Monthly Archives: November 2016

On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent

 St. Andrew and his “x-shaped cross” or saltire*

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Last Sunday – November 27, 2016 – was the First Sunday of Advent.  And this is the theme for that Season of Advent.  That is, that season of the church-year that ends on Christmas Eve:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

And as even Scrooge recognized, “Christmas is a very busy time for us.”  (The “spirit of Scrooge” is illustrated at right…)

But this time of year – in the church calendar – can also be very confusing.  That’s because both the Season of Advent and the church-year itself actually begin with St. Andrew, the “First Apostle.*”  His Feast Day is celebrated on November 30, today.

And according to the National Catholic Register, “St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.”  Which is another way of saying that he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four…   That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[.  In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

For more on this day see On St. Andrew, the “First Apostle.”  But getting back to the Season of Advent, see An early Advent medley, or On Advent – 2015.  (From last year.)

Or for that matter see On the readings for Advent Sunday, from 2014:

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches.  It also marks the start of the season of Advent…  [T]he symbolism of the day is that Christ enters the church.   Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King.

See Advent Sunday – Wikipedia.  The article added that for a time – starting about 300 A.D. – Advent was “kept as a period of fasting as strict as in Lent.”  But around 1917 the Catholic Church “abolished the precept of fasting …  but kept Advent as a season of penitence.”

I’ll be writing more about Advent in the coming weeks, but one thing to remember is that for those four Sundays, the Old Testament readings will be from the prophet Isaiah, shown below:

Isaiah is the prophet who guides our journey through Advent as we prepare for Christmas. Advent is a season of joyful anticipation, and Isaiah invites us to look forward to the coming of the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord.

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The prophet Isaiah, featured in this season’s Advent O.T. readings…

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Notes:

The upper image is courtesy of ncregister.com/blog/st.-andrew-apostle-11-things-to-know and share, which included the full text of St. Andrew’s words before he died, showing “a very profound Christian spirituality.  [He] does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.   Here we have a very important lesson to learn: Our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ…”  See also Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement with a reference detailed further in this, the “notes” section.  Thus, as to the “saltire” see St Andrew … 5 facts you might have known:

Legend has it that he [Andrew] asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus.  The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.

As to the Feast of St. Andrew beginning the new church year, see Anticipating Christmas, Beginning with Saint Andrew.  Or see St. Andrew, from the Satucket website:

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year…  The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).

That site includes the Daily Office readings for the day:  “AM: Psalm 34; Isaiah 49:1-6; 1 Corinthians 4:1-16,” and “PM: Psalm 96, 100; Isaiah 55:1-5; John 1:35-42.”  Or see St Andrew, Apostle.

Re:  “Isaiah [as] the prophet who guides our journey.”  See Isaiah: Old Testament prophet for the Advent season, which added:  “Isaiah urges us to straighten out our crooked ways, tear down our mountains of misdeeds, and fill in the valleys of our bad habits.”

The lower image is courtesy of Isaiah – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Isaiah, by Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican City).”

On Thanksgiving – 2016

Thanksgiving Day in 1863 – as celebrated in the middle of that other American Civil War

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It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is less than a week away.

Which means it’s about time to give thanks “for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them.”  And that’s especially true after the bitter election* we’ve just been through.  (And survived, thank you very much.)  

Which brings up that other American Civil War.  The thing is, Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated on the same date – “throughout the United States*” – until 1863.  (In the middle of the war.)

Abraham Lincoln set that uniform date for Thanksgiving – making it the last Thursday in November – by presidential proclamation.  He did it to “foster a sense of American unity:” 

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity … peace has been preserved with all [other] nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict… Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste [in] the siege and the battle-field;  and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

See Thanksgiving (U.S.) – Wikipedia.  And speaking of Thanksgiving in the middle of a war – cultural or otherwise – the photo at left shows “Servicemen eating a Thanksgiving dinner after the end of World War I (1918).”

(And here’s hoping that image is somehow prescient…) 

I’ve written about Thanksgiving before in Thanksgiving 2015, The first Thanksgiving (Part I and Part II), and On the 12 Days of Christmas.

