Hawaii religious notes - Part 2

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*Nemo*

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May 26, 2003, 6:21:29 AM5/26/03
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At the start of our trip to Hawaii, our family spent the first full day
there on the island of Oahu. Long story. Anyway, we decided to spend
part of the day by catching up with some unfinished business from our
last trip out there, and visited the Bishop Museum.

This is a wonderful place to learn about Hawaiian history, full of
artifacts that belonged to one of the last descendants of Kamehameha the
Great.

One of the displays recounted a part of Hawaiian history I had never
heard of before. It seems that after Captain Cook's discovery of the
archipelago in 1778, the first thing that happened was that the
"Sandwich Islands" became a popular and important stopping place for
traders and military vessles operating in the Pacific.

The important thing about this was that for a little over 40 years, the
religiouss and political rulers of Hawaii started noticing that the
foriegners were pretty much constantly breaking their religious taboos
and not being punished by the gods for their transgressions. This was a
vital part of their world view - the maintenance of social order using a
system of taboos that implied that breaking such rules would lead to
retribution by the gods. And here were hundreds of breakages of the
rules by white men, resulting in no ill consequences from any
supernatural source.

After the death of Kamehameha in 1819, the final blow to the taboo
system was dealt by his son, Liholiho. At the urging of a high kahuna
(priest), Liholiho deliberately broke the most sacred of taboos by
eating at a table set for women. When he wasn't struck down, all the
priests and chiefs were forced to admit that their religion was false.
For all intents and purposes, Hawaii was a "godless" nation from that
point on, at least so far as the rulers were concerned.

Six months later, the first Christian missionaries arrived.

--
Nemo - EAC Commissioner for Bible Belt Underwater Operations.
Atheist #1331 (the Palindrome of doom!)
BAAWA Knight! - One of those warm Southern Knights, y'all!
Charter member, SMASH!!
http://home.earthlink.net/~jehdjh/Relpg.html
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus
Quotemeister since March 2002

Richard M Braun

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May 26, 2003, 10:01:28 AM5/26/03
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That is such a sad story. A ray of hope was shining through. A whole
society could literally exist, with their minds in reality, only to be
dashed six months later.

*Nemo*

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May 26, 2003, 11:47:05 AM5/26/03
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In article <vd47fpg...@corp.supernews.com>,

I've been thinking about this a lot since I learned about it. I bought a
history of the place called "The Shoal of Time," reading more about the
whole affair.

It seems Kamehameha and his son were blazing completely new territory
for their nation, and they were often clueless, making it all up as they
went along, both politically and religiously. Liholiho often sounds like
an idiot, but one has to recall that he becme king and a pretty damn
young age (20 or something like that) and was not as well educated in
the ways of the world at the time as he needed to be.

What bothers me the most is that America had been founded at about the
same time Cook arrived, based on the philosophies of the Enlightenment.
It's a damn shame that no one felt the need to go to this new place and
even *mention* the ideas of Voltaire, Rousseau and all those folks.
There were *no* "Freethought evangelists" to arrive and compete with the
bloody Calvinists when they started spreading their mind-virus. :<

John Popelish

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May 26, 2003, 1:24:47 PM5/26/03
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*Nemo* wrote:
(snip)
> After the death of Kamehameha in 1819, the final blow to the taboo
> system was dealt by his son, Liholiho. At the urging of a high kahuna
> (priest), Liholiho deliberately broke the most sacred of taboos by
> eating at a table set for women. When he wasn't struck down, all the
> priests and chiefs were forced to admit that their religion was false.
> For all intents and purposes, Hawaii was a "godless" nation from that
> point on, at least so far as the rulers were concerned.

I love this story. Liholiho applied a scientific experiment to test
the validity of his societies most cherished theory, and falsified
it. And they moved on toward truth.

When I was in Hawaii a couple years ago, I found the general lack of
obvious religiosity among the native people very refreshing.

