I just finished an okay book. It was readable, I made it all the way through. It did not have me on the edge of my seat or avidly turning pages without pause, matter of fact, I was content to put the read down for a couple days. And the thought struck me that the “back cover” tease (website synopsis) was not accurate. I completely dislike back covers not being accurate, I feel cheated, betrayed, lied to.
I kept waiting for the “thriller” part of the story to come into play, the race against time and from the enemies. And I was let down like a drunk one-night-stand. So before starting this review I wanted to make sure that I had remembered that synopsis properly thus I pulled it back up….I did. It clearly states “For both couples, time is running out and enemies are closing in.” Sounds exciting, doesn’t it, yeah, I thought so to, even the full title labels the book “An Archaeological Thriller”.
While for one couple (John Mark and Miriam) time was running out and enemies in the form of Roman soldiers were closing in, that is not the case for the other couple (Dr. Chris Jordan and Dr. Kate Ferguson). The story follows both couples in relation to a copy of The Gospel Of Mark. And is told in tandem by alternating chapters between the couples and their time periods. This was not a bad delivery style and it kept plots easy for readers to follow.
The style of the story telling was not up to a typical standard for a thriller on any level. The story was very heavy in the dialogue side, which left no time for “enemies” for Jordan and Ferguson, so it is a good thing that they didn’t have any real ones. Running from the police for 3 to 5 pages because you stole an artifact, is not running from enemies. It is the job of the police to apprehend accused thieves and investigate crimes. And they do not become enemies just because the accusers are scruple-less and greedy.
Technically, the story was properly written with one irritating flaw….the use of the metric system by John Mark during the 1st Century when it was not in use. When you are writing to such a niche audience as those that would read “An Archaeological Thriller” you really need to make sure that your details will not stop a reader in their what did I just read tracks. Most readers of any historical nature know what should and should not appear in them. Those mistakes distract greatly. And after the fact even more so, as the version of the book that I was sent is the second of 3 different publishing of the same work under similar but different titles.
The author Joe Edd Moris has 6 publications listed on his GoodReads profile, of which 3 are some form of the book I was provided to read for an honest review. The first version was published in 2015, by West Bow Press, my copy in September of 2021, no publisher listed and finally December of 2021, by Black Rose Writing. As a disclaimer, though, my copy was received from Black Rose Writing. What isn’t listed is any of Moris’ nonfiction work such as Revival of the Gnostic Heresy: Fundamentalism, on Gnostism and Fundamentalism and their overlap. I suggest that Moris stick to nonfiction in future solo projects. His need to explain everything in dialogue and detail is not beneficial to action/thriller works, it’s actually the exact opposite impact on the reader. Pointing out this trait is not an insult to the author, just my explanation for what distracted me from thoroughly enjoying his work. I possess the same trait. That said, he might make a great authenticator for other story tellers to make sure their stories are not dismissed on bad research. Or at least stay away from thrillers.
I think most people would say that while numbers claim that many people are getting religious or converting from one religion to another, in most Western countries the trend seems to be inverted. More people seem to be leaving religions completely or being totally inactive within their specified branch. So it might surprise you to learn that 4.8billion people or roughly 70% of the world’s population belong to one of the top 3 world religions and only 16.3% are not religiously affiliated and the difference is made up of lesser religions, this according to Pew Research Center.
Additionally, I think most of us, religious or not, have questioned God, gods, or the existence of some divine creator or deity.
how could you not believe, or
how could this God or that God or any god allow evil to exist or bad things to happen, or
how do you know God exists,
how can you believe in God, or
where’s the proof of your God or any god.
All these questions and more have been asked by people since the beginning of any religious thought, to question is just part of life.
