in the Land of the Hun (Ladakh, a part of the Kushan empire), the powerful king saw a handsome man sitting on a mountain, who seemed to promise auspiciousness. His skin was like copper and he wore white garments. The king asked the holy man who he was. The other replied: 'I am called Isaputra (son of God), born of a virgin, minister of the non-believers, relentlessly in search of the truth.'

O king, lend your ear to the religion that I brought unto the non-believers ... Through justice, truth, meditation, and unity of spirit, man will find his way to Isa (God, in Sanskrit) who dwells in the centre of Light, who remains as constant as the sun, and who dissolves all transient things forever. The blissful image of Isa, the giver of happiness, was revealed in the heart; and I was called Isa-Masih (Jesus the Messiah).'"

Muslim and Persian sources purport to trace the journey of Jesus, known in these writings as Isa, or Yuz Asaf ("leader of the healed") along the Silk Road to the orient.

There is a temple in the state of Kashmir that is dedicated to Saint Issa. The priests of this temple assert that Jesus traveled there two thousand years ago.

A very old large tomb bearing the name of Yuz Asaf exists in Srinagar to this day, and there is also a tomb called 'Mai Mari da Asthan', (The Final Resting Place of Mother Mary) situated in a small town named Murree on the Pakistan-Kashmir border.
Which goes along with the 'further sayings of Muhammad' which mention that Jesus died in Kashmir at the age of one hundred and twenty years.

So, If we put all this information together with the New Testament we get a more complete version of the story of the life of Jesus.

A child is born in either Nazereth or Bethlehem, his family move to Egypt where as a small boy he comes into contact with Buddhists. His family then move back to Judea and there he takes an interest in Judaism and even visits temples on his own. Later, as a young adult he goes on a long journey to the centres of Buddhism in India and Tibet and studies Buddhism for 18 years. He then returns to Judea where he puts his teachings into effect alongside standard Judaistic teachings. He gains quite a following and is considered as the Messiah and is then condemned by the Romans to be crucified.

He either survived the crucifixion via medical aid (Nicodemus is said to have arrived with copious amounts of a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about a hundred pounds. Aloes are commonly used to heal the skin, and myrrh has been used for millennia for pain relief.) or possibly even avoided the crucifixion by having Judas kiss someone else (probably a desciple who volunteered to die in his place) or if Christian sources are to be believed, he died and came back to life.

After the crucifixion event, he made a brief appearence, then headed back to the safety of Kashmir, where he had spent so much time as a younger man and where he lived out the rest of his days, living to a ripe old age, in peace, and was even joined there by his mother.

Of course, this is all just speculation based on the available accounts, but it's interesting that the accounts don't actualy contradict the Gospel version of the life of Jesus, they just fill in the gaps. I'm not sure if I believe the accounts or not, but you must admit, it's pretty neat.... and quite a nice ending too.

Unfortunately, and this is why I'm not personaly totaly convinced by the autheticity of the documents in question, even though it's a nice story, after Nicolas Notovitch reputedly discovered the "Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men." script in the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh and had it translated, all trace of the original mysteriously dissapeared and the head of the Hemis community claimed Notovitch had never even been there, even though he seemed to have very detailed information about the place, which is seriously isolated. (including the insides of buildings)

It's possible, (I'm tempted to say 'probable' because it stands to reason that the last thing this isolated Buddhist community would want is a bunch of Christian tourists arriving and scouring through their ancient scriptures) that this community leader was infact lying.

Many have called Notovitch a hoaxer, but to be fair, to have written what he wrote, he'd have to be something akin to both a Buddhist and a Biblical scholar, when infact he was just a Cossack officer, and it does, after all, go along quite well with the Buddhist traditions of 'Issa'.

In 1925, the Russian philosopher, Nicholas Roerich, also journeyed to the monastary. He apparently saw the same documents as Notovitch and Swami Abhedananda. Both Abhedananda and Roerich were thereby convinced of the authenticity of the Issa legend.

The actual contents of these scriptures basicaly read that at the age of thirteen the 'divine youth', rather than take a wife, leaves his home to wander with a caravan of merchants to India (Sindh), to study the laws of the great Buddhas.

Issa is welcomed by the Jains, but leaves them to spend six years among the Brahmins, at Juggernaut, Benares, and other places, studying the Vedas and teaching all castes alike. The Brahmins oppose him in this, and he denounces them and their sacred books, especially condemning caste and idolatry. When they plan to put him to death, he flees to the Buddhists, and spends six years among them, learning Pali and mastering their religious texts. He goes among the pagans, warning them against idolatry and teaching a high morality. Then he visits Persia and preaches to the Zoroastrians.

At twenty-nine Issa returns to his own country and begins to preach. He visits Jerusalem, where Pilate is apprehensive about him. The Jewish leaders, however, are also apprehensive about his teachings yet he continues his work for three years. He is finally arrested and put to death for blasphemy, for claiming to be the son of God. His followers are persecuted, but his disciples carry his message out over the world.

What is interesting is that in this version of the events around the death of Jesus, the Sanhedrin go to Pilate and argue to 'save' the life of Jesus, and they are the ones who 'wash their hands' of his death, instead of the Roman Pilate.

Which kinda makes sense, after all, both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who apparently both had a lot of respect for Jesus, were both supposedly members of the Sanhedrin.

Still, we must remind ourselves, if they exist, these scriptures are cirtainly no longer available to outsiders so they cannot be checked for authenticity.

Nicholas Roerich story, with the text of the "Life, of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men." was published in French in 1894 as "La vie inconnue de Jesus Christ." It was translated into English, German, Spanish, and Italian so if you're interesteded in this sort of thing and if you can get hold of a copy, I'd advise anyone to read it for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

It's cirtainly an interesting read.
5:56 pm - 16 comments - 10 Kudos
Monday, April 27, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 1

So someone asked me to amalgamate all my information about Mesopotamian religions and early Judaism, and I thought it'd also be a neat way to re-write a couple of my previous blogs in a clearer, more defined manner.
So let's start with a map, because I find
it makes things so much easier to understand if you have a map to follow.

Notice how there is a bunch of countries arched around the top of the North Arabian Civilisation in a cresent shape, we actualy call that area 'The Fertile Cresent' in archeology.

