Open Enquiries from a Featured Theist

In my first ever blog post, almost a year and a half ago, I declared my sentiment that the debate on the existence of God is ultimately meaningless.  Since that fateful day, I have posted articles about philosophy, science, psychology, history, mythology, as well as random thoughts and just some utter bullshit.  Inevitably though, I am time and time again roped into the same religious debates that I denounced with that first post.  In these debates, I have argued from both sides of the fence, playing Devil’s and God’s advocate depending on the context, all while stealthily avoiding affiliating myself with any one denomination.  Throughout the course of these discussions, the rare times I’ve had to directly address the question, I’ve described myself as an omnist, a deist, an agnostic apologist, and an aimless wanderer between all beliefs (and no belief).  But, despite all my efforts to avoid it, I have recently been labelled by a wonderful alliance of atheist bloggers on their compendium, Enquiries on Atheism, as a ‘Featured Theist.’  Now don’t get me wrong, I am both honored and flattered to be featured on this collaboration, and I want to send my sincere thanks to whoever is responsible for making the decision (even if it’s just a random computer algorithm).  But it does draft me onto the losing team of a competition of which I’m growing more and more wearisome.  Through all my debates for and against the values and hypocrisies of religion, the one consistency has been inconsistency, specifically, the inconsistency of beliefs among those of the same nomenclature.  Even within a specific denomination of a specific religion, you’re not likely to find any two people who share all of the exact same beliefs, moral, philosophical, or otherwise.  For example, two Christians who attend the same church and both declare Christ as their Lord and savior may have completely different views about the importance of the factual validity of the bible.  Likewise, two atheists may be variably certain about the nature of objective reality.  It’s these and similar discrepancies that have led me to avoid declaring any affiliation myself.  Nonetheless, we humans need to categorize our world in order to understand it, and so people with vastly different beliefs may end up being labelled, by themselves and others, with the same assumption-laden label, which further sparks the debate based on nothing more than each person’s own presumptions about that label.

But while I’m being cast, I might as well play the role, for the show must go on.  And I’d like to take the opportunity to explore the varying beliefs within one of these sticky labels.  Atheists are notorious for avoiding declaring any of their own beliefs by exploiting the loophole that atheism is a lack of belief.  But as atheism is merely a lack of belief in gods, as opposed to nihilism, I’m not gonna let the writers over at EoA wriggle out of the witness stand so easily.  So I do have some enquiries, which I’ll list here and also shoot over to them, that should, if they choose to answer, help clarify what beliefs atheist do not lack. These questions are open to all who want to answer though, and if you don’t mind disclosing your preferred label, it may help to exemplify my point even further.

1. Do you believe in the finality of objective reality, despite that our only source of knowledge about that reality is subjective experience. In other words, do you believe that the physical universe is all that exists?

2. Do you believe that logic, and thereby science, is inherent to reality, or do we project it onto reality.  Is logic the language of nature, or is it simply our method of understanding it?

3. Do you believe that our logic, and thereby our science, can or will someday explain the entirety of reality. Can the true nature of reality be known?

4. Do you believe consciousness exists in this reality? Is it merely a by-product of brain function? Is it contained somewhere in the brain?

5. Do you believe in the possibility that consciousness can continue to exist after death?

I’ll stop there for now, as these are the questions I’m mainly interested in.  Hopefully from here we can foster a discussion that explores each others’ worldviews.  Until then, have at it!

Why this dog has to die.

A common claim by the antireligious is that religion can and should be blamed for the wealth of atrocities committed in its name.  From the Crusades to the bombing of abortion clinics, religion is to shoulder the blame for the sins of those who claim it justifies mass murder.  By that logic, this poor lil’ pup is to be held accountable for six murders committed by David Berkowitz in 1976 and 1977.  Sorry Harvey, but it’s your word against his, and you can’t talk, ’cause you’re a dog.  Don’t worry though, you’re in good company.  Last week we put J. D. Salinger to death for the murders of John Lennon, Rebecca Schaeffer, and the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.  And while we’re doing away with any arbitrary reason people might use to murder, we better get rid of love, lust, power, property, politics, money, drugs, music, books, food, water, shelter, nature… let’s see, anything else?

