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Sunday, January 16, 2011


It's karma for the effrontery of having a revolution in the first place.

Bruce: It's karma for the effrontery of having a revolution in the first place.

In the past day or so I encountered the assertion that among many American Negroes, Haiti's desperate condition is understood to be the result of the curse the Haitians have brought upon themselves by their worship of the pantheon of vodou rather than the Christian God.

I wonder if, how, and to what extent it might be true. If words have consequences sometimes, religious beliefs could have consequences too.

"the pantheon of vodou rather than the Christian God"

You didn't grow up Catholic, did you?

There's a pretty darn good reason that Catholicism - which is not only Christian but the church tradition from which the others sprung - melds so well in various parts of the world that have pantheon traditions. Certain saints aline well with certain minor gods (see for example Maximon of the Guatemalan highlands), and the Mary cult is clearly aligned in many cases with an Earth Mother.

What is the Trinity if not a Hindu-style pantheon of avatars at minimum?

This is all aside from the early Christians having worshipped anywhere from 1 to 200 gods before the standardization that came about 2-3 centuries in. And that's an aside from Christianity having been lifted from pagan peoples now called Gnostics who represented various mixed traditions.

And all of this even is an aside from the fact that the Hebrew "G-d" taboo might very well be developed from the fact that "Elohim" is plural, and Genesis might well have originally been making reference to "the gods" creating the Earth, later redacted by the priest class.

The Ten Commandments make a whole lot more sense when "having no other god before me" and all of the "jealous god" stuff is in the context of the Hebrews literally believing that there's was the tribal war god who would lead the tribe to victory over the other peoples with their other, inferior gods.

I'm one of those atheists who arrived there by learning about religion.

Oops... "that theirs was the tribal war god."

Hmmm, looks like it actually may turn out well.

OK, granted, that was a completely idiotic comment. Except for the "Hmmm" part, of course.

Nahh, that's too harsh, but it is a good idea to reserve judgment--especially considering things like the fact that Duvalier had a Haitian passport even while Haiti has refused to renew Aristide's passport, which I'd say speaks volumes.

Kim Ives talked about the situation today on Democracy Now and speculated that Duvalier's return might be intended to put pressure on Preval to follow the OAS line on the November elections. So the legal maneuvers against Duvalier may just be kabuki, or might be the actions of independent actors who haven't been properly slapped down yet. Time will tell, but given the record I'm not exactly optimistic.

And all of this even is an aside from the fact that the Hebrew "G-d" taboo might very well be developed from the fact that "Elohim" is plural, and Genesis might well have originally been making reference to "the gods" creating the Earth, later redacted by the priest class.

I think we're all indebted to QuizMasterChris Johnson for clearly stating what needed to be said. I’m particularly glad these lovely children were here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age!

Seriously -- WTF? "The Hebrew 'G-d' taboo"? The "taboo" was originally on pronouncing the name of Yahweh, so it was replaced by "adonai", the Lord, when the text was read aloud. (This is reflected in most Christian English translations, though not the Catholic Jerusalem Bible.) There are two different accounts of creation in Genesis, one starring Elohim and the other starring Yahweh... If the "priest class" wanted to "redact" hints of plural gods, they'd have done a better job of it. The stuff about the Gnostics is equally wack. And while you're correcting typos, how about "aline"?

My fellow atheists are such an embarrassment to me sometimes.

Duncan, I'm sure you can make the same points without the sniping, so please do next time.

About those points: Are you unaware of the practice of writing "G-d" (and that it applies to other names for God as well), or are you just assuming that if someone mentions "G-d" they must not realize that "Yahweh" is taboo also? And the fact that the Elohim/Yahweh versions of creation weren't somehow unified, or one of them expunged, doesn't prove anything one way or the other about the speculation Chris mentioned (especially since they can be explained away as different views of the same event, not unlike the gospels). I don't know if that speculation is accurate or not, but it's not implausible--and the point about Elohim being plural is very interesting in any case.

My personal favorite voodoo/Haiti story, by the way: Clinton only won the 1992 election by hiring a houngan to use a "wanga" on Bush. And Clinton, for his part, had to wear the same pair of underpants all week. I swear I'm not making this up.

Hmm...Clinton...wanga...underpants...no, I'm not sensing any humor potential here at all.

Duncan -

Take this for what it's worth:

"The notion of divinity underwent radical changes throughout the period of early Israelite identity. The ambiguity of the term Elohim is the result of such changes, cast in terms of "vertical translatability" by Smith (2008); i.e. the re-interpretation of the gods of the earliest recalled period as the national god of the monolatrism as it emerged in the 7th to 6th century BC in the Kingdom of Judah and during the Babylonian captivity, and further in terms of monotheism by the emergence of Rabbinical Judaism in the 2nd century AD.[4]"

This being the reference: Mark S. Smith, God in translation: deities in cross-cultural discourse in the biblical world, vol. 57 of Forschungen zum Alten Testament, Mohr Siebeck, 2008


If you read the whole entry you can see that a number of blblical scholars have come up with various reasons through the ages why this linguistic plural would refer to something other than "gods." I think it's a big series of excuse-making in pretending that the Jews always believed in one God.

One of the books I've read on the origins of Christianity (and Judaism necssarily) suggested that concealment of plurality was a contributing factor to spoken taboos regarding the name of God. Unfortunately I don't have that reference handy but it's in a book somewhere in my house and I'll be happy to post that reference once I find it. It doesn't take much of stretch to understand that a taboo on speaking one name can become a tradition of not speaking another, or any.

Not sure how to respond to the charge that my Gnostic comment is "wack." Is this what they teach in high school debating societies these days?

Read the book "The Jesus Mysteries" by Freke and Gandy for starters. I've seen works written for a drier academic audience as well, all with the thesis that Jesus is lifted from pagan tales of a regenerative god-man, and that the Gnostics were the original Christians, with the Orthodox Christian tradition we have today being a branch off of that.

By "wack", do you suggest that Christianity is wholly original, and do you agree with the early Orthodox Christians that the people we now call Gnostics were darkly inspired apostates? That would be a strange claim from an atheist.

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