It's useful to understand that the central large area known as the Northern Arabian Civilisation and all it's surrounding areas like the Arab Tribes, (where Mecca is, which is where Islam was eventualy developed from Judaism) The Arameans, Canaan and Mesopotamia all basicaly shared the same religion. Even the Iranian tribes far to the east, who would become the Persians, followed this same basic religious tradition. (which obviously suggests that they all have a common source inherited from earlier nomadic hunter/gather tribes)

In this polytheistic tradition, it's most important deity was the Creator Deity (usualy called 'El') and he was married to the Mother Goddess and between them they gave birth to the rest of the Pantheon, like a great big godly family. This would go on to inspire the Hellenistic (Greek and Roman) and Vedic (Hindu) pantheons.
Egypt was slightly different, their original creator deity (they had several different ones over the years) Atum was a hermaphrodite (hence his name meaning 'completeness'). The myth states that Atum ejaculated his semen into his mouth, impregnating himself, but starangely, rather than Atum being regarded as the most important deity in their pantheon, it was the sun god Ra who was regarded as the most important.
Eventualy Ra would be amalgamated with Horus and the first known monotheistic god 'Aten' would emerge.

Like all religion, Judaism developed (or you may say 'evolved') from an earlier religion, which in turn developed from an even earlier religion ect, ect. Each version of religion had it's own version of creation. The Judaistic version was developed from the version found in The Cresent. In historical Mesopotamia the gods were in the form of man. Man was created in the image of the gods because the gods themselves 'were' men, a notion that was kind of continued in monotheistic Judaism.
Before this version of deities, there are no anthropomorphic gods. We hear, instead, of the zi or 'spirit', a word properly signifying 'life' which manifested itself in the power of motion. All things that moved were possessed of life, and there was accordingly a 'life' or 'spirit' of the water as well as of man or beast. Sumerian theology, in fact, was still on the level of animism. Vestiges of the old animism can still be detected even in the later deistic cult, along with prayers to the 'human gods' we see an Assyrian prayer which invokes the mountains, the rivers and the winds, and from time to time we come across a worship of deified towns. It was the town itself that was divine, not the deity to whom its chief temple was dedicated.

This is suggestive of the worship of the land itself, a type of worship that goes back to the pre-Neolithic Revolution (advent of agriculture) worship of the Mother Goddess, who was quite often thought of as the land itself, or on a bigger scale, one might say the 'earth' or 'Mother Earth.' She was basicaly regarded as giving birth to the human race.

The Sumarian version of creation that would eventualu develop into the Judaistic version has several gods involved in it.

Following the 'casting of lots', heaven was ruled by 'Anu', earth by 'Enlil', and the sea by 'Enki'. Enlil assigned junior divines, lesser gods called the 'Igigi' to do farm labor and maintain the rivers and canals, but after forty years the lesser ones rebelled and refused to do hard labor. Instead of punishing the rebels, Enki, who is also the kind, wise counselor to the gods, suggested that humans be created to do the work instead. The mother goddess Mami is assigned the task of creating humans by shaping clay figurines mixed with the flesh and blood of the slain god Geshto-e, "a god who had intelligence". All the gods in turn spit upon the clay. After ten months, a specially made womb breaks open and humans are born.

It is Enki who warns the flood hero Utnapishtim (there are several ancient versions of this story where the name of the flood hero varies) that the gods plan to flood the earth and that he should build a boat.

It's also useful when talking about Judaism's transition from polytheistic to monotheistic to study the character of 'Lilith'.
Lilith appears to have started out as a Mesopotamian storm goddess associated with wind, night and the desert and married to the Semitic Pantheon's weather god 'Enlil' and was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death who first appeared around 5000 years ago. Because of her relationship with Enlil who was considered 'father of the gods' in some forms of Semitic Mythology, she can also be considered as a Mother Goddess. (practicaly all wives of the heads of pantheons are considered thus)
What is interesting about Lilith is that during the transitional stages from Semitic polytheism to Semitic monotheism, we can actualy see the character of Lilith slowly change from a goddess to a demon.
About a thousand years later, (roughly 3700 years ago) she's associated with Gilgamesh who himself is described as two-thirds god and one-third human.
Lilith was a follower of the Great Mother Goddess Asherah. (so still associated with Mother Goddess worship) In 'The Epic of Gilgamesh', Gilgamesh was said to have destroyed a tree that was in a sacred grove dedicated to Asherah. Lilith ran into the desert in despair.
Hebrew cosmogony tells a story of 'Yahweh' creating Adam to marry a local Goddess-associated figure named Lilith. So according to this version from about about 3000 years ago, Lilith must have already existed, making her at least 'supernatural.'
Lilith is later depicted in the Talmud as created by God as a woman to be the first wife to Adam.
While Genesis 2:22 describes God's creation of Eve from Adam's rib, an earlier passage, 1:27, already indicates that a woman had already been made: 'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.'
The Hebrew legends say that Lilith is eventualy banished from Adam and Yahweh's presence when she is discovered to be a 'demon' and interestingly still considered as a bearer of 'disease, illness and death' just like the earliest versions of her when she was considered as a goddess.
Another later version has her running away because, although God created them both the same way, Adam refused to treat her as an equal. The angels went after her but she refused to return unless she was treated as an equal and is then cursed by an angel to have one hundred of her children die every day. This is when Lilith is turned into a demon and accordingly, every day one hundred demons are said to perish.
It is supposedly after these events that Eve is created from one of Adam's ribs and becomes Adam's subservient wife.
From here on, Lilith is often considered to be the serpent in the Garden of Eden, bent on revenge and is also known as the 'screech owl' which is kinda like a vampiric figure.
The Book of Isaiah 34:14, says;
'The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.'

So, when we look at Lilith we can clearly see Judaism's association with an earlier polytheistic religion which Judaism was obviously inspired by and developed from.
8:06 pm - 16 comments - 6 Kudos
Monday, April 27, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 2

So, let us now turn to Eden.

