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God and women

For the purposes of this article, I am using the traditional (<cough>correct</cough>) definition of "woman" and "female" to refer to those who lack a Y chromosome.

The archbishop of York has suggested to the General Synod that the opening words of the Lord's Prayer ("Our father...") may be "problematic" because of their patriarchal association.

Is this a shocking nugget of self-awareness in a highly mysogynistic belief system that has caused misery for millennia, or is this a lame attempt to get with the changing world?
In response to this, Canon Dr Chris Sugden (part of the more conservative side of the Anglican church) suggested that some church leaders "take their cues from culture rather than scripture".

In an attempt to get out of the morass, the CofE said "Christians have recognised since ancient times that God is neither male nor female"... yet He is always referred to as He (with a capital H).

Not only that, but back in those ancient times the bible was revised to remove Asherah who was the wife of God.
Yup. God had a wife.
Now he's a lone beardy bloke floating in the clouds with genderless heavenly beings with a fascination for harps. <sarcasm>Sounds just lovely...</>

The ancient Israelites used to worship both Yahweh and Asherah, and through the many corruptions of time, only one remained. The Big Bloke.
Now, the thing is that while God literally has no gender because he has no body (something of a prerequisite to sex and gender), the understanding in scripture is that God is masculine. Hence, "Our Father".
Additionally, his incarnation in Jesus (the Catholic Trinity stuff here) was also male.

In fact, it isn't hard to find examples of misogyny in the bible. From Eve being tempted (and then corrupting Adam) to what Delilah did to Sampson. Littered around the bible are little nuggets that are easily seized by those wishing to control women, such as 1 Corinthians 11:3 that says "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." Religious people will tell you that "headship" means that the man has a sacred responsibility to preside, to lead in a righteous manner and guide in spiritual and temporal matters.
Which, really, does nothing to improve the situation. I mean, the first valid response to that should be "says who?". Oh, yes, the "male" guy up in the clouds, and his army of male sycophants. Brilliant.

We don't have to look much further along Corinthians (14:34) which says "Let your woman keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law." and to really ram home the point, the very next verse says "And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church". In this sense, shame in the context of shameful.

Speaking of "shut up bitch", let me now hop over to 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which says "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.".
In order to justify this anti-female rant, the next two verses assign blame "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression".
But to hold out a mouldy fig leaf, the final verse of this nonsense says "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety". It's the King James bible I'm quoting, so that's the English meaning of "sobriety" which isn't a euphemism for "sober".

In essense, if you're a woman, shut up and do what you're told.
Screw you, Timothy.

There are other examples, including the lovely Ecclesiasticus 25:24 which reads "Of the woman came the beginning of sinne, & through her wee all die". The odd spelling (even by biblical standards) is because this was a set of books inserted between the Old and New Testaments back in the original KJV back in 1611, which were finally removed in 1885 because, well, they're still arguing about it so I'll just gloss over this.

However, Exodus 22 is a long list of prohibitions and retributions. If a man nicks an ox and kills it, he has to repay five oxen. If fire breaks out and corn or crop is destroyed, the person that kindled the fire should make restitution. If a man entices an unmarried maid and lies with her, he should make her his wife.
Verse 18, shoved in amidst all of this, is the infamous "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live".
A criminally negligent mistranslation (it is thought that the original root of the word was "poisoner", but since witches and poisoners both worked with herbs, you can see what happened here).

Most of these so-called witches were female, and plenty were hung (note, not burned at the stake in English speaking countries) and some were tossed into water and declared innocent if they drowned (and if they didn't drown they were clearly witches and subsequently killed). Thankfully nine million witches didn't die as is commonly thought. A more realistic estimate is somewhere between thirty and sixty thousand. That's not really an improvement, is it? Oh, and while I'm correcting some misconceptions, allow me to point out that the Catholic church and the Spanish Inquisition executed two witches. In England, about 2,000 people were tried for witchcraft and about a quarter of those were found guilty and executed. That's about five hundred. Far in excess of the Spanish Inquisition. But for the English, it has always been so much simpler to point the finger elsewhere and say "look over there" than to look in the mirror.

