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Chapter Two: Abrahamic Models Of Governance from When God Became the Terrorist
by William Wraithwrite III
14 Apr 2010
Authoritarianism, politically speaking, is a style of control that demands obedience and usually gets it. Individuals have little choice regarding compliance. It hardly needs mentioning that this style of command and control is different from legalized authority written as legislation and negotiated between governors, representatives and citizens.
Chapter Two: Abrahamic Models Of Governance
Authoritarianism, politically speaking, is a style of control that demands obedience and usually gets it. Individuals have little choice regarding compliance. It hardly needs mentioning that this style of command and control is different from legalized authority written as legislation and negotiated between governors, representatives and citizens.
Psychologically, authoritarian personality traits refer to those attitudes and opinions that allows for a basis of prejudice, discrimination and oppression. As defined as such it is a mindset so composed that it is obviously opposed to democratic principles of sharing power.
In modern societies authoritarians tend to align themselves with fascist and oligarchic statism. Authoritarians are generally intolerant of ambiguity, as they tend to see things within the strictures of realities being either black or white. And it appeals to personalities who view things in such simplicity as: “You are either for us or you are against us”, with no middle ground or alternative explanations considered valid.
Yet according to studies on such personalities traits, those who share authoritarian bents often are, ironically, submissive to an already established authoritarian order (and not terribly critical of the quality), although they tend to manipulate such authority toward their own ends—if and when they can.
More often than not, as theory has it, these types of people come from homes that used heavy doses of punishment, both psychological and physical, as domestic forms of justice. They are established more in poor neighborhoods that are less educated, and are less psychologically familiar with nuances of perspective and tolerance (such as tolerance for sensitivity and consideration—or what are stereotypically called feminine traits).
However there are also highly educated authoritarians—but as a rule of thumb, the more school on average, the less so. And if this sounds like academic crap—it is—because studies have shown these tendencies to be features of this type of personality.
Some people driven to be authoritative also go into professions that require a good deal of combative verbal finesse such as lawyers, bosses in general, some editors or opinionated yappers, including those “professional” deception artists that have come to flourish in the political think tanks and America’s corporate media.
There is also, to be sure, a form of authority that is built on merit and competence. Professional authority comes more in play today, as most professionals require various amounts of expertise that can help counter balance rash impulse and stubborn will. Their authority is not derived from raw ambition. It is founded on skill, insight, ability to relate to others, etc., and is proportional to the expertise they bring to bear on issues.
Still authoritarian sensibilities gravitate towards a right-wing status quo. They often “project” (attribute) some of their own impulses (those found unacceptable within themselves that may be unconscious to self) onto outsider people or groups. Not surprisingly they tend to be suspicious and accusing. Plus they are more willing to resort to aggressive measures to get ends met. Authoritarians, on average, also fear intellectuality, creativity, and tolerance.
These fears, when stressed, can take refuge (if not countered) in rigidity, control, and violence. Therefore such people who share these traits are more likely to resort to discrimination, anger, harsh punishment, and under stress, even torture and murder.
According to one dictionary, “rightists” advocate conservative and reactionary political and economic policies. They are willing to restrict the masses with oligarchical rule. They tend to favor laissez faire and “strong” executive power. And the “extreme” right supports fascist dictatorships.
But despite their aggressive exteriors, authoritarians, on average, do not have strong self-concepts of personal independence or autonomy (although they may have heavy accomplishment in various areas of endeavor—such as military or police service). In fact like couch potato sport fans, which do not themselves stay physically fit, they tend to vicariously glorify leaders who rule with the qualities they admire but may not have.
[Note: On the other hand we also note that some of the left, who think themselves liberal or tolerant, also at times, display faults such as excess of pride that steps over into hubristic arrogance when contemplating their own intellectual prowess. Equally some from the leftist camps manage to maintain, more or less, their own sacred cows of distorted bias and prejudice—which equally is a form of rigidity. Some fall into the trap that if a Hence there can be a distaste for rigorous honesty on both sides of the isle that may hide behind masks of feelings of superiority. In fact a propensity to see things as basically on the left or right is itself a black and white template.]
The Plasticity of Language:
Languages are fluid. They cannot easily be commandeered to operate in “total”-itarian and absolute manners. Some people try to make language, and its meanings, to operate as such—but ultimately such trials fail. Languages do not readily conform to rigid demands for inflexibility.
Nevertheless, given the Bible’s long historical “presumption” of infallibility as a document of words, mankind has declined to realize that in order for a “perfect” religious truth to exist it would require a perfect and infallible language. Each word would be limited (perhaps more likely oral traditions) to one, more or less, exact meaning. Therefore there would be little need to have any kind of priestly intermediary to interpret ambiguities for lay peoples.
Instead, what society inherits from the ancient past are mountains of religious verse and a potentiality of infinite interpretation—that require multiple lifetimes of study as well as and an infinitude of patience and wisdom. Such voluminous religious literature could provide any kind of personality the verbal justification for almost any kind of propensity. Centuries upon centuries of scripture and their scholarly opinions have provided various religious communities with enough semantic confusion to bury the most ambitious of readers and thinkers.
Confusion can spring from the ambiguity and ambivalence of even one word or phrase—never mind longer units of prose. Plus the sheer volume of scripture and revered writings again shows us how intricately language itself, as enterprise of human meaning, is tied to individualized word choice as both writer and reader.
