NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) — In the next couple of weeks reproductions of the 50 foot arch that stood at the Temple of Baal in Palmyra, Syria will be erected in important cities across the world, including New York.
In *Times Square Baal's Temple was to go up on April 19 and Earth Day is April 22.
Is the timing mere coincidence, or is something else going on?
It would be nice to think we are more advanced than ancient Canaanite or Syrian Baal worshipers, but evidence suggests we are becoming much the same.
In 1928, at Ras Shamra in Syria, an outstanding discovery was made. Archeologists unearthed temples previously devoted to the worship of Baal and Dagon, and documents that explained much about Canaanite cults we read of in the Bible.
In the Philistines Samson and David, who were Jews, encountered people similar to those worshipers at Ras Shamra. The Jewish commitment to the living Word of God explains why their relationship with the Philistines was so strained. For unlike the Jews, who ascribed all power to the invisible God, the Philistines sought for God in nature and in the world of sense.
Baal was the bloodthirsty Lord of Thunder and God of Storms; Dagon, the fish God; Baalzebub the Lord of flies. Baal's main consort was Ashtoreth, the Great Mother or Queen of Heaven, giver of life and fertility.
It may come as a surprise that Ashtoreth worship is alive and well on planet Earth. Ashtoreth is that goddess of whom some environmentalists speak reverently. We recognize her by one of her many names – Gaia, which means Mother Earth.
Üstün Bilgen-Reinart writes: "The earth mother was called many different names. In Anatolia she was Hepat, Kubaba, Kubele, Matar, Cybele, Agdistic, Leto, and Ephesian Artemis. The Sumerians called her Ma, Marienna, Inanna. Babylonians knew her as Ishtar, Astarte, Ashtoreth. In Egypt her name was Isis. In Crete she was Gaia or Rhea."
The monotheistic Israelites warred against the Philistines not least because Canaanite religion degraded humans on the altar of ritual sexual depravity, child sacrifice, and polytheistic nature worship. Eons later all these aspects of nature religion are making a comeback.
On April 22 the United Nations celebrates what its General Assembly terms International Mother Earth Day. It is now clear that "we don't own the planet, we belong to it," said Bolivian President Evo Morales in an address to the UN.
The UN Secretary-General speaks of the planet as a living being, urging "Governments, businesses and citizens of the world to give our Mother Earth the respect and care she deserves."
There is a view among modern environmentalists that life on earth will only be harmonized when ecological perceptions and actions take center stage of international decisions. Naturally, the UN is seen as the medium to express the deep green voice of Mother Earth.
The UN appears not to be content with mere symbolism. In recent years they debated a draft international treaty giving Mother Earth the same rights as humans. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, adopted in 2010 at the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia, considers Mother Earth to be a Living Being with rights to life, to exist and do whatever planets do free from human interference.
It may sound crazy but already some Spanish provinces, Germany, New Zealand, and others, grant legal rights to apes. Switzerland gives plants rights. Bolivia gives human rights to plants and bugs and ecosystems. So it is not out of keeping with a certain kind of spirituality that the UN wants to grant "Mother Earth" human rights.
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Earth Day is a big deal for the United States government. Former Vice President Al Gore frequently pleads for a different religion than the Christianity of the American founders, writing for example: "The spiritual sense of our place in nature ... can be traced to the origins of human civilization. A growing number of anthropologists and archeo-mythologists ... argue that the prevailing ideology of belief in prehistoric Europe and much of the world was based on the worship of a single earth goddess, who was assumed to be the fount of all life and who radiated harmony among all living things."
To this day he contends this ancient Gaia-centered faith is the common thread that will bring harmony and peace. When Gore, in his 2007 Nobel Speech, said, "Armed with such a faith, we might find it possible to resanctify the earth," he was speaking of a modern kind of Gaia worship.
All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. All men have faith in something. In the end, men will worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.
Americans lose liberties at an astonishing pace. But Americans are losing something far more precious. Americans have lost Christian faith, at least this is my observation, and the data seem to verify it. Family has failed. Church has failed. The state has failed. Even science, has failed. As people realize science can be corrupt, and does not provide answers to ultimate questions, they seek another god. That god is Mother Earth.
The irony is that while public and government funded displays to Baal and Ashtoreth/Gaia are now de jure, displays of the Ten Commandments are cut down. After the Philistines cut down Saul, the first king of Israel, they could think of no better tribute than to place his battle armor in the Temple of Ashtoreth as a tribute (I Samuel 31:10). We are not so different.
James Wanliss, Ph.D., is Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC. He is a Senior Fellow and Contributing Writer for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, and author of Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed physics articles, has held the NSF CAREER award, and does research in space science and nonlinear dynamical systems under grants from NASA and NSF.
* EDITOR's NOTE: A story in the Telegraph has said there will be no unveiling of an arch in New York at this time and further plans are unknown.