Pharyngula

Sunday Sacrilege: Daughters of Eve

Half the people in the world commit this sin against god: they are born women.

It’s an astounding thing that any women at all accept Christianity, Judaism, or Islam; these are profoundly misogynistic faiths. Throughout the Christian Bible, women are treated as chattel to be abused and misused, and uppity women are regarded as the worst of the lot, fit only to be slaughtered. There are parts of the Bible that read like snuff porn — but it’s all OK, because it’s the Bible, God’s holy word, and if God is gonna have to choke a bitch, who are we to question it?

We can trace the attitude right back to Genesis 3:16. The Bible begins with a story that blames women for all the pain of sin in the world, and she needs to be put in her place, under the dominion of men.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

When I started looking up woman-hating Bible quotes, I was a bit overwhelmed; it’s everywhere. I won’t even try to flood this article with the many contemptuous words about women that you can find there, but will give a few examples. Job 14 is an interesting one, because it at least acknowledges that men are damned, too…but why are they so troubled? Because they’re born of those filthy, dirty, nasty women.

Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.
He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
And doth thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.

I don’t think I like how the Bible talks about my mother.

This wasn’t just an Old Testament aberration, either, to be superceded by the loving Jesus of the New; the apostle Paul was just as terrible a misogynist as any. Here’s the classic 1 Timothy 2:8:

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Shut up, ladies — it’s your fault we got kicked out of the garden of Eden, and you’re all going to have to pay by suffering in silence.

I know the next objection apologists will make: we shouldn’t read the Bible so literally, and you atheists are just as bad as the fundamentalists. The Bible has to be carefully interpreted, and we need wise men (of course) to extract the deeper truths. So let’s go along with that and ask a few of the church fathers what it all means.

Let’s see what Tertullian has to say — he’s always fun.

Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You should always go in mourning and in rags.

Whoa. Tertullian is one of those fellows you’d really like to see psychoanalyzed; he’s one warped little psycho thug. Maybe he’s not representative at all, and perhaps we should look to a few Catholic saints, who will certainly be more enlightened.

Here’s St John Chrysostom:

Among all savage beasts, none is found so harmful as woman.

Ooops. Maybe St Clement will be friendlier.

Every woman should be overwhelmed with shame at the thought that she is a woman.

St Augustine?

Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders.

Now that’s a Catholic attitude. Perhaps that is the problem here, and we really need to look to the Protestant theologians. Here’s what Calvin had to say:

Woman is more guilty than man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading to all perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame.

Same old story again. I was brought up Lutheran, which meant all I ever heard about that deranged cleric were stories about his iconoclasm and bravery — it took a few years after leaving the church to discover that he was also utterly insane about witches and demons, and was an anti-Semitic monster who set the bar high for the Nazis. But he also praised marriage, thought priestly celibacy was unnatural and wrong, so could he have been a bit less sexist than others? Alas, more disappointment.

If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.

Women have narrow shoulders and wide hips, therefore they ought to be domestic; their very physique is a sign from their Creator that he intended them to limit their activity to the home.

So Christianity regards women as of relatively little worth. What is to be done with them, then? And here’s where the Bible begins to read like a script for a slasher horror movie (which also, by the way, are as vicious to women as anything in the Bible — so this is also a secular issue). One of the verses that has cost thousands of women their life, and which is still being used to justify murder, especially in Africa, is Exodus 22:18.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Got women usurping the role of priests? Kill them. If they are just standing around innocently, then read Deuteronomy 20 and Numbers 31 for the appropriate response: rape them.

But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

And of course, you can be brutal in in your destruction of women. 2 Kings 9 tells the story of a war between two factions, the side of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who promoted the worship of Baal, and the faction of the prophet Elijah, who favored the Hebrew god. Here’s what happened when King Jehu and Elijah finally defeated the Baal worshippers.

And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window.

And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?

And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs.

And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot.

And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter.

And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands.

Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel:

And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.

See? Snuff porn!

The other weird twist to this story, of course, is that just reading the events reveals that this was a war, Jezebel was a fierce queen who fought for her side, and actually had some significant political clout. Somehow, though, her name has become transformed to mean nothing but a harlot, a vain and promiscuous woman — all because in that first verse above, she bothered to put on her make-up before the conquering army of Elijah slaughtered her. Obviously, then, she deserved to be tossed out a window, trampled by horses, and fed to the dogs.

Now I have to confess, I don’t think religion is the root cause of misogyny. Religion is to misogyny as disease is to misery; not the sole cause, but a significant contributor. I’m going to blame biology.

We are a somewhat sexually dimorphic species. Males do tend to be, on average, larger, more muscular, and more aggressive than females, and that means that in our crude history one strategy for reproductive success has been brute force: men controlling women to compel them to bear children for them. The Bible wasn’t the cause of all those men raping women, because that is what conquering men were doing long before Jehovah — it was merely endorsing the status quo.

But here’s the thing: sometimes, we know we can do better than what our brute natures tell us to do, and by transcending our instincts, by using our brain and reason, we can become greater than before. Any culture that denigrates half of its members, that commits them to inferior roles by tradition rather than allowing them to excel by inclination, is throwing away half of its potential. People do more than make babies, and if you value people doing science, writing poetry, creating bridges and buildings, designing software…you can’t rely on the Stone Age virtues of bulk and testosterone. Our dimorphism isn’t relevant, it’s brains that matter.

What religion has always done is pander to biases, achieving success not by challenging people with something new, but by reinforcing what they already believe, no matter how wrong it is. That’s where science shines, though, by breaking the shackles of our preconceptions and letting us work with what really is.

The hard question, though, is why women have ever fallen for women-hating religions in the first place — and there is no denying that women have been prominent advocates of the church, of submission, of labeling themselves in dress and manner as toys of men. I have my own explanation, and that is that religion is a kind of parasite of the mind that promotes its own disease. Where does religion have its greatest success? Among the miserable and oppressed, because one thing it is very good at promising (but not delivering) is hope. If you are among the downtrodden, there is a great appeal to magical answers: pray and you shall be delivered, believe and you shall be exalted in heaven. These answers do nothing but make the believer feel better about his problems, and actually do increase the misery by encouraging them to shun productive solutions for non-answers. Misery leads people to turn to religion, which can make the misery worse because it doesn’t address the material causes of the problem, and the increasing despair leads more and more to seek succor from religion, which makes it even worse, which…you get the idea. It’s a spiral of futility.

And who has been slapped down most consistently throughout human history? Women. It is not surprising that the segment of society that is oppressed is also one that often turns to faith for the illusion of relief.

But let’s close with a ray of real hope, and surprisingly, it comes from the contempt of Tertullian.

Each of you women is an Eve… You are the gate of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law.

Tertullian thought he was saying something bad there, but think about it. Every woman is an Eve, and Eve is the one who led humanity to the knowledge of good and evil, and was the “first deserter of the divine law” — Eve was the first freethinker! When you turn it around that way, it’s actually a very nice myth. There is part of the answer to misogyny: break free of the old dogmas that want women to be submissive bearers of babies and nothing more, break the dead and oppressive divine laws, and tempt men to follow you into liberation. We’ll all be free together.

Take pride in the example of Eve, she is the author of a real promise of a greater humanity.

Comments

  1. #1 Katharine
    May 16, 2010

    ‘Eve was framed’ takes on a whole ‘nother meaning.

  2. #2 Dianne
    May 16, 2010

    Random question: Does anyone know of any monotheistic religions in which the deity is identified as female? Religions formed within the last 20 years don’t count. Slightly off topic, I know, but I’m curious.

  3. #3 Zeno
    May 16, 2010

    I was perturbed to learn from a Jewish woman that Jewish men have a special prayer: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who did not make me a woman.” For their part, Jewish women are supposed to offer a prayer of dutiful submission to the God who made them female “according to Your will.” As long as God’s boot is in your face, you may as well praise him for it.

    What a silly religion Judaism is. But then I remembered that I was raised Catholic, where women are similarly relegated to second-class citizen status. I guess Christianity is largely faithful to the misogyny it inherited from its parent religion.

  4. #4 neon-elf.myopenid.com
    May 16, 2010

    Each of you women is an Eve…

    Actually, I prefer to think of myself as Lilith, the first wife who kicked Adam in the nads, flipped Yahweh the bird, and walked out of the Garden into the world, like a adult.

  5. #5 Vole
    May 16, 2010

    For female monotheism, try googling “Temple of Cybele”.

  6. #6 ERV
    May 16, 2010

    Agreed, but as a woman Ive always wondered why African Americans, Native Americans, Latin Americans, etc follow any of these religions.

    They are worshiping the gods of the people who enslaved/killed their ancestors and killed their culture.

    Stockholm syndrome gone cultural.

  7. #7 katiet
    May 16, 2010

    I think you’re right, that many women accept religion because it primarily appeals to the more downtrodden among us. But given the stranglehold religion has in so many places, any woman seen not to conform to religious standards will likely end up dead in a hurry.

    Joseph Campbell wrote some fabulous books on the history of myth, and what I take away are three major things: 1) All the major themes of Christianity appeared before in other, more primitive systems of myth. This includes things like cannibalism (eat of my flesh, etc) and rising from the dead (seasonal/agricultural).

    2) Any powerful, possibly subversive symbols of the old myth must be demonized in the new myth. Women and The Serpent were very powerful symbols for good until monotheism came around. Most myth/religion worshipped women as a primary deity first, evolved into polytheism, and were eventually replaced by patriarchs, but to institutionalize the disenfranchisement of women you need a pretty good story — one that makes women evil and gives men the right to treat them like animals is a pretty good start.

    3) All big systems of myth so far have lasted no more than a couple thousand years. So good news, everyone! We’re due for a change! Here’s hoping it’s not ridiculous.

  8. #8 idiotiddidit#5116d
    May 16, 2010

    PZ, you are a week late. This would have been perfect for Mother’s Day.

  9. #9 briankspears
    May 16, 2010

    For an example of how little things have changed since Tertullian, I give you Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix who just argued that a woman who needed an abortion at 11 weeks in order to save her life, well, should have just been allowed to die.

  10. #10 Cerberus
    May 16, 2010

    Building on the origins.

    I think it’s also the role of “who gives birth” making rape and pregnancy the great unleveler.

    Basically, in the “olden days”, if a woman worked hard, proved herself as physically capable as a man and able to hold her own, those with a grudge could merely hold her down and rape her and while this in and of itself may not “beat her down”, eventually she would have a chance of becoming pregnant, more so if she had sexual attraction to men naturally as well (in separate consensual sex of her own) and that’d knock her out of any might-based power struggle for a good couple of months, if not years (for the body to recover), if it did not kill the “uppity” woman entirely, thus “solving the problem”.

    A system like this would not take long to entrench itself and be able to more forcefully enforce the divide with means such as the “stoning of ‘adulterers'”, the “become a man’s ‘wife’ (i.e. houseslave) or become a ‘whore of the streets'” and generally being reduced to the property of men only occasionally better than the “actual” slaves.

    And so it did. It’s why it was very hard to entrench a real viable “feminist” movement with legs until the invention of the birth control pill allowed women better access to control over their reproduction and thus a better means to actually plan their lives on similar par as to men without worrying about getting “knocked out of the game” by rape or accident by desired sex.

  11. #11 irenedelse
    May 16, 2010

    This wasn’t just an Old Testament aberration, either, to be superceded by the loving Jesus of the New; the apostle Paul was just as terrible a misogynist as any. Here’s the classic 1 Timothy 2:8:

    I agree that New Testament tradition is as bad as Old Testament, but the case of Paul is interesting, to say the least. Because sometimes, what is quoted as “by Paul” should read, rather: “in a letter attributed to Paul” or “according to the pseudo-Pauline tradition”… Because Paul was famous at an early stage of Christianity, his figure was often used to bolster tradition, even if he probably never wrote about half the letters now recorded under his name. And, which should probably not be a surprise, the worse of the misogynist, patriarchal and homophobic passages in “Paul” are the work of later, more reactionary writers.

    This Epistle to Timothy is a classic exemple of post-Pauline reactionary teachings. Scholars debate about what should or shouldn’t be included in “Paul’s writings”, but they nearly all agree that this one (and another horrible text, the Epistle to Titus), are definitely not Paul’s.

    The authentic Paul was actually very convinced that all should have equal status inside Christianity, be them rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile, and for instance, never forbid women to preach and lead prayers. In these authentic letters, we see that many of Paul’s “colleagues” among the leaders of these early Christian communities were women, and that he praised them with equal if not greater praise than male “apostles”.

    (I happen to have just finished reading the fascinating In Search of Paul: How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire With God’s Kindgom, by J. D. Crossan and J. L. Reed. Or how to reach the original, and sometimes very radical, figure of Paul under centuries of conservative clerical tradition…)

  12. #12 Knockgoats
    May 16, 2010

    Most myth/religion worshipped women as a primary deity first – katiet

    Evidence? I claim no expertise here, but from what I do know, this is very dubious. It could be true, but AFAIK no written records exist that suggest it, and artefacts like “Venus statuettes” have multiple possible interpretations.

  13. #13 AnthonyK
    May 16, 2010

    Great post. I too look on in puzzlement as women throughout the world happily acceed to the domination of a religious patriarchy – Islam is, of course, particularly reprehensible in the regard (I do realise that this is not the case with all muslims however – women in Iran, for historical reasons, seem much more emancipated than in other Islamic theocracies.)
    But one thinks with a shudder of a belief common in traditional societies like Afghanistan that “a woman should leave the house only twice in her life – once to get married, and once in a coffin.”
    However the situation is not universally bleak. I had to teach religious education at one stage, and the module I was teaching was on Sikhism. One of the founding principles of the religion, as stated by Guru Nanak, was that men and women were equal in all matters, and this has been true, and practised, at all stages of Sikh history. The Sikh poet Bhai Gurdas Ji wrote:

    A woman, is the favourite in her parental home, loved dearly by her father and mother. In the home of her in-laws, she is the pillar of the family, the guarantee of its good fortune… Sharing in spiritual wisdom and enlightenment and with noble qualities endowed, a woman, the other half of man, escorts him to the door of liberation.”

    It was a revlelation to me that a religion could have such a profound principle at its core, and an anti-dote to the idea I had that all religion is stupid and oppressive.

  14. #14 Ibis3
    May 16, 2010

    @Diane #2

    There is some evidence that suggests some of the earliest religions (that we know anything about) were monotheistic with a female deity (think Venus of Willendorf), but since we’re talking about prehistory there’s no way to know for sure. Some late Roman, Gnostic, and Neo-Platonic sects worshipped Sophia (or other divinity) as an ultimate goddess, but it’s hard to say whether those religions can be classed as strictly monotheistic. Generally, religions that revere goddesses tend to be polytheistic. Individual adherents however, may turn out to be, for all intents and purposes monotheists (i.e. choosing a specific special deity for themselves — monolatrism).

  15. #15 maarten.jan
    May 16, 2010

    I really like that interpretation of genesis. It sheds new light on the whole story.
    I would like to add that child indoctrination also has a lot to do with woman joining those religions. It seems to me that’s an important factor as well.

  16. #16 Cerberus
    May 16, 2010

    On oppressed peoples and religion, well, it makes a lot of sense.

    One of the nice “hooks” of religion is that it tries to sell an idea of “eternal justice” outside of this world, thus for oppressed populations who may never see justice in this world and will probably get martyred to the cause of making things slightly better, it can be “pleasant” to imagine that those who made your life such an unbearable hell will get some taste of that in “divine retribution” and that there will be some rest for oneself.

    Of course, the sad flipside of this, is that it often is used far more to engender a type of complacency on people to prevent violent or massive peaceful revolution, because why bother fighting now when “God” will just make it better later, besides those who are holding the sticks claim they believe in “God” too, so it’d be like sacrilege or something.

    And at the worst, it often leads to people actively working against their own rights in “Not my Nigel” fashion because “God” tells them that their oppression was necessary thousands of years ago and thus it must still be necessary today and their self-esteems haven’t been allowed to grow owing to that culture.

    I don’t think it’s an surprise that despite the successes of many fine liberal religious movements over the years, some of the most dramatic successes and long-lasting success stories of supporters of one fight bleeding over to the next have come from godless (or at least areligious) leftist and liberal movements.

  17. #17 https://me.yahoo.com/a/eM9vTL9_o4CJZCSF.K8OQ44rATSSaUPiRKSvcw--#4e199
    May 16, 2010

    Women (as well as men) rarely believe out of choice. They are indoctrinated, aren’t they. So when you tell a child that it is a lesser human than the other gender, you will undoubtedly get them to believe in whatever BS you are saying.

    Moreover, how many of us would be believers if we were told about religion in 10th standard and were taught science since we were babies?

    Sadly many of the creationists fail to notice this point about belief!

  18. #18 emigrant2immigrant
    May 16, 2010

    The hard question, though, is why women have ever fallen for women-hating religions in the first place ? and there is no denying that women have been prominent advocates of the church, of submission, of labeling themselves in dress and manner as toys of men.

    The same question comes up when analyzing a lot of female behavior. Why do girls fall for the dumb jock instead of the intelligent geek? Fine – young girls do stupid things. Some grow out of it – others don’t and spend their lives being beaten by the dumb jocks who grew up to be unemployed alcoholics.

    So was it being raised with religion that would make a female crave abuse and make poor relationship choices, or is this something in the female human nature that can be overcome?

  19. #19 katiet
    May 16, 2010

    @Knockgoats, I’m basing my claim primarily on two sources. First, Campbell’s works, in which the earliest systems of myth have a heavy focus on seasons and rebirth, with women at the center of the cycle. Second, on “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” by Leonard Shlain, which follows our evolution from Sophia/Goddess/Nature worship through polytheism to the ancient world’s and today’s monotheism.

  20. #20 cfmilner
    May 16, 2010

    Thanks PZ, what a wonderfully uplifting post.

    I often feel knocked back when trying to live a life of rational thought, as a person of equal value, in control of my own body and direction. I find it especially hard when I’m accused of getting on my feminist high horse “yet again” in response to some misogyny and when other women seem confused or perhaps afraid of the choices I make.

    ~Vicar’s Daughter~

  21. #21 mattheath
    May 16, 2010

    Agreed, but as a woman Ive always wondered why African Americans, Native Americans, Latin Americans, etc follow any of these religions.
    They are worshiping the gods of the people who enslaved/killed their ancestors and killed their culture.

    To a large extent so are Europeans and Arabs, just with earlier ancestors.

  22. #22 Deen
    May 16, 2010

    Another reason why women support these anti-women doctrines, is that it is just easier to go with the flow. Worse, in a society where women can’t get status by being independent, there is status to be won by aligning oneself with the patriarchy, or by being ultra-pious.

  23. #23 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Irenedelse@11:

    Who cares who actually wrote it? Most of the Bible is only “attributed” to a presumed author. What was written and called Paul’s letters, at this stage, may as well have been written by Paul. Christians mostly believe he wrote it all, so as atheists, why would we quibble? I’ve never heard a single Christian actually denounce the less savory passages in Paul’s epistles, only try to spin them into something good. Or pretend that saying “love your wife as Christ loved the church” was some kind of proto-feminist statement when it was immediately proceeded by “Wives, submit to your husbands in all things…”

  24. #24 ChrisTOTG
    May 16, 2010

    @AnthonyK, where you say:

    One of the founding principles of the religion, as stated by Guru Nanak, was that men and women were equal in all matters, and this has been true, and practised, at all stages of Sikh history.

    You are completely correct with respect to the *religion*. However the Sikh *culture* is not the same at all. Women are definitely second-class citizens as soon as they walk outside their temple.

  25. #25 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    “Why do girls fall for the dumb jock instead of the intelligent geek?”

    This is nonsense. The kind of guys who say this are, in my experience, the kind who are more concerned with dating the hottest cheerleader than they are finding someone compatible with similar interests. And they wonder why they’re always dealing with unrequited love.

    Why wouldn’t female jocks date male ones?

    Any why are you assuming that all jocks are abusive? That’s ridiculous. There are plenty of men who happen to be sociable and enjoy sports who make very good boyfriends.

  26. #26 Samantha
    May 16, 2010

    emmigrant2immigrant @ 18

    The same question comes up when analyzing a lot of female behavior. Why do girls fall for the dumb jock instead of the intelligent geek? Fine – young girls do stupid things. Some grow out of it – others don’t and spend their lives being beaten by the dumb jocks who grew up to be unemployed alcoholics.

    Much of this can also be said about a lot of MALE behaviour. Why do they have sex with women and then abandon their child? Why do they have sex with as many women as possible while disregarding possible dangers such as STIs? Why do they get involved in dangerous fights over little to no provocation? Young PEOPLE do stupid things, not just young girls, at least from most societal and evolutionary viewpoints.

    So was it being raised with religion that would make a female crave abuse and make poor relationship choices, or is this something in the female human nature that can be overcome?

    Being generous about what you could possibly have meant by this, I still can’t see how you’re trying to say anything but that you honestly think there is such a thing as “female human nature”. There isn’t, beyond a societally constructed one. However, it is (at least in part) this societally constructed “female nature” that leads many females to abusive relationships. We are told from an early age that we are lesser, more emotional: we need a man to control us because we can’t control ourselves. This is an excellent foundation upon which to build a lifetime of abusive relationships.

    This is certainly made worse by most religions, where this imbalance is supported by the dogmatic doctrine so that women believe that the ultimate power desires them to be lesser, but it can still be seen in areligious, atheistic and scientific communities, as you have shown with your comment. Despite the evidence to the contrary, many scientists and scientifically minded people still believe that there are “human natures” that are “female” and “male”. Some are more harmless, like thinking that “male nature” includes things like improved spatial and “female nature” includes improved interpersonal abilities, but some are far more harmful, including believe that actual genetic evolutionary functions make men ideal for ruling and leading and women ideal for following. This just puts women right back into the aforementioned position, where they are being told that they are by nature meant to be controlled by their husbands and thus normalizing most parts of abusive relationships.

  27. #27 Shala
    May 16, 2010

    Actually, I prefer to think of myself as Lilith, the first wife who kicked Adam in the nads, flipped Yahweh the bird, and walked out of the Garden into the world, like a adult.

    Fuck you beat me to it, I was just about to bring up Lilith!

    I suppose I can always look forward to Mother Harlot though.

  28. #28 Cerberus
    May 16, 2010

    emigrant2immigrant @18

    Very very much culture.

    There are always evopsych bullshit attempts made to try and say something about how cultural inequalities (including the amount of female abuse) are really just the root of some biological inferiority or complexity, but they are all complete and utter bullshit.

    The facts on abuse have been written down by a good number of feminist bloggers and far more feminist scholars than I could mention or list.

    Basically, it’s a matter of self-esteem how a woman gets and can’t leave from abusive situations and abusers whether church or romantic partner knows this and knows how to exploit cultural conditioning to bring about their desired ends.

    One example is that women aren’t expected to be “mean” or to reject out of hand and to frequently discount their own opinion. So, if they are feeling creeped out, uneasy, or generally unsettled by a show of dominance, their instincts are to back down and yield, especially if the other person is telling them that it’s not real and everything is normal.

    Women are not considered full people with full respect by culture and are under a great deal of cultural restraints to ensure this position, which can be exploited to the wearing down of self-esteem to the point where frequent abuse or out and out hate seems normal or even preferable to the terrors of being “outside of the protection” the situation provides. This latter can be enforced by allusions to the rape culture or making the atheist world look miserable and unsupported especially for those trained to “think of the children” first and themselves dead last if ever.

    A rather dramatic illustration on how culture trains women out of aggression and to submit was an experiment me and a small group did as a presentation in one of my classes (which was mostly women, explored deep feminist issues, and had a large number of out feminists enrolled in it). We were mostly men (I was identifying as male at that time) and so we decided to have the women “shoot” us with nerf guns as an allowance of violence and aggression that was often denied to them by cultural expectation.

    Despite giving full consent, the obvious non-damaging nature of the nerf pistols, and continued encouragements, the cultural training and the open space made all of them extremely hesitant and unable to go through with it. And that’s in a class with an out feminist bent.

    I went through this more thoroughly helping my partner sort through her baggage from having dated successive abusive boyfriends before me really delving into how the exploitation of cultural expectation, cultural inequalities, and low self-esteem builds abusive situations and that which prevents the victim from easily escaping them.

    Just wanted to clarify that it is definitely a cultural byproduct.

  29. #29 jdmuys
    May 16, 2010

    With English only as a foreign language to me, I have long wondered why, so called English translations of the bible are instead in some old dialect of English. It makes it painful to read, and rather difficult to understand – to me.

    Contrast with the French translation of the bible, which is in plain contemporary French. PZ’s example from Job reads in my French translation (Jerusalem):

    […]l’homme, n de la femme, qui a la vie courte, mais des tourments satit. Pareil la fleur, il clt puis se fane, il fuit comme l’ombre sans arrt. Et sur cet tre tu gardes les yeux ouverts, tu l’amnes en jugement devant toi. Mais qui donc extraira le pur de l’impur? Personne!

    The style is a bit obscure, but the grammar and the words in there are very simple, normal French.

    So what’s the idea behind this strange dialect of English?

  30. #30 https://me.yahoo.com/a/eEb5IDAWstagt9oTJQvlMVDvyH9HTXy1vg--#69060
    May 16, 2010

    Hey, here’s a good example of an “Eve” (her actual name is Heather) and why we should all like and respect free thinking woman, they are the best sort. Of course she has free will and realised like the rest of us that as a general rule religion is bad and that there is no special diety except in peoples heads.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/CompletelyLovely

    More posting this link here cause I think everyone should go watch her videos, I challange you all not to feel like happier and smile (men and women alike) when watching her express her excitment for life and the real world.

  31. #31 mattheath
    May 16, 2010

    It is the law that this needs copypasting if we are talking about appeal of religion to the downtrodden.

    Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

  32. #32 Knockgoats
    May 16, 2010

    katiet@19,
    Thanks. I wouldn’t take Campbell too seriously – he was a confirmed wooist, not a scientist or any other kind of rational searcher after truth. I haven’t heard of Shlain – if I find the time, I’ll follow that up.

  33. #33 Shatterface
    May 16, 2010

    Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And doth thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.

    They say that at your funeral. They lower your lifeless corpse into a hole and call your mother unclean.

  34. #34 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Cerebrus- I think you’re exactly right about why oppressed groups like religion. My mother is a Christian, and her response to me when I rant about something annoying that misogynists are up to is often two-pronged:

    1) She says, “well, the Bible predicted that, because… blah blah… curse… women fighting for rights but not attaining them is Biblical…” Funny how that particular prophesy seems to fulfull itself, isn’t it?

    2) Next she usually says, “there will never be any justice in this world. Only God can meet out justice, in His time, etc. Heaven/Hell.” Which is a really handy excuse Christians hide behind when they manage to be both strangely apolitical in their outlook, while at the same time trying to impose their God’s particular brand of justice on us all.

  35. #35 onethird-man
    May 16, 2010

    One example regarding monotheistic religious traditions why they are all currently patriarchal, is the religious traditions of Egypt. There are a number of female deities in Egypt who were quite powerful and held sway; but if you look closer, it became apparent it was less of a war of the sexes and more of a political power struggle. The twelve houses of night were analogous to a trip down the Nile to the various city-states conquered to make Egypt whole: the accommodation of a pantheon was to make everyone feel represented by their city-state’s primary deity. It was Osiris who ran the ship going through the houses of night. When Amun became ascendant, it was Amun who piloted the boat. Then when Osiris’ faction returned to power, he once again held the helm.

    It’s a pretty naked political power-struggle, regardless of religious overtones. It seems to happen mostly when there are no other representative forms of government: the people’s redress can only come from an avenue other than the king, and he usually won’t suffer another avenue.

    Hence the eventual god-king, and you can understand some patriarchy from there.

    Once other folks saw how successful a strategy it was to proclaim themselves the head of everyone, religions followed suit (proclaiming their gods the kings of other kings) and the purges of other deity factions followed, until one remained mirroring the solitary Pharaoh.

    The formula for keeping religions diverse and attentive to the current climate would seem to be to keep them at odds with government, forcing them to struggle for membership and supremacy. They are even less ascendant when there is representative government.

    IANJC (I am not Joseph Campbell), but this would seem to bear out where there is the least human need for redress, there is also the least need for religion as another avenue of vox populi.

    But then again, the United States is insane in this regard: religion found out that it doesn’t have to wait for injustice; it can manufacture phantom injustice.

  36. #36 AnthonyK
    May 16, 2010

    .

    Women are definitely second-class citizens as soon as they walk outside their temple

    Oh? In which society? I mean some would say that despite decades of equality legislation in the UK that women here are still effectively 2nd class citizens.
    I’m just saying that a central religious tenet of equality is a good thing, a very good thing, and sets Sikhism apart from all the other religions.

  37. #37 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    I meant “mete out justice” up there.

  38. #38 mattheath
    May 16, 2010

    So what’s the idea behind this strange dialect of English?

    There are plenty of translations into modern English, it’s that just people like the King James version. It’s generally thought to be pretty inaccurate but there seems to be more or less a consensus that, as literature, no translation before or since equaled it.

  39. #39 irenedelse
    May 16, 2010

    @ naddyfive #23:

    Who cares who actually wrote it?

    Who cares about accuracy? About what is history and what is legend/mythology?

    I happen to do.

    I don’t look in the Bible, whatever edition, for moral guidance, but I’m interested in the history of it’s writing, because it’s part of the intellectual and social history of humanity.

  40. #40 Teshi
    May 16, 2010

    “Why do girls fall for the dumb jock instead of the intelligent geek?”

    Gosh, and here we are talking about misogyny. Bitter, much?

    Many women fall for the dumb jock the same way many men fall for the pretty girl. Don’t make this out to be something that women alone “suffer” from.

    Besides, women aren’t just ranking everyone on a single scale of niceness any more than men are. Gah.

  41. #41 irenedelse
    May 16, 2010

    Gah. I mean “in the history of its writing”, of course.

    Bad apostrophe.

  42. #42 JessT
    May 16, 2010

    @17. Yes, indoctrination plays a heavy role as to why modern women still bother with oppressive, patriarchal religions. When I was a kid, my parents went out of their way to ensure I wasn’t hanging out with the “wrong kind” of kids (IE: anyone who might not be Christian enough). It honestly didn’t dawn on me until I was nearly an adult that lots of good people are atheists, and their arguments made a lot more sense than “I know god exists because I feel it inside.”

    This post strikes a chord with me, mainly because a minister once told me (at the tender age of 11) that boys were smarter and better at math than girls, but I shouldn’t worry, because girls were better at making babies. I was depressed about it for years after, but I didn’t know of any alternatives to religion until years later. And sadly, some women just never find their way out like I did.

  43. #43 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Yes, of course, nothing against historical accuracy. But don’t you think you’re sort of letting Christians off the hook by trying to reappropriate Paul as basically the first century’s answer to Dr. M.L. King? You must realize that the argument you’re putting forth- that Paul was probably not a misogynist, or at least not as bad as 1 Timothy or Titus makes him out to be- isn’t really supported by any evidence. You’re deciding that because someone else may have written the later epistles, that Paul couldn’t have been as misogynistic as the other epistle writers were.

    I guess I just I don’t feel comfortable making that kind of assumption. And frankly, I’ve seen Paul held up by too many secular intellectual authorities as an excuse for thinly veiled bigotry not to feel a little annoyed when I see people reclaiming the historical Paul.

  44. #44 ChrisTOTG
    May 16, 2010

    @AnthonyK:

    Oh? In which society? I mean some would say that despite decades of equality legislation in the UK that women here are still effectively 2nd class citizens.
    I’m just saying that a central religious tenet of equality is a good thing, a very good thing, and sets Sikhism apart from all the other religions.

    No argument here. As far as I’m concerned, those are all valid facts. I’m just saying that the sikh religion is more equitable than the sikh culture.

  45. #45 OurDeadSelves
    May 16, 2010

    Woman is a temple built over a sewer…

    Oh, fuck that. That’s the most creative way to say “girls are yucky!” that I’ve ever seen.

    Besides, the sewer bit is supposed to be the insult, yes? Well, I would argue that the sewer is way more important than your lousy temple, fucker.

    … I should really learn not to read the Sunday Sacrilege before I’ve had my coffee. It sucks to be angry and groggy at the same time.

  46. #46 Citizen of the Cosmos
    May 16, 2010

    Religions do poison everything simply because so far they have been designed to do exactly that.

  47. #47 irenedelse
    May 16, 2010

    Ibis3:

    Some late Roman, Gnostic, and Neo-Platonic sects worshipped Sophia (or other divinity) as an ultimate goddess, but it’s hard to say whether those religions can be classed as strictly monotheistic.

    Some Neo-Platonic sects (think Plotinus) were indeed monotheistic, worshiping the supreme and transcendant “One”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plotinus#One
    But there were not open to feminism. In fact, the Neo-Platonicians thought that all matter, all flesh, was bad, impure, and human sexuality (especially women’s sexuality) something to leave behind if one wanted to get closer to the transcendence. (These sects became also, not surprisingly, an inspiration for the ascetic trends of early Christianity.)

  48. #48 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    I think Emigrant needs to read this article: the misogynist who gets the girl is a male fantasy

  49. #49 sinz54
    May 16, 2010

    Why did men dominate women all those years?

    Not religion.
    Weapons.

    As Mao said, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Or, tens of thousands of years ago, out of a knife or spear.

    Men have much more fascination with weapons than do women. Men are much more comfortable wielding weapons than do women. Weapons have long been a male thing primarily, from Roman legions through the Wild West cowboys with six-guns (though you can always cite a few female exceptions).

    Even today, in America where guns are readily available, far more men own guns than women.

    Weapons give those who are armed power over those who are not.

  50. #50 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    Here’s the thing, it’s part of the entire culture, not just religion: women who believe they’re playing chess against a man will do worse than when they believe they’re playing against a woman. http://goo.gl/A2Rb

    A rare person can overcome such dreadful indoctrination particularly one co-opted by an all-powerful sky-daddy. I doubt have completely myself, but I’ll threaten to kick anyone’s ass who implies my vagina gets in the way of anything but peeing standing up. And I’ll try my damnedest to make sure my future children (of both genders) are disabused of such a notion at every chance I get.

  51. #51 andrew h
    May 16, 2010

    re the last point in the post: the first (open) atheist i ever met was a woman/girl in high school. she’s what brought me over the edge, just knowing that someone *could* be an atheist. soon after learning this was possible, the christianity in my brain completed the decay that had been underway for years…

  52. #52 irenedelse
    May 16, 2010

    @ naddyfive:

    But don’t you think you’re sort of letting Christians off the hook by trying to reappropriate Paul as basically the first century’s answer to Dr. M.L. King? You must realize that the argument you’re putting forth- that Paul was probably not a misogynist, or at least not as bad as 1 Timothy or Titus makes him out to be- isn’t really supported by any evidence. You’re deciding that because someone else may have written the later epistles, that Paul couldn’t have been as misogynistic as the other epistle writers were.