“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads. The name of the first is Pishon; that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon; the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is Tigris; that is it which goeth toward the east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” Genesis 2:10-14

Believe it or not, that's almost as good as a map.
We're not cirtain exactly where the Pishon and the Gihon were, but the Tigris and the Euphrates still exist. The Biblical text says that a river went 'out' of Eden and parted into the four rivers mentioned, so we are talking about a river 'source' and the source of the Tigris and Euphrates is located at one end of Mesopotamia (the mountains of southeastern Turkey) and both rivers flowed right through Mesopotamia all the way to the other end of Mesopotamia at the Persian Gulf, infact, these two rivers actualy 'define' the area of Mesopotamia.
It was quite a big area, taking up most of modern Iraq, so we can fairly safely say that Eden was somewhere within the area of Mesopotamia.

The word 'paradise', which is often used as a synonym for the Garden of Eden, actualy shares a number of characteristics with words for 'walled orchard garden' or 'enclosed hunting park' in ancient Persian. This suggests agriculture and the penning of game.

The growing of fruit in orchards are very important to the development of agriculture and perminant settlement because most other forms of grown food can be grown in a single season, such as wheat or lettuce or potatoes or beans, which can then be harvested before semi-nomadic people move on to a new area, but a fruit tree takes many years of growing and cross breeding, (Ever eaten a wild apple? They're horribly sour, it actualy takes many years of cross breeding to come up with an edible apple from wild ones.) and for this to happen, you need to stay or 'settle' in one place instead of wandering in a nomadic way. Orchards or 'gardens' would have been built and indeed, the earliest remains of such places that we know of are within Mesopotamia, around about where the Bible says the Garden of Eden was, and what was the fruit being grown? Apples apparently.

In most hunter gatherer tribes, it is the males that hunt and the females that gather and it's also the females that have what is sometimes regarded as 'secret knowledge' as to where to find cirtain foods and how to process them to get rid of any toxins they may contain. In Australia for instance, the women in traditional Aboriginal hunter/gatherer tribes have an incredible knowledge of sometimes quite complicated food processing.
So it was probably the women who developed agriculture, including the growing of fruit.

So, if women developed the growing of fruit and other crops, what would be the religious implications of this?
Well let us assume that the deity they worshipped (probably the 'Mother Goddess', which is the earliest worshiped deity that we know of) was associated with providing the hunter/gatherers with wild bounty, this deity would no longer be needed because the women were providing it, with their knowledge of agriculture.
That could effectively be the end of their religion and it would be the women's fault with their knowledge of fruit, and perhaps the particular fruit involved would have been known as the 'Fruit of Knowledge.'
See where I'm going with this? Fruit, knowledge, women, the offending of a deity?

So what would now be important to these new agricultualists? The sun of course, you need it to grow crops, and it's also around this time of developing agriculture (called the Neolithic Revolution) that we find evidence of Solar deity worship.

It's also interesting that the usual quoted Biblical age of the earth, which is derived from the genealogies and other dates in the Bible, is considered to be around 6000 years old, which is actualy when writing was first developed... in other words, when the first recorded history could possibly be written, and guess where writing was invented? Yep, Mesopotamia. We call it 'cuneiform' today. Could it be that the original writers of Genesis knew how old the oldest writing was, came to the conclusion that that's when man first appeared, then wrote that into the chronology of what would become Biblical text?

As for the actual age of mankind, well the oldest known remains of anatomically modern humans we've ever found were in Ethiopia, and dated to around 160,000 years ago.
8:01 pm - 10 comments - 4 Kudos
Monday, April 27, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 3

Now let's look at the first known monotheistic religion Atenism.

Around 3300 years ago, the Egyptian pharoah Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) realised that the priests in charge of each deities temples were gaining power and wealth. He decreed that there was only one god (Aten) and that the only way to this god was through himself and closed down the other god's temples, thereby gaining all the power and wealth for himself. He then spread this wealth among his loyal followers, basicaly bribed them, imagine how the priests felt about that.
He changed his name to Akhenaten (which means Effective Spirit of the Aten) and effectively proclamed himself as Aten on earth, a deity, which wasn't unusual for the Egyptians as they thought of all their pharoah in this way
Akhenaten eventualy dies, the preists regain power with a vengance and start to systematicaly take Atenism apart, the old religions returned in a revolutionary manner with great upheaval and violence and anybody that was associated with Aten (those that were bribed especialy) worship would be either killed or would have to flee. This would be it's priests, the builders of it's temples, and also the builders of the new capital that the pharoah built, Akhetaten or 'Horizon of Aten', at the site known today as 'Amarna', which was wrecked and abandoned. It may also have included all those who had simply chosen to live in the new city as well. Basicaly, anyone that the followers of the old religions saw as collaborators of the new religion.
Imagine it, it could literaly be thousands and thousands of people.

But it didn't all happen overnight, we know this because such a massive exodus of people all leaving at once would definately leave huge amounts of evidence in wide areas. Many would claim to be loyal to the old ways and a 'witch-hunt' style of seeking out secret Atenists and banishing them would continue for some time, maybe even '40 years.'

Around this time, the Amarna letters are written, a series of letters from the leaders of Canaan to the leaders of Egypt, including Akhenaten, that complain of constant worsening raids by tribes of nomadic outcasts from many of the kindoms in the Fertile Cresent known as the Habiru. As outcasts from the surrounding kingdoms of the Fertile Cresent, the Habiru would naturaly follow the polytheistic pantheon tradition I mentioned earlier.
Just a couple of hundred years after the fall of Atenism, we see the first evidence of the Judaistic form of monotheism at the same time as the formation of the Kindom of Israel and Judaism's own religious accounts tell of how they were once tribes of nomads who attacked Canaan.

Now, it's useful at this point to compare the Atenist 'Great Hymn to the Aten' and the later Judaistic 'Psalm 104', which are remarkably similar, so much so that Psalm 104 must have been influenced by the Great Hymn to the Aten, there's no other explanation for their similarity. Which means that Judaism must have been influenced by Atenism at some point.
So, we can surmise that the Atenists forced to flee Egypt met up with and joined the Habiru, and, after a couple of generations, their two religions eventualy merged forming Judaism with the creator god 'El' of the Habiru's previous pantheon now becoming a monotheistic god like Aten and the mythology of the Habiru's religion being changed ever so slightly into the versions we see today in the Old Testament and the Habiru themselves became known as the 'Hebrews.'
8:01 pm - 10 comments - 2 Kudos
Monday, April 27, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 4

Now let's look at Christianity.