The post Thanksgiving 2015 offered this reality check about the First Thanksgiving:

102 [Pilgrims] landed in November 1620 [at Plymouth Rock].  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World…”  The point is this[:  T]he men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

http://godw1nz.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/a-prosperous-wind1.jpgMeanwhile, The first Thanksgiving – Part I – from November 2104 – included the image at right, of the “Mayflower leaving English shores.”  It also included a footnote that Americans are fed up with the political status quo and are looking for a “New Political Center:”

…intermixing liberal instincts and conservative values;  “tolerant traditionalists” who believe in “conventional social morality that ensure family stability,” while being “tolerant within reason” of those who challenge such traditional morality, “and as pragmatically supportive of government intervention in spheres such as education, child care, health care as long as budgets are balanced.”

We’ll see how that plays out over the next four years…

The first Thanksgiving – Part II included a lengthy quotation from William Bradford (Plymouth Colony governor) about the difficulties inherent in  “all great and honorable actions.”  (Like trying to maintain a true democracy after the kind of heated-rhetoric election we just went through.)  Which could be summed up this way:  “If it was easy, anybody could do it!”

And finally, The 12 Days of Christmas indicated that Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of a long holiday season that doesn’t officially end until January 6, 2017 (with Plough Monday):

Christmas celebrations are closely linked to the observance of the December solstice… Although winter was regarded as the season of dormancy, darkness and cold, the coming of lighter days after the winter solstice brought on a more festive mood.  To many people, this return of the light was a reason to celebrate that nature’s cycle was continuing.

And speaking of “dormancy, darkness and cold,” see also Dark Ages – Wikipedia, referring to the “period of intellectual darkness” between the “light of Rome,” up to the rebirth or “Renaissance in the 14th century.”  (Not that there’s any connection to current events or anything…)  

Which serves as a reminder that whatever “Dark Age” you may be going through,

“This too shall pass…

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A 1640 painting – “ 12th Night” (The King Drinks) – ending the 12 Days of Christmas

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Notes:

 The upper image is courtesy of Thanksgiving (U.S. – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Sketch by Alfred Waud of Thanksgiving in camp (of General Louis Blenker) during the U.S. Civil War in 1861.”  That’s also where the “Hymn of Thanksgiving” image came from.  That caption:  “‘A Hymn of Thanksgiving’ sheet music cover – November 26, 1899.”

Re:  Thanksgiving Day:  The full Bible readings for that day are:  Deuteronomy 26:1-11Psalm 100Philippians 4:4-9; and John 6:25-35.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this, the “notes” section.  Thus, as to “bitter elections,” see also This bitter battle won’t end on election day – BBC News, for a point of view from “across the pond.”  For an ironic twist, see After a bitter election, a new America: Our first female president and the most diverse coalition in history, written on the morning of the election.  (Before the results were in.)  A prediction:  That “first female president” will come true, but not just yet.  I’m thinking Elizabeth Warren – “Hillary without the baggage” – in 2020, or Hillary herself.  (With or without the “I told ya so” dance.  See Donald Trump and the Hell’s Angel, in my companion blog.)

Re:   “Throughout the United States” and the “sense of American unity.”  Referring to a sense of American unity “between the Northern and Southern states.”  See Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, which noted that because of the “ongoing Civil War and the Confederate States of America‘s refusal to recognize Lincoln’s authority, a nationwide Thanksgiving date was not realized until Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s.”  (Which is another way of saying, “good things take time.” 

Re:  “This too shall pass.”  See That’s NOT in the Bible! “This too shall pass.”  That source indicates that the phrase may originally have come from – or passed through – King Solomon.  He supposedly had a ring reminding him that all his earthly glory – as king – would eventually go away; “the inscription inside the ring became the Hebrew phrase ‘Gam zeh ya’avor,’ ‘this too shall pass.’”  See also Patton (film) Clip “All Glory is Fleeting…” – YouTube.

The lower image is courtesy of The Twelve days of Christmas, with caption, “Twelfth Night (The King Drinks) by David Teniers c. 1634-1640.”

An update on “dissin’ the Prez”

Donald Trump Obama

Will the man on the left get the respect due him by Exodus 22:28?   (As the man on the right didn’t?)

