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Posts Tagged ‘God’

labelledameMarion Zimmer Bradley retells the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the women – the much maligned Morgaine, Viviane, Igraine, Gwenhwyfar and Morguase. A feminist perspective which gives the classic characters new depth and dimension. It’s a fantastic and pleasant read, whose flaws don’t make it any less interesting.

The Mists of Avalon politics and intrigue take place at a time when Christianity is taking over the pagan worshipping island-nation of Britain – it shows the legendary rise and fall of Camelot. God vs Goddess, Christianity vs Paganism, Patriarchy vs Matriarchy, Love vs lust are some of the dominant themes of the book.

Though Bradley explores interesting ideas in ‘Avalon,’ her writing is disorganized to the extreme. In her efforts to cover everything – King Arthur’s Round Table, Pellinore’s dragon, the Holy Grail, – the book become an enormous tome of almost 900 pages with

Too much mush and too much Christianity is bad and Paganism is good. When we actually see the hard lives Morgaine and Viviane have to lead because of their faith, the harsh decisions that they take – one would prefer the less-taxing Christian God who doesn’t seem to mind having dumb priests in his service.

Gwynhwyfar and Lancelot have to be the most irritating characters ever created. From a vapid, frightened, stupidly-prejudiced girl, Gwynhwyfar grows into a hypocritical, adulterous and seemingly pious, over-religious female.

Gwenhwyfar is shown to deeply fear and hate the Goddess yet she had no compunctions in asking Morgaine for a charm to cure her bareness. And again her constant bullying of King Arthur to turn the country Christian is nothing short of tyrannical. She uses her knowledge of theladyofshallot2 incestuous (accidental) relationship he has with his sister as a Damocles sword over his head to emotionally blackmail him and get what she wants. Also her own inability to carry a child, she blames on Druid Kevin when she miscarries. Gwenhwyfar is so whiney and whimpey that one wishes Arthur had just shut her up (as he was advised by many of his councilors).

Lancelot is another irrriating character. He is never happy with what he has, but is always lusting after something or the other. There is a also a hint by Bradley that he might be a homosexual, because of his attraction to Arthur and the threesome they once have during the Beltane fires.

The fight between Christianity and paganism is delightful to watch; in particular the arguments and counter-arguments placed. For me these thoughts resemble my own struggle to relate Christianity and the dominant religion of my country-Hinduism.

Believers of each religion seek to influence both Arthur and Uther – but ultimately Christianity ascends the throne.

The Isle of Avalon is painted in bright, seraphic, rose-tinted colours. The Isle is the centre for druids and priestess, inititated into the worship of the Goddess and one of the last abodes in Britain still untouched by Roman occupation or Christianity. The island surrounds itself in a mystical era – the mists and fogs protect this haven from the once-borns or those lacking in physic powers.

An interesting and pleasant read, for everyone except the history buff, because of its large-scale historical inaccuracies.

(For the full review, visit castlesinthair)

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In defence!

Hi,

I have been mailed (plus left comments) questions from determined theists about my beliefs or disbelief. Rather than mailing them the same old answers to the same questions, I thought a post will help clarify things. I respect people’s religous sentiments, so please respect mine and do refrain from sending me hate mail, just because I’m an atheist.  On this blog, I have written less than 5 per cent on atheism. I don’t even want to promote it. If you practise a religion which doesn’t believe in killing other people, I’m happy for you. I am interested in lots of other things like journalism, pets, books, poetry, etc and my blog reflects that.

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So rather than defend my own views I thought I’ll just post what Bhagat Singh said in 1930 (Again I have removed some of Bhagat Singh’s comments – like when he specifically names religions. I don’t want people next accusing me of being pro-RSS, pro-Bajrang Dal or pro-Christians):

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As for the negative side. we ask a few questions from the ‘believers’.

If, as you believe, there is an almighty, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God-who created the earth or world, please let me know why did he create it ? This world of woes and miseries, a veritable, eternal combination of numberless tragedies: Not a single soul being perfectly satisfied.

Pray, don’t say that it is His Law: If he is bound by any law, he is not omnipotent. He is another slave like ourselves. Please don’t say that it is his enjoyment. Nero burnt one Rome. He killed a very limited number of people. He created very few tragedies, all to his perfect enjoyment. And what is his place in History? By what names do the historians mention him? All the venomous epithets are showered upon him. Pages are blackened with invective diatribes condemning Nero, the tyrant, the heartless, the wicked.