    What I think is that you’re reading in what I wrote a lot of stuff that wasn’t there.

    And if you think that the Paul-vs-Pseudo-Paul hypothesis is “not really supported by any evidence”: no, sorry, you’re wrong here. There is plenty of evidence (in manuscripts, mainly, and in comparing them together to see what was written first and was what emended later) and that’s why I gave the title of one book, among many, discussing precisely that evidence, and what it means for the history of Christianity.

    It’s simply that not many Churches are eager to discuss the implications of Bible scholarship findings… And I’m well aware of that, thank you.

  53. #53 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnD5lay6Hc16jwf5KxMiROhw8MtP6bRUjo
    May 16, 2010

    I worked with a very talented female writer and actress for some years. She is a bright, opinionated, confident and independent feminist and actively pursues roles and projects about women’s issues and strengthening women’s roles in the modern world. And yet, every Sunday, she attends church with her family – a Greek orthodox church she has attended since childhood. Nothing wrong with that you say? No, not at all. Except that in this particular church, women and girls who were menstruating have to sit in a separate section of the church, away from everyone else.

    When I expressed my horror at this segregation, she shrugged and told me that the only real side effect of this was that as a teenager the boys would tease the girls about ‘being on the rag’. This headstrong, educated, intelligent woman saw nothing out of the ordinary about her monthly period rendering her so ‘unclean’ (direct quote from her church) that she could not share pew space with the other members of the congregation.

    When you are brought up to understand that a specific behaviour pattern is the ‘right’ way to behave, it’s very difficult to break away from this, even if your education and insight as an adult tells you it is wrong.

  54. #54 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmFNYLxWloJ03STzmE-W5JxDunnIUSeQzo
    May 16, 2010

    An excellent article, thankyou.

  55. #55 johntraanes
    May 16, 2010

    There are still African (or Australian, can’t really remember)tribes which has the women as they’re “center”.

    Altho men and women are completely separated, and interact only in rituals. However it is the women who is the “deity”. Not that strange tho since the woman IS in fact the birthgiver

    Also, figurines dug up dating 30-35k BC also seems to have the “mother god/mother earth” as they’re primary deity (which eventually becomes -> Demeter, Mary, Gaya etc)

  56. #56 Steven Dunlap
    May 16, 2010

    @29

    So what’s the idea behind this strange dialect of English?

    Forgive me if I’ve told this story here before. A former colleague who escaped from Christian fundamentalism told me a tale of delightfully demented belief. In her earlier life, while reading a bible in Danish at a Christian “College” a classmate asked her what she was reading. In response to the statement that it was the bible, the classmate expressed surprise and disbelief: it was not in English – it could not really be the bible. As the conversation wore on my friend realized that the person she was speaking to really, truly believed that the King James version of the bible was the “original” – meaning that she did indeed believe that Jesus walked around Roman occupied Judea speaking Elizabethan English.

    I could not make up a story like this – I don’t have the imagination.

  57. #57 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Sinz, you don’t need weapons to dominate someone when you’re on average taller and have more upper body strength. Women don’t need weapons to dominate their kids. Why would men need them to dominate women?

    You’re also making the classic mistake of assuming that women only need fear a clearly demarcated “enemy” male. Unfortunately, the men whom women statistically need to fear most are their own boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers, etc. You’re also assuming that women for some reason just lack a natural inclination toward weapons, when it’s far more likely- when we in fact know for sure- that women have been purposely excluded from “male” activities such as learning how to make and use weapons for most of human history.

    Anyway, it’s my understanding (from the one anthropology course I took) that there are plenty of hunter-gatherer tribes, a few in South America still, where women are taught to hunt and allowed to use weapons. But they still have problems with gender inequity there.

    I always thought that misogyny was based on a fear of the unknown. Back when people didn’t understand reproduction and how it worked, the fact that humans come out of women must have seemed very mysterious and awe-inspiring. Eventually, some people realized that sperm from men was involved in causing pregnancy (this happened more recently than you’d think in most cultures…) In order to rebalance the power in favor men, you eventually start to see all of these stories cropping up in these cultures about male parthenogenesis (often via a monotheistic God who created all), about how men are the “real” creators, and how the phallus is the source of all power, etc.

  58. #58 OurDeadSelves
    May 16, 2010

    Dr. Fabulous Shoes:
    Ask and ye shall receive:
    Peeing standing up.

    Note: I have not tried this, so it could be bullshit.

  59. #59 Creature of the Universe
    May 16, 2010

    It appears that the sacred tradition of marginalizing women continues. Here’s a recent announcement from a local Catholic Church…and it’s all under the guise of a….

    …”Clergy Appreciation Dinner

    “A Year for Priests” is the sacred word from Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican for 2010. Join us at our very own “Clergy Appreciation Dinner” sponsored by The Knights of Columbus, honoring all the MEN that have served St. Mark Catholic Church and its Parishioners. The dinner will be held in the Family Center on Friday, May 21st at 7:00pm. Tickets will be available for purchase after individual Masses and from the parish office after May 3, 2010. Dinner will be $30 per person with a limit of 280 tickets to be sold.

  60. #60 fishiwiki
    May 16, 2010

    As an altarboy, I remember the quaint, hush-hush ceremony of “churching” of new mothers (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03761a.htm). I always understood this to be a cleansing ritual for the dirty woman having given birth, particularly since it was carried out almost in secret.

  61. #61 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Irene, this is what I was responding to:

    “The authentic Paul was actually very convinced that all should have equal status inside Christianity, be them rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile, and for instance, never forbid women to preach and lead prayers. In these authentic letters, we see that many of Paul’s “colleagues” among the leaders of these early Christian communities were women, and that he praised them with equal if not greater praise than male “apostles”

    How are you sure of what Paul was convinced of? I mean, I know there are a couple of texts sitting around to go back to… but where does Paul praise the women? Where does any authentic Pauline letter say that women should be able to lead in church? I’ve read all of Paul’s letters, and I don’t remember anything like that. Although I’ve heard Episcopalians make the same claims many times, not a one has ever substantiated them with scripture. There’s one very vague one they usually point to, but I forget the chapter and verse.

  62. #62 nicol.the.great
    May 16, 2010

    Thank you, @naddyfive! I personally have always been attracted to nerd boys, and have never understood the appeal of meat heads. On the other hand, I find that nerd culture is just as misogynistic as any other culture or subculture on the planet, so to assume women are going to be worse off with the meat heads is insulting.

    And, to throw my hand in to the monotheistic/goddess vs god argument — I vaguely remember from some reading I did for college courses years ago that Indo-European culture inspired the current form of misogyny (from India to England), but also the only even vague evidence we have of goddess worship *in place of* god worship is with the very first Greek culture, on Knossos. But a lot of the “evidence” we have for this uses Campbell’s literary analysis — the Greeks were not big fans of women or snakes, especially the two together, so the Erinyes (Furies) and Medusa and her sisters might be examples from an early mother-centric snake cult. There’s TEENSY bit of similar evidence with the goddess Kali, and the Irish snake cult that St. Patrick unfortunately got rid of. But again, the evidence isn’t based on archeology so much as literary analysis. Otherwise, polytheistic cults are headed by men and focus on male deities being better than female ones, with some goddesses becoming particularly notable at different points in history (Kwan Yin, Isis, the Celtic moon Goddess, Athena).

    In my *terribly* humble opinion, religion is a tool used to justify anything you want it to justify. There’s a really positive early feminist example in Christine de Pizan’s “City of Ladies,” where she talks about all the female martyrs and saints and the women in the bible as proof that women are just as good as men. This was written in the 1500’s, I believe. Of course, this doesn’t excuse *most* of religion’s crappitude, it’s just an example of what a human-made tool religion is.

  63. #63 eMel
    May 16, 2010

    This passage caught my eye:

    Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

    And after reading it again, something dawned on me, but please correct me if I’m on the wrong track or interpreting it wrongly. Muhammad is often labeled a pedophile for having married a 6 or 7-year-old and consummated the marriage when she was 9 or 10. But this reads to me (the ‘women children’ portion) like instructions to do essentially the same by God.

  64. #64 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    The hatred, and attendant fear, of women ingrained into all Abrahamic religions is, unfortunately, hardly news. It is on the level of ‘dog bites man’ (or woman).

    I agree with PZ that religion did not create misogyny, but it certainly fanned the flames for its own purposes and is one of the principal factors that ensures that the oppression of women remains a blight on all human civilisation.

    Perhaps I am over-simplifying, but I think that a good starting point to ending misogyny would be to sort out the idea of women’s personal agency and autonomy once and for all, particularly in the area of reproduction and sex.

    A far greater component of sex-ed (all the fundies are going ‘boo, hiss’ about now) should deal not only with the practical precautions to do with contraception and the prevention of the transmission of STDs, but with, for want of a better term, ‘sex-iquette’ (actually, we should probably drop the awful pun).

    The message should be hammered home that both partners must fully and freely grant informed consent before any sexuality can begin. In a heterosexual context, the woman always chooses whether or not to proceed. No always means no. This message should be delivered far more aggressively and possibly at an earlier age (cue pearl-clutchers worried about the ‘poor little children’ in 3…2…1).

    Once you establish that a woman’s body and reproductive capacity are her’s, and her’s alone, to control you are a step closer to an equal society. If you want to have sex with a woman, and the relationship has progressed to a point where you feel that asking her is not inappropriate, then you should respectfully ask her is she would like to have sex with you. If she says no well, no means no. You accept her judgement that she does not want to pursue that kind of relationship with you or that she does not wish to have sex with you at that time depending upon what she said. You do not keep bothering her about it. This does not change if you happen to be married.

    The same holds with pregnancy. You should take all precautions and, if the relationship progresses to a point where you are thinking about children, then you should ask her if that is what she wants. Again, no means no whether you are married or not, and you should not keep bothering her if she refuses. ‘Forgeting’ the condom and such is unacceptable. If the pregnancy is unintended, then it is for the woman to decide what action to take in terms of abortion or keeping the child. She can consult the father, but it is her body. She is the one being exposed to the pain and risk, and so the choice must ultimately be hers.

    This seems reasonable to me, but the problem we face here is not only the way society treats women, and the way men are socialised to view women in our culture, but also the way masculine sexual attractiveness is constructed. All too often, our culture depicts the moody, sullen, even dangerous ‘bad boy’ as an archetype of male attractiveness. Society promotes the idea that men should be, not merely confidant or assertive, but out an out aggressive, and this aggression also manifests in sexual contexts. This is expressed in sayings such as “nice guys always finish last”, and the social conventions that surround the idea of what constitutes a ‘real’ man. Our popular culture is flooded with imagry pertaining to the monosyllabic ‘tough guy’ hero who treats the female lead as spoils to which he is entitled. I have lost count of the number of times a female character has been depicted as resisting the hero’s advances, often physically, only to melt into his arms once she realises… what? That she ‘wants it really’? It is the world’s most common rape apologetic writ large. This is not as bad today as it used to be, but even now the values of consideration and respect for women among men are often dismissed and devalued while the boorish, aggressive lout with the inflated ego is elevated.

    To break the cycle of misogyny in society we have to address not only the direct inequalities in terms of pay and social status between the genders, but we also need to look critically at how the popular idea of gender and gender roles in our society are constructed.

    Feminists and gender theorists have been doing this for decades, but it is about time that this field stops being viewed as a specialist oddity of academic arcana and is brought in from the academic cold and becomes a standard aspect of the way we view our culture.

    Purging all religious influence over how society treats women would also be a neccessary step.

  65. #65 Caine, Fleur du mal
    May 16, 2010

    Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders.

    What do you know, I’m a murderer on top of all the other built in evil! Goodness me.

    Woman is more guilty than man, because she was seduced by Satan

    No, she was “seduced” by knowledge. Knowledge is scintillating. Eve’s so-called sin was using her brain, something which is still looked down upon today and that is truly shameful behaviour.

  66. #66 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    OurDeadSelves:

    Squatting I get, but the rest of that just seems to be needlessly endangering my shoes. And I shall have none of that. Don’t think I don’t appreciate the effort, however.

  67. #67 Personal SinR
    May 16, 2010

    I really enjoyed this post. Good stuff PZ.

  68. #68 ehlsever
    May 16, 2010

    Now I have to confess, I don’t think religion is the root cause of misogyny. Religion is to misogyny as disease is to misery; not the sole cause, but a significant contributor. I’m going to blame biology.

    NO! I admire your sentiment here, but that’s just way off the mark. Isn’t it blatantly obvious that all these ‘sacred texts’ were made up by people looking to grant themselves retroactive immunity for the evil shit they’d been doing forever?

  69. #69 cfmilner
    May 16, 2010

    Gregory #64 – hear, hear. Very well said.

    Caine #65 – I’m adamantly “childfree” so I guess that makes me murderer too. And I look like such a nice ordinary girl next door …

  70. #70 katiet
    May 16, 2010

    @Knockgoats#32 – Campbell may have been a wooist, but he did his homework. Even based on analysis (and leaving his conclusions and connections aside), there’s plenty of evidence that past rituals get recycled into new myths.

  71. #71 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    Caine:

    No, she was “seduced” by knowledge. Knowledge is scintillating. Eve’s so-called sin was using her brain, something which is still looked down upon today and that is truly shameful behaviour.

    Well it the knowledge of how to use tools (and weapons, sinz54) that is the great equalizer of biology. Who cares how broad your shoulders are when wielding damning information (or a Mauser rifle)? Those damn women, learning stuff.

  72. #72 Cerberus
    May 16, 2010

    Gregory @64

    What he said.

    And yeah, I’m willing to keep fighting for whatever sex education we can get (in terms of increasing knowledge and access about contraceptives, STDs, pregnancy, etc…), but I’d really like to see more actual sex education as in education about sex. How to seek consent, the importance of consent, how to figure your own body out first, how to ask your partner what they want, how to prioritize your own boundaries, etc…

    I think the act of putting it all in a deep dark corner that we should all be ashamed about or at least act like we should all be ashamed about it creates these situations where it is more normal to just “proceed” than to actually actively seek and prioritize enthusiastic informed consent at all points and that couples should talk as little between each other about what they really want, what’s working or not, and what they consent to or not.

    This is especially highlighted when you notice how much the rape culture thrives in the spaces of shame about sex. If a woman is not supposed to be having sex or enjoying sex or talking about sex, then how do we know she didn’t “really want it” or said “no” at all? It’s definitely the origin of rape apologist bullshit like “your mouth says no, but your body says yes”.

  73. #73 OurDeadSelves
    May 16, 2010

    Dr. Fabulous Shoes:

    Squatting I get, but the rest of that just seems to be needlessly endangering my shoes. And I shall have none of that. Don’t think I don’t appreciate the effort, however.

    I love it when people live up to their names. 😀

    And to keep this post on topic, religion can go screw itself for keeping women down. Breaking free of magical thinking may not be the only solution to societal ills, but it certainly is the first step towards equality.

  74. #74 inklesspen.com
    May 16, 2010

    In the interests of (perhaps pedantic) accuracy, I do feel I should note that Jezebel was also a promoter of a competing religion, one which worshiped Ba’al (a generic name meaning “Lord”) and ‘Ashtart, a fertility goddess. According to the stories in the Bible, she was responsible for quite a bit of evil, like the killing of Naboth. The conservative religious context I grew up in said that she was evil, and also used makeup, not that she was evil because she used makeup. (They resorted to Paul’s epistles for that sort of thing.)

  75. #75 eddylinc
    May 16, 2010

    Not sure if anyone posted this yet (I’m at work and didn’t have time to read through all of the comments) but Little green footballs (which somehow became a sane place in the last year) posted a good example of how that loveliest religion, Catholicism, treats both women involved in its hierarchy and those who come to them for help:

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/05/15/20100515phoenix-catholic-nun-abortion.html

  76. #76 irenedelse
    May 16, 2010

    @ naddyfive:

    How are you sure of what Paul was convinced of? I mean, I know there are a couple of texts sitting around to go back to… but where does Paul praise the women? Where does any authentic Pauline letter say that women should be able to lead in church? I’ve read all of Paul’s letters, and I don’t remember anything like that.

    OK. I don’t want turn this thread about women and religion into an apology of one male preacher, but here goes. From what I read (the book I quoted included large excerpts of the genuine and non-genuine Pauline letters, btw):

    1) One very clear example is that some of the letters sent by Paul to the Christian communities he founded and/or visited are carried by a woman, who acts as his special emissary and is also a leader of her community (possibly because she was one of its first converts, or because she was rich enough to offer her house as a meeting-place). This emissary is trusted by Paul, and by the community, to read and explain his words to the other Christians, among whom many were illiterates. She was then, certainly, versed in both Christian and Jewish tradition.

    2) Paul himself, in Rome, is the guest of a married couple, Prisca and Aquila, who were Jews converted to Christianity. Paul always name them together and often name Prisca (or Priscilla, another form of the same name) first and her husband second. If Prisca had had no role in the community, but was simply there as her husband’s wife, it wouldn’t have been necessary.

    3) In ranking by order of merit the “workers for Christ” (his expression), Paul uses the same vocabulary for some women (among them, that same Prisca) and for himself, as indicating the highest praise, but has only lesser compliment for other male apostles. He was always boasting about his own travails, of course (BTW, I don’t find the guy a very appealing character, he was a mystic and had a very absolute, good-vs-bad, type of vision, not exactly in the MLK league).

    4) More elusive, but clear in context, is the fact that the female characters in the authentic letters of Paul are often portrayed as “prophesying”, speaking in tongues, and other signs of divine election. For instance, there is one passage in Paul’s authentic letters, where he argues that women shouldn’t “prophesy” with their hair uncovered, but then, logically, it means that women did prophesy (teach scripture, lead prayer, etc.) in the Christian communities where Paul lived and preached, and that the problem was one of decorum, or maybe keeping the traditional dress of their society instead of making innovations.

    Part of the problem for interpretation is that Paul’s letter, unlike the Gospels, are not narratives written for the general edification of Christians, but writings in answer to specific questions and problems. (For instance, in places like Rome or Corinth, the differences of social standing among the community was a source of strife: the rich didn’t want to partake of communion with the poor if they had to dine on cheap food and wine, but they didn’t want to bring enough of the good stuff to everybody, either!) The issue of men-women relationships is thus seen through the practical questions and problems of the time and place. But it was clear that barring women from leadership in church, or even from mutuality within a married couple, was never on the agenda for the historical Paul.

    Another problem is that even within the text of authentic letters, there are later insertions (that can be discerned by their different language), and most of them are misogynistic, or anti-Jewish, or tell slaves to stay slaves and obey their masters.

    And so we have a complex historical puzzle, which tells us a lot about the story of early Christianity. The teachings of Paul, among these early texts, were as “subversive” for the ancient Roman Empire as the more radical passages attributed to the Christ. Ancient Romans were resolutely not tolerant, for instance, of women leading prayers for a mixed community (Romans had an all-female priesthood, the Vestals, but within strict limits and they didn’t teach men, only other women), or even of women who were revered for having ecstatic or mystical experiences (like those whom Paul admired for their ability to “speak in tongues”).

  77. #77 Katharine
    May 16, 2010

    Well, let’s see –

    Christianity has misogynist teachings -> Vatican is misogynist -> the bible shat on Eve (no matter how imaginary she is) for getting knowledge (I find it funny that Adam was a pig-ignorant weirdo) -> anyone who adheres to all the tenets of Christianity is a complete and utter moron.

    Also, they’re skeered of us ladies.

    I’d like to air-drop porn on the Vatican.

    QED

  78. #78 chgo_liz
    May 16, 2010

    Dr.FabulousShoes:

    The link OurDeadSelves provided included many steps that I felt were unnecessary and/or unsanitary, but the general premise holds.

    You have to tilt your pelvis, and get the labia out of the way, but otherwise it’s the same mechanism as for men.

    Two points: there are (almost always) physical changes after childbirth, so what worked before has to be tweaked afterward; and wearing a skirt is actually much easier than wearing pants for the purpose of any form of not-sitting-on-a-throne evacuation.

    Source: decades of international travel and camping.

  79. #79 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    At the churches I’ve been to, “prophesying” is a word used to literally mean prophesying, not leading prayer or teaching in church. In churches that believe in speaking in tongues, a lot of “prophesying” goes on. Someone will go forward and speak a word of “prophesy” that God apparently just revealed to them. It’s inevitably vague stuff. Many women prophesy, but they would never, ever presume to “lead” anything withiin the congregations.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean whatever Greek word is translated prophesying was strictly literal. But I’ve heard a lot of scholars explain the whole “prophesying” question as a deeply political one that Paul sort of evaded in that letter, not wanting to offend new believers. A lot of the women in Christian churches were apparently ‘ex-temple prostitutes’, ex-Vestals, who were used to participating in religious ceremony. One of the things the early church did to recruit members was basically integrate these women into the congregation. But it was a little bit sly, because they were ultimately being folded into a male-led hierarchy of believers.

    But this is mostly hearsay and I’d have to do a lot more research. Still, my natural tendency is to balk at the idea that Christianity was “subversive” rather than just annoying. These claims always seem overstated, and usually are made by accomodationists.

  80. #80 broboxley OT
    May 16, 2010

    @Diane #2 lilith adams first wife is worshipped by some sects

  81. #81 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    At the churches I’ve been to, “prophesying” is a word used to literally mean prophesying, not leading prayer or teaching in church. In churches that believe in speaking in tongues, a lot of “prophesying” goes on. Someone will go forward and speak a word of “prophesy” that God apparently just revealed to them. It’s inevitably vague stuff. Many women prophesy, but they would never, ever presume to “lead” anything withiin the congregations.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean whatever Greek word is translated prophesying was strictly literal. But I’ve heard a lot of scholars explain the whole “prophesying” question as a deeply political one that Paul sort of evaded in that letter, not wanting to offend new believers. A lot of the women in Christian churches were apparently ‘ex-temple prostitutes’, ex-Vestals, who were used to participating in religious ceremony. One of the things the early church did to recruit members was basically integrate these women into the congregation. But it was a little bit sly, because they were ultimately being folded into a male-led hierarchy of believers.

    But this is mostly hearsay and I’d have to do a lot more research. Still, my natural tendency is to balk at the idea that Christianity was “subversive” rather than just annoying. These claims always seem overstated, and usually are made by accomodationists.

  82. #82 maddogdelta
    May 16, 2010

    You forgot about one of the best snuff porn stories in the Bible. Judges 19.

    You will be hard pressed to find a more appalling and disgusting bit of typing outside of “holy books” anywhere.

    In brief, a guy lets a band of thugs rape and murder his girlfriend, then he chops her up and sends her bits to the 12 tribes so that : “And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.”

  83. #83 Childermass
    May 16, 2010

    “The authentic Paul was actually very convinced that all should have equal status inside Christianity, be them rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile, and for instance, never forbid women to preach and lead prayers.”

    Indeed Paul explicitly praised a women teachers by name in the works considered to be really written by Paul.

    But as it become evident that the Second Coming was not going to be all that immediate, the such praise of woman religious leaders become a “problem.” The inferior status of woman was considered self-evident by men of that time and thus eventually new scripture was invented to “fix” what Paul wrote and put women back into their “place.” Skip nearly two thousand years and as society advanced to have the idea that women are not inferior or nor should be subservient and those scriptures get used against progress. Religion did not invent the sexist attitudes, but it is used as an argument against progress.

    This is not a mere academic issue for historians of scripture. But demonstrates that the Biblical authors often had profoundly different and indeed contradictory viewpoints about very fundamental issues. If one understands it, one knows that fundamentalism is wrong even without discovering the world is older than 10,000 years.

    And the funny thing is that in the vast majority of even the most fundamentalists churches woman teach men all the time and woman are far from silent in church. And yet they don’t get that it contradicts what “Paul” wrote. But if someone dare suggest a woman can be a preacher, the verse then gets dug out and dusted off. Heck on occasion it is woman fundies telling adult male believers that woman can’t be the teachers. Maybe in fundyspeak, “teacher” only applies to the head-honcho of the church.

  84. #84 Eileen
    May 16, 2010

    It’s definitely fascinating – and an example of how bizarre the human animal truly is -that so many women subscribe to gender inferiority. I’m just as interested as why so many men do the same. It seems like it’s always taken for granted that men would naturally view women as inferior — don’t men get pissed off by this assumption?

  85. #85 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    cfmilner @ 69;

    …hear, hear. Very well said.

    Thank you.

    Cerberus @ 72;

    Still gaurding the gates of moderation hell, eh?

    And yeah, I’m willing to keep fighting for whatever sex education we can get (in terms of increasing knowledge and access about contraceptives, STDs, pregnancy, etc…), but I’d really like to see more actual sex education as in education about sex. How to seek consent, the importance of consent, how to figure your own body out first, how to ask your partner what they want, how to prioritize your own boundaries, etc…

    You are right on the money here. More comprehensive sex education is absolutely vital. If people knew more about how to seek consent responsibly, understood the importance of consent, and were able to explore their own sexuality and that of their partner with confidence, and generally were less afraid of talking openly about sexuality, then all manner of psycho-sexual and social ills might be eased, along with a weakening of the all pervasive rape culture.

    I think the act of putting it all in a deep dark corner that we should all be ashamed about or at least act like we should all be ashamed about it creates these situations where it is more normal to just “proceed” than to actually actively seek and prioritize enthusiastic informed consent at all points and that couples should talk as little between each other about what they really want, what’s working or not, and what they consent to or not.

    This is especially highlighted when you notice how much the rape culture thrives in the spaces of shame about sex. If a woman is not supposed to be having sex or enjoying sex or talking about sex, then how do we know she didn’t “really want it” or said “no” at all? It’s definitely the origin of rape apologist bullshit like “your mouth says no, but your body says yes”.

    And this is where religion comes in by indoctrinating people from birth to believe that sex is sinful, dirty and shamefull, and it is especially so for women. Religion propogates and maintains the culture of silence and, in some cases, fear about sex that contributes to the oppression of women and the sexual dysfunction that blights so many lives.

    As for the “your mouth says no, but your body says yes” cannard that issues from the mouths of so many rapists, there is a nasty and deeply buried part of me that would love to dangle the only key to their cell over a drain and say;

    “You don’t want me to drop it? Really? You see, your mouth says no, but your body says yes…”

  86. #86 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    Garrgh!! Blockquote fail.

  87. #87 phreack
    May 16, 2010

    @Dianne (#2): Discordians worship Eris/Discordia, the Greek/Roman goddess of chaos.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discordianism
    founded in the late 50’s, early 60’s, so that beats your 20 year limit.

    It’s the religion I clung to during my deconversion…I figured I at least needed to have some sort of faith, and discordianism seemed like more of a joke than a true religion, with the whole chaos focus.

    Anyway, it’s bunk like the rest, but at least it’s fun.

  88. #88 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    I haven’t finished reading the thread yet, but I’ve been pondering the post since I got up this morning (one of the bad things about smartphones is that I now read Pharyngula before I get out of bed in the morning).

    I’m in the midst of a series of interesting discussions with my teenaged kids about gender roles and have been thinking about going back and reading some of the social-psychoanalytic stuff I remember from college and grad school, especially Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the Minotaur and Chodorow’s The Reproduction of Mothering. My recollection is way scanty, but IIRC they both argue that much of our cultural/religious fear and degradation of the female grows out of each individual’s experience of helplessness at the hands of a female caregiver.

    I would like to preface my arguments with the caveat that I am fully aware that many biologically based sex or gender characteristics are normally distributed, so that some males may be more “motherly” than some females. I am not attempting to prescribe parenting roles for anyone, so please don’t attack me as if I did. Every family, of whatever composition, has to arrange roles to suit the people in the family.

    My experience and observation of families leads me to think that females, especially females who have gone through pregnancy, childbirth, and possibly nursing, have considerable neuro-hormonal support that makes it easier for them to care for young children (brief summary here). Women are often more able to tolerate the grosser aspects of babies (think Shakespeare’s “mewling and puking”), soothe upset kids via physical contact (and not just through nursing for comfort), wake up when there’s a funny baby noise, divide one’s attention between making dinner and keeping an eye on the kid, etc. Men can do all of these things as well (except for the lactation thing, which I think was discussed on a separate thread at some point), but it seems to require a bit more deliberate effort.

    Some of these biological factors make it challenging to establish a norm in which the physical and emotional care of very young children is equally shared between male and female parents. This unequal distribution of childcare responsibilities, in turn, can perpetuate a system in which females are devalued, which brings me to Terullian’s comment:

    Each of you women is an Eve… You are the gate of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law.

    These statements implicitly acknowledge how much impact women can have on society, not through some mythical ancestral sin, but specifically through their behavior as mothers. Even within families with fairly traditional gender roles (i.e. maternal caregiver / paternal wage-earner), a woman can tempt children into knowledge and lead them to desert “divine law” by teaching kids to think critically about religion and culture. Starting to teach kids to have autonomy and personal responsibility when they are toddlers, explaining, as much as possible, the reasons for rules, and insisting that mommy has feelings and you’re not allowed to treat mommy like a slave – all of these things undermine traditional religious views on gender and thus undermine religion itself. When kids are older, one can explain that healthy people have friends of both genders and that dividing up into “boys versus girls” for games is as unjust as dividing up into “blacks versus whites.” (I was amazingly proud when I heard my kids explain this to their friends!) And there are plenty of opportunities for highlighting cultural sexism, pointing out when people make stupid assumptions based on gender, normalizing sexual behavior and desires that are typically prohibited by religious teachings, insisting on the legitimacy of a female caregiver’s dignity, autonomy, and privacy (including time to oneself), and asserting and protecting the right of women NOT to be mothers.

    So yes, as PZ says, women can be the first deserters, but we must also foment further desertion by influencing those in our most intimate relationships. It’s not surprising that there’s been such an endless stream of invective designed to keep women blind to this very real power, and the “have as many children as you can and then die in childbirth” rule works to minimize the number of women who will live long enough to see through the invective and become subversive caregivers.

    And for Cerburus, yes, I did celebrate Mother’s Day in our family with a discussion of why effective birth control is an essential part of respect for motherhood, and I urged all my friends, especially those who only have sons, to do the same.

  89. #89 Dianne
    May 16, 2010

    Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.

    Hey, I’ve offered to start male pregnancy experiments* on pro-life men any number of times. Not my fault that no one’s offered either funding or a body to work on. So we’ve basically got a bunch of men whining about how unfair it is that they need women to be born but doing nothing to change it. Losers.

    *In principle it should be simple: Implant embryo on intestinal lining with good blood supply, come back in 9 months to do c-section. There’d probably be some complications to work out in real life though.

  90. #90 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    Eileen @ 84;

    It’s definitely fascinating – and an example of how bizarre the human animal truly is -that so many women subscribe to gender inferiority. I’m just as interested as why so many men do the same. It seems like it’s always taken for granted that men would naturally view women as inferior — don’t men get pissed off by this assumption?

    This assumption does annoy me a great deal, especially since it is often paired with the idea that any man who does genuinely see women as his equal is somehow abnormal, or even less ‘manly’ than he should be. Then there is the other, in many respects even worse, idea that any man who treats a woman with respect, especially in public, must have an ulterior motive for doing so. The preferred supposed motivations include public demonstrations of politically correct ‘piety’ in order to curry favour with their in group, or as a strategy by which they can get feminists into bed.

    Some men are so incapable of viewing women as anything other than sex objects that they are incapable of grasping the idea that there might be other men who view gender equality as a matter of social justice and personal principle.

  91. #91 Ibis3
    May 16, 2010

    @ irenedelse

    Some Neo-Platonic sects (think Plotinus) were indeed monotheistic, worshiping the supreme and transcendant “One”.

    What I alluded to was that some Neo-Platonic sects identified their “one god” with Sophia, a goddess. However, since they also were prone to incorporating emmanations, incarnations, demiurges, and/or demigods into their theology, they might not be strictly classed as monotheistic.

    But there were not open to feminism. In fact, the Neo-Platonicians thought that all matter, all flesh, was bad, impure, and human sexuality (especially women’s sexuality) something to leave behind if one wanted to get closer to the transcendence.

    I never said they were feminist. I was only responding to the question of whether we know of any pre-modern monotheistic religions that have a goddess rather than a god. There was a streak of spiritual-rational/material dualism that runs through a lot of mid- to late-Roman religion, and women were placed on the losing side because they were seen as less rational and more material/bodily.

    As for Paul, yes we all agree that the most misogynistic elements of the letters were pseudo-Pauline, but I find that putting nice clean clothes on what we have left, warping and shaping what he said to apologise for him is rather an exercise for the same people who want to whitewash genocide and slavery of the Old Testament. He may not have been as much of a prick as the author of Timothy, but he was still an asshole, and none of the “evidence” you (properly the author you’re paraphrasing) present holds much weight.

    @katiet & others re: Goddess religion/Joseph Campbell etc.

    During the last decades of the twentieth century there was a great push to bring women, femaleness, and the feminine divine into the realm of historical and anthropological study. This led (unfortunately but understandably) to some revisionism. We know there were goddesses worshiped in pre-history, we know that goddesses were worshiped in historical times. We don’t know that there was a “Goddess religion” that was practiced by some widespread group that was conquered by patriarchal tribes who ousted the Goddess from her divine throne and forced a god(s)-centred religion to be practised in its place. In fact, to me as a historian of religion, that scenario sounds highly suspect.

    The ritual/myth relationship is very complex and has to be examined on a case by case basis. Some rituals, having lost their original justification, spawn new myths. Some myths are subsequently enacted via rituals. Some myths and rituals grow and develop together.

    Campbell is very good as a commenter on (philosopher of?) mythology–its nuances and relationship to the human psyche–but take the historical and anthropological side of things with a grain of salt.

  92. #92 mel.unique
    May 16, 2010

    If I may bring in one of the more “modern” religions, the Mormons: Apostle Heber C. Kimball said, “I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow.” The mainstream Mormons only stopped new polygamy 100 years ago, and the last polygamist prophet only died 6 decades ago.
    Now they preach one-man-one-woman and say it’s always been God’s will.
    Moral of the story? Religions say what they want to get what they want, and the women will always be at the bottom.

  93. #93 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    May 16, 2010

    Thank you, @naddyfive! I personally have always been attracted to nerd boys, and have never understood the appeal of meat heads. On the other hand, I find that nerd culture is just as misogynistic as any other culture or subculture on the planet, so to assume women are going to be worse off with the meat heads is insulting.

    Boy Howdy is it. It’s incredibly hard to find something where women are treated normally. And if the work does, you can bet the fans won’t.

    Note: Joss Whedon works aren’t actually winning this still. They’re just closer.

    Here’s the thing, it’s part of the entire culture, not just religion: women who believe they’re playing chess against a man will do worse than when they believe they’re playing against a woman. http://goo.gl/A2Rb

    On that one simple note, I can honestly say I’m almost free and clear. Well, actually, I can say “I think I am”, since I’ve never done any empirical tests on it. But I can be very competitive in my gaming.

