Jim Bakker’s Holy Directive from “God”

Last Friday, May 3, 2019, Jim Bakker aired a “special” telecast of his “Jim Bakker Show”. It was explained that it was “special” in that Bakker had received a directive straight from the almighty creator of the whole universe that he had to pass on to everyone, especially Christians.

“Oh, my; oh my” – as Rexella Van Impe might say. What sort of communication from “God” could have stirred up Jim Bakker to produce a special telecast on this date? After all, does not Bakker claim that he receives word from “God” on a regular basis? Why would this one be so important?

Bakker almost immediately launched into his diatribe, at times interrupted by brief comments from others or when he strayed onto some other subject, by stating that he is now certain that “we’re in the beginning of the very last days”. Well, if that was all it was about, then it would earn a very big yawn from me, just as Jack Van Impe’s announcement that he was the “final prophet” before the return of Christ had. After all, it’s not like Bakker hasn’t said this exact thing before on multiple occasions.

But no, no, this time it was different, Bakker stressed. He stated that he literally woke up the previous evening and started writing things down as fast as he could. He was “downloading” from “God”. As he related this he started in on some news of the day which he called “unbelievable’, which is only related to Bakker’s rantings here only in that he sees it as a clear sign of persecution. Thus, there is no need to get into all of that except to state that “persecution” is somehow always a sign that things are going to become hard for the Christian.

His main point (again); “The election has already begun”. Of course, Bakker is referring to the upcoming 2020 elections which have, in fact, already produced a decent crop of democratic candidates for president. Bakker went on to delineate a series of five points that he said “God” told him every serious Christian should ask anyone running for office to see where they stand and if they can be supported. As he stated, If one is really “God-fearing”, then “God said give them a test to see if they stand up to the Bible standard”.

Five points that “God”, through Bakker, is instructing all serious Christians to ask every candidate for office before determining whether they can support their candidacy or not.

The first of the five points, predictably, was that politicians must “be not in favor of killing babies” (as he put it). He continued, “You vote for those who believe in the word of God. You’ve got to have that standard”. From here Baker went off onto one of his rants, citing headlines, to which he added (much like Frances Swaggart does) “Christians are the most persecuted people in the world!” to which Mondo De La Vega added, quite incorrectly, that the recent church bombings in Sri Lanka “wasn’t even talked about on the news”.

All of this must have been a segue to his second point, which was that Christians have to vote for politicians who will “stand up for the cross; for freedom of religion. . . . The cross must be respected and never removed from public view!” He went on to make the tirelessly repeated claim that “they want to outlaw the Bible”! That, as he and others ranted about crosses being removed everywhere, in China and even here, and churches failing or being torn down all over Europe and the US. In addition, he ranted about church membership and attendance declining rapidly, never considering that, perhaps, Christian TV may be part of the cause for this trend.

The third point is really something that one can readily see the “God of the whole universe” being intimately concerned with. Bakker stressed that “candidates must be willing and able to fix problems at the border”. Yes, indeed; I see “God” from the farthest reaches of starry heaven looking down on this earth and singling out the USA and its border issues. We’ve just got to keep them out! Of course, at that point Mondo again chimed in, claiming that he understands those who want to come to the US, but that he and his family “did it the right way”. He also claimed that the headlines demonstrated that American Hispanics are turning to Trump to a great degree exactly because of this issue – because they want everyone to come in the “right way”. No doubt, conservative media is spinning things in this exact way.

Then, on to the fourth point: “We must elect leaders who will keep and follow our Constitution”. All well and good on this one, except that, again, I can’t see the “God of the universe” caring who we elect or whether they follow our Constitution or not. Bakker added that the “founders prayed”. As he ranted about this I was forced to ponder how praying and reason might go together, since the Constitution is a document founded on reason, and prayer, well, is never mentioned in said Constitution. Neither is “God”, by the way, contrary to what some posit.

And, interestingly, no one on the program so much as mentioned Trump. This is a clear sign that these televangelist types are quickly seeking to ditch Trump, but still quite intent upon continuing their agenda of taking over American government and society by whatever means possible.

Finally, Bakker’s (I mean, “God’s”) fifth point: “Socialists must not be accepted. It will cause America to die”. Then he quoted 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “If a person won’t work; he shouldn’t eat.” in support of his point here, then adding, “We’re not to take care of lazy people! The falling away is here!” Of course, poor Jim Bakker likely has no idea that 2 Thessalonians was, according to most biblical scholars, probably not written by the apostle Paul and, by acceptable standards, therefore should not be part of the New Testament canon. But, he thinks that the book of 1 Enoch should be included in the Bible, so the reader should take that for what it’s worth.

In any case, among the asinine rantings between each point, and after he was finished making these five points, Bakker interjected “The devil wants America”, stating that others are “about to turn America over to Satan”. To this he added “They want to take Christian television from us”.

Yes, “they” are out to destroy his baby (Christian television), which he practically birthed all by himself when Pat Robertson asked him to do a children’s program, to hear Jim tell it.

Then it was on to abortion again (the one topic that they all rally around): “Don’t kill babies. Adopt them out!” after which he went on about how he and Lori live in this large, virtually empty, house because all of their children have moved away, stating that if things go back they can move back in. “We’ve prepared our house for the last days” by storing food, etc., there.

The point of posting Bakker’s five points in this blog is to demonstrate how far these fanatics have moved toward engineering their own political outcomes. They are determined to move the US toward a Christian theocracy, and they make no secret of it anymore. And, after all, it’s a directive from “God”!

Thus, even though the televangelists and others have been subtly moving away from Trump ever since the release of the Mueller Report (for, apparently, even they are smart enough to understand what it really says), they are by no means moving away from their full endorsement of what they consider to be “conservative American Christian” values. So, they will support any conservative Republican candidate who will keep things moving in the direction they want it to go in. And, if anyone doesn’t vote their way, then they aren’t a real Christian.

It should concern everyone that things have actually moved to the point that lunatics like Bakker can openly try to sway voters, knowing that they have impunity because Trump has dictated that the Johnson Amendment will not be enforced against them. This is truly alarming! And it’s not so much that people like Bakker feel free to spout this nonsense, but that so many Americans will actually heed what he says.

Religion needs to stay the hell out of our politics! Psychotic superstitions have no place in an enlightened society or its government, period.

The Myth of the Rapture

The Christian myth of the Rapture (which, unbeknownst to most Christians, originated with the religion of Zoroastrianism) seems to become more convoluted with ever more nonsense as time goes on. This trend is exemplified by various films and videos which support one version or another of the Rapture as well as the Tribulation period. Most recently, one was reviewed by Dr. David Reagan on his program “Christ in Prophecy: Apokalypsis Video Review” (airdate: 4/28/2019). This video, “Apokalypsis: The Final Warning”, was critiqued by Dr. Reagan as “[a] fantastic new video program [which] has been produced by the Inspiration TV Network that provides a fascinating, exciting, highly-informative and accurate overview of end-time Bible prophecy”.