 

How to Redefine Marriage

hipster henry viii

 

I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” Chick-Fila-A’s Dan Cathy

Despite the countless examples of why marriage has never been ‘traditionally defined’ the way they think it is, fundamentalists still stick to the argument that allowing gays to marry would be ‘redefining’ marriage.  And because marriage is a religious institution, according to them, the government has no authority to do so.  You could waste your time trying to present a logical argument to these people, but if they were logical, they wouldn’t be fundamentalists.  Instead, I say fight fire with fire.  If marriage is a religious institution, you have every right to form a new religion that defines marriage anyway you’d like.  Then by supporting heterosexual marriage and not homosexual marriage, the government would be violating the first amendment by “respecting an establishment of religion” and “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Think this is an original approach?  Think again!  Turns out it was done 500 years ago, with Christianity!  In fact, the Protestant Reformation, which paved the way for nearly every denomination of Christianity besides Catholicism, was sparked in part by one man’s wish to redefine marriage.

Henry VIII was the King of England from 1509 to 1541.  At the time, England was a Catholic country, part of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  But after Henry’s wife Catherine of Aragon did not bear him a male heir (and after he decided that he liked her cousins more), he needed a way to get out of his marriage.  Pope Clement VII denied his request for an annulment on the grounds that it violated church doctrine, so Henry, undeterred, decided to form his own church whose doctrine would allow his annulment.  Thus began the Church of England, one of the first official Protestant Churches in Europe.  It is to this redefinition of marriage that all major denominations of Protestantism in America owe their freedom to practice their religion, including Baptists, undoubtedly the most outspoken opponents to gay marriage.

Now the good news is that we live in a day and age where you don’t have to be a king to start a new religion, and you don’t have to go around destroying all the churches that disagree with you, as Henry did.  All you have to do is decide to start one and voila! it shall be done.  As a matter of fact….

I hereby proclaim a new religion that I shall call Equalitism.  Its doctrines are simple:

1. Love everybody.

2. Gays can get married.

Bam! Now any government that does not recognize the rights of gays to marry is violating my constitutional right to practice my religion.  Anyone care to be a disciple?

I am that I am (and that’s all that I am)

popeye is god

 

In my recent post about the Lost God of Peace, I discussed the linguistic origins and evidence of the Canaanite god, and briefly mentioned some of the others in the pantheon and their linguistic remnants in the Semitic languages.  But there was one small deity in that pantheon that I may have overlooked (or intentionally passed over) whom you may recognize.  Did you find him?  He’s way down there almost at the bottom.  Yup that’s him!

That’s right, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God worshipped by nearly 55% of the world’s population, once sat alongside Shalim as one of the minor gods of the Canaanites.  While this is hardly news to any diligent theologian, it may come as a bit of a shock to casual believers.  So how did this marginal, seemingly insignificant deity come to overtake his brother’s temple, marry his father’s wife, and completely redefine religion as the world knew it by becoming the one true god of monotheism?  Once again, a linguistic analysis may be able to help us explain this.

Take another look at the gods of the Canaanite pantheon.  Notice that almost all of them have a dominion that they ruled or oversaw, whether it be Yaw, the god of the seas and rivers; Ishat, the god of fire; or our guy Shalim, the god of the dawn.  In determining the origins of the names of gods in polytheism, you often run into the chicken vs. egg problem. For example, it may never be known whether Shalim took his name from the Canaanite word for ‘dawn’ or vice versa.  It can pretty safely be assumed that at one point the language was so primitive that the two probably shared a name, and possibly an identity.  Keep in mind that in the same way that monotheism arose from monolatrism which in turn arose from polytheism, polytheism probably arose from an amalgam of animism and ancestor worship.  Euhmerus theorized that all of the gods of Greece were named after distant ancestors who became deified over the generations, but he may have overlooked the fact that animism was an equally influential early religion, and many names of gods are derived from the common terms for natural objects.  But what about Yahweh?  It seems he was unique in this sense, as he does not have a natural phenomenon or an aspect of society that he supervises.  A little digging gives us evidence that he may have derived his name from a location or cultural name of his followers.  Probably the earliest mention of his name is in the Egyptian accounts of the ‘Shasu of Yhw,’ a nomadic tribe of people living around Egypt during the time of Amenhotep III (coincidentally the father of Akhenaten, the pharaoh who attempted to convert Egypt to monotheism… hmmmm….).  Since the other shasu mentioned in the accounts are followed by location names, it’s safe to assume that this instance of ‘yhw’ referred to a location as well.  Since these people were nomadic, we can hypothesize that they may have traveled south to Canaan and assimilated into the culture there, thus lending the god of their homeland to the Canaanite pantheon.  From there, this fringe group of pseudo-Canaanites, who seemed rigorously intent on maintaining their cultural identity through their god, were either pushed north by outside forces, or were led there on the promise of finding a land of their own, as the Bible states.

