Saturday November 30, 2013
This will be my last post here at about.com. I have had a wonderful four years here. I have gotten a few questions about where I can be found now, and the best place to look is http://blog.cnbeyer.com. I'm just setting it up (and I'm in the middle of a semester) so there's a little construction dust, but you can find news on new projects there. The blog addresses a variety of topics, not just religions.
For my last couple of articles here:
- Hoaxes and Fallacies: a collection of specific hoaxes and fallacies addressed in articles over the years
- Apocalyptic Religions: Religions that regularly focus on their end-times beliefs
- Navjote: The initiation ceremony for children in Zoroastrianism
Thank you, everyone.
Monday November 18, 2013
I will be leaving About.com at the end of the month. As such, the next couple weeks will be a potpourri of articles I have previously finished but am just now posting.
Monday October 28, 2013
I am teaching a new class at the university. It's modern western history, as opposed to the pre-modern history I more frequently teach. In discussing the Scientific Revolution, we, of course, discuss Sir Isaac Newton, who was basically the Stephen Hawking of the 17th century. (They even held the same position at Cambridge University.)
But when Newton wasn't figuring out inertia, gravity, calculus, and generally how the entire universe moves, He was also studying alchemy, writing theology (although he tended to be reserved on the topic of his non-trinitarian beliefs, due to the religious climate of the times), and attempting to decipher Bible code: knowledge hidden within the Bible that can be discovered through use of mathematics and non-traditional readings.
Newton is neither the first nor the last to study Bible code, which goes under a variety of names. Kabbalah includes such approaches to Jewish scripture, particularly the Torah, for example.
Monday October 28, 2013
As a historian of European history, issues of holidays are frequently a time of frustration as I shuffle through the usual internet clutter of pseudo-historical claims of Christianity "stealing holidays." Are there similarities? Absolutely. Was it deliberate? Sometimes. Did it just rewrite older traditions in the hopes of fooling pagans? Not a chance.
So why do so many people connect Samhain and Halloween? There's several reasons. One is misinformation. The claims depend on a whole bunch of information about Samhain that we don't actually have. Why do we think we have it? Today it is because people keep repeating it. Originally it often came from the presumption that modern folk practices have been practiced since ancient times. Not only do we not have evidence supporting it in many cases, but sometimes we actually have evidence of how things did change. Finally, people find small commonalities and insist it had to have been deliberate, when, in fact, some concepts are fairly universal.
Here I hope to lay out in some detail how this connection has happened, why many of the claims are wrong, and why you should be careful in addressing holidays in general. It's complicated.
When I write things like this, certain responders presume I'm a Christian, as if that could be the only reason in debunking such things. It's not the only reason, and I'm not Christian, so we can stop with the conspiracy theories.