The Weekend Religious Fantasy

Friday night, the Muslims.  Saturday, the Jews.  Sunday, the Christians. Monday through Thursday, the rest of us. For how long has this religious fantasy gone on? More importantly, when will the ruse at last come to an end? What startles me is how long it has been going on among us humans. Well, that not as much as the fact that here we are, a dozen years into the 21st century, and the sham continues to move forward quite nicely for a whole cluster of our fellow citizens.

One doesn’t need to have studied anthropology to understand why our very early ancestors needed to ‘believe’ in beings greater than they. The natural world was a terribly frightening and dangerous place in which to live. That Garden of Eden myth was far from the real world in which Paleolithic and Neolithic people tried to survive. Iron Age people living in the Levant were continually fearful of being ‘smitten’ by another tribe wishing to conquer them and their land. Praying to the ‘right’ god perhaps gave these people some strength to endure.  According to the Israelites, they had ‘him’ all to themselves.

That Jewish ‘god’ interestingly is the same ‘god’ to which millions of our fellow Americans citizens are praying to this morning in churches all across the land. The Iron Age god of The Levant. How curious. How enduring the myth. This god is referred to as Yahweh, aka YHWH. This god was a self-centered, aggressive war-god who instructed people to commit murder and whole-scale ethnic cleansing of other tribes of people wandering around The Levant. That god.

Or, it’s pure bologna, kosher of course. That’s the prospect- bologna, myth, epic folk tales, Midrashic literature. Made-up stuff like we are seeing on the right side of the political spectrum these days. Is it any wonder that the GOP is referred to as God’s Own Party?

Made-up stuff to enhance one’s resume or portfolio. Or an entire people’s history. Enter a man with an unusual name- Israel Finklestein. A Jew, as his name suggests, Finkelstein in an archaeologist who has come to the conclusion that much of the books of the Hebrew Bible are nothing more than Midrashic literature- fables that teach lessons but are not at all historically accurate. He is not popular among Hasidic Jews. Especially his declaration that the Israelites were simply Canaanites who developed into a distinct culture of their own. Gulp!

His book, The Bible Unearthed, finds very little archaeological evidence of most of the historic events stated in the Hebrew Bible. Isn’t that a load in the pants! Most of the stuff of the Israelites wandering around, being captured by the Egyptians, the Exodus, the great kings and warriors of Israel is pure bull. Cities and towns mentioned in that book have never been unearthed. Kings, epic battles, stunning victories are nothing but fables taught to enhance the character and prowess of the tribe.

Yet this weekend,  June 2011, people in churches, synagogues and temples are praying to and worshiping and emulating this fanciful god and the associated fictitious characters who spoke for him. Not only that, but an entire major political party here in the United States is wedded to this Jewish Midrashic tale. Many are eagerly hoping to incorporate elements of this Neolithic fable into the laws of this republic. Imagine- Neolithic ideas as part of the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America.

Does your mind swim at this thought? It ought to. Yet, belief in this fanciful tale is a litmus test of the Republican Party of this nation. That thought ought to scare the Hell right out of us!  And it does to me.


21 thoughts on “The Weekend Religious Fantasy

  1. I’m intrigued with how strongly religious groups go after ‘their own’. As I was reading your post, I was multi-tasking, watching this particular episode of one of my favorite PBS series, Secrets of the Dead that seemed very pertinent:

    I have been intrigued for a very long time with the so-called ‘venus’ carvings of the neanderthal valley in Germany, some of which are figural of humans, other less so, and the interpretation of the use of these figures, the oldest representational art in the history of human beings of any kind, as it reflects our intellect and ability to form abstract thought. It is related to concepts of religion because of the apparent usage as funeral objects, but also for other purposes which suggest a spiritual component to their creation.

    I believe Laci has commented on his blog about the treating of the founding fathers and the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and other early U.S. documents as if they were religious rather than secular creations, distoring their real significance and a more correct way of understanding them.

  2. Dog Gone writes about the origins of abstract thought in prehistory. That is very fascinating to me. I have visited a few painted caves here. I recently got to go into Font de Gaume, which is one of the few caves which still allow limited tours, very strictly monitored environmentally.
    The point about the depiction of the human figure is very interesting. In cro magnon cave art, the only depictions of humans are a few stick figures which occurred late in the era. There are a few magdellenian “venus” figures in the museum of Les Eyzies, but they also have what might be considered prehistoric carved dildoes. One of which is a double ended item…religion was all about hunting, fertility, and sexual magic.
    One of the most interesting caves is closer to here, the grotto of Rouffignac, which is a big system that goes almost a kilometer…it even has a little electric railway. The mystery of the cave is of the animals depicted. Wooly Rhinocerous and Mammouth which had disappeared here long ages before the images were dated.
    Here lies the allusion to the myths of the past becoming the basis of religion which Mudrake writes about in the post.
    Interestingly enough, the images in the Grotto of Rouffignac were thought to be fakes for years until carbon dating was discovered. The anatomical details of the Mammouths were unknown at the time. It wasn’t until actual frozen mammouths were uncovered in the glaciers of Siberia that the Rouffignac depictions were found to be accurate.

  3. People are looking for meaning which a supernatural being (or beings) give them. Quantum physics also is showing that reality may not be what we see with our eyes. How much do we participate in the creation of reality?