The very beginnings of Christianity start with the Messianic prophecies in Judaistic belief. The Messianic prophecies refer to a future king of Isreal from the Davidic line, who will rule the people of the united tribes of Isreal and herald the Messianic Age. After that, he'll basicaly rule the world.
Christianity claims that Jesus of Nazereth was apparently born to a virgin (in fulfillment of a messianic prophecy) in the prophecised town of Bethlehem and was in actual fact the prophecised heir to the throne of Kingdom of Isreal, a direct decendant of David. They also claim that Jesus is one part of the trinity of God, equal to the other two parts and at the same time one and the same as them.

The problem is, Christianity has had to alter Judaism's definition of the Messiah for this belief.
Look at this messianic prophecy, 'The Moshiach (Messiah) will be a man of this world, an observant Jew with "fear of God' (Isaiah 11:2)
Or this one, 'I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee (like Moses), and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall "command him."' (Deuteronomy 18:18-19)
Those make it pretty clear that the Messiah will be something less than equal to God, a 'man' who 'fears' God and who does and says what God 'commands' him to do and say. According to Judaism, who invented the notion of the Messiah, the Messiah is simply God's representative on earth, a mortal king who will rule in God's name.
So was he really heir to the throne of David? Well it's hard to see how he could have been while at the same time being born to a virgin because in Judaistic law, the heirdom of the throne can only be passed by a father to his natural son, or, failing that, to an adopted son. So, if Jesus wasn't actualy Joseph's natural son, then obviously the heirdom would pass to James the Just, who was definately Joseph's natural son.

So what about this 'born to a virgin' thing? Well Christianity altered that too.

The original Hebrew prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 reads as follows (translated):

"Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman [ha-almah] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu-el".

Scholars reason that [ha-almah] ("young woman") does not refer to a virgin and that had the Tanakh intended to refer to such, the specific Hebrew word for virgin [bethulah] would have been used. So the whole 'born to a virgin' thing is nothing to do with Messianic prophecy. So why was Mary depicted as a virgin? Because modern Christianity has actualy been influenced by many different religions over the years.
When it started, Christanity was simply a version of Judaistic Messiah worship, but pretty soon in it's development, a character called Paul the Apostle somehow managed to take control of the Christian cult. (as it was then) Paul was a Hellenistic Jew, a member of a movement that sought to establish a Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism, which was the Roman and Greek traditions culture and religion.
If you've read part 1, you'll know that the polytheistic pantheon worshipped in the Canaan area which eventualy developed into Judaism also influenced the Hellenistic religions, and religion influenced culture and tradition.

One of the Hellenistic religions was the worship of Mithras, which was popular among the military in the Roman Empire, which had it's origins with the polytheistic Zoroastrianism religion of the Persians (modern day Iran) which was quite similar to the pre-Judaistic pantheon worshipped in Canaan. (Mithra is also related to 'Mitra' of the Vedic religion, which went on to develop into Hinduism)
There is a Seleucid temple at Kangavar in western Iran, which is dedicated to "Anahita, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Lord Mithra" and dates to around 200 BC. So it's quite probable that this is where the virgin birth tradition in Christianity originates.

Paul opened Christianity up to the gentiles, (non Jews) before that, they weren't allowed to join, so with that influx of gentiles would naturaly come an influx of their previous beliefs too, and the belief in Mithra, Mithras or Mitra were all pretty popular beliefs at the time. Eventualy, when the Hebrew Bible is translated from Hebrew into Greek and re-written as the Christian Old Testament one finds in the text of Isaiah 7:14 the word 'parthenos', which is Greek for 'virgin', rather than the Greek word "neanis" for "young woman", which would be a literal translation of the Hebrew original. So eventualy the Greek 'parthenos' (virgin) was translated into every language that the Christian Bible is available in today

It's also interesting to note that throughout the Hellenistic religions, trinities, (which are strongly rejected by Judaism as an affront to monotheism) are abundant.
*The Classical Greek trioof Zeus (father), Leto (mother), and Apollo. (son)
*The Roman Capitoline Triad of Jupiter (father), Juno (wife), and Minerva. (daughter)
*The Fates or Furies in Greek and Roman mythology.
*The Roman triad of Ceres, Liber Pater and Libera (or its Greek counterpart withDemeter, Dionysos and Kore) name but a few.

So it would seem strange that a messianic cult of Judaism, which completely rejects trinities of any sort because of their ties with polytheistic pantheons, would eventualy adopt one for it's own version of God, unless of course it was influenced by the Hellenistic religions of the time, possibly via Paul the Apostle.

That's one possiblity, another is that the trinity was introduced to Christianity by Emperor Constantine the Great about 300 years later.
By the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire was falling apart, it had slit into several factions with several different Emperors and Constantine through sheer bloody force and battle reunited the Empire with himself as the sole Emperor.
He reasoned that if the whole empire was to follow the same religion, and if the centre of that religion was in Rome, then the Roman Empire would run much more smoothly, so he adopted Christianity and proceeded to convert the entire Empire. It was around this time that cirtain traditions such as celebrating Christmas at the same time as the pagan winter festivals such as Yule began, probably as a way of making the transition easier. They could still carry on their old traditions but it just had a new name. It's at this time that Trinity becomes doctrine in Christianity too during the Council of Nicaea (325AD).
In no time at all, Christianity went from being little more than a large cult, to the biggest religion in the world, but with new traditions assimilated into it taken from different religions throughout the Empire.
But let's get back to the Messianic prophecies.

Now, as it happens, Jesus didn't even come close to fulfilling all the prophecies, of which there are many, such as;
'The whole world will worship the One God of Israel' (Isaiah 2:17)
'He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful.' (Isaiah 51:3)
'All Israelites will be returned to their homeland.' (Isaiah 11:12)
'Nations will end up recognizing the wrongs they did to Israel.' (Isaiah 52:13-53:5)
'Jews will know the Torah without study.' (Jeremiah 31:33)
'The ruined cities of Israel will be restored.' (Ezekiel 16:55)
'There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease.' (Isaiah 25:8)
'All of the dead will rise again.' (Isaiah 26:19)

There are any number of religious prophecies from different religions around the world about things that will happen, such as the ancient Mayan doomsday prophecy that the world will end in 2012. Why aren't there any major religions based on those prophecies?
Because everyone knows that a prophecy means nothing until it has come true, that's why.

