Album Review: Aqualung by Jethro Tull

In 1989, thrash metal pioneers Metallica were the biggest band in metal and were on the verge of becoming the biggest band in music. As such, their high-speed, ferocious assault on the American dream, And Justice For All, was everyone’s favorite contender for the newly introduced Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance. At last, heavy music was getting some of the recondition it deserved. Then the unthinkable happened!! The envelop was opened and the award went, not to Metallica… but to long shot Jethro Tull, for their new album Crest of a Knave.

The producers raced to cut to a commercial, as some audience members booed. The disappointed shock was understandable. The members of Jethro Tull did not even attend the ceremony, since they viewed their winning as extremely unlikely. Much of the rock community was oblivious to the fact Tull was even still together, much less that they had recently released an album. Furthermore many still do not consider their music to be hard rock, much less heavy metal. After all, their albums tended to be dominated by acoustic pieces, they are highly influenced by British folk, and most of all: their singer plays the freaking Flute!!!!! Their confusing name, and even more confusing lyrics also do not help. Ironically, when Metallica did eventually win in 1991, they made a point of thanking Jethro Tull for not releasing an album that year.

Arguably, the 1989 Grammy win was not purely for Crest of a Knave, which is a solid release, but for the group’s legacy of inventive music that was exemplified by their fourth album and commercial break through 197 1′s “Aqualung“. I always found it interesting that Tull never developed the fandom among the younger generation that their contemporaries Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and David Bowie did. I discovered Aqualung around the time, I got into these others and found it to be a very compelling release, that was any many respects much ahead of it’s time.

The album features an unsavory look lower class life, tales of debauchery and a harsh criticism of organized religion, that dominates the second half of the record. The title track, which has become a staple of classic rock radio, introduces it’s titular character: an aged homeless, drunk who eye young girls “with bad intent”. All this is put to a nasty proto-metal riff that must have sounded wild when it came out in 1970. The next track introduces us to a school yard prostitute and we role through a mess of snarling vocal, British folk sensibilities and random flute solos. Just the subject matter alone was more than most bands at the time were willing to tackle.

The second half opens with a track called My God, which subversively tells us that religious practitioners have locked their God in a golden caged and forced his resurrection. “He is the God of nothing if that’s all that you can see. You are God of everything, he’s inside you and me” the song states, expressing a great dislike for the preachings of “the bloody church of England in the chains of history”. Despite this some of the lyrics do leave room for at least some possible belief in a vague spirituality. The track describes Jesus as follows:

And the graven image you-know-who –
With His plastic crucifix –
He’s got him fixed –
Confuses me as to who and where and why –
As to how he gets his kicks.

This dislike of Christianity spreads, through the remaining tracks. Hymn 43 describes a heavenly father smiling upon his children, who are occupied with money, women and guns. It also, alludes to Holywood’s positive spin on the murder of native American’s in the name of the Christian God. The closing track Wind Up, laments the enforced conformity and drudgery of religious schooling, which has is implied to teach children to wind their gods up on Sundays.The album’s art work features images of poverty juxtaposed to alcohol driven partying, moralism and commercialism. It also features the following faux bible verses:

In the beginning Man created God; and in the image of Man created he him. And Man gave unto God a multitude of names,that he might be Lord of all the earth when it was suited to Man… And Man became the God that he had created and with his miracles did rule over all the earth.

I cannot say I know what the message of the album is supposed to be, but it definitely celebrates British life while, throwing the finger at Victorian religious hypocrisy. It laments the loss of a human spirit which it speaks of in religious terms, and definitely indites post-Victorian Christianity for stifling the human spirit. At least that’s what I think.

Needless to say, the album makes for a fun, raw and rather dark offering for fans of seventies rock. It’s strange mix of English folk, proto-metal guitar riffs, abrasive vocals and flute-oriented Jazz remains quite unique, and it’s take on taboo subject matter makes it way ahead of it’s time and an interesting listen.

Easter: Matthew’s Zombie Invasion and Other Oddities

For those unfamiliar with the gospel attributed to Matthew (it was not actually written by a Matthew, but was written anonymously, and the name was assigned to it later), the resurrection narrative features a full out zombie invasion, as well as plenty of other reason to doubt its reliability.

