Enough is Enough

When is Humanity Going to Get That We’re All in This Together?

The Whole Racket Started with the Egyptians

Posted by honestpoet on December 13, 2006

Last night we watched a two-hour special on the Egyptian Book of the Dead (history chanel — one of our favorites, after the science chanel — knowing one’s place in time is as important as knowing one’s place in the material order). Fascinating, and probably the first time I’ve seen anyone on TV mention the similarities between the Isis/Osiris/Horus myth and the Christian story, which clearly recycles the old symbols of that as well as some others.

You know, I understand the human desire to believe in an afterlife. My father died young, when I was in my twenties. It would be comforting to imagine that he’s up in some Heaven somewhere, waiting for me to join him in my time. I certainly miss him plenty. And if my husband or children were to go, I’d be devastated, and really have trouble with the idea of never seeing them again.

But as I wrote in a poem that’s coming out in a magazine in February, about the time I almost died myself (and discovered, to my relief, that I did not fall back into prayer and grasp at the white robes of Christ in my fear, nor find anything but nothingness while I was without brain-stem function — no tunnel with light at the end, no deceased relatives waiting to welcome me), accepting the impermanence of life can add to its sweetness (grateful for every day), as well as strengthen one’s resolve to treat one’s family as one ought, with the love and kindness they deserve.

In researching markets for poems, I read a bunch of secular humanist articles yesterday. One was interesting, about whether or not we need to respect religion. The article came down strongly on the side of “no.” And I have to agree. Especially in my writing, I will not make any attempt to temper what I say to make anyone feel better about the fact that they cling to what’s clearly nothing more than ancient superstition. The world is speeding to a hell of its own making, fighting wars motivated at least on one side by religious intolerance (while many Americans may feel intolerance toward Islam, I don’t believe that’s the actual motivation of the adminstration…I think it has a lot more to do with that god of money, Mammon). I don’t believe Jesus even existed. And Muhammad was clearly a bi-polar nut who justified his bloody wars with spoutings of recycled stories picked up from traders in the desert. And why the hell is half the world held captive by the scriptures of some Semitic tribe who decided a few thousand years ago that they were the chosen people? Most of the Old Testament seems to me to be a lot of rationalization for killing and looting, not to mention a land-grab that covers pretty much the entire Middle East.

Allah is a moon god, and Jehovah’s the god of thunder, and their representatives have been killing each other for centuries. And thanks to the frickin’ Romans and their revisionist histories, all of Europe (and now the Americas) are caught up in this mess via the allegedly Holy Church.

We watched the Terry Jones miniseries on the history chanel some weeks ago, about the so-called barbarians. The episode that intrigued me most was the one on the Celts, and not only because I’ve got a lot of ancestry from those folks. What really amazed me was the advanced and egalitarian society they had before the Romans “civilized” them. Their legal code gave equal rights to women (women were second-class citizens in Rome, practically property), and protected children, the elderly, and the mentally handicapped, which seems pretty enlightened to me. The “civilized” Romans threw unwanted babies on the garbage heap. Egads.

Back to the Egyptians and their scrolls, I learned last night that those Egyptian priests really had quite a racket going. A scroll (to be buried with you to guide you through the trials of the afterlife) would cost a royal scribe half a year’s salary. This morning my husband joked about needing one. I said, “Yeah, you gonna spend $75K on it?” He said he figured if Bibles cost that much, there’d be a lot more folks around here reconsidering the whole church thing.

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23 Responses to “The Whole Racket Started with the Egyptians”

  1. whig said

    It starts with breadmaking, and the traditions that are passed along in the way of how to make it. Some keep the recipes for themselves, and some share them with others, and some give them to the world.

    This might seem odd to you, but it is at least a good metaphor if you do not understand more.

  2. honestpoet said

    I must be dense as an unleavened loaf today. I’m not following the metaphor, I’m afraid.

  3. whig said

    That’s fine, the proof of the bread is in the eating, after all.

    Let me restate without metaphor: Have you ever baked bread?

  4. honestpoet said

    On a regular basis!

  5. whig said

    Excellent. Then you will understand me well, I think. I hope you don’t mind the conversation.

    Do you use your own starter?

  6. honestpoet said

    Don’t mind at all.

    I use Red-Star yeast (comes dry, in a jar). I haven’t tried making sourdough with a starter yet, though I am eager. I proof the yeast with some sugar in warm water.

  7. whig said

    Religion is in many cases a metaphor to teach people how to find a starter and bake bread and share it with one another. Truly, this is something so basic and simple, but so profound, because in so many times and places the recipes are destroyed by the powerful to keep the poor in destitution and therefore willing to serve.

  8. whig said

    Here is my starter recipe.

  9. JanieBelle said

    Nope. Have to interject my own metaphor.

    Religion is an insidious virus. It spreads like wild fire, cares for nothing but its own survival, does nothing for the host, is almost always harmful, can be devastatingly debilitating, and if left untreated, fatal.

    Much better metaphor.

  10. honestpoet said

    It does seem awfully contagious, doesn’t it?

    Still, I think a better metaphor might be that it’s like a vestigial organ. It used to serve a useful function, which is why it evolved with us. But like the appendix, it now does nothing for us, and sometimes it gets nasty and inflamed and has to be removed.

  11. whig said

    I had to make a response by way of music.

    Anyone can remember stories from their family history. Should we not? Let’s just try to take the right lessons and not act as if we must imitate our ancestors, but think and choose the right path for ourselves.