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One Changezkhan sacrificed a few thousand lives to seek pleasure in it and we hate the very name. Then how are you going to justify your almighty, eternal Nero, who has been, and is still causing numberless tragedies every day, every hour and every minute? How do you think to support his misdoings which surpass those of Changez every single moment? I say why did he create this world – a veritable hell, a place of constant and bitter unrest? Why did the Almighty create man when he had the power not to do it? What is the justification for all this ? Do you say to award the innocent sufferers hereafter and to punish the wrong-doers as well? Well, well: How far shall you justify a man who may dare to inflict wounds upon your body to apply a very soft and soothing liniment upon it afterwards? How far the supporters and organizers of the Gladiator Institution were justified in throwing men

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before the half starved furious lions to be cared for and well looked after if they could survive and could manage to escape death by the wild beasts? That is why I ask, ‘Why did the conscious supreme being created this world and man in it? To seek pleasure? Where then is the difference between him and Nero’?

For people who don’t believe in previous birth, you cannot advance the argument of previous misdoings of the apparently quite innocent sufferers? I ask you why did the omnipotent labor for six days to create the world through word and each day to say that all was well. Call him today. Show him the past history. Make him study the present situation. Let us see if he dares to say, “All is well”.

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From the dungeons of prisons, from the stores of starvation consuming millions upon millions of human beings in slums and huts, from the exploited laborers, and the wastage of human energy that will make a man with the least common sense shiver with horror, and from the preference of throwing the surplus of production in oceans rather than to distribute amongst the needy producers…to the palaces of kings built upon the foundation laid with human bones…. let him see all this and let him say “All is well”.

Why and wherefore? That is my question. You are silent.

All right then, I proceed. Well, there are those who say all the present sufferers belong to the class of sinners of the previous births. Good. You say the present oppressors were saintly people in their previous births, hence they enjoy power. Let me admit that your ancestors were very shrewd people, they tried to find out theories strong enough to hammer down all the efforts of reason and disbelief. But let us analyze how far this argument can really stand.

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From the point of view of the most famous jurists punishment can be justified only from three or four ends to meet which it is inflicted upon the wrongdoer. They are retributive, reformative and deterrent. The retributive theory is now being condemned by all the advanced thinkers. Deterrent theory is also following the same fate. Reformative theory is the only one which is essential, and indispensable for human progress. It aims at returning the offender as a most competent and a peace-loving citizen to the society. But what is the nature of punishment inflicted by God upon men even if we suppose them to be offenders. You say he sends them to be born as a cow, a cat, a tree, a herb or a best. You enumerate these punishments to be 84 lakhs. I ask you what is its reformative effect upon man? How many men have met you who say that they were born as a donkey in previous birth for having committed any sin? None. Don’t quote your Puranas. I have no scope to touch your mythologies. Moreover do you know that the greatest sin in this world is to be poor. Poverty is a sin, it is a punishment.

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I ask you how far would you appreciate a criminologist, a jurist or a legislator who proposes such measures of punishment which shall inevitably force man to commit more offences? Had not your God thought of this or he also had to learn these things by experience, but at the cost of untold sufferings to be borne by humanity? What do you think shall be the fate of a man who has been born in a poor and illiterate family of say a chamar or a sweeper. He is poor, hence he cannot study. He is hated and shunned by his fellow human beings who think themselves to be his superiors having been born in say a higher caste. His ignorance, his poverty and the treatment meted out to him shall harden his heart towards society. Suppose he commits a sin, who shall bear the consequences? God, he or the learned ones of, the society?

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What about the punishment of those people who were deliberately kept ignorant by the haughty and egotist Brahmans and who had to pay the penalty by bearing the stream of being led (not lead) in their ears for having heard a few sentences of your Sacred Books of learning-the Vedas? If they committed any offence-who was to be responsible for them and who was to bear the brunt? My dear friends: These theories are the inventions of the privileged ones: They justify their usurped power, riches and superiority by the help of these theories. Yes: It was perhaps Upton Sinclair, that wrote at some place, that just make a man a believer in immortality and then rob him of all his riches, and possessions. He shall help you even in that ungrudgingly. The coalition amongst the religious preachers and possessors of power brought forth jails, gallows, knouts and these theories.

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I ask why your omnipotent God, does not stop every man when he is committing any sin or offence? He can do it quite easily. Why did he not kill war lords or kill the fury of war in them and thus avoid the catastrophe hurled down on the head of humanity by the Great War? Why does he not just produce a certain sentiment in the mind of the British people to liberate India? Why does he not infuse the altruistic enthusiasm in the hearts of all capitalists to forgo their rights of personal possessions of means of production and thus redeem the whole laboring community – nay the whole human society from the bondage of Capitalism. You want to reason out the practicability of socialist theory, I leave it for your almighty to enforce it.

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People recognize the merits of socialism in as much as the general welfare is concerned. They oppose it under the pretext of its being impracticable. Let the Almighty step in and arrange everything in an orderly fashion. Now don’t try to advance round about arguments, they are out of order. Let me tell you, British rule is here not because God wills it but because they possess power and we do not dare to oppose them. Not that it is with the help of God that they are keeping us under their subjection but it is with the help of guns and rifles, bomb and bullets, police and millitia and our apathy that they are successfully committing the most deplorable sin against society- the outrageous exploitation of one nation by another. Where is God ? What is he doing? Is he enjoying all I these woes of human race ? A Nero; A Changez : Down with him.

