Culture

Elizabeth Taylor Dies

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor has died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 79.

The Telegraph (UK) has her obituary:

Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who died on March 23 aged 79, made more than 50 films, won two Oscars, was a grandmother at 39 and was married eight times to seven men…

(!)

Wikipedia has her life here.

RIP Elizabeth Taylor, almost-catholic.

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Culture

Bus Explosion in Jerusalem

There’s just been an explosion on or near a bus in Jerusalem:

An explosion took place on or near a bus in central Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon.

Police first received reports of an explosion outside the Binyanei Ha’uma building in central Jerusalem and Magen David Adom units reported casualties.

A large number of police and ambulances were on the scene.

Initial reports said that around 18 people were injured in the attack although the exact number was not known.

Reports are scattered but more will follow as the sad story develops.

UPDATE:   They are coming through now –

  • The Telegraph: Dozens injured in Jerusalem bomb blast.
  • BBC: Deadly bombing targets Jerusalem bus stop.
  • Fox: One Dead, Dozens Injured in Jerusalem Bus Explosion.
Church

Fr John Corapi Tagged: ‘Pedophile’

By Google:

Despite the fact that accusations against popular Catholic preacher Father John Corapi have nothing to do with children, Google has tagged news about the cleric into its “Pedophile” category. Searching for the latest news about Father Corapi on Google yields the following screen (captured Mon., 3/21/11 at 12:07pm EDT):

This is unfortunate, to say the least. It also reveals a lot about the mindset of those in the media: that the mere mention of “Catholic priest” conjures up the word “pedophile.”

And never mind the fact that data clearly shows that the Church abuse scandals were not about “pedophilia,” although the media has often portrayed them that way.

The above was here.

For a background on the Fr Corapi story, click here or here.

Bible Archaeology

Was God’s Wife Edited Out of the Bible?

Yes, it’s coming up for Easter again… Bible-bashing time…

Now for those of you who may not know it, we’ve been there and done this many times before. So stop getting all excited. He had no wife.

A British scholar claims that God may have had a wife. 

Note: She’s not the first one to make this claim. This is an old subject.

Some scholars say early versions of the Bible featured Asherah, a powerful fertility goddess who may have been God’s wife.

Research by Francesca Stavrakopoulou, a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, unearthed clues to her identity, but good luck finding mention of her in the Bible. If Stavrakopoulou is right, heavy-handed male editors of the text all but removed her from the sacred book.

What remains of God’s purported other half are clues in ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in an ancient Canaanite coastal city, now in modern-day Syria. Inscriptions on pottery found in the Sinai desert also show Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped as a pair, and a passage in the Book of Kings mentions the goddess as being housed in the temple of Yahweh.

J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, backs Stavrakopoulou’s findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention “Yahweh and his Asherah.” He adds Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors.

“Traces of her remain, and based on those traces… we can reconstruct her role in the religions of the Southern Levant,” he told Discovery News.

Asherah, he says, was an important deity in the Ancient Near East, known for her might and nurturing qualities. She was also known by several other names, including Astarte and Istar. But in English translations Ashereh was translated as “sacred tree.”

“This seems to be in part driven by a modern desire, clearly inspired by the Biblical narratives, to hide Asherah behind a veil once again,” Wright says.

Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, says the ancient Israelites were polytheists, with only a “small majority” worshipping God alone. He says it was the exiling of an elite community within Judea and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C that lead to a more “universal vision of strict monotheism.”

The above was here.

Asherah was the name of a Canaanite goddess. Part of the Canaanite pantheon, she became in Semitic mythology, a mother goddess. Her name is attested to in a number of ancient Near Eastern sources including the Khirbet el-Qom and Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions, where the phrase ‘YHVH (and) his asherah’ is detected. The Bible mentions her at least forty times. And this is what she looks like (though many trees, poles and tree trunks also serve as symbols for this goddess) :  

Numerous cult images of her have been found. Now while polytheism was a perpetual problem in and around ancient Israel, it was Prof William Dever (more than 20 years ago!) who with his book  ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ popularised the hypothesis of Asherah functioning as a sort of consort to Yahweh (a Queen of Heaven). But there is really nothing textual or iconographic that warrants us to interpret or force the relationship between ‘Yahweh … and his asherah’ (as spousal or sexual for that matter). Of course, the mere notion of such is enough to capture popular imagination… and that to be well exploited by self-admitted atheists such as Francesca Stavrakopoulou.

In any event, the whole thing is nothing more than a blurb for the upcoming BBC series, ‘Bible’s Buried Secrets’ – only, there is no secret. The Bible has plenty to say about idol worship, as it was. Just ask any honest God fearing archaeologist or Biblical scholar.

UPDATE:  See also, Theologians ought to love this BBC series on the Bible. Too bad it gives in to Dan Brown-style silliness, here.

Church

Religion May Become Extinct in Nine Nations

The BBC has news on a study that supposedly reveals that religion may become extinct in nine nations:

Half-empty church In the UK, Wales has the highest proportion of religiously “non-affiliated”

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team’s mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Nonlinear dynamics is invoked to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

At its heart is the competition between speakers of different languages, and the “utility” of speaking one instead of another.

“The idea is pretty simple,” said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.

“It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.

“For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there’s some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not.”

Dr Wiener continued: “In a large number of modern secular democracies, there’s been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%.”

The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the “non-religious” category.

They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them.

And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a “network structure” more representative of the one at work in the world.

“Obviously we don’t really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society,” he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was “a suggestive result”.

“It’s interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going.

“Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out.”

The only thing I can think is parents are simply no longer instructing their children on the faith they should know…