hobbit-humanist

Humanism, atheism, some politics and lots of common sense.

Archive for the category “Locations”

Muslim Machinations

I don’t see many Muslims where I live in the UK. My nearest and dearest religious wise would be the ever active Evangelicals and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, everyone else is nominally Church of England (C of E), Anglican, Catholic or indifferent. Here in England by default many will put down C of E on paperwork and application forms etc when asked what religion they are even if they generally aren’t a believer, although these days I’m sure it varies a lot what people actually put.
So, back to the thread, Muslims. Unless I travel to one of the larger cities its not often I see a Muslim person, I guess the nearest concentration of Muslims near to me would have to be Leicester though I dare say Nottingham has a rising population too. As for blogging about Muslims and Islam I may have done the odd one in the past and mentioned them on occasion but as I don’t often come into contact with them I don’t blog about them too much. Sure, I read about Islam and I’m not overly enthusiastic about it as a faith but I’ve not really seen a Muslim in the street preaching the end of the world or telling me how good Islam is.
That was until a few weeks ago. Over the Christmas period I was quite ill and lay in bed, to while away the time I watched videos on my ipad. As you may know YouTube often suggests videos to watch, so on seeing a Muslim one announcing a quick conversion to Islam in London curiosity kicked in and I had a peruse. One video leads to another of course and before long I’d watched several video conversions of people to Islam.
The scene for all of the videos is north London, on a popular and large street called Kilburn High Road. I’ve been to London many times but must admit this area is off my radar personally, I’m aware of it because a band I followed as a kid gigged in that area a lot but that’s as far as my knowledge goes, apart from a cursory look around it on Google maps. From watching the videos which are called Dawah is Easy, Dawah basically means preaching Islam and according to the videos the Koran says they have to spread the word of Islam. Fronting all of the videos is Dr Fazal Rahman, who says he is of Indian origin, a dentist by profession and I’m guessing at some point in his life due to his ethnic origin was himself a convert, though I may be wrong. To be fair at this point I have to say his delivery is quite good, he definitely articulate and comes across as intelligent, sharp and is always well dressed.
On watching his conversion videos you soon notice a pattern emerge and the Islamic rhetoric becomes all too familiar. Dr Rahman in my view employs a strategy of targeting people (and no disrespect here) that aren’t that intelligent or maybe a little bit in some cases what I’d term vulnerable. To reinforce this I’d like to add what intelligent person would convert to any religion in just a few minutes and with little knowledge of it? Surely commitment to any faith bears much gravity and should require investigation, research and lots of searching of inner feelings. In fact in some religions, for instance serious Buddhism, Jainism and others I can mention have serious personal life changing ramifications. In my case being  a committed humanist/atheist required life experience and a massive amount of reasoning and contemplation.
Dr Rahman it seems gleefully likes to put the Islam smack down on people with a series of well rehearsed lines, rhetorical rationalising and enthusiastic exposition. In watching the videos I oddly find myself taking the side of Christianity in outrage as Dr Rahman’s view of history is badly skewed and very slanted towards preordination of Islam before it even actually came to be!
He asks unsuspecting potential converts what the virgin Mary would look like if she walked down the road in the present day? To which he nearly always gets the answer of ‘Like a Muslim woman’. This is irrespective of the fact we already know women from that era wore loose fitting long clothing because of the heat and practicality, not faith (and elastic hadn’t been invented!). As he palpitates further and in many cases relentlessly without letting others get a word in he says Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane just like a Muslim, Hallelujah is Islamic in connotation deriving from Allah and Muhammad (Peace be upon him every time of course) is the last of a long line of prophets. Abraham, Moses, Jesus etc, etc. So therefore Muhammad is the main man of our era so to speak and Islam is where its at. Further into the conversations he reveals the six basics tenets of Islam, reasons against Catholics that Jesus was a messenger and not God/Jesus as a single entity, well fair enough I can’t disagree there.
Points conveyed to his converts (victims?) Dr Rahman sensing his prey suitable weakened to his charm, power of suggestion and easy going views of Islam readies for his finishing moves with zeal. After reciting a few lines in Arabic they are converted, shown being embraced by the local Muslim posse and whisked off to the nearby mosque to be filmed praying and embracing their new faith, one which will take up far much more time and commitment than they initially thought. Whilst it all seems persuasive stuff in the videos just watch a handful to observe the pattern emerging and you’ll realise many of them aren’t that intelligent (sorry but its true, lonely, shy or vulnerable or maybe a little misguided). I dare say some who consented to being in the videos did the typical British thing, realised they didn’t want to be involved but decided to keep face about it (a terrible British trait) and then walk away and forget it ever happened.
Even more interesting I watched Dr Rahmans videos for training would be Dawah preachers (though the women seemed to have been curtained off as he asked are you ok through there sisters?!). His training videos have information on how to deal with other faiths and non-believers or banding us all together ‘infidels’ as they really like to call us!
It seems on reading the Koran (no I’ve not read it all but its version of heaven makes the Christian version look like derelict trailer park) you only have to turn every other page or so to realise its all about aggressive conversion, doing as your told and be very wary or warlike towards … you guessed it – infidels.
I’ll be blunt and say I don’t really care for Islam, I feel its controlling and culturally I can’t identify with it. Lets just imagine Muhammed existed and I met him via time travel, what would we have in common? Very little I suspect. It’s clear Islam is born of the desert, a way to weld warlike tribes together and a belief after such a hard life in arid lands and burdening heat that something better awaits after a short life, I can understand that, even though its really just wishful thinking. Islam seems to draw much from Christianity which obviously influenced it, pre-dated it and would have been known about by traders peddling their wares in caravans in that part of the world. When you put the what we know about Islam its not hard to see how it came about and how it is of that era of time. I’ve nothing personally against Muslims in fact I often read about the Islamic empire at its pinnacle when Muslim scholars had the edge over their Christian counterparts in many aspects of science and knowledge, like any component of history it very much plays its part and obviously like Christianity keeps on wanting to do so, overly in fact.
Anyway, I’ll link a video underneath, please watch it, or maybe a few and draw your own conclusions. In closing I’d just like to point out to Dr Rahman that in one of his videos he quotes about people converting to Islam, one of them being the famous English snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan and correct him to the fact being Ronnie expressed an interest in Buddhism and not Islam. ‘Here’ is a link to one of the many video conversions.

