Nov 11 2010

Pop Paganism

Church bashing, pagan priestesses, and religious pluralism – Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (1982) has it all. Offering yet another take on the Arthurian legend, Bradley’s fantasy has been praised for its feminist narrative and honored with its own miniseries on basic cable (2001).

The strongest women of Avalon – all devotees of the mother goddess – hold the destiny of the High King in their hands while fending off the dual threats of Saxon invasion and Christian conversion. The “official” version of the new religion gaining ground in Arthur’s world is cold, misogynistic, hypocritical, and meddlesome. Not all is gloom and doom, however. Bradley, in the voice of Morgaine, offers hope by uniting the two religions under one Gnostic banner. If Morgaine has her way, the most enlightened heirs of Camelot will understand that the Christian God and the Celtic goddess are male and female aspects of a single, nameless Divine. The good old days are behind us, she laments, but the goddess survives in the guise of Mary, mother of Jesus.

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Jul 1 2009

A Strange Land

Although we often associate Medieval Europe with feudalism, there were pockets of republicanism on the margins and in the mountains. These communities retained some independence from the empires that encroached upon their lands. A classic case in point is Switzerland. In 1291, representatives from three republics assembled on the field of Rutli to sign a covenant uniting them against Austrian imperial control. Other city states and regions joined the Swiss Confederation over the ensuing centuries.

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May 18 2009

This Ferocious Doctrine

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Introduction

“The predestination of saints,” Augustine of Hippo wrote, refers to the “foreknowledge and the preparation of God’s kindnesses, whereby they are most certainly delivered, whoever they are that are delivered.”[1] The unpalatable corollary is that those who are not so chosen remain in their sin and are eternally lost. This “ferocious doctrine,” as Bertrand Russell called it, would form the basis for Calvin’s decrees of divine election and rejection.

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