People who fail to understand that human judgments were inscribed into the records of religious scripture, by way of how the human mind works, will not likely realize that propaganda was being used to manipulate readers’ beliefs and presumptions. These “historical” paradigms—even supposedly sacred papyritic scrolls and fine parchments handed down over multiple generations were human artifacts, similar to how culture attempt to create human history in deliberate and random choices of emphasis versus censorship.
Three Near Eastern Religions:
There are three religions that currently wield influence over vast numbers of people and cultures in the Near East, Middle East, as well as other societies around the world. They are, as you already know, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. All three of these religions are related, and ultimately derive at least some of their ideology and attitude from the elderly Judaic religion, from which both Islamism and Christianity are offshoots.
So despite an inability of adherents to get along, or to see eye-to-eye, all three religions are in a sense still family. This “familiarity” is an important point, as some of the followers of any one religion tend to hold animosity toward adherents of the other two. There are attitudes of intolerance by members within all three—breeding, if you will, a kind of family dysfunctionalism.
Erstwhile Judaism, as a religion, was conceived (according to many theological scholars), at least partially, from significant ideas loaned from yet more ancient, as well as contemporaneous, religions—such as from the older religions of Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt. Hence there were similar religious motifs found taken from the greater Fertile Crescent, such as the great flood motif, that goes back to at least the 2nd millennium B.C., to the epics of Gilgamesh of the ancient Mesopotamian religion of Uruk (what is now within southern Iraq).
So despite what plenty of people want to believe, Judaism is “not” a unique or absolute religion molded strictly out of a Divine Will. No—Israel loaned ideas from travelers passing through—just like Italian cooks loaned ideas from people sailing the Mediterranean sea. Their tribes borrowed several of their ideas and rituals from surrounding societies. Equally it seems true that Judaism, over much time, changed and solidified unique ideas as well.
This heretical assertion that religions take ideas and rituals from earlier religions makes sense. Scholars have concluded, that as religions evolve and slowly change, they do so, not out of a vacuum, but from cultural influences they interact—coalescing and amalgamating ideas to eventuate a different set of religious interpretations and proclamations.
This phenomenon of borrowing ideas eventually included incorporating philosophical sentiments from Plato’s and Aristotle’s works as applied to newer interpretations and writings of the New Testament. It is natural that various ideas and customs, in general, tend to spread and intermingle or inter-tangle with foreign cultures. There is no pure religion from the Middle or Near East. Most archeologists would agree that much sharing of goods and thought is ancient indeed.
It is not just “abstract” ideals that compose religious belief systems. Human personality (psychology), and tribal politics (sociology) play a big part in how religious values and literature evolve. And part of the “politics” of religion is found in the “spin” placed on which ideas take precedence for a given culture, group or person, at any given time—and which ideas prevail as over-riding psychology.
For example, are there relationships between the psychology of religions as forms of governance (sociology) and how the psychology of politic systems play out on earth (law)? And is such an analysis worth contemplating or mining for insight?
After all tribes and societies need some way of establishing rules of conduct and value systems. Or how would a basis of establishing predictable norms and a sense of morality evolve? Without such institutions there will be much anarchy and chaos. It would be the insecure self against a world of all unpredictable others. Such a non-society of chaos is what political philosopher John Locke, in his 1690 Treatises of Civil Government, used to explain how and why a “social contract” evolved.
Religions and secular legal frameworks work toward similar ends—they reinforce social values and established rules of conduct and morality. Thus religion is as much the study of sociology as it is a study of theology. In fact the separation of the church as state is a recent development of the 17th century enlightenment espoused especially by John Locke.
It is not mere coincidence, that despite whether there is any actual life or judgment after death, adherents to “humane” religious precepts have reason to treat one another with care or concern while living in the present moments here on earth—including the helping of the downcast?
As people presume an all-knowing God judges them—they do so in respect to how they act toward their fellowmen within their lifetimes in this realm. So religions have sociological ramifications. As even Moses’ purported Decalogue of Ten Commandments were mostly for the establishment of rules for that tribal society as mortal interaction. These Commandments also included a definite hierarchy of authority as “one” supreme God that tolerates no others explained by later echelons of priestly caste.
Does That Old Time Religion Still Matter?
The question before us today is whether it can be convincingly argued that Judaism, and its two branch religions of Christianity and Islamism, the three basic “mono-theistic” religions, were predicated, at least partially, on a foundation of “authoritarian” rule?
And we ponder with similar gravity the following question: “Is it ‘justice’ (as in ‘juridical’) for humanity to ask: “Are there traces of an authoritarian personality (as prophesized and espoused) in the Old Testament that eventually allowed variations of authoritarian interpretation for both Christianity’s New Testament and Islam’s Koran?” ” And, if such an argument can be made cogent and feasible, does such authoritarianism, seem at times, to espouse vengeance, retaliation, intolerance, or war as a psychology that would engender unreasonable fear of violence or threat?
If such an argument can be convincingly made—that Abrahamic religions contain elements of right-wing authoritarian personality and tactic—then how does modern society learn to comprehend the “humanity” of religion in all its paradoxical breadth and do so with wisdom? How do current cultures integrate the healthier, more progressive values of ancient religions into the present age (forms of spiritual reverence deemed worthy), while neutralizing right-wing aspects? How does humanity deal with politics that is currently trying to justify conflicts by manipulating religious prejudice as cause of another—such as the current attempt to dehumanize those people of Iran’s religious culture?
