Sol Invictus at Archaeology Museum of Yalvac, ...

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If the Roman Emperor Constantine had not taken that critical decision in the first half of the 4th century, the picture of the world we live in would have been probably very different than today. As some historians speculate, we would have seen “Mithraeums” instead of churches (and probably mosques) throughout the western world (and the Middle East), decorated with iconographies of a sun cult, along with the mysterious “Tauroctony” reliefs on the innermost walls of the temples.

When the “brain team” of the emperor came with a suggestion to establish a “one strong official religion” in order to reinforce the central authority throughout the Empire, the strongest candidate was “Mithraism” (or as it was called after a metamorphosis on Roman lands, “Sol Invictus Mithra”) which was very popular among soldiers, officers and most intellectuals.

(more…) has always been one of my favourite resource sites on the net. Especially, for the last 5 years, I have regularly checked what they had new on their collection and most of times I come up with very valuable titles I downloaded, which helped me well on my works and researches. The site does a very remarkable, priceless job for those who are deeply interested in philosophy, ancient texts, world culture and history.

Now, a new title on their collection, added just a few days ago: De Lacy O’Leary‘s “Arabic Thoughts and Its Place in History“. An 85-year-old work but I think it’s still very important for understanding the transformation in Medieval world. Islam has been one of the three very intolerant religions, along with Judaism and Christianity, but there had been a time in history that it served to preserve, develop and transfer the ancient wisdom, classical thought and pre-Christian universal philosophies to the West. With its self-explanatory title, O’Leary’s book suggests the link between the “wake up” in the Western World and this preservation/development of classical thought in Islamic world. Particularly, during Abbasid Khalifat in Iraq (9th and 10th centuries) and with the contribution of Sufis and the Mutazilat sect. Well worth reading.

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Prayer in the Mosque, Jean-Leon Gerome [19th c.] (Public Domain Image)

The transmission of ancient Greek philosophy to the forerunners of
the Renaissance was through the Islamic world.
This book details each of the steps along that path, identifying the
Syriac writers of the late classical period as introducing
Hellenic philosophy into the Middle East.
The book details the growth of Islam, including the major branches
such as the Shia, Sunni, and Sufi, and many minor as well, and their
relation to the schools of Islamic philosophy.
From the Baghdad of the Arabian Nights, we pass to Islamic Spain, where
Arabic philosophy was increased by both Muslim and Jewish scholars.
Finally, we see how Plato and Aristotle were re-introduced into Europe through
Christian scholars, and became one of the precursors of the
Italian Renaissance. The equivalent of a college-level course on the history of Islamic thought,
this book is essential background reading if you want to understand this topic.
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While the mainstream media tries its best to exploit the youths’ interest on alternative spiritual traditions with commercial TV series like “Buffy”, “Angel” or “Charmed”, the young wiccan and pagans of our modern world look at the matter very different. They don’t carry brooms or mix the lizard tails with bat’s wings in a cauldron, but they are trying to establish a more direct and positive relation with the nature and the universe, rejecting the established monotheistic religions’ despotic and dogmatic attitudes. An interesting news story from Australia, tells about a recent research on young “witches” from Australia, UK and US. Worth reading.

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Two researchers have interviewed 90 teenage witches in Australia, England and the US to find out whether they have a broom in the cupboard, a cloak upstairs or any spells on the boil.
They found that teenage witches, including both girls and boys, use witchcraft positively to help deal with issues that young people face every day while growing up.
Professor Ezzy said witchcraft was a form of paganism, which worships nature and celebrated the harvest festivals.
He said that there was a huge increase in witchcraft in the late 1990s when Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed hit television screens. Professor Ezzy said the shows tapped into a need expressed by teenagers to find something more spiritual in life.
He said that he and his co-author Helen Berger found that witchcraft was not seductive but instead empowering and offered personal development for teenagers.

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A new “comedy series” takes place, in which the main actors are the Oscar-winning director James Cameron, the academic world’s instantly nay-saying “science bureucrats” and some Christian clergy that firmly believes “you cannot find the bones of the God.” The plot of the story focuses on some coffins and bones that were found in Israel and claimed to belong Jesus (a.k.a The Christ) and his family. The most funny thing is, some serious “scientists” enthusiastically bother to discuss an “archaeological find” about a “mythical figure” that had never existed in the real world but only mentioned in some “scriptures” which were obviously a synthesis of various ancient sources and myths that were borrowed during Constantine‘s reign in the 4th century. It is even certain that the city Nazareth was not existed before the end of the 1st century so there could never be a “Son of Man” that was known as “Jesus of Nazareth“.

