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British Museum & Google develop online Lord Ganesha exhibition

Special to Earthpages.org

British Museum (BM) has developed an online exhibition “Celebrating Ganesha” with Google Cultural Institute (GCI).

Its tagline includes “Explore the imagery and symbolism associated with Ganesha and gain an insight into some of the most popular stories surrounding him.”

It shows a Ganesha sculpture (1200), Ganesha painting (1600), Ganesha on a swing painting (1800, Maharashtra), Ganesha in procession painting ((1780-1820, Tanjore style), Ganesha on his rat mount painting (1800)—all from BM, and a video on “The making and worship of Ganesha statues in Maharashtra.”

It explains about the background of “Why does Ganesha ride a rat?”, Ganesha’s elephant head and Ganesha’s broken tusk.

Rajan Zed, commending BM and GCI for this joint venture in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged world museums and multinational technology companies to undertake projects to explore the rich philosophical thought and wisdom offered by Hinduism and Hindu scriptures.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, appealed to major art museums of the world; including Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay of Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Los Angeles Getty Center, Uffizi Gallery of Florence (Italy), Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern of London, Prado Museum of Madrid, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, etc.; to frequently organize Hindu art focused exhibitions, thus sharing the rich Hindu art heritage with the rest of the world.

In Hinduism, Lord Ganesha is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking.

BM, headquartered in London and founded in 1753, is claimed to be the first national public museum in the world. It now comprises over 8 million objects spanning the history of the world’s cultures: from the stone tools of early man to twentieth century prints. Sir Richard Lambert is Trustees Chairman, while Dr. Hartwig Fischer is the Director as of spring 2016.

The GCI claims to bring “together millions of artifacts from multiple partners, with the stories that bring them to life, in a virtual museum.”


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The Black Madonna of the Darker than Dark Forest


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Why do people tell stories?

Our library contains many of The Great Courses and so far I’ve enjoyed several segments. Here’s a new one that I found refreshing. I should add, though, that Joseph Campbell notes that stories also can help us through certain life stages. Possibly the lecturer in this video says this elsewhere. What we see here is only a clip.


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Jesus… myth, fact or a bit of both?


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Star Wars a modern myth


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The problems with Big History and turning science into myth

English: Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane S...

Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine and Richard Dawkins at its launch in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lisa Sideris, Indiana University, Bloomington

In 2002, a conservative Christian pastor named Michael Dowd and his science writer wife, Connie Barlow, quit their jobs, sold their possessions, and purchased a van they decorated with symbols of a Jesus fish kissing a Darwin fish. Since that time, these two have lived largely as itinerant preachers whose message is the wondrous revelation of science.

These evolutionary evangelists are part of a growing movement that looks to science for a new sacred story that has more staying power than traditional religions. Its proponents proclaim a grand narrative of what is called cosmogenesis – the unfolding of the universe, from the moment of the Big Bang to the present – as a modern sacred myth for all people.

The new cosmology – a word that here signals both the study of the universe and an overarching religious worldview – defines human beings as the part of the universe that has become conscious of itself. We are the only creatures to have evolved an awareness of our place in the universe. Humans’ dawning cosmological awareness, it is believed, will connect us emotionally to cosmic processes, allowing us to feel more at home in the universe. Sensing our place in cosmic patterns and processes will inspire sustainable practices on Earth.

A new story is urgently needed, the argument goes, because we suffer from a crippling condition of modernity known as amythia: we lack a serviceable myth to orient us to what is real and important. The stories provided by the traditional faiths are no longer plausible or relevant in light of modern science and our global environmental crisis. We need a consecrated science, a new Genesis, according to this line of thinking.

Bill Gates is down with Big History.

The movement has unleashed a deluge of books, films, YouTube videos, websites, podcasts and university course offerings that proclaim the mythopoeic, or myth-making, virtues of science.

This new cosmology displays many of the earmarks of the Anthropocene, a new geologic age of humans. We are the dominant, planetary presence in whom the cosmos has entrusted the next precarious phase of Earth’s evolution. Our task as a species is to guide the planet into a new, hoped-for geological era – the Ecozoic – characterized by mutual enhancement of humans and the planet.

Will this cosmology spark a new wave of environmental consciousness?

