Hi and welcome. My name is Derek Murphy.
I’m a historical researcher in the field of comparative literature and mythology. I write epic treatises on the way that religious beliefs evolve culturally and influence contemporary society and pop culture.
After majoring in Philosophy and Theology at the University of Malta (one of Europe’s most prestigious schools), and studying art history and classical realism in Florence and Barcelona, I moved to Taiwan to focus on my art and writing. For much of the past 8 years I’ve been a graduate student; multiple grants and scholarships have allowed me to remain a full-time student with excellent library access. I’m now working on my PhD in Comparative Literature.
My first major book “Jesus Potter Harry Christ” uses the similarities between Jesus and Harry to re-open the debate over the historical Jesus, arguing that both Harry and Jesus are spiritual metaphors told in the literary form of historical fiction. It got decent reviews, and I sold the international translation rights to a major publisher.
My new book “Evil by my Good” explores how Milton’s literary figure of Satan in Paradise Lost directly influenced central Western ideals like human rights, the right to vote, free speech, human rights, and even the American Revolution – that in fact contemporary Western Society is indebted to a “rebel-hero” motif that can be traced back to Prometheus, and is at odds with religion in general.
Next year I plan to move to Romania and research vampire mythology and its relation to religious eroticism, for my 3rd book.
I’m passionate about travel, foreign cultures and languages, and authentic experiences and the pursuit of Truth. I’ve had adventures around the globe in pursuit of authentic cultural experiences and participated in rituals from the world’s spiritual traditions. I’ve also visited many of the world’s most sacred sites.
This blog is a place for me to share some thoughts on contemporary culture or events that interest me; but it is very casual… so if I get my facts wrong feel free to correct me.
Although I’m not an angry atheist with an axe to grind, I am critical of religion, and in particular Christianity, because it has grown away from its own roots and has little comprehension of its own historical development. However, just because I question organized religion, does not mean that I think life is meaningless. I’m not emotionally crippled, and I’m not a total hedonistic asshole.
I try, in my own way, to be a good person and lead a good life, but I don’t accept a definition of “good” imposed by cultural values several thousand years old.
I’m also passionately interested in consciousness, psychology, culture and religion studies, and answering life’s big questions like “Where do we come from?” and “Why are we here?”, but I believe that genuine answers can only be found in the quest; not in the acceptance of a belief system.
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My Story (A longer biography)
I’ve always been a profoundly sensitive individual. I’ve believed in lots of things. When I was 7 I believed in the Easter Bunny so hard I had a waking dream in which he manifested (confirmed by a chocolate he placed under my pillow). I’ve heard Santa Claus’ bells on my roof, and cried when my sister put coal in my stocking as a joke. I served as acolyte in the Episcopalian Church my parents raised me in, and treated the affair with dignity, even though I often felt physical discomfort being in church.
When I was in my young teens I was “born again” when at a youth group meeting I was invited to say the prayer out loud to accept Jesus into my heart as my personal savior. I did. I felt elated. My natural intelligence made me a convincing defender of Christian Faith.
Throughout my teens, I suffered from episodes of what I believed to be demonic possession. My whole body would become paralyzed, with me trapped inside of it. I couldn’t control my breathing and it felt like I was suffocating. I would often see figures around my bed and hear demonic voices.
The first time it happened, I prayed to Jesus. I went and talked to my preacher, worried that the demons were going to take me over. He told me “Well, Jesus won, or you wouldn’t be here.” I wasn’t convinced.
After high school, I went to Malta to study Theology and Philosophy. I learned about the making of the Christian Bible and how most of the major themes of Christianity were taken from pagan mythology. I learned about the corrupt and violent politics of the early church and how they shaped the Christian legacy. I read Celsus, Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Bertrand Russell, (and hundreds of others that I’m not in the mood to write down – basically the entire history of Western thought and philosophy, from Plato to Zizek).
I also studied world religions and traveled widely, living with Witch Doctors in Tunisia, visiting Israel and Jordan, most of Europe and the Middle East. One of my theology classmates invited me to a special Christian Association (I forget which one) that had weekly meetings to answer questions.
I had questions, so I went. I asked things like “How is it possible that God’s sole plan of salvation could be so flawed? Why did he start in Jerusalem, rather than other cities? Why are mostly only Western countries Christian? Doesn’t God love Asians too? Why did Jesus do and say the same things as other Pagan Saviors did?”
Although I was earnest, I got myself dis-invited.
I was still ardent in my quest for Truth, Morality, and the Purpose of Life, but no longer certain that Jesus or the Bible had the right answers. Through my activism in Amnesty International (I was the president of the Maltese chapter, and attended the East European conferences in Prague) I discovered that some of the worst atrocities in human rights are actually grounded and justified by a religious mentality. How do you protect people from oppressive governments and violent politics when the bigotry, sexism, racism and hatred is supported by the public’s religious sentiment? (I’m not at all surprised that Egypt’s revolution has resulted in a new Islamic government, which is making headlines for punishing both Christians and Atheists for “blasphemy.”)
Around the same time my recurring and life-changing spiritual experiences shifted as well… rather than demons, several times I saw and heard aliens or had what might be called an abduction experience. I found a scar on my body that looked like a laser or surgical cut, and asked my mom where it came from, convinced that the aliens were real (she laughed it off of course, as I’ve always been dramatic and susceptible to my own beliefs).
It wasn’t until I moved to Taiwan that I began to figure out I’d been suffering from Sleep Paralysis, which:
may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) and an acute sense of danger. Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations. The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision. Some scientists have proposed this condition as an explanation for reports of alien abductions and ghostly encounters.