We all know that Jesus, is claimed to have resurrected from the dead and there is now some evidence of that Christians are tiring of atheist habitually calling Jesus a zombie, and using it as point of mockery. I personally like zombie stories and Jesus fits, most descriptions of zombies that I am familiar with, namely a dead body that is brought back to life and moves about. Jesus, even still has the visible wounds on his body from his crucification. One can nit-pick and say Jesus lacked the mindless, slow moving man-eating behaviors of the zombies in modern movies, but the image still is that of a dead body moving about and therefore rather zombie-like.

What is more interesting though, is that Matthew’s supposed Gospel mentions that the death of Jesus was accompanied by an earthquake in which “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” This is a full out zombie invasion of a significant city, during a well recorded time in Roman antiquity. If something this unnatural and this monumental happened, it would almost certainly have been recorded by countless witnesses and yet it appears in the Gospel attributed to Matthew and no where else.

These dead holy men, presumably got to live out their lives again, and yet we never hear any further stories involving them, or anything directly from them either. As noted before, no other gospel or any book of the new testament mentions this incident. This is also true of the Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, the two earthquakes surrounding Jesus’ death, and the strange celestial activity around the time of Jesus birth.  These are events that would have been independently verifiable but, they are not mentioned anywhere else in contemporaneous literature, including the other Gospels.  This also true of the visit of magi, and the holy family’s departure into Egypt.

Interestingly, Matthew’s gospel largely copies Mark’s gospel (the shortest, most striped down and most likely earliest gospel) word for word in many places, but embellishes heavily on it, in some cases simply doubling the beneficiaries of Jesus’ miracles, or placing extra emphasis Jesus divinity, and his ties to the old testament.
Additionally there is also evidence that the authors of Matthew and Luke copied from a shared earlier lost source, which consisted largely of sayings, known to scholars as the Gospel of Q.  It contains word-word material found in Matthew and Luke, but missing from mark.

Biblical scholars generally believe that Matthew was written in the late 1st century (more than a lifetime after Jesus supposed death), by an individual who not an eyewitness at all, but an unknown from Roman Syria.The author of Matthew, also had an agenda that centered on preserving the Jewish nature of Christianity and preventing it’s
Jewish traditions from becoming lost in a religion growing increasingly more popular among gentiles. Matthew’s gospel frequently makes (often sloppy) attempts to tie incidents Jesus life to statements in Jewish Scripture and presents the only gospel that directly states that the law of the old testament is to be kept by Christians. He specifically said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”  Many Christians dismiss this, saying that because of Jesus, they no longer have to follow the law of the old testament.  It amazes me that they, never consider the possibility that the gospel writers disagreed on important points of theology.

For those reasons: wild stories, with no verification, a clear agenda, clear cases of copying from earlier sources, and an overall narrative that makes no sense, I am forced to dismiss Matthew’s alleged gospel and its zombie invasion story as unreliable religious propaganda.  I find that the other books of the old testament have have similar problems too.

As a bonus aside while we are on the topic of easter:

Easter is also, of course the day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of their lord,  Jesus with the seemingly nonsensical practices of dying chicken eggs and telling children that they have been hidden by a magical rabbit.  The rabbit is, of course ancient symbol, of fertility, for obvious reasons, and it’s habit of giving birth to large litters around spring time (due to the fact that in rabbits, fetuses at different stages of development can simultaneously
exist in the same female) have made them commonly associated with the vernal equinox.

Interestingly, an ancient superstition that rabbits are hermaphroditic and able to reproduce without intercourse also led to the association with the virgin Mary and Jesus. German immigrants introduced the Eastern bunny mythology to the United States in the 18th century, though it was originally thought of as an egg-laying hare.    Jacob Grimm (of the famous Grimm brothers) noted that similar traditions existed in Germany and believed their were tied to the worship of a Germanic Goddess called Ēostre or Ostara. This being may have been related to the Norse goddess Feyja who was also associated with Hares.

Combine this with another ancient spring time fertility symbol the egg, and much of the tradition starts to make sense. Eastern Orthodox Christians, have a tradition of using red dye in their eggs representing the blood of Christ, and a Catholic tradition of forbidding the consumption of eggs during the fasting for lent, insuring eggs would be abundant around Easter time.

Does “Removing God from School” Invite Tragedy?

After the horrific mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut, in which 20 children and 6 adults the gunman and his mother were killed, I have heard numerous people make the argument that this is what happens when you take God out of schools. Apparently it’s not the shooter who is responsible for these tragic deaths but those of us who had the audacity to remove the Christian God from our public schools. I have heard this argument made numerous times concerning other events as well, including more recent ones.