Enter Moses, the founder of Yahwehism.  Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘But Logan, didn’t Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all come before Moses?”  Or maybe you weren’t thinking that at all, but anyway.  Yes, these patriarchs of Genesis were the leaders of the Israelites before Moses.  But notice the name for Israel.  It has that pesky little -el suffix we discussed in the last post.  Also the Hebrew name used for God throughout Genesis is Elohim, another derivation of El, the Canaanite’s father god.  Clearly the author of Genesis meant for us to infer that during this time, the Israelites were still a sect of Canaanites.  But when Moses fled Egypt, according to Exodus, he lived with the Midianites, which the Bible tells us were also a sect of Canaanites or ‘Kenites.’  It is also possible that the Midianites were the ‘Shasu of Yhw’ mentioned in the Egyptian hieroglyphs.  Either way, it would appear that the author of Exodus wanted his readers to make that connection, because it is while Moses is among them that he receives his most important message from YHWH.

When Moses encounters God at the burning bush, he asks God his name, and God replies, “I am that I am.”  In Hebrew this is three words: ‘Eyeh Asher Eyeh‘- eyeh being the singular present (and future) tense of the verb ‘to be,’ and asher being a general pronoun which can mean that, which, who, where, or even because.  This simple phrase holds a vast amount of meaning, and is still regarded as one of the most important phrases in the Bible.  Medieval Jews listed it as one of the names of God that held special significance.  The author of Exodus, in an almost Shakespearean play on words, not only makes reference to the ‘yhw’ of the Midianites and the YHWH that his readers currently worshiped, but also states with power and clarity the meaning of Yahweh’s name.  The phrase is most commonly translated into English as “I am that I am,” but it could also mean “I will be what I will be” or “I will be because I will be,” which implies his promise to prove to the Israelites that he is their god.  But the most interesting possibility to me, is the translation “I am because I am” or “I am that which is,” implying that the author is intentionally separating the name YHWH from its cultural and geographic roots, and giving it new meaning which could be equated simply to ‘being’ or ‘existence.’  This perception of the name of God could have influenced Yahwism’s development from a monolatristic religion into a monotheistic one, since monotheism implies that God is all things and the cause of all things.  God is found in every aspect of the universe and ourselves, and thus could easily be defined as existence itself. 

While we may never know which of these meanings was actually implied by the author, since the language itself yields all of the meanings, it seems possible, even probable, that the author meant to imply all of them.  This simple phrase would lay the foundation for one of the most important religious movements in history, and is still seen today as declaration of the nature of God and existence itself.  It nullifies the debate of the existence of God by stating the God and existence are one in the same.  No matter your religion, any person can see the divine nature of existence itself and the value of worshiping your existence and the existence of all things.  That’s my bit.  Shalim, and have a good day!

The Recycled Universe and a Defense of Ancient Wisdom

I don’t know why it’s still so surprising to me that proponents of ‘logic’ and ‘reason’ can often be as unreasonable as the fundamentalists they demonize.  I suppose it’s a natural reaction to the ignorance of reason from, say, Creationists, that they’d be met with equal ignorance from advocates of ‘reason.’  I guess they figure they should fight fire with fire, but stooping to their level is as bad as losing in my book.  Any true lover of wisdom must accept the universal knowledge that we cannot truly know anything.  The multitudes of people who view scientific theory as the last word on any question about the universe tend to ignore this fact, even if they do know it, as soon as they get involved in a heated argument.  They completely disregard the maleable and ever-changing nature of science and its theories, and propose that the latest commonly accepted theory is fact.

Take for example the Big Bang Theory (not the TV show).  If someone in this day and age tried to argue that the big bang theory is wrong, they would surely be met with disdain and condescension from these scientific fundamentalists.  If they proposed that, according to Hindu texts, the universe is recycled, created and destroyed in a cyclical process for eternity, they would almost certainly be labelled a fundamentalist and a religious kook.  Their accusers would probably ignore the fact that the recycled universe theory has been around almost as long as the big bang theory, and was even entertained by Albert Einstein.  They probably wouldn’t even consider the recent research which has concluded that a recycled universe is much more likely to create the inflation necessary to the big bang model.  Even if they accepted that the cyclic model is possible, they would still insist that the Hindu scriptures can hold no useful insight into the matter, since they are not based on scientific research.  They would see no significance in the fact that a roughly 4,000 year old text proposes a theory that may soon replace the currently accepted one, and they certainly wouldn’t admit that the scripture has any more relevance in the argument despite its being theoretically verified.