Sleep Paralysis is not like dreaming, which happens nightly, but like some terrifying encounter with another state of being. Some people only experience it once or twice in a lifetime. My best friend’s childhood “encounter with an angel” was probably SP, and I’m pretty sure the vast majority of religious experiences are as well (you manifest what you believe in, and you vividly hear and see things “in reality”).
In Taiwan, I’ve gone back to school to research comparative religious literature and mythology. The research of my Master’s program went into my first book, “Jesus Potter Harry Christ,” which compares the making of the Christian epic to JK Rowling’s successful magical series – on the grounds that Harry and Jesus share profound and not accidental similarities, because they are both based on common (though ancient) literary traditions.
Now I’m working on my PhD, focusing on Milton’s character of Satan in Paradise Lost and how he single-handedly inspired almost all of the great artistic and literary revolutions of the Romantic and Modernist Ages; how Satan was openly used as a symbol for Promethean Courage, Triumph, Rebellion and Technological Progress; and how Satan is truly the Heroic figure of Contemporary Western Society, and the founder of basic ethical ideas such the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, the democratic right to vote, representation of the people, etc (all of which were seen as “Satanic” ideas and strongly protested by the Church).
My main focus in all of my research is to take popular memes of contemporary literature and trace their ancient roots and ties to religions, to see why we believe what we believe and why certain literary themes attract us so powerfully.
About This Website
I set up Holy Blasphemy to be “a community of heretics, blasphemers, free-thinkers and spiritual seekers committed to religious freedom, personal autonomy and positive social change”; but that definition might be too limiting. Wherever you are on your spiritual path or journey to self-realization and fulfillment, I’m glad you’re here.
I try to produce in-depth, well researched articles on religious history, spirituality and modern culture, as well as lighter (or darker) rants and tirades. But mostly HB is a place for me to share my thoughts or make notes on something that I may come back to in my research.
Holy Blasphemy is the practice of speaking out against dated religious customs and clearing the way to a fuller appreciation of truth. If there is a God or some kind of potent mystical unity at the center of the universe, he is not the angry tyrant of the Old Testament or the crucified Jewish rebel of the New. Like St. Anselm, I demand that the idea of God be perfect – hence I am seeking a better God than the one taught in most world religions.
I refuse to use the label “mysterious” to absolve God of the terrible deeds done by him and in his name. If the tyrannical and violent God of the Christians, Muslims and Jews does exist, then in the words of Captain Ahab – “Defiance” is the only ethical response.
Am I Anti-Religious, Agnostic or Atheist?
I am absolutely against totalizing doctrines, idiocy, and irrational faith that breeds violence and intellectual stagnation, and am in general supportive of the Atheist agenda.
Although there are many Gods I don’t believe in, such as the manipulative and violent God of the Old Testament, there is something “mysterious” about our experience; be it an objective metaphysical reality, a physicality we have not fully explored such as quantum physics, or a psychological projection of ourselves, it is nevertheless a key part of the human journey and something I’m very much interested in.
However, I respect each individual’s right to seek their own spiritual meaning – as long as they don’t impose it on everyone else or demand special privileges or policies. (This doesn’t mean I refrain from criticizing it.)
At the same time, I am absolutely intolerant of some forms of religion, and against religious tolerance in general (which safeguards the idea that ” my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”― Isaac Asimov).
Bad ideas and harmful practices should be investigated and stopped when opposed to liberal values of human rights, free speech, and personal autonomy; genital mutation, child brides and pedophilia, for example, shouldn’t be “protected” as a religious practice.
I’m also apathetic to the whole debate over whether God exists or not at all; as a literary scholar, I’m interested only in the concept and character of God found in art and literature, and how it influences society and culture.
Many will disagree with my conclusions because they seem to attack Faith and Religion specifically. This is not so: I attack much more. Any instance of inherited folly, any unreasonable prejudice, any unsupported assumption will fall under the knife of my criticism. I am well aware of the limits of rationalism, and even it, along with philosophy, skepticism and atheism, may fall under the lens of my investigation.
Trying to discredit my writing with character critique (“he must have been hurt by religion, now he has an axe to grind”/ “he’s just an angry atheist“) is absurd; religion is a big part of who I am today. My church was always supportive and filled with loving individuals. Jesus was an enormous part of my life. I’ve simply outgrown him.
I have both an opinion and an agenda: I am trying to convert you. I care about how and what you think, because you are a participating member of this global society. The way we live our lives affects all things, and I do not feel comfortable allowing everyone to choose and persist in ideas which may be psychologically and sociologically disastrous; especially when the loudest and most outspoken generators of meaning are evangelical pamphlets, political media brainwashing, and the advertising campaigns of marketing executives.
We are in a critical moment in our history – on the very brink of ecological and sociological disasters so powerful and destructive that we will not survive them. It is our beliefs, and nothing else, which will motivate our most critical decisions. I see it is my duty to no less than save the world, by influencing as many people as possible to take responsibility for it.
This is a great and difficult task, for “minority literature” or the politics of difference and change, will always find more resistance than support. While it may be easy to gain sympathy from some, it is nearly impossible not to alienate many. I hope in this website to inspire every person in a manner or language that is appropriate for them: in addition to writing boring essays, I will entertain and dance. I will be a Carlyle for the intellectuals and a Byron for the masses. I will shock with poetry, marvel with fiction and narrative, and enlighten with prose. And if I fail in the attempt, I’ll change mediums.
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