Sometimes we may think or it may seem like we are the only person asking these questions. We are not. Theologians, philosophers, scientists, the lost, the found, the convinced, the converted have all pondered such queries, especially when life throws a challenge or obstacle our way. I would counter with this; what is the value in life if everything is easy, pretty, and happy? If all that you have is easy, pretty, and happy with nothing hard or ugly or awful how do you know that things are easy and pretty and happy? You don’t. Easy, pretty, happy just like hard, ugly, and awful are comparative terms. You cannot have pretty without ugly. You cannot have easy without hard. You cannot have happy without awful.
Some experts and most followers of the major religions will say that everyone needs religion, religion is how you learn morals and virtues and how to lead a good and just life. However, the historic accounts of most religious beginnings are steeped in violence, from genocide to scorched earth to raiding, enslaving and thieving. Some morals. For the Abrahamic religions extreme punishment is included, for both the Old Testament and Quran seem to prefer some form of a death sentence for most infractions and some violence or maiming or other extreme punishment for lesser offenses.
Thus, if you are wondering how you can truly assess either your own religion or religion in general as a valid and necessary part of your life or something that should be history, then Timothy Chen thinks he has the answer for you in his new book The Religious Transaction. Chen was raised in a religious home and continued to practice while off attending college. However, in early adulthood, Chen faced some challenges that led to him questioning everything about his belief system, which was based on his religion.
This questioning about his own beliefs and struggles to reconcile his issues with his religious conflicts led him to author the aforementioned book probably both as therapy for himself and the genuine belief that it will help others. While Chen seems to really try to be unbiased about religion and honest about his personal issues, challenges, emotions there does seem to be an underlying passive nudge to encourage others to question to the point of abandoning their own religious paths. Whether this is an intended ploy by Chen or just a natural reaction to his personal struggles and journeys I cannot say, but regardless it is present.
His religion as a child was christian and his primary focuses on are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, yet, he does include other religions scattered throughout the work. Personally, I have never been devout or zealous at all about religion, I believe that Organized Religion is a man made necessity in order to create a peaceful society for those in power. I also believe that while there are some truly devout and genuine believers, most religions and their sects have been usurped by individuals seeking power and glory and fortune.
The organization of the book is well thought out and flows. His approach to each aspect of religion is thoughtful and seemingly neutral. The neutrality is displayed in the pro-con discussion of each question with cited arguments supporting the pro or con respectively. And it is obvious that Chen has put thought and research into his writing. While it is difficult to research everything about a topic, I do feel like some of his research could have provided him with stronger arguments if he had dug just a little deeper. But all authors have to decide how much is too much or not enough and how much is “just right” or at least enough for the message. And I think that Chen did what he felt was just enough to support his arguments. That is not a critique if his purpose is more to get people to do their own research and questioning, but it is marginal if his purpose is to be the justification for changing religious paths.
In addition to arguments that are marginal to just enough, I believe that some of his points are more than over simplified. He admits to some over simplification, which can be excused considering the breath and depth of the topic if truly and fully investigated. One example is his argument that our similarity to some animals supports evolution over godly creations without any mention of the fact that the opposite is just as possible since religions with a “Creator God” believes that this god is responsible for the creation of the universe and EVERYTHING in it. So why wouldn’t such a god create similar living creatures, created or evolved they would both be from a collection of building blocks. He is also more willing to give benefits of doubt and early unearned credit to scientific discoveries but not to divine intelligent creation.
In short, it was an interesting read. I did hear some new arguments in the validity of religion debate, but I also felt the ball was drop and some arguments were skewed to the author’s current stances. However, he does make the effort to at least appear neutral and that effort is noteworthy.
So, if The Witch is generally a misunderstood outcast or a strong, independent healer or ‘wise woman’, where did the bad wrap come from? There has always been and will always be outcasts and misfits and those that seem to live in their own reality and by their own rules. Yet, none seem to have caused as much mayhem and been so persecuted as those labeled “Witch.”
Who managed to create such an uproar as to cast a shadow across all those who were different, who thought different, who lived differently, who by their mere existence challenged the status quo?
The simple and ready answer would be; The Church.