Speaking of looking in the mirror, the problem isn't whether or not God is male, female, or other. The misogynistic sentiment runs far deeper and has done so for a long, long, time. We might look at the adherents of another branch of the Abrahamic beliefs who would rather kill a girl than let her go to school and we must understand that this narrow mentality is enabled by some of the craziness in their holy book. I'm not familiar with that one, but the holy book that I do know is full of nonsense, hate, violence, and debauchery. I'm quite surprised that in the American book banning sprees, that the bible hasn't been nailed to the wall and shot to smithereens with a 9mm.

The problem isn't whether or not God exists, or what gender we use to refer to him/her/it. The problem is the concept of religion itself.


Oh, and just to balance things out as it is easy for a westerner to criticise the terrible treatment of women in countries to the east... it seems that too many Catholic nuns had no compunctions about mistreating, torturing, and murdering children; then tossing their bodies where they won't be found... as has been recently discovered in Ireland and Canada, and no doubt other horrors yet to be revealed.
And, well, just look at what's going on in America these days. The bible is not a book of answers, it is a weapon. Which seems to be quite effective in allowing men to control the bodies of women they don't know.


Origins of "God"

Now, let's step back from all of that and concentrate on God's wife, Asherah. She was actually an ancient fertility goddess in the ancient Semetic religions (such as Canaanite). She was the consort of El (Canaanite) or Anu (Mesopotamian) who were as far as I can determine, the same entity in two different cultures. This "supreme God and creator" which goes further back in time is hard to trace as various ancient authors appear to have tried to bend the stories of the old polytheistic religions to a more modern monotheistic one where El/Anu evolved into The One True God. It is thought that this evolved into Yahweh, the old Israelite name for God, though there doesn't seem to be any concensus. Part of the problem is that this was happening around the Bronze Age, and we humans weren't so good with the whole writing thing back then.
Anu (Mesopotamian, originally An (Sumerian)) was not just the King of the gods, he was also the divine personification of the sky. Are you seeing parallels with God/Heaven here?

We can dig a little further back. Anu's parents were Anshar (whole heaven) and Kishar (whole earth) who were... brother and sister! Their parents were Lahamu and Lahmu (also brother and sister who were cosmological beings). They had parents - Tiamat (a Goddess of the sea and the embodiment of promordial chaos) and Abzu (the name for freshwater, and the sea between the underworld and the earth). We're now into Akkadian, something like 2,500BC and also a cuneiform script which is the earliest documented Semetic language. Tiamat and Abzu have no known parents.

What is certain is that the God that we consider as "God" in the sense of the Abrahamic religions, frequently romanised as YHWH is actually a relative newcomer. To put it into context, the Greek pantheon (Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, etc) predate any known references to YHWH. The current earliest known reference is a tablet known as the Mesha Stele dating from around 840BC. As such, any sensible scholars have discarded the idea that the Abrahamic god is the original god of all humans. As can be seen, it's quite likely that different cultures had their own creation myths and gods. Evidence suggests that in the ancient days, the concept of many gods was common. This is something that has survived in relgions that have been fairly isolated from the rest of the world, such as Shinto (though it's worth noting that "kami" might translate to "god", but it's not the same concept as we in the west understand by the word god).

To throw a massive spoke in the works, in 1939 in a cave in Baden-Württemberg found parts of a statue carved from mammoth ivory using a flint knife. This ought to tell you it was old. Like really old. Carbon dating has determined that it was 35,000 to 40,000 years old, and enough pieces have been found to reconstruct a statue 12 inches tall (that's the length of a school ruler). It was therefore made back in the Upper Paleolithic days when humans shared the world with Neanderthals (and Denisovians in Asia). The body is human, the head is that of a lion. Google for Löwenmensch, and you'll get plenty of theories. Child's toy? Sex object? Some sort of deity? Who knows, but the amount of detail and the work involved suggests that it wasn't just done for fun.
Looks like the dude in the Predator movies, if you ask me... evidence of the early alien occupation of our planet? ☺