[Note: For the record this series of chapters as critical analysis is “not” meant to “not” recognize the “many” positive contributions religions and spiritual practices have made for many millions of individuals around the world throughout the centuries. Neither is this book meant to argue that religions or believers, per se, are mostly misguided. Also, it is not the purpose here to argue that religions are, on the whole, a negative phenomena. Rather the opposite—religious and spiritual practice is important to humanity precisely because it reinforces and esteems certain social values that need to be practiced on an individual, communal and international basis.]
However we choose to examine some religious ideas through some very skeptical prisms—because we can come to realize that a lot of what a man believes to be true or sacrosanct is not necessarily so—and can even be detrimental.
Making claims “for” God or “about” God, no matter how ancient, or revered as sacred printed context, is not necessarily the same thing as actually representing a God—assuming that such a thing as speaking for God could even be done. Many people have made claims regarding the intentions and authority of various Gods (that amount to egos speaking for “projected” egos), when in fact their own mental filtering systems and imaginations of personality, or cult, or culture, have played a major role in those “purported” claims about God’s word and intent—including prophesies proscribed in the “Holy” scripture.
Skepticism toward “human” interpretation of anything metaphysical or religious should not be surprising to open-minded thinkers—since even “within” religious literature and its history, there were many accusations of heresy, false Gods, and false prophets—usually with the background goal of creating an outsider person, sect or religion in relation to a presupposed insider group. One would get lost trying to understand how many religions and cults have competed against each other over the centuries. Cynically, the skeptic realizes an irony—that competitor religions claim their own outlook and belief systems to be the most correct.
[Note: Within the limits of human knowledge mankind reels at the infinite and notes the abundance of life’s miracles (wonders). He speculates that there must be some “force” much greater and more glorious than mankind’s limited awareness. The spectacularity of the cosmos could be caused by no other than an ultimate Divine Presence. But people vary in how much they think they know about such a force. “Agnostics” as in (‘a-‘ not ‘gnosis’ knowing) do not think that mankind has a capacity to ultimately know whether God does or does not exist. Whereas, both “theists” (‘theo’ God) and “atheists” (‘a-‘ not ‘theo’ God) presume a human capacity to know such things. Theists “know” that God exists, and presume to know his “mind” through religious teachings. Whereas atheists “know” God does not exist. Hence agnostics are modest in presumption about any human capacity to know these kinds of reckonings. A fourth category of believers is called a “deist” who believes in a God of nature that becomes known through human inference and reason as opposed to revelation and dogma of a scriptural sort. Many of our important founding fathers were deists—as deism was a popular movement in the 17th century that tried to reconcile scientific rationalism with faith.]
Ultimately knowledge or awareness of God, or the Great Spirit, or whatever name used to refer to a Creator or Ultimate Cause, is “not” something “owned” by one, or a few, religious cultures—save the dogmatism of an authoritarian mindset and literature, or tradition, that says otherwise. In fact the more adamant one is sure he or she knows with absolute certainty what is religious reality—the more skepticism is in order.
Given mankind’s natural fallibility and naiveté, divine meaning is not likely to be perfectly codified by any one set of documents or religious people. As even well established religions, over conservative amounts of time, have changed perspectives and grown with new interpretations.
It is difficult to assert opinion about religion and faith as verifiably true. This is equally the case for any investigation of religious faith. However the previous statement about no culture “owning” true still seems intuitively true—irrespective of whether followers of various religions believe otherwise. It seems true no matter how great the number in opposition (or how indignant their hostility) to such independent assertions. Anger, hostility and attack are often red flags that indicate emotional blackmail. People sometimes express anger when they experience fear; but anger in no way indicates that rival points of view are of a sounder sense of truth.
One could even argue that the search for truth is the search for God—in all its paradoxes and mystical states of realization. Rhetoricians could argue all form and manner of truth defying sophistry arguing many a sundry things about the Divine.
Politics and the politics of religion (as in all social activity) is full of anger, self-righteousness, fuming excoriation, blame tactics, accusations, name-calling, lies, threats of damnation, etc. But making demands or threats via self-righteous posturing and claiming one’s own point of view right beyond doubt does not make it so. Intimidation is a tactic of those ready to use “coercion” psychology in their righteousness road to be right. Seemingly then there is a certain amount of egoism in all form of assertion—but we digress.
Communities of people who lived three or four thousand years ago had many of the same social dilemmas that we have to day. Obviously they were more primitive in many ways and levels—but the human condition has not changed. How did they come to organize their reality systems?
More generally should we ask “who” (which humans) decided what canons were to become those as officially recognized, and which beliefs were to be rejected—and why? More importantly what personality traits, such as those of church clerics, saints, and prophets, that attempted to describe God’s intent, did so in fashion descriptive of their “own” preferential outlooks and political tendencies? In another words how much of themselves (psychic traits) did they interject into what eventually became officiated (or negotiated) as “orthodoxy” about religious belief and the Divine?
[Note: Hence this analysis forthrightly presumes, and thus alleges, that "all” human interpretation of religious doctrine (as well as all recordings of alleged angelic interventions, and alleged interactions dealing directly with the Divine), is by nature a human and mortal enterprise—including all words purported to have been spoken by Moses, Mohammad, Jesus, and other Biblical prophets. Religions herein are recognized as artifacts of mankind and culture.]
Equally, and especially, there have been many heated and controversial debates about the “nature” of Jesus. Was he totally divine, totally human, or both divine and human? Did he have different essences during different parts of his life? Did he first come into existence at birth or was he always in existence? Is he equal to God the Father or subordinate? On and on went the many church debates regarding the nature and essence of Jesus. These disagreements within early Christianities created a long list and history of declared apostasy and heresy—relative to declared orthodoxy.
