Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here, from The Washington Post.

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's president celebrated the start of Hanukkah by visiting Warsaw's main synagogue Sunday, a gesture the city's Jewish community greeted as a historic step in its revival.

Lech Kaczynski's visit marked the first time the head of state has attended a religious service at a synagogue in Poland, whose Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust and later suffered from communist-era repression.

Pre-WW2 Poland had a huge Jewish population, and huge anti-semitism among Poles. Simon Wiesenthal recounts his high school experience:

Two years before the outbreak of war the Radical elements had invented a "day without Jews," whereby they hoped to reduce the number of Jewish academics, to interfere with their studies and make it impossible for them to take examinations. On these feast days there assembled inside the gates of the High Schools a crowd of fraternity students wearing ribbons inscribed "the day without the Jews." It always coincided with examination day. The "day without the Jews" was thus a movable festival, and as the campus of the Technical High School was ex-territorial, the police were not allowed to interfere except by express request of the Rector. Such requests were rarely made. Although the Radicals formed a mere 20 percent of the students, this minority reigned because of the cowardice and laziness of the majority. The great mass of the students were unconcerned about the Jews or indeed about order and justice. They were not willing to expose themselves, they lacked willpower, they were wrapped up in their own problems, completely indifferent to the fate of Jewish students.
. . . In the side streets ambulances waited patiently and they had plenty to do on examination days. The police too waited to prevent violence from spreading outside the campus. . . .

Given this historical context, the visit to the synagogue by Poland's president is a very welcome step.

The attempt at a Final Solution was possible only because there existed in the populations conquered by the Nazis an embedded anti-semitism. There never were enough Nazis to carry out the Final Solution without help. In conquered nations where the Gentile population refused to round up Jews, such as Denmark, the Nazis were unable to put their plans into effect.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Fr. Zakaria Botros, that is. If you are a regular reader, you've been introduced to him. He is a Coptic priest who is having a big impact on the Muslim world. His Arabic-language television show is watched by an estimated 60 million people, mostly Muslim. He teaches and debates for conversion--from Islam to Christianity. There is a price on his head, but modern technology and sensible precautions have kept him alive so far.

Now he has won the 2008 Daniel Award.

Story here.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here. Link from The Layman Online.
British archeological archives indicate that the Aksa mosque, built on the Temple Mount, may have been constructed on the site of a Byzantine Church.

The photo archives of a British archeologist who carried out the only archeological excavation ever undertaken at the Temple Mount's Aksa Mosque show a Byzantine mosaic floor underneath the mosque that was likely the remains of a church or a monastery, an Israeli archeologist said on Sunday.

Building mosques on the site of conquered religious sites has been Standard Operating Procedure for Islam since the beginning. (Mecca was not an empty piece of desert prior to Islam.) Ask the Hindus in India what happened to lots of their temples. Ask Christians about Hagia Sophia.

Religion of Tolerance my ***.
The Infidel Bloggers Alliance yesterday contained this post by Rolf Krake on the growth of Asatru in Denmark, and its implications for the Danish Army. The writer, an atheist and a Dane, expressed an admiration for this belief system, stating that if he were to have a religion this would be it.

Outside Scandinavia most people do not know what Asatru is or their values so a quick explanation is needed to know what an Asatru believer is - He is one who believes in the old Norse deities as did the Vikings, Asatru is not a religion in the sense as we know it from monotheistic religions but a way of life and spirit and a set of values of some can be found in the Havamal.

Moral virtues inculcated by this religious system include courage, honor, and independence. With these values, many Asatru believers join the Danish Army.

"They want to be soldiers and some of them have got a romantic dream about dying in battle. Then you are assured to go to Valhalla" Says the asatru society Forn Sidr's secondary chairman about his young male co-believers who are deployed in the Danish Army. . . .
"They want to be soldiers and some maybe have got a romantic dream about dying in battle. Then you are assured to go to Valhalla. The Asatru-believe is right up the alley because it emphasizes on masculine values. You are persuaded to show courage and to protect the community, all are values which also belongs in being at war" he explains to Kristelight Dagblad.

According to Army priest Christian Madsen who have been on mission in Kosovo and Iraq the Asatru believers are so visible that the latest camp in Iraq, Camp Einherjer, was named after einherjerne, who in the Norse mythology were the Viking warriors who felt in battle with honor and found worthy to live in Valhalla.
Christian Madsen do not know how many Asatru believers there is in the army. But he underscores that they are very visible both in the military at home and on the international missions.

"There is a great deal of Asatru believing soldiers there have got a romantic dream of the community solidarity one experienced in the old North. The Norse mythology is heavily influenced by war and probably also one of the reasons they want to be soldiers. You notice them because they have got Thor's hammer as a necklace and tattoos of the Midgard serpent or other Viking tattoos on their arms" Says Christian Madsen to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Asatru seems to be growing worldwide, and even has an internet presence, such as this site. In the United States, Asatru has an appeal to White Supremacists who prosyletize in prisons.