Our problem here is a complete lack of knowledge and information on what sorts of things happened so long ago, leading to a lot of educated guesses - we are attempting to reconstruct proto-indo-european (our language from 2,500-4,500 BC) by comparing similarities in languages that have descended from PIE. It is also interesting to note that European languages (Spanish, English, German...) and Indian languages (Hindu, Punjabi, Urdu...) as well as Persian, Russian, etc all share the same ancestor. That being PIE.
And this was sort of Bronze Age stuff. There's simply no hope of knowing what came before, never mind what Paleolithic humans may have sounded like or how they communicated.
Writing, too, is fairly recent. From the cuneiforms of the Akkadians (which were not really suited to transcribing a Semetic language!) to Aramaic (which evolved from the Phoenician alphabet, which itself evolved from Egyptian hieroglyphs) which further evolved in separate branches to Hebrew and Arabic. Somewhere along the way, there were also runic scripts, and what eventually became the Latin alphabet we know.
The actual evolution of written language is messier than that, but it's the basic gist...running in an entirely seperate thread all by itself, Chinese. An entirely different method of writing, a very old language, and thus one that has a lot of history behind it.

Either way, our understanding of human writing goes back around five and a half thousand years (give or take a thousand years). With some (scant) written evidence, we can try to work out those ancient languages and cultures.
Prior to that, it's purely guesswork. We have, literally, no hope of ever knowing what the lion-man statuette was actually about.

These days? The signal to noise ratio is off the scale. Reading and writing is seen as an essential life skill, and with the advent of cheap web hosting, any half-arse can spew their random ill-conceived bollocks to the world where it can exist but be largely ignored by said world. This very site being a glorious demonstration of that.
Perhaps even weirder is that while I have spent an awful lot of time writing this, and you may have spent somewhat less time reading it, it doesn't really exist. There's no official written record of anything presented here (and if you were to print it, how long until the ink fades or the paper disintegrates?). It exists only in the imaginations of a web server and a few dozen caches. If there's some sort of global catastrophe (either us trying to kill each other or a huge solar flare), all of this might simply flicker out of existence.
But, then, such a cataclysm would also take out the likes of Facebook, so it's not all bad. I'm not including Twitter here, as that's trying so very hard to commit seppuku.

However, even if by some miracle a snapshot of our world and its cultures could be preserved for thousands and thousands of years and be readable and be understood (god help them when they reach Reddit), they - whoever they are - would still likely make plenty of errors about how we lived and conclude that the pollution of industrialisation must have released chemicals into the air that made us all completely nuts.
Which, let's face it, would be hard to argue.


Stirling Engine redux

This morning, the postman delivered the stainless steel end to get the Stirling engine running again.

That was the theory. In reality, it was slightly too wide (!) so when I turned the wheel and pressure built, it just popped off.

I "fixed" this by wrapping some electrical tape around the connection to fatten up the joint so the end piece fits snugly.

It will fit
It will fit!

It's a short term fix as the thing gets seriously hot and the tape eventually melts.

But until that happens, with the entire metal end (and the bit of wire wool inside) heating up, the engine goes a hell of a lot faster than ever it did before.


I'm having to hold it down so it doesn't shake itself off the table. The LED is bright white (all colours on) and I measured a solid 2.88V. And that's with the loose rubber band and the pulleys on each side being the same size. Imagine, if the flywheel pulley was larger so the motor turned more rapidly.

It's good to get it working again, and at it's faster speed, it's quite fascinating to get a functioning engine out of such a simple arrangement as "let's just heat up some air and push/pull it through a narrow gap".

For what I've spent on this (the thing itself, which was pricey for what you got), the two glass tubes that weren't any use, and the steel tube that works, I probably could have got a simple steam engine. But, then, I'd not have discovered this little oddity.