Because he doesn't fulfill all the prophecies, Christianity states that Jesus is coming back to fulfil the rest of them, (although it's strange that the prophecies never mention that the Messiah will come twice, thousands of years apart, because they are pretty particular about everything else) but in order for him to even be considered in the first place as a possible Messiah, he must first and foremost fulfil the prophecy of 'birthplace';

*'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.' (Micah 5:2)....which basicaly means 'he will come from Bethlehem'.

The Bible says that Jesus was born during both the reign of Herod the Great and also during the Census of Quirinius, but historicaly, that cannot be correct as the Census of Quirinius (started 6AD) happened ten years after the death of Herod (4BC). The reason that the Bible claims this is because the Gospel of Luke claims the Census of Quirinius is the reason that Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem in the first place, to take part in the census because there was a requirement for everyone to travel to their ancestral homes. In actual fact all Roman census required people to stay at home and 'not' travel, which makes sense, a census is a means of finding out where people live now so that they can be taxed, not where their ancestors used to live. A papyrus from Egypt dated AD 104 requiring people to return to their homes for a census has sometimes been cited by Christians as evidence of a requirement to travel, however, this refers only to migrant workers returning to their family home, not their ancestral home.
Christians have also claimed that Quirinius served as a governor under Herod the Great's reign.

A look at Quirinius career tells us that between 14 and 12BC Quirinius was governor of Crete and Cyrene. Then in 12BC he returned to Rome and served as a 'consul' there. (Effectively 'heads of Roman government', there were two consuls, and they ruled together. However, after the establishment of the Empire, the Consuls were merely a figurative representative of Rome’s republican heritage and held very little power and authority, with the Emperor acting as the supreme leader. The position was held for only 12 months, after which two new consuls were elected, coins dated to 11BC with Quirinius' name on them as consul confirms this.)
After that he became 'Legatus' of Galatia, a position similar to a 'military general' but in a province with only one legion, as in the case of Galatia, the Legatus was also the provincial governor. Between 6 and 3 BC (the time when most Christians claim he was acting as governor of Syria under Herod's rule) he was still there, far far away from Syria, leading a 3 year military campaign against the Homonadenses, a tribe based in the mountainous region of Galatia and Cilicia in modern day North/West Turkey.
Quirinius was only appointed governor of Syria, after the banishment of Herod Archelaus (Herod the Great's son and successor) in 6AD.

With these obvious fabrications about Quirinius, the census and the requirement to travel during the census, all the evidence would seem to point to 'someone' (whoever wrote 'The Gospel of Luke') trying very hard to make it look like Jesus was born in Bethlehem, to fulfill the prophecy, which also suggests, along with the name 'Jesus of Nazereth', (the tradition was to name the child after 'birthplace', not the place where the child grew up) that he actualy wasn't born in Bethlehem at all.
Without this first essential fulfillment of prophecy, any others that he may have fulfilled later become completely meaningless.

Y'see, this is all circular logic.
People believe Jesus is the Messiah because he is said to have fulfilled some of the Messianic Prophecies, but because he didn't fulfill all of the prophecies, people believe he will return to fulfill the rest of them. People believe he will do this because people believe he is the Messiah and people believe him to be the Messiah because he is said to have fulfilled some of the prophecies.

But Christianity itself goes against at least one of the prophecies;
*''The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)''
That's gotta mean that 'everyone will convert to Judaism', (remember, these are 'Judaistic' prophecies) a religion that refuses to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and therefore refuses to acknowledge Christianity as the true religion.
One of the very first things that Christianity did was to tempt people away from Judaism and it's traditions. How can Jesus Christ possibly return his own people to Judaism when Judaism doesn't believe in Jesus Christ?

Read it again, it literaly means that in order for Christianity to be correct about Jesus Christ being the Messiah, then Christianity must fail in favour of Judaism.

5:26 pm - 28 comments - 10 Kudos
Monday, January 05, 2009

Folklore and Religion

Folklore and religion, basicaly the same thing really.

A good way of explaining how folklore works is to look at the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.
At first glance, it seems historicaly reasonable that something happened in the German town of Hamlin in 1284, possibly something involving a stranger and the children of the town.
There are chronicles written less than a hundred years after the event which state that someone entered the town and left with 130 children, but in those chronicles, there is no mention of rats, or even a pipe for that matter.
But superstitious people read the chronicals and started thinking that such a terrible loss must have something more to it than that, it must have been something to do with sourcery or a punishment..... or both.
New chronicles were written.
At the time it was widely believed that some men had an uncanny power over snakes or mice or rats. They could play a pipe and charm them (snake charmers of course still exist, but it is infact just a trick) making them do anything they wanted such as walking into deep water or leaping on a bonfire.
Maybe such a person held a similar power over children, maybe someone in Hamlin angered him enough for him to punish the whole town by taking the children?
And so the folklore version of the story was born. People said that the town had been overun with rats until a stranger came along and declared himself as a rat catcher. He was dressed strangely and played a fife, so they called him the 'Pied Piper' and promised him lots of money to sort the rats out (probably thinking it was impossible to kill rats by playing a pipe)
He played the pipe, the rats poured out of the town and he led them away into a river (the Weser) where they all drowned. But the citizens regretted promising so much money once he'd actualy succeded in getting rid of the rats and welched on the deal.
It is said that he returned dressed as a hunter, played his pipe and led the children out of town where they disappeared with him into a cave in the side of a mountain, never to be seen again, although some sources say they came out again, alive and safe, hundreds of miles away in Transylvania.
A few hundred years later, and by the middle of the 16th century, this had become the official explanation. The Mayor had the whole story illustrated in the stained glass windows in the main church. A new city gate erected in 1556 carried an inscription stating that it was put up '272 years after the ''sorcerer'' abducted 130 children' Another inscription on the city hall commemorated '130 children lost by a piper inside a mountain.'
To someone looking at it today, it really does indeed look like a piper with either magical powers or at least a magical pipe was responsible.