    Incidentally, in response to the blog question “How do women enjoy something that is misogynist”, the answer is “With great self loathing.”
    <- Big time nerd, deep in nerd culture. And I self loath a lot for liking stuff that seems misogynist to me.

  94. #94 katiet
    May 16, 2010

    Mattir @ 88 – “Women are often more able to tolerate the grosser aspects of babies “>

    Nonsense. Next you’ll try to tell us that men are more able to tolerate the grosser aspects of war, or medicine, or chemistry. Are women also more able to tolerate the grosser aspects of dishwashing and toilet cleaning?

    Any person who spends significant time with babies quickly becomes un-grossed out, but for a select few (men and women) who just aren’t the sort of *people* to stomach that sort of thing well.

  95. #95 onethird-man
    May 16, 2010

    Eileen @ 84 – it doesn’t just piss me off.

    I grew up with a twin sister. I would be the last to say women were “inferior.” She kicked the asses of my bullies, mostly because I’m on the sensitive side to start with and an easy target as a result, and few of them would admit they were beat up by a girl.

    I was never puzzled by Sekmet.

  96. #96 Caine, Fleur du mal
    May 16, 2010

    katiet:

    Any person who spends significant time with babies quickly becomes un-grossed out, but for a select few (men and women) who just aren’t the sort of *people* to stomach that sort of thing well.

    ^This. I have never liked babies, and I really don’t care for handling them, especially when it comes to the nastier aspects.

    Not everything comes down to frigging parenting, either. There are more fundamental problems in the way women are viewed which need to be addressed.

  97. #97 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    @katiet

    Mothers don’t tolerate gross stuff in general (war, medicine, etc.). There are, however things that evoke a physical “disgust” response (feces, vomit) and mothers appear to experience less disgust towards those things when they’re produced by their own infants as opposed to other people’s infants. For a study with way too small a sample size, see here. I believe that the same phenomena have been observed in animals as well – mothers groom infants, consume poop, etc. in ways that they don’t do with older offspring or other animals.

    There is not reason other than habit for women to do more dishwashing or toilet cleaning (unless, as PZ noted, this is your particular fetish).

  98. #98 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    Mattir:

    Women are often more able to tolerate the grosser aspects of babies (think Shakespeare’s “mewling and puking”), soothe upset kids via physical contact (and not just through nursing for comfort), wake up when there’s a funny baby noise, divide one’s attention between making dinner and keeping an eye on the kid, etc.

    As all those excuses were used to keep women out of surgery (can’t handle blood and guts, can’t multitask, can’t discern pathological differences in heart or abdominal sounds, can’t be expected to act intelligently at a moments notice when woken up by an emergency), I call utter bullshit.

    It’s merely what is rewarded for paying attention to based on gender norms. Little Suzie recognizes a pain cry and saves her sister from losing some fingers in a crib latch? “You’ll be a great mother”, is the response. Little Timmy does it and the response is “My little hero, maybe you should become a doctor!”

  99. #99 chaseacross
    May 16, 2010

    This is good stuff to keep in mind now that Sarah Palin is trying to present herself as a feminist.

    “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

    Can someone please let Sarah Palin know she needs to abandon the Bible or shut the fuck up?

  100. #100 David Marjanovi?
    May 16, 2010

    For female monotheism, try googling “Temple of Cybele”.

    Cybele? Monotheism??? What happened to her lover Attis, for a start?

    There is some evidence that suggests some of the earliest religions (that we know anything about) were monotheistic with a female deity (think Venus of Willendorf)

    I can’t fathom why you think there’s any evidence of monotheism around the Venus of Willendorf.

    […] “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” by Leonard Shlain, which follows our evolution from Sophia/Goddess/Nature worship through polytheism to the ancient world’s and today’s monotheism.

    Isn’t that first stage just speculation?

    So what’s the idea behind this strange dialect of English?

    The Authorized Version, also called King James Bible, which dates from 1611. By and large, American fundamentalists still use it, because the translators wrote a foreword about how pious they were, and simply because of tradition. It’s also in some respects more poetic and more impressive than most modern translations (though, of course, this is to some degree circular logic ? the unfamiliar archaic vocabulary and grammar are perceived as more poetic and more impressive).

    Also, figurines dug up dating 30-35k BC also seems to have the “mother god/mother earth” as they’re primary deity

    …as far as we can project our speculations into those figurines, that is.

    the Irish snake cult that St. Patrick unfortunately got rid of

    What? How can there ever have been a snake cult in Ireland when there never were snakes there ever since the ice cap retreated from Ireland?

    You don’t seriously believe they were there all the way till St. Patrick wrought a miracle and spirited them away? 🙂

    Little green footballs (which somehow became a sane place in the last year)

    Yes, we can!

    Women are often more able to […] soothe upset kids via physical contact (and not just through nursing for comfort)

    Is it just me, or is this dead obviously cultural?

    Men can do all of these things as well (except for the lactation thing, which I think was discussed on a separate thread at some point)

    I’d appreciate a link if someone can find one. ? Just to prove the rule by mentioning the exception, I’ve read a couple of times that some men actually can give milk. And then there’s a species of bat where all adult males can.

  101. #101 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    Doesn’t anyone read the qualifiers “often” and “sometimes” and the whole paragraph about normal distribution of sex-linked traits? I am not a wicked sexist troll, and my son and husband do plenty of gross stuff around the house. And hormonal suppression of the disgust response to one’s own infant in no way necessitates the exclusion of women from surgery, the priesthood of the IPU or FSM, the wall street trading floor, or the French Foreign Legion.

    We’re stuck with bodies and brains evolved for the Lower Paleolithic, and while this says little or nothing about how one should live now, it certainly helps to understand what pressures shaped those bodies and brains.

  102. #102 Ibis3
    May 16, 2010

    Still, my natural tendency is to balk at the idea that Christianity was “subversive” rather than just annoying. These claims always seem overstated, and usually are made by accomodationists.

    This. There wasn’t much subversive about early Christianity except Christians’ refusal to perform the rituals that would show their loyalty to the state. That and the raising of an executed criminal to the status of a divinity (though this was seen more as ridiculous than subversive).

  103. #103 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    Mattir:

    We’re stuck with bodies and brains evolved for the Lower Paleolithic, and while this says little or nothing about how one should live now, it certainly helps to understand what pressures shaped those bodies and brains.

    Good thing we have those big brains to overcome such *speculated* biological non-sense. Culture has an ENORMOUSLY larger influence on the behavior of humans and lacking knowledge of THAT does show that you’re playing into gender norms. It’s apologetics. And it’s bullshit.

  104. #104 katiet
    May 16, 2010

    Mattir @ 97 – “Mothers don’t tolerate gross stuff in general (war, medicine, etc.).”

    Again, nonsense. Ask any mother serving in Iraq or Afghanistan whether she thinks she’s less able to tolerate gross stuff in general. Also, have you seen someone give birth? It’s totally gross, and women have been doing it and facilitating it and living to do it again for a while now.

    “There are, however things that evoke a physical “disgust” response (feces, vomit) and mothers appear to experience less disgust towards those things when they’re produced by their own infants as opposed to other people’s infants.”

    Right. So maybe this is about one’s own children rather than about one’s own chromosomes. Because I know a lot of men who change their own kids’ diapers without ever offering a hand to change their friends’ kids diapers.

    “I believe that the same phenomena have been observed in animals as well – mothers groom infants, consume poop, etc. in ways that they don’t do with older offspring or other animals.”

    Well, in the animal world mothers also eat their babies sometimes.

  105. #105 katiet
    May 16, 2010

    Mattir @ 97 – “I believe that the same phenomena have been observed in animals as well – mothers groom infants, consume poop, etc. in ways that they don’t do with older offspring or other animals.”

    Mattir @ 103 – Good thing we have those big brains to overcome such *speculated* biological non-sense. Culture has an ENORMOUSLY larger influence on the behavior of humans and lacking knowledge of THAT does show that you’re playing into gender norms. It’s apologetics. And it’s bullshit.”

    … Pick one?

  106. #106 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    That was me.

  107. #107 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    May 16, 2010

    That was Doc Fabulous Shoes @103, not Mattir.

  108. #108 Ibis3
    May 16, 2010

    There is some evidence that suggests some of the earliest religions (that we know anything about) were monotheistic with a female deity (think Venus of Willendorf)

    I can’t fathom why you think there’s any evidence of monotheism around the Venus of Willendorf.

    Nice quotemining there, David. How about this, to be more clear: in many prehistoric sites we’ve found female figurines that are likely to be religious in nature. In those same sites, there is an absence of male figurines. This is some evidence that suggests there may have been, among the earliest religions, monotheism with a goddess rather than a god. But since we’re talking about prehistory there’s no way to know for sure.

  109. #109 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    the Irish snake cult that St. Patrick unfortunately got rid of

    What? How can there ever have been a snake cult in Ireland when there never were snakes there ever since the ice cap retreated from Ireland?

    How about because the people who lived in Ireland came from place where there were snakes and because humans share with chimps a biologically supported fascination/fear of snakes. (EO Wilson has a lovely essay on snake religions, btw.)

    Women are often more able to […] soothe upset kids via physical contact (and not just through nursing for comfort)

    Is it just me, or is this dead obviously cultural?

    I doubt it’s totally cultural, given the hormonal factors involved in gestation and lactation. It’d be great if someone could come up with some way of testing this, though.

    It’s interesting – on the bat sex thread yesterday I was chastised for saying that I tend to be gunshy about discussing implications of evolutionary biology for human behavior. How can anyone, especially on this blog,say with a straight face that the apparently greater ease with which female parents care for infants is 100% cultural? We would never say any such thing about any other mammal – why would it be the case, suddenly, for human beings? Even if it’s 80% cultural, that would still leave 20% to be shaped by biological factors.

    I will repeat again – no one should have to care for infants. Male parents should learn to care for infants, even if it’s something they have to learn and even when or if it doesn’t come as easily it does for some (not all) female parents. Just because it might have a biological basis does not mean that it’s a desirable pattern for contemporary society (see arguments about rape, for example).

    On the other hand, it behooves parents, both male and female, to consider the implication of their parenting role for the perpetuation of cultural or religious devaluation of females and act accordingly. My post was directed more towards mothers because (a) PZ focused on the ability of women to be agents of change in the struggle against theism and the devaluation of women, and (b) I am a mother and can describe my own observations of parenting as a female parent more clearly than I can describe the experience of male parents.

    Perhaps some of the male parents might share, in specific detail, how they have structured their parenting behavior so as to change the culture of sexism instead of piling onto the “it’s all culture” bandwagon.

  110. #110 pixelfish
    May 16, 2010

    mel.unique@92: That quote of Heber C. Kimball’s aligns only too well with the modern-day film Mormons show about Johnny Lingo and his eight cow wife, Mahana.

  111. #111 katiet
    May 16, 2010

    Dr.FabulousShoes @ 106 – Oops! I thought that was a quick change of heart!

  112. #112 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Not that we need anecdotes to prove this, but I’m a woman and I’m not grossed out by anything. I used to observe surgeries as a teen for fun. My brother (all 6’3″ 250 lbs of him) excused himself from high school dissections to vomit. He nearly faints when he sees blood.

    I realize that some people actually are squeamish. But 9 times out of 10 when I see females acting “grossed out”, it’s so clearly a display, meant to call attention to how feminine (read: helpless) she is in front of a male audience. I sat in a genetics lab once where a girl whom I had watched kill all kinds of insects without flinching suddenly made a huge point of saying she thought killing fruit flies for an experiment was “so mean”, harumph, arms crossed, switching into a high pitched baby voice I’d never heard her use before. Of course, she was addressing the attractive young TA…

    In some of my classes where teachers showed photos of skin diseases and other deformities, I noticed that if the teacher left the lights out, none of the girls looked away. But when the lights were on, all the girls made a big point of acting icked-out.

    Mattir: I don’t know how old your kids are, but if you have teen daughters, Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman’s book “Yes Means Yes” or Valenti’s “The Purity Myth” make for good reading for girls in the 15-17 age range.

  113. #113 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    Mothers don’t tolerate gross stuff in general (war, medicine, etc.).

    I did not mean that mothers can’t tolerate such things, obviously they can. I was speaking of a very specific, time-limited, and possibly biologically linked reduction in the innate disgust response to feces and vomit. Totally irrelevant to whether people can tolerate gross stuff in general.

    Also, I am aware that animal mothers sometimes eat their offspring, usually in very high-stress conditions. Which is why I am in favor high levels of support for new mothers and reduced culpability for mothers who commit infanticide. I can’t think of many cases where mothers kill young infants except when they are experiencing abnormally high levels of stress and low levels of social support.

    How about we stop talking about whether I’m a reactionary June Cleaver apologist and start talking about how we parent children differently from a very young age so as to combat sexism?

  114. #114 hermetically sealed
    May 16, 2010

    “Misery leads people to turn to religion, which can make the misery worse because it doesn’t address the material causes of the problem, and the increasing despair leads more and more to seek succor from religion, which makes it even worse, which?you get the idea. It’s a spiral of futility.”

    I think Karl Marx was correct in calling religion the “opium of the people”– however, I think his solution was putting the cart before the horse: get rid of religion and it will make it easier to improve peoples’ conditions. But its actually the other way round: Improve peoples’ conditions and religion will become more and more irrelevant.

    Look at the countries with the best social programs and strongest safety nets– its no coincidence that religion is practically absent there. And so its no surprise that of all the developed countries, the US has more than its fair share of religious propagation– of all the developed nations, it is the one with the least safety nets– where many European conservatives are to the LEFT of most US “liberals.”

  115. #115 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    I don’t know how old your kids are, but if you have teen daughters, Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman’s book “Yes Means Yes” or Valenti’s “The Purity Myth” make for good reading for girls in the 15-17 age range.

    These would make good reading for both sexes, not just the Daughter Spawn. It’s one of the reasons we instituted a roughhousing policy when the kids were very young requiring explicit consent to roughhousing and immediate cessation of tickling or whatever as soon as someone said stop. The rules were modeled by me and Mr. M in our interactions with the kids and enforced strictly. Son Spawn recently made the connection to sex on his own and thought it had been a great way to teach the “yes means yes” lesson.

  116. #116 abb3w
    May 16, 2010

    PZ: The hard question, though, is why women have ever fallen for women-hating religions in the first place ? and there is no denying that women have been prominent advocates of the church, of submission, of labeling themselves in dress and manner as toys of men.

    Possibly tied to backfire effect? Or perhaps some other relative of confirmation bias?

  117. #117 Susan
    May 16, 2010

    Any culture that denigrates half of its members, that commits them to inferior roles by tradition rather than allowing them to excel by inclination, is throwing away half of its potential.

    I’ve found myself trying to explain way too many times [usually, in response to, “But where’s the female Beethoven?!”] that art and music are half as good as they could have been; we’re half as advanced in science as we could have been; in short, we’re half the species we should be because, thanks to the Patriarchy, half (at least) of our talent has been shut down.

    “Wives, submit to your husbands in all things…” was the “teaching” that did it for me, when I was about 12. If I’d known “WTF” at that age, it would have been what I was thinking. Instead, it was more along the lines of: If that guy in the dress is wrong about that, what else is he wrong about? Aaaand I was on the road to a full recovery.

    Thanks for this, PZ. It’s nice having a quick compendium of the idiocy all handy in one spot.

  118. #118 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    Mattir:

    Perhaps some of the male parents might share, in specific detail, how they have structured their parenting behavior so as to change the culture of sexism instead of piling onto the “it’s all culture” bandwagon.

    Way to negate any female perspective other than your own. Again, part of the problem, not the solution.

    While I am willing to admit that hormonal mileu does shape the way we (as humans) interact with the world, the point of PZ’s post, which you obviously missed, was that the 20% which biology may influence behavior should no longer be used to justify the reinforcement of the other 80%.

    (Using your numbers, I’m being generous – you really want to get into it, and I’ll show you male spikes in oxytocin while cuddling an infant. You really really want to get into it and I’ll show you that women are better at surviving ANYTHING – traumatic brain injury, cancer, massive blood loss likely due to the effects of a lack of testosterone).

    The issue that I take with your post is that you don’t recognize it as part of the problem. The whole point is to not parent the children differently. My own parents did not treat me any different than my brother despite having girl parts and a significant physical developmental delay. Probably because of the delay, but that’s another story. As a result when people told me I was different (even my own mother at menarche), my honest answer was: No, I’m not. And I’ll show you why.

    My husband continually gets ribbed by strangers for being a kept man – because I make substantially more than he does and will throughout my career, and due to this, he will be the primary caregiver to our children. He’ll be better at it than I will be because he has far more patience than I do (which I recognize is an individual difference and our relationship is not data). But if you’re looking to get rid of people who mock him for that individual difference – I’ll paraphrase Micheal Jackson: Look to the man in the mirror and ask him to change his ways.

    Good for you for getting the “yes means yes” message through to your son, as it is an issue near and dear to me – but that’s not the only way women are told they are inferior. And it’s granted, my husband and I will screw our kids up in another way altogether…. but the point is to look at your behavior and be able to change it if deficient.

  119. #119 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    I see there’s a lot of discussion over what the “real Paul” did or didn’t write or mean, which I find almost as hilarious as discussions over what the “real Jesus” did or didn’t say or mean.

    Because, when it comes right down to it, there’s no more reason to suspect that anybody even vaguely recognizable as the Biblical Paul ever existed than that Jesus existed. Paul, we are to believe, was himself a rabble-rouser and mover and shaker of the first order. If nothing else, if he really went from the number one persecutor of Christians to their most famous spokescritter, the Rabbis of the era who are alleged to have been his original sponsors would have seriously ripped him a new one. Josephus would have given him a chapter unto himself. Instead, as usual, all are silent.

    Sure, somebody wrote those letters, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that at least a few of them were written by the same person. And that person might even have been named, “Paul.”

    But the fact of the matter is that the actual author is anonymous — as are all the other works in that fictional anthology, The Bible. Claiming that a certain Christian hero of mythical proportions was the actual author is as silly as proclaiming some particular Paean to actually have been written by Orpheus.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  120. #120 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    Perhaps some of the male parents might share, in specific detail, how they have structured their parenting behavior so as to change the culture of sexism instead of piling onto the “it’s all culture” bandwagon.

    Way to negate any female perspective other than your own. Again, part of the problem, not the solution.

    Strawman – I did not negate any other female’s perspective, I said that I was sharing my own experience. I specifically stated that other people have different experiences. I suggested that David M. might want to talk about how he parented in order to reduce sexism rather than just saying that it was purely cultural that female parents were often more effective at soothing pre-verbal children.

    While I am willing to admit that hormonal mileu does shape the way we (as humans) interact with the world, the point of PZ’s post, which you obviously missed, was that the 20% which biology may influence behavior should no longer be used to justify the reinforcement of the other 80%.

    Again, strawman – I never said that. I was repeating a fairly conventional argument of how cultural attitudes may develop from individual experiences of biologically-influenced relationships (i.e. the likelihood that more women will care for children than men). I advocated that parents, and particularly mothers if they are primary caregivers, should be aware of the relationship between cultural attitudes and individual experience and take steps to minimize or eliminate the link between female caregiving and cultural devaluation of women.

    Lastly, I did not suggest that parents should treat boys and girls differently. In the example of noticing the squished fingers, I’d probably give both boys and girls the same response – some variety of “you’re so good at noticing”, without any steering toward motherhood or medicine. I suggested that we need to parent our own kids differently from the way we were parented – teaching them to notice power differentials, to respect the individuality of others, to question rules, especially those justified with “just because” or “it’s god’s will.”

    I took from PZ’s post exactly what he wanted us to grasp – that women can take the legacy of sinful Eve as a positive rather than a negative, stepping away from theism by shaping our relationships to encourage non-theism in others.

  121. #121 Legion
    May 16, 2010

    Of all the mythical characters in the bible, Eve is our favorite because she was the first to say, “Fuck you god and fuck the patriarchy!”

  122. #122 acastcia
    May 16, 2010

    During the spanish civil war, my grandfather left home one morning and never came back, killed by the fascist bastards who had taken my hometown at the time.
    My Grandmother found herself alone with six children. From her three elder sons, two were missing in action and one in jail for beeing a “rojo” = “red”.
    She was a small, tiny women but managed not only to get her three sons safely back home (as far as i know she went to the last known place she knew her sons had been fighting and to a general to get the third out of prison). She managed to raise the rest of her children only with a litlle plot of farming land.(English is not my language so i have a bit of a problem to get to the point) And these religious pricks want to tell me and the rest of humankind that women are bad and lesser and source of evil and all the other things P.Z quoted. Fuck them, Fuck them hard! Bastard and assholes they are nothing else. Not very intellectual comment, but thats how i feel when i read and hear shit like this.To come to an end: a loving and respectful salute to all the brave, intelligent, strong women out there, who keep things together, while the pricks and bastards of the world try to destroy.

  123. #123 amphiox
    May 16, 2010

    And Adam was not deceived

    Oh, you can almost taste the cognitive dissonance whenever someone trots this out this little hackneyed justification.

    Ahem. Adam ate the fruit too!

    So, if Eve is to be damned and denigrated for being deceived by Satan (as it were, the Master Liar, Prince of Deception, fallen angel who challenged God himself, etc, etc), and all women, “daughters of Eve” thus to be disdained in turn, what are we to make of men, the “sons of Adam” – the blithering idiot who was deceived by *gasp* *horror* *ignomity* a woman!!

  124. #124 Givesgoodemail
    May 16, 2010

    A bit of background about one of the scriptures quoted above:

    “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

    There is nothing worse than a translation of a translation of a translation. The original word — charasha— came from an early translation of the Torah to Aramaic, and it means “female magic user”.

    The Latin translation came out “venifica”, which specifies “female poisoner”. The fine folks over at the KJV translation free-for-all took it to mean “witch”.

    Hence the confusion about the line. ‘Course it’s all shite anyway.

  125. #125 'Tis Himself, OM
    May 16, 2010

    Cerberus #16

    One of the nice “hooks” of religion is that it tries to sell an idea of “eternal justice” outside of this world, thus for oppressed populations who may never see justice in this world and will probably get martyred to the cause of making things slightly better, it can be “pleasant” to imagine that those who made your life such an unbearable hell will get some taste of that in “divine retribution” and that there will be some rest for oneself.

    I read this and was reminded of Joe Hill’s song The Preacher and the Slave.

    You will eat, bye and bye,
    In that glorious land above the sky;
    Work and pray, live on hay,
    You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

  126. #126 raven
    May 16, 2010

    The original word — charasha– came from an early translation of the Torah to Aramaic, and it means “female magic user”.

    The Latin translation came out “venifica”, which specifies “female poisoner”. The fine folks over at the KJV translation free-for-all took it to mean “witch”.

    That is interesting. But what is the difference between a “female magic user” and a “witch”?

    And why just “female” magic users? What about the male magic users? Do they get a free pass here?

  127. #127 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 16, 2010

    Mattir:

    I did not negate any other female’s perspective, I said that I was sharing my own experience.

    And then asked for male input, specifically. Why would you care if your are so gender neutral? Or was it because the two people who showed you your own bull were women?

    While I am willing to admit that hormonal mileu does shape the way we (as humans) interact with the world, the point of PZ’s post, which you obviously missed, was that the 20% which biology may influence behavior should no longer be used to justify the reinforcement of the other 80%.

    Again, strawman – I never said that. I was repeating a fairly conventional argument of how cultural attitudes may develop from individual experiences of biologically-influenced relationships (i.e. the likelihood that more women will care for children than men).

    You keep using that word, strawman. I’m not sure you’re using it correctly, as this was the very thing that PZ was railing against and that furthermore, my point was that the data those claims are based upon are shoddy at best.

    You made a mistake, own up to it.

  128. #128 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” by Leonard Shlain,interesting book, but mostly just a lot of mental masturbation around a sexist concept: women think flexibly, symbolically in pictures; men think rigidly, literally in words; therefore, writing/literacy leads to patriarchy.

  129. #129 erpease
    May 16, 2010

    To naddyfive in #79

    I very much doubt any early Christians were Vestals or ex-Vestals as Vestals were a very select and privileged group (6 at a time) of upper-class girls and women. Their actions if out of the ordinary tended to get recorded in the known non-Christian histories and joining a disreputable cult such as early Christianity would be such an action (and from the Christian point of view having a former Vestal join would be a notable coup and would be recorded by them).

  130. #130 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    I doubt it’s totally cultural, given the hormonal factors involved in gestation and lactation. It’d be great if someone could come up with some way of testing this, though.

    men undergo very similar hormonal changes (up to and including lactation, in extreme cases), but only when they become involved with the pregnancy. So you can say that for women this is inevitable while for men it’s voluntary, but that “voluntary” part is cultural. Human biology allows for both sexes to get the baby-bonding hormone-cocktail.

  131. #131 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    …where many European conservatives are to the LEFT of most US “liberals.”

    I’m not so sure about that- I’ve seen a lot of conservativism masquerading as leftism in Europe. In a couple of notable ways, European societies are still trying to catch up with the U.S. politically; for example, I find many Europeans are only interested in token feminism of the anti-porn, anti-sex variety. But very broadly, yes, I think the strong government sponsored social programs are positively correlated with a more left-leaning population.

  132. #132 michellegalo
    May 16, 2010

    I was in it myself, and I don’t know if I can explain the Why. At least, not concisely enough to put it here.

    But have you ever seen LadiesAgainstFeminism.com?

  133. #133 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Erpease, I’m not entirely sure that the women were Vestals, but I have heard them described by several sources as ex-temple prostitutes. Since I’m not sure which religion they’d be coming out of, or much about this period of history, I can’t make any definitive claims.

    I was only repeating what I’d heard… anyone who can confirm or deny this is welcome to do so.

  134. #134 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    In a couple of notable ways, European societies are still trying to catch up with the U.S. politically;

    ?!

    that has not been my experience. what there is is a sort of… complacency, which doesn’t exist in the U.S. because obviously you can’t get too complacent as long as there’s a culture war raging on.

  135. #135 Not Guilty
    May 16, 2010

    Because some women buy into the myth that they are horrible. I ask myself the same question about the Conservative party currently in power in Canada. Harper does not do well with women in general, but some still vote for him for reasons unbeknown to me. I live by the phrase that well behaved women rarely make history and go on being one!

  136. #136 BrianX
    May 16, 2010

    Ben Goren:

    Well you certainly do have a lot of the last A in BAAWA, don’t you?

    Look, I no more believe in God than you do, but I’m not going to be so dogmatic as to say there was no Jesus or no Paul. To assert that Jesus existed as a historical personage is trivial — there’s not really any question that some of the letters ascribed to Paul of Tarsus really were written by that person, and Paul was personally acquainted with (and not on very good terms with) Jesus’ brother and two closest associates. Unless Jesus was an entirely fictional personage invented by Peter, James, and John, that’s as close as we can get to proof of Jesus’ existence.

    Now did Jesus do or say all that was ascribed to him in the gospels? Highly goddamn unlikely. There’s some evidence that the lost Q gospel (reconstructions of which are the oldest traditions of Jesus’ life we have barring the Gospel of Thomas) was puffed up quite a bit after the Romans shredded what was left of a Jewish nation, and the Gospel of John came from a tradition of Chistianity far enough removed from the Pauline mainstream as to qualify as borderline-Gnostic, so right there we know the story we have definitely is not how it actually happened (i.e. grossly exaggerated at the very least). But barring a complete ass-pull on Paul’s part, Occam’s razor says there probably was a historical Jesus and a historical Paul.

    Besides, what do you gain asserting that neither one existed to begin with? The existence of one Yeshua bar Yosef, Galilean Jewish street preacher with good press, has no bearing whatsoever on the (non)existence of God or the validity of teachings ascribed to him.

  137. #137 Zoot Capri
    May 16, 2010

    I am not sure if this has been pointed out yet, but there is no doubt for a woman if a child is hers since she delivers it…the same cannot be said for a man. Prior to paternity testing, men had the word of their woman that this was their child. So we got chastity belts, and Harems, etc. Also, ancient peoples must have been floored when women bled every month but didn’t kill her! How in the world did they explain that, pretty scary for them. And the whole conception and 9 months later here is a baby must have been seen as “miraculous.” Nuns must have been thrilled in convents, no men to mess with them usually. And I am really convinced that priests must all be closeted women hating repressed freaks. They really are grossed out by women’s bodies for some weird reason.

  138. #138 MadScientist
    May 16, 2010

    According to the song, it’s the other way around:

    Garden of Eden was very nice,
    Adam never worked in Paradise.
    Eve meet snake, Paradise gone,
    She make Adam work from that day on!

    If a modern song can’t get it right, why should an ancient book of fables be considered as a book of history much less as instructions by a sky fairy on how to behave?

  139. #139 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    @DrFabulousShoes

    I asked for male input specifically in response to a male poster (David M.) saying that the soothing ability for preverbal children was probably cultural. I did not add a request for female input because I was already getting it. Forgive me for not stating the obvious.

    Strawman arguments are when one misrepresents an opponent’s argument and then attacks that, rather than the opponent’s actual statements.

    I stated the fairly non-controversial proposition in the study of human behavior that individual attitudes towards women are shaped by early experiences of women as caregivers. You have characterized this as “shoddy” – can you provide references which show that behavioral science has established that early experiences do not shape, at least in part, a child’s later attitudes and behaviors? I then stated that a system in which infants are cared for by adult females may be supported in part by biological factors that have been subject to evolutionary pressure. This is analogous to stating that a propensity towards engaging in non-consensual sex might have been supported by natural selection in the Lower Paleolithic – neither particularly controversial nor a prescription for contemporary societal norms.

    I further admitted that much of the research into evolutionary psych in humans may be shoddy, particularly in the use of small sample sizes. However, much of the research cited in the Scientific American was animal research relating to neurological changes associated with gestation and infant care. You have not refuted that research, nor explained why human neurology should vary in substance, rather than in degree, from that of other mammals.

    The bulk of my comment was that awareness of the psychological impact of early childhood experiences on later devaluation of women should lead individual parents, and in particular women who are primary caregivers for children, to shape their parenting behavior so as to teach both male and female children to question authority, think for themselves, view women as individuals, etc. Which part of this, precisely, do you disagree with?

    @Jadehawk –

    So you can say that for women this is inevitable while for men it’s voluntary, but that “voluntary” part is cultural. Human biology allows for both sexes to get the baby-bonding hormone-cocktail.

    Precisely. And encouraging males to get the BBHC through culture while recognizing that females may have it by virtue of biology is part of changing that female child-care paradigm that gives rise to the cultural devaluation of females.

  140. #140 TimKO,,.,,
    May 16, 2010

    @3
    And, since all religions morph over time, particularly when forced to adjust to American/secular values, such as morality, Judaism has not escaped this either; hence new traditions such as Bat Mitzvah, woemn witnesses, female rabbis, non-exemption from mitzvos, etc.

    @11
    “Paul was famous at an early stage of Christianity”
    Paul WAS the earliest stage of xtianity. He created it.

    @29
    It’s just protestant tradition. Nearly all of the protestant denominations stem from that time/place, hence the preference for the King James bible in former dominion areas.

    @74
    “According to the stories in the Bible, she was responsible for quite a bit of evil”
    Nope. Those stories are modern and extra-biblical. It’s just that she was a gentile and the entire Old Testament is Jews favored/gentiles bad. IIKings9

    @76
    All you need to know about Paul and the chicks:

    Widows are trash; valueless now that their husband has died
    I Timothy 5:9-13
    Yahweh is the lord of man, but man is the god to women; woemn have to submit to man always, no matter what
    Ephesians 5:22
    Women can only speak at home and then only to receive instructions
    I Corinthians 14:34
    If a woman doesn’t cover herself in public, we shave her head. Man shoud be uncovered because yahweh likes how men look but is disgusted by women. At home, long hair on women is suffice; it’s there to cover their grossness.
    I Corinthians 2:3-15

    @99
    “Can someone please let Sarah Palin know she needs to abandon the Bible or shut the fuck up.”

    @119
    Actually, Saul of Tarsus was a real person. Unlike jebus, we know quite a bit about him. Roman-era historians ackowledge his citizenship, travels, imprisonment. Much of the Pauline writings are his.
    ————————-
    inrihoo, good stuff PZ

  141. #141 Michael
    May 16, 2010

    The problem is, at least some of this is quote-mining of the worst sort– quoting from someone else’s compilation of unsourced quotes.

    As has already been noted the quote from Paul is almost certainly not by Paul. The genuine Pauline letters are remarkably egalitarian.

    The quote from Augustine is easy to find all over the internet but I haven’t found anyone giving an actual source. Since Augustine thought celibacy the best way of life for both men and women, I highly doubt that he said what is attributed to him in that quote. I challenge anyone here to find a real source for it.

  142. #142 Zoot Capri
    May 16, 2010

    Another thing I don’t think has been brought us is economics. It takes a lot to raise a human baby. A mother needs help to get food etc. There has to be a reason for a man to stick around and keep his offspring and woman in food and shelter. Thus the cultural and religious “rules.” If we look to good old Maslow and his hierarchy, we need security, food and shelter first. So women I think made a pact with the devil (god/s) to protect themselves and to provide for their children. And the Catholic Church? The biggest con in the world, one big unbelievable cult.

  143. #143 Credo
    May 16, 2010

    Good grief, what a bunch of whiners!

    As PZ has been so gracious to point out, religion did not create misogyny. That unfortunately existed long before the Abrahamic religions came on the scene.

    But which religions have been at the very forefront in the advancement of women? That would be — Judiasm and Christianity. Yes, it’s taking a long time to overcome thousands of years of oppression — but as far as I can tell, the other major world religions aren’t even attempting to change their views on women. Where are women the most free, the most equal, the least oppressed? In countries that have a Judeo-Christian heritage.

    For Pete’s sake, the most highly exalted human being in all of Christianity is a WOMAN (whose title in the Orthodox Churches is Theotokos-the God-bearer). It seems strange that a deity truly bent on the eternal suppression of women would choose that particular vehicle as the means of manifesting himself to humanity — why not just drop from the sky?

    Painful as it may be for some here to admit, the advances in equality for women have been brought about BY RELIGION — not in spite of it.

  144. #144 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    For Pete’s sake, the most highly exalted human being in all of Christianity is a WOMAN (whose title in the Orthodox Churches is Theotokos-the God-bearer).

    OK, now this is that obnoxious women=uteruses meme, the one which I did not advance. When religions hold out motherhood as the ideal role for female people, all the ugly language that PZ quoted is not very far behind.

    Where are women the most free, the most equal, the least oppressed? In countries that have a Judeo-Christian heritage.

    No, those would be the countries that have left the JCH behind in favor of secular humanism. Wonder why that is?