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Do you ask me how I explain the origin of this world and origin of man? Alright I tell you. Charles Darwin has tried to throw some light on the subject. Study him. Read Soham Swami’s “Commonsense”. It shall answer your question to some extent. This is a phenomenon of nature. The accidental mixture of different substances in the shape of nebulae produced this earth. When? Consult history. The same process produced animals and in the long run man. Read Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’. And all the later progress is due to man’s constant conflict with nature and his efforts to override it. This is the briefest possible explanation of this phenomenon.

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Your other argument may be just to ask why a child is born blind or lame if not due to his deeds committed in the previous birth? This problem has been explained away by biologists as a more biological phenomenon. According to them the whole burden rests upon the shoulders of the parents who may be conscious or ignorant of their own deeds led to mutilation of the child previous to its birth.

Naturally you may ask another question though it is quite childish in essence. If no God existed, how did the people come to believe in him? My answer is clear and brief. As they came to believe in ghosts, and evil spirits; the only difference is that belief in God is almost universal and the philosophy well developed. Unlike certain of the radicals I would not attribute its origin to the ingenuity of the exploiters who wanted to keep the people under their subjection by preaching the existence of a supreme being and then claiming an authority and sanction from him for their privileged positions. Though I do not differ with them on the essential point that all faiths, religions, creeds and such other institutions became in turn the mere supporters of the tyrannical and exploiting institutions, men and classes. Rebellion against king is always a sin according to every religion.turning_grave

As regards the origin of God my own idea is that having realized the limitations of man, his weaknesses and shortcoming having been taken into consideration, God was brought into imaginary existence to encourage man to face boldly all the trying circumstances, to meet all dangers manfully and to check and restrain his outbursts in prosperity and affluence. God both with his private laws and parental generosity was imagined and painted in greater details. He was to serve as a deterrent factor when his fury and private laws were discussed so that man may not become a danger to society. He was to serve as a father, mother, sister and brother, friend and helpers when his parental qualifications were to be explained. So that when man be in great distress having been betrayed and deserted by all friends he may find consolation in the idea that an ever true friend was still there to help him, to support him and that He was almighty and could do anything. Really that was useful to the society in the primitive age.

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The idea of God is helpful to man in distress.

Society has to fight out this belief as well as was fought the idol worship and the narrow conception of religion. Similarly, when man tries to stand on his own legs, and become a realist he shall have to throw the faith aside, and to face manfully all the distress, trouble, in which the circumstances may throw him. That is exactly my state of affairs. It is not my vanity, my friends. It is my mode of thinking that has made me an atheist. I don’t know whether in my case belief in God and offering of daily prayers which I consider to be most selfish and degraded act on the part of man, whether these prayers can prove to be helpful or they shall make my case worse still. I have read of atheists facing all troubles quite boldly, so am I trying to stand like a man with an erect head to the last; even on the gallows.

school_prayer

Let us see how I carry on : one friend asked me to pray. When informed of my atheism, he said, “During your last days you will begin to believe”. I said, No, dear Sir, it shall not be. I will think that to be an act of degradation and demoralization on my part. For selfish motives I am not going to pray. Readers and friends, “Is this vanity”? If it is, I stand for it.

(Pictures courtesy atheistcartoons )

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Being an atheist from a Christian background, people automatically assume I’m angry with God and dead against the church. For me, I’m indifferent to the whole “God exists or not” debate. While I don’t think Christ was God, I do like him for being a radical in his times. I like him because

a)he didn’t act holier-than-thou & goody-goody like the Pharesees & Sadducees

Remember, the prostitute (or in these politically correct times, I must call them commercial sex workers (CSW))? Jesus didn’t judge her. He didn’t want her stoned to death like the patriarchs of those days & today (name change: In the Middle-East countries & Pakistan they now call it “honour killings”). Of course, whether she was a CSW or an adulteress is debatable, because different versions of the Bible seem to give different accounts. Anyway, when she was brought up before him, Jesus said, “Let he, who is without sin cast the first stone.” A direct reference to men and their own state of sinfulness and also a veiled reference to the fact that all of those present had lusted after her and might have also slept with her. That means, he held the men responsible for adultery also, not just the women, who in most cases are only victims of the system.

b)He wanted women to participate in theological debates & not be mired down by the traditional responsibilities of women like housework.

Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken away from her.” Mary’s sister Martha is busy cooking dishes in the kitchen for all the men present, while Mary sits with Jesus and talks about spiritual things. When Martha overburdened with the housework wants Mary to help, Jesus gives this reply.