But, that is not the complete answer, nor does it hold all the accountability required to justify the mass murder and torture of those whom their peers deemed as different and a threat.
Most of the people of the world through out recorded history have been uneducated villagers that have never traveled more than a days walk from their place of birth. For those of you that do not know, a days walk would be between 10 and 20 miles. In today’s world, it is truly hard to imagine anyone living their whole life and never venturing more than 20 miles from home. Most of us travel more than 20 miles one way for work each day. During the Dark Ages, life was about surviving and education and literacy were not valued as resources for surviving. During this time The Church gained an enormous amount of power and influence. The Church was supposed to “save the people” from all the bad things going on in the world at the time. In fact, even The Church was too ignorant to understand what was truly going on in the world during that time.
The Roman Empire came to an end not just due to the political corruption and turmoil within its Grand Cities, but also due to the Roman Warm Period (BC 250 to AD 450) coming to an end and the Dark Ages Cold Period (AD 450 – 950) replacing it. During this time, the climate varied greatly from year to year. You did not know from one season to the next if you would have enough food to last. This of course decreased the health of people and livestock and thus increased the outbreak of diseases, all of which reeked havoc in the daily lives of most Europeans. Add in the decline in personal hygiene and health of the individual and thus the society was precarious at best. During Roman times, even the least members of society had access to Bath Houses, whether it be the smallest ones in the city or use of the only ones in the city on specific days or during specific times, everyone had access to bathing. As we know, today, bathing on a regular basis greatly improves one’s health and decreases the spread and duration of disease.
During this time, The Church managed, maybe with good intention or maybe not, to gain huge influence in the daily lives of the masses who were looking for answers and saving from what they could only see as displeasure of the Gods or God, be ye pagan or christian. Then things improved with the Medieval Warming Period, and as is typical of most people, they did not need The Church so much when things were like they were supposed to be. Thus, The Church’s power started to lessen. But as luck would have it, the 15th century ushered in the Little Ice Age (AD 1400 – 1850), however, here is what most do not know or understand about Ice Ages, they are not merely these periods of just ‘very cold weather’, in reality they are actually times of much greater weather extremes, so while some years winters seem to drop colder than ever and last longer than ever, so can the next summer be the hottest remembered with land so parched that nothing grows and in addition you can have furious storms on a grand scale that cause extra damage to people and their homes and livestock.
Once again people turned to The Church, to save them, for once again, the scared and ignorant believed that it must be the work of some angered divine or that great Christian creation, The Devil, causing all the havoc. And The Church needed to deliver some scapegoat to keep the benches and coffers filled and insure their continued existence. Also, during this time The Church saw itself as its own nation, on par with Kings and Queens of real nations and had gained the privilege of granting Kings and Queens divine blessing, thus actually placing themselves above the monarchs of the day. This gave them higher authority with the masses, which would be devastating for those later to be named as “Witch.”
One of the very common practises of The Church, almost from its inception was its complete intolerance to anything or anyone that was different. The Church attacked everyone and everything that was different from their very narrow view of what God deemed worthy of life or sacred. A person could be deemed a heretic or possessed or evil for anything from asking a question about contradictions in The Bible, to having red hair, to being left-handed. In addition, The Church had completely misrepresented the man now known as Jesus Christ’s revolutionary ideas, which included at its root, equality for all people here on Earth, not just some promise of a better after-life in Heaven, and passed judgment based on a divine authority that it did not have. In their rush to keep people in fear and needing The Church to save them, they committed the greatest blasphemy of all, by forgetting and denying that God, as the divine creator, had created all creatures great and small, and insisted that their bogeyman, The Devil, was just as powerful as God, creating demons and demon spawn and possessing people and animals and causing disasters that The Church should have dutifully claimed were acts of God.
The Devil, being an invented creation of The Church of course has no true historic evidence and neither is “he” a living, breathing man that can be dealt with face-to-face. This becomes an issue when small minded people need to be able to point the finger at and torture, abuse, and even murder someone out of fear, anger, despair and ignorance.