  145. #145 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    But which religions have been at the very forefront in the advancement of women? That would be — Judiasm and Christianity.

    bullshit. while apocalyptic proto-christianity might have been egalitarian, this has fuck-all to do with christianity the religion.

    progress for women always tracks weakening in the religious grip over a society (so does progress in general, actually)

  146. #146 Lyr
    May 16, 2010

    [i]Most myth/religion worshipped women as a primary deity first – katiet

    Evidence? I claim no expertise here, but from what I do know, this is very dubious. It could be true, but AFAIK no written records exist that suggest it, and artefacts like “Venus statuettes” have multiple possible interpretations[/i]

    Ancient written records from many areas are scarce. But there’s alot of hints that the most ancient religions were not based on male superiority over the female. Something I’ve seen multiple times in various ancient religions is the story of their gods or heroes defeating or killing female gods/demons/monsters and their offspring. Tiamat was killed in Near Eastern mythology, Audumbla was killed in Norse mythology, the (female) serpent of Ma’at was put under the control of male deities in Egypt. Makes you think that whoever was writing those myths down was trying to convince people of something. I mean, why have all those stories about putting women in their place, if they were already in that place to begin with?

  147. #147 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    amphiox @ 123;

    So, if Eve is to be damned and denigrated for being deceived by Satan (as it were, the Master Liar, Prince of Deception, fallen angel who challenged God himself, etc, etc), and all women, “daughters of Eve” thus to be disdained in turn, what are we to make of men, the “sons of Adam” – the blithering idiot who was deceived by *gasp* *horror* *ignomity* a woman!!

    In this circumstance, Adam would, of course, wheel out a very old masculine excuse;

    “But, but… she was all naked and stuff! I didn’t want to, but she confused me with her boobs and… things. So you see, it wasn’t really my fault. If she hadn’t used her feminine whiles on me, I would never have done that!”

    I am not saying this entirely in jest. Variants of this excuse can be found throughout history, and blaming the woman for everything is a very old patriarchal trick, especially when it comes to sexual ‘morality’ and cases of things like adultery. Referring back to earlier in the thread, women are sometimes called, individually or collectively, ‘Jesobels’ as an expression of the misogynist idea of the woman as immoral temptress, there is also the phrase ‘scarlet woman’which expresses much the same concept.

    In any situation where a certain kind of man has done something he personally find shameful for whatever reason (and homosexuality is not involved, so the ever popular gay-bashing will be tangental at best), then you can bet that he will try to blame a woman…

  148. #148 Archaneus
    May 16, 2010

    I just need to quibble with you, PZ, about one statement you made. You said that slasher horror movies are just as guilty of this misogyny as the Bible, but while I don’t like that genre, I have to defend it because what you said is not accurate. Slashers don’t glorify the indiscriminate murder of women, they use it as a trope to identify how very evil the villain is. It’s not misogyny any more than a movie depicting slavery is endorsing it.

  149. #149 Caine, Fleur du mal
    May 16, 2010

    Credo:

    But which religions have been at the very forefront in the advancement of women? That would be — Judiasm and Christianity. Yes, it’s taking a long time to overcome thousands of years of oppression

    How about you listen to yourself? You might just figure out how wrong you are.

    For Pete’s sake, the most highly exalted human being in all of Christianity is a WOMAN

    That’s not a woman, it’s the holy uterus. Before that, a young girl who was god-raped – yeah, that’s real thoughtful behaviour there.

    It seems strange that a deity truly bent on the eternal suppression of women would choose that particular vehicle as the means of manifesting himself to humanity

    Are you really this stupid? It’s not strange at all – god is a man-made object, god isn’t real. Why did god choose to rape a young girl? Because that was standard behaviour by the men running the show.

  150. #150 Demonhype
    May 16, 2010

    naddyfive@ 25, 48,
    Teshi @ 40

    I’m of the same mind as nicol.the.great here–I always liked the nerdy guys the best. But there is definitely an equal if not greater misogyny in the nerd culture than there is elsewhere.

    Here’s the thing: I liked the nerd boys for who they were. I liked them genuinely, and not for any material thing they could give me–and certainly not for looking god-like!–but they were the ones who shunned me like I was a monster because they were so damn busy mooning over the really-pretty popular girls and wanted to make it brutally clear that they would never give an “ugly” girl the time of day.

    And then they would whine and cry and bitch because “girls just don’t seem to understand them, girls don’t appreciate them, girls are so shallow, GIRLS DON’T LIKE BOYS, GIRLS LIKE CARS AND MONEY!!! waaaah waaaahh!!” Which just turned my stomach, because there I was, liking them a lot, and there they were shitting on me for not being sexy enough. Apparently if you’re not impossibly beautiful you don’t count as a “girl”. I just wanted to scream at them “Listen, douchebag, be honest for once in your fucking life–you’re not looking for human companionship or “understanding” or “appreciation”–you’re looking for a beautiful female chunk of animate meat to stick your dick in and then show off around town like a freaking Dodge Viper. You’re looking for a status symbol/sex toy! STOP PRETENDING YOU’RE LOOKING FOR ANYTHING MORE MEANINGFUL OR THAT YOU HAVE ANY APPRECIATION FOR WOMEN ON A PERSONAL LEVEL, BECAUSE IF YOU WERE YOU’D HAVE LOOKED A FEW FEET TO THE RIGHT OR LEFT AND NOTICED THE GIRLS LIKE ME–AND YOU WOULDN’T BE TREATING US THE WAY YOU DO! FOR YOU, A WOMAN’S ENTIRE VALUE IS LIMITED TO HOW IMPOSSIBLY BEAUTIFUL SHE IS, SO IT’S NO WONDER WHY NOBODY LOVES YOU! YOU WANT TO BE LOVED FOR YOU WHO ARE, BUT YOU CAN’T EVEN RETURN THE FAVOR! FUCKING DOUCHEBAG!”

    BOYS DON’T LIKE GIRLS, BOYS LIKE TITS AND PUSSY!

    The nerd boys were the ones who really made me cry and gave me the personal and sexual insecurities that still plague me today. And now I’m pissed. I’m looking good now, I grew into my look, and I’m looking at guys for looks first now–the pretty-boys I knew growing up were usually much more well-adjusted and didn’t feel the need to make an hateful public example of any “ugly” girl who might glance in his direction. The only insecurity I ever had with a good-looking guy is the same a guy might have with a good-looking girl–that sense that you’re standing before someone who’s “out of your league”. Okay, you might say they were patronizing me, but I don’t consider it patronizing to NOT immediately shit on another human being just because they’re not pretty enough for you–and no, I wasn’t coming onto any of these guys, handsome or not–in fact, most of the ugly boys who fucked me over weren’t even on any of my lists, and I was just acknowledging them because it was just common human courtesy in the given situations. Which pisses me off even more–to an ugly nerdy guy, a girl like me saying “hi” to you is tantamount to stalking. The handsome boy would just say “hi” back and go on with his life.

    Except I never whined that those “out of my league” guys didn’t pursue me, but I still appreciate that they could at least treat me with the common human decency that anyone is due. And, ironically, it’s the ugly nerdy guys who should have known better–it might be said of the beautiful people that they don’t know what it’s like to be like you, but those nerd boys had no damned excuse for their behavior on any level.

    Unless it’s the common societal attitude that a woman is a “thing” that you show off to advertise your worth as a man, just like a flashy car.

  151. #151 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    Credo @ 143;

    But which religions have been at the very forefront in the advancement of women? That would be — Judiasm and Christianity… Where are women the most free, the most equal, the least oppressed? In countries that have a Judeo-Christian heritage.

    I think a great many women would disagree. You are forgetting that the vast majority of the so called ‘pro-life’ groups that wish to oppress women’s fundamental physical and reproductive autonomy use an explicitly Christian, theological basis for their position.

    Christianity also promotes a harmful doctrine of pre-marital virginity that expressly links a woman’s worth to her possession or lack of virginity, dehumanising her as an object to be possessed and disposed of by her future husband.

    As was pointed out by Mattir at 144, those countries where women are most free are the ones where religion has been forced out of policy decisions and law making in favour of secular governance based on Humanist principles.

    For Pete’s sake, the most highly exalted human being in all of Christianity is a WOMAN (whose title in the Orthodox Churches is Theotokos-the God-bearer). It seems strange that a deity truly bent on the eternal suppression of women would choose that particular vehicle as the means of manifesting himself to humanity — why not just drop from the sky?

    But here the woman’s worth is solely derivative. She is the delivery mechanism for the alleged Messaiah, nothing more. She has no value in and of herself except for her ‘immaculate’ womb. Mary is an icon of the oppression of women, not their emancipation. The biblical version of ‘barefoot and pregnant’. Let us not forget that her preganacy was also claimed to be divine in nature, neatly decrying actual pregnancy as experienced by actual women as somehow impure, thereby demonising sex and women’s role in it by extension.

    Painful as it may be for some here to admit, the advances in equality for women have been brought about BY RELIGION — not in spite of it.

    You have failed to make any credible case in support of this assertion. The best you have managed is trying to appropriate acheivements better ascribed to Humanism. All the evidence indicates that Judeo-Christian religion has been an impediment to the equality of women; in terms of everything from political enfranchisement and representation in government to tackling the blight of domestic violence and criminalising marital rape religion has been a millstone around the necks of women. It has been endlessly invoked to maintain their status as second class citizens.

    To say that women should be grateful for Christianity is like asking a slave to thank his or her master for only beating them once a week…

  152. #152 Demonhype
    May 16, 2010

    BTW, naddyfive and Teshi, what I meant to say was “thanks for beating me to it!” 🙂

  153. #153 Mattir
    May 16, 2010

    @Demonhype

    Yeah, young nerd males are often like that, but I think it’s partly due to the “this is what girls are like” meme, which takes some time for everyone, girls and boys, to get over. That whole “one of the boys” phenomenon can be a real pain in the ass for us atypical females, though. I haven’t thought of it in a really long time, and find that it still hurts.

  154. #154 Draken
    May 16, 2010

    But which religions have been at the very forefront in the advancement of women?

    None. It’s our departure from belief and the advancement of socialism that did this in spite of the Mother Church trying to stop them.

  155. #155 Walton
    May 16, 2010

    None. It’s our departure from belief and the advancement of socialism that did this in spite of the Mother Church trying to stop them.

    Why bring socialism into this?

    Some of us are opposed to socialism (on some definitions of “socialism”) and support a capitalist-mixed economy, yet are atheist, pro-feminist and in favour of gender equality and women’s right to choose. It’s not sensible to conflate support for women’s rights with support for a particular economic system.

  156. #156 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    Demonhype @ 150;

    I would like to be able to say that physical attractiveness was meaningles to me at that age, but that would not be entirely true. I did (and, if I am truthful, still do) notice those forms of beauty that fit my sexual aesthetic particularly closely.

    On the other hand, I have long been of the opinion that, while physical beauty may be nice, it is the least important attribute of a woman. This held even when I was a teenager (substitute ‘callow youth’ if you prefer). Personality, strength of character and intellect are all vastly more important. I can think of few fates worse than being stuck with a woman, however beautiful she may be, who has nothing in common with me and is the kind of brainless person who cannot hold a conversation on any topic outside of the latest salacious celebrity gossip. *shudder*

    Of course, this is a moot point given my horrible, horrible track record with women courtesy of my shyness (can I get a sympathetic ‘ahh’? No? I would settle for a ‘poor lamb’? Still no dice? Oh, well) but, in principle at least, I look for far more than a pretty face in a woman, and I would never treat this hypothetical lady like some form of crass status symbol. I do not doubt that there are plenty of other chaps like me out there.

  157. #157 Gregory Greenwood
    May 16, 2010

    In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that not even the most generous interpretation could dub me ‘handsome’. I would likely also fail on the ‘well adjusted’ criteria.

    All I need to do now is to find a warm, witty, intelligent woman who goes for the overweight, ill-favoured, nerdy and neurotic type…

    Hmmmm. Maybe its a fetish for some? 🙂

  158. #158 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    BrianX wrote:

    Ben Goren wrote:

    Well you certainly do have a lot of the last A in BAAWA, don’t you?

    Well, I wouldn’t be much of a Knight if I didn’t, now, would I? Besides, I’d hate to think of what Warlord Steve would do to me should he discover me slacking on the job. Excalibur is damned sharp, in case you were wondering.

    To assert that Jesus existed as a historical personage is trivial

    The assertion is trivial, yes. Actually supporting it with anything more than, “Well, all the experts agree,” isn’t.

    — there’s not really any question that some of the letters ascribed to Paul of Tarsus really were written by that person, and Paul was personally acquainted with (and not on very good terms with) Jesus’ brother and two closest associates. Unless Jesus was an entirely fictional personage invented by Peter, James, and John, that’s as close as we can get to proof of Jesus’ existence.

    What makes you think those three are any more real than the rest? Do you have any extra-Biblical evidence to support such a proposition? Because I’ve never come across any. (John the Baptist might have been real, but, if so, he was unquestionably coopted by the Christians long afterwards for their own purposes.)

    But barring a complete ass-pull on Paul’s part, Occam’s razor says there probably was a historical Jesus and a historical Paul.

    Or, we could take the Pauline epistles at their word that there wasn’t any historical Jesus. The author goes out of his way to establish his bona fides by relating his spiritual, non-corporeal experiences with Jesus since they were exactly the same as the spiritual, non-corporeal experiences of all the other witnesses. And there’s the fact that “Paul” ascribes the perpetrators of the Crucifixion to the princes of a far-off land in time and space (“the Archons of that age”). Or, we could observe that “Paul” quotes extensively from Hebrew scriptures but not once quotes Jesus or cites examples of Jesus, even when the scriptural parallels are strained and Jesus provided a perfect example. And let’s not forget that the only biographical information of any substance we get from “Paul” is the story of the Last Supper…which is quite clearly not the story of the Last Supper, but instructions on performing the Eucharist, a religious ritual we know almost without doubt that he stole from the Mithraism of “Paul’s” claimed native land (Tsarsus). And so on and so on and so on.

    That’s just the insurmountable problems the Pauline epistiles present to an historical Jesus.

    Besides, what do you gain asserting that neither one existed to begin with?

    Truth. What else?

    The existence of one Yeshua bar Yosef, Galilean Jewish street preacher with good press, has no bearing whatsoever on the (non)existence of God or the validity of teachings ascribed to him.

    Ah, here you’ve done something that I rarely can convince people who assert the reality of Jesus to do: present a Theory of Jesus.

    Let’s see if it holds up, shall we?

    First, it should be clear by now that, to “Paul” — who is, after all, our earliest historical source of information on Jesus (and never mind that he was writing at least a generation after the latest possible date for the Crucifixtion) — where was I? Oh, yes, “Paul” most certainly did not think that Jesus was a Galilean Jewish street preacher. To “Paul,” Jesus was the creator / savior of all humanity, the human incarnation of the creative force of the universe. If you suggested to “Paul” that Jesus had been wandering the streets of Jerusalem a couple decades earlier, he would either have wondered what you were babbling about or assaulted you for daring to blaspheme Jesus by suggesting that he would have defiled himself by taking on the impurities of physicality.

    Second, the official biographies all concur that Jesus was not “merely” a Galilean Jewish street preacher, and he most certainly did not have good press. Even if one strips out all the supernatural trappings, we’re still left with a real mover-and-shaker, somebody who butted heads with all the most important people of the government of the area. He even got the highest court of the land to make asses of themselves in a scene that would have been just as shocking then as if Scalia dropped his trousers and started flinging poo at the appellates. (Well, okay, maybe a poo-flinging Scalia wouldn’t be quite that shocking….) That certainly doesn’t fit your theory at all.

    (As an aside, the story of Jesus’s trial is stolen straight from the story of Orpheus…and I doubt it was original with Orpheus, either.)

    Which brings us to the final main point. Contrary to Christian Apologetic assertions, the Middle East of the first century was excellently documented by its inhabitants. In particular, we have almost everything that Philo wrote — and he was most prolific. Philo was King Herod’s brother-in-law. He was a philosopher, the Jewish theologian credited with merging the Greek concept of the Logos (the “Word” that opens G. John) with extant Jewish philosophy. Indeed, if anybody is the original source of Christianity, it’s Philo. And Philo was a diplomat who traveled to Rome after the end of Pilate’s reign; his account of that journey can be read on any number of Web sites — along with most of the rest of what Philo wrote, including all his comparisons and analyses of his philosophical contemporaries.

    You know what Philo wrote of Jesus and the events of the Gospels?

    Not a single word. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Zero.

    And Philo is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens more extant sources, both contemporary and near-contemporary, who would, should, or could have made mention of Jesus, the Gospel events, or anything vaguely resembling any of them. All are silent.

    The only sources we do have are Christian stories and apologetics, written decades-to-centuries later. Those Christian sources are obviously fanciful. Shit, even the earliest Christian apologists (such as Martyr) went out of their way to directly compare Jesus with all the other obviously-bullshit Pagan gods; Jesus was no different, except he was way better.

    When the non-Christians did start to write about Christians and their beliefs, it was the same way that we write about Scientology today. Some whacked-out new cult with these bizarre beliefs that nobody would take seriously if they weren’t such an obnoxious lot.

    And…just as icing on the cake, we have Lucain informing us that it was “Peregrinus” who inserted all the Pagan mythology into Christianity between the authorship of the Pauline epistles and the authorship of the Gospels. And Peregrinus did it half as a gag and half as a profit-making scam.

    Even beyond that, if one only steps back and takes a big-picture overview of it, it’s obvious. In no other case do we even pretend that any other religion with superheroes was founded by mere mortals who superficially resembled those same superheroes; the only reason Jesus and Christianity (and, to be fair, Muhammad and Islam) get such preferential treatment is because their propaganda machines are still running full force.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  159. #159 'Tis Himself, OM
    May 16, 2010

    Okay, Credo, let’s look at how some religions look at sex, marriage and the role of women:

    ? Catholicism – Anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-divorce. Possession of a penis is a requirement to become clergy, however use of the penis, except for urination, is officially forbidden for priests.

    ? Mormonism – Priests must be men. Abortion is forbidden, divorce and contraception frown upon but not actually forbidden.

    ? Anglicanism – Supposedly one of the most liberal Christian churches. Many of the faithful object to ordained women and gays. Abortion is officially forbidden but a policy of “don’t ask don’t tell” is followed.

    ? Various evangelical fundamentalist churches – Almost all are anti-abortion, many are anti-contraception and anti-sexual education.

    ? Orthodox Judaism – Not only are women not allowed to be clergy, they’re not allowed to be in the same section of the synagogue as men during services. As Zeno says in #3, there’s a special prayer said by men: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who did not make me a woman.”

    ? I won’t even bother to discuss Islam.

    Sorry, but you’re going to have to try a bit harder to convince us that religion is a positive thing for women.

  160. #160 Kirk
    May 16, 2010

    But here’s the thing: sometimes, we know we can do better than what our brute natures tell us to do, and by transcending our instincts, by using our brain and reason, we can become greater than before.

    Two thumbs up.

  161. #161 fireweaver
    May 16, 2010

    @ ERV # 6

    The fucking muzzies did the same shit everywhere they went (and go) as well. And they are still stuck in the 7th century, so go figure.

  162. #162 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    ’Tis Himself, if I might expand on your point just a fraction…the only religious organizations with non-insane stances on gender equality that I can think of are those that tend to be just a stone’s throw from Deism. And, of course, there’re the outright Deists and fellow travelers such as the Unitarians.

    In other words, there’s a spectrum from orthodoxy to atheism that nearly perfectly overlaps the spectrum from misogyny (and misandry in the case of the lunatic fringe of the Wiccan movement) to ERA-supporting feminism.

    There are individual exceptions, of course, but it’s a far surer bet than any you’ll ever make in the casino or on Wall Street that a person’s anti-female bigotry is directly proportional to that person’s degree of fundamentalism.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  163. #163 Walton
    May 16, 2010

    The fucking muzzies did the same shit everywhere they went (and go) as well. And they are still stuck in the 7th century, so go figure.

    Ah, yet another bigoted Islamophobic twit.

    Seriously, I’m getting really pissed off with the number of people who think it’s OK to hijack an unrelated thread to post anti-Muslim hate comments. And the number of people who seem to have no clue about the way that Islamophobia in Europe is used first and foremost as cover for anti-Asian racism.

  164. #164 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    May 16, 2010

    Here is more on the treatment of women in the Bible: http://www.religioustolerance.org/fem_bibl.htm

  165. #165 steverino63
    May 16, 2010

    Ben Goren, some great thoughts. Add to it that the Greek word in the Eucharist for “betray” can also mean “arrest” in a “middle” voice in Greek, and the whole Judas the betrayer idea is a later add-on.

    Paul just said, “On the same night Jesus was arrested … ”

    As for historicity, I find the historical existence of a Paul, who wrote letters that now number 7 (Philippians and 2 Corinthians are pastiches of multiple smaller letters) under his name is more likely than that of the person he wrote about.

    Going beyond you …. Throw out what Tacitus wrote as attesting to Jesus. It’s clear he knew nothing about Judaism and used the wrong Greek work, ChrEstos rather than Christos. He probably was talking about some general messianic disturbance, which he may have misdated.

    Or, maybe Yeshua is the proto-Pharisee executed by Alexander Jannai, built up over a century into the Messianic figure?

    ===

    Meanwhile, the Pope’s latest inane defense on the pedophile priest issue? They don’t work for me, they’re independent contractors!

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2010/05/pope-those-priests-dont-work-for-me.html

  166. #166 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    Walton, the topic at hand is the effect of religions on misogyny. And I’ll be damned if I can think of a “better” example of that than Islam.

    fireweaver’s criticism is spot-on. I don’t give a fuck what your genotype is, if you’re a Muslim and believe that Sharia law is moral, you’re a primitive savage stuck in the seventh century and have no place in our modern civilization (except to the extent that you are capable of restraining your urges to violate modern laws and ethics, of course). A faithful Muslim isn’t even half as civilized as a dog, though some may be better trained than others.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  167. #167 WowbaggerOM
    May 16, 2010

    Credo, if Christianity is responsible for the current status of women in Christian societies, why didn’t those changes occur sooner, i.e. once Christianity was adopted by a society as the official religion and started to have an impact on public policy?

    It’s much like when Christians try to claim their religion is responsible for ending slavery.

    I mean, Christianity was prevalent in many parts of the world for many hundreds of years before any of the shifts towards gender equality were made.

    Really, an honest analysis of the changing status of women would show the analyst that Christianity has most likely been preventing this, and it’s only because people have started to abandon many of the accepted teachings of the faith (though, sadly, without abandoning it entirely; that, however, is a far more complicated issue) that these changes have been able to occur.

  168. #168 Lyr
    May 16, 2010

    The same question comes up when analyzing a lot of female behavior. Why do girls fall for the dumb jock instead of the intelligent geek? Fine – young girls do stupid things. Some grow out of it – others don’t and spend their lives being beaten by the dumb jocks who grew up to be unemployed alcoholics.

    So was it being raised with religion that would make a female crave abuse and make poor relationship choices, or is this something in the female human nature that can be overcome?

    The best policeman of all is the one inside your head. If you’re so indoctrinated into a belief system, even one that hurts you, questioning it is taboo.

  169. #169 https://me.yahoo.com/a/Vr4go7p1v_bSaQB4X2ZslBXLDRDX5oaCZg--#b6668
    May 16, 2010

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I am always amazed how the “Big 3” always condemn women as the ones whom brought about the fall of mankind by tempting Adam. It’s as if it justifies a lack of personal responsibility & permits humans to blame their actions on others!

    It’s not as if Eve sat on Adam, tied him up with vines, & forced the fruit of the tree of knowledge down his gullet! He accepted it willingly from her…

  170. #170 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Who *are* these people who insist on the fact that “Paul” was a real-live, remarkably benevolent, revolutionary egalitarian hero of the people? And why are they reading Pharyngula in the first place?

  171. #171 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    And isn’t Lyr the clueless, woe is me, NiceGuy? troll from earlier in the thread, only this time under a new guise?

  172. #172 BrianX
    May 16, 2010

    Ben, you’ve heard of people becoming famous posthumously, right? Franz Kafka, John Kennedy Toole, that sort of thing? I think it’s pretty clear Jesus was nobody special or unusual when he lived. It’s his associates talking him up after his death — adding miracle and myth motifs, trying to extend his body of teachings to cover the mess that was the fall of Jerusalem, etc — that made him what he “is” today.

    Like I said, the Gospels are highly embellished; this is unquestionable. All I am asserting is that there was a man, possibly named Yeshua bar Yosef, who was a street preacher of little repute whose brother and associates made a big deal of after he was probably executed in one of Pontius Pilate’s random spurts of pointless brutality. He wasn’t god, and he had a metric fuckton of stuff made up about him based on numerous other legends of people of a messianic air known at the time (miracles, virgin birth, etc., all depressingly common in ancient messianic figures). Unless you can make a case that either Paul or Peter/James/John were completely making up the personage, that kind of person’s existence is trivial to assert, and it’s almost pointless to try to falsify it.

    There is a certain strain of atheist that seems to need all scriptures to be a complete fabrication with not even a shred of reality to them. Asserting that Jesus in no way existed is sort of like asserting that there never was a Mycenaean-era Greek chieftain named Agamemnon — maybe there wasn’t, but the name Agamemnon did exist in the right time and place in ancient Greece to say there probably was a king Agamemnon at some relevant point in that era, who may or may not have been involved in the sacking of a small, frequently-trashed city near the northwest coast of Anatolia. (And who knows, possibly killed by a jealous wife for bringing home a hot-but-crazy Hittite chick.)

    But asserting that Paul may not have existed is getting into “Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare” territory, whatever the literary equivalent of “tinfoil hat” might be.

  173. #173 Kieranfoy
    May 16, 2010

    @Tis Himself, OM

    Sorry, but you’re going to have to try a bit harder to convince us that religion is a positive thing for women.

    Well, to play theists advocate, how about Episcopalianism? Or B’hai?

  174. #174 Lyr
    May 16, 2010

    @171:

    No, I just messed up where I put the /i when I was quoting a previous message. This is the only bit that was mine:

    The best policeman of all is the one inside your head. If you’re so indoctrinated into a belief system, even one that hurts you, questioning it is taboo.

  175. #175 fireweaver
    May 16, 2010

    @ walton #163

    Islamophobic? You bet your fucking ass I’m scared of those motherfuckers. I hate them too. Islam copped the very worst bits of Judaism and Christianity, amped them up to the max, and set a seal on their perverted doctrines so that they can never be changed.

    Mo-HAM-mad (piss be upon him) was a misogynist of the worst sort, perhaps even worse than Paul. He had sex with children, a dead woman, twenty or more official wives and concubines, and whatever other women he could stick his dick in. He was probably gay too, but the official sources don’t record that.

    Islam specifically instructs its followers to kill apostates (street “justice”).

    Millions of people every year are secretly leaving the religion, and most of the people in Iran are sick to death of Islam. I hope the Iranians rise up against those parasitical mullahs and ayatollahs and kill them all. (Iranians are the best educated people in that particular region of the world, and they have always had an uneasy relationship with Islam.)

    Islam only destroys, it never builds. They make no bones about just how badly they want to supplant all competing religions and ideologies with their own defective bullshit.

    So why don’t you take your “boo-hoo poor muslims” crap and shove it back up your ass where it came from.

    And if you wonder why I hate and despise Islam and its followers, it is because I lost someone in 9-11.

  176. #176 ian.k.alexander
    May 16, 2010

    @jdmuys, #29:

    The obscure Bible style in English is due largely to the fact that the King James Version is still the dominant English translation. It used to be in what I gather was contemporary literary English, but that was 400 years ago when it was translated.

    Nowadays the cultural effect of hearing the Bible expressed in an antiquated dialect is to make it sound venerable and hallowed so naturally the Bible-thumpers gravitate to it.

  177. #177 Caine, Fleur du mal
    May 16, 2010

    fireweaver:

    Islam only destroys, it never builds.

    You can say that about religion in general, so that’s not justification for your bigotry.

    And if you wonder why I hate and despise Islam and its followers, it is because I lost someone in 9-11.

    That’s terrible. Your hatred and bigotry still isn’t justified though and it certainly isn’t welcome here.

  178. #178 Weed Monkey
    May 16, 2010

    Ben Goren #166, there’s really no point trying to defend fireweaver’s “criticism” after the first slur, which s/he conveniently provided up front. That was also the point where I stopped reading and clicked “kill”.

  179. #179 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    Who *are* these people who insist on the fact that “Paul” was a real-live, remarkably benevolent, revolutionary egalitarian hero of the people? And why are they reading Pharyngula in the first place?

    people interested in historical reality; and because they’re interested in reality

    WTF is your point? what the real Paul said and what the bible and therefore the christian religion teaches are two separate topics, but it is relevant to try to keep historical facts straight; one of which is that the historical paul was leader of a relatively egalitarian apocalyptic cult.

    why is this a problem for you?

  180. #180 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    steverino63 wrote:

    Or, maybe Yeshua is the proto-Pharisee executed by Alexander Jannai, built up over a century into the Messianic figure?

    See, I come across all these various theories about who the “real” Jesus was that keep trying to ground him in some actual personage or historical events. And none of them make any sense.

    And nobody ever seems to have any solid objection to the obvious explanation — Jesus and the rest of the Christian story is a made-up religion no different from any of the other contemporary syncretic Pagan gods and religions — other than a vestigial insistence that Jesus is somehow special. That, of all the gods who litter the pages of history books, he’s somehow the real deal.

    If it weren’t for the fact that billions of people still believe in this particular faery tale, the notion that there was any sort of factual basis to the Jesus story would be as laughable as the notion that there’s any factual basis to the Osiris story, or the Wotan story, or the Quetzalcoatl story, or any other religious story that’s fallen out of favor.

    What would you make of somebody who insisted there was an historical Mithras? Why should somebody who insists there was an historical Jesus deserve any less of your ridicule and scorn? What, aside from the continued popularity of Jesus, makes the one in any way more plausible and less batshit crazy than the other?

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  181. #181 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    Unless you can make a case that either Paul or Peter/James/John were completely making up the personage

    erm… that’s the point. Paul doesn’t talk about Jesus the person at all. it’s as if, for Paul, he didn’t exist.

  182. #182 'Tis Himself, OM
    May 16, 2010

    Kieranfoy #173

    Well, to play theists advocate, how about Episcopalianism? Or B’hai?

    If you look at my post #159 you’ll see I gave a bit about Anglicism, which is another name for Episcopalianism.

    My knowledge of the Bah’ faith is on a par with your spelling of the sect’s name. The font of all knowledge, wikipedia says:

    …men and women are equal, and that the equality of the sexes is a spiritual and moral standard that is essential for the unification of the planet and the unfoldment of peace. The Bah’ teaching notes the importance of implementing the principle in individual, family, and community life. While the Bah’ teachings assert the full spiritual and social equality of women to men, the notion of equality does not imply sameness and there are some aspects of gender distinctiveness or gender differentiation in certain areas of life.

  183. #183 BrianX
    May 16, 2010

    Was there a historical Mithras? Perhaps; i really don’t know that much about Mithraism except that it was extremely syncretic and loaned a lot of its practices to Gentile Christianity. I’ve always figured that a good number of ancient god figures were based on half-remembered real people, unless they were some old bedtime stories that happened to stick (say, proto-Indra/Thor hammering at the forge the same way I was told that thunder was angels bowling). Made up religion? Well, to some extent perhaps, but putting it that way puts a conspiratorial bent on it that I think just doesn’t make much sense. (Now if you were to assert that priests took control of already-existing folk beliefs to form temple-states, that’s a somewhat different and entirely believable story. Demagoguery is not a modern phenomenon.)

    The fact is that these motifs such as are ascribed to Jesus are ridiculously common, and there’s no reason to assume they were truly part of Jesus’ life as they were any other figure for who those claims were made. No miracles, no resurrection, none of the supernatural stuff — none of it was particularly original, and when talking about the existence of a historical Jesus, none of it has any bearing on whether there was a person that the persona we know as Jesus was based on. Looking to Egypt, perhaps Osiris was some tribal chieftain in the preliterate Nile valley whose deeds were embellished to the point of deification. (Considering Egyptian religion regularly treated dead Pharaohs as gods, the real life Osiris might even have been the one that set the precedent.)

    Jadehawk:

    But he does acknowledge Jesus’ existence, at least as told to him by P/J/J, essentially treating it as a fait accompli. If Paul ever wrote a general treatise on the faith in the manner of Hebrews, it wasn’t preserved — he was talking to an audience that presumably knew everything they thought they needed to know about the life of Jesus (and it was probably a different one from the modern gospels — all we would have of it now is from the oldest layer of the reconstructed Q gospel). Someone writing the kinds of works Paul is known for wouldn’t have rehashed the whole story for people who already knew it — it would be redundant and even a bit insulting.

  184. #184 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    I’m sorry, but whoever Paul was, he was about as egalitarian as… the guy who wrote all that nonsense crap about women covering their heads, shutting up, and submitting to their husbands in all things.

  185. #185 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    BrianX wrote:

    Like I said, the Gospels are highly embellished; this is unquestionable. All I am asserting is that there was a man, possibly named Yeshua bar Yosef, who was a street preacher of little repute whose brother and associates made a big deal of after he was probably executed in one of Pontius Pilate’s random spurts of pointless brutality. He wasn’t god, and he had a metric fuckton of stuff made up about him based on numerous other legends of people of a messianic air known at the time (miracles, virgin birth, etc., all depressingly common in ancient messianic figures).

    If this theory were true, we would expect the earliest accounts of Jesus to be concrete and specific yet mundane, and the latest accounts to be fantastic.

    Unfortunately for your theory, the exact opposite is true.

    Paul’s Jesus could in no way be mistraken for anything remotely resembling your description, on each and every point you claim.

    It’s only in the Gospels, written even decades later still, that we get any of the biographic details — and those accounts are quite fantastic and almost universally contradict each other on the specifics.

    Indeed, I challenge you to come up with any ancient source — other than your ass, of course — which supports your theory in any manner.

    This is the pattern we see with obvious myths, such as Paul Bunyan. Nobody’s bothered by the fact that, in one story, Paul uses trees for toothpicks (implying he’s the same scale as a skyscraper) and, in another one his carelessly-dragged axe carves the Grand Canyon (implying he’s taller than Everest). The authors never intended either story to be taken literally.

    Unless you can make a case that either Paul or Peter/James/John were completely making up the personage, that kind of person’s existence is trivial to assert, and it’s almost pointless to try to falsify it.

    There you go again, assuming fictional characters in your story were real people. I ask again: what extra-Biblical evidence do you have supporting the existence of those personages?

    You’re like the child who acknowledges that maybe Superman wasn’t really from the planet Krypton, but what about all those stories Lois Lane wrote about him in the Daily Planet?

    There is a certain strain of atheist that seems to need all scriptures to be a complete fabrication with not even a shred of reality to them.

    No, there’s a certain strain of rationalist who refuses to accept as true propositions which are not only not supported by the evidence, but contradicted by it.

    But there does exist a certain strain of accommodationists who seem to think that it’s best to not upset people by suggesting that the emperor (whom nobody has ever actually seen) isn’t just naked, but nonexistent.