--
John Popelish

*Nemo*

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May 26, 2003, 3:33:32 PM5/26/03
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In article <3ED24ED9...@rica.net>,
John Popelish <jpop...@rica.net> wrote:

> *Nemo* wrote:
> (snip)
> > After the death of Kamehameha in 1819, the final blow to the taboo
> > system was dealt by his son, Liholiho. At the urging of a high kahuna
> > (priest), Liholiho deliberately broke the most sacred of taboos by
> > eating at a table set for women. When he wasn't struck down, all the
> > priests and chiefs were forced to admit that their religion was false.
> > For all intents and purposes, Hawaii was a "godless" nation from that
> > point on, at least so far as the rulers were concerned.
>
> I love this story. Liholiho applied a scientific experiment to test
> the validity of his societies most cherished theory, and falsified
> it. And they moved on toward truth.
>

This was another aspect of this story that I found most interesting.
When they discovered good reasons to disbelieve in their religion, they
*stopped believing!*

Even their priests admitted that the evidence was against it. They
didn't sit around, trying hard to find excuses for the inaction on the
part of the gods. I wonder why it is that these people were considered
"savages" and "primitive" when they had the sophistication and courage
to make that experiment and live by the results?

Of course, this change only happened among the "upper classes." The
taboos were kept by the "common" folks for a long time, in spite of
seeing their leaders throw it out. Later, the Christians picked up the
taboo system and used it for their own purposes... hardly surprising, is
it?

> When I was in Hawaii a couple years ago, I found the general lack of
> obvious religiosity among the native people very refreshing.

Agreed. More on that later. I'll say here, though, that coming back to
North Carolina after 11 days in Hawaii has resulted in something of a
shock to my system. I was just starting to get used to seeing religion
pushed in my face only once every other day, instead of 10-20 times a
day here. :<

stillsunny

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May 26, 2003, 5:10:58 PM5/26/03
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*Nemo* <nemo...@yahoo.NOSPMPLS.com> wrote in message news:<nemo0037-A826E3...@nnrp04.earthlink.net>...

> In article <vd47fpg...@corp.supernews.com>,
> Richard M Braun <rmb...@charter.net> wrote:
> > *Nemo* wrote:

<snip>

I'm curious how this corresponds with what you've been reading:

http://www.coffeetimes.com/july98.htm

Particularly this bit:

"For about a year, the Hawaiian people had no roots to hold onto, no
beliefs to grasp, for there was nothing that could replace the gods.
In 1820 the missionaries arrived, finding a nation eager to fill the
emptiness with new notions of good and evil, right and wrong <...> No
wonder then, that Kaahumanu discovered in the Christian religion with
its commandments and its strong code of ethics a great tool to soothe
pain, to burn remnants of the stifling gods, and to gain power.
Kaahumanu saw in the foreign religion a set of laws which she herself
could enforce. She saw herself coming full circle, from being a woman
with no power over the law, to being a woman at the very center of the
law."

And I'm genuinely curious what you think would likely have happened
if, for instance, all the white guys suddenly left the islands
completely after the event where the king ate at the women's table.

Sunny

who knows that, not being there, there's no way to really know how
"eager" the Hawaiian people were, but does note a tendency of vacuums
to be filled in cultures, and is no stranger to the appeal of the
power component of Christianity

Al Klein

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May 27, 2003, 12:15:30 AM5/27/03
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On Mon, 26 May 2003 10:21:29 GMT, *Nemo* <nemo...@yahoo.NOSPMPLS.com>
posted in alt.atheism:

>After the death of Kamehameha in 1819, the final blow to the taboo
>system was dealt by his son, Liholiho. At the urging of a high kahuna
>(priest), Liholiho deliberately broke the most sacred of taboos by
>eating at a table set for women. When he wasn't struck down, all the
>priests and chiefs were forced to admit that their religion was false.
>For all intents and purposes, Hawaii was a "godless" nation from that
>point on, at least so far as the rulers were concerned.

>Six months later, the first Christian missionaries arrived.

