(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘religion

“May all beings have happy minds”*…

But then it’s important to be careful as to how we look for that happiness…

– Games where players either remove pieces from a pile or add pieces to it, with the loser being the one who causes the heap to shake (similar to the modern game pick-up sticks)

– Games of throwing dice

– Ball games

– Guessing a friend’s thoughts

Just a few of the entries in “List of games that Buddha would not play,” from the T. W. Rhys Davids‘ translation of the Brahmajāla Sutta (though the list is duplicated in a number of other early Buddhist texts, including the Vinaya Pitaka).

(TotH to Scott Alexander; image above: source)

* the Buddha

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As we endeavor for enlightenment, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that Wikipedia was born. A free online encyclopedia that is collaboratively edited by volunteers, it has grown to be the world’s largest reference website, attracting 1.7 billion unique-device visitors monthly as of November 2021. As of January 9, 2022, it has more than fifty-eight million articles in more than 300 languages, including 6,436,030 articles in English (serving 42,848,899 active users of English Wikipedia), with 118,074 active contributors in the past month.

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“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”*…

On the long-term effects of suppression and persecution…

From Imperial Rome to the Crusades, to modern North Korea or the treatment of Rohingya in Myanmar, religious persecution has been a tool of state control for millennia.

While its immediate violence and human consequences are obvious, less obvious is whether it leaves scars centuries after it ends.

In a new study we have attempted to examine the present day consequences of one of the longest-running and most meticulously documented persecutions of them all – the trials of the Spanish Inquisition between 1478 to 1834…

Details at “Extraordinarily, the effects of the Spanish Inquisition linger to this day.”

Monty Python

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As we tolerate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1492 that Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile took control of the Emirate of Grenada (1238-1492), the last Moorish stronghold in Spain. King Boabdil surrendered to Spanish forces in the Alhambra palace, surrendering the key to the city– an event Christopher Columbus witnessed as he received the support of the monarchy to sail to the Indies.

Pursuant to the Inquisition, Ferdinand and Isabella had targeted Muslims and Sephardic Jews (also called the Megorashim), forcing them either to convert to Christianity or to leave Spain within four months without any possessions. Failure to leave resulted in torture and/or death.

Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, Boabdil confronted by Ferdinand and Isabella after the Fall of Granada 1492 (Detail) [source]

“There is a time for everything”*…

Five elements from a painted hanging depicting the Crossing of the Red Sea, Byzantine, circa second century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

… and the time for the Word came later than many of us seem to understand…

The oldest scriptures that eventually became the Bible were created within an environment where no appreciable religious function was assigned to texts. The stories, proverbs, songs, and prayers dating from the ninth and eighth centuries bc that researchers have managed to reconstruct from the Bible are examples of literature rather than holy scripture. They evolved into scripture through a lengthy process.

What scholars call a “cult religion” was practiced in Israel and Judah in the period before the Babylonian Exile (586–538 bc). Religious observance centered on local shrines, and contact with the deity was maintained through sacrifices, votive offerings, and prayer. In the late pre-exile period, that is, the final decades of the seventh century bc, cultic activities in Judah came to be focused on a single temple in Jerusalem. The Bible portrays this process as part of the religious reforms undertaken by Josiah (2 Kings 22–23).

Of course, religious texts also had their place within this cult, but they did not play a key role in either its foundation or its normalization. Instead, like the religious paraphernalia in the temple, they simply formed one aspect of cultic activities…

Judaism only became a “religion of the book”—that is, one whose core entailed the study of sacred texts—following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70. With the demise of the sacrificial cult of the temple, the faith shifted entirely to the study and celebration of the scriptures.

And it was not until that stage that the concept of the Bible as a complete, authoritative collection of texts arose. Its texts had almost certainly been in religious use before this, but alongside many other documents. A strict dividing line between biblical and nonbiblical literature did not exist at that time, since there was as yet no such thing as the Bible. And so the belief system of Israel and Judah changed gradually over the course of the first millennium bc from a cult religion to a religion of the book…

Scripture before the Bible: “Becoming a Religion of the Book,” an excerpt from The Making of the Bible: From the First Fragments to Sacred Scripture by Konrad Schmid and Jens Schröter in Lapham’s Quarterly (@laphamsquart)

* The Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1

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As we tackle the text, we might recall that it was on his date in 1538 that Pope Paul III excommunicated King Henry VIII of England. The reasons were many: First, Henry had illegally married his new wife Anne Boleyn and left his former Queen Katherine of Aragon. Then he had proclaimed himself head of the Church of England, denying the papal primacy. He disbanded English monasteries and appropriated much of their assets.