    Is that too religious of a sentiment?

  12. JanieBelle said

    Let me take just a moment to apologize for my earlier, less than charitable comment.

    By way of explanation, I’ve been going several rounds with some very insane little fundy trolls at my own blog. I was tired, cranky, and rather quick to pull the trigger on a loaded insult gun.

    Apologies and kisses.

  13. honestpoet said

    S’alright, Janie. Having witnessed that train wreck, I completely sympathize.

    Whig, I haven’t seen Laurie Anderson in ages. Interesting, as usual. Thanks for posting that! Very funky. Of course, she got her quote from William Burroughs, and that’s about as questionable a source as scripture.

    Really, though, the religion-as-virus metaphor isn’t completely off. You may have a mild case and seem to be immune to the more virulent aspects, but that could very well make you a carrier and all the more dangerous! Still, I’d rather have you around than the fundy trolls, that’s for dang sure.

  14. whig said

    honestpoet, I assumed you thought me worth having around since you had added me to your blogroll. I’ve added you to mine, as well. My objective in blogging is not to talk to myself, but to exchange ideas with other people who have different ones than mine, and to do so as an equal.

    I hope you agree with that, but I don’t expect you to agree with much more unless it makes sense to you.

    The idea that I’m trying to convey is highly infectious, in my observation of it. You are already infected in merely reading this.

    As you say, not everyone gets the most effect, some seem to just get a contact high and smile. That’s probably best, because language is imprecise and the things that are described are only knowable by your own perceptions.

    Fundamentalists are people who take the words literally, and think they are to be followed to the dead letter.

  15. honestpoet said

    I agree (about the fundamentalists). I’m still on the fence about moderately religious people, though. What I mean about you being a carrier is no lie. The extremists develop among the moderates. If the moderates ceased to cling to faith, the extremists would have no place to fester, like a nasty infection exposed to the light.

    You’re on my blogroll because we agree completely about the war on cannabis, which is actually one of my major concerns. Unlike some atheists, I don’t see any reason to reject a person’s ideas in toto just because he’s religious (anymore than I reject family members who are). But don’t think that because I read your words they automatically infect me! A strict Irish-Catholic upbringing is one of the best inoculates against religion one can have. 🙂

  16. honestpoet said

    And thanks for adding me to your blogroll! Like you, I’m not writing just to talk to myself. I appreciate the endorsement, and the exposure.

  17. whig said

    Can you agree that mythologies enrich culture with lessons that can be learned? I certainly would never expect you to take anyone’s words for truth without your own experience being what informs your opinion.

    For my own part, I have learned how to make excellent bread and now wine because I understood the recipes that do not make sense unless and until you begin following them.

    Like the pancakes thing, I’ve since discovered that many bakers will make them, but why? Because you develop a relationship with your starter, it is a living creation under your responsibility, and it feeds you as you feed it.

  18. honestpoet said

    Yes, I do agree that many mythologies contain stories that can teach lessons (even the Bible has some good ones, though most teach very, very bad lessons, like how to hate, like incest is okay, genocide is fine if your god tells you to do it, that sort of thing). I’ve read a lot of Joseph Campbell, as well as his sources, and I enjoy the study of mythologies very much. But RELIGION, now that’s something else. Religion is taking mythology, i.e., fictional stories, as fact (and usually duping someone out of money, which was the original point of the post). That’s a real problem, especially since a lot of the people who get duped by it do so in order to give full reign to their hatred of the Other.

    I’ve got two kids…so I know a bit about being responsible for a living creation. Also what it’s like not to understand something until you practice it.

    I think a lot of religious people assume that atheists like myself don’t “get” religion because we’ve never really tried it wholeheartedly. But I have. I tried VERY HARD to find a religious practice that would work for me. I spent ten years as an active seeker, after leaving the Church (which I attended every Sunday of my childhood…heck, I still said the rosary in college). I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time, but I can say I never felt complete, authentic, true to myself, until I gave up trying to make myself believe in God.

  19. whig said

    I never made myself believe in God. Maybe that’s the difference. I just figured it out for myself and understood that there are ways of expressing things that some will understand and others will undoubtedly misinterpret.

    It’s important that we remember our traditions when they teach us how to live well, and it’s also important to recognize that our ancestors have made mistakes, as you undoubtedly have made mistakes as a parent.

    The thing about mistakes is that they become learning experiences too.

  20. Antibush said

    Bush and the Republicans were not protecting us on 9-11, and we aren’t a lot safer now. We may be more afraid due to george bush, but are we safer? Being fearful does not necessarily make one safer. Fear can cause people to hide and cower. What do you think? Why has bush turned our country from a country of hope and prosperity to a country of belligerence and fear.
    What happened to us, people? When did we become such lemmings?
    The more people that the government puts in jails, the safer we are told to think we are. The real terrorists are wherever they are, but they aren’t living in a country with bars on the windows. We are.

  21. honestpoet said

    People who are afraid are easier to control.

    Antibush, while I appreciate what you’ve got to say, I don’t really see how it relates to this post/discussion. Did you put this where you meant to put it?

  22. JanieBelle said

    Honestpoet, AntiBush is a spambot.

    A rather successful one however, as I’ve seen basically this same post on several blogs and even got it myself.

    Just so y’know.

    Kisses to you.

  23. honestpoet said

    Ah. Thanks, JanieBelle.

    Kisses to you too, and Happy Valentine’s Day.

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