In Search Of King Arthur

I’ve been meaning to do this blog for some time, so before I get ready to embrace the New Years festivities I’ll share some thoughts and photos with you from earlier this year when I went in search of the legendary King Arthur on a very memorable road trip.
King Arthur, Robin Hood, Cú Chulainn, Merlin and many others I could mention are folk heroes of legend, they all interest me intensely and I suppose in my head I want them to be real. Books have been written about them all, some claiming they were real and although there is a possibility Arthur could have been a romanised Brit who did fight the Saxon invaders there’s also every chance his story is a combination of tales intertwined to make the legend we know today.
This summer I headed to Glastonbury in my own personal search for the man and myth. It was a lovely summers day on departure, a fairly lengthy early morning journey followed heading south and then west which passed without event. I arrived in Glastonbury feeling upbeat and eager to have a look around. Its a small bohemian town with an obvious tourist element, it’s very avant-garde in its atmosphere and people too. The pagan themed hotel I stayed in was warm, welcoming and opposite Glastonbury Abbey. The afternoon was spent exploring the town, alleyways, delving into quirky shops and acquainting myself with this fascinating little place. Glastonbury has a vibe to it that I can’t explain, you just feel like you are somewhere special.
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SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAIn and around Glastonbury
As the sun began to set slowly in the west I ascended Glastonbury Tor on the advice that early evening was usually quieter and the more interesting people would be up there. It didn’t take that long to get to the top really and the view was truly amazing. I found myself thinking ‘Was this once the mysterious isle of Avalon?’ as legend suggests. As I sat and gazed into the distance I became lost in the beauty and tranquillity of it all. People gathered to watch the sun go down and, some people that had only just met from different corners of the country sat and played instruments as a microlite plane passed over head. I spoke to a local man who said he came up here to see sunset most evenings and I imagined Arthur and his knights riding below, the red sun glinting of their armour. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
IMAG0278 IMAG0271Glastobury Tor and view of it from Chalice Well gardens
The next day I visited the abbey or what’s left of it. Arthur’s alleged grave is within but this is thought to be a publicity stunt my middle age monks eager to capitalise pilgrimages that were popular at the time. The sun was scorching and I sought respite in part of the old abbey, an under croft that is now exposed had the most beautiful noise coming from within. On investigation several people were singing religious medieval taizé songs, they were hypnotically beautiful and as I sat in a cool stone arch way seat I drifted off into a lovely place, my tiredness vanished, my mind hung onto every note of the music. As taizé is of a meditative nature after every piece their was utter silence. I’m not sure how long I was there but eventually a child innocently ran in shouting and I came out of my peaceful trance. I wandered back outside into the heat and noticed animal rescue people with a selection of birds, falcons and owls. You could make a donation and hold one, so I asked to hold a small white owl. Fitting the rough leather glove to my hand the handler then passed the owl over to me. It held my gaze and made the most enchanting sound, I was transfixed by its eyes and beauty and when I handed it back something broke within me. There I was in this historic place, Glastonbury Tor in the distance, the ruins of the abbey around me on a summers day in my own country of England. My throat contracted and my travelling companion read me so well as to give me some moments by myself, I tried to regain composure but a solitary tear cascaded its way down my cheek. I don’t know why I was suddenly swamped with emotion, I very rarely show emotion but it happened and it felt good, it was a sudden release that seem to unburden me. Maybe I was over come with the beauty of the day and my surroundings, being up close to nature with the owl definitely stirred something within.