Well, with an endorsement like that how can there be any objection to it? After all, if it is “fascinating, exciting, highly-informative and accurate”, what could be wrong with it? Especially if the “accurate” part is true. Now, to be fair, I am not going to critique the actual video, per se, because I did not, nor do I plan to, watch the entire video myself. I only watched the clips presented on Dr. Reagan’s program. But that is well past enough for me in any case. I will state, for the record, that if anyone thinks they could win over someone like me with such unmitigated psychobabble, then they don’t understand how truly freeing it is to no longer buy into that sort of idiocy. But these kinds of films and videos are not really designed to win anyone over to the faith. They are designed to frighten those who already profess to be Christians into submission – making them too scared to think for themselves.

After this sterling review, Reagan went on to relate that when he had first been approached to be one of the “expert commentators”, he refused “because I was fed-up with doing video interviews that were then edited to make me look foolish [I doubt that editing is required for that] and were used as part of a video program attacking Bible prophecy”. He went on to state that this had happened to him several times before and he would have none of it. But, the producer talked him into it, assuring him that the video would present biblical prophecy in a positive light. Reagan then went on to name several other “experts” who would also take part, including Rod Rhodes, Teresa Garcia, Don Perkins, and Gary Frazier.

Then, as if his initial review wasn’t quite enough, Reagan called the video “the finest video I have ever seen about end-times Bible prophecy”. He then proceeded to air select clips from said video, beginning with a scene illustrating humanity’s advances in the scientific realm, including space exploration. During this clip the narrator spoke about humanity’s “amazing progress”, but continued that this has made the “inhabitants of the world an over-confident and arrogant race”. Way to be anti-science without coming directly out about it.

But it is perfectly natural for the fanatical types to belittle science and education and academics and real scholarship in any case. It’s actually standard fare and no amount of reasoning will dissuade the fanatic that he/she is right because the Bible (or other holy book) says it.

The narrator continues; “Brewing underneath the haughtiness of mankind, like a sleeping giant, is the approaching fulfillment of gruesome and fearsome [see, be afraid!] prophecies predicted over millennia in the ancient writings of the Bible. . . .” pointing to “a supernatural reckoning; a time when the literal wrath of God will be poured out over all creation, when collective sinful debts of humanity will be reconciled. A time of great tribulation.” He should have the audience quaking in their collective shoes by now.

Dr. Reagan then interjects, stating, “Well, as you can see, this is a first-class presentation”. More clips of the video continue, alluding to the fact that the US is not mentioned anywhere in ancient biblical prophecy (go figure) and briefly attempting to explain why, as well as essentially endorsing the pre-tribulation Rapture. Dr. Ed Hindson, who was shown as attempting to explain these things, then states that Christ will return to claim his bride, a standard Christian doctrine. Frankly, I have no desire to be a bride, but I digress.

The narrator continues; “So, while the body of believers is whisked away to be with Jesus in the clouds, the world below is thrown into total disarray and panic such as the world has never known. The world will be left to wonder if this kind of event will happen again and, if so, when; and even worse, will they ever see their loved ones again (as a young lady is shown cowering in a corner, afraid and alone). With the disappearance of a large percentage of the global workforce, economies around the world will experience depression-era drops as under-staffed companies struggle to meet their production and financial projections. . . . Nations will be plunged into economic collapse”. “Catastrophic” environmental effects will ensue partly because nuclear reactors will leak radiation (another good anti-science whammy!).

Dr. Reagan again interjects “Airplanes will crash! Cars will crash! All kinds of things” will lead to “absolute anarchy! Martial law will have to be put into place.” One truly wonders here why he thinks others make him look foolish as he rants like a maniac.

I have to state that end-times apocalyptic scenarios have never done anything toward making me want to be a Christian. While it is true that, when I was an evangelical Christian, one of my favorite books was “Revelation” (along with “Hebrews”), that was mainly because they gave me a sort of distorted comfort in that I “knew” that I was saved, so I didn’t have to worry about any of it. It never occurred to me one time back then that there was no reason for me to know anything about this scenario if the Rapture was to take place prior to the Tribulation. Today I can confidently state that if this is “God”, then I want nothing to do with him. That any god would rain down wrath upon almost all of the human population, killing over half of them and allowing the rest to suffer (except for those raptured up, who didn’t have to taste death) in such a manner is beyond reasonable comprehension. But, again, they don’t really want you to use your mind to reason anything.

The narrator continues, “The years that follow will be the darkest time for humanity as the wrath of God is poured out over a rebellious and sinful world. Inevitably, those left behind will ask, why did they disappear?” As the narrator is speaking they go to a concocted news clip; an interview of a “professor of world religions” (clearly showing him as a dupe is a means by which they can insert anti-intellectual thoughts. Whether the clip is supposed to be showing “fake media” is, I suppose, up to the viewer). The screen caption reads “Where did they go? Millions disappear worldwide”.

As the female reporter asks the professor a question, the narrator continues, “The groundwork for mainstream deceptive explanations of what actually happened in the time of the Rapture has been in the works for quite some time”. The professor answers the news reporter, “There have been so many explanations that have been presented; and obviously the last twenty-four hours has been unprecedented in human history. And, so, we have to look at these different explanations, whether [get this] they be alien abductions or a collision of dimensions, coming from the scientific community. But my particular background is as a religious scholar [as the viewer sees the reporter’s eyes begin to glaze over], so I want to look at it from that perspective. People who have been followers of the New Age Movement, for example, have been saying for decades now that we are entering a new phase of evolution in human beings and that this evolution would be spiritual rather than physical”. The narrator then continues that because the present generation’s minds have been molded by Hollywood, with its science-fiction genre (even mentioning the transporter beam of Star Trek), these will give the “quickest explanations” for what is happening.

Seriously? This clip and the comments associated with it just made me laugh! Who has been attempting to concoct explanations for why people will suddenly be gone? What is their evidence for this? Do they really believe that people are sitting in dark, smoke-filled rooms just waiting for the Rapture to take place so that they can explain it away? Do these people really believe that anyone else actually believes this crap except for themselves? Nobody is trying to lay groundwork to deceive people when it takes place because nobody else believes it will take place! But, these fanatics accept any sort of conspiracy theory, and I suppose this must be among the newest ones. Beyond that, why would aliens come here and abduct people suddenly by beaming them away? And why on earth would they take only Christians if they did? And the “religious scholarly” perspective presented is weak at best. The New Age Movement, really? If anyone tried to write a novel with this set of scenarios I think it would have pitiful sales indeed as people would find the explanations lacking in credibility.

As they cut away from video clips, Dr. Reagan interjected that during the 1970s he was “mesmerized” by leaders in the New Age Movement as they would state that Christians would be taken away so that those who are left would take over and use reason to solve the world’s problems. He then added that when the Rapture happens they will say they were right all along. Now, I don’t know if that claim was ever made by leaders in this movement or not since I haven’t studied it in depth, but if it was it’s just as ludicrous as Christians believing they will be raptured away to be with Christ.