‘Epic science’ as religion of reality

It was the late 1970s when Thomas Berry proclaimed the need for a new cosmic story. Berry’s diagnosis was that the old religious narratives had lost much of their power and functionality. Our storylessness was exacerbated by scientists’ seeming reluctance, at that time, to present their knowledge in grand, mythic form. That would soon change, as a wave of science popularizers – Carl Sagan, Edward O Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett – stepped in to portray science as an epic quest whose rewards are vastly superior to the charms of religion.

Today, a cluster of Thomas Berry’s devotees remain. Some regard insights from sociobiology and evolutionary psychology as foundational to the creation of a new common myth, since evolutionary science both explains our need for religious myth and provides the raw materials from which to craft it.

The universe as a story – the legacy of Thomas Berry.

In 1978, as Berry issued his call for a new story, E O Wilson identified something he called the evolutionary epic, “probably the best myth we will ever have.” Humanity’s “mythopoeic” needs would one day be fulfilled by the epic grandeur of scientific materialism. Science would claim its rightful place as a superior “alternative mythology.” With his subsequent publication of Consilience in 1998, he laid out his vision of scientific knowledge so complete and unified that it would tell us who we are and where we came from. A number of Berry’s followers seized upon Wilson’s prophetic words and set to work constructing a sacred narrative.

In a similar vein to Wilson, Dawkins has long argued for the superiority of scientifically clarified – that is, real – forms of wonder and awe vis-à-vis “fake” wonder at mysteries, puzzles or miracles.

Dawkins’ book, The Magic of Reality from 2011, is directed at child audiences. Science in hand, Dawkins takes on the true genesis of rainbows, as well as such vexing queries as “When did everything begin?” and “Why do bad things happen?” The book’s message is that science is not one way of experiencing wonder. It is the authentic way. The magic of reality is “wonderful because it’s real.”

Self-styled evangelists Dowd and Barlow promote Dawkins’ Magic of Reality as an important step toward a new “religion of reality,” and hail the so-called new atheists as daring prophets of reality.

Other advocates include religion scholars Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim and Loyal Rue; mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme; “big historiansDavid Christian and Cynthia Stokes Brown; astrophysicist and science educator Eric Chaisson; and biologist Ursula Goodenough.

Cosmology and ethics

A subset of Berry’s disciples turn not to the seductive – and reductive – paradigm of consilience, or linking together of different disciplines to form a grand unity of knowledge, but to advances in Big Bang cosmology as evidence of the implicit narrative structure of reality.

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, senior lecturers at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, have teamed up with Berry’s protégé Brian Swimme to launch a multimedia phenomenon called Journey of the Universe. Their claim is that the past century of cosmological science has brought forth a coherent, comprehensive account of the universe and our place in it. We now understand ourselves as the “heart and mind” of a deeply anthropic universe in which our species’ emergence was implicit from the very beginning.

Universe Story movements promote cosmology as a source of ethics. They imply we must model our lives after the deep, meaningful patterning of the universe itself which displays impulses of creativity, intimacy and relationality. Yet, as Woody Allen recognized in a memorable scene from Annie Hall, it remains unclear how we are to get any practical ethical guidance from the perspective of an expanding universe that seems to render our earthly concerns meaningless.

What’s the point? The universe is expanding.

How might the inherent creativity of the cosmos – say, the nuclear reactions of stars – point us toward renewable energy sources and away from, say, nuclear reactors or geoengineering? Proponents offer woolly assurances that “wonder will guide us.” Yet, much of the narrative’s wonder seems directed at ourselves. We are the being in whom the universe “shivers in wonder at itself,” the one species complex enough to have pierced the cosmic veil.

A planetary education

The new cosmology has real-world impacts. It seeks to confer unity and a comprehensive context to every stage of the educational process, from childhood to professional training. The idea of E O Wilson’s Consilience similarly insists that unity of knowledge offers the best way to reform university education, to “renew the crumbling structure of the liberal arts.”

Disciplines oriented to the study of human culture will eventually cede much of their territory to science, Wilson predicts. The humanities earn their keep as disciplines that serve science by embellishing its authoritative narrative with poetry, art or dance. As Wilson explains, science provides “real” content and the humanities obligingly disseminate it in appealing forms:

“the humanities could in effect continue to do their thing, but they would have vastly richer material to work with – grander themes – because the real world of the universe, from black holes to the origin of consciousness, offers far more complex and grander themes [than the humanities or religion].”