There is so much wrong with this argument, I hardly no where to begin. First, off no one removed God from any school. If, we assume for the sake of conversation that the Christian God or something like him exists, it would be impossible for mere mortals to escort him out of a school, or any other building for that matter. Supposedly, his powers are infinitely greater than those of us ordinary humans, and many believe him to be omnipresent. The very idea of removing an omnipresent being from any location is absurd.

What us secularist did do was remove government imposed religious instruction from tax-payer funded schools. When religious conservatives say we took God out of schools, it is code for the fact that the heavy hand of Government is no longer using other people’s tax money to shove Christian religious beliefs down the throats of other people’s children. I cannot help but think this governmental restraint is a good thing. Freedom of religion means that government doesn’t force religious instruction on the people. People are still free to teach children about their God in their homes, in religious private schools and in their churches, free from the encroachment of government and the use of other people’s tax money.

But even though public school teachers are no longer allowed to or required to push religious instruction, it still does not mean God has been taken out of schools. Children are still allowed to pray, they just cannot be instructed to do so by a school official. Children are also free to join religious clubs, read religious texts in their free time and talk among themselves about religious topics. We live in a country where most people are religious, and most school teachers and children believe in some form of God, even if the teachers are not allowed to use their power of the students for religious purposes. I strongly suspect that as long as public schools continue to give tests, there will always be prayer in schools.

Upon pointing this out, I have been met with the reply that the increasing secularism of the school system has told God that he has not wanted and that he has withdrawn his “protective influence.” This is such a morally despicable notion. Are we expected to believe that God makes it possible for little children to be brutally murdered solely because adults no longer use the government to force feed kids religious teachings? Do the people who spew such rubbish from their mouths seriously believe that none of the murder victims at that Connecticut school house believed in God or sought his protection? It seems highly likely to me that at least one of the children believed in a God, and were otherwise innocent, and yet we are told that they had to die because God was not wanted at their school.

This of course comes from a man who rejects the notion that a God exists. I don’t blame removing God from our schools because I don’t think he was ever there in the first place. There is, of course, no evidence that any god or any protective influence exists. Such a thing has never been demonstrated. The occurrence and distribution of tragic events in time and space can be explained entirely by natural laws. Hurricanes hit god believers and sinners alike. Christians, atheists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews all die in mass shootings, bombings, acts of war and terrorism.

The apparent disinterest of God stands in stark contrast to the shameless, manipulative behavior of some of his most fervent, politically-active followers.

Does Contemporary Christian Music Suck??

Does Christian music suck??  That may depend how one defines Christian music. For example, I do not believe Johnny Cash’s music sucked. Despite being an atheist, I enjoy the vast majority of it, very much, and yet, Johnny Cash was a Christian and much of his music dealt with explicitly Christian topics. This is true of many American artists, whose music often deals with explicitly Christian matters, but is still enjoyable. Spiritual music, is an important part of our American musical heritage and many artists have been able to draw upon heritage to great effect.

Aside from Johnny Cash, I think of The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and Tom Waits as examples of musicians, who created great music with explicitly Christian content. This may be a reflection of my personal taste, as I am sure many more diverse and more recent examples abound.  I must assure our readers here, that these selected examples, despite being decades old, do not reflect a bias towards the old over the new, as much of what I listen to is much newer than these (however my newer music of choice tends to be more subversive and less Christian).

My point here is that even as a non-believer, who prefers music that reflects his own values, I cannot, say that there is not music by Christian artist with explicitly lyrics that I would still consider quite good.  That is to say, that I cannot reject all music, that is somehow Christian as bad.  On the other hand we have Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)scene based out of Nashville Tennessee, of which nearly everything I have ever heard has left me with little enjoyment and little interest in hearing more.

So how is the music of someone like Johnny Cash, different from that of the Nashville based CCM scene? Well for one, his sound was very original and very memorable.  I tend to find that most Christian rock bands that are marketed as such, tend to be rather bland musically and rather forgettable musically.  They largely sound like attempts to bank in on whatever flavor is cool at the time.  The softer stuff, has all the problems one would expect, and the hard rocking stuff still sounds like attempts to bank in on the post-grunge, pop punk, emo or nu-metal that has dominated radio for the last decade and a half.  I’m not hearing, raw chaos, technical playing outside the box lyrics or anything, that strikes me as the least bit challenging or unconventional and for modern rock these tend to be a must. If you can find an exception please let me know, I’d love to hear it.  I don’t even want to get into Christian rap, because if, I am going to listen to rap, it had better be hard edged, socially relevant, subversive or intellectual and Christianity rap, strikes me as lacking in these departments bu its very nature.