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAGlastonbury Abbey grounds
That afternoon I visited the Chalice Well and drank spring water and looked around the lovely gardens, its here that Joseph of Arimathea is said to have rested and cast his staff into the ground. The next morning it has taken root and turned into a thorn bush and its said a spring came forth that gave eternal youth to all that drank from it. A robin flew so close to me in the gardens that I could almost touch it, friendly and seemingly tame it was at ease with my company. Later we drove over to Wells to see the cathedral which can only be described as majestic, Wells is so nice it reminded me of the fabled town of Tanelorn which the science-fantasy author Michael Moorcock often writes about. That evening as I stayed in the second hotel of the trip in the centre of Glastonbury called ‘The George and Pilgrim’. It’s a lovely historic building with suits of armour and lots of nooks to explore, its also a pub!
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAChalice Well, Wells Cathedral and a lovely street behind it.
The next day I headed westward, the roads were diverse, the scenery breathtaking in places, Tintagel was the next stop but on the way we stopped to take in the village of Dunster and explored the castle and also popped into the small port of Watchet. When on the road we passed through a small village called St Audries that had a church in an amazing setting, we just had to park up and take some photos of it.
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAChurch at St Audries, The Ancient Mariner statue at Watchet, Dunster & Dunster castle
By the time we arrived at Tintagel I was fading, road trips can take it out of you and evening had almost drawn in. There wasn’t time to explore but instead we settled on some food and drink in the aptly named King Arthur’s Arms pub before retiring for the night to arise early for the next day of adventures.
Morning soon came and we headed down to the coast and the legendary castle ruins of Tintagel. A Landrover vehicle takes you down the steep path and climbing out there it was, a true sight to behold, the ruins of Tintagel. I stopped dead in my tracks and was struck with awe and the rugged beauty, I was lost within my imagination and the sound of the sea, I wanted to cry out ‘Arthur!’ and wish he’d appear mounted atop the ruins on his war steed.
Tintagel is truly magical though isn’t for the faint hearted, it contains steep climbs but is worth the effort for the vista’s and views. Here I was in the once ancient realm of Kernow, known now as Cornwall, I sat near the ruins and looked out to sea – I didn’t want to leave.
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERATintagel
The second half of the day was spent at nearby Boscastle which is more than worthy of a few hours exploration and also visited the Witchcraft museum there before again heading west deeper into this delightful county.
The next couple of days aren’t really Arthur connected, we went to Fowey (pronounced as Foy) and relaxed, drank mead and took in the sights before heading along the southern coast of Cornwall and into Devon and our final destination of Totnes for a night before heading homeward.
IMAG0235Hotel at Bodinnick over looking Fowey
Totnes must be one of the most interesting small towns I’ve been to and has lots of history, I definitely want to return in the near future.
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAA street in Totnes, The historic Totnes Guildhall and the old Motte & Bailey castle.
So that’s the end of my trip. Did I find Arthur? In my mind and imagination I’d have to say yes but more importantly I think I found some of myself that was perhaps lost. To visit such breathtaking places of wonder and beauty steeped in culture and history was reward enough. The west country of England is magical, its people are warm and friendly, its scenery is forever etched on my mind. In the film Excalibur the secret of the holy grail is that Arthur and the land are one and for me on this trip the same was true, I was at one with my country.