As the video clips begin to play again the narrator asks, “Is there a larger deception brewing; a pre-indoctrination embedded into the psyche of the science fiction sub-culture [with reference to] fans who may be comforted to believe that Christians were removed by a transporter beam or aliens?” Dr. Reagan immediately asserts, with no evidence to back him up, that “Yes, that will be one of the explanations; no doubt about it!” I was left to wonder how it could be that anyone could be “comforted” by the idea that aliens suddenly beamed away their loved-ones. But I do have to give them credit for one thing. If they are referring to the program “Ancient Aliens”, then there does indeed seem to be some kind of deception taking place, in my humble opinion.

Then the program moved on to clips showing the rise of the Antichrist, who, they emphasized, will ride a white horse and will be a “future political leader”. Dr. Reagan stated emphatically that he will rise to power peacefully and take over the European Union, and this will usher in the seven years of the Great Tribulation as soon as he signs a peace treaty with Israel. The video clips at this point show the Antichrist in various situations with what is obviously the leader of Israel, who is acting completely subservient to the Antichrist. It goes on to show the Antichrist with leaders of other nations too.

Most sickeningly, the leader of Israel, in all of these clips, is shown wearing a Yamaka, so that the viewer can be in no doubt that he represents Israel and Jews and is selling himself out to Satan. Only Orthodox Jews wear this headdress at all times in public, most others only wearing it during religious rites and prayers. Any Jewish person would see this as deliberately provocative and deeply offensive since there was no need to show the Israeli leader wearing this headdress since Israeli flags were also pictured, making it clear who was present.

Teresa Garcia then made what was, to me, the most bizarre statements up to that point as she expounded, with reference to the Antichrist, that “He is going to become Time Magazine’s man of the year . . . win the Nobel prize; he is the Antichrist”, as a clip is shown of Antichrist and the Israeli leader with one arm around each other, waving to the audience with their other arms. Too bad she didn’t cite a biblical reference for that bonkers statement! Oh, wait, there isn’t one. I guess the bar has been lowered for biblical scholarship since I was last in college.

Gary Frazier (incidentally, of Lamb and Lion Ministries) then interjected that the Antichrist will soon thereafter turn on the nations as well as on Israel and all those who are saved during the Tribulation (yes, these nut-cases really believe that people will come to a saving knowledge of Christ during the Tribulation while the Church is absent). How this is supposed to happen with the Church removed from the world is never effectively explained, as far as I can tell, anywhere.

Dr. Reagan then stated that the “Trumpet Judgments”, found in “Revelation” are nuclear wars, as Ron Rhodes sought to explain this. They then showed clips of the Antichrist going to the new Jewish Temple and declaring himself to be “God”, beside him standing this cheesy, overgrown likeness of himself that the false prophet (barefoot, bearded, and dressed in a white robe) causes to move in a halting kind of manner as the Antichrist laughs. It is said at that point that people all over the world will watch this live via TV and the internet.

The Jews reject the Antichrist and he moves to “annihilate” them. They then flee to Jordan, to the one place, according to these fanatics, they can – Petra, where it is stated that they will be protected for three-and-one-half years. It is referred to as a “secure location”. Most of this part of the clip was elucidated by Don Perkins.

The narrator then continued that Petra had been built by the Nabataeans “quickly, for no known reason” just prior to the time of the birth of Jesus (obviously insinuating that it had been built exactly for the purpose of protecting the Jewish remnant during the Tribulation). He continued, “Petra is defendable (sic), and remote. The Jewish remnant can be safe there from any land-based assault. And while modern technology would make it feasible to attack them from the air, biblical scholars believe that God will keep them supernaturally safe from any aggression of the Antichrist”.

Wow! I can’t begin to put into words how profoundly insane this scenario is! But these fanatical types truly believe that after all of these millennia, Christ will just protect the Jewish remnant (who have yet to accept him as Messiah), when he has never done so before, in of all places a place carved from rocks. Anyone with ANY military understanding would know that Petra is NOT defensible and that, even if all of the remnant could fit there and live for such a period of time (how they would get food and water, among other things is anyone’s guess), it could easily be besieged, surrounded by armies so that no escape could possibly be made. And I dare say that most biblical scholars would laugh at this scenario as much as I did.

Dr. Reagan then adds that Christ suddenly returns, and the surviving Jews receive him as their Messiah. Video clips begin again showing people gazing up at the sky as Christ returns to vanquish his enemies on the earth. Dr. Reagan continues that this entire scenario is designed to bring the Jewish people “to repentance”. He all but states that all of the persecution that the Jewish people have had to face, and will face during the Tribulation, is what will bring them to repentance and recognition that Jesus is their Messiah. He phrases it as Christ bringing them “to the end of themselves”. Then dr. Reagan gave his evangelization push speech.

By now, if I am Jewish, I am far beyond insulted and cannot fathom how it is that even greater persecution, along with other trials and tribulations, could possibly induce me to accept a Messiah who would make me go through all of it just so that I would repent! And whatever happened to the mandate given to the ancient Hebrews by God that THEY were to be the ones who would carry the way of salvation to the rest of the earth? THEY were to be the light of the world. These Christian fanatics have all totally forgotten that, demonstrating that their theology is on shaky ground, at best. The Jewish people have understood that they had their own “Great Commission” long before the coming of Jesus and even though, according to biblical writings, they have largely failed in this effort, the Bible does not stipulate that they will be brought back into line because they have been persecuted into it. And, theologically speaking, the Church has been tasked with fulfilling this mandate, according to New Testament writings, anyway.

Paganism is a Religion

Just as in any other movement, Paganism has its issues. And we all also have our own personal pet peeves. One of mine is the, apparently, increasing insistence by some that “Paganism is not a religion”. Not trying to be mean, but apparently the concept of “religion” is just a bit too complicated for some. At the same time, I have become convinced that there are those who are operating as trolls on social media so that each time anyone asks anything about Paganism, someone almost immediately responds with the “Paganism is not a religion” mantra.

Now, as some readers may be aware, I have been trained in, and hold, multiple degrees in religious studies. So I know a thing or two about religion. But, let’s dispense with a long diatribe about religion and what it is or is not here. Let’s keep it simple for those who just might be able to grasp this.

First, some definitions (for it is always good to begin with defining a term properly when one is debating what it is or is not):

  1. the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Synonyms: faith, belief, divinity, worship, creed, teaching, doctrine, theology, sect, cult, religious group, faith community, church, denomination, body, following, persuasion, affiliation “the right to freedom of religion”.
  2. a particular system of faith and worship; plural nounreligions;”the world’s great religions”.
  3. a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.
  4. a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion (Wikipedia).
  5. a set of beliefs that is passionately held by a group of people that is reflected in a world view and in expected beliefs and actions (which are often ritualized) (Simple English Wikipedia).
  6. human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly regarded as consisting of the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death (Britannica.com).

Also, from Patheos.comThe 221 Religions” May 17, 2017 by Gene Veith: “The United States military has nearly doubled its list of recognized religions to 221. The list includes the various forms of neo-paganism, which is as sectarian as any other religion:  Druids, Heathens, Pagans, Shamans, Magick & Spiritualists, Wicca, Seax Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, etc. But Satanists did not make the list.”