Please understand that this is in no way an argument against atheism, or a call to convert to Hinduism and worship Brahma.  This is simply a plea for everyone on either side to calm down, listen to the wisdom of their ancestors as well as contemporary experts, and consider all possibilities in any matter, especially the most important ones.

Shalim: The Lost God of Peace

At a hangout sesh, late in my high school career, someone left the get-together with the common colloquial valediction, “Peace.”  A friend of mine, in his sage inebriated insight, took notice of this and made the observation, “Isn’t it cool that we use the word ‘peace’ to say good-bye now?”  What followed was another in a long line pointless speculative discussions that took place that night, this one about the origins of this cultural phenomenon.  Maybe the only actually interesting point that someone made was that the Hebrew greeting/valediction combo ‘shalom’ is translated as meaning ‘peace.’

For some reason this tidbit of trivia stuck in my mind, and I began to notice variations of this word in other languages.  The Arabic word for peace is ‘salaam,’ and is also used in greetings, such as ‘As-salam alaykum’ meaning ‘Peace be upon you,’ a universal greeting for Muslims, which also seems be a variation of the word.  The commonality of the word and its synonymy with peace led me to do a bit of research, which turned up the Proto-Semitic triconsonantal root S-L-M.  To explain what this means, Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, etc.) are based on consonants.  The Arabic and Hebrew alphabets contain only consonants, with vowels denoted by dots or lines surrounding those consonants, except for the letter aleph, which serves as a vowel place holder.  So to find the root of any Semitic word, you have to trace it through its main consonants.  For example, the place holder aleph paired with the consonant L gives us the root of Allah, Elohim, and the suffix/prefix –el, which all have divine implications.  This is also where we get the European pronouns and definite articles (le, la, el, etc.).  All of these can be traced back to the Canaanite father-god known simply as El.  Most scholars contend that the Canaanite religion was the basis for Yahwism and by extension Judaism, and it is from this same pantheon that we get the root of the S-L-M words.

Shalim was the god of dusk, twin brother of Shahar, the god of dawn, both attributed to the planet Venus, the morning and evening star (seems they hadn’t yet discovered that these were the same celestial body).  Since Shalim represented the completion of the day, his name become synonymous with completion, wholeness, rest, and of course peace.  This also associated him with death and the netherworld, giving us a glimpse into the attitude the Canaanites had regarding death: a peaceful completion of life.  Tragically the entire Canaanite religion was all but lost to history, only partially preserved in the clay tablets found at Ugarit, but its gods are preserved in the Semitic languages still used today.  Shalim’s legacy, however, lives on in another still relevant context today.

Jerusalem, the ancient holy city of three of the world’s most followed religions, and the center of global controversy, is widely believed to have been originally established as a city for Shalim.  The name of the city, when analyzed from a Semitic standpoint, is literally translated as ‘the settlement of Shalim.’  It is known through Egyptian records, and even in Genesis, that Canaanites inhabited the city before it was conquered by the Israelites, so this is almost undoubtedly the case.  Unfortunately for Shalim, his city has not known his peace for quite some time, but followers of the Abrahamic religions might do well to realize that their holy city was established as the foundation of peace for their ancestors.

So if you are a lover of peace, consider saying a prayer to Shalim.  Tell him that, though he may be forgotten, his legacy lives on through his name, and ask that he return to his earthly temple, so that it may know his peace once more.

More Modern Myths

In my latest post about History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, and the ancient alien theory in general, I posited that the correlation between aliens and gods presented in the show is only proof that the two myths serve the same mythological function in two vastly separate time periods.  As a follow up, I wanted to present a few more modernizations of mythological figures that I’ve noticed.  Some are specific characters/figures, while some are broader archetypes that have changed throughout history.  I’ll start off with some fun easy ones, then get into the deeper stuff, so enjoy!

