Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

European Travel Blog Carnival April 7, 2008

April 7, 2008

The new European Travel Blog Carnival, including one of my posts, is out at:

http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/blog/2008/04/07/europe-travel-blog-carnival-7-april-2008/

If you like Europe, you’ll enjoy it.  Great job, Karen.

Advertisements

Not So Passive Aggression

March 4, 2008

Passive aggression can be a dangerous thing.  The good people of the church appear to be quiet and peaceful, on the surface.  In practice, however, they are aggressively expansionist.  They want to spread the word, spread the faith, and convert the heathen.  One of their favourite methods of doing so is under the guise of Christian charity or aid.

Conditional charity is not uncommon.  Asking recipients to pray or attend a service in return for food or other assistance happens, as I’ve mentioned before.  This can lead to international incidents with consequences.  A while back, a group of South Korean missionaries were taken hostage in Afghanistan.  One was executed, I believe.  Their government negotiated the release of the rest, eventually, no doubt after paying a hefty ransom.

There is a debate going on in South Korea about this incident.  What the western media didn’t seem interested in reporting is that these missionaries weren’t just helping people, they were trying to convert them and spread Christianity.  Should the government be responsible for them?  Should they bail them out and pay taxpayers’ money to save them from a situation they got themselves into?  Why should the country pay for their aggression and mistakes?

South Korea has the second highest proportion of missionaries in the world.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is a growth market for Christianity.  How did it become so popular in a traditionally Confucian or Buddhist country?  It’s growth has its origins in the aftermath of the Korean War.  I use the term ‘aftermath’ loosely because, technically, the war is not over – there is only a truce.  After the cessation of hostilities, the U.S. military stuck around to keep North Korea in check.  With American soldiers on the ground, Christianity was able to spread.  This should come as no surprise.  Religion has often followed armies around and spread with empires.  Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire and expanded with it.  The pace accelerated after Constantine’s army, reputedly ordered to display the Christian logo on their shields, were victorious at Milvian Bridge and he took control of the empire.

Faith and the sword became partners again in the medieval age when Christendom responded to the spread of Islam with Crusades and Inquisitions.  I’m no expert on the subject, but I suspect this may also be when the death sentence for leaving Islam may have been introduced.  If you think you have problems today, consider yourself lucky that you weren’t a Moor given a choice between “Convert or die” and “Convert and die”.

Missionaries came to the New World, protected by European soldiers, to convert the indigenous populations.  The results were often disastrous.  From the New World the faith has spread to Asia.  So many souls to convert and save.  So many donations to collect.  The temptation is too great to ignore.

It’s not enough to keep the faith and live by the word.  They have to spread them.

A Caveman’s Theory

February 24, 2008

Thousands of years ago, the first gods were conceived.  The earliest known civilizations had their gods, often connected to the natural environment, the elements, and celestial bodies.  These gods were probably theorized by cavemen – sorry, cave people –  to explain the sun, moon, stars, tides, etc.  They had no concept of the world around them, let alone what lay beyond it.

All these gods were later consolidated into one god.  Monotheism was very convenient and useful for kings or emperors who wanted to consolidate and manage power.  Multiple gods gave priests more power as there was more for them to interpret, but a single god enabled a king to claim to be chosen by the one god to rule.  There would be no other gods with dissenting opinions, so there would be no justification or tolerance for people who dissent.

This occurred in Egypt, when the pharaoh Akhenaten proclaimed a single god.  Apparently, this was not popular with the priests, who had enjoyed power and influence.  It has been suggested that they probably also profited from the looting of tombs after the nobles were buried.  After his death, traditional polytheism was re-established.

Later, the Jewish mythology surrounding Moses and the exodus from Egypt came along.  This was followed by Christianity, which infiltrated the Roman empire all the way up to the emperor.  The Romans spread it across Europe and the idea survived the empire.  The monarchs of the kingdoms that emerged in the wake of the collapsed empire sought papal sanction.  If they couldn’t get it, some would replace the pope with one who saw things their way.  Later, they would break from the papacy and claim their own divine right to rule.

Challenge to papal authority was also integral to the enlightenment.  Ideas that contradicted church concepts of the universe emerged.  The church was not pleased and persecuted those with ‘heretic’ notions.  It, and kings who claimed divine right, enjoyed their power, influence, and accompanying wealth, just as the priesthood of ancient Egypt had.

Free thought endured and survived, leading to modern scientific method and theories.  Many of those who cling to gods and religions refuse to accept new ideas that fly in the face of their beliefs, no matter how cohesive the models or how much evidence is accrued.  But, honestly, who is smarter – a modern scientist or a cave person?

Amsterdam In the Afternoon

January 11, 2008

I received my first comment the other day.  It came from someone in Amsterdam, who wins a free subscription to this blog.  To claim your prize, just click ‘subscribe to this blog’ in the drop down menu at the top on the right when you read this.  It made me think about Amsterdam, and when I think of Amsterdam I think of Vondel Park.

Vondel Park is a great little oasis of calm off of Leidsplein where you can escape the open drug market that is Amsterdam.  There are more spectacular or beautiful parks in other cities, but Vondel Park does the trick and left an impression on me.  After passing under an overpass, there is an open air stage and stands where you can sit and while away the time letting your thoughts take you where they will.

When you enter the green area of the park, there is a nice pond in the middle where people have picnic lunches, read, or just relax.  The path, which takes you through trees for a pleasant walk, goes in a loop so the stoned tourists won’t get lost.  That doesn’t mean you won’t see signs of bizarre behaviour on their part.  I came across a couple of American girls hiding in a bush, rolling a spliff.  They giggled as I approached.  Apparently, they were the only two people in the city who didn’t know…

If you’re lucky you might find some interesting arts and performances nearby, aside from the usual and ubiquitous street performers and buskers.  Turning right onto Leidsplein after leaving the park, I walked a short distance and heard a crowd behind a small warehouse.  I decided to take a look and found a wonderful theatrical performamce involving mechanical dragons, birds, and other creatures, as well as what appeared to be a Japanese warrior, and other humans.

All in all, it made for a very nice afternoon and evening in a city full of tourists shouting about the availability of hash.  My sympathies to the people of Amsterdam who have to live there day in day out.  It must get to them.  So, it’s no wonder the locals like Vondel Park.