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.
Being a Zionist is usually thought to be restricted to the Jews themselves; but not in my case. So how I came to be a Zionist might be worth telling.
Once, when I was much younger, I took a train journey from my then home in Arbroath in Scotland, to Falmouth in Cornwall. The purpose was to join the crew of a new, semi-submersible oil-rig which had just crossed the Atlantic from Texas. It’s a long way from Arbroath to Falmouth.
In those days, trains had compartments and were comfortable. There was some privacy and one might even sleep. For part of the interminable journey, I shared a compartment with a young woman, blonde and attractive. We chatted about many things but mainly, as travellers do, about where we were going. My tale was easy to tell and seemed to me mundane, but hers was interesting.
I’ve just refreshed my page that contains free downloads of all the major texts of Islam. For reasons that remain unclear, this page suffers frequent attacks. It’s almost as if Muslims don’t want people to read their texts…silly idea, no?
Actually, no. Islam does not want you to read the texts. Muslims go to great lengths to prevent you and condemn any version of the texts not written in Arabic. This, they say, is because ‘Allah’ speaks Arabic and so any translation of his words is blasphemous. However, a suspicious person, not me, of course, might argue that it sounds very much as if they don’t want we kuffars to read the texts at all. I wonder why that might be, if it were the case?
The name of King Jan III Sobieski of Poland is one that every European should know and speak with pride.
In September 1683, the city of Vienna was near to collapse. For months, it had been under siege by the Islamic hordes of the Islamic Ottoman army. Every day now, starvation and surrender grew closer. The city had long since run out of horses and pets to eat and even rats were few and far between now.
Worse, the Viennese knew that other Europeans had been the instruments of their doom. Swiss Calvinists had begged the Turks to attack, so that they could sweep away Catholicism. It beggars belief that Christians could call down the hounds of Islamic hell on their fellow Europeans, but that they had, hoping, no doubt, to negotiate some deal, a reward for their treachery, that might spare them the scimitar or a lifetime of submission to the foul creed of Islam.
The city’s defenders, listening in its basements, could hear the scrape-scrap of pick and shovel as the enemy’s sappers undermined them. Soon they would plant another huge mine and blow up a section of the city’s curtain wall, breaching it and allowing the enemy in. Nobody in Vienna was under any illusion as to what would happen then: the men would be tortured and killed or enslaved, the women would be raped and killed or enslaved and the children slaughtered. The behaviour of triumphant Islamic armies was well known.
Today, the Twelfth of September, was the last. The government of the city knew it. The people knew it and worse, the enemy knew it. They were ready: their final attack was to come on the twelfth of the month. There was nothing left. Vienna would fall. Without a miracle, Vienna must fall, and with it, Europe.
When Islam, in the form of the Ottoman Empire, launched the attack on Europe that ended before Vienna, it was engaged in Jihad — fighting in the name of Allah, to make the world Islamic. The Caliph, his general and all the men who fought, were carrying out their religious duty — to conquer the world for Islam. This is Offensive Jihad, the most aggressive form. We see it today in Daesh and similar bandit groups today, but under the Ottomans, it motivated the biggest killing machine in the world.
There are other forms of jihad, and they may, in the right circumstances, be almost as effective at destroying other cultures and their values. They corrode them just by contact.
The Philippines is steeped in folklore and mythology. The very air seems supernatural at times and even today, Filipinos firmly believe in the supernatural creatures which also populate their country. Best known of these are Aswangs and Engkantos.
Many of these beliefs certainly date from the pre-colonial period and before the establishment of Catholicism as the dominant religion. Prior to this, the Philippines was not a unitary polity, but was made up of many small kingdoms and tribal areas. These all seem to have believed in a somewhat similar form of Animism but were all brought together under one faith and one colonial rule, by the Spanish.
Gender is innate. It is not a social construct This article discusses how it evolved.
Early human society was fluid, with survival always the goal. It was, in general, divided by sex. Women and children formed a home group, which focussed on protection of the children and nursing mothers, foraging, perhaps trapping small game and birds, and the preparation and cooking of food. This group would have been a sisterhood of equals, but led, in all probability, by the elder women, the grandmothers, who were also the teachers, the midwives and shamans.
The other group was of men and older boys, based on the hunt. This group had to be able to respond quickly to the changing circumstances of the hunt, which could, especially when hunting large game, be lethal. A command system developed, probably around the best and most experienced hunters. We call this the ‘away’ group.
I’m going to become a Hedonist. No really, I am. Seriously. I am going to join the Church of Hedonism. Yup. Before this happens to me.
Of course, no such church actually exists, and most religions seem to be mainly concerned with stopping people having fun. But anyway. If there isn’t one, I think it’s time we started one.
I am rapidly approaching that watershed in life, the dawn of my seventh decade. I don’t have that much time to waste any more. I quick demographic of my parents’ families suggests that if I remain a non-smoker, keep the drink to a moderate level and eat reasonably healthy food, I have maybe another fifteen years of active life, and another five or so of winding down, before parting the mortal coil and becoming one with the Earth again.
That is not an awful lot of time. And I am beginning to resent every moment of it that is not spent, basically, having fun.
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.
The New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens and many others, purported to offer a sane, secular attempt to roll back religiosity for the betterment of society. Instead, their efforts have begat the mother of all calamities.
How did this come to pass?
Scientific atheism, as promoted by the New Atheists, lacks any unifying central structure or code. Essentially it is based on a negative — not believing in God. So it can’t have a defining structure. Richard Dawkins, one of the most prominent New Atheists, tried to answer this with his ‘brights’ — which was an embarrassment. (Since at least 2014, Dawkins has self-identified as a ‘secular Christian’ anyway.)
After the Enlightenment and especially the French Revolution, European secularism based itself around Reason as the core methodology that would replace, in the minds of those who were atheist, religious belief. This reflected a rejection of hierarchical religious authority, which had begun in the Reformation. The works of philosophers like Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant and Paine promoted the idea of the free-thinking individual whose intellectual scalpel was Reason.