Monday, May 21, 2018

How Christianity Was Spread

The history of how religions are spread are usually violent, and Christianity's spread is of no exception. Although Europe is the continent most closely associated with Christianity, much of northern Europe beyond the borders of the Roman Empire of antiquity wasn't Christianized until the Middle Ages, a full thousand years after Christianity began.

Much of that began in the 700s under the reign of Charles the Great, better known by his French name Charlemagne. His army conquered and subjugated the pagan Saxons of modern day Germany, forcing them to jettison their religion, traditions, gods, and idols, and publicly profess their belief in Christianity. Those who resisted faced stiff punishment, including death.

Looking back at history, one can say this helped unite the continent under one religion, and to an extent that is true. Religion can act as a unifying glue that holds distinct peoples together. This is one of the reasons why many bemoan the fall of Christianity in Europe, even secular people like Douglas Murray. Once the religion becomes undone, the glue that binded the continent for a millennia gives way to shifting political tribes without a single common identity that transcends language, country, and ethnicity. That's where something like secular humanism comes into the post-theistic landscape, even though I have my reservations it has the ability to replace the unifying aspects of religion.

The following documentary from a German state funded channel DW reenacts the bloody history of Christianity's spread through central Europe in the early Middle Ages. Very interesting to watch.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Is The Zodiac Speaking - Documentary

Back in the mid-1990s I became obsessed with the Zodiac killer case. I read Robert Graysmith's book Zodiac, several times. I collected any book that mentioned the case, watched any show that had anything to do with the case, and was delighted that they made a mainstream movie in 2007 about the killer, based on Graysmith's book, also called Zodiac.

I had something of an obsession with serial killers in my teens. The Zodiac killer was the most fascinating one for me, because he wasn't your typical breed of serial killer. He created a character with a symbol and moniker and even dressed up as his character in one of his killings. He mailed cryptic letters to the news papers that contained coded ciphers that he claimed revealed his identity. The 340 character cipher, known as the Z340, has never been cracked. Recently, in the 2016 presidential race, the Zodiac killer was trending on Twitter and I thought he may have been captured. But no, it was because Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was being accused of being the Zodiac killer due to their similar appearance. Obviously, that's impossible, as Cruz is too young, but the incident sparked my interest in the Zodiac killer once again. I started looking online for Zodiac material, and came across the documentary: This is the Zodiac Speaking. The name is taken from how the Zodiac used to open his letters. If you've ever been interested in the case, it goes into extraordinary detail for each of the killings and it's worth a watch.

The Zodiac killer was never caught, making the case probably the biggest unsolved criminal mystery in American history, at least modern American history. Who was the Zodiac killer? It's a question millions of Americans would like to know the answer to before they die. Although no one was ever caught and formally charged with being the Zodiac killer, there were a few promising suspects. The most well known, was Arthur Leigh Allen. A plethora of circumstantial evidence linked him to the Zodiac, but not enough to formally charge him.

Then in 2003 a partial DNA profile was lifted from the back (or possibly the front) of a stamp on one of the letters Zodiac mailed to the newspapers. It was tested against Allen, who died of a heart attack in 1992. It wasn't a match. The most promising suspect was not the Zodiac—at least not according to the DNA obtained, which some people think was not Zodiac's. I personally never thought Allen was the Zodiac. I think Zodiac was so good at hiding that he was probably never a formal suspect. In his letters Zodiac claimed to wear a disguise so that in real life he looked nothing like his description. The widely known description of the Zodiac came partly from an incident after the Zodiac's last confirmed killing of cabdriver Paul Stine in the Presidio Heights section of San Francisco, where police officers responding to the murder saw (or stopped) a man walking away from the scene. Because there was a mix-up in the description of the suspect's race, the SFPD were looking for a black male instead of a white man, and they let the man go. It is widely believed that this was the Zodiac. The Zodiac even confirmed the incident in his subsequent letters that it was him. The best chance of capturing the killer slipped by, and police never came as close to capturing him again.

So will the Zodiac ever be caught? If he's still alive he'd be at least 75 years old. People live to be 75 so it's still possible. But recently a new idea has sprung up and the case is currently active. The Golden State Killer was recently caught after 40 years when DNA evidence from the killer matched one of his relatives who had submitted their DNA to a public genealogy site. Many people are now asking if the same technique could be used to catch the Zodiac. At this point, without a confession and strong physical evidence, it seems that this is the only real hope we have left of finding the identity of one of America's most notorious serial killers.

But as much as I want to see the killer identified, there's something about the enduring mystery that creates a mystique surrounding the killer. If and when the Zodiac is identified, who he is will almost surely be a disappointment to the idea of him we have in our heads. Who knows? Truth is often stranger than fiction. There's even a new show on the History Channel about the Zodiac I've just learned. Looks interesting. See the trailer below. Maybe one day in the not too distant future, the Zodiac killer will finally be unmasked.


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