Antenne Symphonic Rock radio

Weird. I just finished listening to Avantasia - Blizzard on a broken mirror and now playing is Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Lucky man. They were supposed to be played at 20h40 and 20h46 respectively. It's now 21h18. So it looks as if by listening to the station for six hours, I've managed to get half an hour out of sync... somehow? Still, it means I can see what is coming up.
It also explains why if I lose the connection in the car, when it reconnects it is playing something completely different. It's still a pretty weird way to run a station - it's like it's feeding the music specifically to me, rather than just tossing the master stream to me. Otherwise there's no way it could get out of sync.

It also means it's a bit of a mindscrew that if I start the station on my phone to see what a song is called, it's invariably playing something completely different.


My washing machine motor

It's not a direct drive after all. It's a motor, quite possibly a sort of DC stepper deal like the direct drives (hence all the different speeds), but it's a traditional motor with a belt to connect to the drum.

Good and bad. Bad in that there's a belt that could break, and the extra power required to spin up the motor, and possibly a clutch mechanism on the drum (which is what went in my old machine), but good in that if a repair is needed due to the motor failing, it looks like a simple enough thing to replace. Not by me, I've got so much insurance on this thing... but still, a motor failure shouldn't need a massive strip-down.
On the other hand, I still think it'll be the electronics that cark it first.

Here's the motor.

Washing machine motor
Washing machine motor.

And looking up a little more, the belt attached to the drum.

Drum belt
Drum belt.

And here's the heater element with the little temperature sensor located nearby.

Heater and sensor
Heater sensor.

Don't worry, I didn't void my warrany. For the first two pictures, I propped the front of the machine on a tin of beans and looked up with my endoscope camera. I didn't use my phone as, well, I would have been working blind. So it's a trade-off, naff quality pictures but pictures of more or less what I wanted (with the caveat that it's actually quite hard to aim that endoscope at anything).

The heater picture was thanks to the paddle in the drum being able to unclip and slide out in order to allow you to retrieve anything that might have dropped down inside the machine, despite it being damn near impossible to actually do that if the door flaps are open. Rather like the special warning that comes on if you close the lid when the door is open. It's cool that the machine will notice this rather than tearing itself apart, but I'd be more interested in knowing how the hell anybody can actually close the lid with the door open. It's... just not possible without the sort of effort that causes things to break.



