1. Sili says

    I seem to recall from Hector Avalos talk to the Minnesota Atheists that ressurection stories were all the rage back then – and before. Mithras, Osiris, Prometheus(?) …

    Anyhooo — I have tried Googling this time, and my spelling must suck, because I can’t find any good, obvious discussions of this coïncidence:

    Jephtah and his daughter: Jephtah promises to sacrifise the the first living thing that meets him upon returning home (I don’t recall why …). That turns out to be his daughter.

    Idomeneus on his son: Idomeneus promises to sacrifise to Poseidon the first living thing meeting him upon his return to Kreta in return for safe passage through a storm when he returns from Troy. He does this knowing that he is aways greeted by his old, faithful dog (nevermind the fact that the War lasted ten years …). To his great dismay he is greeted by his son upon arrival. He still goes through with the sacrifice and the gods are appalled and sent a plague upon Kreta as a punishment and the Kretans exile Idomeneus.

    Are these stories really not related? Is the Illiad version older? Human sacrifice was not uncommon at times and Baal (Yahweh’s main rival) was certainly associated with them. It makes sense then that there is displeasure with Jephtah for sacrifising his daughter.

    Speaking of human sacrifice: Isn’t the story of Abraham and Isak very reminiscient of Agamemnon and Iphigeneia?

    Does anyone know how these myths are interconnected?

  2. says

    “The Character Of Christ
    by Bertrand Russell
    from “Why I Am Not A Christian”

    I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said: “Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-Tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present Prime Minister, for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.

    Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and they none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, “Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.” This is a very good principle. Your chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the liberals and conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.

    Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practiced. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, I am not by way of doing so, and it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

    Defects In Christ’s Teaching

    Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.” Then He says: “There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom”; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of his earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, “Take no thought for the morrow,” and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians really did believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In this respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he certainly was not superlatively wise.

  3. says

    A new Pew Forum survey surprisingly found that 1 in 10 American atheists pray at least once a week. Here are 10 possible explanations. Are there others?

    1. Notice that lately even Red Sox fans get their prayers answered.

    2. Jamie Lynn Spears’ immaculate conception.

    3. 7+ years of the Bush Administration.

    4. They are homeowners.

    5. Notice that lately even Democrats get their prayers answered.

    6. Flooding of biblical proportions in land-locked Iowa.

    7. Worry about impact of global warming on the afterlife.

    8. Putting in a good word for George Carlin.

    9. At least 10% misread the survey and ID’d themselves as ‘a theist’.

    10. Better safe than sorry.

  4. Dan says

    I’m not sure if you are aware of this story from here in the UK, but this is pretty hilarious.

    Sadly it hasn’t been reported much but it was pretty big news at the time of the protests. In summary: Christian Voice, the most well-known fundy Christian group in the UK, tried to stop the broadcast and touring of an opera, Jerry Springer the Opera, and tried to prosecute those behind it for blasphemy. They failed, in the words of the wonderful Stewart Lee (the co-writer of the show), on the grounds that it wasn’t the 17th century, thus incurring costs to the BBC, the taxpayer and the backers of the opera of tens of thousands of pounds. Having been told that he has to pay these costs, Stephen Green, the leader of CV, has incredibly called for them to be waived “in the interests of goodwill and justice”, hilariously suggesting that having cost one person £500,000 due to the intimidation by far-right Christians of UK theatres, he can easily afford £35,000 on top of this.

    (Incidentally, you might like to search out more material on Stewart Lee – he’s a truly brilliant comedian. I’ve seen Marcus Brigstocke mentioned more than once on this blog. Lee is far, far better.)

    As a further aside, you may be amused to see a bird taking a shit on Stephen Green’s head.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    Obama sez:

    But Obama’s main message was the government’s duty to address what he said are “moral problems” – such as war, poverty, joblessness, homelessness, violent streets, and crumbling schools – and to employ religious institutions to do it.

    I guessed I missed that part when I read the constitution. Can someone please remind which article or amendment covers this government duty?

  6. Julian says

    Sili: How are they interconnected? I can’t say 100% positive for sure, but it’s pretty clear that many of the Hebrew stories were inspired by earlier Greek ones (which, in turn, were newer versions of Mesopotamian and old Indo-European myths, as can be seen by their similarities with later Hindu stories). Everything from the Flood to Jesus has its corollary in Greek myths. The biggest difference between the two mythic cycles is that in the current Yawetan(new term maybe?) creation story, god makes man and woman from dirt, which calls back directly to the old Sumerian/Babylonian stories, whereas the Greek cycle possesses the old Indo-European creation story of father-son rivalry. This makes sense when one considers that the Semitic peoples were the “native” population of the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean, the early Mesopotamians were Semitic like the Hebrews, and the Greeks were Indo-European migrants from where ever it is the I-E’s came from in Central Asia.

    So, one assumes the Greeks picked up some stories during their migration/conquest, and the Hebrews picked up some on their migration/expulsion south into Egypt with the Hyksos. It’d be nice if the Hyksos had left written records, might even enlighten this area of cultural development a bit, unfortunately they didn’t, and even the Hebrews wouldn’t start leaving written records until centuries after the Egyptians granted them their stretch of badlands along the Lebanese coast, so the precise relationship between the Greek and Hebrew mythic cycles will never be definitively established.

  7. Julian says

    Just to clarify, it is true that in the Greek cycle Epimetheus creates the first men from mud, as in the older Semitic stories, but there’s a whole series of convoluted stories leading up to and proceeding from this event involving the father-son conflict between the Gods and the Titans that is significantly different from the old Mesopotamian stories. The Greek stories do carry a significant mark from these older civilizations, but they draw them out over a longer period of time, change the roles of some of the major players (Tiamat the ocean void into Gaia the earth mother most importantly), and inject some of their own stories into the middle of them. The subject of mythology is really very interesting, I’d recommend tracking down the myths themselves and reading them; not only will it be enjoyable but it will also help you to develop a better understanding of how all these ancient peoples interacted than reading commentary on the myths ever would.

  8. scooter says


    Stone tablet may indicate that even the resurrection story was plagiarized by Christians


    a video that goes into this and suggests that every story in both testaments (the supernatural ones) has been told at least fifty times prior.

    If even a quarter of the information is correct, it’s still scandalous.

    As usual, the NYT is reporting this as if it’s ‘news’. Religious plageurism is the rule, not an exception.

  9. mandrake says

    Just trying to start a meme that Barack Obama use “Blazing Saddles” as a campaign song.

  10. says

    “I guessed I missed that part when I read the constitution. Can someone please remind which article or amendment covers this government duty?”

    Since when did feeding the hungry and clothing the poor become unconstitutional or un-american?

    I’m an atheist and I have no problem with giving religious organizations subsidies to run food pantries or soup kitchens.

  11. Paul W. says


    Thanks for the links about Stewart Lee. I’ve been trying to remember his name for over a decade, after seeing him at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Now I can find him on YouTube.

    (I guess if I’d lived in Britain, I’d have known who he was all along. I didn’t realize he was the same guy involved in the Jerry Springer the Opera thing, with the blasphemy charges, etc.)

    I especially liked his routine about the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful, and here it is:

    Here is the first part (of 6) of his show about blasphemy and religious education.

    (The other 5 parts are in the “related” sidebar.)


  12. 386sx says

    Everybody check the drudgereport. Sacha Baron Cohen is stirring up trouble again. Big time. Oh boy.

  13. Paul W. says

    386sx, could you give a link. I just went to drudgereport and didn’t see what you were talking about.