During this same period The Church was also dealing with the Reformation, which had divided the masses and split The Church. If The Church could be split, then logic dictated that The Church and her “men of God” were not as divinely blessed as they said they were, so what other lies had they been telling. In its defense The Church dug in its heels as it was losing its status and standing. Maybe out of desperation or blind loyalty or just plain sheer malice The Church started smearing the image of those, mostly women, that were variously referred to as witch, wise woman, or cunning folk as being pawns and in league with The Devil. This campaign against witches was fueled by the publication of Malleus Maleficarum or The Hammer of Witches, basically giving Papal sanction for the hunting, torturing, and murdering of witches.
Why, witches, you ask. Most witches had several things going against them in The Church’s eyes. First, most of them were women, most of whom were as fate would have it, single, whether it was cause they were not yet of marrying age with a beau, or they were widowed, or poor, or worst of all, they chose to live outside the norms for women of the time, not being dependent on the whims of male relatives or husbands. The Church was very much against women as equal persons and thus they were not to be independent, nor strong willed or strong minded, all things that benefited healers, midwives and wise women. The Church that owed its beginnings to strong, wealthy, independent women had turned their backs on them almost as soon as they received official religious sanction. Then proceeded to straight out attacking them, first under Pope Gregory I, who erroneously lumps 3 women together, identifying Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, then Eve was judged as being evil and committing the first sin, with that judgment all women were attached to sin and evil. Unfortunately, as The Church grew so did it disdain and literal hate for women.
In this light it is very easy to see how The Church, or at least some of her men of God would target and attack the real women in their villages and towns that had the strength, wisdom and knowledge to not fear men, men of God, or The Church, nor to bow down to them or cower in fear of their hate.
The origins or history or witches is very much dependent on the researchers definition of just what a witch is. That might seem absurd, everyone knows what a witch is, most dictionaries define one as “a woman thought to have magic powers, especially evil ones, popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat and flying on a broomstick.” (See the clip art image on the left)
However, if you ask an individual that identifies as a witch or several, you are likely to get more definitions than you ever imagined existed. Thus, with so many modern ideas and concepts of a witch, it is easy to see how a researcher’s journey might actually wander ‘off-course’ in the search for the “fist witch” or the “origin of the witch.” Let us explore some of the journeys of academic witch-hunters.
In modern translations of The Bible, in English, Exodus mentions witches; Ch. 22:18 “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live.” (KJV) There are other English versions that use the word sorceress, however, there is scholarly debate about the original word and its actual meaning during the time of the writings. Mekhashepha is the original Hebrew word used in Exodus. What does it mean? More importantly, what did it mean to the Hebrews of the day.
Modern Hebrew does define mekhashepha as witch, however, the late Merrill F. Unger, in his book “Biblical Demonology”, identifies the root of the word, kashaph, as “mutterings”, specifying that it referenced witches whom practiced magic using incantations and mutterings. A different opinion can be found with Kenneth Kitchen, of the University of Liverpool, suggesting the root means “to cut” and thus refers to herbalists.
Jewish sages in the 3rd century BCE, in their translations used the Greek word pharmakia, which is considered by some scholars to refer to herbalists and to others such as Reginal Scott, author of “The Discoverie of Witchcraft”, to mean “poisoner”. There does seem to be an original view that magic or witchcraft was practiced in all times, but the oldest bans, such as in The Code of Hammurabi, referred to those practitioners that used their “magic” for evil or harm, declaring a death sentence for anyone who used magic to harm another, without condemning those who cause no harm.
