Please Note: this article is meant to be amusing. Read as such please. 45% of Americans—well, people in the United States of America, which is, as far as they seem to be concerned, all of America—are retards. Not only is this truth shocking, it is dangerous and threatens all of us.
That 45% of Americans are so gravely afflicted has already caused pause for many commentators, including other Americans. The scientist and media personality, Bill Nye, for example, lamented it publicly, and not for the first time, in a YouTube video posted yesterday.
If there is consolation, and there’s not much, it only comes from the fact that for the last twenty years that the Galup polling organisation has been researching this, the figure remains relatively unchanged. So how did Galup come to its findings?
I’m sometimes asked if I don’t feel that I am missing out, by not believing in ‘something greater’. It’s a valid question and actually one that I think all atheists should ask themselves. But the answer, at least for me, might also be of interest to others.
Yes I am part of something greater, in a very real and immediate sense. It’s not so much a question of believing but of accepting the evidence in front of me. I am part of the Earth. The Earth is not just a core of molten iron covered in a crust of rock and water, with an outer gaseous atmosphere, though it is these things. It is a living system, an entity. And I am—we are all—part of that entity.
Well, it’s the Fifth of November; Samhain (that’s pronounced sow-en) is very much upon us and winter, that bane of my life, is on the way. I’m already lighting the stove in the evening now, and of course fire is important in these Celtic lands. It’s the season of the Fire Festival, that ancient Pagan ritual. (Cheerfully adopted by the Christians, of course.)
Samhain was the Celtic version; it has equivalents all over the world. The Celtic year was divided in two ways, one solar and the other lunar. The Celts weren’t daft (well, not as daft as some I can think of) and they knew damn fine that lunar calendars are not consistent; a twelve-month lunar year and the solar one are different in length, since a lunar month is 29.5 days. This adds up to only 354 days in a 12-month year, which means that relying on it is hopeless as far as the seasons are concerned. And for an agrarian people like the Celts, the seasons were really important.
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.
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”
Flying out to the Phils a while ago I watched an excellent show presented by the late Professor Stephen Hawking about time travel. This has fascinated us for over a century, leading to all sorts of speculation about time machines. HG Wells’ eponymous book is perhaps the first and defining of the many books about this and, of course, the beloved Doctor Who is dependent on the notion.
Time and Space
Wells’ vision, however entertaining, overlooked one major problem with time travel: even if you could move to a different when, establishing where that would be is staggeringly complex. The Earth is not stationary, indeed nothing in the Universe is. You would need to calculate precisely where in space you wanted to be at the time you wanted to be there. Suppose you just want to go back a week. It’s not just a matter of going back a week where you are now, because last week, where you are now was 11.25 million miles away.
Cooking is now seen as the definitive characteristic of modern humans, from which all others followed. It seems to have directly led to the development of tools, especially blade design, but it had many other consequences.
Cooking, particularly of meats and fats but also starches, partially pre-digests the food, making more energy available to us and allowing us to use less to digest it. We put this extra energy into growing brains. Growing big brains burns many calories and just running them consumes a significant part of our daily food intake. We know that the physical structures which allow us to speak were evolving at the same time as our brains were growing larger. Speech allowed more complex and efficient communication and cooperation. This encouraged conceptual thinking and other intellectual skills, again leading to the development of bigger brains.
Modern humans first appeared in Africa around 150,000 – 180,000 years ago; one of a closely-related group of hominids that had populated the savannah over the preceding three million years. During that time, our ancestors learned how to talk, how to make fire and cook and how to cooperate in groups. We probably lived in a similar way to earlier hominids, but something extraordinary happened: we developed culture.
In an oral culture — one that is not written down — mythology evolves as it is passed from storyteller to storyteller. The Jesus myth was created in exactly this way, pasted together from earlier sources. This process is called ‘syncretisation.’
There is no fixed record of an oral tradition, by definition. In an oral culture or tradition, myths grow and develop to reflect the lived experiences and cultures of the people telling them. It was only when writing was invented that these traditions could be codified and by that time, they had been evolving for thousands of years. This means that there are many versions of the same myth, as different peoples carried it forward.
So we cannot say that, because detail differences exist between two similar myths, they are different or have different origins.