St Kilda

Religion usually finds its way everywhere, no more so in past centuries when settlers, explorers and conquistadors discovered the New World. If you go back further than that you had missionaries sent from christian Rome to far flung corners of Europe to convert pagans. Even now though in these modern times there are some in the remote Amazon basin that remain blissfully unaware of religion, clinging to their tribal and spiritual beliefs.
I didn’t realise until recently that a last bastion of one such kind of people were a little closer to home and their history is fairly recent, though goes back a long way. The place in question is St. Kilda, situated on a remote island archipelago about 40 miles west, north-west of Scotland. The name of the island remains a point of conjecture and much about the island remains a mystery but people may have lived there for two millennia. No saint is actually called St. Kilda and the name of the islands is thought to be of Norse origin ‘Sunt Kelda’ meaning ‘sweet well water’, though there’s other theories about its name. St Kilda first appears on a Dutch map dated 1666.
The only way St. Kilda could be reached was via boat and then it was no easy journey because of the unpredictable sea surrounding it, the only settlement on the island was called Hirta.
For the natives of St. Kilda life was by no means easy, food came mainly from sheep, sea birds and sundry crops eked out on the barren landscape, fishing was frowned upon because of the inclement weather. Each morning the male residents would meet on Hirta’s only street and decide on the days activities/work.
In 1746 after the battle of Culloden it was thought Prince Charles Edward Stuart and some of his Jacobite followers had fled to St. Kilda so the English despatched a mission to the island to capture him. Using row boats to land ashore at Hirta the soldiers found a deserted village, as the St. Kildan’s fearing pirates has fled to caves to the west of the island. Eventually they were coaxed forth by the soldiers and to their amazement the St Kildan’s knew nothing of the prince and had never heard of the English king George II either. The only way the islanders communicated with the outside world was by lighting a bonfire on the islands highest peak or using messages in a bottle or attached to washed up life buoys. This of course was based on luck, many bottles did wash up on the coast of west Scotland but some washed up as far away as Norway. The island has quite an interesting history and yes sooner or later Christianity would take an interest in it.
The first chaplain on the island didn’t have much luck. The remote location and islanders continued isolation and reliance on the natural world meant they had more of a leaning towards Druidism. In 1822 the Rev. John Mac Donald noticed the island had five alters and a large circle of stone fixed perpendicularly in the ground. As the world became aware of St. Kilda ships began to visit and the locals would trade simple crafted wares with them. Contact with the outside world sadly introduced smallpox and cholera among other ailments to the small islands population which fluctuated but was never more than 180. It wasn’t just disease and contact with the outside world that diminished the islands population, the other main reason was religion.
Before John Mac Donald arrived in 1822 a missionary called Alexander Buchan had arrived in 1705, despite his long stay the idea of organised religion didn’t take hold with the islanders. When Mac Donald arrived who was also known as the ‘Apostle of the North’ he set about his work with religious zeal. He preached 11 sermons in 13 days. In fairness Mac Donald raised funds externally for the islanders but he was appalled by their lack of religious knowledge or interest in it. History records the islanders were sad to see him go. His successor Rev. Neil Mackenzie did much to improve living conditions on the island and introduced education and improved agriculture. Later after disruption in Scotland’s church the islanders opted for a free church instead of the church of Scotland.