And, as I posted on Facebook on March 25 of this year in response to this very issue: “If you follow some form of Christianity, you are a Christian (no matter if some reject your or not). If you follow some form of Judaism, you are Jewish (no matter if some reject you or not). If you follow some form of Islam, you are Muslim (no matter if some reject you or not). If you follow some form of Hinduism, you are a Hindu (no matter if some reject you or not). If you follow some form of Paganism, YOU ARE A PAGAN (no matter if some reject you or not AND no matter if some think it isn’t a religion). How hard is that for some people to grasp? So tired of the “Paganism isn’t a religion” people. Get a life and quit trying to tell the rest of us what we are and are not.”

Now, I think that most anyone can see that it is rather difficult to actually define “religion”. The definitions utilized above vary widely as to what a religion is. But none say what a religion is not, and for good reason – because that would be even more difficult to define. In fact, it would likely be impossible. Frankly, one simply does not define what a given thing is not (although this method, i.e. apophatic inquiry, is sometimes used in theology to define what “God” is not – an obtuse method of argumentation, for sure). That would be an absurdity! Such is on the same general level as “argument from ignorance” (ad ignorantium), a logical fallacy which is defined as “The assumption of a conclusion or fact based primarily on lack of evidence to the contrary” (logicallyfallacious.com). And, as Wikipedia illustrates on their page “Evidence of Absence” “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

So, for those who insist that Paganism is not a religion, please check your facts and quit using fallacious arguments. You are actually harming the overall Pagan movement because (1) you are not educating anyone, (2) you are providing an argument which could serve to strengthen those who wish to deny us our Constitutional right to freedom of religion, and (3) you are also providing those who wish to deny those who want to practice some form of Paganism, but who may not know exactly what form they wish to adhere to, their Constitutional right to do so in the US military (do you have any idea how difficult it was to get the US military to recognize “Paganism” and its variants as legitimate, recognized religions so that those who practice them could come out and feel safe in so doing?).

In addition, also in the article on patheos.comThe 221 Religions“, it is further stated: “How this list will be used is unclear. Expect an initiative to provide religious support for all of these groups, and expect Christian chaplains to be pressured accordingly.” Indeed, this is exactly why we need to get recognized “Pagan” chaplains of any flavor in the US military – something I have pushed for over the years to no avail. An accredited educational system is necessary for this to take place and no variant of Paganism is stepping up to the plate even today, leaving Pagan members of the military without religious representation except for the occasional lay minister who cannot serve officially as a chaplain.

Finally, I want to reemphasize my suspicion that there actually are persons out there trolling on social media in a deliberate effort to confuse us so that we can’t develop a way to define ourselves. They do not want us to use the term “Pagan’ as a religion, an umbrella network, or anything of the kind. They want us to recoil any time anyone uses the term “Pagan” or “Paganism” to in any way define ourselves. This is a method of keeping us from uniting in any way and, sadly, it appears to be working. So, please, do not play into this – do not go along with the trolls who seek to keep us splintered and ill-defined at best. Let us, instead, work to unite on the things that actually do define us all as “Pagans”.

A Sudden Fascination with Apollonius of Tyana

A little while back I wrote a blog, entitled “Yes, Jesus Was Real”, refuting the notion that there is less evidence and historical documentation for Jesus than would be expected – a view held by some who are insistent that, because of a lack of historical narrative about Jesus, he simply could not have been a real person. I demonstrated how those who propose this idea are arguing from a position of ignorance and that to argue that someone was not real because one cannot find enough written about said person is non sequitur and, therefore, not logical. This because, as anyone who has studied logic at all will understand, one cannot prove a negative.

Now, I have no real issue with what any of these people personally believe. They can “believe” that Jesus was not a real person, or even that he was an alien, all they want (although such is also not logical in formulation), but to continue to insist that a perceived lack of evidence proves that he never lived is going beyond the limits of good sense. Yet, as late as yesterday I came across yet another attempt (in an article entitled “Where’s the Historical Evidence for Jesus?” by Dr. David E. Lee; published in “The Real Truth about Religion” [http://realtruthaboutreligion.blogspot.com/2015/06/wheres-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html#.XJpmZHtKiM8]) to somehow prove that Jesus never lived as a real person simply because of a lack of documentation for his life. I basically responded that there is actually plenty of documentation, whether one wishes to accept it as valid or not.

But what was even more distressing than reading this tired scenario played out yet again was the fact that, in this case, it was coupled with the now popular assertion that the life of Jesus was modeled after the life of the ancient Pythagorean philosopher who lived at roughly the same time (only a bit longer, it would seem), Apollonius of Tyana. The author brought out the supposed similarities in the two lives, along with scripture references from the New Testament, to bolster his argument and, supposedly, seal the deal.

Now, I am not going to get into all of that because it is not necessary to what I have to say. I could pose a refutation of each point, one by one, and bore the reader to tears. And that would be self-defeating. No, instead, in this case, I am simply going to go straight for the jugular.

ALL arguments claiming that Jesus was not a real person because of some perceived lack of documentation for his life fall completely apart exactly by tying his life to the life of Apollonius of Tyana. Why? Because of a serious lack of documentation for the life of Apollonius of Tyana!

Those who want to claim that there is not enough historical evidence for the life of Jesus actually use the life of another person to compare him to who has even less historical evidence for his life! Shocking, isn’t it!

I should here reiterate, from my previous blog “Yes, Jesus Was Real”, that the most important source for the life of Jesus, meager as it is, outside of New Testament writings and other similar texts that did not become canonical, is the historian Josephus. That his work has obviously been edited over time is irrelevant here if we accept that he himself did write at least SOMETHING about Jesus – even a mere mention. And I do accept that. Other ancient sources were Tacitus, the philosopher Mara bar Sarapion, the historian Suetonius, The Babylonian Talmud, Pliny the Younger, the emperor Trajan (who indirectly referenced Jesus and Christianity), Thallus, Phlegon of Tralles, Lucian of Samosata, Porphyry, Celsus and the emperor Julian (the Apostate). This is actually quite a few extant sources given the overall, and often wholesale, destruction of ancient documents that took place over the millennia since.

By contrast, the sources for the life of Apollonius of Tyana are the following: “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana”, written by the sophist Philostratus at the request of the empress Julia Domna (160-217 CE; wife of the emperor Septimius Severus) and completed after her death (thus, not even a contemporary source since Apollonius died in about 100 CE); a work purportedly by Apollonius himself entitled “On Sacrifices”, parts of which have been preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea; some letters purportedly written by Apollonius (no longer extant); a “Biography of Pythagoras”, purportedly written by Apollonius (no longer extant); a book written by an imperial secretary, Maximus, detailing the supposed works of Apollonius in Aegaea, Aeolis (no longer extant); and a biography of Apollonius by Moiragenes (no longer extant).

All of these latter sources were used by Philostratus for his work. Thus, in reality, we have ONE source for the life of Apollonius of Tyana. And it was written over one-hundred years after his death. In addition, not one of the sources mentioned can be considered to have been penned by a real historian. AND, not one of those mentioned by Michael Paulkovich in his book “No Meek Messiah”, whom he states should have at least mentioned Jesus, mention Apollonius in any way whatsoever. AND, if that wasn’t enough, not one of the sources that mention or allude to Jesus mention Apollonius at all, period.