What I’m hearing from contemporary Christian music all sounds, mass produced and more focused on acting as medium for a message than as art for art’s sake.  It sounds like it was recorded with a target audience in mind, for with the purpose of being played at church camps and youth groups trying to develop a modern feel, complimented with a heavy bunch of paunchiness on the side. The music sounds safe, sanitized, and neutered with an air of suburban conformity disguised as free expressions of individualism. It sounds like the stuff an over-protective suburban mom would let their kids listen to, because Nirvana is out of the question.  It is like all the worst aspects of
modern music have been combined with all the most obnoxious elements of Christianity.  Part of the problems, seems to me to be the insularity of it all. Christians seem to have this need to exist apart from the rest of society while having their own mirror image derivative institutions (like Christian phone books, movie review sites and, of course, Conservapedia). In the case of Christian rock this ironically means imitating a music style typically associated with sex and drugs.

Everything about it comes off as excessively formulaic and excessively preachy, which says a lot considering that I tend to like music that is meant to convey a message, there is a lot of great music that is message-centered. For example, I listen to many politically oriented punk bands, that put strong statements with each song (that I did not
always agree with), and yet still manage to do it in a way that keeps the music sounding raw, compromised and thought provoking, and not excessively preachy.

It does not, help that these group sound like their target audience is young teenagers or that half way through a live set, the start preaching and it feels like a failed motivational speech.  It also does not help, that the lyrical themes have been so heavily recycled that we’ve heard them all before a million times.  Not to mention that they either sound like, love songs, with Jesus as the subject, or obsess with becoming a follower or glorify a bloody human sacrifice.
Johnny Cash at least sounded, authentic and had the decency to keep things interesting with songs about, prisons, murders and drugs (not to mention, I appreciate his willingness to cover the likes of Danzig, Soundgarden, Leonard Cohen and Nine Inch Nails).

With all that said, I also want to mention the awful praise music trend, I have seen at many church functions I’ve been dragged to.  You know the stuff, repetitive emotion-based, guilt-trip laden lyrics about Jesus’ supposed sacrifice, a few simple chords and a pattern of: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse,  chorus, verse, instrumental
section playing the chords the chorus is built around indefinitely, followed by a motivational speech on top of this, usually asking for people to approach the stage to be saved, or to repeat after the singer to affirm their dedication to the cause.  It all just seems like an ill-conceived attempt to play on emotions, and yet the people who buy into this stuff eat it all up.  I cannot help but, be reminded of the South Park episode, in which Eric Cartman rights these
types of songs, by replacing the words “darling” and “baby” in generic pop songs with Jesus, with hilarious, and slightly unsettling results.

Anyway, feel free to share your favorite CCM artists with me. I’ve tried Todd Agnew, which sounded like a soft Nickleback imitation (a bad imitation of bad music).  I’ve tried Jars of Clay, which was just bland and forgettable as could be. I tried Superchick and can’t imagine how anyone other than a teenage girl could like the stuff (or it’s abstinence themed messages), I tried skillet, which sounded like it was trying hard to sound like everything else. If you think, I paint CCM music with a broad brush, do let me know, and by all means help me find exceptions to the rules.  Otherwise, I will remain inclined to think that contemporary Christian music sucks and that
today’s best music tends to be non-religious in nature.

The Hell with Pat Buchanan and his Ronald Reagan Worship

I have written quite a few of these critiques of Pat Buchanan’s contributions to and have questioned why Rockwell would continuously share post with an author who is vehemently anti-free market as and as completely irrelevant to anything forward thinking libertarian below the age of 60 as Buchanan. I have to wonder why I even bother commenting on them at all, but they do get sent to me and they do illicit a response from me that I find more than worthy of sharing. So here goes.

Today’s piece, which can be found here, is in many ways one of the better ones and actually agree with the vast majority of it, which criticizes Republican politicians for kissing up to war hungry, billionaire donors like Sheldon Adelson, in exchange for money. Buchanan’s critique of this is excellent, well written and I’m completely in with him on everything he says until the last few three lines which are phrased as questions:

Is this what Republican presidential candidates must do now?

Kowtow to this fattest of fat cats who wants to buy himself an American war on Iran?