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Gavin Wraith, 9th July 2023, 11:28
Until a couple of centuries ago popular knowledge about our past came only from the bible, a much-censored work as you point out. The ancient Greeks of the classical period were rabidly misogynist, by our standards; it was not just the Semitic influence. That is not to say that all ancient cultures were. Robert Graves had much to say about that. It is just our bad luck that the only ones our great-great-grandfathers knew about were such women-haters. It was not only Christians who suffered such blindness about the past. In his diaries Evliya Celebi (1611-1682) wrote of his awe at seeing the Parthenon in Athens for the first time, and assumed that it was created by magic by King Soloman. Muslims too suffered the same ignorance as our ancestors. 
At school we had very interesting lessons on the sources of the Bible. But I found the New Testament, which we studied in the original Koine, pretty much incomprehensible; neoplatonist nonsense reinterpreted. 
About twenty five years ago I started getting interested in Hittite, the language and the people. They prided themselves on being open to other people's gods. I believe that their laws had a big influence on Judaic law.
Anon, 9th July 2023, 12:43
As a devout Atheist I have trouble with the concept of a divine being, or a creator. 
As someone who is technically a Pagan (Wiccan, if pushed), I believe in fate, and I believe in karma. I don't believe in "gods" or other weird stuff. 
I do, however, believe in reincarnation. Which kinda makes sense. If you're self-aware, when the shell terminates, the self-awareness has to go somewhere, right? That's the bit that science hasn't (yet) figured out. 
The difference between science and religion of course is that science admits when it gets things wrong - and a true scientist loves to be proved wrong as it means someone, somewhere, has come up with a better theory. Whereas religion - it's "correct", it's immutable, and if you dare to say otherwise then you're a heretic who gets burnt at the stake (or nowadays merely excommunicated). 
It's also noteworthy that all the major religions of the world that believe in a "creation" all set the age of the Earth at around 4000-5000 BCE. Which is around the time that humans invented written language. Co-incidence? I think not. 
Discuss. :-)
Rick, 9th July 2023, 13:35
Already have, Anon. 
Spirits -> 2022/10/01 
Ghosts -> 2022/11/01 
I pretty much call it the "Ghost In The Shell" theory. ;)
David Pilling, 9th July 2023, 14:00
Slang usage "dear reader I laughed so much I voided my warranty" 
Pity you can't get a religious person to discuss, collectively they've had 2000 years of wise guys spotting snags and know the answers. 
Sometimes it is nice to have a connection with the past, to know that people were saying the same prayers or measuring wood in the same cubits. 
Who cares what people in the past thought - well you have to because there's too much stuff to work out yourself. Maybe the people who invented religions had mental capacities that have been lost. 
Religions have evolutionary advantages, the ones that work survive. Unpalatable but "everyone sticks to the rules" might make for success. 
"science admits when it gets it wrong" - but it might take a long time. Scientists have motivation to fight for their ideas - money, careers. 
Rick, 9th July 2023, 14:20
I think a good example of the evolutionary advantages of religion can be summed up with Judaism's food rules. 
What may seem crazy today is what will have kept them alive in a barren desert two thousand years ago. 
Today, we understand bacteria and have antibiotics. 
Back then? Do this and this and eat this and you'll anger God so much he'll kill you. 
So they didn't. And that helped them survive. 
Science likes to claim that it admits when it gets things wrong, but frequently there's too much money involved that it's a corruption of what science is supposed to be about. 
It's a double edged sword. The money is needed to do the science, but the people with the money have certain, shall we say, "expectations". Like, no, there's no proof that X is bad for Y (even though it clearly is).
Gavin Wraith, 9th July 2023, 15:19
We are all suckered into believing in progress. That we know more than our ancestors is hardly contentious. But that we are wiser? Schoolboys no longer have to do multiplication using Roman numerals. Some things we can usefully forget. Occasionally a fragment of poetry can remind us of good things we have forgotten, and that we have forgotten we have forgotten. I differ from Anon because I suspect that my brief flight out of the dark and back into the dark has no meaning other than its own. From the Big Bang, if it existed, to my first memories was easy enough, from my point of view, and I expect the same from my death to the winking out of the last star.
Rick, 9th July 2023, 16:07
It's a nice phrase, but you do realise that by the time the final star winks out, the universe won't even have hit middle age? 
All these bright stars in the night sky? It's the energy and exuberance of a teenager. 
For the vast majority of the universe's life it will be an utterly dark void with the ghosts of former worlds, stars, and galaxies drifting about aimlessly in absolute zero. 
That the energy eventually runs out doesn't mean the matter does. 