Thus, articles and books claiming any connection whatsoever between Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana are at best fiction and at worst complete rubbish! One can posit a connection if one so desires, but one cannot base said supposition on anything that can be called evidence or documentation. Many things happened in history that we will never have any documentation for, so anything is POSSIBLE. But to purport to have evidence of any kind for this seriously flawed scenario is nothing more than charlatanry. These are articles and books of complete fiction.

If one wishes to read a book about the life of the man, Jesus, which is based on the evidence as it actually exists, then my book, “Apocalypse and Armageddon. The Secret Origins of Christianity” is one I highly recommend.

Neanderthals and the Nephilim

Bubble-burst before we even get there – this blog post is NOT about attempting to assert that the Neanderthals were the Nephilim of the Bible. I know that will disappoint some people, so I wanted to get it out there from the get go.

No, instead this blog post is about a quirky tendency of religious fanatics, because they read their holy books literally (most of the time), to make absurd statements that they cannot later back away from.

Case in point: Yesterday (3/18/2019) on the SBN Network program “Frances & Friends”, a question was posed by a caller as to how Neanderthals fit into the scheme of creation. My ears immediately perked up because I knew that this would be good, but I had no idea how delicious it would actually become.

Immediately Donnie Swaggart jumped in to answer the query. He explained that there is actually “no proof” that Neanderthals existed and continued to state that they have found no bones that they can prove are Neanderthal and that what has been found, he suggested, were later found to have been from some other animal species. Hey, I know the difficulties of trying to talk off the top of your head, but to trip yourself up THAT much in such a short space in time is a feat unto itself! And I won’t even get into all of it here. I will simply add that, in the end, Donnie Swaggart flatly stated that “Neanderthals never existed”.

That was early on in the program. If it had been left there, then that would have been enough fodder for anyone. But later another caller (sometimes I do think that people call in to try to trip the panel up and if not, then they do a good job of seeming to do so) asked if the Nephilim of the Bible were real. Again, Donnie Swaggart jumped right in without much forethought at all, stating that the Nephilim were definitely real and adding that they were a race of giants, products of cross-breeding between human females and angels (that he actually gets this mainly from the first Book of Enoch, he probably doesn’t even know).

The first irony here, if you will, is that Mr. Swaggart insisted that Neanderthals were not real and there is no evidence for them while on the very same program insisting that the Nephilim were real, providing no proof whatsoever. Of course, for the religious fanatic, if it is in their holy book then it must be real, after all. No further proof needed. Of course, an even greater irony here is that, because of the order in which the questions were posed, Mr. Swaggart missed out on a golden opportunity to claim that the Neanderthals and the Nephilim were one and the same. Whether he might have drawn that conclusion if the questions had been asked differently is anyone’s guess. but the fact is that such a connection was never drawn (and I am sure that others have drawn such a connection already).

For my part, the whole exchange just made me laugh! Mr. Swaggart was in a box of his own making from which he could not extricate himself, whether that had been the intent of the callers or not, and I knew that I would just HAVE to write something about it today.

Now, I don’t really care about the supposed argument here. I could care less whether he believes that Neanderthals existed or not. But, well before I decided to pursue theological studies my life’s focus was science. High school classmates even sometimes referred to me as “the mad scientist”. So, I take science seriously and I really chafe when people purport to know something and then spew babble all over the place for others to just lap up like kittens! In so many words, to put it more nicely, I take exception to what Mr. Swaggart said.

First: two skulls were initially discovered in separate caves in Europe, in 1829 and 1848. but only with the discovery of a third skull, accompanied with other bone fragments, in 1856, did researchers come to realize that they were dealing with a separate species of human. Since that time, more than four-hundred bone fragments of Neanderthals have been uncovered. So, unless one is positing that these bones are actually not Neanderthal, then there have indeed been many Neanderthal bone fragments found. Mr. Swaggart, therefore, is simply wrong.

But, more than this, DNA evidence has shown that all humans, other than sub-Saharan Africans, include SOME Neanderthal DNA. Now, one can hardly dispute DNA and EVEN on this very program one can find Frances Swaggart extolling DNA as “beautiful” and, of course, proof that there is a god. But, of course, if someone were to call into the program and ask her how it is that DNA is “proof of God”, but not proof of Neanderthals, she would refer to the question as “silly” (as she often does).

Of course, to be “fair”, some have claimed that they have found bones of “giants”. Some will also go on to claim that these are the bones of the Nephilim. I have, in the past, looked at the “evidence” for these claims and that, my friend, is what one would have to call “silly”. It is exactly on the same level as the “Ancient Astronaut Theory”; the “Flat Earth Theory”; the idea that gravity does not really exist (how one goes there is a feast for a mind that loves to be tortured by idiocy); the anti-vaxxers and their so-called “evidence”; QAnon (QMorons in my opinion) with their convoluted, incoherent conspiracy theories; people who believe in the planet Nabiru and the associated idiocy that comes along with it, etc., etc., etc. In so many words, the world, with the internet to support it, is full of bizarre “theories” having no basis in fact, just like religious traditions having no basis other than the Bible.

Finally, I want to make this disclaimer for those who still don’t understand as they read my blog posts. I am not here to bash religions, per se. That has never been my intent. A person has the human freedom to worship any way they want and to believe anything they want, as long as it is not harmful to others or to overall society or, dare I say, to the planet itself. I really don’t care if anyone believes some sort of misguided poppycock! Believe in Nephilim all you want. But, to attempt to authoritatively state that a scientific “fact” is not real, when there IS evidence for it, is a misuse of your role. The fanatic has long strayed from his/her, more or less, legitimate authority when it comes to explaining religious issues and has moved on into the political and the scientific. THAT is an absurdity that really should cease.

A Simple Truth

If you watch the TV evangelists, especially of late, you may note a decided tilt toward attempting to explain why capitalism is, somehow, “God” inspired. That’s right, for the televangelists “God” practically endorses capitalism. Well, at least that is the trend among American televangelists as they continue on their crusade to advance their end-times scenarios and paint the USA into the picture in any way possible. That also, by the way, means that Communism and Socialism are of the devil.

But, let’s be perfectly frank here. The real underlying issue with these televangelists is NOT whether “God” endorses a particular economic system or not. It is that people like these televangelists cannot function in non-capitalist societies. As they seek to export American Christianity to the ends of the earth they see well how difficult it is for their gospel to be propagated in countries where the economic system is not at least based on capitalism.

Have you ever wondered why there are so few evangelical Christian types in countries such as Russia and China? This is the reason. Try as they might, evangelical types in these countries have a very difficult time even surviving exactly because they can’t depend on their followers there to give them the massive amounts of money needed to prop up their ministries.

What that ultimately means is that it is us, you (not I, since I do not contribute) in Western nations, mainly the USA, who prop up these wayward ministries in far away lands (where they are allowed) with your hard-earned money.