There seems to be a general consensus that those we label as witches in history, did not get a blanket judgment of being evil and “doing the Devil’s work” until the Christian era. One thing that most people of the modern era seem to take for granted is the existence of the Devil. The Devil is not an across the board creature of all beliefs and cultures. The Devil is a Christian concept, just like Hell. The Jews do not believe in the Devil and their The Satan is not just another name for The Devil. In their beliefs The Satan (sah-tahn) is an angel or “son of God” and no, he is not a “fallen angel” or rejected son, he is in fact part of the “justice system” of Heaven or God, and his role is along the lines of prosecutor or district attorney. Thus, for our point in the story, witches came before the Devil and not with or after in the history of mankind.
Before the Church deemed all witches to be evil, historic view seems to suggest that most “witches” were actually healers and or “wise women”. There are some who claim that Lilith, the first wife of Adam was a demon and the first witch and others that liken any of the “bad” goddesses or deities of ancient times to being the original witches, such as Medusa and Isis. This search for the first witch in some preconceived demonic female is more a reflection of personal belief of the researcher than in factual historic evidence.
The most destructive blow to the existence of people, mostly women that were different or social outcasts, was the publication of “Malleus Maleficarum” (The Hammer of Witches), this work penned by German Dominicans in 1486 condemned the most vulnerable and the most independent to a life of fear. Worse, though, for 80,000 poor souls it led to their imprisonment, torture and death for nothing more than fear driven ignorance supported by The Church and The Pope.
For more than a century “Malleus Maleficarum” sold more copies than any other book, except The Bible and led to witch hunt mania from Europe to the American colonies. What transpired over the course of the 16th and into the 17th century was nothing short of social genocide and a supposed “moral cleansing” of the villages and towns that wanted someone to blame and punish for just dumb bad luck and plain misfortune.
In the last few days there has been talk about the discovery of a new Mayan city by a schoolboy from Canada. William Gadoury has been interested in all things Maya for most of his young life. He has taken his interest seriously and used his curiosity and creativity to look for more understanding of the culture that stirs his imagination.
It has long been pondered about how the Maya chose the sites for some of their greatest cities. They are not near water sources. They are not along coasts. They are not along trade routes. They are not on grid patterns. They are not in open plains. They are not strategically impressive. Thus a question has plagued scholars for years; Why build cities in the middle of the jungle away from natural resources, especially water, and seeming to ignore all other logical rationale for human settlement? In most cases Mayan cities remained hidden and undisturbed of hundreds of years, due in part to the jungle having so completely reclaimed them. This adds another factor to the seeming illogical, irrational methods employed by a very intellectual culture in this area.
If we allow that the Mayans created their own calendar system, then they were incredibly intelligent and logical and rational, based on the mathematical skill required to create a calendar system that rivals our computer aided time-keeping in its accuracy. If we also allow that they and they alone built their cities, they were also incredibly skilled engineers and masons and artisans. Yet, between all these intelligent and skilled individuals their city locations seem beneath them based on logic and reason. It seems highly improbable that they did not see the need to have natural resources available for the masses, nor that they missed the need for defenses from regional enemies. Thus, it seems that one needs to look for some other more important reason for why their cities are placed in such unusual places.
Enter our young schoolboy from Canada. Mr. Gadoury studied the Madrid Codex and located 23 constellations that held enough importance to the Maya to be recorded. His theory was that the stars had great importance for the Maya, maybe even extreme importance. What William Gadoury decided to try was logically creative. He took the constellation maps and laid them over the area of Central America that was the Land of the Mayans and he found that the stars and cities matched.
While, this in and of itself is significant in understanding the values and mental state of the Mayan elite, the best part was found in the 23rd constellation, which has 3 bright stars in its make up. When matching this constellation with known sites only 2 of the 3 stars has known complimentary sites. So Gadoury then used Google Earth to look at the area that matched the 3rd star without a matching known site. WOW! He found an area of the jungle canopy that was more uniform in shape than one would expect, unless it was covering something man-made.
As of yet, the site has not publicly been the object of a LiDAR search. So, while, Armand LaRocque, an honorary research associate at the University of New Brunswick, and the Canada Space Agency have supported and assisted Gadoury in his research and even claimed that in addition to the pyramid an additional 30 buildings have been located, it will not be accepted until a physical on-site discovery is documented.