The last link is to an article from today's (October 31) CBS website, here is a portion:

A man who murdered a fellow inmate during a pagan religious ceremony was executed Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeals and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine denied his request for clemency.

Michael Lenz, 42, received a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center and was pronounced dead at 9:07 p.m.

When asked if he had any final words, Lenz gave a slight shake of his head, indicating no.

Lenz and another inmate, Jeffrey Remington, were sentenced to death in 2000 for stabbing 41-year-old Brent Parker a combined 68 times with makeshift knives at the Augusta Correctional Center. Lenz had been serving a 29-year sentence after being convicted in Prince William County of burglary and weapon possession.

The three inmates were followers of the Nordic pagan religion Asatru, and belonged to a group known as the Ironwood Kindred. The kindred was gathered for a ceremony when Lenz and Remington attacked Parker at the foot of a makeshift altar.

Asatru has been gaining popularity among inmates, say religious leaders and prison experts who believe its roots in Viking mythology attract prisoners seeking power, protection and unity.

Asatru belongs to the much larger category of Neopaganism, which means a revival of beliefs and rituals from European paganism. There are a wide variety of groups and practices, and most are not violent or particularly martial. For example Wicca, which focuses on the Earth Mother. And Druidism, reviving ancient Celtic beliefs. Neopagans can be found in most Western cultures, and are working for greater recognition and respect.

So, why the revival of the Old Gods and Goddesses? Perhaps a search for community, prison inmates are not the only ones who feel a need to belong to a group for protection and identity. In Eastern and Central Europe neopaganism has been linked to a search for national identity. And,some feminists and environmentalists are drawn to the idea of an Earth Mother and a sacred earth.

But, in the main, I think Neopaganism can be understood as a replacement religion for Christianity. Most of Western Europe secularized in the nineteenth century, and the decades since WW 2 have seen this trend accelerate. But, since scientific secularism is so basically unsatisfying to people, and postmodern anomie even less satisfying, Religion will be found. With Christianity seemingly discredited, paganism once again had an appeal. And with Christianity associated in people's minds with the modern dominant industrial culture, those who cared for the environment and those who despised patriarchy felt the appeal of the old gods and goddesses.

The more martial paganisms, such as Asatru, with its strong appeal to men, also reflects a Christian failure, I believe. In much of Western Christianity, especially in Protestantism, the nineteenth century witnessed what is called "the feminization of Christianity." Not only were most worshippers women, but the role of the mother as the keeper of the family's religion was stressed. The softer virtures such as humility received more attention than fortitude. And the believer's relationship to Jesus Christ was presented in femine terms; even Jesus became feminized. Compare these two Victorian Era hymns with earlier hymnody.

1. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
calling for you and for me;
see, on the portals he's waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home;
ye who are weary come home;
earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
calling, O sinner, come home!

2. Why should we tary when Jesus is pleading,
pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
mercies for you and for me?

3. Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
passing from you and from me;
shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
coming for you and for me.

4. O for the wonderful love he has promised,
promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,
pardon for you and for me.


I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I'd stay in the garden with Him
'Tho the night around me be falling
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

These two hymns are Victorian feminine sentimentality. No wonder some men have trouble relating to Jesus as portrayed in many churches. Compare them with two from an earlier century

1. Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Does His successive journeys run;
His kingdom spread from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2. To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And endless praises crown His head;
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
With ev'ry morning sacrifice.

3. People and realms of ev'ry tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His name.

4. Let ev'ry creature rise and bring
His grateful honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud "Amen!"


1. Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
once for favored sinners slain;
thousand, thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

2. Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at naught and sold him,
pierced and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

3. The dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears;
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshipers;
with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture,
gaze we on those glorious scars!

4. Yea, Amen! Let all adore thee,
high on thy eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
claim the kingdom for thine own.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Everlasting God, come down!

These last two, from an earlier era, present a masculine Jesus.

Of course, the old paganisms never really went away. As I write this on Halloween, I have been interupted by costumed children seeking candy on the date of an old pagan festival. And, in less than a month I'll put an evergreen tree up in my house. At my first teaching job, the elementary children of the school had a May Day celebration with a Maypole. The pagan religions were simply domesticated and Christianized. But now that Christianity is weakened in the West, they are slipping the leash and growling at their handlers.

30/10: UFO Religion

It is not too late to register for UFO Conference 2008, November 7-9 in Las Vegas. Speaker topics include "UFOs and the National Security State," "Roswell's Day in Court; The Deathbed Testimonies," and "Disclosure 2009? Exopolitics and the New Administration."

Though I have never attended a UFO Conference, I am going to guess that the people there will range from the strongly curious to the obsessed, from those who think of UFOs in terms consistent with modern science to those who think in terms of "light beings" and multiple dimension and time travel.

And, there may be attendees for whom UFOs are central to their religious beliefs and feelings.