The Rev. John Mackay who represented the new free churched arrived in 1865 and immediately placed a harsh religious regime on the islanders. MacKay would preach 3 sermons on Sunday lasting 2-3 hours each. One visitor writing later in 1875 noted that the Sabbath was a day of ‘intolerable gloom, At the clink of the bell the whole flock hurry to Church with sorrowful looks and eyes bent upon the ground. It is considered sinful to look to the right or to the left.’. Time spent in religious gatherings interfered seriously with the practical routines of the island. Old ladies and children who made noise in church were lectured at length and warned of dire punishments in the afterworld. During a period of food shortages on the island, a relief vessel arrived on a Saturday, but the minister said that the islanders had to spend the day preparing for church on the Sabbath, and it was Monday before supplies were landed. Children were forbidden to play games and required to carry a Bible wherever they went. Mackay remained minister on St Kilda for 24 years, and I’m guessing the islanders weren’t sad to see him go.
Over the years the population of St. Kilda dropped dramatically, contact with the outside world hadn’t helped, 36 islanders emigrated to Australia in 1851, many men folk left after world war 1. The island was shelled by a German U-boat in the war but only a small military wireless station was destroyed and one sheep, the Germans issued a warning before shelling and the residents fled to safety. Later when money was introduced to the island this also led to decline as the islanders became less reliant on crafts and skills that had kept them alive. Influenza and crop failures led to further decline and on August 29th, 1930 at the islanders request the last 36 inhabitants were evacuated to Morvern on the Scottish mainland. The island played no active part in world war 2 but there are several plain wrecks around the island.
Nowadays St. Kilda has a small military base occupied by personnel on a monthly rotation basis, its also a nature reserve and breeding ground for rare species of birds. In 1986 it became one of Scotland’s five world heritage sites.
It makes me wonder what would have happened culturally if St. Kilda had been ignored by the world at large for a while longer? Though they benefited slightly from religion they proved it wasn’t needed and in fact disrupted their unique lifestyle, like the tribes of the Amazon the St. Kildan’s were at one with their surroundings and were true survivors not dependant on gods but faith in themselves.
You can read more here and see some great images of the island: http://www.utopia-britannica.org.uk/pages/StKilda.htm and here: http://www.kilda.org.uk/

Apologies!

I haven’t been around for a few weeks due to well…. life stuff really. Hopefully I can catch up with other blogs and bring you up to speed with recent events. One of the reasons for my absence was a road trip I went on mainly in the South West of England to historic and spiritual places, so upcoming blogs will have photos and contain what I got up to at some remarkable places.
So, sincere apologies for not being around but hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly, and don’t worry I didn’t suddenly find religion on my travels either!

Man Made

I love to see a nice church. Though I’m not religious churches are part of our history and culture here in England. Many of course have historical stories behind them and are in lovely settings. The real reason I like to see them is because they are man made, using skills, knowledge and sciences. They may be buildings of faith but man takes the full credit for the construction of them. To me they are just a building of beauty, some these days are what’s called ‘listed buildings’ and cannot be demolished because of their age but thankfully are used for other purposes, one in nearby Nottingham is actually a pub now, many country ones have been converted to houses. Here’s a selection of some local ones I recently photographed.