And Hawaii remains a godless nation to this day, eh?
--
"I don't try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world
insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it."
- Letter to S. Flesch, April 16, 1954; Einstein Archive 30-1154
rukbat at optonline dot net

johac

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May 27, 2003, 1:27:30 AM5/27/03
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In article <nemo0037-95553B...@nnrp04.earthlink.net>,
*Nemo* <nemo...@yahoo.NOSPMPLS.com> wrote:

Gah! I knew there had to be a fly in the ointment.
--

John Hachmann, aa #1782

- Got evidence? -

*Nemo*

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May 27, 2003, 5:23:41 AM5/27/03
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In article <c472f5b5.03052...@posting.google.com>,
still...@yahoo.com (stillsunny) wrote:

<snip>

There is a bloody huge shopping center on Maui, in Kaiulua, named for
her, BTW...

But this strikes me as a good encapsulation of her story. She seemed to
love power and its exercise in the mixture of religion and politics,
from what I've read.

As to the part about the common people being "eager" to fill the void
left by the demise of the "kapu" system, there may be some truth in
that. The impression I had from Gavan Daws' book "Shoal of Time" is that
the common folks were keen on keeping the old system working. And there
were some priests who went along with that. My impression is that those
priests made the transition to working with the New England Calvinists
when they saw the support they received from Kaahumanu.

I can't help thinking that the commoners' attitude was a matter of
education. They were (so far as I can make out) illiterate, educated
only in the traditional customs and ways of their parents, conditioned
from birth to follow the rules laid out by the upper classes.

> And I'm genuinely curious what you think would likely have happened
> if, for instance, all the white guys suddenly left the islands
> completely after the event where the king ate at the women's table.
>

A pretty difficult thing to speculate about. I'd *like* to think that
they would have worked out a secular society much like their earlier
society, but without the religion.

Whatever the answer to that question might be, it's purely a shot in the
dark. Questions of what might otherwise have happened at various cusps
of history are moot, IMO.

> Sunny
>
> who knows that, not being there, there's no way to really know how
> "eager" the Hawaiian people were, but does note a tendency of vacuums
> to be filled in cultures, and is no stranger to the appeal of the
> power component of Christianity

My impression is that the common folks were feeling set adrift by the
lack of religious rules. Given time, they might have worked out new ways
to handle their social and political needs without religious strictures.
But as you say, the power available to those at the top of a heirarchy
was a particularly strong enticement. Kaahumanu made the most of her
opportunities and lived a long while in exercising the power she
obtained in helping the missionaries.

stillsunny

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May 27, 2003, 5:17:14 PM5/27/03
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*Nemo* <nemo...@yahoo.NOSPMPLS.com> wrote in message news:<nemo0037-D3A31F...@nnrp04.earthlink.net>...

> In article <c472f5b5.03052...@posting.google.com>,
> still...@yahoo.com (stillsunny) wrote:
>
> > *Nemo* <nemo...@yahoo.NOSPMPLS.com> wrote in message
> > news:<nemo0037-A826E3...@nnrp04.earthlink.net>...
>
> <snip>
> > >
> > > I've been thinking about this a lot since I learned about it. I bought a
> > > history of the place called "The Shoal of Time," reading more about the
> > > whole affair.
<snip>
> > http://www.coffeetimes.com/july98.htm
<snip Queen Kaahumanu>

>
> There is a bloody huge shopping center on Maui, in Kaiulua, named for
> her, BTW...
>
> But this strikes me as a good encapsulation of her story. She seemed to
> love power and its exercise in the mixture of religion and politics,
> from what I've read.
>
> As to the part about the common people being "eager" to fill the void
> left by the demise of the "kapu" system, there may be some truth in
> that. The impression I had from Gavan Daws' book "Shoal of Time" is that
> the common folks were keen on keeping the old system working. And there
> were some priests who went along with that. My impression is that those
> priests made the transition to working with the New England Calvinists
> when they saw the support they received from Kaahumanu.
>
> I can't help thinking that the commoners' attitude was a matter of
> education. They were (so far as I can make out) illiterate, educated
> only in the traditional customs and ways of their parents, conditioned
> from birth to follow the rules laid out by the upper classes.

