Archive for the ‘History’ tag
Some folks within the nonbelieving community have suggested that the History Channel’s series, “The Bible,” may produce an adverse effect than what its creators may have anticipated, as “casual” believers or fence-sitters see depictions of the mass murders and other atrocities that Yahweh in the Old Testament either caused directly or ordered through his followers. It just occurred to me that today we call the deaths of thousands of people, like on Sept. 11, 2001, a tragedy. Yet, God orders the mass slaughter of nonbelievers in the OT, and no one raises an eyebrow. Some of the people murdered on Sept. 11 were believers; some were not. Their deaths were, by all accounts that I have heard the last 10 years, tragic. Yet, a deity can order the slaughter of thousands of nonbelievers and somehow that’s OK. Today, we would call that terrorism. I’m amazed at religion’s power to desensitize so-called “morally upright believers” to violence, rape, incest and genocide.
But in any case, a question over at Bunch has been raised whether “The Bible” will turn off believers because of the many deaths the series depicts that are directly attributable to Yahweh. Matt O. wrote:
I suspect, and I might be wrong, that History’s The Bible mini-series might be one of the best things for atheism to happen in a long time. As the Bible is actively read by some 16% of Christians this is giving millions an opportunity to see parts of the cannon that are morally objectionable attributed to their god.
And he then listed numerous scenes in “The Bible” in which Yahweh wipes out mass amounts of people from Earth in the OT, to which I replied:
It may turn off some “casual” believers, but it won’t make much difference to the “church every Sunday” crowd. They know full well what Yahweh did and commanded that his followers do in the OT, and they believe anyway because any amount of wickedness or depravity can be justified in their eyes since we supposedly live in a fallen world and God’s law is supreme no matter how morally bankrupt it appears to us.
Beck goes and makes a comparison between what appears to me to be an ill-cast Satan character in the History Channel series, “The Bible” and Barack Obama. Here’s a side-by-side:
From Beck’s perspective, this was just another opportunity — he doesn’t really pass up any — to take a jab at Obama and vilify the president by any means necessary. In fact, this is a good summation of the general program of conservative right wing radio in general.
As for the Satan character, I always pictured Satan, were he to take human form, as a young and attractive alpha male kind of figure. Does the History Channel really want to go on record as casting the most evil being of all time as an old black man? The History Channel? Oh well. Looks like that die has been cast.
OK, so the office read-off of 2012 is complete, and Blake is the clear winner this year in terms of the number of books and page count. Here is his book tower with 30 titles (I think three are missing):
A side-by-side tower (a la this post) was not possible this year because I took a job in a different state, and we borrowed a few books here and there, so this list will have to suffice:
- “Grant” by Jean Edward Smith – 628, finished late January (-200 pages in 2011) = 428
- “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara, finished Feb. 12 – 374
- “General Lee’s Army: From Victory To Collapse” by Joseph Glatthaar – 475
- “This Mighty Scourge” by James McPherson – 272
- “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward – 491 (finished April 2)
- “The Greatest Show On Earth” by Richard Dawkins (started late March, finished May 13) – 437
- “Madison and Jefferson” by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg (started May 16) – 644. Finished July 21.
- “From the Temple to the Castle” by Lee Morrissey (started May 13) – 144 (finished July 22)
- “Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism” by Bruce Scheulman (started mid-July, finished Aug. 19) – 245 = 3510
- “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe (started Aug. 19, finished Oct. 10) – 743 = 4253
- “Grant and Sherman” by Charles Flood (started Oct. 10, finished Nov. 7) – 402 = 4655
- “The American Civil War” by John Keegan (started Aug. 19, finished Dec. 31) – 5020.
Thus, my final count was about 5,000 pages, and he came in at more than 9,000 pages.
I think we may have come to an agreement that the five best history books we have read in the last three years are as follows:
- “Grant” by Jean Edward Smith
- “Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society“ by John A., III Andrew
- “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788″ by Pauline Meier by Pauline Maier
- “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson
- “Grant and Sherman” by Charles Bracelen Flood
Explore any of these, and you can’t go wrong.
While I realize a link between Jesus and Horus has been hotly debated for years and is still a point of contention, the list of similarities among myths in ancient Egypt, Greece and elsewhere to Christianity are almost too numerous to list. According to writer Joseph Campbell, the pattern, known as a monomyth, goes something like this:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
And so goes the Jesus tale and many, many others throughout antiquity.
For further reading, see the Wikipedia entry on Jesus and comparable mythology.
I’m particularly interested in the one on Cleopatra. It is shameful that here in the United States, we have struggled collectively through the 20th century with the issue of women’s rights when in the example of Cleopatra, we have a woman of immense power and charm more than 2,000 years ago.