Human Opinions Codified:
What some prophets and saints referred to as divinely inspired mandates, were perhaps to some extent, answers to issues of social need—such as ways to organize people against injustice.
Mohammed, for example, supposedly was angry with the merchant wealth class of his time and place that took advantage of poor people. His religious inspiration saw a way to change this status quo of exploitation. There seemed to be a need on the part of the prophet to address social and political issues as “moral” issues.
Gregory of Nyssa (330to 395 A.D.) and other Cappadocian Fathers, as well as Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in the 2nd century, are just two examples of the influential personalities that determined the “official” doctrine of Christianity, as we in the West have come to know it. Their personalities, within the hierarchies of their respected churches, engaged in rhetorical and political battles as to what was to become their orthodoxy—and what was to be denounced as wrongful headed heresy.
“Heresy” is labeled as such by the human “ego”, that presumes an authority to judge what is, and what is not, accepted as truth. In the early Christianities there were many allegations made and trials held regarding allegations of heresy over the centuries (some that took place in formal hearings of the “closed” door sort). Eventually, within these “human convenings, certain minds (personalities) prevailed in deciding what was to be “official” prescriptions of religious interpretation (as battles of human opinion and will went against other equally human opinion and will). Political it indeed was.
One can only imagine the rumors and falsehoods made behind the backs of others in those catacombs of priestly monastery. Quite probably clerics and bishops bickered about preachers getting too uppity, or becoming too artistic in their independence and thought. Anyone who has every read a book on modern day office politics knows the sort of behind the scenes scheming that was likely to have taken place during these all-too-human proceedings that sought to determine the orthodox truth. One can speculate that this was some dicey business given that these clerical institutions were themselves based on authoritarian principles and personalities.
Nor was it that different from Judge Judy and Judge Brown on afternoon TV, more or less, “dictating” (by way of interpretating), what seems the truth to matters with contradictory claims. But these TV judges speak in tones about what “did” in fact happen—as opposed to being more tentative. In fact you will notice that Judge Judy occasionally has not asked enough questions—but rather she jumps to conclusions that impose her presumptions and views—irrespective of all relevant facts.
Again, the fact remains—it is “within” the fallibility of the human mind that people makes judgments and decree decisions. It is from their personal attitudes that people come to impose their directives and control over others—that is from their interpretation of events—the same is true of those peoples who lived millennia ago.
Ancient religious scripture depicts some authoritarian judgments (although such kind of judgment may not be representative of the quantity and quality of the literature in general). However what is examined herein is of such extreme example. Nevertheless we cannot ignore these important aspects of religious writings.
Turn now to the Old Testament’s Deuteronomy Chapter 17, in which readers are instructed, according to this "scripture", that fornicators engaged "out of wedlock" should be stoned with stones.
This biblical verse, as extreme example, of what may not be representative of justice in the Old Testament, still makes example of what passes as justice. According to our sensibilities stoning the accused for sex outside marriage was not enlightened “justice” way back in those days; and therefore it can be argued was not likely the will of a purely divine sense of will, because our intuitions tells us a “fair” God would not have decreed such a punishment for this kind of social violation (at least by those who are willing to check within their own feelings and sensibilities). Thence we intuit with strong suspicion that this justice was really authoritarian justice wrapped in sheep’s clothing.
Or much more recently, there was an article in the local newspaper of an unwed Nigerian woman, who is Muslim, in which it was reported that she would “not” be facing death by being stoned with rocks (now in a 21st century society). This article was openly printed in U.S. papers to allow us Americans to know how man's rage and feelings of indignity sometimes get substituted for Allah's “supposed” justice—as written and interpreted by particular verse in the Koran’s teaching. However most people today probably feel such judgment is pretty crude to our own ideas of justice here in the West.
We can see a pattern of judgment across time that is retained within the family of Abrahamic religions. Obviously there is an attitude of intolerance against appeasement or forgiveness that will not take into account consideration for vulnerabilities of the human condition. Furthermore there is little attempt to distance the self or ego from the passions of resentment and revenge.
Is it not “human” nature to be easily angered? Is it not the “human” creature who waxes in outrage and who maintains resentment? Is it not the “human” personality, as we know it, that is quick to judge, condemn, hate, and that lives and operates within a world of prejudice? Is it not aggregate groups, as well, that exact recrimination and punishment? These experiences, as we all know, are human forms of enterprise.
Nevertheless some would have us believe that they are also traits of the Divine. These people would like us to believe as they do, that God feels the same way about such situations as their own perceptions, attitudes, and judgments. They would like us to feel that God too comes down to our levels of justification and rationalization in order to reward or punish in manner similar to how we feel—then “human” will gets codified as “divine” scripture.
A Will’s Wild Wile:
Why, for example, would a “just” God be so offended as to condemn a mortal to death, by the action and will of encouraging humans to stone another—in a case that seems to be a cuckolded man who avenges out of murderous passion? This is not even an eye for an eye type of reprisal. This is violence at a elevated level of violation. Such punishment usually stems from personal experiences of humiliation that often get acted out in rage and violence. And it is especially important to note this kind of “so-called” Divine Justice was “not” performed by a God’s direct thunderbolt—but rather by human intervention and fomenting of human attitudes—as justified by human ascription of sacred law.