    Asserting that Jesus in no way existed is sort of like asserting that there never was a Mycenaean-era Greek chieftain named Agamemnon — maybe there wasn’t, but the name Agamemnon did exist in the right time and place in ancient Greece to say there probably was a king Agamemnon at some relevant point in that era, who may or may not have been involved in the sacking of a small, frequently-trashed city near the northwest coast of Anatolia.

    See? There you go again. On what basis are you coming to your conclusion that, just because somebody told a story, there must be some factual reality behind it?

    We know how fiction comes about. There is no “historical” Harry Potter; there is no “historical” Darth Vader; there is no “historical” King Midas. First of all, storytellers almost never base their fictional characters on real historical figures — and, when they do, it’s almost always easy to identify the case and separate man from myth.

    But your hypothetical Jesus is so far removed from anything even vaguely remotely identifiable as Jesus that he couldn’t possibly have contributed anything to the actual story other than the name — and maybe not even that.

    What possible sense does it mean to say that the “real” Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin in accordance with the prophesies, didn’t preach the Sermon on the Mount to vast crowds, never had a spectacular trial before the Sanhedrin, wasn’t crucified on a hill between two thieves, never came back from the dead, didn’t ascend to Heaven, and maybe wasn’t even named, “Jesus” — or even male, for that matter?

    With your criteria, each and every person who lived within a thousand miles and a couple hundred years of first-century Judea is an equally valid “historical Jesus.”

    And that’s the fundamental problem with all theories of any kind of an historical Jesus. Either they’re so specific that there’s no way they could possibly fit the indisputable evidence, or they’re so vague as to be applicable to countless hordes of people all equally deserving of the appellation.

    …and, again, they ignore the fact that Jesus perfectly fits the same mold of syncretic Paganism that all his contemporaries fit.

    That’s the other part you and the other proponents of an historical Jesus always conveniently ignore (and, I’ll bet you’ll follow the pattern quite nicely). What about the Jesus story is incompatible with syncretism? How do you know that he couldn’t possibly be exactly like all the other gods indistinguishable from him? What makes Jesus so special?

    Or is it your claim that all the ancient gods started out as real people? If so, I hope you’ll forgive me for simply pointing and laughing at you for being an idiot.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  186. #186 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    the guy who wrote all that nonsense crap about women covering their heads, shutting up, and submitting to their husbands in all things.

    so you’re just going to insist on equating non-pauline writings with paul. what for? why does accuracy bother you?

  187. #187 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    It’s a problem for me when people attribute “egalitarianism” and proto-feminism to a guy who is considered the founder of the RCC, not to mention the original source for most of the lovely doctrines quoted by P.Z.’s list of patriarchs up in the OP.

    Historical accuracy is one thing; wishfully attributing revolutionary and egalitarian motives to a mostly apocryphal historical personage whose writings are probably not even by him seems a little much to me. I just don’t expect identifying athiests to cling so hard to Paul. The feminist in me doesn’t looking kindly on trivializing or relativizing misogyny out of existence.

  188. #188 BrianX
    May 16, 2010

    On further examination, if someone asserted there was a historical Mithras, I don’t know if there’s enough known about Mithraism to say whether that’s supportable or not.

  189. #189 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    But he does acknowledge Jesus’ existence, at least as told to him by P/J/J, essentially treating it as a fait accompli.

    well, that’s your interpretation. but by itself, what we have is pauline writings that never talk about jesus as a person, but always as a god-myth, in a way that doesn’t resemble talking about someone who had died in the lifetime of some of the people he was talking to. in this, his writings are completely different from the later gospels, which create, in increasing complexity, an actual person who lived in at a specific time in a specific place.

  190. #190 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    And before someone corrects me, I realize that Peter is the “official” first pope.

  191. #191 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Actually, the verse about wives submitting to their husbands in all things is from Ephesians, which is- correct me if I’m wrong- one of the letters *widely attributed* to the “real” Paul.

    As someone pointed out before, there’s no extra-Biblical confirmation that Paul did or didn’t write any of the epistles. It’s all pretty wild speculation.

  192. #192 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    The feminist in me doesn’t looking kindly on trivializing or relativizing misogyny out of existence.

    no one is doing any such thing.

    the bible is a misogynist text; the pseudo-pauline texts and insertions are mysoginist; the historical paul was certainly, too, by modern standards.

    none of this stands in any relation to the fact that apocalyptic christian churches of the 1st century, the specific churches led by the actual historical paul, were egalitarian churches. as opposed to the roman proto-orthodox church led by peter.

    so again, why does historical accuracy bother you?

  193. #193 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Egalitarianism in the context of the first century CE is completely anachronistic- to attribute what is a largely modernist notion to people of the first century is simply the worst kind of insipid moral relativism there is.

    There was nothing egalitarian about the first century church. I’m not letting the writer of Ephesians off the hook because right after he tells women to submit and STFU, he says men should love them. I’m not going to impose my century’s mores on one that would have no use for or conception of them whatsoever.

    What is the point of that? To make a kind of “true scotsman” argument in favor of the early Church? Liberal accommodationists do this all the time, of course..

  194. #194 BrianX
    May 16, 2010

    You know what, Ben? I could answer you, but at this point I think you’re just being deliberately obtuse. I will only respond to two small points: first, why can’t the Sermon on the Mount have been an actual Jesus teaching, but perhaps only told before a couple of dozen people in a park rather than a stadium-sized gathering? Second, no, not all ancient gods were based on real people (I’d have a tough time assuming that for Hephaistos, for example, when the Greeks were perfectly familiar with both thunder and volcanoes), but it’s hard to avoid the possibility that some were. Some could go either way — Herakles could have been based on a the story of a real person, or he could have been a tall tale in the mode of Paul Bunyan.

    Either way, what’s clear to me is that you so strongly need there to be no historical Jesus that you’re not willing to accept that Jesus might have been some street corner preacher who happened to hit it big after he died because of his associates who played up his teaching and told a few tall tales about him (that eventually, through word-of-mouth embellishment and outright mythical theft, built up into a full-blown Messiah story). That’s like asserting there was no Trojan War because the historical settlement of Wilusa was too small for a ten-year siege, even though there’s evidence of it having been razed in a war at one point in its history.

  195. #195 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    It would also help me understand your perspective a little better if, instead of simply asserting that the early church was egalitarian, you furnished some kind of proof of this.

    I’ve never come across any, at all, aside from a few cherry picked verses out of Ephesians that believers furnish as proof that the Bible is, in fact, a proto-feminist tome.

  196. #196 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    BrianX wrote:

    I’ve always figured that a good number of ancient god figures were based on half-remembered real people, unless they were some old bedtime stories that happened to stick (say, proto-Indra/Thor hammering at the forge the same way I was told that thunder was angels bowling). Made up religion? Well, to some extent perhaps, but putting it that way puts a conspiratorial bent on it that I think just doesn’t make much sense.

    I see. Well, I’ll try, for the moment, to suppress my instinct to point and laugh.

    Instead, I’ll simply inform you that you are very, very uninformed about ancient history. You are making a classic newbie mistrake in assuming that ancient societies and people were as rational and objective as you are yourself. Worse, even modern people aren’t anywhere near as rational or objective — or do you object to me suggesting that, just maybe, Mormonism and Scientology are both 100% made-up bullshit religions and the result of very transparent conspiracies?

    But even the modern made-up religions aren’t a good model for ancient syncretism. These people understood, at one level, that this wasn’t “real” reality they were making up. But they did think they were describing the “real” reality of the spiritual realms…and that the spiritual realms were every bit as real as the mundane one.

    That is, they probably knew they were writing fiction, but they also probably didn’t think it was fiction. And they weren’t practicing Orwellian doublethink, either.

    Your best bet would be to spend a great deal of quality time at http://pocm.info/. He does an excellent job of slicing right through modern misconceptions of the ancient world while simultaneously explaining that Christianity most emphatically is an ancient Pagan religion.

    Oh — but first take some time to read Lucian’s account of the passing of Peregrinus. There were sinister conspiracies at the foundation of Christianity, and Lucian lays bare one of them.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  197. #197 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    Egalitarianism in the context of the first century CE is completely anachronistic- to attribute what is a largely modernist notion to people of the first century is simply the worst kind of insipid moral relativism there is.

    There was nothing egalitarian about the first century church. I’m not letting the writer of Ephesians off the hook because right after he tells women to submit and STFU, he says men should love them. I’m not going to impose my century’s mores on one that would have no use for or conception of them whatsoever.

    What is the point of that? To make a kind of “true scotsman” argument in favor of the early Church? Liberal accommodationists do this all the time, of course..

    what the fuck are you talking about. no one is imposing modern notions of egalitarianism on anyone; we’re very specifically dealing with ancient notions thereof, specifically in the context of apocalyptic cults.

    and it’s also not a “no true scotsman”; just because you need all christians to be as vilely misogyinist as the proto-orthodox church was, doesn’t mean less misogynist versions didn’t exist at some time in the past.

    I mean, if you have an argument to present that the misogynist passages were written by the historical paul, I’m listening. Otherwise you’re having an argument from consequences: you don’t want paul to be less of an asshole than he looks like, therefore he isn’t.

  198. #198 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    I’ve never come across any, at all, aside from a few cherry picked verses out of Ephesians that believers furnish as proof that the Bible is, in fact, a proto-feminist tome.

    why are you attributing this strawman to me, after I’ve just written that the bible is misogynist? seriously, wtf?

  199. #199 Shplane
    May 16, 2010

    So very, very true. I will never understand how any woman can follow an Abrahamic religion (Well, at least not in a society where she can’t be killed for leaving the church).

  200. #200 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    As far as I know, Paul didn’t write any of it! But Ephesians has several notable anti-woman verses in it, and that is one Pauline letter that I’m quite sure is attributed to the real Paul. You continue to breeze past the actual things I’m saying in order to assert, but not back up with any substantial sources, claims about the inherent egalitarianism of the early Christian church.

    I can see it’s not really worth discussing with you, because you’re not actually reading what I’m typing. Is there some book your basing your ideas on? Did you read all this somewhere and you’re holding back? This is what I’m asking, and I’m not getting any answers.

  201. #201 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    “You’re”, excuse me.

  202. #202 Jadehawk, OM
    May 16, 2010

    But Ephesians has several notable anti-woman verses in it, and that is one Pauline letter that I’m quite sure is attributed to the real Paul.

    there’s one notable misogynist passage, and its provenance is disputed.

    I’m basing my arguments on a handful of sources, but mostly on the writings of Bart Ehrmann, if you want to know.

    and “inherent egalitarianism”? maybe you’re misunderstanding. these specific churches weren’t inherently anything, but they believed that the world was about to end, that there should be no procreation, had male and female leaders, and seemed to have believed that both were equal and the differences between them would be destroyed after the end of the world. they’re no different in this than other, later apocalyptic christian sects, which were also comparatively egalitarian for their times; and just like its later siblings, they died out rather quickly (in part because apocalyptic christian sects tend to shun procreation), while the more patriarchal branches survived

  203. #203 John Scanlon FCD
    May 16, 2010

    FabulousShoes:

    you really want to get into it, and I’ll show you male spikes in oxytocin while cuddling an infant. You really really want to get into it and I’ll show you that women are better at surviving ANYTHING – traumatic brain injury, cancer, massive blood loss likely due to the effects of a lack of testosterone

    Pfft, that’s all cultural. Oh wait…

    Mattir:

    You have not refuted that research, nor explained why human neurology should vary in substance, rather than in degree, from that of other mammals.

    But it’s obvious that the human brain has evolved to be a general-purpose computer… if you don’t care for biology much. If you pay attention to reality, it’s clear that the numerous smallish differences in bodies, and biggish differences in reproductive roles, add up to a huge difference in (average) amount of power, mobility, and autonomy between the sexes that has mostly only been amplified by culture. Of course hormones and brains are involved (try living without them) and so is culture (ditto). Egalitarianism that doesn’t acknowledge natural variation (e.g. blank-slatism) is like economics that doesn’t acknowledge limited resources.

    Demonhype #150: Ouch. I remember when the girls I liked and hung out with were not the girls I wanted, but I thought that was mainly hurting me, not them. Then I got older. (Maybe that’s the function of adolescent confusion? – it passes the time.)

  204. #204 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    Isn’t Ehrman an apologist?

  205. #205 darvolution proponentsist
    May 16, 2010

    I think this is on topic enough …

    Courtesy of FSTDT, a user named Cutter decides to let it all hang out in a post entitled Women in Politics on BaptistBoard. There’s a few giggles in this one.

  206. #206 Ben Goren
    May 16, 2010

    BrianX wrote:

    Jesus might have been some street corner preacher who happened to hit it big after he died because of his associates who played up his teaching and told a few tall tales about him (that eventually, through word-of-mouth embellishment and outright mythical theft, built up into a full-blown Messiah story).

    And you’re so hung up on the notion that Christians aren’t completely batshit crazy that you’re quite happy to invent a Jesus who not only is completely unsupported by any evidence but flat-out contradicts all the evidence we do have.

    Where is your evidence that Jesus was a nobody street corner preacher? It sure ain’t in the Bible — but it also ain’t in any extra-Biblical source, either. And how did the presumably-still-living eyewitnesses who informed Paul of Jesus managed to convince Paul that Jesus was a rarefied salvation love god? And how was it that Jesus then took a turn, just a couple generations later, to become an amalgam of Perseus, Mithras, Orpheus, and others grafted onto Jewish mythology?

    If you want an actually-plausible theory of how it all happened, here it is.

    Philo, as I previously mentioned, took the Greek Logos and grafted it onto Judaism. Philo’s philosophy is indistinguishable from the later Christian one and we’re certain Philo originated the idea, so we can be confident that that’s where that part of Christianity came from.

    Very popular at the time were syncretic mystery cults. Basically, somebody would take a few old gods with properties they liked and mix-and-match them into a new god with those properties and their associated stories. An excellent and well-documented example is Serapis, the bull god formed by the union of Osiris and Apis.

    All aspects of the Jesus story are trivially identifiable to have had similar origins. The Last Supper, I previously mentioned, we know to be the Mithraic Eucharist. The Trial is straight out of Orpheus. The Virgin Birth, almost to the very names of the players, is Perseus. Water into wine was Dionysus — and was a calling card of incarnations of Dionysus, almost all of whom were birth-death-resurrection-salvation gods. And so on.

    So, putting all that together, we have a small syncretic Jewish mystery cult that probably dates back to at least a century or two BCE. There would have been a secret inner mystery only revealed to initiates that would be recognizable today as being the Jesus story, but undoubtedly with significant differences. But, that secret story would have been equal parts astrological allegory and mystical woo-woo of the kind you read in Paul.

    When Paul — or whomever — comes along, he certainly adds the Eucharist into the mix, along with other bits. But his big invention is throwing the doors of the cult open to gentiles like him.

    Sometime after Paul, Peregrinus comes along and adds all the Greek legends.

    The Romans destroyed Judea, giving the Christians an opportunity to fill the power vacuum, by which time Paul’s influences had basically thrown open the doors on the secrecy of the inner mysteries. However, this also meant that the inner mysteries were now no longer metaphorical and “spiritual” but treated as actual historical facts — and conveniently set soon enough in the past to be relevant, but not so soon as to face challenge by living eyewitnesses.

    From the second century on, the history and development of the church is reasonably well documented. There were many competing Gospels, some radically different from those later canonized. These represented different sects that splintered off from each other, in a process that still continues to this day. Indeed, you yourself are participating in it by inventing a corporeal schlub of a random street preacher.

    Note that I don’t claim that that’s exactly what happened; just that it’s a reasonably plausible outline that both matches known facts and is consistent with the development of other ancient religious beliefs.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  207. #207 naddyfive
    May 16, 2010

    I don’t quite understand how you get from “a guy name Paul wrote a couple of letters that were then plagiarized or fucked around with by scribes to make him seem less liberal to the women and Jews” to “the early church as such was egalitarian.”

    Maybe there was some guy Paul who had generally benevolent intentions toward women, but I don’t see how that can be generalized to the church itself when the church itself, according to Ehrman, was responsible for perpetrating fake, reactionary epistles on unsuspecting Christians.

  208. #208 BrianX
    May 16, 2010

    You know, Ben, it occurs to me that the only substantial difference between your picture of Christianity and mine is that I see no reason to assume that there wasn’t a historical Jesus that it all came together around. That you’ve completely failed (or deliberately avoided) to notice this indicates to me that you’re so dense that you represent a clear and present danger to Earth’s gravitational field.

    Honestly, I’m not sure what you seem to think I’m saying, but I don’t see it reflected back at me in your responses. Good day to you, sir.

  209. #209 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    @ Ben Goren #180

    What would you make of somebody who insisted there was an historical Mithras? Why should somebody who insists there was an historical Jesus deserve any less of your ridicule and scorn? What, aside from the continued popularity of Jesus, makes the one in any way more plausible and less batshit crazy than the other?

    What makes me think that there was likely an historical Jesus is something known as the argument from embarrassment. Textual critics have long noted that there are incidents recorded in the Bible that people simply wouldn’t have made up about their hero.

    The crucifixion itself is a big one. It was a shameful way to die, reserved for the lowest of the low. Sure, ancient religions had dying and rising gods, but the gods weren’t portrayed by their worshipers as common criminals.

    Even more interesting are some easily overlooked passages in Mark. Mark is generally believed to be the oldest gospel, and biblical scholars have found that Luke and Matthew (who both seem to have used Mark as a source) each in his own way tried to, um, “correct” Mark to get rid of embarrassing details about their hero. Just one example:

    In Mark 6:3, the townspeople refer to Jesus as “the son of Mary”. In Jesus the Magician, Morton Smith wrote:

    In Semitic usage, to refer to a man as the son of his mother was to indicate that his father’s identity was uncertain. Matthew (12.55) recast the reference to avoid the implication, Luke (4:22) replaced “Mary” with “Joseph”….The common explanation, that Mark wrote “son of Mary” because he believed in the virgin birth, is contradicted by the fact that Mark says nothing of the virgin birth, while Matthew and Luke, who both tell stories about it, both refer in this passage to Jesus as the son of his father.

  210. #210 Geoffrey
    May 17, 2010

    @BrianX

    I see no reason to assume that there wasn’t a historical Jesus

    “Reason to assume” doesn’t enter into it. Where’s your non-biblical based evidence (not assumption) that there was?

  211. #211 Ichthyic
    May 17, 2010

    Where’s your non-biblical based evidence (not assumption) that there was?

    Cue famous theologist documenting that we HAVE NO evidence to support that there was a Jesus, or hell, that most of what was written in the OT actually happened the way it says it did. Evidently, there’s not even any evidence to support that there was an exodus!

    I give you:

    Hector Avalos

  212. #212 Ben Goren
    May 17, 2010

    <sigh>

    BrianX, would it hurt you to at least pretend to offer an ancient citation that supports your notion that Jesus was an obscure street preacher? You know — offer positive supporting evidence for your theory? Like I’ve done for mine?

    Barring that, could you try to reconcile your Jesus with the one presented in the Pauline epistles (written, presumably, in your theory, by a man who was closely associated with eyewitnesses to this obscure street preacher’s antics)?

    It’s all fine and dandy to pull wild theories out of your ass. But to refuse to test those theories against the evidence is the exact kind of willful self-imposed idiocy that religionist rightly get laughed at ’round these here parts.

    We call it, “faith,” and it’s a dirty, nasty, word.

    You, it would seem, have an inordinate amount of faith in your street preacher Jesus, and are every bit as unable to present rational reasons to suppose his existence as any other Christian is to present rational reasons to suppose he was born of a virgin.

    Indeed, the theory that Jesus was born of a virgin is far better supported by the evidence than your theory that he was a random schmuck — and that’s quite the accomplishment.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  213. #213 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    Forgive the formatting of my post at #209. I’m not too swift with these HTML tag thingys.

    In case it isn’t clear, the last paragraph in that post is a direct quote from Jesus the Magician (hey, at least I can get the italics right).

    Anyhoo, anyone who wants to explore/debate the interesting question of whether or not there was an historical Jesus should probably begin by reading some works by biblical scholars and their popularizers. I can recommend, in addition to Jesus the Magician, Randal Helms’s (Gospel Fictions, Who Wrote the Gospels?) and Tim Callahan’s Secret Origins of the Bible

  214. #214 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Geoffrey:

    I stand by what I said earlier. The historical Jesus was probably no one special, one of dozens of street preachers of little real interest. It was only his brother and friends spreading the word about his teachings that made him famous, and the typical cliches of mythical messiahs (miracles, virgin birth, that sort of thing) became attached over a very short time. He may have known John the Baptist (who was well-known in his own time), but most of all I don’t see the negative evidence that shows where and when Jesus should have been but wasn’t.

    I return to my original point. The assertion of the existence of Yeshua ben Yosef is trivial — we have a series of teachings that are ascribed to him (the Q gospel) and an acknowledgement in Paul’s genuine letters that at the time Paul wrote, people who knew Jesus personally were still alive. These may be entirely false, but unlike the mythical cliches that we know were pulled from other myths, we have no reason to believe they are. The burden of proof is on those who assert otherwise.

    Mystery faith? Perhaps. Either that or one was constructed around him. I bring Occam’s razor back into the picture — personality cults still go strong in this world, the most famous currently probably being Juche in North Korea. Most of the stories told about the Kims are outright lies, but if North Korea were to completely collapse and all records were wiped out, would it be reasonable 2000 years from now for someone to say that there was no Kim Il Sung despite whatever lingering legends were still told, that he was no more real than Big Brother?

    I don’t know what side Ben thinks I’m arguing. I’m not a theist at all — I’ve been faith-free since the age of 25. But I don’t think it’s productive to simply deny, deny, deny, when there’s no obvious reason but psychology to do so. Jesus was a man. His friends told funky plagiarized stories about him and he got famous. Just because he was a nobody in his lifetime doesn’t mean he didn’t exist at all.

  215. #215 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    @Ben Goren #212

    “Indeed, the theory that Jesus was born of a virgin is far better supported by the evidence than your theory that he was a random schmuck”

    Historians often have to use textual criticism to try and form hypotheses about what really happened way back when. Most textual critics I know of indeed think that Jesus was pretty much of a random schmuck. The whole virgin birth story wasn’t invented until after JC died–likely because his illegitimacy was common knowledge and his followers had to deal with that fact. At least, it isn’t mentioned in Mark (the earliest of the gospels) or Paul’s letters (which predate the gospels by a good 40 years at least.)

    Having that whole godmen-born-of-virgins meme at hand must’ve been mighty handy for the Xtian apologists back in the day.

  216. #216 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Ben, you have proven *nothing* of note. The pagan connections of Christian practice are well-documented, so it’s not like you’re letting me on any big secrets I don’t already know. If anything, you’re cherry-picking to prove a point that you’ll almost certainly find no evidence either way on. You’re the one asserting that Jesus didn’t exist, so the burden of proof is on you, and you’ve not done that.

    And since much evidence of such a person isn’t likely to be easy to find either way, Occam’s razor would seem to indicate that he did exist, that he was in no way God, and that he got a lot of old stories pinned to him.

  217. #217 Jadehawk, OM
    May 17, 2010

    Isn’t Ehrman an apologist?

    for what? he isn’t even a Christian anymore.

    besides, I’m not asserting that Paul liked women. I’m just trying to figure out what problem you have with the historical evidence that he didn’t write the misogynist passages attributed to him, and that the churches of his apocalyptic cult were more egalitarian than the culture surrounding them, and more egalitarian than Peter’s church, which became the mainstream version of christianity and is what we generally refer to when we talk about it. this is after all only a historical footnote of christianity.

  218. #218 Ben Goren
    May 17, 2010

    moonkitty wrote:

    What makes me think that there was likely an historical Jesus is something known as the argument from embarrassment. Textual critics have long noted that there are incidents recorded in the Bible that people simply wouldn’t have made up about their hero.

    I’m sorry, but that has got to be one of the stupidest apologies to come out of Christianity. No, seriously. You pretty much have to have an IQ equal to your hat size to buy into it.

    The crucifixion itself is a big one. It was a shameful way to die, reserved for the lowest of the low. Sure, ancient religions had dying and rising gods, but the gods weren’t portrayed by their worshipers as common criminals.

    And this is a perfect example. Not only is it false on its face, it displays profound ignorance of the myth itself.

    Ever heard of, oh, say, Orpheus? The Thracians were so enraged by what his return from Hades represented that they fell on him with knives and brutally murdered him. They cut off his still-singing head and tossed it into the river where it eventually made its way to the Elysian fields. And, if you live a noble life in Orpheus’s model, you’ll find your way there where you can hear his voice, still strong to this day.

    That Jesus (and Orpheus and others) were executed as common criminals wasn’t an embarrassment for the heroes of the stories; it was a scathing indictment of those who unjustly murdered the hero. Just as the story of Orpheus is wildly and unjustly virulently anti-Thracian (even though Orpheus was, himself, Thracian), the story of Jesus is wildly and unjustly anti-Semitic (even though Jesus was, himself, Jewish).* Indeed, one of the core tenets of the generic form of the story is the utter corruptness of The Powers That Be™ such that they will do anything, even murder the source of all hope and life, to preserve the wickedness of their ways.

    So, sorry. Your Christian apologia, is about as inspiring and odiferous as a pig sty overdue for cleaning. But don’t feel too bad; it’s par for the course.

    Cheers,

    b&


    *Neither, of course, existed outside of their respective faery tales. When I write that “Jesus was Jewish” it should be no more remarkable than the fact that Harry Potter is British or that Darth Vader was a Sith Lord. b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  219. #219 Caine, Fleur du mal
    May 17, 2010

    BrianX:

    I see no reason to assume that there wasn’t a historical Jesus that it all came together around.

    What you’re doing here is indulging in wishful thinking. There’s no evidence for a historical Jesus. I second Ichthyic [#211] on reading Hector Avalos.

  220. #220 Jadehawk, OM
    May 17, 2010

    You’re the one asserting that Jesus didn’t exist, so the burden of proof is on you, and you’ve not done that.

    the burden of proof does not work that way.

    there’s insufficient evidence that he existed, there’s no need for him to have existed, therefore why violate parsimony and assume that he did?

  221. #221 emigrant2immigrant
    May 17, 2010

    Although coming back to respond many hours later – as I live on the other side of the world from most of you – my comment in #18 might not have been well expressed, but I do stand by the context.

    For the record, I am a female – despite being referred to as a bitter male. However, my view might be skewed because of the world that I am living in: an American in the Middle East watching women submit to ridiculous levels of control and so often less enlightened than American women might be.

    Also, I would like to add that, all things considered, put side by side, Islam officially gives women far more rights than Christianity or Judaism do. Certainly not enough by 21st century standards, though. The main differences are that, 1: a majority of women are not fighting against restrictions imposed on them, but instead embracing the restrictions, and 2: For various reasons, Islamic interpretations are becoming more and more rigid and taking away the few rights that women DO have in so many instances (think Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan).

    But, in a nutshell, I find all of the “big 3” religions equally repugnant. If a person has to choose a fairy tale to believe to fulfill an empty spot in life, there are much nicer ones to choose from.

  222. #222 Ben Goren
    May 17, 2010

    BrianX wrote:

    The assertion of the existence of Yeshua ben Yosef is trivial — we have a series of teachings that are ascribed to him (the Q gospel)

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Oh, my. That’s rich.

    Seriously?

    You’re trying to claim that it’s trivial to prove that Jesus was real by — excuse me — citing a hypothetical nonexistent document? One whose existence was only proposed in an effort to reconcile Biblical consistencies with the notion that the Bible is an historical document? One which is a rough draft of the Greatest Zombie Story Every Told?

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    I’m sorry. I can’t BWAHAHAHAHA help myself. That’s just too fucking dumb for words.

    You, sir, are a grade-A certified and certifiable idiot.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  223. #223 Al B. Quirky
    May 17, 2010

    If, as PZ claims, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all profoundly misogynistic faiths, and if we apply basic Darwinistic principles to religion itself (and, inter alia, the members of the groups adhering to particular religions) it can be seen that Evolution favors religions where men rule.
    I’ll make an exception in President Palin’s case; she’s a honey!

  224. #224 Ichthyic
    May 17, 2010

    and if we apply basic Darwinistic principles to religion itself

    we can’t.

    selection operates at the level of the individual.

    you’d have to move beyond darwinistic principles.

    why are you here?

  225. #225 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Jadehawk:

    No reason to assume = lack of negative evidence. And if Jesus was just some random schmuck, you’re unlikely to find much of it either. (And he was definitely not an invention of Paul’s either — there were large currents of non-Pauline Christianity for the first few centuries of the faith’s existence. They all died out by the fall of the Roman Empire, though.)

    Ben:

    It’s not a Christian apologia by any means. A Christian apologia would be asserting that Jesus was the figure represented in the Gospels, as opposed to some random street preacher who said a few wise things and wound up deified for it. I might point out that I see no one here defending the gospel Jesus — not me, not moonkitty, not anyone except the imaginary posters in your head. The assertion here is that there was a historical figure that the Jesus of the gospels was based on, who we likely know very little about, and who apart from an accident of history would probably have been forgotten like a gazillion other would-be Messiahs.

  226. #226 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    Ben Goren:

    First off, why assume that because I’m making an historical/textual argument I’m offering a “Christian apologia”? I’m an atheist, not a Christian. The writers I referred you to above are/were all skeptics and atheists. The question of the historicity of Jesus is a nuanced one, which perhaps explains why you haven’t grasped my basic point.

    Yes, I’ve heard of Orpheus. Yes, he was murdered. He was murdered, not executed as a common criminal. Big difference. Ancient people were sensitive to questions of class, buddy boy. Crucifixion was reserved for the lower classes. Jesus, by the evidence of the gospels themselves, was an illegitimate nobody who was executed in a way reserved exclusively for nobodies.

    Orpheus, on the other hand, was the son of a king. If you invented a hero back then, out of whole cloth, you made him a Big Man, not a schmuck.

    How you can offer such a knee-jerk dismissal of an argument you clearly don’t understand, and presume to know my motives for offering it, and still call yourself a critical thinker, baffles me. Go fuck yourself.

  227. #227 Al B. Quirky
    May 17, 2010

    @224

    we can’t.

    Yes We Can!

    why are you here?

    Mountain climbing.

  228. #228 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Ben, I stand by my assertion that you’re the idiot here. You so desperately need to believe that there was no such person as a historical Jesus that you’ve gone out into tinfoil hat territory to try to prove it.

    I really need to get out of this thread. My SIWOTI syndrome needs treatment.

  229. #229 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    moonkitty:

    It’s like I said — it’s not enough to assert that Jesus was merely a random, totally human street preacher with good press. Ben needs there to never have been any Jesus at all.

  230. #230 Spaulding
    May 17, 2010

    St Augustine:
    Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders.

    Got a source for that? I’m not finding one. Haven’t checked the others. Sure, there’s lot’s of anti-woman stuff in Abrahamic religions, but be careful you’re not posting internet rumors as evidence.

  231. #231 Spaulding
    May 17, 2010

    Our dimorphism isn’t relevant, it’s brains that matter.

    It’s noteworthy that our brains exhibit dimorphism.

  232. #232 Al B. Quirky
    May 17, 2010

    @BrianX
    know what you mean, there’s a tendency to a logical fallacy amongst some here, that goes something like: ‘if you can’t show me Moses’ dental records, then he didn’t exist’
    they’re quite mad

  233. #233 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Al, given your tendency to be a godawful pain in the ass around here, I’d prefer you just as soon stay out of the debate.

  234. #234 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    BrianX:

    It does bother me when I see atheists get all defensive. We critical thinkers are supposed to be able to look at all the evidence, and tolerate uncertainty.

    I do think there’s more likely to have been an historical Jesus than not, based on what I’ve read, though obviously most of what his followers have written and said about him is pure myth. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence, so of course we can’t know for sure.

    Reading Morton Smith was a milestone in my becoming an atheist. I still find this stuff (reading about myths and religion and how scholars parse them) fascinating.

    For what it’s worth, I also agree with the commentators above who say that Paul got a (probably undeserved) bad rap. And I fail to see how pointing that out in any way provides aid and comfort for the enemy (the enemy being religious misogyny.)

  235. #235 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    Since I’m expressing my unasked-for opinions, let me also say a word for slasher flix. Guys get killed in them too, you know; and their female characters are often pretty tough and resourceful. I know several women besides myself–feminists all!–who dig them.

    Just sayin’.

    (It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie….)

  236. #236 Geoffrey
    May 17, 2010

    @BrianX

    With no evidence, why is your default position that he existed?

    Surely this is the reverse of all other types of knowledge using the scientific method.

  237. #237 Ben Goren
    May 17, 2010

    Geoffrey, BrianX has all the evidence he needs: the Q Gospel.

    No, seriously. That’s his evidence. See #136.

    He might not believe in the divinity of Jesus or that anything supernatural happened during his alleged tenure on Earth, but he’s swallowed all the rest of the dumbest idiocy to come out of Christian apologetics hook, line, and sinker.

    Cheers,

    b&


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  238. #238 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    Geoffrey,

    The question of the historicity (or not) of Jesus is an historical one; our only evidence is textual. Therefore we must look to textual criticism. As I stated above, there is a pretty good argument to be made that nobody back then would’ve invented Jesus as he appears in Mark (the oldest gospel); therefore there may well have been a real live, illegitimate, possibly crazy guy who got himself crucified and wound up the center of an apocalyptic religion.

    Of course we can’t be sure; it’s a matter of parsing the ancient texts, understanding their historical context, and assigning probabilities.

  239. #239 Geoffrey
    May 17, 2010

    @moonkitty,

    As I stated above, there is a pretty good argument to be made that nobody back then would’ve invented Jesus as he appears in Mark (the oldest gospel); therefore there may well have been a real live, illegitimate, possibly crazy guy who got himself crucified and wound up the center of an apocalyptic religion.

    So what is the “pretty good argument”? Where’re the contemporary accounts of Jesus? Gospel of Mark, 40 years after his supposed death?

  240. #240 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    Geoffrey: I addressed the question in my post #209 above, and subsequent posts. I also recommended some books.

  241. #241 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    …I recommended the books in post #213.

  242. #242 Jadehawk, OM
    May 17, 2010

    Crucifixion was reserved for the lower classes. Jesus, by the evidence of the gospels themselves, was an illegitimate nobody who was executed in a way reserved exclusively for nobodies.

    uh… yeah… a lower-class hero for a slave religion. why is this surprising to you? it only becomes incongruous later when it becomes the religion of emperors.

  243. #243 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Geoffrey:

    Because, as I said at the beginning of all this, asserting that there was a historical model for Jesus is trivial, and it’s the starting position for the argument. And if Jesus was a nobody in his time, and those stories that don’t come from conventional mythmaking are grossly exaggerated, why would there be contemporary accounts? He just wouldn’t have been that interesting. (The Jesus of the gospels is a rather spectacular personage that wouldn’t have been missed. If, on the other hand, his alleged deeds were tacked onto him after his death, that becomes a completely different situation.