So now let's look for a rational explanation.
There were wars going on in 13th century Germany, so maybe a passing recruiting sergeant passed through and took 130 young men away to war, who were all later killed in battle.
Or maybe the date is wrong and the story recalls friars preaching sermons to get youngsters to join the 'Children's Crusade' to Jerusalem (1212, they never got there, those that didn't die on the way became slaves.)

Or maybe it refers to the forced emigration of local families to colonize new territories far away. Bishop Bruno of Olmutz recruited families from Lower Saxony to build up a German population in his diocese in Bohemia.
A comparison of city records in Hamlin and Olmutz from just before and just after 1284 reveals a startling similarity in the family names in each place which kinda agrees with the rumour that the children reappeared safe and sound in Transylvania.

So, the mystery is solved. The myth is 'busted' so to speak, but its a nice catchy story full of magic and mystery that's become tradition, it attracts people to it, so much so that people still swear to this day that a piper actualy led the town's children away as revenge, and Hamlin has a pretty good tourist trade today because of the story. But in reality, because it's been explained in a rational manner, most of us know it's just a fairytale based on a real event.

The moral of the folklore version of the story (and all good stories have a moral) is basicaly 'Believe in the magic.'
Believe in the piper's power, if you don't believe in the piper's power you will be punished by having your children taken away.

Now let's compare that with the story of Jesus, a guy born to a virgin in Bethlehem who turned out to not only be the son of God but actualy God Himself, who did lots of magic or 'miracles', was eventualy killed and came back to life before mysteriously disappearing. The story is so well known we don't really need to go into details.

So again, now let's look for a rational explanation.

Well we know that the Bible has Jesus being born during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, and also being born during the Census of Quirinius, which happened about 10 years later.
We also know that no Roman census ever required people to return to their ancestral home, which would actualy just make a census more complicated, the Romans wanted to know where people lived 'now' not where their ancestors came from.
So what's the explanation?
Well the Judaistic Messianic Prophecies first and foremost said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, If he wasn't born in Bethlehem, he couldn't be the Messiah. So whoever wrote the Gospel of Luke had to somehow place his birth in Bethlehem and come up with a reason for a son of a couple from Nazereth to be born so far away from home.
As Luke was written about 80-90 years after the birth of Jesus, and probably by someone who knew the census took place relatively in the same time period as the birth of Jesus, the link between Jesus' birth and the census was established. It was at best a guess, at worst a complete fabrication, an addition to the chronicles. (New chronicles were written, hey, ever had that 'Deja vu' feeling?) Either way the story cannot be correct.
He was known as 'Jesus of Nazereth' and people were traditionaly named after their 'birth' place, not the place where they grew up.
So we have evidence that Jesus was not from Bethlehem and evidence that part of the story of Jesus was fabricated to make Jesus appear to be the prophecised Messiah.

Again, the mystery is solved. The myth is 'busted' so to speak, but its a nice catchy story full of magic and mystery that's become tradition, it attracts people to it, so much so that people still swear to this day that that a guy was actualy born to a virgin who turned out to be God in human form.

Christians are taught that the basic moral to the whole story of Jesus is that they have to believe in the magic, (without the miracles, he'd hardly be considered as anything special, most of his teachings had already been known for 500 years to readers of Aesop's fables) and that Jesus is their God and saviour, otherwise they'll be punished with an eternity in Hell.

Sounds familiar?
Something happened 2000 years ago and it involved a guy called Jesus, of that there is little doubt, but over time 'magic' is added to the story and it becomes folklore. People start having 'faith' in the magic involved in the folklore version of the story and a major religion is eventualy formed.
But for some strange reason in reality, rather than most of us realising it's just a fairytale based on a real event because it's been explained in a rational manner, lots of people still swear to this day that it all really happened exactly like it does in the folklore version of the story.

But it's still all just folklore folks.


4:53 pm - 9 comments - 10 Kudos
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

So you want to be in a band? Introduction.

This blog is basicaly an amalgam of all the advice I've given on the 'bandleading' section. I originaly compiled it to answer the question 'When I've put a band together, what do I do then?' and after writing it, I thought it would make an interesting blog and also a pretty decent source of information for anyone who is fairly new to bands.
It deals with every issue I can think of that most bands will face and will be an ongoing process, being added to as and when I find an important issue that I've missed.
Hope you enjoy it and that someone will at least find it helpful.

2:06 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

So you want to be in a band? Part 1

Getting Together
So you wanna form a band?
Look for people that you can get along with, this really is paramount. If there are two people, one is OK but with a great attitude and the other is a brilliant musician but is big headed, vain, or simply annoying, then go for the OK guy every time.
Ability can be learned and improved upon as you continue, but personality is almost impossible to change.
Once you have a line up, start off just jamming, pick some covers between you to play but don't expect miracles straight away. It takes time for everyone to get used to each others styles, but generaly, the more you practice, the tighter you become.
Once you start getting used to each other and are making some decent noises, you have a decision to make. You can either continue as a cover band, become an original band, or do a mixture of both.
Cover bands tend to get bookings more easily, original bands tend to struggle to be heard and get paid less on the pub/club circuit but the rewards artisticaly are better and if you become well known, financialy a lot more rewarding.
Doing a mixture of both, you tend to get more gigs in front of bigger audiences early on in your career, who you can then play some of your original material to and even sell them recorings.
Tribute bands deserve a mention here as well. Believe me, being in a tribute is hard work, you are limited set wise, you have to play the songs exactly like they were originaly recorded, you need to play a part rather than just being yourself and in this respect, it's kinda more like theatre than the other choices. But it's great fun if you get it right. You play to huge audiences, gigs are pretty easy to come by and you know that everyone in that audience is gonna like what you play because they're all fans of whatever bands you're a tribute to.
Because of the size of the audience that a tribute attracts, you can also charge more than the average band on the pub/club circuit.

Organising The Band
In a band, it helps if people are in charge of different stuff and each have their own department, like maybe one person becomes like the musical director (while still being open to suggestions from the rest of the band obviously) and another in charge of booking gigs, and another in charge of transport, and another being responsible for the safety of the bands gear and keeping an inventory of what gear goes to a gig and making sure it all returns.
This way, everyone has their own department to worry about and very rarely bothers anyone else about their department. It makes everyone feel involved in the day to day running of the band, but avoids arguments.

