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- When: Sunday, April 29, 2018 @ 11:30 am
- Where: Whitney Plantation, 5099 Highway 18, Wallace, LA, Wallace, LA view map
We are planning our annual field trip to Whitney Plantation (http://whitneyplantation.com/) in Wallace, LA.
You are invited to purchase your discounted ticket for NOSHA members at $10 per person at the PayPal link at our website (regular general admission is $22). You must be on our PAID list in order to be part of our group tour.
Go to http://nosha.info/ and look for the PayPal button in the right hand column. There is a drop down menu to purchase one or two.
There are a limited number of spaces available, so order your tickets soon before our tour is filled!
- When: Monday, May 07, 2018 @ 6:30 pm
- Where: Parkway Bakery & Tavern, 538 Hagan Ave., New Orleans, la view map
• What we'll do
Join us in May for a trip to a New Orleans classic, Parkway Bakery, winner of multiple awards for roast beef po-boys (and the first place Anne's parents went for a date!) It's all about the po-boy here, from a simple grilled cheese to a delectable turkey dinner po-boy, with stops for vegans and dessert lovers along the way. Check out the menu here: http://parkwaypoorboys.com/
• Important to know
Please keep us up to date on your ability to make the dinner by using the RSVP function as soon as your plans change. It's very helpful for us to know how many folks are joining us, not just for the restaurant seating, but for the folks on the waiting list. We check the RSVPs right up until the last minute, and it's never too late to exercise good manners and let us know if you're not joining us, so we can get on with the eating! (Nothing sadder than a group of hungry folks at a table, trying to figure out if they should wait for someone who isn't coming...)
04/05/2018Readers interested in the early history of Christianity will enjoy historian Bart Ehrman’s latest book and bestseller, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. The book focuses mainly on what happened, and why things happened the way the did, during the 4th century. In 301 CE, Christians were a small but visible minority within the Roman Empire, subject to persecution by decree of emperor Diocletian. By 399 Christianity was the official religion of the empire, and probably half the population practiced it. How did so dramatic a change unfold? What factors made the rise of Christianity improbable? What factors contributed to its success?
Unlike some historians, Ehrman fully accepts the conversion of Constantine the Great, Rome’s first Christian Emperor, as entirely authentic. Constantine’s edict (312 CE) tolerating all religions, and the prestige of having an emperor who was Christian, spurred on the growth of the religion. But Ehrman gives less importance to these facts than some historians do. He describes a number of factors restraining the growth of Christianity. It’s insistence on worshipping only one god, excluding all others, was quite alien to the world view of pagan Rome, which encompassed a nearly infinite pageant of gods, spirits, and heroes. The idea of blending ethical philosophy with religion would also have seemed strange, maybe even a little bit crazy, to most Greeks and Romans, whose gods and priests had little say to about how humans should behave toward other humans. Moreover, Christianity’s emphasis on an afterlife might have seemed rather superstitious to people who mostly had only very vague and fuzzy notions about such things. Ehrman points out that many Roman graves of the era had an inscription that was as familiar to them as R.I.P. would be on our tombstones. It often read simply N.F.F.N.S.N.C., standing for Non Fui, Fui, Non Sum, Non Curo, meaning I was not, I was, I am not, I care not. Many modern secularists may share a similar notion today, expecting no more cares after death than before birth.
But some of Christianity’s oddities might also have made the religion attractive. An afterlife that included rewards in heaven could have appealed to a large portion of the population, whose lives were often hard. The possibility of punishments in hell, coupled with the claim that a final judgment was near at hand, added a sense of urgency. More than most of the religions of the empire, Christianity claimed to offer a plan, a method for getting that heavenly life ever after. Ehrman emphasizes, too, the importance of miracles in persuading many of the validity of the new religion. Miracles then, Ehrman suspects, were much the same as miracles today, meaning that most of the people who believed in miracles never experienced one personally nor witnessed one directly. People hear about miracles that happen to other people, and some come to believe those miracles are facts, and are persuaded by them. Miracles, or at least stories about miracles, were a major selling point of early Christianity.
One common understanding that Ehrman tries to dispense with is the notion that the Christianization of the Roman Empire required repeated conversions on a massive scale. Of course no solid numbers are available. But reasonable estimates of the population of the empire and the numbers of Christians at different points in time tell a story that is distinctly non-dramatic. The shift from tiny minority to clear majority took several centuries, and could have been achieved at an average growth rate in the range of 3% to 4% per year. That is, each group of 100 Christians had to increase their number by 3 or 4 persons every year, something that could easily result from converting a single family. That doesn’t sound like much, but like compounded interest the growth curve is exponential over time. Ehrman makes a strong case that a modest growth rate, sustained mostly by one-on-one, face-to-face communication, continued over several centuries, converted a vast empire.
The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, by Bart D. Ehrman (Simon and Schuster, 2018), is currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audible editions.
NOSHA Board Member and Secretary
Editor's note: The following is a continuing and expanded review of Steven Pinker's newly released book referenced in the previous post.
In what must be the most robust recent defense of the 18th Century social, political, and intellectual movement known as The Enlightenment, Steven Pinker stays true to the movement’s foundations by methodically presenting its case in his latest book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (Viking, 2018), affirming his belief in the certainty of increasing progress and the widening of the availability of the necessities of well-being to more people across the globe. From the use of the human capacity to reason, tempered with another very human characteristic, sympathy, life is not nearly as pitiless and severe as it once was. Through the study of the natural sciences, whose practical applications are its fraternal twin offspring technology and medicine, a body of knowledge and infrastructure has evolved to provide more of the basic necessities for prolonging life and maintaining good health to an increasing number of the population.On the political front, the use of the rule of law, and rational debate and criticism in a better educated population in an open society helps identify and correct overbearing social and political injustices, and has resulted in less violence, fewer catastrophic wars, and a more even-handed distribution of human rights and wealth.
New Episodes - The New Orleans Humanist Perspective
Jim Dugan interviews Sidney Smith and Lisa Andreson of Haunted History Tours in New Orleans. Recorded 16 April 2018 at NOA TV studio in New Orleans.
Posted on 2018-04-17T20:32:06+00:00
Watch more episodes on our Media page.