Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Fools!

Bit late, but what do you expect when everyone is doing April Fools pranks? Some times you have to be careful. I'm still finding various pranks, and some are downright unavoidable. You know what I think the biggest prank of all was? Easter being in March! Certainly threw me for a loop. I knew it moved around a lot, but I've never actually seen it outside of April. Now that I'm old enough to pay attention, I realize it can jump around in a time span of more than a month! Which leads me to a question that has come up lately.

"What do Atheists know about Easter?

A great deal, actually. It's amazing what you can learn online when given enough initiative. For starters, it's not just one religious holiday, it's several rolled into one.

During the 7th century, the Roman Empire, back before they were catholic, would conquer neighboring countries. In order to better adapt their new citizens to their forced occupation, the Romans altered their own religion and their holidays to better match those of the religions they wiped out. This led to many combined holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Easter, at this time, was probably known as Pascha, the Latin word for Passover.

When the Catholic church began the dominant religion, they, too, incorporated this idea of merging religions to adapt to shifting citizens. That's when Christmas came to be. This is also when Easter was combined with the resurrection of Jesus. With Jewish calendars being Lunar, as opposed to our own which is Solar, the day of Easter was placed onto the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Since our Solar calendar now has this date set firmly at March 21st, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21st. Unless, of course, you are from the other Christian factions who follow a different Solar calendar in the east, who place it about a week or so farther along in the year, with it still jumping around just as much.

Being stuck with the Gregorian calendar here in the USA, we had to buy our eggs and bunnies VERY early this year. However, why did we buy eggs and bunnies? What do they have to do with Jesus or Passover?

Current versions of the Easter celebration actually take their cue from the German Passover holiday, Eostre, in celebration of their pagan goddess, Ostara. Their Easter was based around spring, renewal, and new life. As such, the imagery commonly found at these celebrations happened to be symbols of fertility, including eggs and rabbits.

So, now you know more about Easter than most people in America. Go ahead and spread the word, especially to your Christian friends. You'd be surprised just how many of them will actually be pleasantly surprised by this information and thankful to receive it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Roman Atheism

In a recent debate, I was thrown an interesting curveball, an argument I had never heard before and had to look into. I was accused of using a "fake" definition of Atheism, the definition I've been giving on this blog, and that my definition could be used to define anyone. Here is, generally, how the accusation was phrased.

"The Romans called Christians "atheists" because they didn't believe in their gods. Doesn't this prove your definition is fake?"

So, after that was lobbed at me, I had to look it up. Turns out, the first sentence is accurate. The Romans did call Christians Atheists because they didn't believe in their gods. During their persecution of opposing religions, they mistakenly believed that Theism only accounted for "true" religion. And since their religion was the "true" religion, they were the only Theists and all others were Atheists.

Shortly after this time, everyone, including the Romans, agreed that Theism didn't account for which, if any, religion was correct, only belief in one or more deities. As such, their understanding of Atheism also changed to match the original definition, not belief in deities.

Since I wasn't using that definition of Atheism, and it's be proven wrong anyway, this would seem to settle the question, as the Romans even admitted to their mistake. However, for the sake of argument, let's assume the Romans were the inventors of the word and they decided that Atheist meant "one who does not believe in the correct gods." There would certainly be a conflict. Not only would this definition assume Roman gods to be the "correct" gods because of them creating the term, but any who did not believe in "particular" gods could be labeled as those without any belief. This would indeed include Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and true Atheists.

This new definition would also destroy the label itself, as it was built in original latin. A-The-Ist is a combination of "A-" (negative form) "The-" (theos, gods) and "Ist" (personal belief) and cannot be defined any other way. The negative form of a personal belief in gods is simply "Not a personal belief in gods." As such, the Romans would have been wrong, even if they created the term. They would either be wrong about the definition or wrong about the word itself. One of those two would have to change simply for the sake of consistency.

To use a more modern example of how this misnomer would and should be avoided, let's say someone hates a chair. They love the chairs they use, but hate this one specific chair for some reason. It's gotten to the point that they don't even consider it a chair, more like a torture device. There are other people who love this chair and don't consider the chairs that person likes to be a chair at all, more like a table with a back on it. So, this group of people decide that this person must not believe chairs exist and they call him an anti-chair person. In truth, he is not an anti-chair person, as he loves chairs, just not those chairs. And they are also using the term "anti-chair person" incorrectly, as an anti-chair person would be someone who hates all chairs, not someone who doesn't believe in chairs.

So, hopefully I have properly explained how the above argument simply doesn't work. The Romans had no idea what a Theist was, let alone an Atheist, and even if they had made the definition it wouldn't apply to the words used for the term. There is no possible way it makes the definition most commonly used today, the original definition, fake or fraudulent.

All dictionaries agree, there is also no definition of Atheism that can be applied to anyone who has any belief in any deities.