The Emperor Julian – last ‘pagan’ ruler of the Roman Empire

The emperor Julian ruled the Roman Empire for a brief 20 months in 361-3, after a 50-year period of Christianity as the state religion under Constantine and Constantius II. Immediately on assuming the role with the death of Constantius II, he publicly declared his ‘paganism’. Continue reading

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Where are all the travel posts?

If you follow the Suppository Depository for my travel posts, I have decided to create a brand new blog just for travel stories! It’s called The Great World, and you can find it here:

I encourage travel enthusiasts to migrate across to that site. In a couple of weeks, I am off to Houston, New York, Washington and San Francisco, where I will be feverishly noting down every quirky detail. And then through 2017 I will upload stories from my previous travels – Japan, Sweden, the UK, and China, to name a few.

Of course, if you’re also interested in religions and history, please stay with the Suppository Depository as well.

Thanks for your support,


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Another detour: What is Shia Islam?

Before we progress deeper along the Iranian tourist trail, it’s is a good time to clarify the dominant (95%) Muslim sect in Iran, Shi’ism. To the outsider, the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam appear slight, even trivial. Both apply the confessional foundation of Islam, the shahada, and the five pillars of Islam. Both hold the Qu’ran as the sacred word of God and accept the story of Muhammad’s life, applying it as the grounding for the daily life of the ummah (the community of Muslims) and as the basis of the sunna (Islamic practice rooted in oral sources of Muhammad and his companions). Continue reading

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The Arad and Lachish Letters, and the last moments of the Kingdom of Judah

The Arad and Lachish letters are military communications that date to the final years of the Kingdom of Judah. Carefully read, they provide a valuable insight into the daily lives of the military personnel and their attitudes to events as Judah faced the Babylonians or their proxies. They afford some independent testing of the historical narratives contained in the Biblical accounts of the time. Since the 2 Kings account is not comprehensive (it largely skims over, for example, the reign of Zedekiah), the letters can assist in piecing together what occurred in the final decades of Judah. Continue reading

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Obama’s coddling of faith

Jerry Coyne calls out Barak Obama. The symbolism of visiting a mosque is important, but the language gets it wrong. A serious flaw in politico-think that I have written about in the Australian context before.

Source: Obama’s coddling of faith

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On godlessness and ISIS

On November 23, Prime Minister Turnbull gave a speech in parliament on the atrocities committed in Paris. In it, he described ISIS as  “godless murderers … who defame and blasphemed Islam itself”.

I have written to PM Turnbull in response:

Dear Prime Minister,

Since you have come to the office of PM, I have been impressed by the measured tone of your language. It is sorely needed in our national discourse.

I was therefore extremely disappointed in your use of the word “godless” in your speech following the recent Paris atrocities. For one thing, whatever it is, ISIS is not “godless”, by its own self-description. It may attract youth with negligible knowledge of Islam, but the group itself has a clearly defined and carefully thought-out theology. To describe ISIS as “godless” is not only wrong, it muddies the water on a long term solution to their defeat.

Secondly, I myself am “godless” and I am repulsed by terrorism. Your predecessors Julia Gillard and Bob Hawke are, by their own self-description “godless”. Does that make them terrorists? Your use of the word, in that context, was appalling.

The fact that I don’t believe that some supernatural agent is responsible for our existence, nor that I am responsible to said agent for my moral behaviour does not make me immoral, or a criminal, or a terrorist. To suggest that I am, and indeed in the same category as ISIS by virtue of being “godless”, is incredibly offensive.

That you can be “good without god” is demonstrably true and for you to label myself and other atheists otherwise is a grave error of judgement. I think it requires you to offer a public correction, ASAP.

If you are also godless, I encourage you to write to Mr Turnbull and correct him on this important point.

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Student and Scholar Spotlight: Dr. Hector Avalos

Interesting interview with Dr Hector Avalos, particularly for those considering post-graduate religion studies. I have had to scramble to complete my major this last couple of years because University of SA closed down its religion studies unit.

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