Is that what has become of the party of Reagan?

This is where Buchanan looses me. Simply put this not what Republican presidential candidates must do now, it what the almost certainly have always done. This is what the party of Reagan was from the get go. This is not what the Republican party has become, but what it has been at least as far back as Eisenhower, who overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran, at the behest of oil companies. Buchanan should not be acting like corruption and cronyism international intervention are anything new in Republican politics. This is what the party of Reagan was in the first place. Reagan’s regime was one of the most corrupt and interventionist we have had and Buchanan should know this because he was part of that administration. Hearing a former Reagan and Nixon staffer complain about corruption just rings a bit hollow for me.

What’s more is that this setting Reagan as the gold standard for republicans is highly problematic. When you have a party composed of people who worship a corrupt, militarist, moralist, actor who was nothing more than a puppet for the interest of big business, than of course you are you are going to find them kissing up the Sheldon Adelsons of the world. This type of thing has been a staple of both parties behavior at least since WWII if not further and Reagan only made it worse.  His regime also supported some of the most brutal dictators and death squads of that time period and essentially engaged in international mass murder, as I discuss in more detail here. The administration was  literally was conducting an illegal secret war with money made by selling weapons to Iran which was then an official enemy country.  As such I think Lew Rockwell, would do well not to have articles with not so subtle Reagan nostalgia on his site, a site by the way that claims to be anti-war, pro-market and anti-state, three things that Reagan most certainly was not.
I will also that while, I like seeing such an otherwise strong critique of the corruption of Republican politics from someone who has presumably has some credibility in Republican circles, I have to remind our readers that this is a problem with the Democratic Party as well. This includes of course the financial sector elites who donated heavily to Obama’s campaign and got nearly everything they wanted from him. Corruption is a problem not just with one party but with the system itself and we would do well not to loose site of this.

Are Atheists and Other Critics of Religion too Soft on Islam?

Often those of us who are critical of religions, specifically theistic religions often get accused of picking on Christianity while overlooking or being soft on the problems with other religions. The most frequent example of this blind spot tends to be our over abundance of material critiquing Christianity or the bible, and relative lack of material on other faiths, especially Islam. This accusation seems to be the most blatant in Ann Coulter’s allegations that liberals (which she seems to equate with atheists, despite the fact that most are not) hate all religions, except is Islam.

I can only speak for myself but, I suspect that most atheist activists and other critics of religion will agree with all if not most of my position. I find that Islam is just as irrational and unsupported by evidence as Christianity or any other religion. It also has a history of creating and supporting authoritarian theocratic governments, promoting extreme sexism and violence against women, being at the heart of many violent global conflicts and having adherents who committing violence against non-Muslims or different Muslim sects.

I am not saying, that these things are true of all Islamic people or all varieties of the religion. I know for a fact that some are quite lovely and quite people. That said, I recognize that religious moderates often do provide cover and legitimization for the actions of religious extremists. I also find that there is a tendency for extreme religionists to have their religion’s scripture on their side. Often religious moderates seem to want to pick and choose which parts of their religious teachings they wish to follow, while the fundamentalist follow theirs to ever last insane detail.

I tend to agree with Atheist Experience Host Matt Dillahunty‘s notion that Christianity is a religion that has been “dragged kicking and screaming into the twentieth century” and as such Christian are no longer burning witches or killing heretics. This is not necessarily true of the Islam, in much of the world, where equivalent practices are still taking place. I see fundamentalist Islam as in many ways representing a threat to word peace and personal freedom that is far bigger than any other religious doctrine I know of. Despite acknowledging this, I still will likely focus my critiques of religion on Christianity first and foremost and continue to defend the religious rights of Muslims around the world.

My writings are more likely to focus on Christianity more than other religions because it is what I know and it is what my readers know. I am a citizen of the United States raised in a Christian family with many Christian friends and relatives. The criticism worthy religious craziness that is most likely to directly touch my life and that of my English speaking readers is the from the Christian tradition. In the states there are numerous home grown authoritarian Christian theocrats in positions of power and these need to be called out and resisted just as much as their counter parts on the other side of the world. I have a much greater chance of influencing their constituents and spreading secular ideas in the predominantly Christian west than I do in the Islamic world, where I do not speak the language or have a good understanding of the issues. From my experience this is the case with many other outspoken critics of religion from the western world as well.

