As I may have mentioned in passing on my 27 squillion tweets, plethora of Facebook rants or even within the hallowed walls of this prestigious blog, I have quite a Shania Twain attitude to religion: It don’t impress me much.
Much like Ms. Twain’s grammar, pretty well all religion is questionable. Sure, the Buddhists say a few nice things. There’s a considerable amount of people who help people less fortunate than themselves citing religious motivation. And the Hare Krishna’s have an incredible array of excellent vegetarian dishes.
But sadly too much of it is either just plain irrelevant and stupid (Zen Koan, anyone? “What is the sound of a zebra’s stripes?”) or far far worse, a simple and simplistic excuse for the very worst of humanity: “My God is better than yours, and here’s a hand grenade to show what an excellent and well-reasoned basis I have for believing this.”
Usually on the subject of religion, I confine myself to taking the names of various deities in vain- “For God’s sake, hand over that vanilla slice”, “By Jupiter, I’ll wager that’s going to make a fine cup of tea”, “This is an exceptional sponge cake, by Vectron’s Purple Toothbrush Holder” and so forth.
One of the weirdest texts around is something called “The Bible”. It is a collection of anecdotes, many of which are demonstrably inaccurate: conversations between two people that the historical record shows lived 500 years apart, for example.
The way it was put together is like this: imagine you run a short story competition entitled ” A cool thing that happened a few hundred years ago”. And you’re not allowed to use the Internet, you need to base it solely on the stories your father told you about his father’s father’s father, who happened to be in a nearby café when the trial/stoning/crucifixion/sermon/wanton act of lust took place.
You send it to a judging panel of learned men in pointy hats who are busily accumulating great wealth and suppressing the ordinary folk, and they pick the ones they like, stick ‘em all in a book and use words like “testament’ and “gospel” to reinforce the fact that they have decided it’s now true.
Then a millennium and a half later, the book gets translated from a translation of the original, and put into a modern context and setting, in exactly the same way that Romeo and Juliet became West Side Story, except the King James Bible has less catchy tunes.
So, we have a bit of a dog’s breakfast. (Sadly, a dog’s breakfast without any tea in it.)
Many people decide to live their lives roughly along the lines of this book, using it as an allegory, a cautionary tale. Such as “Jesus wants me to be nice to people, so I’ll be nice to people”. That’s OK. “It also says you should discriminate against people with poor eyesight, but I won’t”. Another healthy choice, in my opinion.
However, there are also people to whom a simile is like a will-o-the-wisp, a metaphor is as unknown as a drowning beagle reciting Keats and an allegory is a kind of crocodile. These are the literalists, the people that believe that a 20th century interpretation of the third rewrite of a 16th century translation of various 4th century texts in four different languages based on oral histories of events 1000 to 300 years previously is the exact word of their particular God, right down to the last divine semi-colon.
Phew, I don’t know about you, but I regularly find myself in the supermarket having completely forgotten what I came for, so I’m not sure my 300- to 1000- year long-term memory is entirely reliable. But not these literalists: for them, the Bible they have in their hands is the literal word of God. Literally. Not figuratively. They literally figure it’s the literal, non-figurative word of God.
There are others, of course, who have a Holy Book and treat it in the same manner, often to horrific effect. But this story is about Ron. And Ron was a literalist.
On TV the other day was an excellent TV special “Raider Ron and The Lost Ark”.
Ron Wyatt was a self-appointed archaeologist and actual anaesthetics nurse, who claimed many discoveries. All of these discoveries happen to support the literal interpretation of the Bible, and would be excellent evidence thereof, if there was any actual evidence of the evidence.
Sadly, a serious of misfortunes and a few alleged cover-ups by alleged vested interests have allegedly denied him the alleged evidence. Allegedly.
