Episode 244 – John the Baptist’s religion


A few weeks ago I mentioned a religious group that is effectively the church of John the Baptist. I mistakenly referred to them as the Ebionites, which were a Jewish Christian group that rejected Paul and viewed James the brother of Jesus and preferred James the brother of Jesus. They were also big fans of the John the Baptist, but not the group I was thinking about. The Ebionites disappeared by around 300 CE, but they’ll come up again when we talk about Jews for Jesus.

It’s been nearly 11 years since I dropped out of the seminary so it’s not surprising that much of my knowledge of obscure religious oddities has faded along with my knowledge of classical Greek.

The group I was thinking of is the Mandeans. They started sometime in the first three centuries of the common era, but the historical record of them is pretty scant with many of the best early sources coming from Islamic writers and the Hadith. They are generally thought to be the Sabians that are counted by Muslims as a People of the Book.

They are a Semitic Gnostic group. What’s odd here is that most of what we know of Gnosticism is that it was a Hellenistic Greek phenomena drawing very heavily on neo-Platonic dualism, however that same kind of dualism and secret knowledge, the Greek gnosis or Aramaic manda.

According to the Mandeans they are the continuation of the religion of Noah and they revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Aram, and John the Baptist, especially John the Baptist, as their prophets. According to one 13th century Dominican Catholic observers they detest Abraham because of circumcision.

They believe in marriage, procreation, and family and don’t practice celibacy or asceticism, this is in stark contrast with standard Gnosticism, but is likely part of why they have outlasted the Gnostics by more than a millennia and a half. Like the Gnostic they believe the world is a prison and governed by the planetary archons.

Their dualism also takes an interesting form, while Gnostics typically had the spiritual pure opposite the evil material, Mandeans have a cosmic father and mother, light and dark, right and left. They believe in a supreme formless Entity who delegated the creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings to creators. The cosmos is the creation of the Archetypal Man which was created so that it could be populated by beings created in his form.

Souls come from the Entity and are in exile and captives on this world, but eventually they will return to the Entity. Planets and stars influence our lives and are also a place where souls are detained. There are also savior spirits that will assist souls on the journey to the worlds of light.

Their sacraments are centered on purification, with washing, as a core part of it, hence at least in part their reverence of John the Baptist. The goal of the sacraments is to purify the soul so that they can be freed of the material world and reborn in the spiritual world.

They reject the Torah and the Christian Bible, but have many scriptures where they have recorded things that have learned from the manda or gnosis, the secret knowledge of the spirit world.

While this may all seem quite strange, it’s actually quite logical. The Gnostics believe that Yahweh is an evil Archon and most believe that Jesus isn’t much better. They tended to view mainstream Christians as slaves of the evil material world and that they needed freed from. Latching on to John the Baptist also makes since considering that with the poor hygiene and rampant disease of the era, any focus on bathing and cleanliness would result in improved health. To accept John, while rejecting Jesus is also logical if you view Jesus and the Christians as usurpers who tried to steal and corrupt John’s message.

Historically their population has generally been centered around modern day Iraq and Iran. The Iranian population probably didn’t fare well during the Islamic Revolution. Prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 there were 60,000 to 70,000 Mandeans worldwide with most in Iraq at that point. Most have fled the country with fewer than 5,000 remaining in Iraq.


New supporter – Michael


Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
Facebook’s been gathering all of your contact data, phone call and text metadata

Since we talked about privacy on the internet last week, it’s interesting to see the stories that have been popping up since recording that episode. For the first one, Global Science Research used a click bate personality quiz and the permissions on the Facebook app they created for that to scrape as much personal data as they could on 50 million people to hand it over to Cambridge Analytica so they could help Trump win the election. Facebook then went on to try to bury the story.

There’s also a story on Ars Technica about Facebook using Android privacy permissions to gather all of your contact data and phone call and text message metadata until Google finally shut down that api in October 2017.

Does it change my thoughts on the topic? No. I still go with the fact that in all of these free services we are the product and not the customer and that you’re a fool if you trust them. Don’t post anything on the internet unless you’re fine with everyone in the world seeing that. We also need to have serious discussion as a society and the government needs to get up to speed on the issues and do something to help figure out how we live in the current digital age. I would go as far as to say that the internet and the societal changes it’s bringing is a bigger change than the internal combustion engines and cars, and maybe even bigger than the industrial revolution, however time will tell.