Now if only I could clean up the rambling. I think I botched “recite” and invented a word called “roboticism.” Ahh, the price of a writer by trade going unscripted on camera …
The man-made, extensively debated, committee assembled, legislatively enacted Bill of Rights contains more useful morality in its first adopted amendment than we find in all 10 commandments combined. — Steve Shives
So, apparently, even tenured Harvard instructors cannot escape the allure of partisanism, as “historian” Niall Ferguson has mightily thrown his weight against the Obama camp and in favor of the GOP ticket. So much for college professors promoting exercises in free thought and inquiry rather than sheepish allegiances to whatever ideology is the flavor of the day.
But that’s actually not the bad news. The bad news is that Ferguson has made his case against Obama with a healthy disdain for accuracy, and in his numerous distortions of facts, he should probably not only ask for forgiveness from his students but from his superiors. Numerous writers from The Atlantic (here, here and here) have lampooned Ferguson’s recent cover story, no less, in Newsweek. Yes, I said Newsweek and I said cover story. Apparently, in addition to an absence of competent editors and a competent publisher, Newsweek doesn’t have fact-checkers either. And this is a leading news magazine. How and why does Newsweek not have fact-checkers? I don’t know. Tenure at Harvard does not and should not make a person immune to editing and fact checking. Tenure at Harvard means just that; whatever hot garbage you spew in other venues should come under the same scrutiny as anyone else, mighty degree or not.
As if I needed more books that I may never get around to reading:
The literature anthology at the top and “Perspective on Culture” were in the free bin. The others were no more than $4 apiece. Thank you, McKay Used Books, CDs, Movies, & More, and of course, my obscure reading tastes.
Greta Christina has a post up about her experiences from a recent Secular Student Alliance conference. During a portion of the event, participants sat at different tables, at which they discussed various topics as they related to the atheist/freethinker community.
The topic at her table was “Diversity — Minorities,” and Christina related some of the take-away points from the brainstorming session about how the community could be more welcoming to black people and other non-white ethnicities (As it happens, she used the term “people of color” throughout the post, with which I am not terribly comfortable because although it’s apparently no longer offensive to black people and others, it does seem to be, as NAACP spokeswoman Carla Sims has said, to be “outdated and antiquated.”).
Here is a truncated list of what members of the atheist/freethinker community could do to be more inclusive at conferences and meetings of like minds:
- Invite more people of color as speakers, at conferences and for individual speaking events.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about race.
- Do joint events with groups/ organizations of people of color.
- Support appropriate events hosted by groups of people of color, such as service projects.
- Don’t glom onto people of color when they show up at your group or event. (People of color sometimes say that, when they show up at all- or mostly-white atheist groups or events, they’re swarmed by overly friendly people who are SO DELIGHTED that a non-white person has shown up, in a way that’s overwhelming, and that’s clearly directed at their race. Don’t do this.)
- Don’t expect individual people of color to speak for their entire race.
- Listen to people of color — actively. …
- Don’t assume people of color are religious.
- Co-protesting – show up at protests about racism, and about issues that are strongly affected by race, such as economic justice or the drug war.
She then included this addendum outlining a different comment policy for that particular post to which readers should adhere (italics mine):
This conversation is for people who already agree that increasing racial diversity is important to the atheist community and the atheist movement, and who think positive action should be taken to improve the situation, and who want to discuss how to go about that. If you want to debate this core proposition — if, for instance, you think the atheist movement should be entirely race-blind, and that paying any attention at all to race and racism is itself racist — this comment thread is not the place.
I don’t know that I agree with that entire statement, thus the reason I am posting on my own site and not commenting on her blog.
While I think it is highly commendable and admirable to be proactive in welcoming blacks, Hispanics, etc., into the community of nonbelievers, as well as discussing topics of race in an open and respectful manner — if that’s a goal the community wants to pursue — I don’t necessarily think that racism can die — as well it should — until we move past race itself, just like BET or Black History Month, both of which, to me, insult black people by giving them their own special television station and their own special month of the year, as if black history and culture can’t be celebrated and remembered all year and on all television stations. It can, and it should be.
So, while some of the goals in racial inclusiveness are certainly admirable, I think we are approaching a time where the notion of “race” needs to go the way of the dodo and be replaced, simply, with “culture.” For, if we want to learn about how different groups of people live their lives and interact with the rest of the world, we can do that through learning about their culture and about what makes their particular culture unique, and by that token, worthy to be celebrated in its own right. I think when we frame the discussion, admirable as it might be, in racial terms, we may be in danger of taking one step forward and two tentative steps back.