F'rinstance, in my band, I organise the gigs and write the set lists for the gigs, which is then the set list that we rehearse for each gig. (which I suppose kinda makes me the musical director, but as a tribute band, it never involves actualy writing stuff, although me and the bassist have been writing material together for a future project that will involve the exact same line up doing original numbers under a different name) The guitarist organises transport and where and when we rehearse. The drummer's in charge of the bands inventory and the bassist is the guy who delivers posters, ticket books to ticket outlets, basicaly anything that involves driving a car and also generaly does the sound engineering for any support bands we might have.
He also does the sound engineering when we occasionaly hire out our PA.
Everyone has their own department and doesn't step on anyone else's toes, unless someone seriously screws up, in which case, the other three of us take the p!ss without mercy.

Diarys are important.
Each member of the band should have a diary and the person who organises the gigs should have the 'control' diary.
It's important to just have one member organising gigs, so if another member is asked about a booking, they should point the interested party to the member who sorts out bookings or give them his contact details (this is why bands have business cards)
It's also important that the band has regular sit down meetings, the best time for these are just after a rehearsal. Set aside an hour or so where you can all sit down (possibly with a beer) and just talk about band business. This is where the 'control' diary and everyone elses diaries comes in.
Every person who's gonna be away or unavailable for any reason (holidays, family events ect.) tells the person who has the control diary what date they will be unavailable as soon as they know themselves. Then at the sit down meetings, everyone goes through the control diary together and write down all these dates plus the gig dates that whoever holds the control diary has got for the band.
This way is fairly foolproof if done properly and religiously. It does away with accidental double bookings and ensures that no one will be too busy to play a gig. It also means that whoever is booking the gigs can just glance in the control diary and tell the prospective venue if they are available for a particular date or not straight away without having to check with the rest of the band first, which will come across as very professional.

Of course, these regular meetings are also there to sort out any other band issues and business. Vote on everything, majority rules, if you're outvoted, suck it in and deal with it. This really is the easiest way to sort out any issues, as long as everyone agrees to abide by the majority vote.
If your band is comprised of an even number of people and there is a 50/50 split in the voting, get a well respected member of te band, usualy a roadie, what they think (without telling them what everyone else's opinions are, just give them a simple choice and ask them their opinion) and go with whatever he decides.
Arguments are potentialy band killers and should be avoided like the plague so this is why it's important to have a process that does away with any arguments in decision making that everyone agrees to abide by.

It can be really hard work at times and it all depends on the personalities of your bandmembers.
The ideal mindset that everyone should have is 'What will be best for the band?' not 'How good will this make me sound/look?'
Everyone should be willing to at least try out someone else's idea for a song, whether that's a complete song or just a new section or a change in an already existing song.
They should all be willing to abide by the majority decision of the band, if you are outvoted on anything, tough titties, remember, it's all about what's best for the band, not the individual.

Everyone has a slightly different view or opinion of what is great music and this is where that well known saying ''You can please some of the people all the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.'' comes in. It's a logistical impossibility to please everyone all the time and if everyone realises this, it makes things much easier.
Because everyone is different, that means that when writing together, it's all a compromise.
Each member will have their favourite songs in the set, and these will more often than not be different songs for different people, likewise with least favourite songs, so it' important for each member to realise that the cost of being able to play your own favourite songs of the set is to play your least favourite songs of the set, because your least favourites are invariably going to be someone elses favourites.
If you find that no one in the band particularly likes playing a particular song, then that song should be dropped in favour of a ong that at least someone in the band get's pleasure out of.

These are the basic ground rules, and if you set them out before you start writing together and get everyone to abide by them, songwriting within the band should be easier.
Remember, because each individual member brings their own individual tastes and influences to the band, that makes for great variation within the band and songs themselves, which is a desirable result.
Variation means that your band is never boring to listen to so variation is 'good for the band.'

It's a general rule of thumb with bands. Don't commit the band to any performances until you are quite sure the band is ready to do that performance to the best of it's ability.
Obviously, booking the gig before you've even completed the line up couldn't possibly go more against this rule.

So what's the reason for the rule?
Reputation. It's THE most important factor for a performing musician/band. Get a bad reputation and it's like having a giant rock tied around your ankle. It slows you down until you play that one truly great gig that makes your name for yourself. Problem is, if you already have a bad reputation from a truly horrendous performance, how are you gonna get the opportunity to play that truly great gig?

Take your time.
Once everything is sounding good, and it may take quite a bit just to get everyone jamming tightly, then concentrate on a set list.
Once you have a setlist rehearsed and tightened, then look towards playing a gig. You will make an instant impact and your reputation will flourish.

You want gigs? Lots of gigs?
Look at other fairly local bands in your area that seem to play lots of gigs, bands that are not much bigger than yourselves but who seem to be constantly gigging, then look up their websites and check out their gigging lists.
Quite often these gigging lists will have the venue's phone numbers on them but if they don't, you can always find them in the directory. Do this with a few different bands and you'll end up with a pretty decent list of venues.
Next you need a diary and a phone and a couple of days free to ring around all these venues, (if it's someone elses phone, give 'em some money because this bit is gonna cost on their bill)
The diary should be a current one with all the dates marked in that any of your band members may be busy on throughout the year such as birthdays or holidays or any other date that they can think of when they're gonna be busy. Then start ringing around.

Some will say, 'Sorry, no.' in which case, make a note next to their phone number and carry on. Some will say 'you need to speak to....' in which case, ask for the number of the promoter/agent/person you need to speak to and ring them, some will say 'can you ring back at such and such a time?' in which case you take notes and ring back later.
Occasionaly someone will say, 'send us a press pack' or 'send us a demo' in which case you need to be making up a decent press pack that includes a demo and a poster.
Believe it or not, many venues actualy take more notice of the quality of your poster than your demo because they get more of an idea of the quality of your band that way. Y'see, many people who will be booking your band won't actualy be into your kind of music, so they wouldn't really know if you're a fair representation of that kind of music or not, but they can tell if you've put some thought into your posters, a full colour, striking poster of around A2 size will suggest that you're professional, a black and white A4 sized photocopy will make you look unprofessional.
Some venues will 'give you a go' at a reduced rate. Book these on the understanding that if you do well and attract a lot of people, they will re-book you for more money.