G-men as Angels/Demons

 

I briefly mentioned this mythological figure in the previous post, but I thought it warranted some elaboration.  The G-Man is interesting because these people actually exist, as we all know they do, yet they are shrouded in mystery.  And for the most part, we allow them to be.  This may be in part because we know they are working for our own security, or maybe we simply accept that there isn’t much we can do about it.  Nonetheless, the figure has taken on a mythic function in fiction and society.  The ‘Men In Black,’ (not the movie, as they are the protagonists and thus serve a entirely different function) represent agents of a higher power whose influence is as expansive as its purpose is mysterious.  They have no will or identity of their own.  Much like the the demons or angels of ancient tales, they are seen as extensions of the agency they represent, be it Heaven or Hell, good or evil, or just order and chaos.  They appear on the scene, serve their function, and disappear just as quickly.  Now certain angels and demons have, throughout their literary history, taken on other identities, personalities, and other functions of their own.  There is certainly a difference between the representation of a demon in possession or exorcism stories and the function of the G-men, though you could correlate ‘hypnotized’ or ‘brainwashed’ victims of these agencies to the possessed, but that correlation is a bit murkier.  For our purposes, we are focusing on the initial role of these figures in early myths.

The Spaceship as The Ark

     

This is a pretty obvious one.  If you’ve seen movies like Wall-E or Titan A.E., you’ve probably made the connection yourself, and the producers make no attempt to hide the correlation.  It is interesting, however, due to the universality of the deluge myth, both in ancient times and today.  Of course, today, you’d have a hard time selling that the entire earth would flood, and that we could survive and continue our race on a giant boat.  But change boat to spaceship and  flood to meteor or some other global disaster, and voila! another retelling of probably one of the most widely-told stories in history.  The most important aspect of the myth, though, is the one that has not changed.  The idea that after a global disaster, mankind must have a way to continue itself.  Another interesting aspect of this morphing myth is the span of time between the two tellings.  The deluge myths from ancient times were mostly said to have happened in ancient times to the audience then, meaning the story would be doubly ancient to us.  Antiquity’s antiquity.  And these new retellings of the myth take place in a future vastly beyond our own.  Much like the ancient alien theory, this is evidence of our strange self-reflexive time in history, where our most ancient stories are morphing into our most futuristic ones.

A.I. as the Golem (or Frankenstein)

  

The golem is a far lesser known figure than the others mentioned here, but you may recognize his successor, Frankenstein’s monster.  I chose the golem over Frankenstein because of his folktale roots, though he is also much more recent than the other figures in this article as well.  If you haven’t heard of the golem, he is a creature from Jewish folklore who is created by someone close to God (traditionally a rabbi), and in their pursuit to be like God, attempts to mimic His creation of man with the creation of a golem.  Because man does not have the same powers as God, the golem comes out a little less human than we’d prefer.  He has no soul, no free will, and no sense of morality.  In the most famous story of the golem, from Medieval Prague, the rabbi creates the golem to protect the city, but the golem, basically blazing the trail for Frankenstein’s monster, instead goes on a murderous rampage and has to be destroyed.  It’s a simple cautionary tale about the dangers of man’s reach exceeding his grasp, a theme that you could link back to the much older biblical story of the Tower of Babel, though it was God who destroyed the tower, so it doesn’t have that self-destructive element that we all love.

If you haven’t made the connection by now, let me spell it out for you.  The most recent incarnation of the golem story, which most people only go so far back as Frankenstein for its roots, is the figure of the A.I. computer or robot.  Whether it’s the HAL 9000 computer from Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the machines from the popular Terminator or The Matrix franchises, these self-aware or simply malfunctioning gizmos have become a staple of sci-fi plots.  And while they may seem new to the scene, and one might assume that they are unique to our time period because of the advent of computers, the basic idea behind them goes back to the golem: creating an intelligent being that ends up destroying us.

So now we’re getting into the deeper stuff.  Not only because of the subject matter of these new ‘mythological figures,’ but because of the broader and more abstract archetypes that they now fill.  Keep in mind here that I am referring to how these characters fit into our mythos.  I do not intend to make any political or sociological comments on these acts or their perpetrators, so I hope that no one takes them that way.

Serial Killer as Chthonic Beast

    

If you don’t know the term ‘chthonic,’ or can’t pronounce it, it refers to something tied to the earth, usually in a negative way.  The connotation in mythology and psychology refers to the chaotic primal nature of people or creatures.  The term ‘chthonic beast’ in mythology refers to any of a multitude of creatures from ancient stories who are usually defeated by a culture hero, signifying man’s conquering of nature to give way to civilization.  This concept has seen somewhat of a reversal in recent history, reflected in the transcendental and existential movements, which propose a return to the values of nature to correct the injustices of modern society.  What these thinkers overlook is that this peaceful, tranquil return to nature is only possible because of our past conquering of it, but that’s another topic for another time.  Some chthonic beasts include the Sphinx conquered by Oedipus, the Minotaur conquered by Theseus, and Leviathan conquered by God, as mentioned in the Old Testament.  While these figures still appear as beasts today, as can be seen with movies like Jaws or Jurassic Park (Spielberg was into chthonics apparently) and still serve the same function, I believe a new chthonic beast has appeared on the scene and is unique to our time.

