When I first started investigating the claims of ancient astronaut writers and alternative history speculators, one of the things that most shocked me was that the ancient texts they cited frequently said nothing like the words they attributed to them. I’ve frequently, for example, mentioned how Giorgio Tsoukalos cites the medieval Arabic text of Al-Maqrizi as supplying proof that aliens provided pyramid planning information, even though the text says no such thing. The late Philip Coppens similarly attributed to the Famine Stela the false claim that non-human intelligences gave Imhotep plans for the pyramids, even though that text also failed to say any such thing. Erich von Däniken simply made up material about alien genetic engineering and inserted it into the Genesis Apocryphon.
But usually there’s a little effort toward having some kind of relationship to the text in question.
Once a claim enters the ancient alien ecosystem it just won’t die, no matter how fake it is. Remember how Erich von Däniken admitted back in 1974 that there was no proof of the alien gold library of Ecuador he claimed to have visited, yet this claim continues on to the present day? Well, Donald Patterson informs me of another silly claim that is apparently still active despite the fact that it was exposed as a hoax years ago. I am at a loss for why this is the case.
I wasn’t planning to write any more about Reza Aslan and the conservative freak out over the fact that a self-identified Muslim (and one-time evangelical Christian) wrote a book about Jesus. Then I saw this awful clip from Fox News’s online program Spirited Debate in which Fox News has a conniption about Islam. Watch and cringe.
Here’s the kind of argument that, unfortunately, we see all too frequently online. On the “Stone Builders, Mound Builders, and the Giants of Ancient America” Facebook page, the page owner posts a daily archival news report from the nineteenth century about the discovery of the bones of “giants.” These reports have several sources, ranging from misidentified mastodon and mammoth bones to outright hoaxes; nevertheless, many believers in alternative history hold that these newspaper accounts, for which there is no extant physical evidence, are prima facie proof that giants once wandered ancient America.
The other day I discussed evangelical pastor and journalist John S. Dickerson’s ad hominem attack against Reza Aslan, the author of a new book about Jesus. Aslan appeared last night on Real Time with Bill Maher, which in turn prompted me to crack open his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which raised so much ire from Dickerson. The very first thing I noted is that Dickerson is dishonest. Dickerson complained that the media and Aslan were in a conspiracy to hide the fact that Aslan is a “devout Muslim.” But the very first passage of Aslan’s book is a discussion of his own complex spirituality, which began in a family of indifferent Muslims, progressed through atheism to evangelical Christianity, and eventually settled into what he describes as a profound and deep respect for the teachings of the historical Jesus. This is not what Dickerson described.
It’s still early, and today I’ve already been accused of having an “almost pathological” obsession with Ancient Aliens on Twitter and also on my blog of being in denial about the importance of ancient India to Greek philosophy. The first question is a refreshing change of pace from the usual complaint that I am obsessed with America Unearthed. If Joe Rogan’s new show had more to say about ancient history and less about alleged Bigfoot-human hybrids, I’d review that and get charged with an unwholesome obsession there, too.
Evangelical Pastor: Religious Beliefs Make Objective Study of Jesus Impossible, But Only for Muslims
Over the past few days, I’ve been accused of being (a) anti-Christian, (b) anti-Indian (sub-continental), (c) anti-truth, and (d) racist. “I enjoy your blog a lot,” one correspondent wrote. “In fact it is quite entertaining, but it seems to portray all Christians in a bad light. … Not all religious people are zealots as not all science believers are intolerant douche bags towards religion.” I imagine this is the problem with having a blog devoted to the topic of alternative history; by definition, the people whose views I discuss are necessarily the extremists, who—whatever their stripe—are necessarily outside the mainstream.
I’m way behind on work today, so you will have to settle for a short blog post. You’ll recall that I have frequently referred to the work of South African researcher David Lewis-Williams, who proposed that Paleolithic cave art and the shamanic practices associated with Paleolithic and Neolithic religious expression could be attributed to altered states of consciousness. By extension, this same idea can be applied to modern alien abduction motifs and also provides a reasonable framework for understanding key imagery in ancient mythology.
Sometimes I think I’ve seen and heard it all, but then something even dumber comes along. I’m sure you’ll recall that I’ve previously written about how the He-Man toy line and cartoon series has very strong parallels to Robert E. Howard’s Hyboria cycle, and through it to H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. But did you know that He-Man is also satanic propaganda?
That’s the word from Unexplainable.net, a website devoted to exploring why aliens and UFOs are actually the demons and fallen angels of Christian legendry.
Remember how I say that old claims never die? Or that David Childress is a relentless self-plagiarist? Well, here it comes again. This week the UK edition of the Huffington Post published a somewhat incoherent piece by Abhaey Singh celebrating historical revisionism. Singh attempted to attribute all manner of modern boons to Indian origins (sometimes correctly, other times less so), another theme we’ve found in the ethnocentric presentation of alternative history.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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