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Saint James the Just.jpgThis morning’s Daily Office Readings include Joel 3:10, and a reading from James, the brother of Jesus.  (Shown at right.)  And James 2:6-7 said this:

Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?  Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

As to Joel 3:10, it says  “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.”

Both of which seem strangely appropriate after last Tuesday’s election.

Which brings up this subject:  Are good Christians – both liberal and conservative – duty-bound to honor and obey the newly-elected “leader of our country,” Donald Trump?

In May 2014, I posted On dissin’ the Prez.  Mainly it was about Exodus 22:28, and how – at that time – it seemed “more honored in the breach.”  That is, Exodus 22:28 clearly commands:  “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.”

And that’s where honored in the breach* comes in.  Since conservatives spent the last eight years “cursing and reviling” the ruler of our people, are liberals – not to mention the majority who voted for Hillary Clinton – now free to do the same with Donald Trump?

The thing is, the people who interpret the U.S. Constitution “strictly” or “literally” are – generally speaking – the same ones who say that the Bible must also be interpreted literally.  But if those Conservatives – Christian or otherwise – had truly followed the letter of the Bible, they wouldn’t have “cursed and reviled” President Obama over the last eight years:

To sum up: Conservative Christians can avoid getting into trouble for violating the letter of Exodus 22:28, but only by using a liberal interpretation.  They can criticize the President all they want, as long as they don’t criticize “the Sovereign People” who elected him.  (A subtle distinction to be sure.)   Put another way, conservative Christians only avoid the penalty for violating the strict letter of Exodus 22:28 by using a liberal interpretation [of the Bible].

http://kara.allthingsd.com/files/2011/03/irony3.jpegThat’s where the closing “Oh, the irony” in that post came in.

On dissin’ the Prez also went into great detail about the differences between strict construction, as opposed to the rules of liberally interpreting the Bible.  (And on such topics as Biblical inerrancy, or what I call being a boot-camp Christian.) 

But in one sense those pointy-headed liberals may not need to interpret Exodus 22:28 “in a fair and reasonable manner in accordance with the objects and purposes of the instrument.”  (The Bible.)  That’s because in America the “leader of the people” is The People.  As in the Sovereign People or the “We the People” that start the Constitution.

In other words, the President of the United States is not a “leader of the country” as that term was interpreted at the time the Bible was written.  (See also On “originalism.”)

Back then a leader was a king or other dictator, who served for life – or until a stronger king bumped him off.  But these days a president is more like a plumber.  He’s a hired hand who serves the people of the United States for no more than eight years.  (Or less if he ends up impeached and convicted.  See AU Professor Predicts Trump’s Impeachment.)

Therefore, since we Americans follow majority rule, and since Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote, it would seem that Americans everywhere are free to “curse and revile” Donald Trump as much as they want – according to the Bible.

But as Paul noted in 1st Corinthians 10:23:  “Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.”

Ikone Athanasius von Alexandria.jpgThen too, that brings up what I wrote last January.  I posted On Hilary – 1″L,” and HE was a bishop.  Saint Hilary – shown at right, and who died in the year 367 – served as bishop in Poitiers, a city in France.

But he served at a time of a great early-church conflict, and perhaps not unlike the conflict we just went through.  (In St. Hilary’s case, the one pitting Athanasius against Arius, for whom Arianism was named.)

Basically it was a struggle for the “soul of the Church,” much like this last election was part of a “war for the soul of America.”  (And by the way, Googling “war for the soul”  got me 13,400,000 results.)

The thing is – during that earlier “war for the soul” – Saint Hilary had to serve a term in exile. (Too?)  In 356 he backed the wrong horse, and was sent into exile by Constantius II.  (Who  found the Arian position persuasive enough to banish Hilary to Phrygia.)  However:

Hilary put his four years in exile to good use.  He honed his arguments so well that they ultimately acquired the force of (church) law.  In essence he was a “Great Dissenter…”  Which is another way of saying “Athanasianism” ultimately won the day.

And who knows?  Maybe the same will happen with today’s Hillary…

And finally, it is within the realm of possibility that that consummate Showman – Donald Trump – actually “played those far-right conservatives like a piano.”  That is, it’s possible that Trump is the “New York Liberal” that Ted Cruz said he was.  (Or at least more of a moderate than he let on, either of which – liberal or moderate – would have doomed his Republican nomination.)