Eric, do you know if there was on the islands written language?
What I mean by that is, when you call them illiterate, I want to know
who, in Hawaiian terms, *was* literate?

One of the things that struck me reading this particular web site is
that it somewhat countered the romantic image of pre-european days as
being universally bucolic, harmonious, and peaceful. They look just
as apt to have killed each other off as any other humans. Imagine
that :-) And the whole bit about adultery not being a big deal, but
denied to the queens for hereditary reasons, *that's* interesting,
too.

Sunny

*Nemo*

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May 27, 2003, 5:44:35 PM5/27/03
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> > I can't help thinking that the commoners' attitude was a matter of
> > education. They were (so far as I can make out) illiterate, educated
> > only in the traditional customs and ways of their parents, conditioned
> > from birth to follow the rules laid out by the upper classes.
>
> Eric, do you know if there was on the islands written language?

I'm not sure. it's a good question. I know that history and mythology
was passed between generations by means of hula and chants.

> What I mean by that is, when you call them illiterate, I want to know
> who, in Hawaiian terms, *was* literate?
>

I'm ignorant on that subject at present. I'll have to do some research.
I do note that there is the story of on young Hawaiian, named Opukahaia,
who went to America during the days of Kamehameha and became a
Christian. He is said to have translated the New Testament into
Hawaiian. What exactly that entailed, I don't know for sure.

> One of the things that struck me reading this particular web site is
> that it somewhat countered the romantic image of pre-european days as
> being universally bucolic, harmonious, and peaceful.

It makes for good copy in the travel brochures, doesn't it?

> They look just as apt to have killed each other off as any other humans. Imagine
> that :-)

Sure. Kamehameha didn't unite the islands with kind words and deft
statemanship. I've visited the cliffs at Nuuau, and seen the fall taken
by his enemies in that final battle. Not pretty.

> And the whole bit about adultery not being a big deal, but
> denied to the queens for hereditary reasons, *that's* interesting,
> too.
>

Lots of cool stuff there, I agree.

> Sunny

stoney

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May 30, 2003, 3:05:40 PM5/30/03
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On Mon, 26 May 2003 10:21:29 GMT, *Nemo* <nemo...@yahoo.NOSPMPLS.com>,
Message ID: <nemo0037-95553B...@nnrp04.earthlink.net> wrote
in alt.atheism;

And promptly fucked everything up.

/humourous sig alert for reasoning impaired xtians

Stoney
"Designated Rascal and Rapscallion
and
SCAMPERMEISTER!"

When in doubt, SCAMPER about!
When things are fair, SCAMPER everywhere!
When things are rough, can't SCAMPER enough!
/end humour alert

alt.atheism military veteran #11
{so much for the 'no atheists in foxholes' rubbish}

OldguyTeck

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May 30, 2003, 6:55:56 PM5/30/03
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"stoney" <sto...@the.net> wrote in message
news:2a6e3c924dcdd24e...@free.teranews.com...

Maby one day you will realise why the kiddos CUSS so much these dayz.....
Because they are constantly bombarded with 'foul-mouths' like yourselfe...
That's why!

Ed..................(Oldguyteck)

K Knight

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Jun 1, 2003, 9:38:21 AM6/1/03
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stoney <sto...@the.net> wrote in message
news:2a6e3c924dcdd24e...@free.teranews.com...

Mr. Liholiho obviously needed some better apologists for his religion. Any
Christian apologist worth his salt explains away similar contra-indications
of godly retribution on a daily basis. The most commonly used being the
re-definition of words. "Struck down" obviously didn't mean in a mortal
death sort of way; it meant in a cultural way. And in fact - look at Hawaii
today - has it not been culturally "struck down"? Taken over by the taboo
breaking christians? What worse punishment could their gods have sent down
to them.

Kathy aa #1802


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