Most of the gigs you get will be booked at least three months in advance. If someone offers you a booking on the same date that someone in your band has a personal day booked, like a holiday or birthday, don't say 'I'm sorry, our drummer's going to his grandma's birthday party that night' say 'I'm sorry, our diary is full for that date'
Write all the bookings in your diary making sure to write down the venue's name, address, phone number and how much you've agreed to play for.

Promote each gig you get to the best of your ability and always send the venue a pile of posters.
Hopefully, if you do your job right you should get a decent crowd at your gigs and pretty soon you'll start getting a name for yourselves as a band that attracts a crowd.
Obviously it also helps immensly if you get a good reputation for being punctual and polite to everyone you will be working with, such as venue owners, promoters, agents and other venue staff, right down to the lowliest cleaner.
Networking is important as well, as you play more gigs, you meet more people like other bands, promoters, agents ect who can all help you out. This is another good reason to be polite to everyone you meet.
Your reputation is EVERYTHING in this business, look after it.

It's always worth remembering that your job, even though it may look like you're a musician, is actualy more often than not to sell beer.
You are usualy booked by a venue that has a bar to attract an audience who will then spend money at that bar (and remember, the more they drink, the better you'll sound. ) so the more beer that is being bought over the bar, the better you are going to do.
That's why you get more rock bands than any other genre in small venues, because they attract audiences that drink a lot of beer.

It's an ongoing process, so keep looking for new venues to play, keep ringing them up and sending out press packs (making sure to include any good reviews you may be getting) even the venues that said 'Sorry, no.' when you first rang them because as you gain a good reputation, eventualy they'll say, 'Yeah, I've heard of you, go on then, we'll give you a go.'

But I must warn you, when you first start ringing up venues, it's gonna be a slow process, you may be ringing up venues constantly for 2 whole days and only have 2 confirmed gigs to show for it. Stick with it and put 100% into the promotion and the performances, because you're still just trying to get the ball 'moving', eventualy once you get a fair amount of gigs under your belt and get the ball 'rolling', the gigs will pour in, but you have to keep working at it.

Once you've cracked your local area, start getting gigs further away.
Look at a map of the area where you live, your gigs should slowly radiate outwards in all possible directions, because what should happen is that just slightly further away than where you have played previously, they will have heard of you, which will make it easier to get gigs further away, which makes the towns slightly further down the road more likely to have heard of you, ect, ect.
Once you're doing this and regularly playing in different towns and cities, try not to play the same town twice within the space of about three months, that way you maximise your audience at every gig, which gives you a better reputation, which gets you better gigs.

Theoreticaly, you can keep going, keep gaining a better and better reputation, keep playing in better and better venues releasing material as you go and selling merchandise and eventualy, with enough effort and hard work, you'll be officialy 'famous'.

Promoting Gigs
You need posters, and flyers.
You can either have a different poster for each gig or you can have a generic poster with the band's name, some sort of artistic design to grab people's attention and a blank white box at the bottom to fill in individual gig information (venue, date, time, price)
Colour posters generaly get more attention, and the bigger the better, but big colour posters are expensive to print, especialy once you get bigger than A3, but with the right artistic design a black and white poster can be very effective too.
Send as many posters as you can to the venue and try and get as many of them put up yourself around the area that the venue is in.
Most towns have laws and rules about flyposting, so walk around a town looking out for shop windows with other event posters in them. These are generaly band-friendly shops who are only too happy to place your poster in their shop window, but occasionaly they may want paying, so weigh it up, if the shop is right in the middle of a busy area, where a LOT of people are gonna see it, if it's only a few quid that they're wanting, it's probably worth paying.

Of course, you should really have your own website and my-space and anything else you can think of which should be regularly updated. Promote your main website at gigs.
As you meet people at gigs, ask them for their e-mail addresses, with this information you can build up a mailing list which you can even use for sending out a regular newsletter about your band to.
Find websites that allow you to promote your gigs on their forums.

Each town has a local newspaper, generaly read by most of the local poulation. You are aiming to get a write up in them before playing the corresponding gig. Newspaper ads are OK but they cost money and are generaly glanced over by most people, but a write up or feature has a much bigger impact and attracts more punters to the gig.
Do some homework, find out what the local newspaper for each town is, ring them up, ask to speak to the 'reporter' who handles 'entertainments and ''what's on'' guides' and ask if they would be interested in doing a 'feature' on your band as you will be playing their town as part of your 'latest nationwide tour' and ask if you can send them your 'official' press release.
Then e-mail them a press release that you have already written. This should really play up your band as much as possible, make you sound like the best thing since sliced bread and mention the release of your new album or ep (don't ever say 'demo') and other news about you that springs to mind and tour dates and a discription of your music, a little bit of humour doesn't go amiss either but not too much. (for instance, in one of ours, just after we'd got back together after a 12 month break, we said we'd split up a year ago because of health reasons... we were sick of the sight of each other!)
Try to write it in a typical cheesy reporter style, because what you are actualy doing is the reporter's job for him. If he sees a press release that he hardly has to edit, he's more likely to get it into print.
Make sure you send two pics with the press release, one colour, one black and white.

Again, like newspapers, you can pay for your own adverts on local radio stations, but that just costs so much money, you need to be filling a huge venue in order for it to be worthwhile, but there's a cheaper way. Most radio local stations, like newspapers, generaly have a 'what's on' section.
A good idea is, if you are playing a venue with a charge on the door, get in touch with the radio station and ask if any of the DJ's will be interested in running a competition to win two tickets for the gig and either provide the station with two tickets or put the winners on your 'guestlist' at the door.
If a DJ goes for it, try and get friendly with the guy, send him a t-shirt and invite him to your gigs, even go drinking with the guy. He'll want to promote you if he likes you and will become a great asset to your band. (same goes for any newspaper reporters you meet)
1:06 pm - 5 comments - 8 Kudos
First page | Previous 10 blogs