Wilson’s followers call for a consilient college curriculum that introduces students to the Epic as the integrating theme of their entire university experience. A number of universities around the country, including Harvard University and Washington University in St Louis, offer courses on The Epic of Evolution or The Universe Story. These courses introduce students to a grand narrative whose meanings are by definition largely given in advance, whose options for student self-understanding are neatly contained and prescripted.

The new religion of reality may be coming to a classroom or pulpit near you. You will know it by its tagline: “One world calls for one story.”

The Conversation

Lisa Sideris, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Director IU Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics, and Society, Indiana University, Bloomington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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God and the Ancient Egyptians

English: A Grave mask of pharaoh Amenemope of ...

A Grave mask of pharaoh Amenemope of the 21 st Dynasty of Egypt. (Cairo Museum).(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By

Most knowledgeable people acknowledge that one of the biggie Biblical tales details God’s relationship with Pharaoh and the firstborn in Ancient Egypt. Does this relationship put God in a favorable or an unfavorable light? What follows arises out of a debate I had with an Accidental Metaphysician which I’ve edited for, hopefully, sake of clarity. It should come as little surprise that I argue that God is not shown in a favorable light in this Biblical tall tale. In fact if Egypt were to conduct its version of the Nuremberg Trials, God would now be dead in the dock.

Regarding God & Egypt

Power corrupts; absolute (omnipotent) power corrupts absolutely. Judging from the Old Testament, not even God is immune from being absolutely corrupt when wielding His absolute power! Just ask the Egyptians!

God behaved unjustly with the Egyptians. God only had an issue with one and only one Egyptian – an unnamed Pharaoh.

Okay, God had an issue or a dispute with the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh. It was the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh who refused to “let my people go”. So what does the God of justice do, punish the whole lot of the Egyptian people (and the innocent animals) with the icing on the cake being the smiting all the first-born who were 100% innocent of any possible wrongdoing. God had an issue with the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh; not with the Egyptian populace. So God behaved unjustly with the Egyptians. This is what is known in the trade as logic.

By the by, the unnamed Pharaoh was more likely as not a first-born too, so how come he didn’t get snuffed out?

To repeat the bleeding obvious, God did NOT have an issue with the Egyptian population in general. He didn’t send Moses to talk to the Egyptian people. He was directed to talk to this mysterious unnamed Pharaoh.

Now, regarding God versus Pharaoh and the first born: If you have a beef with me you don’t go around punching out the lights of my friends, neighbors, work colleagues, etc. You go toe-to-toe with me and only with me. The same principle applies with God’s beef with Pharaoh. God doesn’t go punching out of the lights of the first born.

Now let’s revisit the issue of God killing the Egyptian first-born as related in Exodus. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God had an up close and personal beef with the local Egyptians who happened to have been first-born through no fault of course of their own. You’re totally innocent of where you happen to be born in your family’s hierarchy. So God’s killing the first-born was just an easy means to an end, or, as well all know, the ends justify the means. Wasn’t that the reasoning behind Germany in World War Two? Germany had a “problem” and so Germany invoked a “solution” – an extermination policy of the innocent.

English: Depiction of Joseph reading to the Ph...

Depiction of Joseph reading to the Pharaoh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about the Livestock?

And God certainly didn’t have any issue with the animals who equally got shafted! It was also the first-born of all of the Egyptian livestock that was done away with by God. Why? What’s the point? What was God’s ‘beef’ with the livestock? It makes God a laughing ‘stock’ IMHO. I’m laughing at God. Actually animal cruelty is no laughing matter and God should be absolutely ashamed of Himself. What an idiot! It’s all nonsense if you’re not one of the true believers.

God the Omniscient?

That little incident also puts the BIG LIE to God’s all-knowing abilities since He had to have His people (the Hebrew people) mark their homes with blood so God would pass over them when He did His smiting. An all-knowing God would know which house housed who. So God’s omniscient abilities are nonsense in that a really all-knowing deity would know who was and who wasn’t devout and obedient without the need for blood markings. It’s all such a load of rubbish.

Speaking of being all-knowing, If God is all-knowing, then God knows in advance when and where the next major and deadly earthquake, tsunami, bushfire, hurricane, etc. is going to be. God however will give no warning to the innocent nor interfere with the event happening. So, any claim about God’s mercy or morality is a load of pure bovine fertilizer.

God the Omnipotent?

