(I found this on an old hard disk. Going by the dates on the file, I probably wrote it in early July of 2010. I think it was probably a first draft. I’ve no idea now how accurate any of this info is, and I decided to resist the temptation to research and rewrite and just post it directly. I apologize for any misinformation.)
One of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world was Egypt, and for most of that time one of the principal gods was a Sun god named Ra, or perhaps Re, we aren’t sure what the vowel sound was. Re (or Ra) was worshiped throughout Egypt from the Fourth Dynasty up to the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire.
Ra (or Re) was not some idle superstition. Pharaohs were considered to be Earthly manifestations of the god. Millions of people sang hymns, offered prayers, and recited spells to help Him and His sun boat overcome Apep, the serpent, every day. Soldiers fought for His glory and died with His name on their lips. Priests devoted their entire lives to His service.
Re (or Ra) remained popular for over three thousand years. Huge temples were built to Him. Countless stories of His exploits were recorded in stone and papyrus. Sometimes He joined with other gods; Amun, Atum, Horus, or Khepri the scarab. Other times He was a solo act.
The earliest written record of the Hebrew people was Egyptian writing circa 900 b.c., and Ra (or Re) was already over two thousand years old. He lasted another thousand years before dwindling away, rather suddenly, about the fourth century c.e.
For more than thirty centuries Egypt lived, wrote, sang and died for Re (or Ra). Every morning ceremonial offerings were made to Him. His name is still carved into the stone walls of a thousand temples and pyramids, and now we don’t even know how to pronounce it.
A couple days ago I wrote about Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, a young Egyptian woman who posted naked pictures to her blog to “call attention to a violent society, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy”. I believe I called her one of the bravest people I’ve ever heard about, and I stand by that statement. It probably doesn’t surprise you at this point to learn that some Egyptians want to have her whipped.
Look, if someone says that you are violently oppressive and their stance of defiance against your alleged violent oppression is to publicly post photos of themselves, then calling for them to be brutalized, possibly executed, really just tells the world that they’re right.
I’m far too tired to do this subject justice. So I’ll just ask you a question. What’s more obscene, posting public naked photos, or having some publicly whipped?
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy is an Egyptian student who posted nude pictures of herself on the internet in the name of women’s rights. Here’s an article about it, and here’s Elmahdy’s blog, which now has many pictures of naked people. It’s caused a surprising amount of backlash: surprising to me, at least.
The comments on her blog are in many languages, so I’m stuck with using Google Translate to get the gist of most of the discussion. And most of them are from outside Egypt, outside the Mid-East, even, and are overwhelmingly supportive.
That gives me some hope, maybe the hardline Muslims will look at that and have a moment of introspection. Maybe they’ll think “If the rest of the world sees our policies as oppressive and archaic, relics of a dark age, could we be mistaken?” I know that’s pretty unlikely, not only because religious fundamentalism leaves little room for introspection but because these movements to expand religious power and take rights and freedoms away from people are expanding. Read the rest of this entry