At the very least it’s looking like Donald – like life itself – is like a box of chocolates.  And as that great philosopher Forrest Gump observed, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

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“Are you telling me Donald Trump just got elected president?”

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Notes:

The upper image is courtesy of Trump and Obama meet at the White House to begin transition.  

The full Satucket Daily Office readings include:  “AM Psalm 87, 90; PM Psalm 136,” along with Joel 3:9-17; James 2:1-13; Luke 16:10-17(18).

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this, the “notes” section.  Thus, as to “more honored in the breach:”  The quote is from Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 7–16.  And something I didn’t know:  As properly interpreted the saying means to ignore a bad custom or rule, rather than a “good custom … often breached:”

Hamlet means that it is more honorable to breach, or violate, the custom of carousing than to observe it.  So the phrase is properly applied to a bad custom or rule that should be ignored.  Instead, we and others frequently use it in almost the opposite sense…

See Mangled Shakespeare – The New York Times, and – for more on the context – More honored in the breach – eNotes Shakespeare Quotes.

The latest from a “None…”

Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb

Many times Moses almost got stoned to death – for not “dumbing down” the Torah enough…

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I finally got to read the September 26, 2016, edition of Time magazine.

(I get the magazine hand–me–down from my sister-in-law.)  Page 63 had an essay:  My Life As a ‘None’ and Tales of Being Unaffiliated, by Susanna Schrobsdorff.  (Which included the image at right.)  

The essay had a subhead, saying that Nones – Americans not affiliated with any religion – now make up almost a quarter of the population.

Schrobsdorff began, “Like a lot of women of a certain age, I’ve taken up yoga.”  Then – for reasons not quite clear – she apparently gave up on yoga, then went on to question her “casual pursuit of spirituality:”

I’m agnostic about God, and there’s just a smallish space where faith might fit into my life.  So I check the “spiritual but not religious” box…  I’m just the kind of person that author and pastor Lillian Daniel has aptly mocked, writing, “You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating.”

She added that people like her are “on the rise,” followed by a wealth of statistics showing that in a few years, “the largest ‘religion’ in the U.S. will be None.”  (Emphasis added.)

I wasn’t sure if she was bragging or complaining.

But then she started the second half of her essay.  She noted she grew up in a mixed-faith family.  Her mother Mary Anne “was a Catholic until she eloped with my atheist German father…   We’d ask her about God and all the miraculous stories from the Bible, and she’d say:

Don’t take everything so literally.'”

(Which is pretty much the whole point of this blog:  That if you read the Bible too literally, you’re only cheating yourself…)

And yet – she wrote – that same mother was both certain that God existed and seemed to pray fervently as she approached death.  (From the emphysema that would “kill her at 73.”)

That is, shortly before she died, the mother, her atheist-husband and her None-daughter stopped at the church where – years before – Mary Anne had taken First Communion:

I don’t know if she prayed.  But I do know that my mother had the certainty that she would go “home,” as she called it, where her long-gone parents and my sister were.

Ihs-logo.svgShe closed by saying that she longed for the kind of faith her mother had.  She also noted a Jesuitical proof that “God does exist:”

We have innate cravings for food and sleep and love, and so perhaps a desire to identify with a higher power…  That built-in yearning is there because there’s something worth yearning for.  It’s the kind of logic that my mother, the student of Jesuits, would have loved.

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So:  Where to begin?  How do I respond to what seems to be a cry for help, a pleading for some proof that you don’t have a to be far-right conservative to be a “real Christian?”

(Or as it says in Mark 9:24, “Lord … help thou mine unbelief!”)

For starters,  I wrote about “Nones” in the May 2015 post, On WHY we’re getting “less Christian.” (Which noted in part that it was “hard to imagine Jesus ever saying ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.'”)  See also The Blog – above – where I wrote out some of my goals:

Another thing I’m trying to do is reach out to Nones and others turned off by “negative Christians.”  See “Nones” on the Rise and The Growth Of The “Nones.”  (About the rise of the “religiously unaffiliated.”)

So this is a perfect chance to make this a Teaching – or “Teachable” – Moment.