Besides, if God is so all-omnipotent, He could have just floated up His Chosen People* and wafted them gently across the wilderness to the Promised Land. Nobody need have suffered, no blood need have been shed, and no one need gotten snuffed out. But we know how much God loves to cause suffering and death and destruction since He’s done an awful lot of it.

God the Omniscient and the Omnipotent

A truly all-knowing and all-powerful God wouldn’t kill the innocent. Being all-knowing, He’d know who was naughty and who was nice way before-the-fact. Being all-powerful, He could, should and would (?) act accordingly. This is also what is known in the trade as logic! Alas, He didn’t! My conclusion is that God is not omniscient nor omnipotent, or else God just doesn’t plain give a stuff.

Defending the Indefensible

But of course those true believers, like the Accidental Metaphysician; those who advocate that God can do no wrong, gross over this entire episode. IMHO they are trying to defend the indefensible. God killed people without any justification and the case of the first-born isn’t the first cab off the rank. Not all of the flood victims were wicked. Ditto Sodom & Gomorrah. Even if some of the first-born, or those drowned in the flood or who were present when Sodom and Gomorrah got nuked were wicked, God still committed at best mass murder, at worst genocide. God’s punishment did NOT fit the crime. God Himself has committed crimes against humanity. God can no more morally kill His creations than human parents can morally kill their creations (i.e. – children). God is Evil with a capital “E”. But we don’t want actual morality to get in the way of good Biblical tall tales now, do we?

Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem

Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Observations on Historical Reality

But in reality the above story is nonsense because there is not one single shred of independent historical or archaeological evidence that the events in Exodus ever happened, especially the events in Egypt. It’s a nice story, but it is absolute make-believe.

The proof of that pudding: isn’t just amazing though that there are no Ancient Egyptian records that any of this ever happened. There’s no records of any person called Moses. There’s no record of any Hebrew slaves.

Why wasn’t the Pharaoh (of the Exodus) named? If you are writing an historical novel, you don’t name actual living persons AND have them do things they didn’t do. That’s a good way to get into trouble. You either invent a fictitious name (King Jones; Pharaoh Jones; President Jones) or not name them at all. The very fact that the Pharaoh’s name goes unrecorded is in itself a pretty good indication that this is all pure fiction, but leaving that aside.

Assuming the Exodus was true as described, from just one ancient historical document other than the Bible an associated texts, can true believers show that Moses was a real historical figure. I’m betting they can’t do it.

As to the notion of wandering around the wilderness for 40 years, well that’s a joke. I mean if you walk one mile a day, heading in a constant direction (say the rising Sun), you’ll exit any wilderness region anywhere in the world in way, way less than 40 years.

However, assuming the Exodus was true as described, the Maximally Greatest Being (i.e. – God) so beloved by the Accidental Metaphysician should be crawling on His hands and knees into Cairo to beg the Egyptian populace for their forgiveness for the crimes against humanity that God committed. His Maximally Greatest Being is maximally great all-right, great at being the greatest mass murderer that’s ever been recorded in human history. He makes Hitler look saintly in comparison. I’m sure true believers don’t worship Hitler, so why they give a stuff about their SOB of a Maximally Greatest Being is quite beyond me.

Conclusion

Now either this Biblical tale is tall, in which case no one should believe a word of it, or else it is a true historical story in which case no one should worship this ancient day version of Hitler and Stalin (and dozens of equivalents) all rolled into one nasty and unsavory ball of wax.

No matter how you slice and dice things, if God exists as described in the Old Testament then God has adopted a double standard when it comes to murder (He can; we can’t) and I personally cannot abide entities that have a philosophy that is central to their worldview along the lines of “do as I say, not as I do”. In any event, since we’re all God’s ‘children’, God should set a good example for us just like we expect parents to set a good example for their brats, oops, sorry, their ‘little darlings’. Further, since it is morally wrong to murder your children after they get dumped or thrust unceremoniously into this great wide world, by analogy it should be morally wrong for God to murder His ‘children’. And isn’t one of the main selling points for religion receiving moral instruction?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, with ‘friends’ like God, who needs enemies!

*That’s another strike against the concept of a Maximally Greatest Being. He discriminates. He is just the “God of Israel”. Others can go take a long walk off of a short pier for all God cares. God is NOT a god for all of humanity otherwise we’d all be His Chosen People.

About the Author

John Prytz – Science librarian; retired. 

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