Whereas, if a mere civilian, as a regular secular citizen in our culture, had made such a harsh judgment to be carried out, would he be thought fair and just? No unless enormous prejudice was at play. Such and act would be considered murder and gang violence. So how can one justify such heavy-handed punishment as fair? Only authoritarian instinct, blind faith and fear would allow this kind of revenge and killing as the stuff of fairness. Only an uncritical obeisance to power would call this righteous.
Apostasy against religion? Yes. Apostasy against God? No—against the dark side to human nature that has managed to portray God as authoritarian within human judgments “claimed” as God’s sacred decree.
And although mankind has a dark side (read history), he should not willingly honor it as either glorified by institutions of law or religious doctrine. This is the equivalent of “projecting” the dark side of human motive as Divine Justice. Criminals, thugs, gangs, tyrants, fascists, and people who feel cheated and humiliated etc., do these sorts of things to other people—but these sorts of things should not have the honor of being claimed as God’s will—any more than war should be perceived for what it is—human enterprise.
Nevertheless human nature by way of institutions will use "attributions" of God's “will” to carry out and disguise what is not morally justifiable—if the blindly faithful are gullible enough to believe it.
As long as there is enough faith and obeisance to a God (much out of fear) then “any” behavior (be it just or tyrannical), when fanned with propaganda and hatred, can be justified in the name of religion, expertise or law.
Heresy Too is Human:
The history of religion is itself one long historical argument about sacred meaning (including equivocations over finer points of semantics). The heretic chooses an alternative view not considered correct by those who claim the authority of orthodoxy. The old Greek meaning of ‘hairetikos’ meant “to choose”. The heretic is the individual who “presumes” a “right” to choose which perceptions, from various heterodoxies, to believe (from the gray areas of controversy that not every authoritarian would appreciate).
Religious speculation and inquiry (which is as natural as are the seasons), as a form of individualism, runs a long course of intellectual history. Yet curious inquiry often ends in heated debate against reactionary tendencies of those who want to maintain or establish a different status quo.
Eventually, over time, one opinion wins out, to become, the more or less, official word—that other people will more or less conform in belief—or at least give lip service. But we note that it was still likely the individual, or small group, who “once” began the controversy, and once thought heretical, that later came to have his views thought orthodoxy (which is not the same thing as saying most heresy eventually becomes orthodoxy).
Nevertheless, for every orthodox matter, there are camps of heterodoxy, whose members “choose” to believe the minority opinion—that is not beholden to the dominant version (dominate as market share and influential power). And when minorities get too influential in gaining market share, or their ideas seem especially a threat, they may officially warrant the label of heretics and be so condemned—all the way to hell on earth—like early Christian sects before Constantine were persecuted.
Consider for example the various Ecumenical Councils that took place in Asia Minor—that ultimately helped determine modern Christianity—such as formed be proclaimed as the Nicene Creed. We also emphatically note (you are taking notes?) that it has never been claimed that God presided in person over any of these conventions. Perhaps some aspect of God’s spirit was resident—but every word spoken about those heretical controversies was done so by human mouth and heart. Every thought transpired within the nervous systems and brains of those in attendance. If votes were cast they were done so by human votive (unless cheat votes were counted). Therefore these were then “human” conventions sraped in the garb of authority. But no Angels or extraterrestrial forces appeared, debated, fought battles, or usurped decisions.
Nevertheless these men who convened in 325 A.D. on the Western banks of Turkey, decided official dogma regarding the essence of Christian belief. This dogma, as argued and decided, was articulated by their thinking abilities, language skills, politics and personalities. No omniscient spirit showed up to give a speech.
Morality Versus Fear:
Some claim that pretty much all the wars enacted by ancient Israelites were historically supported by Yahweh. Michel Onfray’s Atheist Manifesto more or less claims that the Israelites invented the idea of a holy war (but probably not true—it is probably a much older idea). And according to Onfray Yahweh sanctioned murder, assassination, and crime within the context of warring people and culture interacting with other warring peoples and culture.
It is especially important to realize that many cultures have used their God and their religion to justify war—especially to their own populations who would then be expected to fight the war for those articulated justifications. Hence leaders engaged in the art of justifying hostility and war (terrorism) on a presumption of moral and spiritual approval from the highest and loftiest of Commanders—whose wish was really more a demand (as sanctified). Thus is the power of persuasion.
Note as well that political and military heroes in today’s more secular nations are sometimes regarded as “mythic” heroes, that are eventually lauded to the heights of demigods (transcending mortality through a process of glorification and eulogizing fanfare). Worldly eminences of leadership held to the glorified pedestal as if mythic in transcending dimension. For example, even the mediocrity of minds as paltry as Ronald Reagen’s were held to such esteem that some saw them as no less than national “saviors”.
Will Ariel Sharon too be knighted in heaven as if standing beside the Almighty—as he has been lionized in Western mainstream media? Whereas Kofi Annan had a much tougher time getting any kind of recognized sainthood, or ordination for chivalry, from the schools of orthodoxy (presumed “elitist” authority). Kofi was targeted by well-oiled propaganda machines, with much calumny, for what was more the Security Council’s, including the U.S. responsibility and fault. Nevertheless several right-wing Judeo-Christians like Senator Norman Coleman, found it convenient to target the United Nations in general as worthless to supposedly 1) reduce its independence of will to speak out against moral atrocities like the U.S. illegal “invasion” of Iraq, and 2) to limit the world body’s attempt to address Israeli habits of thuggery against the Palestinians as heresy.