For starters – again –  The Blog said reading the Bible can lead to “an entirely new world.”  It also said that reading the Bible doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to shape yourself into a pre-formed “carbon copy Christian.”  (Or just “another brick in the wall.”)

Which seems to be the goal of those boot-camp Christians who get all the media attention.

A drill sergeant posing before his companyThose boot-camp Christians – discussed in the notes – are the Bible literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” And they are generally perceived to be extremely negative.

(Googled “negative Christians” and got 12 million hits.)

But in John 10:10, Jesus was anything but negative.  In saying He wanted His followers to live abundantly, His goal was for you to grow and develop into all you can be.  (And not stay a “career buck private,” never going beyond the fundamentals.)

I’ll be writing more on Ms. Schrobsdorff‘s essay in a later post.  But I want to close this post by noting something that most people don’t factor in when they read the Bible.  (And especially the first five books, the Torah.)  That factor is:  Moses had to “dumb it down” enough that he wouldn’t get stoned to death, as noted in last January’s On Moses getting stoned:

In plain words, “Moses was forced by circumstance to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand…'”  And to the extent he was writing for a future audience, he probably expected that future audience to understand those circumstances, and take them into account.

That is, if Moses had written in the Torah that the earth was billions of years old – or that the earth revolved around that “big bright round thing in the sky” – he probably would have been stoned to death as a heretic.  (By the people he was leading – “those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert” – as nearly happened several times in his account in those first books of the Bible.)

That post also ended with this note:

“It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of the Scripture…”

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Galileo facing the Inquisition, for saying the earth revolved around the sun…

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 The upper image is courtesy of Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb | Byzantine | The Metroplitan Museum of Art.  (It’s a mosaic from the 5th century.)  See also Stoning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which includes another painting of the incident. The caption to that painting, under Punishment of the Rebels:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia

The “stoning” article said this of the “Korah” painting:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the [left] the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raised the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?’”

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Re: Ms. Schrobsdorff, who wrote the “Nones” essay.  She is the “Chief Strategic Partnerships Editor and a columnist for TIME.”  She is also 53 years old as of this writing, and began her essay:  “Like a lot of women of a certain age, I’ve taken up yoga.”  Just as an aside, I – the “Scribe” – just turned 65 and have been doing yoga since the mid-1970s.  That’s over 40 years, which means I started yoga when Susanna was about 12 years old.  The point being that while some people – including conservative Christians – see yoga as a “cult,” there are Christians who are open-minded.  

File:Picswiss UR-28-18.jpgA side note:  Ms. Schrobsdorff seems to have gone to a trendy-slash-upscale yoga center, of the kind catering to the “norm for self-centered American culture.”  My point being:  There have always been those who take a good spiritual discipline and twist it to their benefit. See e.g., The Bible as “transcendent” meditation, which said back in the 1970s you could pay a week’s salary to a TM center – of the kind that made Maharishi Mahesh Yogi rich enough to buy this “headquarters” in Switzerland – or buy an under-two-dollar copy of Lawrence LeShan‘s book, How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery.  (Which would require a bit of self-discipline…)  

And finally – on a related topic – see 2d Corinthians 2:17.  In the NIV:  “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.”  The NLT version reads:  “You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit.”

 Re:  “Nones.”  See also Irreligion – Wikipedia.

The image to the left of the paragraph – “But then she started the second half” – is courtesy of Atheism – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “1929 cover of the USSR League of Militant Atheists magazine, showing the gods of the Abrahamic religions being crushed by the Communist 5-year plan.”

The image to the right of the paragraph including “She also noted a Jesuitical proof,” is courtesy of Society of Jesus – Wikipedia.  (“Jesuitical” is defined in pertinent part as of or pertaining to Jesuits, or as applying to those who practice “casuistry or equivocation,” and/or those who use “subtle or oversubtle reasoning,” or those who are “crafty; sly; intriguing.”)

The lower image – Cristiano Banti‘s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition” – is courtesy of the article, Heresy – Wikipedia:

Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.  He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions. (E.A.)

Note that Galileo almost got burned at the stake – for saying the earth revolved around the sun – almost 3,000 after Moses was trying to lead his people to “the Promised Land…”