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Top to Bottom: (1) St Mary Magdalene (Newark), (2-5) Southwell Minster (Southwell) can you see how big the vicarage is adjoining!?, (6) Rufford Abbey (Wellow).

Touching…. But!

I think the story/video currently being played by the news media and social networking sites about the woman finding her dog after the Oklahoma tornado is touching but….. 24 people are dead including 9 children. Why the excitement about a dog? Human deaths seem suddenly forgot as people gives thanks to god for saving a dog! Incidentally this is the same god that just let an entire suburb get laid to waste.

Tôi Kratistôi

The thing I notice when I debate with Evangelicals or Jehovah’s Witnesses is their lack of historical knowledge or rather their ignorance of it. Outside of the Bible nothing is really relevant, even when the facts presented are insurmountable. On the other hand of course if there is the vaguest of references to something historical within the Bible then it must be fact because…. you guessed it, the Bible said so!
Take for instance Alexander the Great, undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in antiquity who was widely wrote about and documented. There’s just no denying Alexander, in fact he founded some twenty cities that bore his name. I could of course go on extolling his virtues and story but I’d encourage you to go and read about him instead.
Alexander is alleged in some sources entered Jerusalem on his way down to conquer Egypt its said the locals opened the gates and presented him with the book of Daniel’s Prophecy which allegedly said a mighty Greek king would come and conquer the Persian empire.
There’s also again alleged mention of him in various other religious sources such as this one here quoting Zechariah and Josephus’s writings. Also of not are mention in the apocryphal book of Maccabees excluded from the Bible.
So lets examine some evidence and try and make some assumptions, bearing in mind this is still research in progress and I welcome input.
Firstly we have to bear in mind Alexander was on his way to conquer Egypt taking a coastal route, ports being of vital importance for his campaign. Tyre and Gaza fell to sieges of varying length before he entered Egypt in 332 BC and was proclaimed liberator and Pharaoh without any serious trouble. He stayed in Egypt a while before again crossing swords with his sworn foe Darius in modern day northern Iraq.
Jerusalem in the Persian Achaemenid (or second temple period) was merely a provincial town on no great importance, an estimated population of 1,500 some putting it as low as 500. So compared to some of the coastal cities Alexander was capturing Jerusalem was just a mere dot on the map. Whilst locals may have worshipped local gods I’m guessing there would be external influences too, from Egypt and Persia who had their own deities and controlled the area before Alexander. From a military aspect Jerusalem would logistically have no interest, god wise there was nothing there of note, especially compared to Egypt next door and the fact Alexander wanted to visit the oracle of the Siwa oasis.
Moving to religious evidence. Zechariah contains no names and is cryptic, Daniel is pure prophecy nonsense with no facts, I wouldn’t even call it ambiguous. Maccabees as mentioned is apocryphal and not in the Bible and Josephus the pro Roman historian mentions him allegedly. Lets forgive him a little and put this down to his writing style, even then its vague, after all this was hundreds of years after the alleged event, Alexander’s story was still popular but much would have been lost or embellished, we know Ptolomy I wrote about his adventures with Alexander and possibly there were other books in the great library at Alexandria but this was now destroyed possibly 48 BC according to some historians. Josephus would have been writing about Alexander some hundred or so years after this. I guess concluding we have to look at the fact Josephus was pro Roman having fully defected after his rebel days, Romans liked the myth of Alexander, several prominent Romans such as Pompey, Caesar and Augustus having visited his tomb in Alexandria. So in my view, it would make sense for Josephus to mention him and intertwine him with local folklore in order to increase its importance or was he even added to Josephus’s writings later? If we look at the period, though the Hellenistic period was long gone its history and tales were more recent and available, and very popular among the Romans.
If we look more into Daniel book 11 then nothing really is gained, vague references at best, kings of the north and south in conflict, visions and prophecy. Evangelical interpretations of events in Daniel 11 are bizarre to say the least. In any case the historical predications and historicity of Daniel are wrong.
What I find ironic about the Bible is that usually it seems very keen to name people through its pages yet when it could verify itself more by historical events it falls down badly. Christians will often argue that Josephus and Tacitus mention Jesus but references are vague. Josephus chronicles many uprisings in the area during the time before and after Jesus in detail yet not much is said of Jesus at all, if he has been so great then the pages he wrote would have been surely overflowing with his deeds? As for Tacitus, we have the briefest of mentions of Jesus and not by name, again this is much after and we have to take into account Tacitus wrote more about things such the invasion of Britain than a mere speck of information he offers about an alleged Christ. Other historians of the day give Jesus no mention.
Back to the main thread, did Alexander enter Jerusalem? Though I cannot write it off completely I would say there’s very little evidence for it, there’s plenty of evidence for Alexander being in other places but not there. Logistically it was of no importance, there was nothing of great value there and in the big picture of deities at the time it was of no interest. If he had have gone there and it was an interesting episode then I’m sure it would have been mentioned more especially how important he was. What we have is desperate references from Christian scholars trying to validate their faith. As the Bible was written over hundreds of years there would have been chances aplenty to mention Alexander, and not just him but other events, instead we get very little of historical veracity and when we do stumble across something vague we  get a solid Christian backing of a crumb of something that can be potentially used. I’ve combed my own books on Alexander, the local library and the internet yet there’s little tangible evidence at all Alexander entered Jerusalem.
You can argue all day though with hardcore Christians, Evangelicals and JW’s and they will have their own take on history, which is just the Bible or their version of it, however I’d like to point out that the Bible isn’t found in any History section in a library, ever wondered why?
Alexander was an historical behemoth, covered by Biographer Plutarch, tutored by Aristotle, an unparalleled personality and General and conqueror of much of the then known world, why doesn’t the Bible reference him clearly?
On his deathbed Alexander was asked whom his kingdom should pass? He replied rather laconically “Tôi kratistôi” which means “To the strongest” before passing away yet the successors who carved his empire up with war were never able to rival Alexander for he remains one of the strongest historical figures ever.

