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Society has little defense

Not too long ago, both liberals and conservatives were oriented to some kind of common social good.  Liberals pushed for what they considered to be “social justice.”  Conservatives emphasized patriotism and worked for cultural stability.  Today, both sides frame their arguments in terms of personal liberty and individual rights (gay rights, abortion rights, reproductive freedom, etc., vs. parental rights, religious liberty, gun rights, free markets, etc.).

Is that an advance?  Perhaps it is.  But did you notice that when we recently discussed Iceland’s attempt to battle pornography, hardly any of us–social conservatives mostly, me included–were able to come up with any way to oppose it legally.  Even as we were decrying pornography and admitting how socially harmful it is, we could only conceive of the issue in terms of first amendment rights.  On another blog that discussed Iceland’s policies, someone defended pornography on the grounds that we must not interfere with free market economics, that the demand must call forth a supply.

Then I was part of a discussion of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s graduation address at Harvard University in 1978.  In that talk, the exiled Russian author who spent nearly a decade in the Soviet gulag and whose dissident writings helped bring about the fall of Communism, said why he would not recommend that his country, once free, emulate the modern West.  One reason he gave is that western societies have become “legalistic”; that is, our societies have replaced morality with laws.  And societies cannot protect themselves with laws alone. [Read more...]

Those cute, fluffy killing machines

I like cats.  I like dogs too, but I appreciate cats.  But those cool, purring, graceful creatures are formidable killers.  One estimate is that cats kill as many as one out of ten birds.  From ABC:

Cats are responsible for the deaths of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals every year, according to research conducted by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [Read more...]

Obama’s Second Inaugural Address

A president’s inauguration address can indicate his vision for his next term, rally the country, and make his play for the history books.  President Obama’s speech had no soaring JFK moments (“Ask not what your country can do for you. . . .”) and even extracting significant lines to discuss was rather difficult.  The speech was unified by a “journey” metaphor and by repeating “we, the people.”  The president brought God into the climate change debate (he referred to God quite a bit, actually, mostly to his advantage), upheld the role of government as a collective entity of the people, made gay rights a part of our civil religion, and alluded to gun control without mentioning it in terms of “the safety of our children.”  What follows after the jump are some excerpts, a link to the whole speech, and a rhetorical analysis of its style.   [Read more...]

The sexual revolution reconsidered

You have GOT to read A. N. Wilson’s article in the London Mail entitled ” I’ve lived through the greatest revolution in sexual mores in our history, the damage it’s done appalls me”.  An excerpt, with my emphases:

“I have been divorced. Although I was labelled a Young Fogey in my youth, I imbibed all the liberationist sexual mores of the Sixties as far as sexual morality was concerned.

I made myself and dozens of people extremely unhappy — including, of course, my children and other people’s children. . . . [Read more...]

Christmas is NOT based on the feast of Sol Invictus

In another in his series on the historical roots of Christmas (see our post on why he says it takes place on December 25), Pastor Joseph Abrahamson explodes the scholarly myth that Christmas was a Christian attempt to co-opt the pagan feast of the sun god known as Sol Invictus.

The claim is that Sol Invictus “Invincible Sun” is a more ancient pagan holiday in Rome celebrated on December 25th. The claim assumes that this pagan holiday was so popular and dangerous that the Christian Church sought to suppress it by establishing the celebration of Christ’s Nativity on December 25th. By doing this, the claim continues, the Christians adopted the pagan day and some of the practices of that pagan festival to make the celebration of Christmas more appealing to pagans. . . .

While pagan worship of the sun certainly existed in Rome before the spread of the fulfillment of that promise in Christ came to the city; the celebration of Sol Invictus as a god in Rome actually came as pagans attempted to suppress Christianity. This early attempt as suppressing Christianity by means of the pagan worship of Sol is found in the Historia Augusta, a pagan history of Rome compiled in the fourth century AD.

The Historia Augusta in The Life of Elagabalus (1.3) relates events from the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, a particularly twisted man, who reigned from 218-222 AD. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus came to be called Elagabalus after the name of the Syrian sun god, and was himself initiated as a priest of that false god. He viewed himself as the personal manifestation of the Syrian sun god. After coming to Rome and being established as emperor at the age of 14, the Historia states:

4 Elagabalus [established himself] as a god on the Palatine Hill close to the imperial palace; and he built him a temple, to which he desired to transfer the emblem of the Great Mother, the fire of Vesta, the Palladium, the shields of the Salii, and all that the Romans held sacred, purposing that no god might be worshipped at Rome save only Elagabalus. 5 He declared, furthermore, that the religions of the Jews and the Samaritans and the rites of the Christians must also be transferred to this place, in order that the priesthood of Elagabalus might include the mysteries of every form of worship. [Latin]

And, coincidentally, very shortly after Elagabalus tried to establish worship of the Syrian sun god, Sol Invictus, he was thought to be too licentious and was assassinated by his own people, pagan Romans, at the age of 18 years old.

From that time there is no mention of the celebration of Sol Invictus in Roman history until the rule of Aurelian (A.D. 270-275). Aurelian did try to re-introduce the worship of Sol Invictus by decree in the year 274. But there is no record of this festival being held on December 25th. “The traditional feast days of Sol, as recorded in the early imperial fasti, were August 8th and/or August 9th, possibly August 28th, and December 11th.”(Hijmans, p. 588 )

Aurelian did declare games to Sol every four years. But there is no record from the period or early historiographers that these games were associated with December 25th in any way. The best evidence suggest that the games were held October 19-22 of their calendar. Anyway, on another coincidence, a year after Aurelian declared these games in honor of Sol Invictus, he was assassinated by his own pagan Roman officers out of fear he would execute them based on false charges.

The earliest calendar to mention that Invictus as a specified date for Roman religious life comes from a text of the Philocalian Calendar, VIII Kal recorded in an illuminated 4th Century manuscript called The Chronography of 354. In this late manuscript the date is listed in Mensis December (The Month of December) as N·INVICTI·CM·XXX.

Many scholars through the years have assumed that INVICTI in this calendar must mean “Sol Invictus.” This is possible. However, elsewhere the calendar does not hesitate to make explicit mention of festivals to Sol, for example: on SOLIS·ET·LVNAE·CM·XXIIII (August 28th) and LVDI·SOLIS (October 19-22).

Even if INVICTI does refer to Sol Invictus on December 25th of this calendar, all this shows is that the celebration of Sol Invictus was placed on December 25th after Christianity had already widely accepted and celebrated December 25th as the Nativity of Christ.

There are many historians and people following them who will still assert that December 25th is Sol Invictus in ancient Rome. Some will even claim that another religion, Mithraism, has close connection to this December 25th celebration. In actual fact there is no ancient documentation tying Mithraism to December 25th or Sol Invictus. The Christian celebration of the Nativity of Christ as December 25th predates anything in the earliest actual documentation for Sol Invictus on December 25th.

via Steadfast Lutherans » Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Christmas and Sol Invictus.

Keeping Santa in Christmas but dropping Jesus

Christians typically every year take up the cause of keeping Christ in Christmas.  The American Atheists organization has taking up the cause of keeping Santa in Christmas and dropping Jesus.  Here is a sign they put up in Times Square:

atheist christmas billboard

Steadfast Lutherans » Keep the Merry…and the Myth.

Similarly, Christians regularly decry the commercialization of Christmas.  Ayn Rand,  conservatives’ favorite atheist, says commercialization is the best thing about it.  From Michael Schmitz:

 

“The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.”

-Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Calendar, December 1976


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