Can a given society progress a valuation of “morality” that is not stuck in a confused morass of belief or tradition, which coerces conformity by Machiavellian fear of punishment, or an equivalent excess fear of what God stands to represent in the credulous imagination? What “mores” (as folkways) can be considered conducive to the welfare of society (like most of the commandments of Moses) that are universal to mankind’s sense of ethics?
And what relationship is there between a social compact (as elaborated in ancient Greece, and later by 18th century philosophers like John Locke) and a covenant between a people and their vision of God? What kind of a relationship is there between religious ideology and secular laws (and mores) that are espoused by governments?
[Note: Rhetorical question—is it just coincidence that the Anglo Saxon words “God” and “Good” are related words? “Good”, as adjective, means praise towards what is considered “worthy” in a given community. Whereas the spiritual path, most universally advocated worldwide, is often directed toward doing “good” works for others—and not surprisingly is thought equivalent to the wishes of God—that is when man is not busy creating propaganda for war. Thus one synonymous interpretation of the abstraction for the word “God” is “good” as for community and brotherhood.]
Monotheism, as a religious “model” of authority, claims there is "one" God. Such a form of religious hierarchy relates to "one" dominant and “ego-ized” ruler (anthropomorphized) usually mediated to and interpreted by clerics.
Monotheism is equally buttressed by having “one” source of written "authority", or a “set” of recognized writings (layered through historical time), considered as legitimate and authentic orthodoxy.
Whereas competing literature is considered un-orthodox heresy—even if some cults consider these alternative “authorities” (thoughts) as “apocryphal” or “pseudo-epigraphical”.
Religions and their sects have multiplied over the millennia like the Tower of Babel’s confusion (that represented diverse linguistic and cultural chaos). And what is considered authority within even major religions’ splinter sectors is often up for debate. Contemplating differences between sects does not even begin to ponder mystic sects that borderline a mainstream’s dogmas.
Nevertheless, monotheism, as form of hierarchy, is equivalent to the political force of "autocracy". It asserts (as reinforced through tradition) that there is one absolute establishment of power that arrogates absolute control over an entire people or community.
God was declared master. He was said to have stated: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and you shall have no false Gods before me ...” as his eminently first command(ment), thus establishing his “authority” to rule as foremost priority! (at least according to those who wrote for Moses).
We emphatically note here that Moses did “not” suggest that the ideas set to stone were to be taken up for discussion by the tribe’s peoples and then voted on in a democratic manner. In a sense it was an autocratic coup.
Political leaders of the dictator type presume the same mindset of control—even if they do not bother with formalities of justification—their rule usually does not last long enough to sanctify it in written formalities. But first they plot how to take control (such as steal elections) and then do it via a coup d’etat (get the news medias’ and leading institutions’ cooperation). Then they assert their imperative command irrespective of what others think or feel—meaning the “common” people (as subjects, serfs or slaves) who are afforded no privileges as to whether they consent to such an authority (because if there is resistance, or rebellion, force (of one kind or another) will likely be expedited to quell the uprising)). Autocracy, as authority, then is not about sharing power. It is about consolidating it to an absolute hierarchy or oligarchy that dictates the rules to others.
[Note: Again it is necessary to emphasize that this analysis is “not” arguing that God, per se, is authoritarian. Rather this analysis asserts that “humans” with authoritarian bents, have “projected” some of their own beliefs, wishes, personalities, and politics onto an “authority” they choose to call God, Yahweh or Allah. Thus they have “defined” aspects of God through historical tradition, with words that reflect their own political propensities and persuasions. Hence folk wisdom that claims that God has created man in God’s image is reflected back to mean that Man equally created God in man’s image—that also includes aspects of an authoritarian mindset.]
This phenomenon of “projecting” human design and motive onto God’s presumed ego, such as the human personality prone to make judgments, is a historical eventuality. These attitudes were initially handed down by way of oral traditions, and then came to later generations by way of written scripture.
This ancestral handing down via verbal story telling has confounded humanity to accept on faith claims made to God’s authority—because few question such an ideal of power as a monotheistic and absolute God.
In truth no one alive today knows with certainty, save their faith and personal belief, whether that mortal named Moses, had any real encounters with a Divine Presence; or whether he merely made conspiratorial claims to such experience. It is as likely, from a skeptic’s perspective, that he and a cabal of insiders made claim to leadership role over gullible others. Or perhaps he was suffering from delusions of the grandiose sort. All we have as rationalists is hearsay handed down via more hearsay over the centuries with various degrees of exhortation as to what will happen as punishment if non-believers choose not to believe in the Bible’s claims. Nevertheless terrorizing the ambivalent with threats of eternal damnation is hardly the stuff of factual verification that skeptics like to examine.
The wrapping of personal ambition (and we are politically astute enough to be aware of personal ambition) in an invincible cloak of religious authority is the ultimate solidification of control—at least to those subjects who willingly believe it. Then the authoritarian can say: “It is not I (or us) who wish such decrees—rather it is God himself who has decided so”... “I am (we are) merely your religio-politico servant(s) as intermediary(s) for God’s authority, of which I (we) just happen to be in agreement ... and by the way God just told me (us) that you need to do such and such... so hop to it”.
Certainly, as skeptical rationalists, we would be wise to be suspicious of faith systems many lay people have unquestioningly presumed as the “nature” of God—for we are indeed aware of the “nature” of mankind—especially as a political animal and clever propagandist.
Experience and history both show mankind again and again that some people, who are ambitious to rule, are willing to make any claim (formulated or else wise) if they think it will get over on the naïve.