Actually, there is a certain perverse logic to all of this. After all, if the USA were somehow to cease as a capitalist nation then this system would fall completely apart. So, in a way, it has to be “God” endorsed, doesn’t it? If American Christians were somehow to cease giving to all of these ministries, both here and abroad, then their evangelistic efforts would also have to cease. No money; no efforts.

It has always (and continues even to this day to) fascinated me that people will give to televangelists who regularly spout such nonsense that one would think that most anyone could recognize the absurdities contained therein. Frankly, you don’t have to be a theologian to spot the multiple errors that you will hear from them practically every time you bother to listen to them. But, as we know from psychology, self-delusion is a powerful thing and it will induce a person to do absurd things that he/she would never do otherwise.

Lately, televangelist Jim Bakker has been touting his new “prayer chapel”, which is being constructed (if we can believe him) mainly via the kind hearts and gifts of others who are contributing money, time, effort, and even (in one case) a block of silver, for it. But it doesn’t take a genius to spot trouble here already. Bakker has begun to expound on how he has been told by multiple people that he should not go ahead with construction of this chapel – that, somehow, it isn’t the right time or something. I, personally, think there is more to it than that, but I won’t speculate on that at this time except to state that I can’t see how this ministry isn’t floundering completely by now (and maybe it is). But I will state this; when he mentioned that they would also be building chalets so that people could pay for a place to stay while they were up on the mountain praying at said chapel I got a deep feeling that what was about to happen was very much akin to that which happened with Heritage USA. It sickened me.

The bottom line here is that these charlatans never really learn from the error of their ways. Once a charlatan; always a charlatan. If you send him (or any of the others) money, valuables, or provide any service for this (or any other ministry with its end-times scenario) and it fails, whether because of incompetence or some other reason, you only have yourself and Jim Bakker (or whoever heads said ministry) to blame. Don’t blame “God”. They will blame “God” somehow. Just listen and you will hear it. But don’t be sucked into it yourself.

Proto-On Death and Sacrifice

Life cannot continue without death. The ancients recognized this, and it is one of the reasons why they made sacrifice, especially animal sacrifice. The greater the animal, the greater the sacrifice. A sacrifice was either given completely to a deity or to the earth herself; or it was partially consumed by humans. Either way, it continued to provide life by way of its death and the cycle continued. Therefore, death was not only recognized as the beginning, it was shown to be the beginning by way of the action of sacrifice.

The monotheist has always striven to short-circuit the process and to blind people to this understanding. The ancient Hebrews did it by making sacrifice an appropriation, a substitute, for human frailties and sins. The Christians did it by claiming Jesus as the final sacrifice. Islam, generally, practices no sacrifice at all.

Today Christian fanatics are determined that they will live to be taken up in a rapture (since we are in the end-times, according to them) and, thus, never die, again short-circuiting the process. Indeed, they are just haughty enough to believe that they somehow deserve to avoid death, by virtue of being the last generation, while everyone else in all of history (including Jesus himself) has had to taste death! But, as each one of these modern-day fanatical “prophets” die, one by one, history will record that fact, and the cycle will still continue as it always has. Even so, I still actually hope that Jack Van Impe really is the “final prophet”, as he claims to be, because, frankly, we don’t need any more like him (or the rest of them, for that matter). Indeed, if endings are what they all seek, then may this be the final prophetic age.

Proto-On the Soul

During the past week I have had the occasion to have to endure Christian preaching at two separate funeral services. Having been a ministerial candidate myself many years ago I can actually sympathize with a preacher who really does not know the deceased and, yet, has to come up with something to say. Even so, my endurance was early tested when  this particular minister began, lightly, articulating the concept of the tripartite (human) being. Yes, he confidently stated, we are creatures of three distinct parts; body, soul and spirit, mirroring “God’s” nature of a trinitarian being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Never mind that this is patently illogical, this is what is widely taught in Christian circles. This concept is most directly taken from the New Testament passage of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 which reads “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB). Thus, an entire Christian doctrine is based on this verse almost exclusively.

I have entitled this “Proto-On the Soul” for the simple reason that I do not wish to delve extensively, in any detail, with the concept of the soul. I may well do that at some later point. After all, it has already been done multiple times by other authors before me, including ancient ones. One excellent treatise can be found on-line at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ancient-soul/. This article, entitled “Ancient Theories of Soul”, authored by Hendrik Lorenz, lays out in excellent detail the basic understandings of the concept of soul held by the most important ancient writers, most especially Platon (Plato), in Phaedo and Republic. Needless to say (or, perhaps, it is necessary to say), nowhere is the idea of the tripartite being postulated among these ancient intellectuals although it is postulated that the soul itself can be divided into three parts, but not separate, independent, parts. In essence, if we read the New Testament passage literally, as those who hold to the Christian tripartite concept do, we are actually reading a (perhaps deliberate) corruption of Platonic understanding.

To make things even more clear, it is patently illogical to posit that both a soul and a spirit inhabit a living human body, but this is what the tripartite concept stipulates. First of all, definitions provide the detail necessary to make this clear. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, for example, “spirit” is defined as “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms” while “soul” is defined as “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life”. Not much difference, right? In fact, there is NO difference. So, to posit that there is a difference between spirit and soul is illogical. But this is what Christians generally do in order to always place their beliefs above anything else; logic, reason, science, evidence – anything. After all, the Bible has to be infallible or their faith is in vain. That would be like us Pagans accepting Thale’s belief that magnets were alive because they moved on their own when coming into contact with one another as “gospel” and an infallible belief that we MUST accept or be damned. Just because something is animate does not mean that it is alive. if that were the case then we would have to say that machines or robots are alive. What an idiotic concept that would be! The concept of the tripartite human being is equally idiotic.

Inherent in Platon’s writings here runs a distinct train of thought, although it is not easy to notice if one does not pay attention. Platon makes a point that I will put into my own words. Beliefs are a symptom of a polluted soul, a soul that has not risen to excellence. This, because beliefs are beneath the aspirations of the good soul. Belief, therefore, is a far lower level of cognition than understanding. Humans have a more advanced soul than other living things. Base beliefs and emotions come mainly from the flesh (Phaedo). And beliefs are basically synonymous with baser desires, such as the desire for sex or the desire to accumulate money (Republic).

But, Christianity is a religion based almost entirely on “belief”. It is your belief and your child-like faith that matters, not your logic or reason. THIS, in fact, is where Christianity goes wrong and turns every ancient concept upside-down. As a Pagan who has an understanding of logic and reason and who does not place belief above evidence I sometimes feel sorry for the Christian and other monotheist who has to hold to vain belief, because they literally have nothing else. When death comes, would you rather understand or believe? For me, understanding is far better.

Yes, Jesus Was Real

Hard to believe, I know, but apparently this just has to be flatly stated so there can be no mistake made here. Jesus WAS real (although he was not quite the person depicted in the gospels). I know that I just made almost every atheist on the planet mad now by saying that because they have this peculiar penchant for believing that he could not have been real (and think they can prove it), but I don’t care. So, anyone who wishes to argue with me about it, don’t bother because, again, I don’t care. It does not bother me for one solid minute whether you (that means anyone) believe he was a real person or not. I am not here to convince you. So you can stomp around and hiss and squeal and cry about it all you want. Go sit in your little safe corner and dispense with the idea that you are going to argue me into submission. You won’t.