Serial killers have fascinated the populace for a couple centuries now.  Not that there weren’t serial killers before, it’s just they were usually called Kings or Emperors.  But ever since Jack the Ripper, we’ve been at once terrified and excited by serial killers.  It’s impossible for us sane and decent human beings to imagine the mind of a person who could commit these acts, so we label them psychopaths, humans born without the capacity for empathy or moral decency.  And it is the chthonic nature of a psychopath to kill.  This is what terrifies us about them.  The chthonic beast is meant to remind us that our idea of civilization is an illusion that we all buy into.  That at any time that illusion can be shattered by the will of one person, and the serial killer is that person.  Their depiction in film is a testament to this.  The ‘slasher’ film always seems to start with a tranquil neighborhood, or a peaceful weekend getaway, or some other representation of the safety of modern society.  Yet as soon as the killer arrives on the scene, the society turns into a chaotic playground where it’s every man or screaming teenage girl for him-or-her-self.  In this new world, the chthonic beast is king.

Terrorist as Trickster

   

The trickster is another mythological archetype that spans all cultures and civilizations.  From the Norse god Loki to the Native American raven, the trickster is a character who doesn’t play by the rules.  He sets his own moral compass, or simply lacks one, and tends to give the finger to anyone making any laws or setting themselves on a pedestal.  The trickster is usually morally ambiguous, not an agent for good, but not wholly evil.  If he doesn’t have his own interests in mind, he does what he does simply to piss people off.  Yet the trickster is not just good for fucking shit up.  In most stories of fire being given to man, a symbol of the advent of technology, it is the trickster who steals it from the gods or just somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be.  He didn’t do what he did for the betterment of man, but man benefitted from his act nonetheless.  He is an indifferent mover and shaker with his middle finger in the air smoking a cigarette as he blazes through your town in his Camaro with the muffler removed.  But he takes another form in our modern society: that of the terrorist.

Terrorism is a serious issue for most of the world right now, so it’s not unusual that terrorists would take a place in our mythos.  You might think that the terrorist would hold a similar place as the serial killer, being a force of chaos that disrupts our idea of civilization, but the terrorist is more like the trickster in that he usually has a motive behind his acts, even if it is just to cause a fuss.  For the purposes of this post, I am not simply talking about senseless acts of violence, but the broader spectrum of terrorism, especially including cyber-terrorism.  The way in which the terrorist reflects the trickster is that mankind can sometimes benefit from terrorism as well.  The ‘cyber-terrorist’ group known as ‘anonymous’ has made this connection themselves, choosing the character ‘V’ from V for Vendetta as the face of their anonymity.  By doing so, they are associating themselves with terrorism for the benefit of mankind, just as V executed in his graphic novels and film.  Cyber-terrorist Julian Assange is another example of this, and even Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, believed he was committing his acts for the betterment of man as well.

*Special Case: The Joker*

  

In the most recent Batman franchise, the character of the Joker made a glorious comeback into the modern mythos.  Heath Ledger’s legendary performance inspired a new vision of the Joker that is possibly more terrifying than the last.  In the movie, in true Jonathan Nolan style, the character explains his entire purpose within the context of the story.  He states that he is an ‘agent of chaos’ whose only motivation is to upset the established order.  With his speech, he teeters on the fine line between the chthonic beast and the trickster character, but seems to weigh heavy on the chthonic side.  This revamp of the character inspired many critics to equate him to the shark in Jaws and other monstrous villains, since he lacks a back-story necessary of a human character.  However, it seems obvious that the original intention of the Joker was meant to be a modern version of the trickster character.  The name ‘The Joker’ even seems to be a play on the term ‘The Trickster.’  The original version of the character had a back-story, and often set innocent victims up to play cruel and maniacal games for their lives or the lives of others.  Though it would be tough to argue that anything the character does benefits mankind, it is easily seen that he does have a motive, and therefore is better equated to the trickster.

So there you have it!  Granted there are probably many more modernizations of ancient myths and mythological figures, but I don’t have the time or attention span to get into all of them.  If you can think of any, please feel free to share them below!