Happy Saturnalia 2015!



Wishing you and yours a happy winter solstice season. Here’s to keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia.


NonStampCollector Comments on the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

NonStampCollector (@nonstampNSC; YouTube; blog) has just posted a short comment on attempts to use Christianity – and especially Christian appeals to biblical mythological accounts like the story of Adam and Eve – in the fight against same-sex marriage in the modern state.

In short, the reason so many otherwise sensible Christians oppose same-sex marriage is Jesus’ appeal to the “marriage” of Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:4-6. In this passage, Matthew records Jesus as speaking about divorce, and in doing so, citing the mythological story of Judaism’s primordial humans, Adam and Eve.

Matthew 19:4-6 reads:

Matt. 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’”
Matt. 19:5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
Matt. 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (NRSV)

Note that Matthew records Jesus as having done a little prooftexting of his own, pulling from the summaries of the two different creation accounts in Genesis.

Gen. 1:27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (NRSV)


Gen 2:24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. (NRSV)

Matthew records Jesus as pulling from two different texts to defend his stance on divorce, specifically, that Christians should NOT divorce.

AND YET, we see no constitutional amendment on state ballots banning divorce, and prohibiting divorced individuals from remarrying, but rather, we find conservative and fundamentalist Christians lining up and spending all kinds money to ban and prohibit same-sex marriage, EVEN THOUGH the text is CLEARLY talking about divorce.

It is yet another example of conservative and fundamentalists deliberately ignoring the glaringly obvious context of the biblical passage (divorce), and instead using said verse to prooftext against something the passage is not at all addressing (same-sex marriage).

So to clarify, conservative and fundamentalist Christians are citing a scientifically debunked primordial religious creation myth from nearly three millennia ago, and then using it out of context in an effort to suppress the modern rights of gay Americans in a state that is founded on the principle that the church and state should be separate.

That is just how far conservative and fundamentalist Christians must stretch – how far they must contort the Bible as well as the founding principles of this country – just to suppress the rights of other Americans. They must cite:

“a moral imperative implied (out of context I might add), within an ancient Middle Eastern story involving a woman made of a man’s rib, being convinced by a talking snake to eat the fruit of a magical tree.”

THAT’S the rationale for denying homosexual Americans the same right of marriage that heterosexual Americans enjoy: magic trees, talking snakes, rib-women, and primordial mythology.

Of course, the real reason this argument is even entertained at all is the much larger problem, which just also happens to be the reason why so many conservative and fundamentalist Christians still cling to the historicity of the six-day creation and worldwide flood myths, despite all of the scientific and contradictory intertextual biblical evidence against them: Jesus quoted them both!

Jesus refers to Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:4-6, and their child Abel in Luke 11:50-51 (and their parallels), and to the flood in Luke 17:27 (and its parallels). And if Jesus referred to things that are mythological or ahistorical or simply did not happen, then people might question his all-knowingness, and maybe even his divinity. And thus, many conservative and fundamentalist Christians cling to scientifically debunked primordial myths, despite all the evidence to the contrary, just so they don’t have to deal with the problem that Jesus is recorded as having appealed to debunked creation and flood myths.

So while they’re at it, why not just take the quotes out of context and use them to oppress gays as well. It makes just as much sense…to fundamentalists.

Anyway, watch NonStampCollector’s video.

summer 2010 course at ucla: ‘mythology of otherworldly journeys’ with dr. robert cargill

UCLA Center for the Study of Religioni shall be teaching a course entitled ‘mythology of otherworld journeys‘ (religion 140) during the 2010 summer session block c at ucla. the 4-unit course is offered by ucla’s center for the study of religion, and will be offered tue and thu, 1:00 pm – 3:05 pm, from aug 2 through sept 10 in bunche 3156. the course will examine different myths of journeys to other worlds in various religious traditions. i am hoping to capture the class lectures and discussions and offer the course contents to the public via itunes u.

register today!

this bird must have gone to ucla: a comment on wisdom and mythology



when is an historical fable not just a fable? when the evidence suggests that it is not only possible, but experimentation demonstrates that it is, in fact, true.

meet a smart, problem solving crow. he must have attended ucla. (i say that because not only is he very clever, even tempered, and a problem solver, but it is apparently learning how to deal with the draconian, state-imposed 8% cuts to his water supply.) here, the crow literally reenacts the solution to the problem set forth in aesop’s fable, the crow and the pitcher. (click here to read the story.)

we’ve known for some time that birds in the corvus genus and the corvidae family (like crows, ravens, jays, and rooks) are some of the cleverest birds on earth, possessing problem solving abilities and experimentally demonstrated capacities for self-awareness (via mirror tests). poe has written about them, bernd heinrich and thomas bugnyar have spent years studying them, and of course, they are a great football team.

but from this story, i hope to convey a brief thought on wisdom. true, many of the stories preserved in ancient texts are mythological; they are grand tales of marvels from the past. but there was wisdom even in ancient societies. despite their lack of scientific method and a comprehensive understanding of the universe, they knew they simply could not invent stories and expect people to believe them. the skeptics have always been with us. thus, behind even the most incredible myth, there is usually some kernel of initial truth or observation. to be sure, the tales inevitably grow and are embellished over time, but these stories usually have some root in observable fact, a phenomenological event, or daily routine. etiological explanations are derived over time to explain these phenomena, and cultural wisdom is ingrafted into them over time to make them meaningful. the result is usually a remarkable tale accepted as truth by those members of the community that produced the tale, and as fantastic myth by those outside the group. thus, a culture’s wisdom comes to be conveyed not by scientific fact or experimentation, but by the communal tales told throughout the ages. these stories come to define the group’s history, values, beliefs, and cultures. and unlike modern technologies, which have a very short lifespan, stories have withstood the ages.

so the next time you read a remarkable story, acknowledge that most of it may be embellishment and non-verifiable speculation. but always remember that there were wise men and women in antiquity, and that these stories often grew from a some historical event, or, dare is say, truth. because as much wisdom as a fable from aesop might convey, he just as well may have witnessed history.

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