Now that I have got that out of the way (and got your attention), the logical question in any reader’s mind here has to be just what provoked that little diatribe. Well, you see, it all started when I posted something on Facebook about being tired of every Tom, Dick, and Harry writing books proposing to answer questions like this when they clearly do not have the training to properly evaluate the evidence that exists. Case in point, the relatively new book “No Meek Messiah” by Michael Paulkovich. Here is the statement I posted with reference to his book:

“So very tired of just anyone and everyone coming up with their own “theories” on this subject – the author, Paulkovich, is neither a theologian nor a real scholar in the field of theology (he is an aerospace engineer of something….). His analysis is deeply flawed because his method is not based on sound understanding of the documentation. He begins with an assumption, something always to be avoided if utilizing logic or reason, that just because we don’t see references to Jesus written by an astounding number of authors, then Jesus must not have really been real. In actuality, as I have read the reviews of this book, this part of his thesis is only a small part of his overall book and, therefore, it is unfair to characterize his book as emphasizing this, as is done here [in the article I posted along with my statement]. Be that as it may, this analysis is still deeply flawed for the above reasons. Frankly, some of the so-called “authors” listed are believed to have, perhaps, been fictional too – Apollonius of Tyana being, perhaps, most notable among them. The entire thing is an argument from absence, a logical fallacy. As I have heard it said “Should’a, would’a, could’a”. Such an argument is meaningless. If you want to know who the historical Jesus really may have been (for he really did exist) there are a number of scholarly books that can be consulted, including my own “Apocalypse and Armageddon”. Such “research” as this should be left to real theologians and historical scholars, not to those who have no background concerning whatever they might read.”

Now, to be even more fair, I don’t really like to counter another author’s hard work (for writing books can be quite taxing) unless he/she really merits it. The fact of the matter is that Paulkovich actually asks a good question in that he wonders why there are so few first-hand accounts of Jesus. BUT, the real truth is that he would not be asking the question in the first place if he had proper theological and historical training. Otherwise, he would already know the answer. To sum up what the answer would be, basically, it’s because; (1) we have so few records still extant from that time period so that, even if Jesus had been written about more, we would never know it because so much has been destroyed. (2) historians write about what they want to write about. They focus on what THEY want to focus on. No historian writes about everything and everybody even if they do know about them. Just because I know who Jimmy Carter is does not require me to write something about him. And (3) good historians utilize source material. They don’t just start writing willy-nilly off the cuff making stuff up without a reference. This means that they get their materials from either first hand sources or each other, i.e., other historians. And even then one historian will not utilize all of the material from another one. if they did history would be boring indeed. It would be endlessly repeated. SO, the answer as to why any number of people would not have written about Jesus even if they knew something about him is basically “because they either did and the material has been lost or because they didn’t want to”. It’s really that simple.

If you read that which had been written about him, and also about Christianity, during the earliest two centuries CE you will find that, frankly, he, and it, did not really attract much attention during those about two-hundred years. Nobody cared about Jesus or Christianity. And when they did write about him/it the remarks were usually quite disparaging, again showing that they simply did not care about the subject. The Roman mind simply believed it was a fad and that it would soon just go away on its own. Only when they began to see that it wasn’t going away did they start to take real notice of it and begin to write very much about it.

By now the reader should be already saying, quietly in his/her mind, “but you are off subject. Wasn’t the question whether Jesus was real or not?” Correct. Having pointed out that the above question as to why so many had not written about Jesus was actually a genuinely good question – for a novice with little or no training in history and/or theology, it is indeed time to move on to the primary question of whether Jesus was a real person or not. That, however, is actually NOT a good question. In fact, it is an unfathomably idiotic question. Here is the reason why. In reading any given history (and I am speaking to the novice as well as the seasoned scholar) one does not question the reality of those mentioned in said history unless one has an agenda for so doing. If you read about the exploits of Alexander the Great, for example, you don’t suddenly stop somewhere along the way and think, “Hey, this guy is unbelievable. I’m not sure he was really real. Nobody could have done all these things. In fact, I’m sure he wasn’t real and I am going to base my entire outlook on that ‘fact'”. When we read the Q’uran, as another example, we don’t stop and say “Hey, this Muhammad guy just doesn’t seem real. I don’t believe he was. I think I will base my entire outlook on that”. No, this simply does not happen. So the real truth is that if one does not question the reality of people like Alexander or Muhammad then there is simply no good reason to question the reality of Jesus – none! There is actually just as much evidence for one as there is for another. And even if there might conceivably be more evidence for the life of, say, Alexander, than the other two, it doesn’t matter. One does not reject the existence of a person in history just because you don’t see “enough” evidence from historical writings. It just doesn’t work that way. So, I’m sorry atheists (and others), your thesis that Jesus was not a real person is simply incorrect because there is more than enough evidence (and I don’t have to go into all of it because I already have in “Apocalypse and Armageddon”) to show this.

The actual question to be asked is not whether Jesus existed as a person or not, but who Jesus really was (and, if you are among the faithful, who is he to you personally). And the fact of the matter is that there are any number of books out there by wonderful scholars proposing to answer this very question in one way or another. As scholars, theologians, and historians, these authors look at the question from various viewpoints. These books, for the most part, are well worth reading. I utilized several of them in writing my own previously referenced book (remember, that’s part of what historians do).

So, please forgive me if I seem a bit annoyed whenever anyone asks the question as to whether Jesus existed as a real person or not and, sometimes on top of that, they won’t even bother to accept my direction to read scholarly books on the subject (the horror of having to read an actual book!!!). I’m sorry for those who have to have everything handed to them and explained to them individually while they try to argue every single point. I am simply not going to engage in that. But I am most sorry for the atheist who has this as his/her foundation – that there was no person named Jesus that the Christian religion was built around (some even maintaining that the Romans deliberately made up Christianity as a way to control the masses) – because as long as they maintain this as foundational then their entire world-view is subject to destruction. They are even more to be pitied than the Christian who builds his/her entire theology on the existence of an esoteric Christ who could not have existed at all. THAT is the Jesus who never really was, although the real one tried to be that person to an extent (Yes, you can see the progression). But one would have to have read much more about history than I am willing to provide in this blog post in order to understand what I mean here. Suffice it to say (again), there are any number of books out there that can be consulted on the matter, including my own “Apocalypse and Armageddon”. So, if you really want to KNOW, then read some of them. But, please, above all things, don’t argue from a position of ignorance.