    Ben:

    Now you’ve been reduced to outright lying about my position. Should I keep going with you until you start calling me a meany poopiehead, or should I just give up now because dealing with you is like trying to drill granite with a spork?

  244. #244 echidna
    May 17, 2010

    In Semitic usage, to refer to a man as the son of his mother was to indicate that his father’s identity was uncertain.

    Not my understanding at all. “Son of mother” was used for secular (business) purposes, “son of father” for religious purposes. Nothing to do with unknown fathers.

    By the way, the “son of Mariamne” may well have been meant the heir of the Maccabean princess, therefore King of the Jews by birth.

  245. #245 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Actually I should give up because it’s way the hell off topic. So I will.

  246. #246 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    Jadehawk, Christianity was practiced by all classes. And slaves followed various religions. Given that, name one other ancient religion whose godboy was as unimpressive, in origins (remembering that the virgin birth thing was a late, not an early, invention), in his life history (he couldn’t perform any miracles in his home town! His family tried to have him put under restraint as insane!), and in his ultimate fate. Go ahead. Just name one. I won’t hold my breath.

    This isn’t “surprising to me”. This is something I’ve had pointed out to me in my reading on the subject.

  247. #247 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    moonkitty:

    I hate to undercut you, but even if no one can think of one, we don’t necessarily know if there were or weren’t any like that. Hell, there’s plenty of *modern* denominations and religions that began something like that. Some even have all kinds of nutzoid mythmaking attached, like Juche (as I mentioned earlier) and Scientology.

  248. #248 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    @echidna,

    That was a quote by Morton Smith, who taught ancient history at Columbia; perhaps he was mistaken or new evidence has come to light. Do you have a link?

  249. #249 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    BrianX, true. We can’t be certain. I’m inclined to agree with those scholars who think human nature is such that some of those embarrassing details that were retained in Mark and got written out of the later gospels probably wouldn’t have been invented to begin with–but I cheerfully admit I could be wrong.

  250. #250 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    …Also the “embarrassing details” could’ve been invented by people who were attacking the new sect, and then went viral.

  251. #251 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Indeed, another part of the complex nature of mythmaking. That’s actually at least as reasonable a guess as the other possibility.

  252. #252 Jadehawk, OM
    May 17, 2010

    Jadehawk, Christianity was practiced by all classes.

    not in the beginning, to my knowledge. I exaggerated about the slave thing, but it was a religion with specific appeal to the lower classes, and some of the gospels, and figures in it, are designed with this in mind: Jesus’ supposed followers were poor fishermen, and he hung out with various social rejects, and the moral of a number of his stories was that those at the bottom would come out on top after the end of the world. So it is not at all incongruous to have him also die in a low-status way. That’s not evidence for it really happening, though.

  253. #253 Jadehawk, OM
    May 17, 2010

    Ben, I stand by my assertion that you’re the idiot here. You so desperately need to believe that there was no such person as a historical Jesus that you’ve gone out into tinfoil hat territory to try to prove it.

    I hate this accusation. what, pray tell, do we gain by him not having existed? precisely nothing. after all, Joseph Smith exists, and mormonism is still bullshit.

    it’s only a question of being skeptical consistently: there’s no evidence for Jesus’ existence. The textual evidence we have can be explained just as well without a Jesus-person ever having existed. Therefore the parsimonious stance is that he doesn’t exist. Just as I’m an agnostic atheist because there’s no evidence of any gods, and no evidence we have requires their existence to be explained, so I’m also an agnostic aJesusist because there’s neither evidence of nor need for his existence.

  254. #254 CJO
    May 17, 2010

    The problem with applying the methods of textual criticism to the historical question isn’t that they aren’t ever used in secular historical reconstructions, because they are; the problem is that the texts in question are literary narratives of anonymous authoship and uncertain provenance that treat incredible events of which there exists no external corrobration. How historians use criteria like the principle of embarrassment to analyze documentary evidence is to fill in more detailed reconstructions of events where the basic facts are matters of some larger context that is wll-established based on evidence not drawn from the texts being considered. This means that New Testament scholars have basically skipped a step, where they assumed the broad outline of historicity (your “street preacher”, or any number of variant mundane historicizations), and began assessing probabilities based solely on the features of the individual narratives comprising a literary tradition with no necessary ties to any historical events known outside of that tradition.

    As for the counter-accusations that inevitably fly around this debate (christian apologist vs. tinfoil hat conspiracy monger):

    The fact is that, while NT studies wears secular garb, it remains dominated by practicing Christian academics unwilling to seriously examine certain foundational assumptions about the nature of the gospels and the aims of their authors (see Hector Avalos for an acerbic confirmation of this rom an insider). Having read the thread, I have no illusions that either moonkitty or Brian X, whom I take to be the principal opponents here to the Jesus-as-myth idea, are interested in defending any aspect of the Christian faith. Rather the issue is their credulous acceptance of an entrenched scholarly consensus that is based on some troublesome yet unexamined assumptions about the origins of the texts involved, how to characterize the uses of one by another as “dependent” and “independent”, and this has led to the overconfident reconstruction of hypothetical written sources like Q or any supposed pre-Markan narratives.

    On the other side, the implication that one could only assert ahistoristicity re: Jesus of Nazareth if one had some deep need to do so out of animosity toward Christian institutions is a bare ad hominem. Rejecting an idea as a fringe position motivated by ulterior motives says nothing about the merits of the idea itself (especially, in this case, considering the foundation of the consensus of which it forms the fringe). At the least, an imputation of motives should follow a detailed demonstration of one’s own, presumably more mainstream, position. In the current case, merely appealing to the plausibility that any old “street preacher” could have been the subject of an apocalyptc cult doesn’t go very far. No, it’s not implausible, but that’s not enough; history books are flush with a priori implausibles. The question has to be, is there any evidence for it?

  255. #255 Kagato
    May 17, 2010

    There’s one thing I don’t understand about this whole “Historical Jesus” argument.

    Assume I grant the premise that there might have been an actual guy upon whom the Jesus myth was originally based, in some form.

    If it’s not possible to reliably ascribe any specific aspects from the myth to the supposed historical figure… then what’s the point of the exercise? He remains indistinguishable from every other poor shmuck of the time. You end up saying nothing of value to either history or theology.

    Besides — Harry Potter could have been based upon some kid J. K. Rowling knew at school (let’s call him Barry Porter), who happened to have a funny scar on his forehead. But that would hardly be justification for future arguments about a “Historical Harry”, would it?

    Yes, I’m aware J.K. Rowling asserts Harry Potter is not based on anyone in particular. But of course she’d say that to protect poor Barry’s identity…

  256. #256 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    Jadehawk, I’m no expert. It’s my understanding that Christianity began as an apocalyptic Jewish sect. But it still could have been designed by and for the underclasses.

    So you could well be right. I just think it would’ve been highly unusual for people in the ancient Near East to have made up stories such as the ones that were told about Jesus for a hero of theirs. Surely even slaves would’ve invented a less ignominious death for him.

    I don’t want to take it to the Supreme Court, though. We’re talking about assigning probabilities to something for which we admittedly have little evidence.

  257. #257 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    @CJO #254: “The fact is that, while NT studies wears secular garb, it remains dominated by practicing Christian academics unwilling to seriously examine certain foundational assumptions about the nature of the gospels and the aims of their authors (see Hector Avalos for an acerbic confirmation of this rom an insider)…Rather the issue is their credulous acceptance of an entrenched scholarly consensus that is based on some troublesome yet unexamined assumptions about the origins of the texts involved

    Sorry, CJO, but I am not basing my argument on that of Christian academics. The writers I’ve read and to whom I referred in my posts are secular and skeptic. I don’t know whether there is a “consensus” on the historicity of Jesus; the authors I’ve read admit, as I have, that the evidence is limited and the best that can be offered are probabilities based on a knowledge of the history of the times, the cultures involved, and the (extremely problematic) documents left to us.

    And there are no “unexamined assumptions” about the texts involved informing the works I cited. The problems involved are discussed thoroughly.

    @CJO: “On the other side, the implication that one could only assert ahistoristicity re: Jesus of Nazareth if one had some deep need to do so out of animosity toward Christian institutions is a bare ad hominem”

    I don’t think anyone implied any such thing. I think BrianX and I implied that Ben Goren’s attack of the points we made was emotion-based. Our evidence consists of remarks he made in his posts above, including these:

    You pretty much have to have an IQ equal to your hat size to buy into it

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    I?m sorry. I can?t BWAHAHAHAHA help myself. That?s just too fucking dumb for words

    And with that, I bid you goodnight.

  258. #258 CJO
    May 17, 2010

    And there are no “unexamined assumptions” about the texts involved informing the works I cited. The problems involved are discussed thoroughly.

    You cited three books, and you keep mentioning it like you want a cookie. I’ve read Helms, I quite admire his Gospel Fictions actually, but it’s a slim volume that lacks the scope to discuss the historical issues thoroughly, as you claim. For myself, I’ve read more such books than would make citation here practical, many rather tedious and almost all several times the length of Gospel Fictions, and based on that reading I aver that indeed the scholarly literature on the NT consistently betrays the unexamined assumption that there is a historical core of facts about a Galilean named Yeshua that the authors of the canonical gospels had access to and were concerned with transmitting to some degree of faithfulness.

    Until tomorrow,

  259. #259 Al B. Quirky
    May 17, 2010

    Al, given your tendency to be a godawful pain in the ass around here, I’d prefer you just as soon stay out of the debate.

    moi? MOI? you can NOT be serious man!
    can I help it if god…whoops, Evolution, gave me a special gift? ..just doing my best to be a lamp where I stand..

  260. #260 John Morales
    May 17, 2010

    ABQ, you’re not a lamp — you’re a lump.

  261. #261 Owlmirror
    May 17, 2010

    Addressing PZ’s use of Job 14:4 —

    Hebrew is a gendered language. While the original word in this place is indeed “tameh”, the term for ritual impurity, it is in the masculine form, not the feminine. Leviticus uses the feminine form when describing a woman who is menstruating, for example, and the masculine for men who have wet dreams or come into contact with a menstruating woman.

    Both men and women are made impure by sex, and I’m pretty sure that the author had in mind that basically, sex is icky — and humans come about as the result of sex.

    Note that the verse can be read as implicitly denying the omnipotence of God: God’s “is one” (Deut 6:4); not even “one” can bring something pure from something impure.

    —————————-

    How about because the people who lived in Ireland came from place where there were snakes and because humans share with chimps a biologically supported fascination/fear of snakes.

    Because people are regularly fascinated by animals that they would have never seen in generations?

    Is there any evidence of this fascination having existed in Irish pre-Christian history?

    Now, if there’s some archaeological study showing the many clear examples of a snake motif in Irish pre-Christian artwork — specifically a snake, and specifically Irish — well, I’ll cheerfully concede the point.

    —————————-

    Oh, you can almost taste the cognitive dissonance whenever someone trots this out this little hackneyed justification.

    Ahem. Adam ate the fruit too!

    So, if Eve is to be damned and denigrated for being deceived by Satan (as it were, the Master Liar, Prince of Deception, fallen angel who challenged God himself, etc, etc), and all women, “daughters of Eve” thus to be disdained in turn, what are we to make of men, the “sons of Adam” – the blithering idiot who was deceived by *gasp* *horror* *ignomity* a woman!!

    Another point that religionist misogynists ignore is that the bible shows Adam being told directly not to eat the fruit, but we don’t see Eve being so instructed (the rib incident takes place after the commandment to a solitary Adam).

    If she was told about the command by Adam, then she was not necessarily disobeying God in eating the fruit, but discounting the word of a mere mortal, who may have been mistaken.

    But Adam was definitely disobeying a direct order from God.

    Of course, they were both convinced that it was OK because God lied about them dying, and the serpent told the truth.

    ————————–

    There is nothing worse than a translation of a translation of a translation. The original word — charasha— came from an early translation of the Torah to Aramaic, and it means “female magic user”.

    WTF? The original Hebrew was machshefa; the feminine form for a magic user. The Targum Onkelos and the Peshitta do use charasha — but how is that relevant for any later mistranslation?

    The Latin translation came out “venifica”, which specifies “female poisoner”.

    Uh, the Vulgate I’m looking at says “maleficos”. It sure sounds like someone was thinking of the LXX, which used the word “pharmakous“, which was ambiguous in whether it meant “sorceress” or “poisoner”.

    The fine folks over at the KJV translation free-for-all took it to mean “witch”.

    I’m not claiming that the KJV is the greatest translation ever — but this word was wrong, in context… because?

    ————————-

    Audumbla was killed in Norse mythology

    WTF? I note, btw, that she is a cow. Hm.

    She appears, gives milk to Ymir, licks Bri out of a salt lick, and … is not killed.

    Wikipedia says: “Auumbla is not mentioned again in the Prose Edda and, apart from one mention in Nafnaulur, her name does not occur in any other ancient source. ”

    the (female) serpent of Ma’at was put under the control of male deities in Egypt.

    WTFWTF???

    The (evil)(male) serpent Apep was the enemy of (female) Ma’at.

  262. #262 Owlmirror
    May 17, 2010

    Oh, yes, ?Paul? most certainly did not think that Jesus was a Galilean Jewish street preacher. To ?Paul,? Jesus was the creator / savior of all humanity, the human incarnation of the creative force of the universe.

    You’re thinking of Marcion, not Paul.

    And there?s the fact that ?Paul? ascribes the perpetrators of the Crucifixion to the princes of a far-off land in time and space (?the Archons of that age?).

    Koine FAIL. There was nothing that remote or arcane about Greek-speaking Paul using either the perfectly ordinary Greek word “archon” meaning ruler, or the perfectly ordinary Greek word “aion” meaning world/age — the whole point being that it is this world/age being referenced, as opposed to the world/age of God.

    Sheesh. Relying on a mangled translation of Greek does not support your hypothesis.

    He even got the highest court of the land to make asses of themselves in a scene that would have been just as shocking then as if Scalia dropped his trousers and started flinging poo at the appellates.

    WTF are you even talking about?

    You know what Philo wrote of Jesus and the events of the Gospels?

    Not a single word. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Zero.

    Meh. People write about what they’re interested in.

    Philo didn’t write about any of these guys either, despite the fact that he lived through at least some of their periods of activities — does that mean they didn’t exist; that Josephus made them all up?

    http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants00.html

    I mean, it’s not like Jesus was a philosopher, as far as Philo would have been concerned.

    And?just as icing on the cake, we have Lucain informing us that it was ?Peregrinus? who inserted all the Pagan mythology into Christianity between the authorship of the Pauline epistles and the authorship of the Gospels. And Peregrinus did it half as a gag and half as a profit-making scam.

    And we should believe Lucian’s obvious contempt-filled satire, vaguely written from third or fourth-hand rumors — because?

    In no other case do we even pretend that any other religion with superheroes was founded by mere mortals who superficially resembled those same superheroes; the only reason Jesus and Christianity (and, to be fair, Muhammad and Islam) get such preferential treatment is because their propaganda machines are still running full force.

    Propaganda machines don’t build themselves.

    And nobody ever seems to have any solid objection to the obvious explanation ? Jesus and the rest of the Christian story is a made-up religion no different from any of the other contemporary syncretic Pagan gods and religions ? other than a vestigial insistence that Jesus is somehow special. That, of all the gods who litter the pages of history books, he?s somehow the real deal.

    Which is not what’s being claimed.

    Why should somebody who insists there was an historical Jesus deserve any less of your ridicule and scorn?

    Well, I’m not insisting there was. But your counter-arguments lack historical accuracy.

    If this theory were true, we would expect the earliest accounts of Jesus to be concrete and specific yet mundane, and the latest accounts to be fantastic.

    I think there is such a trend. The infancy gospel of Thomas is later than the rest, and is obviously fake. The Acts of Peter has a resurrected fish and a talking dog. And so on — the other apocrypha attributed to Peter have even freakier things.

    The gospels themselves have the scene where Satan tempts Jesus to do various fantastic things, which Jesus refuses as temptations — reasonably interpreted as being meant to rebut those who wondered why the son of God didn’t do more obviously impressive things.

    It?s only in the Gospels, written even decades later still, that we get any of the biographic details ? and those accounts are quite fantastic and almost universally contradict each other on the specifics.

    Sure.

    What possible sense does it mean to say that the ?real? Jesus wasn?t born of a virgin in accordance with the prophesies, didn?t preach the Sermon on the Mount to vast crowds, never had a spectacular trial before the Sanhedrin, wasn?t crucified on a hill between two thieves, never came back from the dead, didn?t ascend to Heaven, and maybe wasn?t even named, ?Jesus?

    That he was a charismatic cult leader who pissed off an easily-pissed-off Roman governor and equally easily-pissed-off Jewish leaders trying to cope with the pissy Roman governor.

    ? or even male, for that matter?

    I have no idea who would suggest that the cult leader portrayed as being male should not have been male.

    Either they?re so specific that there?s no way they could possibly fit the indisputable evidence, or they?re so vague as to be applicable to countless hordes of people all equally deserving of the appellation.

    Sure.

    ?and, again, they ignore the fact that Jesus perfectly fits the same mold of syncretic Paganism that all his contemporaries fit.

    Meh.

    What about the Jesus story is incompatible with syncretism?

    Placing Jesus’ death in the immediate past, during the lifetime of many of the ones meant to be convinced that it had happened.

    How do you know that he couldn?t possibly be exactly like all the other gods indistinguishable from him?

    He didn’t exactly start out being exactly like any god at all; the idea that Jesus and God were the exact same person is much later than Jesus the chosen-of-God miracle worker.

    Instead, I?ll simply inform you that you are very, very uninformed about ancient history.

    Meh. You’re not doing a whole lot better.

    Worse, even modern people aren?t anywhere near as rational or objective ? or do you object to me suggesting that, just maybe, Mormonism and Scientology are both 100% made-up bullshit religions and the result of very transparent conspiracies?

    Are you going to claim that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young didn’t exist, nor L. Ron Hubbard?

    Oh ? but first take some time to read Lucian?s account of the passing of Peregrinus. There were sinister conspiracies at the foundation of Christianity, and Lucian lays bare one of them.

    I did read it, possibly more carefully than you did. Lucian had no way of knowing if any of the rumors about Peregrinus influencing Christianity were true, or to what degree.

    If Peregrinus was supposed to be some influential Christian figure — who exactly was he? What was his alleged influence even supposed to be?

    So, putting all that together, we have a small syncretic Jewish mystery cult that probably dates back to at least a century or two BCE.

    Because Jesus’ life was described as being centuries ago in the gospels?

    Sometime after Paul, Peregrinus comes along and adds all the Greek legends.

    He adds all the stuff that you claim was in there centuries earlier?

    You know ? offer positive supporting evidence for your theory? Like I?ve done for mine?

    You’ve offered lots of weak speculation and deeply distorted interpretation. I haven’t seen any actual evidence — and you contradict yourself as much as the gospels writers did.

    It?s all fine and dandy to pull wild theories out of your ass.

    LOL! Says the wild-theory-from-ass-puller.

    But to refuse to test those theories against the evidence is the exact kind of willful self-imposed idiocy that religionist rightly get laughed at ?round these here parts.

    Another willful self-imposed idiocy that gets laughed at is hypocrisy.

    —————

    There’s one thing I don’t understand about this whole “Historical Jesus” argument.

    Assume I grant the premise that there might have been an actual guy upon whom the Jesus myth was originally based, in some form.

    I actually argue both sides, myself, simply because while the Christians only have dogma on their side — and I have no problem calling them on that — I haven’t seen a good, substantive argument that demonstrates that the dogma cannot have arisen from a kernel of truth.

    I still have yet to read/watch the counter-arguments made by actual historians, though

    If it’s not possible to reliably ascribe any specific aspects from the myth to the supposed historical figure… then what’s the point of the exercise? He remains indistinguishable from every other poor shmuck of the time.

    A schmuck who gets a religion formed from his life’s actions is indistinguishable from those who did not?

    I think that, as schmucks go, Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard were pretty big schmucks. But I don’t think that makes them indistinguishable from those others who fell for (or who did not fall for) their respective con jobs.

    You end up saying nothing of value to either history or theology.

    I think that figuring out that Jesus definitely did not exist would be historically interesting, and I think that figuring out that Jesus definitely did exist would also be historically interesting — inasmuch as understanding anything about the past is interesting.

  263. #263 Owlmirror
    May 17, 2010

    More from Tertullian, on Paul of Tarsus (“On Baptism”, ch17):

    But the woman of pertness, who has usurped the power to teach, will of course not give birth for herself likewise to a right of baptizing, unless some new beast shall arise like the former; so that, just as the one abolished baptism, so some other should in her own right confer it! But if the writings which wrongly go under Paul’s name, claim Thecla’s example as a licence for women’s teaching and baptizing, let them know that, in Asia, the presbyter who composed that writing, as if he were augmenting Paul’s fame from his own store, after being convicted, and confessing that he had done it from love of Paul, was removed from his office. For how credible would it seem, that he who has not permitted a woman even to learn with over-boldness, should give a female the power of teaching and of baptizing! “Let them be silent,” he says, “and at home consult their own husbands.”

  264. #264 Dianne
    May 17, 2010

    Note that the verse can be read as implicitly denying the omnipotence of God: God’s “is one” (Deut 6:4); not even “one” can bring something pure from something impure.

    Wild. I just realized…foundries that purify metals, drug companies that extract pure substances from raw materials, high school chemistry students titrating the desired substance out of a mixture…are all greater than God for they are all bringing something pure from something impure. No wonder god wants to hide in the gaps: everyone seems to be greater than him these days.

  265. #265 Owlmirror
    May 17, 2010

    The quote from Augustine is easy to find all over the internet but I haven’t found anyone giving an actual source. Since Augustine thought celibacy the best way of life for both men and women, I highly doubt that he said what is attributed to him in that quote. I challenge anyone here to find a real source for it.

    I think you may be right, here — indeed, this passage from “Of Holy Virginity” looks like he’s saying almost the exact opposite (from the quote attributed to him in the original post, I mean):

    9. Wherefore neither are we to believe that their fruitfulness of the flesh, who at this time seek in marriage nothing else save children, to make over unto Christ, can be set against the loss of virginity. Forsooth, in former times, unto Christ about to come after the flesh, the race itself of the flesh was needful, in a certain large and prophetic nation: but now, when from out every race of men, and from out all nations, members of Christ may be gathered unto the People of God, and City of the kingdom of heaven, whoso can receive sacred virginity, let him receive it; and let her only, who contains not, be married. For what, if any rich woman were to expend much money on this good work, and to buy, from out different nations, slaves to make Christians, will she not provide for the giving birth to members of Christ in a manner more rich, and more numerous, than by any, how great soever, fruitfulness of the womb? And yet she will not therefore dare to compare her money to the offering of holy virginity. But if for the sake of making such as shall be born Christians, fruitfulness of the flesh shall with just reason be set against the loss of chastity, this matter will be more fruitful, if virginity be lost at a great price of money, whereby many more children may be purchased to be made Christians, than could be born from the womb, however fruitful, of a single person. But, if it be extreme folly to say this, let the faithful women that are married possess their own good, of which we have treated, so far as seemed fit, in another volume; and let them more highly honor, even as they are most rightly used to do, in the sacred virgins, their better good, of which we are treating in our present discourse.

  266. #266 Ing
    May 17, 2010

    “So you could well be right. I just think it would’ve been highly unusual for people in the ancient Near East to have made up stories such as the ones that were told about Jesus for a hero of theirs. Surely even slaves would’ve invented a less ignominious death for him.”

    No, no they wouldn’t

    In fact for the kind of myth Jesus is, a ignominious death is NOT what you want to do. You’re building a tragic hero. The hero has to be humilitated, broken down, and reduced to slime. He becomes the pathos and the scapegoat for the people themselves. A great man falls, and we lesser are better for it. The great fall from up high, descend figurativy or literaltly to the underworld, and in some of the cases drag themselves back up victorious. Let me show you some comparisons

    Oedipus: greatest king of Thebes, his downfall. His incest is revealed, his family marked as incestual abominations, his eyes gouged out by his own madness and grief and he is banished to the wilderness to wander around in darkness until he dies

    Heracles: Greatest hero of greek myth. Is assasinated by his wife who thinks him unfaithful and mistakenly poisons him. He dies a long agonizing death after flaying himself around the torso. He is burnt on an alter akin to a burnt offering to the gods and ascends up to heaven

    Batman: is out witted by The Crime Club. Drugged and brainwashed into being a homeless man addicted to heroine. He gets better but it’s the same deal…the hero gets humiliated.

    Jason: The argonaut, leader of THE greatest expedition in greek mythology. He is cursed by his ex-wife who kills their children to spite him. He winds up wandering alone and miserable until he comes upon the mast of his own ship, once great now garbage, which falls upon him killing him.

    IT HAPPENS. It’s part of the myth tool box. Seeing the hero get the piss and either building himself back up or dying tragically is literally CLASSIC.

  267. #267 Kagato
    May 17, 2010

    If it’s not possible to reliably ascribe any specific aspects from the myth to the supposed historical figure… then what’s the point of the exercise? He remains indistinguishable from every other poor shmuck of the time.

    A schmuck who gets a religion formed from his life’s actions is indistinguishable from those who did not?

    That’s my point though; can it even be argued to what degree the myth is based on his life’s actions? If he existed, a few assumptions are reasonably safe: the time period, he was a teacher/preacher, he was crucified by the Romans.

    My history knowledge is pretty pathetic, but I’ve been led to understand that’s not an uncommon situation for the time. If that’s the case, then he really wouldn’t be especially distinct from his colleagues, beyond the surviving mythology; any or all of which might be untrue anyway.

    It just feels to me a bit like the old joke about the Odyssey not being written by Homer, but by another man by the same name…

    I think that, as schmucks go, Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard were pretty big schmucks. But I don’t think that makes them indistinguishable from those others who fell for (or who did not fall for) their respective con jobs.

    But they’re documented shmucks. Hubbard is pretty much on record as starting a religion to make money, and Smith literally pulled his story out of his hat! (That he actually wrote down the events that made it clear he was making it all up as he went is facepalm-worthy, and I despair for humanity that people follow this stuff.)

    You end up saying nothing of value to either history or theology.

    I think that figuring out that Jesus definitely did not exist would be historically interesting, and I think that figuring out that Jesus definitely did exist would also be historically interesting — inasmuch as understanding anything about the past is interesting.

    Now don’t get me wrong, if it was possible to demonstrate Jesus definitely did or did not exist, that would be a big deal.

    (Of course, proving someone didn’t exist is largely impossible. If you proved he did exist by, say, finding his body, that would be a plus for Historical Jesus and a big fat minus for Divine Jesus…)

    but that’s proving it. At the moment, people are merely asserting it.
    Barring some astounding archaeological discovery, there’s unlikely to be any new evidence either way. And without it, we’re just left with conjecture.

    I think the more of the Jesus story you try to assign to the person, the less likely is it to be based in truth; so to maximize the likelihood of a historical figure, you really have to pare the legend down to the bones. That some otherwise ordinary guy might have lived, said some possibly influential things, and been crucified, is largely uncontroversial.

    The mythology could also be based on an entirely manufactured character.
    Both are quite plausible, and there’s really nothing concrete to suggest one over the other.

  268. #268 Ing
    May 17, 2010

    “Just as I’m an agnostic atheist because there’s no evidence of any gods, and no evidence we have requires their existence to be explained, so I’m also an agnostic aJesusist because there’s neither evidence of nor need for his existence.”

    I disagree. When it comes to Jesus I consider myself a GNOSTIC Ajesusist. A historical Jesus upon whom the myth was built on would be innately and fundamentally different from Jesus the Christ and God. Regardless of there actually being an apocalyptic preacher in ancient Judea, there was no Jesus The Christ.

  269. #269 acastcia
    May 17, 2010

    Not really off topic as my comment on #122

    I just found this “pearl” of religious morality and decency on SPIEGEL online.

    The Saudi Arabian department of Education just issued an order, that fire fighters are allowed to save girls from a burning school, even if they are not properly covered. Eight years ago 15 school girls died in a burning because the religious police forced them back into the burning school house.
    http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/0,1518,695181,00.html

    One cannot eat as much as one want to vomit.

  270. #270 naddyfive
    May 17, 2010

    “I’m just trying to figure out what problem you have with the historical evidence that he didn’t write the misogynist passages attributed to him, and that the churches of his apocalyptic cult were more egalitarian than the culture surrounding them, and more egalitarian than Peter’s church, which became the mainstream version of christianity and is what we generally refer to when we talk about it. this is after all only a historical footnote of christianity.”

    If he wrote about Ephesians, which has quite a clear passage about how women are to submit to their husbands, then why the hell would it be a stretch to believe that he wrote the other letters?

    What I see here, and in Ehrman, is someone who for whatever reason wants to reappropriate a historical Paul, so they’ve decided there’s *no way* he could’ve actually written those nasty things. The sole “evidence” Ehrman provides is that in a couple of found texts, the order of the passages transcribed is a little mixed up. That’s supposed to be “proof” that Paul didn’t write some letters, but did write others? The rest of the proof is all wild speculation.

    And here we are, still assuming that Paul wrote *any* of it. I don’t see Ehrman offering any proof that there was a Paul, except, of course the couple of texts attributed to Paul that he cherry picks as being nice and egalitarian.

    This kind of “scholarship” is exactly why even the most wishy-washy, liberal Christians who claim to be agnostics are just the worst…I’d rather listen to a million fundies talk about the Holy Ghost all day than pretend that there was some really awesome egalitarian guy named Paul because apologists today have some casuistic arguments about how he could only have written acceptable things.

  271. #271 faisons
    May 17, 2010

    [QUOTE]Women have narrow shoulders and wide hips, therefore they ought to be domestic; their very physique is a sign from their Creator that he intended them to limit their activity to the home.[/QUOTE]

    Hmm… if I’m a female with significantly wider shoulders than hips, does that mean “God” meant for me to be a warrior, not a domesticated breeder cow? Or was that just a design flaw?

  272. #272 Gus Snarp
    May 17, 2010

    we know we can do better than what our brute natures tell us to do, and by transcending our instincts, by using our brain and reason, we can become greater than before

    And there you have a fine basis for a secular morality. Why is it that some religious folks, so desperate to be different from animals that they deny our common ancestry, are incapable of understanding this key difference between humans and animals: that humans can subjugate their animal instincts.

  273. #273 JBlilie
    May 17, 2010

    I heard an NPR progam last week where they interviewed Indians along the “Grand Trunk Highway” across nothern India. One interview struck me very much.

    It was with two young university students, brother and sister. The sister clearly expressed the wish to do whatever she wanted, get a good education, run her own life, have a professional career. However … she felt like she couldn’t because she had to defer to her male relatives.

    He brother made no bones about it, [more or less quoting]: “oh yes, my sister will do what I say and what her husband will say. Her education doesn’t matter, she must still submit. This is the way it must be.”

    I am quite sure they were Hindus (not Muslims or of some other religion).

    I’ve always thought that the cause for women’s oppression, at base, comes down the sexual dimorphism, as PZ outlines above. Like PZ said, we can rise above our brute natures. That’s the main distinguishing feature between us and other animals.

  274. #274 Lyr
    May 17, 2010

    I did make a mistake with the Audumbla reference — I accidentally left off part of what I’d copied from when I was composing the reply — that Ymir, the ‘offspring’ of Audumbla, was the one that was killed. (And yes, she’s a cow, but I did say female gods, demons, and monsters.) And Ma’at is certainly not Apep; there was more than one snake in Egyptian mythology! Ma’at was linked to the Uraeus, which was made a symbol of the pharaoh’s authority.

    From Wikipedia: Later, the pharaohs were seen as a manifestation of the sun-god Re, and so it also was believed that the Uraeus protected them by spitting fire on their enemies from the fiery eye of the goddess. In some mythological works, the eyes of Ra are said to be uraei. Wadjets existed long before the rise of this cult when they originated as the eye of Wadjet as cobra and are the name of the symbols also called the Eye of the Moon, Eye of Hathor, the Eye of Horus, and the Eye of Ra?depending upon the dates of the references to the symbols.

    So either the defeat of the mythical female being and/or its offspring, or the appropriation of its symbology to serve and legitimize what came after it. Makes you wonder about things like this: the Greek Hercules, who was originally called Heracles, which is derived from the ancient Greek words for ‘glory’ and ‘Hera’. Kind of an odd name for him, considering the myths about Hercules we have today. Maybe some old myths got co-opted.

    Another oddity, not related to what I’ve written above: how many times female inferiority is mentioned in the Bible. They refer to it so many times you’d think they were trying to convince people of something. If it was something that was obvious, like some people believe, why bother saying it over and over again? I mean, you don’t see people always saying or writing that humans are more intelligent than mice — it’s obvious that humans are smarter, so there’s no need to reinforce it. So why all the stuff about women being inferior to men?

  275. #275 hackerguitar
    May 17, 2010

    PZ, this is really a good essay. I hope that this one is anthologized – it makes a very necessary point.

  276. #276 10cities10years
    May 17, 2010

    This is easily one of your best essays, PZ. I’ve often been in debates about whether or not Paul was misogynistic with liberal Christians who are seeking to reconcile their faith with what they know is true (evolution, importance of equality, other ‘liberal’ stances). Ultimately, any defense of Paul requires major revisionism and a healthy dose of Pick and Choose bible verse reading.

    More essays like this, please.

  277. #277 Samantha
    May 17, 2010

    re the BrianX, moonkitty, Ben arguments:

    Although I can’t speak to a lot of the debate, there is one point in which Ben was correct. For a myth like that of Jesus, if it were truly based on a real man, you would expect to see the myth develop in steps, not have it spring up whole shortly after his death. Now, I can’t speak to any extra-biblical sources as to whether these steps might have existed, but I haven’t seen any real evidence presented that they did.

    That being said, I think that what is most likely is that one of the “followers” of Jesus that Saul/Paul spoke to appropriated some of the characteristics of the demi-god from one of the mystery cults Ben was mentioning and gave them to the real man “Yeshua ben Yosef” (or any other man) in order to further support their claims that he was a prophet. Of course, from there things continued to be added in the steps we can now see, but that first step was a jump because all the little steps had been done by the previous cult and therefore aren’t directly tied to the Jesus character or the Yeshua man.

    Secondly, regarding moonkitty’s assertion regarding the ignobility of Jesus’ death and the fact that this supports the existence of a real base for the character.

    I don’t entirely disagree but I don’t think it’s the strong support you might think it is. Religion aside, cults commonly arise around people who are given ignoble deaths by the state, especially when they are executed at least in part because of their beliefs. Think of all the cases where people worship (in a non-religious way) outright criminals on death row. This becomes even more the case when someone is jailed or executed for being an activist of some description. The treatment of Nelson Mandela was ignoble, especially considering when it happened and what he was in trouble for, but people used that as part of their discussion of his theories because it added credence to their arguments that the government was actively trying to hurt their cause in an unfair way. Such could also be the case for the Jesus character: his crucifixion could easily be an example of trying to use the character’s death to criticize the current ruling powers, especially as the beginning of the myth as far as we know was from his followers who were in the lower classes as far as we can tell. If the common treatment of preachers who offended the government was crucifixion, the support for the Jesus crucifixion story being based on an individual person’s death is less than the support for the Jesus figure being generally treated as the sort of person that he is argued to historically be (so in essence, the crucifixion wouldn’t mean that historical Jesus existed and was a street preacher but instead that he was being presented in the early stories as being that person). It’s neither here nor there: it offers neither proof nor disproof for an individual historical person that was the basis for the later myth, instead just implying that the myth was constructed based on realities.