For example, after a few practice dives in a swimming pool back home, Ron and his two sons dived in the Red Sea, and found the best possible evidence of the Biblical tale of Moses parting the red sea – a golden chariot probably belonging to the Pharaoh who was unwise enough to chase Moses and Co. across the parted seas. Full marks to Ron for finding this within ten minutes of diving, after 2000 years’ worth of Red Sea divers failed to spot it. Unfortunately, Ron by this time was very sunburned, so they returned to their hotel, where they discovered that the camera that they had used to document this find had “got drowned” according to Ron’s son.
After becoming a champion against the conspiracy that the fossilised remains of Noah’s Ark is really just a geological structure – a silly idea believed by as few as 99.999% of people who understand such things- Ron decided to go after the big one – The Ark of The Covenant.
For those who skipped both the Book of Exodus and Raiders of The Lost Ark, this is a storage unit (Ark from the Hebrew meaning chest or little cupboard) with a bunch of stuff in it, the most notable being the stone tablets on which God inscribed the 10 Commandments and then gifted them to Moses, who was sitting about on a mountain top awaiting them. (I believe there was also burning of some herbal substances mentioned in the official reports).
So, quite a decent souvenir. Of course, it hasn’t been seen for a couple of millennia since the sack of the King Solomon’s temple, so Ron needed some help to find it. Luckily, as he was walking through Jerusalem, he came over all possessed-like, spoke in a different voice and pointed at where a grotto could be found, with the Ark in it. Happens to archaeologists all the time, according to none of them.
Happy Days! Now to just dig it up.
Over the next few years, Ron and his sons dug on the spot, which was on private land luckily, and they had no official permission, what with some Zionist conspiracy making sure the Israeli Government would only give dig permits to people who hold actual archaeological qualifications.
It was basically solid rock, and yet they persisted. Eventually, after several cracks at it, they were at a point where both of Ron’s sons had returned to the US and he was flying solo. He was working on a small hole in a very big rock.
SIDEBAR:Now I must warn you, I’ve written some long and involved blog posts before, where there is little or no mention of tea until way, way down, in a thinly disguised exercise of actually writing about something else. But I think this one sets new standards. Thank you for your patience, teapot arriving shortly.
So, back in his hotel; room, the story goes that Ron was mucking about with a camera, the type you stick in people’s orifices if you are a trained medical professional, as indeed Ron was. He stuck it in his teapot, and he realised that he could use it to peer into the rock.
IN HIS TEAPOT! That’s the opening I was looking for. And even more exciting, the teapot used in the dramatisation by the actor playing Ron was by the London Pottery Co, and the exact model is our favourite all-purpose pot for 2 to 4.
Yes, we call it “Perdie” after Perdita, the mother in the Disney adaptation of 101 Dalmations. And it’s nice to be able to say that, in some small way, an actor using a prop teapot connects us to Ron. (And also justifies this blog). Right now, every time we make a cuppa with Perdie, we refer to her as “The Teapot of The Covenant”.
In archaeology there is saying “Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack”. Just because no-one’s ever found a discarded sword in a spot, doesn’t mean a mediaeval battle wasn’t fought there. Just because Ron never produced the evidence, doesn’t mean he didn’t find the things he said.
But it isn’t just a stack of failures to provide evidence. It’s dodgy science, sneering contempt for other religions, quoting Egyptology books from 1824 as though they were the most up-to-date interpretations of the facts and incredible leaps of logic through flaming hoops of unlikelihood that make the Wyatt Archaeological Resources site such a hoot.
Ron is no longer with us, his supporters presumably believe he has taken the opportunity to meet with his God and discuss all these things first hand. Of course, if he ended up chatting to Osiris, it might have been a tad awkward.
With his myriad faults, it’s easy to dismiss Ron as a crank, a liar, a conman. It’s very easy to use the tools I have at my disposal: logic, science, evidence, sarcasm. But I should temper that by acknowledging that I too, have a belief system, and that it partly fuels this post.
I think the the world needs its loons and oddballs, because they enliven what could be a very dull time we all have here on Earth. Perhaps I’m being charitable, but I prefer to see Ron Wyatt as a dreamer, and his dreams were so vivid that be truly believed he’d actually seen them in real life.