This reality is not much different from the willingness of some corporations to help electronically steal elections, or certain polls that fabricate tolls as to who is really leading, or politically parties in cahoots with major networks that try to marginalize people like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.
[Note: This observation does not discount the humane ambition of quality leadership ambitious to lead society for the benefit of the community (as might have been the case with Moses and other historical monarchs and religious leaders). Still a potential leader may knowingly act out pretenses of assertion of God’s overweening authority—similar to what some feel regarding George W. Bush’s relationship to the Almighty.]
The Measure of Man:
However it is not enough to simply do as too many atheists tend—reject religion outright as having no legitimate authority—and leave it at that. Such supercilious rejection by some holier-than-thou atheists leaves society with a moral vacuum (especially if such a society, in its secularity, is left to the “dogma” of political and economic religions that are not respectful of things needing to be considered sacred—such as the ecological systems of the diverse biosphere versus neo-liberal conceits).
Obviously there will always be a need for a form of authority in any given community—as well as a need for a sense of sacred for what needs be considered as such. The question then before humanity is what ought it be composed—and what values ought inform this authority? Human society needs some basis morality that goes beyond modernity’s egocentricity and its glorification of narrow self-interest.
For example, when politically elected officials enter into a covenant with its citizenry via a Constitution do they consider themselves “servants” of society? Or do they merely pay lip service and then serve the masters of corporate greed and corruption—because they have not yet found the wherewithal to reform the corporate loopholes that get them elected?
Every lawyer, judge or legislator, worthy of his or her salt, will tell you that the law is only the beginning of moral and civil society. What they mean here is that the law, by itself, cannot get people to appreciate ideals of mutual respect and cooperation. Something more is required. That something, as shared attitude, needs a way to help mold a peoples’ outlook and appreciation for social order and regulation—without getting too bureaucratic or corrupt. So what institutions, besides family will provide for that something else that can assist the law in socializing a “sense” of morality—without going dogmatic and iron-fist?
Therefore it seems that a variety of institutions are necessary for dealing with the various circumstances and problems of society. For example, which activities will be viewed as crimes (or sins against the community)? What does a village do with an offender of social value? How does a city or region establish and enforce its collective will over those that attempt to commit crime? Yet only a naive anarchist, no matter how sublime he thinks his esoteric attitudes, will be foolish enough to presume that all or most people will naturally and maturely look out for the self while maintaining respect for others. How are people to be socialized—especially in a culture ripe with mercantilist enterprise that neglects the social order for private gain?
However, the realization for a need for authority is not an invitation for “authoritarian” forms of social control, via politico-religious dogma that ultimately relies on jackboot impulse. Authority does need not be so punishing or revengeful in which harsh consequences becomes the norm—like cruel and unusual punishment. Should a healthy society that claims to honor liberty be so cowed that it honors the passivity of sheep—while the wolves roam free to do as they may?
[Note: People can be affected by what has been termed the Stockholm Syndrome, in which case, captives taken hostage by captors, eventually come to see their captors as decent and good people, and begin to identify with their captors. Therefore it can be argued that captives of authoritarian aspects of religious doctrines—doctrines that are terrorist—can too come to identify with their captor’s point of view. And why should this not be the case given the trauma of deciding to believe and love versus going to hell? Also, in way of psychological explanation, there can be a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in which individuals react to exaggerated fears about religion and political dogmas with disorders of sorts such as an excess of anxiety.]
Social sciences such as psychology have been slow to tackle this religion-as-conditioning hypothesis that spills into the insane and absurd. Granted some sociologists and anthropologists have written about religious belief from a scientific perspective—few however directly confront or analyze a religions’ capacity to either solidify social will or weaken a person’s ability to think freely—leaving such persons manipulated by extreme forms of fear.
Professionals need to help challenge “bad” ideas about religion—similar to those who challenged the Catholic Church’s prior insistence on the Ptolemaic interpretation of the universe. Once upon a time at the Vatican’s dogmatic insistence, about four hundreds of years ago, Copernican cosmologist Giordano Bruno was burnt to a stake in 1600 Anno Domini (year of our Lord). Copernicus became another of many scientific heretics when he challenged the accepted idea that the planets and sun revolve around the earth that the Catholic Church had blessed. Therefore by the Church’s authoritarian insistence, the “geocentric” model of cosmology (as opposed to a “heliocentric” solar system) maintained “humanity” as God’s main, and no doubt greatest creation—to which he held center stage in the entire cosmos.
This same debate further had Galileo renounce his own former proclamations of the same Copernican theory, 32 years later, after he was summoned to “court” in Rome by the same type of Inquisition (as act of intellectual and bodily terrorism), because his fierce temperament was not particularly inclined to renounce strongly held opinions but for some very good reason.
The Religion of Civil Liberties:
Today, at least prior to 9/11, our constitutionally “secular” theology proposes, as sacred, civil liberties and equality for all citizens—irrespective of a citizen’s religion, politics or ethnicity. People were not (past tense) generally denied citizenship because of their religion or ethnicity. We could “choose” to believe openly, or at least privately, whatever dogma we wanted to believe, according to whatever grace and insight we were afforded—without being either persecuted or prosecuted. We believed in freedom of speech—no matter how heretical or arbitrary it seemed—and such a matter was considered sacred—even against the tyranny of the majority.