I will also elaborate on my above mentioned defense of the rights of Muslims to nonviolently practice their faith. I am a secularist who believes in religious freedom. That means freedom to build mosque or community centers on land one that one has acquired through voluntary means, freedom to pray as one pleases and to share one’s beliefs with others. That said, I oppose any use of tax payer money, or government institutions to promote or endorse any religious beliefs anywhere in the world. I believe in a free market of ideas and think that religions should have to compete in such markets.  That said, I tend to also generally oppose US intervention in the Muslim world, not out of a soft spot for the Islamic faith, which I most certainly do not have, but because I find such military adventurism as likely to create as many if not more problems than it is claimed to solve. Once again I suspect this is the position held by most anti-interventionist secularist, and the various political liberals (of which I do not identify) that Ann Coulter is misrepresenting in the quote above.

I’ll also note that my views here do not represent the opinions of anyone else, but most American Atheist I have talked to about the subject will likely agree with much of what I say here. I will note that there are many critics of religion such as the late Christopher Hitchens who did not or do not share my non-interventionist views.


Eat Me!! The Wierdness of Communion

I’ve admittedly moved around a lot and live in many places around the country. In each of the places I have made once-in-a-lifetime friends, many of whom I have only occasionally been able to spend time with since moving. I’ve been thinking, the next time I move to some place new, I should do something special to show my friends that they will be in my thoughts and give them something to remember me by.

Maybe  a sensible thing to do would be to take them out for nice dinner somewhere, with great food and a little wine. I could then explain to them that their food simply is me. I’ll say that I am giving myself to them in the form of edible goodness, that the food is in fact my body. I am giving my body to them in the form veal parmigiana and breaded tilapia. As they eat it, it will become different parts of my body. I’ll then explain to them that these delicacies can become me anytime they like, and that they should eat my flesh in this way, from time to time, to remember what a good friend I am. Perhaps they can ritualistically turn their food into me at their restaurant of choice, or hold Jim Wilson cookouts, and see who can make my flesh the most delicious. What could be a better way to expressing your affection and solidarity with a person than to eat them?

Of course, when I take them out I’ll mention that the wine they are drinking is my blood and they can also take vampiric delight in drinking my blood anytime too. I will of course have to ensure them that I have no blood-born illnesses, but that my blood alcohol content will be high enough that someone else will have to drive me home. Of course after a few swigs I will never have tasted better.

This could be the start of a new trend. Friends all over the country could turn themselves into each other’s food in order to remember them. “Are you guys gonna talk to Bob on skype?” “Better, were gonna eat him over at Joe’s.” “Awesome, I’ll bring his blood for us to drink!!” In all this cannibalistic fun though, be careful. Friends don’t let friends eat strangers. After all, who wants to be stuck in the gut of some big oaf they don’t even know, between last night’s jello pudding and this morning’s granola? Which reminds me, I’ll have to tell my friends to eat me as much as they like, but goodness knows, don’t feed me to your kids or your pets.

Perhaps ritualistic eating of the flesh of old friends isn’t for everyone. Some might say it sounds really bizarre, or tribal or even pagan, but what do they know? All I know is that it was good enough for Jesus!! The world’s largest organization of his followers insists that they are literally eating their savior when they perform communion. Strangely for me, when I took Communion, the bread and wine certainly did not taste human. Maybe Jesus was a guy of unique taste. At the same time, I was always concerned about which of Jesus’ body parts I was getting. None of them seemed to have crucifixion wounds, so I’ll assume I got mostly elbows and stomach parts. Why not?? Hopefully, none of those crucifixion nails put me or the countless other blood drinkers at risk of tetanus.

Of course the real origins of the ritual are mysterious. Though Matthew’s gospel follows Mark’s pretty closely, Luke’s differs enough that some scholars question whether it came form the same source. Though John’s gospel’s presentation of the last supper includes a nice foot bath scene and some teachings, it neglects to mention Jesus claiming to be food or requesting that people eat him. Some scholars have noted that this ritual violates a Jewish prohibition against eating blood and have suggested it may be Pagan in origins. As such comparisons of communion and various rituals in Hellenistic mystery religions have been made. Some suggest the Cult of Dioceses influenced the development of this ritual, while other scholars argue that it is at least in part related the Jewish Seder.

Many believers take Communion for granted or don’t give it a second look. I find it a strangely interesting idea, even if it makes my fellow non-believers question the sanity of this Jesus character or the veracity of biblical accounts. Needless to say, next time I move, my last supper will be hard to beat.