But thanks to Dan Brown‘s “Da Vinci Code“, people learned quickly that sensational claims about a fictituous Jesus and Mary Magdalene could “sell well”. Mainstream media can jump on such stories but we expect scientists to be more cautious, while it is now widely accepted that “Maria of Magdalena” was not a flesh-and-blood woman that lived in the first century but the name was an “epithet” of the “Mother Goddess” of the Near East, who was also known as “Mari-Anat of Magdala“, where “Magdala” meant “towers”, defining a special temple in Levant that had three big towers in it. Read on the “comedy” about the “DNA of a non-existent god”… *sigh*

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Film Challenges Christianity

(CBS/AP)�An Oscar-winning director is about to challenge the most elemental tenets of Christianity, claiming the bones of Jesus Christ were found in a Jerusalem tomb, but many archaeologists and clergymen have been quick to cast doubt on the movie’s assertions.
James Cameron’s “The Lost Tomb of Christ,” which the Discovery Channel will run on March 4, argues that 10 ancient ossuaries — small caskets used to store bones — discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have contained the bones of Jesus and his family, according to a press release issued by the Discovery Channel.
The tomb bears the names Jesus, Mary and Joseph and one of the caskets even bears the title, “Judah, son of Jesus,” hinting that Jesus may have had a son. But scientists argue the names were extremely common during that time period, and in no way prove the Jesus buried at the site was Jesus Christ.

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Here comes some “supplementary” material to my previous posting on religion and faith. From time to time, I shall continue to add some more detailed stuff on this subject to my blog but for now, just check the H.E.R.B page of Ed Krebs‘ web site. (The cartoon above was taken from there.) You can find some very intelligent quotes about religion, from the famous writers and thinkers of the world. Here comes a mini selection:

“Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.”
— Voltaire

“You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do.”
— Anne Lamott

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
— Susan B. Anthony 1896

“Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization) is convinced that God is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history, worldwide, of religion-fueled hate, killing, and oppression is staggering.”
–Eugene Peterson

Do visit the site for more cartoons and quotations.

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Religion and bigotry

I have never been against the idea of people believing in a Supreme Being. In a universe full of uncertainties for us and with a still very tiny reliable knowledge on the structure and working mechanisms of the environment we live in, I find it not surprising to see the majority worshipping a Lord God. Could anyone disprove the existence of a “supernatural” power in the universe, that defines, determines and affects the circumstances of the “universe”?

I doubt it; because, we first need to reach to a consensus for this, on some key concepts that look very controversial: What is “supernatural”, on the first hand? Which conditions, phenomenons or “powers” do we call “supernatural”? There can’t be a solid definition for the supernatural concept; because if it could be defined, it should have been “witnessed” and without doubt “measured” and “understood” in our common terms, thus being perfectly “natural”. If the easiest way is selected (like the “faithful” always do) by saying “An ultra power, an extraordinary super being that is far beyond our perceptions and the norms of the known universe, natural laws and processes”, then it is necessary for them to answer the crucial question: “Well, tell us its qualifications please.”

The supernatural concept cannot be defined in a satisfactory way, either by the believers or the deniers. Thus, discussing the existence of it, is pretty out of context and meaningless. In spite of this, as I said above, it is very understandable for a human being to feel the need of believing in such a high entity, to sojourn it as a protective, pain-easing super concept. Actually, there may well be a supreme being that we have not discovered or totally understood its existence or behaviour yet. I think, no sensible person can comfortably say there is definitely not a deity or godlike being. (Then again, there comes the inevitable question: “What is a deity? Have you ever met a God or a Goddess?“)

But, if you begin to talk about “God’s orders” or “God’s will”, everything’s changed instantly. While we cannot even understand its existence and qualifications with solid symptoms (let alone proving it), who on earth could claim he/she knows what god wants, thinks, wills or orders humanity? Even if a god (as the faithful described it) exists, it is almost very certain that there has been no communication with it yet. So the main and the only source of all the monoteistic faith on earth is just gossip: “God talked to a Selected Human long long time ago; he recorded what was said to him and began spreading the message.” Not very different than the notorious urban legend pattern like “A friend of a friend had heard from a friend of his cousin who was a friend of a friend of that person who had witnessed it all.”