Friday, May 16, 2008

Atheist joins 'Jesus Camp'...hilarity follows!

An Atheist Goes Undercover to Join the Flock of Mad Pastor John Hagee

John Taibbi's new book "The Great Derangement" details his undercover infiltration into the world of Dominionist and John McCain supporter Pastor Hagee. Taibbi participates in a form of group therapy, where each participant must confess some past hurt or trauma. The tale he spins is bought hook-line-and-sinker:

"...My name is Matt. My father was an alcoholic circus clown who used to beat me with his oversize shoes." I closed my own eyes and kept going, immediately realizing what a mistake I'd made. There was no way this story was going to fly. But there was no turning back. "He'd be sitting there in his costume, sucking down a beer and watching television," I heard myself saying. "And then sometimes, even if I just walked in front of the TV, he'd pull off one of those big shoes and just, you know -- whap!..."

Pretty funny, you might say. But it gets better! During later session, he embellishes the story:

"...I laugh about it now, but once he chased me, drunk, in his Fudgie the Whale costume. He chased me into the bathroom, laid me across the toilet seat and hit me with his fins, which underneath were still a man's hands..."

(image: TheGothamist)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Soft vs Hard

Isims and Schisms

Livia over at MagicHills has some interesting thoughts on "soft" vs "hard" polytheism:

...But I see all of that "all are one" stuff that I was bombarded with in my early studies as trite oversimplification that limited my perception and worship of the gods...Now that I've got a few years of study and practice under my belt I see that my past soft polytheism was really a hangover from my knowledge and experience of monotheism. I think soft polytheism made the transition from Christianity to neopaganism easier: one god, to one goddess, to a goddess and a god and now to many distinct deities...I see all gods as unique and distinct beings who are each worthy of study, reflection and worship. Hard polytheism isn't easy for me like soft polytheism was; I have to work harder, study more and think more. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I agree with Livia that it's good to focus on individual gods and goddesses, and I like her distinction between the two types of polytheism. But those darn gods and goddesses have a hand in this as well. The characteristics of deities can mix and blend through time, and one can even absorb another. In addition, cultures can sometimes try to make sense of a complicated theology by simplifying it, such as the Greeks did when they tried to order and explain Egyptian mythology, in terms of the Greek pantheon and philosophy.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Egyptologist Cathleen Keller dies at age 62

Cathleen Keller was the co-creatrix of one of the best museum exhibits I have ever seen, "Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh.":

...Keller was one of three editors of "Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh." Published in 2005 in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the book offers an in-depth treatment of the controversial Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh who sometimes was depicted as male...When the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park reopened in October 2005, it featured a crowd-pleasing exhibit on Hatshepsut. Keller developed the concept for "Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh" and was its co-curator. The exhibit also was featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas...

The book is still available (for a very reasonable price)from the Met.

Cathleen, may you become a star on the sky-dress of the Goddess Mut, where Hatshepsut awaits you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Our Gods take plastic

Appeasing the Gods, With Insurance

This NY Times article explores how even the most ratinal among us emply 'magical thinking' to insure a good outcome, much like the Ancient Greeks tried to appease their gods through sacrafice:

...We buy insurance not just for peace of mind or to protect ourselves financially, but because we share the ancient Greeks’ instinct for appeasing the gods...“It is an irony of the post-Enlightenment world...that so many people who don’t believe in fate refuse to tempt it...”

I've commented before how even scientists believe in luck and rely on 'gut feelings'. But I never envisioned insurance policies as protective talismans, but it seems some people do:

...Even people who consciously reject superstitions seem to have these gut feelings, says Orit Tykocinski, a professor of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel. She found that rationalists were just as likely as superstitious people to believe that insurance would ward off accidents...So when we think about passing up flight insurance, we conjure up disaster just as easily as ancient Greeks imagined a thunderbolt from Olympus...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Neanderthals liked their veggies

Neandertals Ate Their Veggies, Tooth Study Shows

Although not a complete surprise, it's good to have evidence that Neanderthals were not obligate meat eaters:

...Tiny bits of plant material found in the teeth of a Neandertal skeleton unearthed in Iraq provide the first direct evidence that the early human relatives ate vegetation, researchers say...