Religious Round Up News #1

Just found this really good YouTube video documenting religious related news stories in a bi-monthly format. It’s very well edited and may well save me a little typing in the long run! As they appear I think I shall post them on here.
For those hardcore and religious fundamental types who often bang the drum the atheists are the problems then I ask why does it always seem to be religious types making this kind of news?

Spiritual China

I keep reading articles about how the Chinese are embracing religion now the country is becoming more open and dare I say it… westernised. Being an anti-theist I read such things with concern but having been to China myself part of me isn’t worried either. Some years ago I spent time in Hong Kong, Macau and visited some of the more southern cities in the new territories around Hong Kong, I’ve also visited Thailand several times. Orientals are if nothing a pragmatic people.
It’s fair to say China has changed a great deal over the last decade, my friend Gary has been living there a good few years and often tells me of new changes and trends, a Chinese friend I have has also embraced Christianity. When you look at the big picture of course religion has been largely closed off especially in the past and the Mao and cultural revolution era (though it wasn’t very cultural at all!). Mao of course went one further than Karl Marx’s ‘Opium of the people’ comment and referred to religion as poison, so he had some redeeming things about him then!
Even in more recent times the Chinese government have been known to crack down on religion for instance the spiritual sect of Falun Gong saying they were opposed to communism and science. Now we are seeing a more tolerant China and some religions of course don’t need inviting before they shove their proverbial foot in the door, especially Christian Evangelists.
The Christians doing missionary work in China will be pretty much use the  same tactics as they do elsewhere. Tell the people they are sinners, they need to be born again to achieve salvation, submit and then follow a book that has no relevance to the Chinese people culturally and then of course lets see the colour of your money.
They will sell things like the ‘golden rule’ as a nugget of Christian wisdom to win hearts and minds, the irony being Confucius had thought of this a few hundred years before, so had Buddha, so had the Greeks and many other cultures around the world from antiquity. Christianity would have it as their own though because other faith’s simply don’t count because when it comes to other religions Christian fundamentalists and Evangelicals are somewhat atheist about other gods.
Hopefully Christianity is just another new thing to be experienced by the Chinese as western trends and influences become increasingly accessible. The Chinese aren’t stupid though, they’ll look at their history and see that they were far superior culturally and technologically around the time of the alleged Christ and they had Confucius’s wisdom way before. China doesn’t need Christian meddling but I suspect in the coming years it will get it regardless, so to end with and twist a little phrase of mine ‘I hope they wake up and smell the Chinese tea!’.

