Aphrodiphobia, the Sistine Heresy, and Ecstasy, Part I

"If Catholicism were really like what Greeley describes, there would be no need for the Craft." Lady Epona (Julie O'R.)Given what I discuss in the next few installments, please understand that I am not a hostile non-Catholic. I was raised in the church and, after a commodius vicus of recirculation, was trained as a Roman Catholic theologian at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, receiving my Ph.D. in theology from the Franciscan School of Theology (the oldest seminary in the US, … [Read more...]

An Evolutionary Model for New Religious Movements

I proposed a few days ago that all religions begin as new religions. Let’s look at more details about how that happens.Many people suspect that any new religious movement (NRM) is probably antisocial in some way, or that the very existence of a NRM is evidence of some sort of social pathology. This tendency often results from assuming a "Golden Age" model of religion: once upon a time God or the Gods handed down the perfect religion to mankind, and everything has been downhill ever since. In … [Read more...]

About Conversion

In a recent blog about the conversion of one of Patheos’s bloggers, Lise (hey, Lise! Mazel tov!), from atheism to Catholicism, Star raised a question of whether that might happen for other bloggers writing for this enterprise as well. I think it probably will, because conversion-type experiences happen far more frequently for people who are seriously interested in religious matters than for people who aren’t. Such experiences can differ in a huge variety of ways. What they have in common is that … [Read more...]

All Religions Begin as New Religions

All religions have at least one foundational myth as well as an actual history. The myth is not historically true, but instead transmits some of the spiritual values on which the religion is based. The history is true in fact, but, as history, cannot convey values.All human beings, as children, believe that the foundational myth of their religion is actual history. Many people in late adolescence realize that the myth is not true as history, and begin to search for the factual history of … [Read more...]

Why Wicca Is a Major World Religion

Gerald Brosseau Gardner, that strange retired Englishman, created Wicca because he could not find an adequate religion elsewhere. His museum contained hundreds of pamphlets from various minority religions, and dozens of documents about his memberships, initiations, and ordinations; he had been actively searching for many years. He did not create it out of whole cloth; he used many extant materials, but the structure he and his friends gradually evolved from the late 1930s to the early 1960s was … [Read more...]

Thirteen Suggestions for Parents

1. If you don’t want your son to lie, don’t punish him for telling the truth.2. If you don’t want your daughter to be abused or exploited, praise her uniqueness and teach her to question authority.3. If you want your son to be brave and prudent, teach him not to take unnecessary risks.4. If you want your daughter to be loyal, always take her side and defend her.5. If you want your son to be healthy, do nothing that damages your health.6. If you want your daughter to know whom to trust o … [Read more...]

Of Holidays and Riddles

Rummaging through the boxes of books still stored out in the garage, I came across my tattered copy of Walt Kelly’s 1952 I Go Pogo, the second of the books that assembled his daily strips, and I recovered some faded memories. One, at age 13, in the mansion that was our family quarters in Lauingen, Bavaria, was of the strange symbols decorating the borders of stories in a library book; curious about what they were, I began what became a long line of research (they were astrological, alchemical, e … [Read more...]

A Very Strange Novel About Witches and Gnostics

As a writer, I have always been fascinated by historical puzzles, about how various religions actually began, and about the nature of writings and movements about which we know too little to be able to reconstruct them by merely logical methods. I had begun trying to answer the question of how Christianity actually began, and so learned about the existence of the Gnostics, who sounded fascinating, and of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, which contained almost all the information about the Gnostics … [Read more...]

The End of My Catholic Boyhood

Blessed_Virgin_Mary

In order for you, dear reader, to see why I think about religion as I do, you need to know what happened to me at age 14.One Saturday evening in the summer of 1955, I was sitting at my desk in an alcove of the basement suite of rooms my father had built for my brother Bill and me in our house way at the tail end of Tamalpais Valley, the southern branch of Mill Valley (California). I had been having severe cyclic depressions every two or three weeks for about a year; one was on me that … [Read more...]

“Human Life Is Sacred”: My Foray Into Blogging

The blog is launched!

I’m rather excited. Friendship with Star recently ambushed us both—so I have begun writing on here. Star tells me they’ll have me launched today. I like the idea that many people, not just my friends, will be able to read what I write. However, that idea feels like a big responsibility as well, because I will be writing a lot about religion. Religion is a universally important topic, about which the vast majority of people have unfortunately always been taught almost nothing but pernicious nonse … [Read more...]


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