From Wikipedia (yes, I know I knock some of their entries, but this one is legit)

A UFO religion or UFO cult is an informal term used to describe a faith community whose belief in the existence of extraterrestrials and/or UFOs is a central component of its religion and practice.

Though their beliefs are highly varied, UFO religions commonly believe that alien beings exist; that they have played, or are still playing, a key role in human history; and that at some point in the future, humanity will become part of a wider galactic community. The arrival or rediscovery of alien civilizations, technologies and spirituality will enable humans to overcome their current ecological, spiritual and social problems. Issues such as hatred, war, bigotry, poverty and so on are said to be resolvable through the use of superior alien technology and spiritual abilities. Such belief systems have often been described as millenarian in their outlook.[who?]

Of course, not all believers are members of faith communities of the like-minded.

Perhaps the most famous, or infamous, UFO cult was Heaven's Gate, whose members committed mass suicide on March 27, 1997.

Trolling the internet, one can find "revelations" that

The third secret of Fatima also concerns the return of Jesus Christ and the fact that mankind is going to have contact with inhabitants from other planets. I was told that all mankind will realize that we are not alone in the universe. We will understand that many of these beings are much more evolved than us, not only on a psychological level, but above all on a spiritual level. And I was asked to talk about what Jesus Christ tried to teach us, the fact that we have to love one another, that we have to respect the planet, to respect one another, exactly what he taught us 2,000 years ago. I was asked to spread this message to the world. Read more.


The power-oriented civilization behind the 2008 Disclosure Management Psyops does not represent the future of human civilization. That civilization - which we call the "permanent war economy" - represents a species of human consciousness which is destined to become extinct during the emergence of transparent, interactive contact between our Earth and ethical advanced Extraterrestrial civilizations surrounding and following alignment during the period 2011-2012 with the gigantic Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, 23,000 light years from Earth, and 4000 as heavy as our Sun. As our Earth approaches alignment with the Black Hole, time as a dimension accelerates and human consciousness stratifies into two domains or dimensions. For polarity's sake, we can call these two domains "Fear & Contraction" and "Love & Expansion".
During this post 2011-2012 transitional period we are entering, Exopolitics - the new political science of outer space - and Exo-consciousness - humanity's emerging Extraterrestrial consciousness - will establish the platform for transparent and inter-active contact between an emerging human civilization based on values of sustainability, Universality, cosmic Love and advanced ethical Extraterrestrial civilizations.
Read more.


I also strongly suggest that there are many people who have experienced themselves outside of their own physical and mental bodies.

This is a form of existence for many human beings on earth. There are doctors and scientist who are aware of people who say they have had near death experiences (NDE), out of body experiences (OBE), and ET UFO experiences. (ET UFO Exp). Some prefer to call these contacts, some abduction, and some experiences. Regardless of the words chosen or accepted while in discussion, these situations are real. The differences that have occurred are based on the individuals and yet we know there are now similarities.
Read more.

What do I think? Well, it is a big universe. May be we are not alone, that there are other sentient beings with civilizations perhaps more technologically advanced than our own. But, I cannot imagine that our obscure solar system on the edge of our galaxy is some sort of high-traffic space crossroads. If other races exist, odds are we'll never meet. And, I don't think they are necessarily higher spiritual beings than ourselves.

What interests me most, is the way UFOs function for some people as a focus for religious feelings and beliefs. Scientific secularism is ultimately unsatisfying to almost all people. Homo sapiens seems hard-wired for belief. We need to believe in something that transcends the ordinary, that is higher than ourselves, that gives us hope. Some people find this in UFOs. I pray that some day they may find it in the truth as it is in Jesus.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Copper mines from the time of King Solomon found south of Dead Sea. Story.

The oldest Hebrew text found written on a pottery shard, about 3000 years old. Story.
The Ark of the Covenant, according to the Bible, was a wooden box, overlaid with gold, in which were the Tablets of the Law. Housed in a movable tent for centuries, it later was placed in the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built. It is generally assumed that the Ark disappeared when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, hauling the treasures back to Babylon.

However, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes they have the Ark, kept safe and guarded for millenia in Ethiopia.

Story from The Smithsonian Magazine.

Posted by: an okie gardener
This story from the NYT reminds us again of the violence between Muslims and Hindus in India. At issue is a Hindu shrine in Kashmir and control of 98 acres the Kashmiri government wants to turn over to the panel overseeing the shrine to build shelters for pilgrims. Local Muslims are protesting violently.

For those with historical knowledge, Muslim outrage is ironic, since Muslim conquests have always involved destruction or takeover of the religious sites of the conquered peoples.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Henry Chadwick, gifted historian of the Early Church, has died at 87. His work exemplifies the genius of British scholarship--careful, thorough, not going beyond the evidence in its claims. While he had a personal agenda, the health and unity of the church, he never let it get in the way of his scholarship. He was devoted to scholarship, the church, and his family. He is survived by his wife of 63 years and three daughters. He was an Anglican priest.

NYT obituary.

RIP Brother Chadwick.