The End, My Only Friend

As the Doors song goes ‘The end, my only friend’ only today wasn’t the end when it came to the Mayan calendar and so we got a reprieve from any apocalypse. Not to worry as old JC is going to see to that in the Rapture….. when he gets around to it of course, he and his dad have been very idle for some time though.
We’ve had a lot of predictions for the end of the world and I suspect there’ll be more to come, all from religious sources of course, though scientists do say the Milky way and Andromeda galaxies will collide in 4 billion years, so we have a bit of breathing space yet. Incidentally the Andromeda galaxy contains around 1 trillion stars and the Milky way contains three hundred billion stars, god has been a busy dude it would seem, I wonder if he needed to rest on the seventh day after creating every star? I don’t want to do the maths but that’s a lot of days!
Anyway just as The Mayan culture was gaining ground in the 3rd century Christianity was beginning to raise its ugly head over the other side of the world, god being the fantastic fella he is had neglected to introduce himself to the Mayans though.
By 250 A.D the Roman empire was in something of a decline though they initially had the good sense to blame the Christians for it. A wave of executions took place, initiated by Emperor Decius, with the bishop in North Africa, Cyprian, describing the persecutions of Christians as God’s punishment for their not doing His will. “We,” he writes,” are receiving the thrashing we deserve.”
By 258 A.D more executions are taking place, the Roman economy is up the spout and the empire is falling apart, with emperors dropping like flies and many areas of the empire in anarchy the stage is set for those pesky Christians to impress and there’s no surprise they do really as people are getting sick of the killing. Evidently new gods are needed and this is a time of gods, the old Roman gods seem to have forsaken them so maybe new gods can sway things for the better. The Romans of course haven’t really got their heads totally into Christianity yet, the seeds are set however. Romans started to fabricate Christianity later with embellishments and forgeries. Christians will often argue Romans such as Tacitus mentioned him, he makes a brief reference to someone being a rebel of the time but he’s not called Jesus and no real detail is given. Tacitus does however write much more about everything else, such as the Roman invasion of Britain in great detail, you have to ask yourself if old JC had been performing miracles and causing a commotion he would have got more coverage.
By 312 A.D order is restored in the western empire as Constantine wins the power struggle for supremacy the only problem here was his mum, yep she was a Christian and as we know mums can be very influencing. The year after Christianity becomes legal (Edict of Milan) and things are looking up and by 324 A.D Constantine is the main man, the eastern empire conquered and it has more of a Christian flavour whilst the west hangs on to paganism though thats going to change and in a painful way!
In A.D 333 we’ve got state funded Christianity and churches aplenty its at this time Constantine turns his attention to the Jews (They always seem to get it!) and decrees Christians of Jewish heritage will either break all ties with Judaism or be executed. The killing in the name of god really gets into gear now, and you thought the old testament killed a few!
So onto the recent past Jews of course get their very own holocaust and many do personally see the end of the world from the late 1930s onwards when a certain dictator with a small moustache and a catholic background comes to power.
So to conclude, if galaxies colliding don’t end then world mankind probably will do through religion or stupidity. You can be certain though it won’t be gods ending it.

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