I don’t know if any of my readers have attended Christian religious meetings. But the prayer meetings always used to end with the serving of tea and refreshments. So my grandmother and myself (our house used to be the centre for such church-oriented activities) always had to miss out on what the pastor said and start heating the tea and laying out the refreshments like homemade sandwiches & vada. And the womenfolk also had a lot of cleaning up to do afterwords. If only a few menfolk in my family had pitched in, the women needn’t miss out on the meeting. But then the men had more important things to do like debate about theology. Even in church functions it was the same story.

I feel a lot of blame for this state of affairs, should be laid at Apostle Paul’s feet, who said, “Women should be silent in church, they should not cover their head, etc, etc…”

c) He was a radical. Though by birth a Jew, he made friends with Roman tax collectors, fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers

Samaritans in those days were discriminated against and did not occupy the upper elechons of power. In his parable, “The Good Samaritan” Jesus tried to criticise the inhumaneness of the religion some religious heads practise and set a Samaritan’s actions in good light. Roman tax collectors like the tax collectors of today did not win any awards for popularity. But Jesus befriends Romans too. And not being class-conscious, he befriends fisher-folk & lepers.

I remember my English lecturer in MCC, who was a Gandhian, drew a diagram in class to explain Christ’s exemplary behaviour in embracing all communities & people from all religious backgrounds. He asked what was the centre of power in those days. We replied “Ceasar and his Roman empire.” What comes next? “The Roman Senate & powerful noblemen.” Next in the circle? “Roman citizens, tradesmen.” Next? “Jews (the occupied race)” And finally at the bottom of the social structure, you have all of Jesus’s friends: “Fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers.”

d) He didn’t like churches minting money in God’s name

How about if someone came to your church, broke all the stalls selling CDs, self-improvement Godly books, drove out all the salesmen manning the stalls and declared that “pastors must not turn God’s house into a money-making enterprise.” Would you not be angry with him? Yet, this is what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, when he saw that the Jews had converted the synagogue into a market. He overturned all the pigeons cages, drove out all the vendors and sellers and declared “Don’t turn my father’s house into a den of thieves.”

e) “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.”

People are nailing him to the cross, after stripping him naked, mocking at him and whipping him mercilessly. And he instead of railing at them angrily, asks for their forgiveness. Truly, a great man! That’s why I guess, people started worshipping him as God. He is the one person, who truly followed his teaching of “Turning the other cheek.”

As Friedrich Nietzsche said and quoted often by Karl Marx, the last Christian died on the cross”

Rachel Chitra

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For a short time, I worked as a vacation bible school teacher in our area when I was 18. I was totally unprepared for the amount of questions the kids asked me…

For starters, we were reading the Nativity scene.

One of the kids ask me: How was Jesus born?

Me: Jesus was born in a manger. He was a really sweet baby and all the angels came to sing after he was born….

Kid stops me with: But how did he become God’s son? Did God adopt him

Me: No! No! God didn’t adopt him. He’s God’s son.

Kid: (Silent…in deep thought…finally exclaims) So Mary is God’s wife!

Me: (Feeling trapped) No! Well….. Mary is Joseph‘s wife. But the Holy Spirit visited her and told he she would become pregnant…And Jesus was born

Another kid: Out of an aeroplane? My mother says babies are dropped out of aeroplanes.

First kid: Don’t be stupid! They didn’t have aeroplanes then

Another kid: You are only stupid! You said Mary was God’s wife. Ha Ha

(More words! A fight breaks out. I untangle the two little, fighting furies and send them off to wash their face and drink a glass of water. I pretend nothing has happened and continue with the lesson)

Me: So Jesus was born in a manager with goats and cows, because they had no place to stay…

Another bright kid #3: How bad! Cows stink, they keep on shitting….We have a manger near our place

Kid #4: They don’t stink. We have cows. They are nice

Me: No talking in class.

(I proceed with the class, ignoring all interruptions. My bad luck, our pastor came to see how my class was faring and so did the two little warring heroes)

Pastor: So how is everybody today? What did you learn?

Kid #4: Jesus was very poor. His mother had no money to go to a hospital. So she went to a hotel. The hotel told her to go away. So she went to a cow stall and had a baby. Joseph helped her. Angels then sang “Happy Birthday.”

(I blushed red at this highly-coloured version of the Nativity scene. The pastor turned to the next boy)

Pastor: So why do we celebrate Christmas

Kid #5: Because its Santa’s birthday

(Severely embarrassed, I cringe)

Pastor: (In a patient tone) Christmas is celebrated because Christ was born on that day. That is why everyone celebrates Christmas……

From the next year, no one invited me to teach at the Vacation Bible School, and I have a strong feeling that this pastor was involved in the decision

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