When your only reaction to someone that speaks differently than you is to kill….YOU ARE A COWARD!
When your only reaction to someone that thinks differently than you is to kill….YOU ARE A COWARD!
When your only reaction to someone that acts differently than you is to kill….YOU ARE A COWARD!
When your only reaction to someone that believes differently than you is to kill….YOU ARE A COWARD!
When your only reaction to someone that worships differently than you is to kill…YOU ARE A COWARD!
When your only reaction to someone that dresses differently than you is to kill….YOU ARE A COWARD!
When your only reaction to someone that loves differently than you is to kill….YOU ARE A COWARD!
When you only reaction is to kill….YOU ARE A COWARD!
The cruel attack on the Paris Office of Charlie Hebdo was the act of COWARDS pure and simple. If you know your path is the best path, if you know you are the most righteous, then you do not have to KILL those you disagree with. For if you were so pure and righteous and just then you would have your acts and deeds and your faith and your belief and the power of your words to defend your path against ALL attacks. If you were strong in your faith and your path and sure of the rightness of your beliefs then you would not be angered or insulted or offended by the words of those you call lesser than you. Of course, if you were so righteous and holy you would not call anyone lesser than yourself.
The fact that you are WRONG in your beliefs and thus cruel and evil in your deeds is a blight on all that claim the path of Islam. However, the fact that ‘moderate’ Muslims, as the politically correct call them, do not rise up and speak out against the acts of the evil nor do they put the effort into correcting the wrongs of those leaders that have corrupted the young followers by doing nothing are showing support for and approving of the evil carried out in the name of their religion. And the weak claim that they are not acting as true Muslims and thus in our eyes are not Muslims and we need not say anything about it are in effect offending and insulting the innocent victims of each act of evil carried out in the name of Islam and Allah. These moderate Muslims are also neglecting their duties as ‘real and true’ followers by not protecting the life of innocent. Allah states clearly and plainly that ALL human life is sacred and valued and is not to be taken!
Whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. (Al-Ma’idah 5: 32)
As we have seen, there are many creatures that are neither living nor dead. The number of such creatures lends to many beliefs. First, that their are many creatures that defy our understanding. Second that there is something after or more than this life. Third, that the natural and supernatural overlap each other. So let us continue our venture into the land of the night and the realm of the undead…..
We will travel to the Caribbean and the Island of Hispaniola, the country of Haiti, the land of Voodoo.
Across the beautiful tropical isles of the Caribbean is a complex and intriguing mix of Christianity and the ancient religions of Africa. Voodoo is one of the major old practices of the region. Zombi, a possible origin of the word Zombie, is actually a West African deity. Another version of the origin is the use of the Kongo or Dahomey word nzambi or soul. Once mixed with Haitian Voodoo the word became zombi.
According to Voodoo, the body can die one of two ways. The first is a natural death which is just as it sounds, from illness or very old age, the second is unnaturally, murder or tragically, before their time. When that happens, the soul is stuck waiting by the grave for the gods to allow them to move on.
During this time the soul and the body are vulnerable. It is when this happens that a boko(r) or powerful sorcerer can literally bottle up the person’s soul and thus control both parts of the victim, body and or soul. Most Voodoo practicers do not fear zombies, they fear becoming one!
Can one really become a zombie? According to researcher, Wade Davis, the answer is YES!
Davis has written 2 books The Serpent and The Rainbow and Passage of Darkness. In his research Davis claims that he found a powder/drug that can create a zombie. This powder or drug is a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. Which could create a death like state in a victim, whom could later be ‘stolen’ from their grave and revived. Thus, creating the legend of the zombie, by creating an actual Zombie.
So beware of Boko(r)’s offering gifts of food or drink this Hallow’s Eve!!!!!