Category Archives: Religion

This Must Stop

camel-halal
A camel being killed by ‘halal’

I am proud to be a European. Our culture has many faults, yet at the same time it has given the world so much. Science and democracy, equality under law and social inclusion simply would not exist without it. And across culture, art, science, engineering and technology, our culture remains a brilliant star, without which light, we would still be in the Dark Ages. I am very proud and lucky to be a part of that.

Despite this, I believed, for many years, that other cultures were equal.

But I was wrong. Culture is not a level playing field. The very qualities that define Western culture represent a system of morality, which allow us to judge other cultures. And we definitely should judge them.

Continue reading This Must Stop

Hot Cross Buns–Cakes for the Goddess

 

hot cross buns are bull buns
Hot Cross Buns are eaten every Easter, Pic: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Used under a Creative Commons Licence

Hot cross buns. That’s what this article is about. So why do I have a picture of a Roman sculpture of a bull’s head here instead of a nice snap of some hot cross buns?

 

Well, hot cross buns actually originated in Assyria as a part of worship of the Moon Goddess Ishtar. At least that is the earliest record we have of them. The Egyptians continued the tradition of offering cakes to their Moon-Goddess Hathor. They decorated the cakes with bull’s horns, as the ox was the preferred sacrifice of the Goddess. The cakes, therefore, were symbolic of the sacrificed bull, whose flesh would be eaten by worshippers.

 Hathor has been identified with Ishtar and Astarte. Astarte is Ashtoreth, who was worshipped by King Solomon, as mentioned in the Old Testament (1 Kings 11, 2), and to whom he erected a temple or shrine in Jerusalem. Continue reading Hot Cross Buns–Cakes for the Goddess

Ley-lines: how an English Gent launched the New Age movement

Ley-libes photo
Watkins’ Ley-lines–a desire to see pattern. Pic: Rod Fleming

Alfred Watkins’ Ley-lines

Ley-lines were invented by an Englishman called Alfred Watkins, who had spent much time cycling around the  countryside near his home. In 1925, he wrote a book called “The Old Straight Track”, in which he described a revelation he’d had while looking at a map of Herefordshire four years earlier. He had suddenly seen a network of straight lines that connected points of human activity, such as

 “Mounds, Long-barrows, Cairns, Cursus, Dolmens, Standing stones, mark-stones, Stone circles, Henges, Water-markers (moats, ponds, springs, fords, wells), Castle, Beacon-hills, Churches, Cross-roads, Notches in hills,”

 

Continue reading Ley-lines: how an English Gent launched the New Age movement

God proposition: god true or god false?

God Creating Adam_Michelangelo
God Creating Adam, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo.

The god proposition is supported not by fact, but by faith.

At the end of the day, the final word that the religiously-disposed have is to say that “It is so because I believe it to be so,” before covering their ears. For them, this trumps everything.

 This is the hook that caught Descartes when he confronted the issue, and then backed off very quickly. “I think,” he said, “Therefore I am.” This is fine. He is self-aware therefore he is sure he exists. He cannot be entirely sure that he exists as he perceives himself or that anything that is around him is as he perceives it, but he does make a very convincing argument, based on the progression of rational logic, that it is so (and thus takes several hundred pages to confirm what any pragmatist already knows. But that’s an aside.) However, when confronted by the idea of God, God must exist, he says “Because he cannot imagine a world in which he does not.” Oops. Continue reading God proposition: god true or god false?

The Realpolitik of Islamism

 

Realpolitik
Realpolitik: the Battle of Vienna

It is now over twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall; for many young people, the Cold War, of which it was the most compelling symbol, is no more than a history lesson. In my desk here I have a small piece of concrete, with paint on, which was recovered from that wall and sold as a tourist trinket. It is perhaps the most telling one I have.

Our children do not, as those of my generation did, live in daily fear of being blown to pieces by atomic bombs or dying an agonising death from radiation sickness. They do not walk into their schools to find posters saying “Better Dead Than Red” on the walls, nor do they crowd around flickering television sets alongside their anguished parents, watching as Kennedy drew his line in the ocean, and curled his finger around the trigger of nuclear Armageddon. And for this we should all be very, very thankful indeed. No child should have to live with nightmares like those. Continue reading The Realpolitik of Islamism