The original bull of excommunication had been issued on 30th August 1535, but the excommunication had been suspended in the hope that Henry would mend his ways. When Henry sacked St. Thomas Becket’s shrine, the Pope decided to act.

The break with Rome was, at first, largely political (and personal). But as the years passed, the theology and liturgy of the Church of England became markedly Protestant, especially during the reign of Henry’s son Edward VI, largely along lines laid down by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Under Mary, the process was reversed and the Church of England was again placed under papal jurisdiction. But Elizabeth reintroduced the Protestant religion (albeit in a more moderate manner).

The structure and theology of the church was a matter of fierce dispute for generations. The most violent of these disputes, the English Civil Wars, ended when the last Roman Catholic monarch, James II, was deposed and Parliament employed William III and Mary II jointly to rule in conjunction with the English Bill of Rights in 1688 (in the “Glorious Revolution“), from which emerged a church polity with an established church (The Church of England) and a number of non-conformist churches whose members suffered various “civil disabilities”– until these were removed many years later. A substantial but dwindling minority of people from the late 16th to early 19th centuries remained Roman Catholic in England. Their church organization remained illegal until the Relief Act of 1829.

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“Learning never exhausts the mind”*…

As regular readers know, each year Tom Whitwell shares a list of the more intriguing things he’s learned over the year; happily, 2021 is no exception…

10% of US electricity is generated from old Russian nuclear warheads. [Geoff Brumfiel]

The entire global cosmetic Botox industry is supported by an annual production of just a few milligrams of botulism toxin. Pure toxin would cost ~$100 trillion per kilogram. [Anthony Warner]

Wearing noise cancelling headphones in an open-plan office helps a little bit — reducing cognitive errors by 14% — but actual silence reduces those errors by one third. [Benjamin Müller & co]

Until 1873, Japanese hours varied by season. There were six hours between sunrise and sunset, so a daylight hour in summer was 1/3rd longer than an hour in winter. [Sara J. Schechner]

48 other fascinating finds at: “52 things I learned in 2021,” from @TomWhitwell.

* Leonardo da Vinci

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As we live and learn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1545, in response to the Protestant Reformation, that the Council of Trent (Concilium Tridentinum) was convened by the Roman Catholic Church. Its work concluded in 1563; and its results were published in 1564, condemning what the Catholic Church deemed to be the heresies of Protestants.  The embodiment of the Counter-Reformation, The Council of Trent established a firm and permanent distinction between the two practices of faith.

200px-Concilio_Trento_Museo_Buonconsiglio
Council of Trent (painting in the Museo del Palazzo del Buonconsiglio, Trento)

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“24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence?”*…

Social distancing makes a soul thirsty– and as the Journal of the American Medical Association reports, that has had consequences…

Alcohol consumption has substantially increased during the COVID-19 pandemic… We examined national changes in waiting list registration and liver transplantation for ALD and the association with alcohol sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hypothesized that waiting list registrations and deceased donor liver transplants (DDLTs) for alcoholic hepatitis (AH), which can develop after a short period of alcohol misuse, would disproportionately rise…

This cross-sectional study found that waiting list registrations and DDLTs for AH increased significantly during COVID-19, exceeding the volumes forecasted by pre–COVID-19 trends by more than 50%, whereas trends for AC and non-ALD remained unchanged. While we cannot confirm causality, this disproportionate increase in association with increasing alcohol sales may indicate a relationship with known increases in alcohol misuse during COVID-19. Since less than 6% of patients with severe AH are listed for transplantation, increasing waiting list volume during COVID-19 represents a small fraction of the increase in AH, a preventable disease with 6-month mortality up to 70%.

Pandemic drinking is up– way up. So, it turns out, is serious liver disease: “Association of COVID-19 With New Waiting List Registrations and Liver Transplantation for Alcoholic Hepatitis in the United States.”

And lest we think think that waning COVID-19 pressure will be the end of all of this, a warning: “The Coming Age of Climate Trauma.”

[Image above: source]

* Steven Wright

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As we muse on moderation, we might recall that it was on this date in 2012 that Charles Darwin received about 4,000 write-in votes in the election in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District. Republican Paul Broun, an M.D. who was running unopposed for re-election, had given (the September before) a campaign speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet in which he said “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.”

In response, radio talk show host Neil Boortz and University of Georgia plant biology professor Jim Leebens-Mack spearheaded a campaign to run the English naturalist and evolutionary theorist against Broun, a young earth creationist. They had no expectation of unseating him (and indeed, Broun carried his district handily) but hoped to draw attention to these comments from the scientific community and to have Broun removed from his post on the House Science Committee– at which they also failed.

Paul Broun [source]
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