Gavin Wraith, 9th July 2023, 19:01
Gods cease to exist when nobody worships them. Pfui, mere matter does not matter. Now what is interesting is what nearly exists. Just like numbers. Each number on its own is much like any other. Numbers are interesting en masse, when you consider their structure: their order, their algebraic properties. A super-massive black hole a mere 6 billion times the mass of the sun? So small town! Remember those Hungarian noblemen who had a competition to name the biggest number? Most numbers are bigger than anyone can think. Does size matter? Only on cheques and articles of clothing. Small, medium, large, Struth! and Christ Almighty! are the Aussie standard units.
Rick, 9th July 2023, 19:23
I don't think numbers, on their own, are necessarily much use. 
A stupid large number can represent the sand grains of the Sahara (result: meh, it's probably quite wrong) and money in a bank account (result: holy crap are you kidding me?). 
Numbers for the sake of numbers are a ballache. Without meaning, they're what? Ontological exercises in trying to create something from mere concepts alone. 
Size matters when it's pay day. ;) 
And, yes, clothing is "aww cute", "small", "medium", "large", "marshmallow", "blimp". 
J.G.Harston, 9th July 2023, 22:01
The world being created through holy incest seems to be a common theme in all cultures. In Japanese mythology, brother and sister Izanagi and Izanami stirred the world into creation, and mated to create all life.
Anon, 9th July 2023, 22:02
"Occasionally a fragment of poetry can remind us of good things we have forgotten, and that we have forgotten we have forgotten." 
Not just poetry. 
Earlier this year I was clearing out my back bedroom as I had a friend staying. I found a MASSIVE box of VHS video cassettes. 
Most of them were films recorded from the telly, or furtively copied from the local video rental shop (naughty naughty - I even had a box to defeat the Macrovision protection), nearly all of which I now have on DVD or Blu-Ray. 
However, in amongst them were four cassettes marked up as "CMT Europe", dated towards the end of 1993 and throughout 1994. Three were E240, one E180, all recorded in long play mode on a hi-fi VCR. 
30 hours of non-stop music videos from CMT Europe, back when that channel existed. And from the "second golden age" of that style of music. It actually motivated me to plug the VCR in (has to go via the DVD recorder nowadays as everything uses HDMI) and just leave it playing, typing all the track names and artists into an empty text file. And trying not to get into a trance-like state as I relived the moments when I heard some of what is now my all-time favourite music for the first time - and all the gems that I'd forgotten about. 
Let's just say my Amazon Marketplace order history looked a bit crazy for a few weeks after that.
Rick, 9th July 2023, 22:25
The best bit of that mythology, for me, is that they screwed up so had to do it again. *Then* Japan was created. 
And the the, err, mishap creating the fire god. 
Not to mention, the two gods becoming from her poop. 
Makes Genesis seem stuffy and boring in comparison, doesn't it? 
Gavin Wraith, 9th July 2023, 22:40
I recommend Richard Garnett's book Twilight of the Gods, and lots of stories by Lord Dunsany. Chu-Bu and Sheemish is particularly delightful, probably an audiobook of it on YouTube.
Rick, 9th July 2023, 22:53
Anon, 9th July 2023, 23:55
I dunno. I quite like Genesis. Controversially, I like Genesis after Phil Collins took over as lead singer. "Invisible Touch" was one of the greatest soft rock albums of the 80s. 
Following on from my earlier comment - can we get some honest opinions on this track? Big on CMT in 1993-94: 
(Might not be everybody's thing, I get that.)
David Pilling, 10th July 2023, 02:12
"can we get some honest opinions on this track?" 
Not bad I added it to my YT playlist.  
Some items on that playlist have squillions of views, others very few. People can produce songs that someone likes without getting anywhere near the big time. 
Oh good grief I can still hear "Maybe you were a bad heart break", it's an earworm...
Anon, 10th July 2023, 10:52
DP - catchy, isn't it? It's the final track on the first of the aforementioned VHS videos. Unfortunately the tape ran out and clipped the last few seconds off the track. The problem being that Arista Nashville, for a long time, refused to release any titles in the UK. Eventually I tracked down a copy in the late 90s from a Canadian web site that would ship internationally, and heard the complete song and outro for the first time. 
That song (and artist) also doesn't appear to be on any of the streaming services, other than an unofficial recording (the one I linked to) that someone digitised and uploaded to YouTube. It wasn't on Spotify last time I looked, only "karaoke" versions of it. 
And this is why CDs are still worth buying.
Clive Semmens, 11th July 2023, 15:58
"I dunno. I quite like Genesis." 
I prefer Deuteronomy.
Rick, 11th July 2023, 17:11
I think the recent film ruined it.
Clive Semmens, 11th July 2023, 17:34
Only for those unfortunate enough to have watched it, I suspect... 8~) ...or even heard of it...
Anon, 12th July 2023, 11:37
The thought of Taylor Swift in a cat suit was, in fairness, quite appealing. 
The reality... let's just say, didn't live up to expectations.

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