  278. #278 Joffan
    May 17, 2010

    The logic of the Catholics, inherited* from Islam, is that for Jesus to be “pure”, Mary had to be “clean” (for a woman, anyway) so the whole virgin birth thing was extended back another generation, since “no sex to produce Jesus” was simply not clean enough.

    If only they’d had test-tubes then.

    * “Inherited” like insanity – you get it from your children.

  279. #279 SteveM
    May 17, 2010

    What does it even mean to say there was a “historical Jesus” when you agree that he was some random guy who didn’t do any of the things ascribed to him in the NT? A fictional story about a real person is still fiction.

    Does it really make sense to call Alice Liddell the “historical Alice” of Through the Looking Glass just because Dodgeson wrote the story making her the main character? Does the fact that Alice Liddell really existed make the events in Through the Looking Glass any more real?

  280. #280 dahduh
    May 17, 2010

    Reach for the top she said
    the sun is gonna shine
    Every winter was a war she said
    I want to get what’s mine

    – Sade Adu, Jezebel

  281. #281 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    @CJO #258

    You cited three books, and you keep mentioning it like you want a cookie.

    No, I recommended those volumes to people who wanted to explore the question and who didn’t seem to have any background on textual criticism and how it’s done.

    I’ve read Helms, I quite admire his Gospel Fictions actually, but it’s a slim volume that lacks the scope to discuss the historical issues thoroughly, as you claim.

    I claimed that particular volume discussed the historical issues thoroughly?

    For myself, I’ve read more such books than would make citation here practical

    Ooh, Good for you.

    and based on that reading I aver that indeed the scholarly literature on the NT consistently betrays the unexamined assumption that there is a historical core of facts about a Galilean named Yeshua that the authors of the canonical gospels had access to and were concerned with transmitting to some degree of faithfulness

    And based on my reading (which indeed examines any and all assumptions) I aver that the authors of the Canonical gospels were NOT concerned with transmitting the historical facts with ANY particular degree of faithfulness. My argument is based on the fact that the authors were clearly embarrassed by particular aspects of the tradition and subsequently tried to explain them away; therefore perhaps–perhaps! those aspects of the tradition had a factual, historical basis.

    Ing #266

    There were murdered godmen who suffered terribly and were brought low. My point was that crucifixion was reserved for the lowest classes. The examples you cite still point up the class difference between the hero of the Jesus myth and other heroes of the ancient NE: Oedipus was a king, Jason was the son of a king, Heracles’ mother was the daughter of a king.

  282. #282 SteveM
    May 17, 2010

    re 278:

    Mary had to be “clean” (for a woman, anyway) so the whole virgin birth thing was extended back another generation,…

    Wait, what? Mary was not a virgin birth, she was an immaculate conception, meaning she was conceived without original sin. I never heard (while being raised Catholic) that that meant she was conceived without sex.

  283. #283 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    …Of course Matthew and Luke hamhandedly tried to make Jesus the descendent of a great king…offering conflicting family trees that traced Joseph’s descent from King David–despite the fact that they simultaneously admitted that Joseph wasn’t his father and claimed divine paternity for him!

  284. #284 Ing
    May 17, 2010

    “…Of course Matthew and Luke hamhandedly tried to make Jesus the descendent of a great king…offering conflicting family trees that traced Joseph’s descent from King David–despite the fact that they simultaneously admitted that Joseph wasn’t his father and claimed divine paternity for him!”

    Which is part of the problem with a historical Jesus…the only textual evidence to him has been edited, re-edited, amended and subtracted so often by warring ideological groups that any original form or history is virtually obstructed. The only real claim that we got that is agreed upon is there’s this dude named Jesus, baptised by John the Baptist, who was raised by a guy named Joseph and his wife Mary and he was eventually crucified under Roman law.

    Considering the context of the time it’s like saying “there’s a guy in Asia who is named Lee”

  285. #285 CJO
    May 17, 2010

    I think there is such a trend. The infancy gospel of Thomas is later than the rest, and is obviously fake. The Acts of Peter has a resurrected fish and a talking dog. And so on — the other apocrypha attributed to Peter have even freakier things.

    There’s no need to go outside the canon to see such a trend in the gospel tradition, though the NT apocrypha indeed takes it to another level. Luke and especially Matthew add all kinds of supernatural embellishments to the story in Mark. But any of that kind of development once there’s a narrative to be embellished still doesn’t answer the question of why the earliest tradition we know of, Paul’s, is so out of sequence in the expected trend. A historicized narrative springs up without extant sources of any kind some forty years after the putative events and the figure portrayed there is not reflected in Paul’s conception of the Christ. So the historicist position needs to answer: why did the cosmic myth precede the humble street preacher? Why the street preacher preceded the superhero is obvious, but that progression could have happened in the literature on either the historical or the ahistorical thesis, and the fact that the authors of the various narratives embellish so very freely would seem to argue against them operating under any constraints based on remembered facts of what actually happened that Spring in Jerusalem.

    The gospels themselves have the scene where Satan tempts Jesus to do various fantastic things, which Jesus refuses as temptations — reasonably interpreted as being meant to rebut those who wondered why the son of God didn’t do more obviously impressive things.

    A version of the principle of embarrassment, and, as usual for that argument, we have only the embarrassment that later authors felt about the story that the author of Mark chose to tell. Jesus in Mark didn’t do “obviously impressive things” because the character is presented as a humble servant of god, called to minister to sinners, tax collectors, and other outcasts. If “the way” is one of servitude and suffering, and “the last shall be first,” then it would be entirely out of place for the Jesus of Mark to be the kind of impressive superhuman later authors apparently wanted, and a given author’s literary aims and use of character don’t in themselves argue for historical inspiration.

    What about the Jesus story is incompatible with syncretism?

    Placing Jesus’ death in the immediate past, during the lifetime of many of the ones meant to be convinced that it had happened.

    But Paul quite pointedly doesn’t place Jesus in a recognizable time frame. And best guess Mark is forty years after that fateful Passover. So not “many,” a few who are still alive. And aren’t you assuming what is in question here? If Mark was written self-consciously as a symbolic fiction, a parabolic illustration of what it meant to travel “the way,” then it was not written to convince its original audience that anything had happened. Finally, I reject the contention that anybody living in the 1st century ancient Near East could have said convincingly that they were absolutely certain that an obscure revivalist cum dissident was not executed in Jerusalem one Passover after a shady backroom trial. (And, as I argued last time, don’t forget that Mark doesn’t bat an eye at reporting the darkness at noon, a much more singular occurrence than a Roman execution in 1st century Jerusalem.)

  286. #286 CJO
    May 17, 2010

    Ooh, Good for you.

    Look, I only brought it up because you were flogging three measly books and trying to make that some kind of comprehensive introduction to the range of text-critical approaches that are applied to the question. Should I pretend I haven’t read extensively on the subject I’m arguing?

    my reading (which indeed examines any and all assumptions)

    So what are we talking about then? Crossan, Borg, Mack, Wright, Brown, Meeks, Fredriksen, Vermes, Ehrman, to name a few, do not examine the assumption I’m talking about in their books. As I tried to explain in my first comment, using textual criteria like the principle of embarrassment to establish basic facts of history like the real existence of a named figure in the absence of a well-established historical context that requires such a figure to have existed entails an assumption. The assumption is that there was some minimal historical core for Paul and the evangelists to have been talking about. Mainstream NT scholarship and traditional consideration of the historical Jesus question starts there, in effect skipping the first and most important step in reconstructing history, and I challenge you to show me a scholar who appeals to the principle of embarrassment in the gospel tradition only after establishing the historicity of the central figure by reference to sources other than anonymously authored literary narratives.

  287. #287 caseyhov
    May 17, 2010

    I wish there was an extremely concise way to get this point across.

    PZ, in all honesty, the Sunday Sacrilege is probably my favorite part of this blog since you started it. <3

  288. #288 Joffan
    May 17, 2010

    Steve M @ #282

    OK.. I am clearly going to have to do some more reading because I assumed the difference between immaculate conception and virgin birth was nil. Unless you want to enlighten me.

    It doesn’t materially alter my point – even a normal virgin was not “clean” enough for the Christians.

  289. #289 Vicki
    May 17, 2010

    All this discussion of whether Paul wrote all, some, or none of the bits of the Christian Bible that have his name on them reminds me of Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” In particular, the story describes a practice of biographical literary criticism that starts by choosing any two works of literature, and then comparing them to determine the characteristics of the writer.

    So, along with trying to figure out the characters and beliefs of the man who wrote two specific epistles, they’d equally happily study the writer who produced the “Epistle to the Ephesians” and King Lear.

  290. #290 BrianX
    May 17, 2010

    Samantha:

    Your commentary is exactly what I’ve been saying all along.

  291. #291 SteveM
    May 17, 2010

    re Joffan @288:
    OK.. I am clearly going to have to do some more reading because I assumed the difference between immaculate conception and virgin birth was nil. Unless you want to enlighten me.

    I am no biblical scholar, but clearly Jesus was a “virgin birth” but was not Himself an Immaculate Conception. Only Mary is identified as an Immaculate Conception, the defining characteristic is the lack of original sin. Original Sin is not the result of sex but is inherent to our being.

  292. #292 Joffan
    May 17, 2010

    Steve M @#291

    Thanks… that makes as much sense as most of this mystical stuff I guess.

    And – haha – I am now up to speed on the Immaculate Conception. In fact, I should add HAAhahahehehehoooo. This appears to be doctrine because someone thought it would’ve been a good idea if God did this weird invisible thing to make Mary sinless. Which makes me propose a new doctrine – Mary’s Ziploc navel, in which Jesus is born without being sullied by passage through Mary’s allegedly* sinless vagina. Clearly no problem for an omnipotent God to arrange.

    * I’m still thinking of Smoggy’s poem

  293. #293 moonkitty
    May 17, 2010

    @CJO

    Look, I only brought it up because you were flogging three measly books and trying to make that some kind of comprehensive introduction to the range of text-critical approaches that are applied to the question.

    No, I wasn’t. To repeat–again: I suggested a few books to people who didn’t seem to have any background on the subject.

    And, look, I only made the snarky “Ooh” comment because you made the snarky “like you want a cookie” comment.

    I challenge you to show me a scholar who appeals to the principle of embarrassment in the gospel tradition only after establishing the historicity of the central figure by reference to sources other than anonymously authored literary narratives

    Morton Smith discussed sources outside the gospels, including Jewish (nonchristian) tradition. And no, he was not using them to “establish historicity”–he was looking at them as at pieces of an incomplete puzzle which may never be solved. He explicitly discusses the problems inherent in relying on the NT narratives.

    As I tried to explain in my first comment, using textual criteria like the principle of embarrassment to establish basic facts of history like the real existence of a named figure in the absence of a well-established historical context that requires such a figure to have existed entails an assumption

    I have not tried to “establish” any fact of history.

    It is not possible to “establish” the historicity of Jesus, and I have not claimed otherwise. Nor have any of the authors I cited. Nor can we reasonably expect there to be a lot of corroborating evidence for the existence of a nobody in first century Palestine–especially since a later, powerful body, “The Church”, got ahold of such documents as existed and destroyed quite a few that they found threatening to “the faith”. As for much else in history, we just can’t know for sure, and the best we can do is analyze what information we have and make some educated guesses, like a detective trying to recreate the facts of a crime. This is hypothesis, not the bald statement of fact.

    Where have I said that I regard the question as anything other than a problematic and open one? Stop overstating my position and misrepresenting my argument. It’s tiresome. I shall waste no more time defending a reasonable opinion–one I’m not married to, one which I have cheerfully, and several times now, said may be wrong, and one which is entirely open to any new evidence that may arise, however unlikely (alas) that is.

  294. #294 KOPD
    May 17, 2010

    Just thinking aloud here. One thing that makes it seem obvious to me that the divine nature of Jesus was a later addition to the story is the silliness of the virgin birth. To paraphrase Kirk, what does God need with a uterus? If he wanted to spend some time on Earth being a rabbi, then he ought to be able to *poof* himself into existence on a lake shore and start recruiting fishermen. That totally negates the need for an immaculately conceived virgin to rape.

  295. #295 CJO
    May 17, 2010

    I have not tried to “establish” any fact of history.

    All well and good, but scholars like N.T. Wright do claim to have established historicity on the basis of hermeneutics like the principle of embarrassment and you cited those same methods approvingly in the context of a discussion about historicity in which you come down on the affirmative side, however tentatively. So I fail to see how I’ve misrepresented anything. Textual critical methods applied to literary narratives of uncertain provenance are useless for establishing primary facts and I will make that point any time someone suggests it’s not so, which you obviously did.

    Yes, you’ve admitted that the case isn’t very strong. But I reject the insinuation that because you’ve done so the case is now off limits for anyone who would demonstrate that not only is it not strong, it’s based on an intellectual shell-game and an outright abuse of historical methods.

  296. #296 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 17, 2010

    I think PZ wrote an excellent article. I would like to add a few major points.

    Science is not impervious to abhorrent beliefs promulgated by centuries of religiously inspired polemic gymnastics. One need only to look back to the 19th and early 20th century gynecological and obstetric medical practices such as the “therapeutic” clitoridectomies which were frequently prescribed by the (all-male) Victorian age medical constabulary ? the custodians of medical science ? to “cure” the “hysterical” Victorian era women of their sex drive and desire to masturbate, which was viewed as a medical malady; a mental illness of sorts caused by an overactive sexual organ. The notion of women’s sexuality as something needing to be curtailed was widely shared by early OB/GYN’s who could not, or would not, shed that belief which stems directly from the Bible and its contempt for female sexuality.

    And many OB/GYN’s today still don’t view women as human enough for harm to us to matter. Take for example, the horrific and traumatizing childbirth experience recently suffered by Chicago police officer Nancy Skohl at the hands of a substitute OB/GYN during the labor and birth of her 5th child.

    Or that nincompoop (whose name escapes me at the moment) who blogs on many childbirth web sites and who claims to be a male “midwife” in the UK, who adamantly opposes providing any pain relief to the birthing women he attends.

    Or the ER staff, including SANE’s (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) who invoke the “conscience clause” laws to legitimize and justify the blatant refusal to administer (or even dispense information about) Plan B ? emergency contraception ? in many US hospitals to their rape victim patients brought in to the ER. This is couched in terms of the health care professionals’ “right” to “freedom of religion” and their religious interpretation of “the sanctity of life.” I have written in length about this issue on my blog here if anyone is interested in checking it out:

    http://godlessfeminist.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/when-religion-false-morality-and-medicine-collide-%E2%80%94-ec-and-conscience-clauses/

    There are even crackpots in the medical community like the doctor-turned-Congressman Ron Paul who claimed that “there is never a medical need for women to get abortions.” Ron Paul is a Christian, and a self-proclaimed crusader against feminists, atheists, Communists, and socialism.

    Birthing women are the ONLY patients deemed by the medical establishment as being undeserving of consideration, privacy, respect, adequate pain relief, and seen as “less than.”

    We are viewed as mere vessels whose bodies are meant to be irreparably damaged from pregnancy, injured and maimed from childbirth (and a cascade of interventions) and whose psyche can be devastated by traumatic births and we women are expected to not complain about it because, after all, “you’ve got a healthy baby and that’s all that matters.” (What happens to us doesn’t matter. Move aside, it’s all about the baby now.)

    And any woman who refuses to risk having to suffer permanent damage to her body, her mind, and her ability to enjoy any future sex life after going through childbirth just to perpetuate the species is labeled as not “normal” and “selfish.” Admitting to (justifiable) tokophobia is equivalent to saying “I drink Christian babies’ blood.”

    Palliative care patients are not denied adequate pain relief as a matter of “policy.”

    Cardiac surgery patients aren’t denied adequate pain relief.

    Men passing kidney/gall stones aren’t scolded for screaming from the pain, denied adequate pain relief, robbed of their dignity and privacy as they’re told by a team of “Kidney Stone Passing Support Coach” personnel ? who are in their face (or between their legs staring at their exposed genitals) yelling at them to “just breathe, you’re doing fine, now push!”

    But this is how gravid women are treated in maternity wards and birthing centers across the US every day, and they’re expected to just suck it up and take it.

    Point being, science is not necessarily better than religion when it comes to the treatment of women. Just because people get smarter doesn’t mean they stop hurting others; they just fabricate more clever excuses for doing so. [Think: Dr. Josef Mengele]

    So scientists are not impervious to the biases pandered by religion, although some scientists have evolved from the brutal, bullying, phallus-worshipping homo retardus into intelligent humanitarians ? and yes, many of those are also atheists. But the science community has a lot of work to do.

    Abortion has been so demonized (pun intended) by religious demagogues and those at the apex of our economic and political power structure that most OB/GYN students are not even taught how to perform the simple medical procedure which is safer by a long shot for women to undergo than pregnancy and childbirth. 87% of all US counties have NO abortion provider. At all. If the science community, particularly the medical constabulary, is to divorce itself from aggressive and cruel policies and practices rooted in religious dogma, then this matter of women’s sexual and reproductive health must be rectified actively and aggressively ? not back-benched for being “only a woman’s problem.”

    There is also something else. Religious tradition is one of the legs of the Iron Triangle: Capitalism, Government, and Religion. The normalization of cruelty and subjugation of women by the Bible melds with capitalism because it normalizes not only most aspects of abusive relationships as another poster pointed out, but it also normalized “acceptable” social predation within the capitalist/imperialist paradigm. [predator: Latin; praeda, meaning “to loot”; Predator means “one who loots.”]

    Capitalism needs “losers” in order for there to be “winners”; it needs exploitable groups in order for some to acquire vast amounts of wealth, thus there must also be impoverishment. And women are overwhelmingly represented among the ranks of capitalism’s “losers.” Do you think this is by happenstance? For a more in depth explanation from an atheist feminist POV, check out this blog article here:
    http://godlessfeminist.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/unholy-trinity-the-iron-triangle-of-big-religion-big-business-and-government/

    History was written by society’s “winners.” The voices of society’s “losers”, those groups of people who were marginalized, have been censored out for the most part. So what we have that is called “history” is really a recorded view of the past as seen through the eyes of the dominant class and group, the “winners.” Religion merely justified and normalized the authoritarian top-down structure in society. Examine the treatises of Cicero, Brutus, and Cato from the late Republic period of Rome, and read them very carefully. Examine the story of the rape of Lucretia and the whole Roman pater familia system.

    Note how the working class, how minorities and women were mentioned and then compare that to the New Testament drivel about how everyone should be content to remain in his or her place in life (“if you’re a slave, obey your master…”, “wives, submit to your husbands”, etc.)

    Gregory Greenwood, you brought up a very compelling point, too:

    To break the cycle of misogyny in society we have to address not only the direct inequalities in terms of pay and social status between the genders, but we also need to look critically at how the popular idea of gender and gender roles in our society are constructed.

    Our corporate-owned media in our capitalist/imperialist society has a lot to do with that. We all need some form of entertainment. Our choices are restricted to the options given to us. If it’s not on the “menu”, it’s not an option available to us. So our preferences in that regard are manufactured.

    Jacqueline S. Homan,
    Author: “Classism For Dimwits”
    “Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie”
    “Nothing You Can Possess”
    “Eyes of a Monster”

  297. #297 naddyfive
    May 17, 2010

    Jacqueline, very good points. You could also add to the list of institutionalized medical misogyny the continuing practice (although alternative methods exist) of putting millions of reproductive-age women on hormonal birth control, despite the fact that it’s known to be one of if not *the* highest risk method of birth control there is.

    As a socialist, I realize that capitalism is of course implicated in the institutionalized oppression of women… but I hesitate to *blame* capitalism for either imperialism or sexism/misogyny. Both things existed long before agriculture and even the most rudimentary markets did.

  298. #298 Jadehawk, OM
    May 17, 2010

    naddy, you will have to pry my hormonal birth control from my cold, dead uterus. No alternative method is better than this.

  299. #299 Ichthyic
    May 17, 2010

    87% of all US counties have NO abortion provider. At all.

    Can Operation Rescue claim that statistic as the result of a successful terrorism campaign, I wonder?

  300. #300 Kirk
    May 17, 2010

    @KOPD

    To paraphrase Kirk, what does God need with a uterus?

    I agree with your post, but I think you are paraphrasing somebody else. I’d like to take credit, but honesty forbids.

    I gave up wearing T-shirts with slogans awhile back, but … “what does God need with a uterus?” … interesting … or as the first sentence in starting a conversation.

  301. #301 Jadehawk, OM
    May 17, 2010

    I agree with your post, but I think you are paraphrasing somebody else.

    he’s paraphrasing James T. Kirk, not you.

  302. #302 Ichthyic
    May 17, 2010

    he’s paraphrasing James T. Kirk, not you.

    it scares me that I know exactly what scene that paraphrase refers to…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYW_lPlekiQ

  303. #303 Kirk
    May 17, 2010

    he’s paraphrasing James T. Kirk

    which episode was that?

  304. #304 Ichthyic
    May 17, 2010

    not episode.

    movie.

    V.

  305. #305 Kirk
    May 17, 2010

    @ Ichthic and Jadehawk

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Feeling like a dumbshit.

    I wasn’t smart enough when I signed up to not use my real name. In hindsight very envious of shrieking harpy of doom, and the others.

  306. #306 Peter H
    May 17, 2010

    All this fuss over Eve. And Eve was a clone.

  307. #307 Mattir
    May 17, 2010

    @Kirk

    You know you can change your login name, right? You might delay your progress towards a Molly, but I decided that not having something close to my actual name was definitely worth it.

  308. #308 chgo_liz
    May 17, 2010

    Huh.

    I didn’t expect my free time this evening to include an intensive course on the history of Christianity and its religious texts.

    If anyone in future makes that tired old claim that atheists would become religious if they just learned about the bible, we should send them a link to this thread.

  309. #309 Ariela_HvM
    May 17, 2010

    Wow PZ, thanks for talking about this. It’s always nice to hear a man defend the rights of women.
    You know, I can speak for the puzzling reality of WHY women would ever promote and believe in patriarchal religions. I was religiously indoctrinated (as most people are) and was raised by immigrant Mexican parents. And you know Mexican Catholics do not mess around. My Mom didn’t even want my sister to become a Protestant! Children are told repeatedly that there is a God, and that’s all there is to it. When you start to question, you get ridiculed or alienated. I am currently struggling in my disavowal of a God, let alone a male and misogynist God. And yes, there is comfort in the notion that God, in the embodiment of Jesus was kind to women and was generally not a sexist (there is some sexism Jesus espouses in the New Testament). It has been hard to shake this off, so I can see why women hold on to terribly dehumanizing claims and practices concerning themselves. This is a hard thing to overcome, and it was nice to read a post about this issue.

  310. #310 Owlmirror
    May 17, 2010

    Of course, proving someone didn’t exist is largely impossible.

    I think it might be possible to find evidence that supports the argument that he was mythical — say, something prior to the alleged crucifixion date that shows that some group of people were seriously taking the idea of an idealized crucified savior-figure as something that could be and should be worshipped or appealed to.

    It’s suggested that the Vision of Gabriel stone might be something like that, but it’s pretty obviously nothing anywhere near certain enough to count, unless some new way to read the fragmentary letters thereon is discovered.

    Barring some astounding archaeological discovery, there’s unlikely to be any new evidence either way. And without it, we’re just left with conjecture.

    I’m OK with epistemic uncertainty, and with conjecture — as long as it’s recognized as being conjecture.

    That some otherwise ordinary guy might have lived, said some possibly influential things, and been crucified, is largely uncontroversial.

    But that’s exactly what the Jesus-as-myth camp insists on controversy over.

    The mythology could also be based on an entirely manufactured character.

    Yet if so, manufactured by whom? And when? What’s the timeline?

    Both are quite plausible, and there’s really nothing concrete to suggest one over the other.

    I think it’s worth arguing the merits of plausibility in each scenario. Hopefully, in a civil manner.

    As with many academic issues, I suspect that some people get so exercised because the stakes are so low.

    ————————–

    So either the defeat of the mythical female being and/or its offspring,

    So if something bad happens to a female or the male offspring of a female being… what, exactly?

    or the appropriation of its symbology to serve and legitimize what came after it.

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at, here.

    ————————

    What does it even mean to say there was a “historical Jesus” when you agree that he was some random guy who didn’t do any of the things ascribed to him in the NT?

    That’s not exactly the scenario suggested.

    A fictional story about a real person is still fiction.

    Not disputed.

    Does it really make sense to call Alice Liddell the “historical Alice” of Through the Looking Glass just because Dodgeson wrote the story making her the main character?

    Knowing about her — and her sisters, and Dodgson’s relationship with her family, and the stories that he wrote arising from stories that he told them — adds historical context to the stories.

    Does the fact that Alice Liddell really existed make the events in Through the Looking Glass any more real?

    That’s almost the opposite of what’s being suggested.

    ————————

    A version of the principle of embarrassment, and, as usual for that argument, we have only the embarrassment that later authors felt about the story that the author of Mark chose to tell.

    I note that Mark has Satan testing Jesus as well, although without specifying how.

    I recently read a claim that Mark is a translation into Greek and condensation of an earlier lost Hebrew (Aramaic?) gospel of Matthew, and that the current gospel of Matthew is a more elaborated translation of that original Hebrew gospel. I haven’t had time to assimilate it yet, but:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/james_deardorff/battles.html

    Note that Deardoff has some genuinely insane things to say about the Talmud of Jmmanuel (which I had not heard about until reading those insane things) being a message from visiting aliens, so, as usual, grain big dumptruck of salt.

    But Paul quite pointedly doesn’t place Jesus in a recognizable time frame.

    I still think that it cannot be ruled out that Paul had his own reasons for being embarrassed about saying too much about Jesus-the-man.

    And best guess Mark is forty years after that fateful Passover.

    Then why even place the putative event then, assuming that it hadn’t actually happened? Why even place it in a real-world context at all, with real-world characters like Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, and Annas, who had specific periods that they were simultaneously in power?

    So not “many,” a few who are still alive.

    Still far greater than zero, though.

    And aren’t you assuming what is in question here?

    Aren’t you, though, as well?

    I think I’m positing that the gospels being based on stories of some real-world event, no matter how distantly and indistinctly, no matter how much embroidered with fantastic details by those who think that God and miracles exist, has not been conclusively shown to be entirely false.

    Call it a mustard-seed of doubt, perhaps, that the whole thing could be made up from nothing and still be presented as being based on a real-world event.

    I know that the OT is, by and large, exactly something made up from nothing and presented as being based on real-world events — but the textual analysis of the Documentary Hypothesis, and the actual archeology of Israel, Egypt, and Sinai are what convinces me — not just the argument that there is no evidence, but that we know what to look for, and where, and haven’t found it (and have found contradicting evidence), and a plausible scenario for the actual fabrications and systheses.

    Finally, I reject the contention that anybody living in the 1st century ancient Near East could have said convincingly that they were absolutely certain that an obscure revivalist cum dissident was not executed in Jerusalem one Passover after a shady backroom trial.

    And I maintain the contention that the event occurring during Passover would mean that there would be far, far more potential witnesses, not fewer.

    (And, as I argued last time, don’t forget that Mark doesn’t bat an eye at reporting the darkness at noon, a much more singular occurrence than a Roman execution in 1st century Jerusalem.)

    And as I argued last time, I am still wondering whether “darkness” necessarily means “literally dark as or darker than night”.

    Is it your point that if Mark was going to tell one lie that was obviously a lie to all who might remember, he might as well tell two, or more?

    —————

    not episode.

    movie.

    V.

    Heh.

    There was no Star Trek V. It was a myth. The entire story about it existing was made up by those who found it strange that there was a Star Trek IV and VI. You have no evidence in support of it existing.

    And that youtube link is going to a “Server Error 500” page.

    Lalalalalalala…

    —————

    If anyone in future makes that tired old claim that atheists would become religious if they just learned about the bible, we should send them a link to this thread.

    Some of us have been batting the question around for a while, so… not just this thread.

  311. #311 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    naddyfive:

    “As a socialist, I realize that capitalism is of course implicated in the institutionalized oppression of women… but I hesitate to *blame* capitalism for either imperialism or sexism/misogyny. Both things existed long before agriculture and even the most rudimentary markets did.”

    Very true. Perhaps I was not clear. Imperialism is a form of capitalism, as is feudalism and Nazism. Now, it can be argued that capitalism actually began with the Neolithic Revolution with the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals, because this is where we see the concept of “private property ownership” arising, which led to a division of labor, among other things. Private property is the prime tenet of capitalism.

    It is also around this period 10,000 years ago or so that patriarchy emerged and the Paleolithic fertility goddess superstitions were supplanted by/morphed into the angry, vindictive misogynistic Sky Daddy. I am a socialist, too. Leon Trotsky is my hero ? second only to Margaret Higgins Sanger. Which brings me to my next point.

    naddyfive:

    “You could also add to the list of institutionalized medical misogyny the continuing practice (although alternative methods exist) of putting millions of reproductive-age women on hormonal birth control, despite the fact that it’s known to be one of if not *the* highest risk method of birth control there is.”

    There I must disagree. Before the Pill, the cumulative risk and overall average of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth was about 1 in 5. Women used to die much younger than they do now, because of childbirth and because of a real lack of a reliable contraceptive that they ? not men ? could have control over in its use. Whatever the risks are from the Pill ? I used it for my entire fertile life from menarche to age 40, after which I got the Mirena IUD because they won’t let you take the Pill after age 40 (even though maternal mortality risks skyrocket after age 35) or if you have pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or epilepsy (just to name a few) ? they pale in comparison to the risks of pregnancy and childbirth related maladies.

    Even with modern medical science and technology, women still suffer permanent maiming and disabling conditions as a result of pregnancy and birth. Women still die from complications in pregnancy and birth.

    While some pregnancies are riskier than others, all of them have the chance of life-threatening complications. I don?t know how people can support forcing someone else to endure something that threatens their health and that will alter their body permanently.

    Here is a list of all the permanent and often irreversible changes to a woman?s body and life caused by pregnancy and birth which really makes the shot-gun wedding or the 18 years of monthly child support checks, and inadequate and meager, grossly inadequate temporary welfare benefits look like a cheap kiss-off:

    Possible effect of pregnancy include:
    ????-
    Normal, frequent or expectable temporary side effects of pregnancy:
    exhaustion (weariness common from first weeks)
    altered appetite and senses of taste and smell
    nausea and vomiting (50% of women, first trimester)
    heartburn and indigestion
    constipation
    weight gain
    dizziness and light-headedness
    bloating, swelling, fluid retention
    hemorrhoids
    abdominal cramps
    yeast infections
    congested, bloody nose
    acne and mild skin disorders
    skin discoloration (chloasma, face and abdomen)
    mild to severe backache and strain
    increased headaches
    difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sleeping
    increased urination and incontinence
    bleeding gums
    pica
    breast pain and discharge
    swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain
    difficulty sitting, standing in later pregnancy
    inability to take regular medications
    shortness of breath
    higher blood pressure
    hair loss
    tendency to anemia
    curtailment of ability to participate in some sports and activities
    infection including from serious and potentially fatal disease
    (pregnant women are immune suppressed compared with non-pregnant women, and
    are more susceptible to fungal and certain other diseases)
    extreme pain on delivery
    hormonal mood changes, including normal post-partum depression
    continued post-partum exhaustion and recovery period (exacerbated if a c-section ? major surgery ? is required, sometimes taking up to a full year to fully recover)

    Normal, expectable, or frequent PERMANENT side effects of pregnancy:
    stretch marks (worse in younger women)
    loose skin
    permanent weight gain or redistribution
    abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness
    pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life)
    changes to breasts
    varicose veins
    scarring from episiotomy or c-section
    other permanent aesthetic changes to the body (all of these are downplayed by women, because the culture values youth and beauty)
    increased proclivity for hemorrhoids
    loss of dental and bone calcium (cavities and osteoporosis)

    Occasional complications and side effects:
    spousal/partner abuse
    hyperemesis gravidarum
    temporary and permanent injury to back
    severe scarring requiring later surgery (especially after additional pregnancies)
    dropped (prolapsed) uterus (especially after additional pregnancies, and other pelvic floor weaknesses ? 11% of women, including cystocele, rectocele, and enterocele)
    pre-eclampsia (edema and hypertension, the most common complication of pregnancy, associated with eclampsia, and affecting 7 ? 10% of pregnancies)
    eclampsia (convulsions, coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death)
    gestational diabetes
    placenta previa
    anemia (which can be life-threatening)
    thrombocytopenic purpura
    severe cramping
    embolism (blood clots)
    medical disability requiring full bed rest (frequently ordered during part of many pregnancies varying from days to months for health of either mother or baby)
    diastasis recti, also torn abdominal muscles
    mitral valve stenosis (most common cardiac complication)
    serious infection and disease (e.g. increased risk of tuberculosis)
    hormonal imbalance
    ectopic pregnancy (risk of death)
    broken bones (ribcage, ?tail bone?)
    hemorrhage and
    numerous other complications of delivery
    refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease
    aggravation of pre-pregnancy diseases and conditions (e.g. epilepsy is present in .5% of pregnant women, and the pregnancy alters drug metabolism and treatment prospects all the while it increases the number and frequency of seizures)
    severe post-partum depression and psychosis suppressed immune system

    **research now indicates a possible link between ovarian cancer and female fertility treatments, including ?egg harvesting? from infertile women and donors
    research also now indicates correlations between lower breast cancer survival rates and proximity in time to onset of cancer of last pregnancy
    research also indicates a correlation between having six or more pregnancies and a risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease**

    Less common (but serious) complications:
    peripartum cardiomyopathy
    cardiopulmonary arrest
    magnesium toxicity
    severe hypoxemia/acidosis
    massive embolism
    increased intracranial pressure, brainstem infarction
    molar pregnancy, gestational trophoblastic disease (like a pregnancy-induced cancer)
    malignant arrhythmia
    circulatory collapse
    placental abruption
    *obstetric fistula (causing fecal or urine or both to pass through the woman?s vagina due to tissue damage to the area separating the rectum and the bladder from the uterus and vagina. *Fistulas are not always able to be corrected with surgery.)

    More permanent side effects:
    future infertility
    permanent disability
    death.

    [Medical Data courtesy of research conducted by Becky Garcia, provided by ACOG, JAMA, BMJ, The Lancet, Dept. of Health & Human Services, Bureau of Vital Records]

    There is no way anyone who claims to be ?moral? and value human life can justify forcing women to suffer any of these risks and permanent consequences of pregnancy and birth against their will. None.