Trump has issued orders to ban trans service members and is asking the courts to lift their injunctions

On Friday President Trump issued new orders banning transgender service members who require surgery or or significant medical treatment from serving the military in nearly all cases. Since it wasn’t even two years ago that the ban on trans people serving in the military was lifted, we’re still in place where every trans service member would still require surgery or significant medical treatment. The justification is that they are trying to avoid that medical care from impacting troop readiness, but really it’s because Trump things trans people are icky and he’s hoping, just like his Muslim ban, that this attempt might make through the courts.

The military will not be implementing this at this time because they will be following the court injunctions against Trump’s last two attempts to ban trans service members. Ultimately this will be decided by the Supreme Court.

Ben Carson is more worried about the people that trans people in homeless shelters make uncomfortable than he is about trans people getting equal rights

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was called before a House subcommittee and was asked by Rep Mike Quigley (D-IL) about the removal of training materials that HUD had produced under the Obama Administration that aimed to guide homeless shelters in how to give access to transgender people. Here’s his response:

Congress has blocked DeVos education spending agenda

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos managed to get her agenda into the spending bill, including a $3.6 billion reduction in the Education Department budget and spending $1 billion on private school vouchers.

Congress rejected most of the proposals including drastic cuts to the department’s Office of Civil Rights, cutting federal work study programs in half, and a $250 million private school choice program.

In hearings, DeVos justified this as reducing the federal government’s role in education.

In the end charter schools got an additional $58 million, Head Start got an additional $610 million, and the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant for needy students that Trump and DeVos wanted to eliminate got $107 million added to its budget.

Tennessee has passed a bill requiring “In God We Trust” to be prominently displayed in all schools

Tennessee has passed a bill that requires schools to prominently display the national motto, “In God We Trust”. The requirements are that it must be in a place where it’s likely to be seen such as a entryway, cafeteria, or common area, but schools are free to pick the exact for of the display. It passed the state senate unanimously and the House with 81 of the 99 members voting for it.

Despite the governor’s concerns a stand your ground law will take effect in Idaho

The Idaho state legislature, despite the Governor’s misgivings passed a Stand Your Ground bill along party line votes. What this bill does is make it so that you are presumed innocent if you killed someone who was entering your home, business, car, or property.

The governor did not sign the bill over concerns that it would allow unreasonable killings such as a kid crossing a field or a teen breaking into an RV to steal a soft drink.

Idaho’s new abortion law requires providers to give patients misinformation and report detailed patient information to the state

Idaho, with Butch’s blessing has passed a new abortion bill that requires that women seeking abortions can stop the medication half way if they change their minds and will require detailed data reporting with the woman’s age, race, how many children she has, if any children have died, and how many abortions she’s had in the past. Complications such as infection, blood clots, and hemorrhaging, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders also have to be reported.


Randy via Facebook regarding Episode 243

Study shows that better access to contraceptives would lower the abortion rate and save billions a year

A new study shows that increasing access to the full range contraceptives would result in a 64% drop in unintended pregnancies, a 67% drop in the abortion rate, and a $12 billion public health savings annually.

A Fox News analyst quit and called it a “propaganda machine”

LTC Ralph Peters, USA (RET) has served as a military analyst for Fox News for a decade has resigned saying:

“Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.”

Three members of a militia in Kansas have been arrested for plotting to kill Muslim refugees

Three members of the Kansas Security Force militia and a splinter group known as the “the Crusades” with a goal of killing as many Muslims as they can and to make them feel uncomfortable in America have been charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to deny other’ civil rights from a plot to bomb an apartment complex where Muslim immigrants from Somalia lived and had a mosque.

The Austin Bomber was part of a Christian specialist group | Link2

Austin recently was faced with a bombing spree that killed 2 and wounded 5. The bomber recorded a confession video on his cell phone and blew himself up with his last bomb as the police after running from the cops.

The motive is not known, but his targets were all minorities and he was part of a Christian survivalist group the discussed weapons and dangerous chemicals.

Texas pastor sentenced to 99 years for starving a toddler to exercise a demon

A video showed Pastor Aracely Meza cradling the body of a 2 year old boy praying to God to bring him back to life. The boy, who lived in her church’s commune with his parents had died because two weeks earlier she had ordered that his food be cut off as part of an exorcism.

March for Our Lives may be the biggest single day protest in DC history

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