END NOTE: Just to make this a little more clear, it should be noted that Paulkovich lists 126 persons who, apparently, did not write anything about Jesus but whom he thinks should have. That’s a lot of people. But the frank fact of the matter is that, outside of Christian sources, including the New Testament and other books not included in the canon, there were at least thirteen ancient sources that can be listed. They are Josephus (although, as I showed in “Apocalypse and Armageddon”, most scholars today believe the reference to him and Pilate are later interpolations, and I concur with this), Tacitus, the philosopher Mara bar Sarapion, Suetonius (always a Christian favorite), The Babylonian Talmud, Pliny the Younger, the emperor Trajan (indirectly), Thallus, Phlegon of Tralles, Lucian of Samosata, and, most important of all in my view, Porphyry, Celsus and the emperor Julian (the Apostate). Conversely, for the sake of emphasis, the number of ancient sources for Pontius Pilate (whom no one argues did not exist) are much fewer – four in all. They are Josephus (again, in an apparent later interpolation), Tacitus, Philo of Alexandria and the Babylonian Talmud (and perhaps others). AND, if this is not enough, it is well known that Pilate corresponded with the philosopher Seneca (whom Paulkovich also thinks should have written something about Jesus) because we have letters from Pilate to Seneca. However, we have no mention of Pilate in anything written by Seneca even though they clearly knew one another. Case closed.

Questions Any Religion Ought to be able to Answer (For You)

Having taken part in a rather extensive discussion about the very definition of Paganism and who we are as a movement (and generally getting nowhere), I came to the realization that it might be profitable for me to pose a list of questions that ought to be answered by any legitimate religion. As I worked on this list of questions I easily made the observation that Paganism, for the most part, fails to even try to answer most of these questions, and that became a concern to me. I am not saying that the answers are not found within Paganism; I am saying that most of today’s Pagan movements fail to offer answers directly to these questions, leaving the individual to try to answer them on his/her own. That, frankly, is a sad statement and one that should cause any serious Pagan to contemplate his/her place within the Pagan movement.

Equally sad was the overall fluff I found on the internet when this query was typed into search engines, actually coming from well-established religious movements, mostly Christian. It’s not that the various Christian denominations fail to answer these questions (for they do); it’s that, on the internet, at least, they fail to do so unless one looks specifically at their denominational doctrines, which takes more effort than most people are willing to put forth. Thus, their fundamental questions are also left unanswered. Personally, I was glad I had formulated my own questions before I did any internet research on the subject. But, please keep in mind that these questions, substantive as they are, are not all of the questions that could be posed. But, I think, these questions should be answered by any legitimate religion at a minimum.

I am also no tat this time posing answers here. That will come at a later time. The questions are as follows:

  1. Who are we? Who am I?
  2. What is our/my place in the universe?
  3. Was the world/universe created or did it simply come into being? Or, did it always exist?
  4. Who do we hope to be?
  5. What do we strive to accomplish?
  6. What is our hope/our purpose for existing? What is our place in nature/the universe?
  7. Is there something/anything beyond me/us?
  8. What is existence? Why do I/we exist? What is our purpose? What is the meaning of life?
  9. Does deity exist? If so, in what form? What is deity like?
  10. What governs the universe/nature, deity or scientific/natural laws? Does deity influence or control cosmic/natural events (does deity control the weather and/or other natural forces) or do universal/natural laws? Can/does deity override the cosmos/nature on occasion?
  11. Does deity care about me/us? If so, how do we recognize this?
  12. How do I/we relate to deity? How does deity relate to me/us?
  13. How/why do we pray? Is there a right/wrong way? What constitutes prayer?
  14. Is there life after death? If so, what form does it take?
  15. Does my/our life/death matter? If so, in what way?
  16. What happens to us when we die?
  17. Is there a place of eternal bliss? Of eternal suffering?
  18. What is our standard of ethics? How is it codified? From whence do our ethics come?
  19. What is our moral authority? What are the rules of the game of life?
  20. Do we adhere to a doctrine “set in stone” or is it more fluid?
  21. How/to what extent is personal inspiration (or UPG) taken into account?
  22. Which is more important – belief or conduct? How should they interact with one another in my/our daily walk?
  23. What constitutes salvation (enlightenment)? Why do we need salvation (enlightenment)? What must one do to be saved (enlightened)?
  24. Does salvation (enlightenment) require a savior or can one reach it on one’s own? Is there only one way to reach salvation (enlightenment) or might there be multiple ways/paths? If multiple, are all ways/paths equally valid? If not, why not? How do we determine this?
  25. Is there such a thing as “damnation”? If so, in what form might it take? If not, what happens to the souls of those who were evil?
  26. What is the relationship between soul and flesh/spirit and matter? Is the flesh/matter sinful/evil? If so, what must I/we do about it? If not, why is it good?
  27. How should I/we relate to humanity? Is there a point at which I/we should reject/withdraw from overall society? For whom/what am I/are we responsible and to what extent? To whom am I/are we accountable? How are responsibilities to be carried out?
  28. What is right and what is wrong? How do we define each? How do we determine right from wrong?
  29. Why do good and evil exist? What form might good and evil take? From whence do good and evil come?
  30. Is there an end of things or do we go on forever? Is time linear or cyclical? Is there a beginning and an ending or does everything simply repeat?
  31. What is true and what is false? How do we determine that?
  32. To what extent do we, as an organization, interact with society? Where might boundaries be drawn?
  33. What is the acceptable method for attracting adherents? Do we proselytize? If so, to what extent?
  34. What incentives exist for members? Will becoming a member better me or my life? What’s in it for me?
  35. Are there rites, rites of passage, or initiations that one must/should go through? If so, what are they and what form do they take? If not, why not?
  36. What is the standard of conduct/belief for lay members/for leadership?
  37. What sort of hierarchy exists within this movement?
  38. How are we organized? Is there authority? If so, what credentials are necessary for authority?
  39. What is the method by which one becomes a credentialed authority? What credentials must leaders have?
  40. How much authority do leaders have over me/us and my/our conduct?
  41. To what standard must leaders adhere in order to remain in authority? Is there an appeals process for those who fail to uphold said standards and what form might it take?
  42. How do we know that anyone’s authority is in any way sanctioned by deity?
  43. Who decides in matters of religious disputes? How does this process work?
  44. Who is/should be excluded/outcast? How do we determine this?
  45. Why reject anyone? Why not accept everyone regardless of belief or practice?
  46. What are the punishments, if any, for improper conduct/belief? How might they be carried out?
  47. Is there an appeal process? If so, what form does it take?
  48. What is the history of our movement? Is it new or old and well-established? Is it based on new concepts or old precepts? How much history/what history can we claim as our own?
  49. What historical personages do/should we venerate? Are there role-models whom we do/should look up to as standards for our conduct. If so, who are/were they?
  50. Do we have a holy book? If not, what do we rely on as a guide? Do we think literally or allegorically when seeking guidance?

The above questions having been posed (without answers) it seemed equally important to me, given current trends in our modern society, to pose just a few questions that should by no means be answered by religion. These questions should be outside of the realm of religious authority at all times.

  1. What form of politics is right? What form of government is best?
  2. For whom should I vote? What leader should I support?
  3. What political party should I adhere to?
  4. What economic system is right?
  5. Is any nation, including our own, “special”?
  6. Has/does god/the gods punish us as a nation or a people?
  7. What animals are good/not good?
  8. What race or ethnicity is superior/inferior? Are there superior/inferior ethnicities/races?
  9. What is one allowed to eat/drink?
  10. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? (Those who have studied religion will relish the poetic irony here. And I always wondered if the number would be different if they were talking about demons as opposed to angels, but I digress).