    As another poster said, “from my cold dead uterus” ? my body, my life, my right.

  312. #312 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    Ichthyc:

    “Can Operation Rescue claim that statistic as the result of a successful terrorism campaign, I wonder?”

    Absolutely. They even bragged about it, as did other militant “pro-life” groups such as Neal Horsely’s Army of God. Incidently, I don’t know how many readers here remember this but about 20 years ago when Army of God was actively terrorizing women at Planned Parenthoods along with Operation Rescue, it came out that Neal Horsely ? a devout, self-righteous Christian ? had engaged in bestiality with his mule as his very first sexual experience while growing up on his family’s farm. It was quite the scandal. And he admitted to it! But being a devout Christian, all he had to do was hit the Jeebus Forgives Me reset button and all is cool.

  313. #313 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    Ichthyc:

    “Can Operation Rescue claim that statistic as the result of a successful terrorism campaign, I wonder?”

    Absolutely. They even bragged about it, as did other militant “pro-life” groups such as Neal Horsely’s Army of God. Incidently, I don’t know how many readers here remember this but about 20 years ago when Army of God was actively terrorizing women at Planned Parenthoods along with Operation Rescue, it came out that Neal Horsely ? a devout, self-righteous Christian ? had engaged in bestiality with his mule as his very first sexual experience while growing up on his family’s farm. It was quite the scandal. And he admitted to it! But being a devout Christian, all he had to do was hit the Jeebus Forgives Me reset button and all is cool.

  314. #314 Kagato
    May 18, 2010

    As with many academic issues, I suspect that some people get so exercised because the stakes are so low.

    I think that’s probably the perfect explanation. 🙂

    Always a pleasure to read your biblical analyses, Owlmirror.

  315. #315 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    Demonhype:

    “The nerd boys were the ones who really made me cry and gave me the personal and sexual insecurities that still plague me today. And now I’m pissed. I’m looking good now, I grew into my look, and I’m looking at guys for looks first now–the pretty-boys I knew growing up were usually much more well-adjusted and didn’t feel the need to make an hateful public example of any “ugly” girl who might glance in his direction??.I never whined that those “out of my league” guys didn’t pursue me, but I still appreciate that they could at least treat me with the common human decency that anyone is due. And, ironically, it’s the ugly nerdy guys who should have known better–it might be said of the beautiful people that they don’t know what it’s like to be like you, but those nerd boys had no damned excuse for their behavior on any level.
    Unless it’s the common societal attitude that a woman is a “thing” that you show off to advertise your worth as a man, just like a flashy car.”

    Demonhype, you raise an interesting point. It’s been my experience (I am 43 years old, so I’ve got some experience in life) that the so-called “beta” males have a tendency to be more vicious and misogynistic towards women. And it’s been my observation that this is really a deep-seated entitlement attitude: beta males resent the supermodels who won’t give them the time of day because they feel entitled to get laid by only the “best.” Some, like George Sodini, act out their resentments in the most extreme and destructive manner; they go on homicidal rampages.

    They resent the alpha males that get all the thin and gorgeous women ? the “trophy wife” material ? because a woman’s value in our society, even today, really boils down to her luck in the gene pool crap shoot: if she was born thin enough and beautiful enough to be “worthy” of being arm candy (a man’s status symbol and possession that “thou shalt not covet”).

    And if these beta males do “settle” for an average looking woman and marry her and have a few kids, they’re also the least forgiving about permanent matronly changes to their partners’ bodies.

    Many (not all) beta males tend to be the most cruel towards women about their weight, and about the permanent changes to women’s genitals as a consequence of childbirth (thus helping to drive up the demand for expensive labiaplasty surgery).

    Yet for all their “superior” intelligence, it escapes them that the reason that their wife’s “stuff down there” is no longer porn star tight and Playboy perfect looking anymore is because of the sacrifice she made bearing his progeny to carry on his chromosomal legacy! Real nice. (NOT!)

    That was one of many reasons I had for never wanting to have any man’s child. For what? To end up getting discarded for some thin, young hottie because childbearing would leave me no longer sexually and socially desirable (provided I survived the ordeal); embroiled in a protracted and bitter custody and court-ordered child support battle, struggling in poverty with a kid whose gestation and birth left me with a body that would be “damaged goods” (therefore no longer “arm candy” material) that no other man would find desirable either ? other than a “friends-with(out-benefits” situation until “something better” comes along for him? Plus all the drama of trying to date and not be able to find someone who would accept some other sperm-wielding thug’s offspring? No thanks! Most men don’t give a damn if women enjoy the sex at all, let alone get an orgasm out of the deal. Everything is all about them. And for what? What exactly would I ? as a woman ? get out of the deal? Nothing but the shitty end of the stick.

    For me, it just wasn’t worth it. Especially when you consider all of the serious risks, complications and permanent problems that pregnancy and birth pose to women’s bodies. I was told by men and older women (who had children) when I was young that I would change my mind as I got older.

    Well, I am now 43. I never changed my mind. I do not regret my decision, and I never had that “biological clock” pang nagging me like I was told I would. I am not lonely, like so many men warned me that I would be; men, who extol the virtues of pregnancy and childbirth ? something their bodies will never endure. I have lots of good books on everything from mathematics to ancient history. I am quite happy having not participated in the procreation game, thank you. My life has not suffered for it.

  316. #316 Becca, the Main Gauche of Mild Reason
    May 18, 2010

    Goodness, Godlessfeminist (@315) I think you’ve been unfortunate in the men you’ve met.

    Most of my acquaintences are so-called beta-males: computer geeks and science fiction fans. Some of them are quite well-known in their fields (does this make them alpha-betas?). All the ones who are married have been married to the same woman for quite a number of years, although some of them have had “starter-marriages”. None of those early marriages broke up because the man involved wanted a trophy wife, mark 2. They broke up because the people involved grew, changed, and didn’t fit together as a couple any more.

    And I would like to say that my husband is a generous lover, and seems to care much more for my orgasms than his own.

    None of the women involved are drop-dead gorgeous. We’re most of us averagely pleasant looking (I myself am rather plain, although I’ve been told I have a nice smile).

    It’s fine that you’ve never felt the desire to have children. It’s fine that you’re single and pleased to be so. Different strokes and all that. But please give us old marrieds the same courtesy and admit that our choices are just as valid *for us* as yours are *for you*.

  317. #317 CJO
    May 18, 2010

    A version of the principle of embarrassment, and, as usual for that argument, we have only the embarrassment that later authors felt about the story that the author of Mark chose to tell.

    I note that Mark has Satan testing Jesus as well, although without specifying how.

    Right, but that’s straight apocalyptic talk, with the nod to Daniel, in which the “wild beasts” are the kings of the nations, whom Mark has allied with Satan against Jesus and the angels, and Jesus prevails at the very outset of the story, thus “binding the strong man”(?) (3:27) so he can plunder his house. This is all so completely intertextual, allusive, and literary, unlike the “temptation” to be superman in the later Synoptics, which to me is a typical reuse of Markan themes for historicizing and apologetic ends.

    I recently read a claim that Mark is a translation into Greek and condensation of an earlier lost Hebrew (Aramaic?) gospel of Matthew, and that the current gospel of Matthew is a more elaborated translation of that original Hebrew gospel. I haven’t had time to assimilate it yet, but:[link]

    I have read summaries of numerous attempts to dispute Markan priority, none convincing. Something like what you mention was perhaps the earliest theory of composition, though, I believe. Isn’t that basically what Papias thought?

    But Paul quite pointedly doesn’t place Jesus in a recognizable time frame.

    I still think that it cannot be ruled out that Paul had his own reasons for being embarrassed about saying too much about Jesus-the-man.

    Sure. But he was awfully careful about it if so.

    And best guess Mark is forty years after that fateful Passover.

    Then why even place the putative event then, assuming that it hadn’t actually happened?

    If one intends to write a realistic narrative, one has to put it somewhere. Never-Never Land hadn’t been invented yet.

    Why even place it in a real-world context at all, with real-world characters like Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, and Annas, who had specific periods that they were simultaneously in power?

    Speculating here, but maybe John the Baptist’s execution ‘anchors’ the whole thing. Maybe it’s as far back as Mark has any reliable knowledge. And you have to remember that Mark’s models are books like Daniel and Enoch and other intertestamental apocalyptic literature, which while symbolic and literary to the core, still make nods to versimilitude in much the same way, by using a backdrop of historical events and personages.

    So not “many,” a few who are still alive.

    Still far greater than zero, though.

    Granted, but say your grandfather goes to Times Square every New Year’s Eve, and say somebody tells a story about something that happened in Times Square one New Year’s Eve that he disputes on the grounds that he goes there every New Year’s Eve and so was there and he never saw any such thing. It might raise an eyebrow or two, but I hardly think it would be conclusive for every younger hearer of the story who would have no independent means of judging.

    And aren’t you assuming what is in question here?

    Aren’t you, though, as well?

    I meant specifically the assertion that the original intended audience of Mark was “meant to be convinced” that these events had occurred in history. In that sense I don’t think I am necessarily assuming anything, though the thesis changes quite a bit on the idea that Mark was written in the belief (on the part of the author) that some set of roughly corresponding events had in fact occurred. For one thing, it would mean Mark was probably working with more, and more detailed, sources than I currently think is the case. Intentional deception would change everything as well.

    I think I’m positing that the gospels being based on stories of some real-world event, no matter how distantly and indistinctly, no matter how much embroidered with fantastic details by those who think that God and miracles exist, has not been conclusively shown to be entirely false.

    No, of course not. But I take two (not undisputed) facts as my starting point: Mark is best read as a symbolic fiction; and the authors of Matthew and Luke are content to preserve the core of it despite their numerous ideological and literary issues with it as they received it. If there really were differing accounts and remembered incidents floating around, which there should have been if historical events and multiple witnesses at diwere involved, I just can’t see why Mark’s narrative so dominates the later traditions. It seems to have been the only thing going.

    Call it a mustard-seed of doubt, perhaps, that the whole thing could be made up from nothing and still be presented as being based on a real-world event.

    I know that the OT is, by and large, exactly something made up from nothing and presented as being based on real-world events — but the textual analysis of the Documentary Hypothesis, and the actual archeology of Israel, Egypt, and Sinai are what convinces me — not just the argument that there is no evidence, but that we know what to look for, and where, and haven’t found it (and have found contradicting evidence), and a plausible scenario for the actual fabrications and systheses.

    I dig all of what you’re saying here, and I agree. You don’t even mention that the putative events in the OT would have been more distant in time from its readers than the two generations-removed narrative of Mark. I think it’s notable, though, that precisely this literature and the intertestamental literature derived from it are the models Mark is working with and the texts with which he is continuing an intertextual ‘dialogue’.

    Finally, I reject the contention that anybody living in the 1st century ancient Near East could have said convincingly that they were absolutely certain that an obscure revivalist cum dissident was not executed in Jerusalem one Passover after a shady backroom trial.

    And I maintain the contention that the event occurring during Passover would mean that there would be far, far more potential witnesses, not
    fewer.

    But also more crowds, more confusion, more chances to miss significant goings-on and less confidence that one had seen everything on the part of any one individual potential witness.

    (And, as I argued last time, don’t forget that Mark doesn’t bat an eye at reporting the darkness at noon, a much more singular occurrence than a Roman execution in 1st century Jerusalem.)

    And as I argued last time, I am still wondering whether “darkness” necessarily means “literally dark as or darker than night”.

    The powers have fallen out of the sky. The Age is at an end, and the apcalypse, the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, is at hand. I don’t know how dark it gets when that happens, but it sounds pretty ominous.

    Is it your point that if Mark was going to tell one lie that was obviously a lie to all who might remember, he might as well tell two, or more?

    Historical memory that might contradict the fantastic elements of the story doesn’t seem to be an issue; why would it be for the relatively mundane events?

  318. #318 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    Becca:

    “Goodness, Godlessfeminist (@315) I think you’ve been unfortunate in the men you’ve met.”

    Oh, I see. So you think that this is reducible to isolated experiences of only a very tiny few women who are somehow “defective” in some way? Let me clue you in on something. Many women have either directly or vicariously experienced these encounters. That was one of the main complaints of women who spearheaded the feminist movement back in the 1960’s. For what it’s worth, if the majority of women were not fed up with getting nothing but the shitty end of the stick ? justified by religion and the “traditional family values” crowd, of course ? there never would have been a feminist movement.

    Becca:

    “It’s fine that you’ve never felt the desire to have children. It’s fine that you’re single and pleased to be so. Different strokes and all that. But please give us old marrieds the same courtesy and admit that our choices are just as valid *for us* as yours are *for you*.”

    I believe you’ve missed the point entirely. It’s not a matter of “my choice” versus “your choice.” It’s a matter of a whole hell of a lot of women being disenfranchised and getting NO choice, really, in a society that only values women based on our weight, our looks, the social class we grew up in (here’s where women who come from generational poverty really lose out big time), and our youth, and our fertility ? as status symbols and commodities.

    Sterile men are not treated that shabbily. Nor are men who failed to luck out in the gene pool crap shoot in the looks department.

    It is this double standard in lookism that disproportionately hurts women ? be it for social opportunities, decent job opportunities, dating opportunities, and marriage opportunities. Why is that?

    I believe that Demonhype raised some very valid points which I wanted to address: Why are only the pretty, young and thin women treated with respect, hired first in jobs and paid more than their plumper and plainer peers, and desired more for dating and marriage? Why are women who aren’t “pretty enough” deserving of acceptance and fair treatment? Why are women who gain weight that they cannot lose from pregnancy and childbirth, and who suffer other permanent aesthetic damage to their bodies at such high risk for being cheated on or outright discarded by men who want to replace them with a “newer model?”

    Why are women who might prefer adoption as opposed to enduring pregnancy and childbirth “left on the shelf” in the mating game, and viewed with contempt and scorn by the rest of society? Desire for love and marriage does NOT equal desire for pregnancy and childbirth. Yet, when women who want a life-mate for love and not procreation say they never want to go through pregnancy and childbirth ? not because they don’t like children, but rather because they have a real justifiable dread of the pregnancy and birthing experience ? they are utterly despised and made into social pariahs. Now, why is that?

    Well, my theory on that is that this stems from the inherited notion of “women as reproductive chattel” ideology which traces all the way back to the Bronze Age, justified and reinforced by religion ? particularly by Abrahamic monotheism seasoned with Iron Age Roman paternalism.

    For example, have you noticed that of the 10 Commandmants (actually, it’s really 613 mitzvot if you want to get technical), “Thou shalt not rape” is not among them. Now some Christian apologists and Biblical scholars strain at the gnat on this one, claiming that the commandment “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his ass, nor his oxen, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s” covers the “thou shalt not rape” issue. But does it really?

    I present that it does not.

    In lumping “thy neighbor’s wife” in with his other possessions that you’re not supposed to covet, women are reduced to commodities as property of men, belonging to men for the exclusive benefit and enjoyment of men to use as they see fit. If anything, it *could* mean that thou shalt not rape thy neighbor’s wife. But again, that is really straining at the gnat. What about other women who are are not your “neighbor’s wife?” What about them?

    For believers in Abrahamic monotheism to claim that the command “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his ass, nor his oxen” also means “thou shalt not rape” is not merely straining at the gnat; it is stretching that gnat’s ass over a sugar bowl.

  319. #319 chgo_liz
    May 18, 2010

    godlessfeminist: If I read through your extensive lists correctly, you missed a big one.

    Pregnancy wreaks havoc on a woman’s auto-immune system. Research has shown that women who have given birth to boys still have Y chromosomes in their bloodstream for years afterward. (Presumably also true with girl babies, but checking for Y chromosomes is the easiest way to prove foreign DNA in a mother’s body.) Pregnancy has a tendency to jump-start any AI disease that a woman might have a predisposition for.
    ____

    Owlmirror…I’ve been reading here since 2006. Yes, the horde makes educated religious references all the time, but I think this has been a particularly scholarly thread. That’s what I meant to say.

  320. #320 Becca, the Main Gauche of Mild Reason
    May 18, 2010

    Oh, I see. So you think that this is reducible to isolated experiences of only a very tiny few women who are somehow “defective” in some way?

    woah! that’s not what I said at all!

    Yes, some men are scum. Yes, there is an entrenched patriarchy. no, I don’t see my choice of heterosexual long-term relationship with children as buying into it.

    don’t talk to me about disenfranchisement. I’m almost 60, and have met my share of it. I left one job because a man with much less seniority and experience got all the budget for a pay raise, and I didn’t get any because I “had a husband to support me” – no matter that the guy’s wife had an excellent job and my then-husband was a deadbeat.

    but I don’t let that color my entire perception of males, or of working in a field peripheral to engineering.

    I’ve gone through the humiliation of infertility treatments and the adoption process – both my children are adopted. We have a very open adoption with their birth mother, and with Tori’s birth father. I know what pregnancy can do… it almost killed their mom when Tori was born, and almost killed Tori, who was born with… many complications that I’m not going into here because they’re immaterial.

    but you know? I’ve never (except at the hospital when David was born) been subjected to any negative comments about adoption or my infertility or Thea’s choice to place her children for adoption rather than parent them herself. So maybe I’ve just been lucky.

  321. #321 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    chgo_liz:

    “godlessfeminist: If I read through your extensive lists correctly, you missed a big one. Pregnancy wreaks havoc on a woman’s auto-immune system. Research has shown that women who have given birth to boys still have Y chromosomes in their bloodstream for years afterward. (Presumably also true with girl babies, but checking for Y chromosomes is the easiest way to prove foreign DNA in a mother’s body.) Pregnancy has a tendency to jump-start any AI disease that a woman might have a predisposition for.”

    Good catch, chgo_liz! You’re right! I forgot all about that one and auto-immune deficiency is a biggie!

  322. #322 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    Becca:

    “…don’t talk to me about disenfranchisement. I’m almost 60, and have met my share of it….”

    You know, I really take exception to your tone which comes across as “I’m older than you so therefore you’re just a dumb kid who doesn’t know anything.” It’s very disrespectful, condescending, arrogant, and completely uncalled for. You may have some years on me, but that does not give you the right to, in so many words, call me a dumbass who couldn’t possibly know anything about injustice and disenfranchisement. I politely tried to explain to you the valid point raised by another poster (Demonhype) which I felt deserved acknowledgment. Great for you that YOU are one of the women for whom the status quo has worked out OK ? not great, but not intolerable ? and that your life turned out fine, but don’t be rude and denigrate or invalidate the experiences of other women who haven’t been as “lucky” (as you put it). It seems we’re just talking past each other here.

  323. #323 Becca, the Main Gauche of Mild Reason
    May 18, 2010

    I didn’t mean to sound condescending – I was responding more to your tone as if I was too young to know what I was talking about. And I tried to acknowledge that my experience, and my choices, were not everyone’s. And you were the one who used the term disenfranchisement.

    As I understand it, the feminist movement is about choice, and the validity of choices. Sometimes, however, I feel like the only valid feminist choice is to *not* opt for marriage and family, that to freely choose that path is to buy into the patriarchy or something like that.

    I’ve had a great career, one I loved and was good at, in addition to being a mother, until I was forced out of my chosen career by becoming disabled. And I made a good living at it. Maybe it would have been a better living had I been more attractive, or had I been male – quite probably. I couldn’t have had that career before the feminist movement, and I recognize my debt to the many brave women who went before me. And yeah, I’ve been fortunate in my associates and environment, as well. It hasn’t been easy, but it was easier for me than for my mother… and it’ll be easier yet for my daughter. And that’s as it should be.

    My point is, yeah, as I said and as you’ve pointed out, some men are scum. Some men do only look at women who are pretty and thin, and either eye-candy or a means for the man’s reproductive success. But not all men are. My husband’s father was a sexist bastard in some ways. My husband is not. My son will, I hope, be even less so. Certainly the training and modeling he’s getting from my husband and the other men in his life indicates such.

    If I can acknowledge that you and Demonhype have a point, can you not also acknowledge that I have one as well?

  324. #324 Owlmirror
    May 18, 2010

    If one intends to write a realistic narrative,

    So, why exactly did the myth-cultists need to write something realistic as to time and place anyway? Positing myth-first, if Paul is any indication, Christianity was growing just fine without any such narrative.

    one has to put it somewhere.

    Consider how it was done with the Joseph and Moses stories: sufficient detail to make it seem realistic, but never specifying details like the names of the Pharaohs involved.

    Never-Never Land hadn’t been invented yet.

    Has anyone located the land of Uz/Utz?

    I see some identify the place with Edom.

    WP: “Other locations proposed for Uz include Bashan in modern-day southern Syria/western Jordan, Arabia east of Petra, or even modern-day Uzbekistan.”

    Indeed.

    The Song of Songs presents its drama with little specificity to time or place.

    Speculating here, but maybe John the Baptist’s execution ‘anchors’ the whole thing.

    Why would John the Baptist be necessary?

    Maybe it’s as far back as Mark has any reliable knowledge.

    Which brings us back to the point of others having the same or better knowledge.

    And you have to remember that Mark’s models are books like Daniel and Enoch and other intertestamental apocalyptic literature, which while symbolic and literary to the core, still make nods to versimilitude in much the same way, by using a backdrop of historical events and personages.

    Daniel puts its putative prophet centuries before the events that are prophesied, not decades.

    Actually, thinking about the eschatology of Daniel and Enoch offers a reasoning for putting the myth down as having been a real event: the center of the Jewish world had just been destroyed. Naturally (or supernaturally, in the mindset of believers), this did not happen for no (theological) reason. There was a real-world event that had preceded it, some crime of epic proportions that resulted in said destruction being the “deserved” repercussion. Naturally (or supernaturally), the death of Jesus fits the bill, and closer to the event makes more sense than being more remote.

    But thinking about eschatology reminds me that the savior of Israel was supposed to be the anointed descendant of the kings of Israel and the line of the House of David — some triumphant real human figure, not someone abstract whose sole purpose was to suffer and die and resurrect. And resurrection is portrayed in the OT as simply being something that God just does directly, not something that requires some human or part-divine representative or example.

    I don’t see how it can make sense for the Jesus-as-myth to arise in that context.

    Paul’s Jesus makes sense as the distortion of the story of a real human who explicitly or implicitly was claimed to be a Messiah, who was condemned as a criminal (i.e., a failed messiah), and whose story was repurposed into one of resurrection, and salvation via that resurrection.

    Hm. Somewhat tangential, but — looking again at 1 Corinthians 15, and reading the whole long spiel on the “resurrection body” in verses 35-57, I can see how Paul emphasizes the non-physical over the physical, and can be seen as implying that Jesus never was physically real; in support of the “myth” idea. But I think, in context, it can also be seen as implying that the genuinely dead person Jesus was resurrected in a form that was non-physical.

    Either way, it certainly looks like Paul certainly was a mystic; very interested in propagating the idea of a non-physical resurrected body. This makes for an interesting notion for the post-Markan gospels as being a reaction to some faction of non-physicalists (possibly only Paul and his followers), which expressed a felt need to emphasize a physical resurrection in the face of Paul’s (real or implicit) non-physicalism.

    1 Corinthians 15:12 raises the point that some in Corinth are denying the resurrection of the dead. But if the whole point of the Jesus myth was the resurrection for those that believed the myth, what’s left for a Corinthian Christian who denies resurrection to believe? That some mythic figure was sacrificed for nothing?

    Granted, but say your grandfather goes to Times Square every New Year’s Eve, and say somebody tells a story about something that happened in Times Square one New Year’s Eve that he disputes on the grounds that he goes there every New Year’s Eve and so was there and he never saw any such thing. It might raise an eyebrow or two, but I hardly think it would be conclusive for every younger hearer of the story who would have no independent means of judging.

    So what’s the kids’ motivation to believe in the story over grandad’s word, and the word of the grandads of friends — and every dad, and mom, and uncle and aunt? Sheer novelty? Rebelliousness?

    I meant specifically the assertion that the original intended audience of Mark was “meant to be convinced” that these events had occurred in history.

    You mean, to people who don’t care about what really happened? Even if it conflicted with their own memories?

    But also more crowds, more confusion, more chances to miss significant goings-on and less confidence that one had seen everything on the part of any one individual potential witness.

    But executions were public, and given the way human nature works, presumably drew large crowds, who might well be pleased to see justice done, or angry to see justice perverted, or fearful of what the government might do next, for political executions — emotional reactions that would intensify memory.

    [This has taken a lot of time to compose; I’ll post this, and return if I can think of any further points.]

  325. #325 godlessfeminist.wordpress.com
    May 18, 2010

    Becca:

    “I didn’t mean to sound condescending – I was responding more to your tone as if I was too young to know what I was talking about. And I tried to acknowledge that my experience, and my choices, were not everyone’s. And you were the one who used the term disenfranchisement.”

    I used the term disenfranchisement because that is something I know about firsthand as a woman who came from a poor, “non-traditional” family household in a Philadelphia ghetto of generational urban poverty where I didn’t know anyone who had been successful in the labor market, or anyone who had gone to collete. So as a woman from the very bottom socio-economic rung in a rich white Christian male dominated culture, I think I have a grasp on what disenfranchisement is. And I don’t believe I am being inaccurate when I describe that insofar as how life is for many women from underprivileged environments.

    Women from poverty in the US have suffered the most from very punitive policies aimed specifically at women who, for whatever reason, could not conform to a white male Christian middle class “traditional family” ethos and other “socially acceptable” definitions or roles.

    I am the very first person in my family to have had the chance to go to college, but only as a non-traditional aged student when I could get enough in student aid to cover my education price tag at a backwater state university. Of course, this was after the Gramm-Rudman Bill was passed, which put grad school or law school (I wanted to become an international human rights lawyer, although I could have also gone on for a PhD in applied mathematics just as well) as far out of reach for me as a day trip to Sedna.

    I not only lacked gender privilege, I also lacked class privilege. As a woman from poverty, I lost count of the number of times people reacted to me with “but you seem so intelligent, I would never have guessed”…what? That I’m not sub-human? That even though I’m a female from America’s bottom social class I can actually *gasp* think?

    Classism, racism, and sexism intersect in a capitalist society imbued with Judeo-Christian traditions that tend to promote this dynamic. I get into the Iron Triangle of classism, sexism, and religion in more detail in my blog here if you are interested in checking it out:

    http://sites.google.com/site/classismfordimwits/home/divineright

    A very poignant portrayal of this sort of dynamic is also given in the movie “Precious.” It is very heart-wrenching.

    “As I understand it, the feminist movement is about choice, and the validity of choices. Sometimes, however, I feel like the only valid feminist choice is to *not* opt for marriage and family, that to freely choose that path is to buy into the patriarchy or something like that.”

    For me and lots of other women from generational poverty, “choice” is really something that is often obscured and abstract rather than realistically within our reach because it boils down to class lines as well as gender lines within a society that has entrenched patriarchy and normalized misogyny stemming from religious traditions and beliefs.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that it’s usually the choices that don’t conform to the norm that are put up for constant scrutiny. Few people criticize middle class women who CHOOSE to marry and have kids, but for women who don’t want to experience pregnancy and childbirth and need to have other realistic options within the context of heterosexual relationships, our choices are unjustly criticized. Like I said before, admitting to justifiable tokophobia is equated with admitting to drinking the blood of babies.

    Even some well-rounded middle-class feminists have really stuck the knife in the backs of other women.

    For example, some women from Birth Trauma Canada who have suffered from birth trauma PTSD on top of the physical trauma of 4th degree tears/episiotomies (and the resultant destroyed sex life and fecal incontinence this entails) reported having been subjected to personal value judgments from other women who had easier births make them feel like what happened to them was somehow their fault for “failing to remain in control” over their pregnancy and birth experience.

    Or the lucky few women who “snap right back” into their high school senior size clothes after having a baby who tell other women who aren’t that fortunate ? whose husbands/boyfriends put the shit to them for their post-partum bodies ? that it must somehow be their own fault for not exercising enough and laying off the bon-bons and if they would have only done “all the right things”, they would still be desirable enough for their men to still want them. There’s a very ugly term for women who throw their less fortunate “sisters” under the bus.

    Jacqueline S. Homan,
    Author: “Classism For Dimwits”
    “Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie”
    “Nothing You Can Possess”
    “Eyes of a Monster”

  326. #326 CJO
    May 19, 2010

    But if the whole point of the Jesus myth was the resurrection for those that believed the myth, what’s left for a Corinthian Christian who denies resurrection to believe? That some mythic figure was sacrificed for nothing?

    I’m not going to attempt point-for-point here, but you raise some things to think about, and I might post responses to a couple more of them later. I’ll just say re: the above, what exactly was the interest of Corinthians in the saga of a crucified Jewish messiah/street preacher from the far Eastern Mediterranean anyway? A universalist savior figure out of a syncretic myth fits the model of a “mission to the Gentiles” better than a legendary development based on a real executed criminal in troublesome and alien Jerusalem. I often hear from apologists that the silence of Paul is simply due to how well-known already the basic narrative was to all his correspondents, such that Paul saw no need to rehash the details in his letters. But in Corinth? Where do you start?

    Rather, I think that Paul’s message was received by Greeks as like a mystery religion with some exotic, eastern flair. Greeks who “denied the resurrection” may still have believed in the more western concept of an immortal soul free of any body, whether “spiritual” or “physical” in Pauline terms. And they may still have believed that understanding the mysteries of Christ were a way to “free” the soul at death.

  327. #327 CJO
    May 19, 2010

    So, why exactly did the myth-cultists need to write something realistic as to time and place anyway? Positing myth-first, if Paul is any indication, Christianity was growing just fine without any such narrative.

    I’m not sure it’s useful as a starting point to ask why any given literary production “needed” to be composed. Nor is it necessarily the case that a given author wrote what he did out of a perceived need to foster the growth of (proto-)Christianity.

    As a sketch, I propose something like this as the impetus for composing a more-or-less realistic narrative:

    Paul evidently received a tradition represented in 1 Cor as a credal statement saying that the Christ was handed over, executed, buried and rose again on the third day “in accordance with the scriptures.” Exactly which scriptures is not made clear anywhere in Paul, but it’s hard to imagine he and his cohorts didn’t have anything more specific in mind.

    So the developing tradion between Paul and Mark was a lot of proof-texting the Psalms (especially Ps 22, the so-called Passion Psalm) and the prophetic literature, and we can imagine various midrash-like proto-Passion Narratives, based entirely on OT texts applied to the vague confessional formulae of the Pauline churches.

    Each newly discovered “parallel” or “prophesy” no matter how seemingly strained, adds a new incident, to the point that a realistic narrative is being developed almost without that specific intention being foremost in any one contributor’s mind. From there, it’s a small leap (but an unbelievably significant one historically) to assemble this material into a single linear narrative treating the Passion. Given such a story, it only takes a little imagination to add some historical detail for setting and versimilitude, and, if one had more to say (as clearly the author of Mark did), add a road story to get the newly historicized crucified messiah into the setting of the Passion which was Jerusalem at Passover, and that would be Mark 1-13.

    The only “need” was specific scriptural citations to fill out the Pauline formula. Beyond that, literary imagination, never in short supply, can take us the rest of the way to the composition of Mark.

  328. #328 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnwG-l8eVz59_ckblu8K5_3-IN5U4Mjf7I
    May 19, 2010

    I know it seems astounding that women follow these religions, but I (like many women) was born into it. I didn’t have the chance to sit down, weigh the pro’s and con’s and make a logical choice based on the scant information I was given about my faith (meaning my parent’s faith). I was told that this is The Word of the Maker Of The Universe, so who was I to question, puny little sinner that I am?

    The Eve and therefore all women are responsible for the fall of the entire human race guilt trip is pretty soul destroying if they get you to believe it. I believed it for many years, my formative years. It really does enormous damage to a person’s psyche. You believe you are inferior and evil, and when bad things happen to you and/or other women, you believe it’s God’s just punishment for your evil feminine nature.

    So for the people who are puzzled about women accepting religious beliefs that are detrimental to them, it’s not a conscious, informed choice. Instill fear, guilt and threats of eternal damnation in a child before they even learn their ABC’s, convince them that the Bible is The Absolute Truth and comes from the Creator of the entire freaking universe, convince them that they are evil and if it wasn’t for them Mankind would be living in Paradise right now, and you have a the perfect and proper self-hating Christian/Islamic/Jewish woman.

  329. #329 34jlg34
    May 19, 2010

    gave Best Friend the link. she actually read it. didn’t have a proper reply, just said it was taken out of context.
    now after half yearlies we are going to have a debate on role of women in Bible and IRL.
    she’s going to prove why it was taken out of context, i’m going to prove why it wasn’t.
    yay for cognitive dissonant friends (she’s a feminist).

  330. #330 34jlg34
    May 19, 2010

    neither of us will move an inch in our convictions either, i’m just hoping to open her mind, she’s hoping to open mine. just an intelectual exercise.

  331. #331 Owlmirror
    May 20, 2010

    what exactly was the interest of Corinthians in the saga of a crucified Jewish messiah/street preacher from the far Eastern Mediterranean anyway?

    Well, just maybe, something that he preached, as related by his followers, was interesting, and made more interesting by the story about his death and alleged resurrection.

    Possibly that the world was about to end, and that since God was about to judge the world, people — perhaps more specifically, originally, Jewish people — should prepare themselves by joining together in holy shared-life-and-property communities that would await the big shebang.

    A universalist savior figure out of a syncretic myth fits the model of a “mission to the Gentiles” better than a legendary development based on a real executed criminal in troublesome and alien Jerusalem.

    Paul and others did preach to Jewish communities first, yes?

    Rather, I think that Paul’s message was received by Greeks as like a mystery religion with some exotic, eastern flair.

    Or by Hellenistic Jews as an inspiring update to what they already knew.

    Greeks who “denied the resurrection” may still have believed in the more western concept of an immortal soul free of any body, whether “spiritual” or “physical” in Pauline terms. And they may still have believed that understanding the mysteries of Christ were a way to “free” the soul at death.

    Or Hellenistic Jewish Christians didn’t worry too much about resurrection (perhaps denying it from familiarity with Hellenic philosophies that emphasized atomism/materialism; perhaps denying it from Sadducean traditions — I’m not sure how the factions worked outside of Judaea itself), but perhaps thought that the communal living aspect was worthy in and of itself.

  332. #332 Owlmirror
    May 20, 2010

    Paul evidently received a tradition represented in 1 Cor as a credal statement saying that the Christ was handed over, executed, buried and rose again on the third day “in accordance with the scriptures.”

    I dunno. I don’t see him being able to preach anything from something that bare.

    Paul: “So, there’s this guy, Jesus the anointed one. He was handed over, executed, buried and rose again on the third day. Believe in his resurrection, and you can share it!”

    Jewish Listeners: “Uh-huh. Handed over to who? Executed for what crime? Anointed one — how do you know he’s the anointed? What’s his paternal lineage?”

    Paul says … what, exactly? Assuming a myth, and this is pre-Mark (and pre-any-other-gospel).

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