Thus in this American creed you were considered a “full” member of the republic irrespective of belief (at least this was true in theory on paper). All people had a right to run for office, and theoretically had a chance of being elected to serve in the full capacity of a representative (that is if you had access to the required cash), or you could apply to work as a civil servant—and not worry about excessive forms of McCarthyism.
Religious freedom was key for our American political Covenant. It did not matter if you were Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Palestinian, Rastafarian, Animist, Pagan, or Jew (at least it did not matter officially matter—meaning the principle was suppose to have legal weight).
A non-discrimination clause, in theory, is part of “real” democracy, in which all were allowed to participate—unlike aristocracies, oligarchies, plutocracies, monarchies and theocracies (or forms that pretend to be democracies—as some pretend rather well). In a democracy “all” citizens have a right, and a fair chance of serving the highest levels of “good” Government.
America broke away from its European past of religious feuding in which religious sects of Christianity went to war against each other—that is when they were not carrying out bloody and horrific crusades against the Mohammedans or Jews.
The establishment of a separation of church and state, via John Locke’s philosophy, is also related to how we broke away from the then concurrent monarchical and oligarchical tyranny as well—or autocracy.
Nevertheless, "puritans" of sorts, still tend to believe, however naively, that religious scripture was, and still is, the "pure" word of God (as if a cosmic God had need to “vocalize” sounds via symbolized graphemes). In their fervent zealousness they were not suspicious that just maybe there might have been varying amounts of cultural, ethnic, political, personal or historical influence that came to "taint" God's will.
Not all religions have deities who practice much in the line of “will”, as in the willing of specific things to happen, or a willingness to ordain certain leaders, or buttress political outcomes like wars that are ordained to transpire, at God’s “conscious” behest.
Abrahamic religions however (such as Judaism and Christianity) refer to a God who had much interest in human and political affairs (including wars and discrimination), and who expected certain outcomes to prevail ... Whereas Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation points out that Islam was a religion of conquest. And certainly we know Christian armies have engaged in plenty of conquest.
Thy Will Be Done:
“Will” as in the word “wish” is an attribute of both human and animal nature. Animals of all sorts have wills necessary to survive. Animals have wills to eat, hunt, compete, procreate, socialize, romp, play, fight, etc.
Humans with more complex brains and with language skills have a greater expanse for will and desire (but do not think this is said to belittle an animal’s complexity). Human skills are not limited to abstract language or idealized words such as the word “love.” Willfulness can take credit for the entire gamut of human behavior—including all forms negligence, ignorance, deceit and violation.
By way of human imagination and our natural capacity for language, “will” can be willed onto a deity. The phrase “the will of a God” can equally blame one’s enemies. “The devil will be damned” can confirm one’s beliefs even if there is no evidence of the willfulness of God’s rebellious angels, etc.
Plenty of political situations lead toward conflict and violence—it is a human reality—conflict, anger, hatred, fear, etc. People act out cruelty but we need to be aware of manipulation of hatred and cruelty by human words, thoughts, opinions, judgments, decisions, etc. Advocating unjust cruelty and violence should not be sanctioned as part of a sacred decree.
If power corrupts then the power to speak for God equally corrupts. Humankind learned long ago that it was expedient to use God's authority for justifiable, as well as questionable, actions. Moral decrees were used to convince the masses by way of religious and political propaganda that both just and unjust actions could be projected as the wishes of a Divine will as an unquestionable and unanswerable power.
Expediency lies in the “bolden rule” that Might makes Right. And as long as the masses are blind or apathetic to the true motives of the state then lies and propaganda seem to work perfectly well.
Nevertheless people are being murdered, and various crimes committed daily, irrespective of what Immanuel Kant thought about a moral imperative. Plenty of great minds have written on the theory of justice but injustice is a daily occurrence. The masses, as well as many elites, don’t have time to quibble over delicate matters—even when such ideas hold immense importance.
This is why it is important to keep religious leaders focused on real social issues—even if a government says there should be a divide between the church and state. Most religious leaders still have a “moral” sensibility for right or wrong. For example it was Catholic priests who were murdered trying to protect indigenous peoples from death squads in Central America—obviously at great risk to themselves. Now monks are acting out in Myanmar.
So it is not just the religious right that can influence the morality of any civilization. The religious center and the religious left can participate as well, and maybe should, if the right intrudes in such a behemoth manner as it has been doing of late—especially to a point in which the United States is likely to go bonkers for another war that will eventuate in a World War and the downfall of our economy.
Secular man has not taught civilization a common morality, save his hackneyed veneration for three ideal words—liberty, freedom, and happiness—that have basically been translated into self-centeredness, hedonism, and ignorance as bliss (that is the freedom to be distracted).
Certainly there must be more to a healthy culture than the right to be ignorant or misinformed, overweight, or dependent on pharmaceutical palliatives? What do secularists and existentialists have to offer for this spiritual vacuum?
The Near Middle East has a long history of violence—not necessarily an exception; but this tribal mentality goes back for thousands of years. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not a particularly high standard of justice. It may be a human standard—but is it all that wise—given that such violence and provocation does not likely stop—but rather reinforces itself like a wheel that keeps spinning?
Not recognizing a connection between the psychology of some aspects of religions that resonate with personality traits, and how governments, and their politicians, special interest groups, and people in general, think and behave, is to ignore important psychological factors that underlie political realities. It is time for more professional authority to assert rational and skeptical expertise against the propaganda of fanatical opinion. Friedrich Nietzsche did have some insight when he wrote: “A very popular error—having the courage of one’s convictions—rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one’s convictions.”
This work is in the public domain