Monthly Archives: July 2015

Medieval Christianity

About 1400 years after the death of Jesus, religious leaders in Europe were interpreting the words of the Gospels in queer ways. Recall the scene of the woman caught in adultery. What did the writers say about the reaction of Jesus? Of course. 

Somehow during those 14 centuries those words were corrupted. Although the authors of the Gospels rarely record any sexual sins, the religious leaders of Medieval Europe seemed to believe that Jesus focused on those issues. 

A recent archaeological dig uncovered a rare burial in which the deceased was buried upside down. She was a nun and the cemetery was on the convent grounds. Why? Apparently she was punished in death because she gave birth to a child. The male (possibly a priest) is, naturally, unknown. The photo below is of the burial.

  
Note the arrow. It points to an infant burial below the missing legs of the woman.  The nunnery is Littlemore Priory, a nunnery founded in 1110 and dissolved in 1525 in the Oxford area. 

For more information on this dig go here.

Eclipsing God with Drugs

A new study finds that two common drugs—an antidepressant and a treatment for Parkinson’s disease—can influence moral decisions, a discovery that could help unravel specific mechanisms behind aggression and eventually help researchers design treatments for antisocial behavior.

Previous research has linked two neurotransmitters, the brain’s signaling molecules, to our willingness to inflict harm. Serotonin appears to help keep us civil; it’s reduced in the brains of violent offenders, for example. Dopamine, meanwhile, has been shown to prompt aggression in animals, and it’s elevated in a certain part of the brain in people with psychopathic behavior.
What if people with these anti-social disorders were given the serotonin-enhancing antidepressant drug citalopram on a regular basis. Would their behaviors swing back to the normal range?

Further, what if science could develop a test for children early on that could measure the serotonin/dopamine ratio of their blood? If those children with a ‘bad’ ratio could start a regiment of citalopram to ameliorate their anti-social behaviors, then their actions later in life would be ‘normal’ and society would reap the benefits along with the individual and his family. 

As a result, the individual would accrue fewer black marks on his Get to Heaven scorecard and God as well as judgmental folks would be much happier.

I wonder, though, if the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behavior is merely a ratio of two neurotransmitters, why are some people programmed at birth to be ‘bad’? Seems unfair. 

Propagandized Man Targets President

Washington (CNN) A criminal complaint and arrest warrant were issued Thursday against a 55-year-old Tomah, Wisconsin man accused of threatening to kill President Barack Obama. Brian D. Dutcher, 55, allegedly told a security guard at a La Crosse library, “the usurper is here and if I get a chance I’ll take him out and I’ll take the shot,” referring to Obama, who was in Wisconsin promoting his proposal for overtime pay reform.

The warrant also says Dutcher posted on Facebook on June 30 “that’s it! Thursday I will be in La Crosse. Hopefully I will get a clear shot at the pretend president. Killing him is our CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY!”

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Where did this man get the ideas that, first, President Obama is a pretend president? Second, where did the ‘constitutional duty’ to kill the President come from?

Where? Right-wing media! And this sad sucker took it to heart and, as a result, will spend quite a number of years in Federal prison because he was a propaganda sponge.

Freedom of speech?

Julius Streicher- look him up!

Why cannot God speak in the language of poetry, metaphor, and myth?

The title above is a question or rather an affirmation from Marcus Borg, American New Testament scholar, theologian and author. He asked this question in a challenge to conservative, literalist Christians who, as we know, know no linguistic subtlety. A word, phrase or paragraph mean exactly what the English says. I’m betting that many had trouble in high school English classes on the topic of poetry and creative writing.

Borg asks, what would it mean to take a phrase like “the right hand of God” literally? Does God have hands? And a right side and a left side? Literal interpretation of the Bible as a whole is literally impossible. As I am a leftie, such stuff bothers me perhaps more than my right handed friends.

The Garden of Eden story has long puzzled me: it seems so adolescent. A couple gets punished for trying to learn stuff! Not just punished but thrown to the wolves! WTF? That obedience lesson was terribly harsh and quite inappropriate.

Yet, not to worry because it was all myth. Not even original myth, either. It was lifted from the Babylonian creation story six centuries earlier. As I wrote in an earlier post, anthropologists suspect that this story is the effort of Iron Age people to explain the change from the hunter-gatherer, subsistence living to an agrarian economy. God has little to do with the change, but the ancients needed to mark this economic shift with a Deity.

How much more intricate and wonderous is the mythology than the literal words.

Then there is Noah…