Archive for December, 2013

Why I Embrace Pope Francis: An Atheistic Liberal’s Affirmation

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2013 by Derreck Bennett

 

Pope Francis

 

It is absolutely understandable that one could read my blogs, my facebook posts, etc., and take me for a “militant atheist.” Obviously, I am highly critical of religion and its extraordinary claims. But, I personally don’t think that label is apt. While I share many characteristics with those in the New Atheist movement, there are some notable distinctions. For instance, I don’t feel that religion is the source of all evil, or that it needs to be eradicated from the face of the earth. I see no reason whatsoever to deny that much good is done in the name of religion, despite its flaws.

Most importantly, I have no animosity toward religious people in general. I rail against the politically-motivated Religious Right, because of their theocratic tendencies, and I subject Christian apologists to well-deserved scrutiny. But, outside of that, an individual’s personal beliefs are really none of my business. To quote Thomas Jefferson, “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Besides, there are just too many good, Christian friends and family members whom I cherish sincerely, and I refuse to treat them as ideological opponents. To the flames with any such “Us vs. Them” mentality.

It is in that spirit that I wholeheartedly embrace Pope Francis. I don’t give a damn about his personal religious convictions, or his position in the Catholic Church. I see a man who flies in the face of the Religious Right, exposing their flagrant hypocrisy. It boggles the mind that conservatives lay claim to Jesus, whose message was diametrically opposed to theirs (Mk. 10:21-25, Lk. 16:13). In the same ironic fashion, conservatives here in America condemn Pope Francis for following in Christ’s footstepsfocusing on the poor and impoverished. Teaching love, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. I actually wish Jesus would momentarily return just to put a swift sandal in Rush Limbaugh’s ass.

It’s not that I don’t see where conservatives are coming from, at least some of the time. In the realm of politics, I perceive a lot more gray than I do black and white. I get that there are people who abuse the system. I agree that individuals should be rewarded for their efforts. But, it seems to me that conservatives are missing the forest for the trees. They’re so narrowly focused on the “social ills” of government spending that they fail to grasp the underlying issue: the astronomically absurd level of wealth disparity in this country.

 

wealthdistribution

The deadliest sin we face isn’t sloth; it’s greed. If it weren’t for the gratuitous level of financial hoarding in this nation, we simply would not need as much in the way of government aid and entitlements. And the trend toward a declining middle class reveals just how severely things have gotten out of hand. More and more, the post-apocalyptic visions of Hollywood films, like The Hunger Games and In Time, are unfolding before us, the gaping rift between the “haves” and the “have nots” ever widening.

I am not here arguing for communism, lest one invoke such a ridiculous strawman. But, there clearly needs to be some kind of regulation, some system of checks and balances. If you decry this notion as an attack on “freedom,” whilst honest, hard-working people are struggling to feed their families and make ends meet, then you’re not really an idealist; you’re an asshole. Or, shall we say, willfully ignorant. Whatever the case, if the shoe fits, wear it. But, don’t pretend to be a true follower of Jesus. He sides with me. And with the Pope–a man whose humanism is deeply admirable, whether secular or religious.

 

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Identification With the Risen Osiris in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses

Posted in Uncategorized on December 1, 2013 by Derreck Bennett

 

During a stimulating discussion with a Christian scholar several months ago, I was challenged to present evidence for specific claims I made regarding mystery cult rituals and their similarities to Pauline Christianity. Among the most important was whether or not the initiate, Lucius, was ritually identified with the risen Osiris in Apuleius’ ancient work, Metamorphoses (11.21-23). If so, this would bear a striking resemblance to the identification of the believer with the risen Christ in Romans 6:3-5, and elsewhere in the Pauline corpus. I acknowledged that such mystical identification is not made explicit in Metamorphoses, but quoted a relevant scholar, Gwyn Griffiths, to this effect:

“In this cult the initiate can be identified with none other than Osiris, but here, after a ceremony which depicts the visit of the sun-god to the Osirian realm of the dead, the triumph over the dead is fittingly symbolized by an Osiris-figure with solar attributes. An identification with the god is therefore present” (Gwyn Griffiths, “The Isis Book,” [Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1997], 315).

Griffiths’ conclusion is based not only on Lucius’ adornment with twelve cloaks and a radiant crown (symbolizing the Zodiac and the Osirian Crown of Justification), but also on the longstanding tradition attested by ancient Egyptian funerary texts (Ibid., 315-16). Not to mention, it is remarkable that Lucius symbolically died and rose at the hands of the goddess, just as Osiris was believed to have done, literally.

Welp. Enter one Helmut Koester, scholar of New Testament and Early Christianity at Harvard University. In his Introduction to the New Testament, Koester denies any mystical identification between Lucius and Osiris based on the fact that explicit mention is not made of the latter (Helmut Koester, “Introduction to the New Testament,” [Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1995], 182). To be sure, Lucius dons “a precious garment of the highest god,” having “attained identity with the highest heavenly deity” (Ibid., 181). But, apparently, that’s not Osiris.

So, who is this highly exalted and grandiose deity? Unfortunately, Apuleius never tells us. Nope. Not ever. Oh, except for right here:

…Osiris, greatest of the gods, highest among the greatest, mightiest among the highest, lord of the mightiest… (Metamorphoses 11.28-30).

There, there now. Take a deep breath, Helmut. Even Harvard professors make mistakes. In the meantime, I’ll just go on being right. If that’s cool with you. Good news is, I got you a nice fruit basket, along with something to hang on your wall.

 

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