    Religion tries to provide answers to these questions.

    I made a comment that wasn’t published where I mentioned masonry as the solution, but then there is the ethical aspect of religion, which most modern religions seem to have forgotten, or chose to neglect.

    1. Exactly, the code of ethics which regulate human behaviour. Of course, these fanatics neglect this aspect. They turn the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” into “do in others before they do you in”.

  4. When you consider how many people subscribe to the notion the Bible is the literal word of God–it’s frightening. After all, it’s not too difficult to point at the Gospels of the NT–which essentially tell the same story–and highlight some very dramatic inconsistencies.

    The wingers then have to tie themselves in pretzel knots in order to explain how such inconsistencies aren’t actually inconsistent.

    This, of course, doesn’t begin to explain the fact the Gospels were written some 60 to 350 years after Jesus by people who wouldn’t have known Jesus or an Apostle if they bit them. Bart Ehrman does an excellent job showing how the earliest manuscripts of the Gospels have changed over time as they’ve been misinterpreted or typo’ed by scribes and those with agendas.

  5. You guys need to get out more. I actually know people who truly believe “God” wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

  6. BTW, Harold Camping is now saying Oct. 21 is the day the world will be destroyed.

    For sure, this time.

  7. So, whats the rap sheet on this supposed archeologist, Finklestein? Never heard of him…Why is he worth believing?

  8. “fables that teach lessons but are not at all historically accurate.”

    So do fables have to be historically accurate to teach ethics and proper living? Can’t the two be separated? Isn’t it back to Aquinas’ statement about faith that I quoted in the previous Post comments? Is Homer’s Illiad and Odessey historically accurate? or the English Beowolf? or the German Nibelungenlied? or the Roman/Italian Aeneid? or the Spanish Don Quixote? or the French Song of Roland?

    Maybe Finkelstein is just the business of academia? Stir up controversy with the traditional interpretations by presenting a new idea. But, does that destroy the jewish ethical system?

  9. Maybe Finkelstein is just the business of academia? Stir up controversy with the traditional interpretations by presenting a new idea. But, does that destroy the jewish ethical system?

    Or maybe you are giving the Jewish religious community[and its associated fundamentalist Christian strain here in the states way too much slack.

    Finklestein is a scientist [archeologist] and has not presented his findings to earn some praise in the academic community.

    The nonsense found in the bible is pure Midrashic literature no more believable than Paul Bunyan. What should scare the Hell out of you, my friend, is that U.S. foreign policy is being held captive by the bible-thumping fundamentalist Christians who “believe” all that crap. Not only foreign policy, but our own laws and regulations as well.

    Those fundies can believe whatever nonsense they want, but they ought to keep their holier-than-though mitts off of our politics and Constitution.

  10. JadeGold and Laci refer to the code of ethics which regulate human behaviour. that somehow are the sole purvey of the Israelites in the Ten Commandments of Moses. Hammurabi wrote a series of laws and regulations of human behavior 1000 years before they were ‘given’ to Moses.

    Let’s give credit to the originator rather than the charlatan.

  11. We don’t live in a vacuum, M_R. “Credit” can be spread around among cultures. Each will pick and choose. But, isn’t there some thread of continuity? That was some of my point in the national epic stories, “fables”, that I listed above. The winner in all of those epics was the hero. By the way, M_R, who had the Gilgamesh epic? Forgot that one, lol…

  12. Buddhism and Confuctianism are both philosphies rather than religions. Philosophy also provides answers to ethical and ontological questions. To some extent, science hopes to also provide answers to ontological questions as well.

    I don’t think it’s totally fair to write off all religious people as nutcases, but whether one needs religion to live a moral life is debatable. I tend to blieve that religious types can be much worse than those who only look to themselves for “salvation” and follow personal ethical systems. The religious can smugly say that they are not perfect but they are forgiven as they commit the harms they would prefer others not do (or have done) to them.

    In my opinion, it is better to not believe in a supreme being and live a moral life, than profess a belief while being as amoral as possible.

  13. muck_rake,
    Aggravating as it often is, I think that many people are so overwhelmed by events in their lives they cannot understand or can’t cope with that they turn to God. As John Lennon once wisely observed, “God is a concept by wgich we measure our pain.”

    I don’t mind the soul-searching aspects of some religions, by which people examine their consciences and then resolve to do better or be more fair or more understanding. That, I think, is the good aspect of religion. I dare say, if more conservatives and Republicans would employ that exercise in their lives, our vast disparity in incomes and even our military/industrial complex and the wars they perpetuate will soon disappear.

    But it is when people begin to act rashly with the belief that “God is on our side” and use that as a catalyst for actions which are hateful, intolerant, full of bigotry, and downright ignorant – that is where I draw the line, and condemn organized religion for causing such ubbecessary nonsense and suffering.

  14. Jack, I agree with your first paragraph directly above. And, I agree with the first two sentences in the second paragraph.

    However “if more conservatives and Republicans would employ that exercise in their lives…” is redundant in their view, it seems to me. They have already had the redemption, and once redeemed, they are redeemed forever. They are the good, you see; all the rest of us are unredeemable and evil. God is on their side, and if God is with them and they have his saving grace they do not understand such words as “hateful, intolerant, full of bigotry, and downright ignorant…” It seems to me this is where the division is. They have the true faith……

  15. LACI writes:”Buddhism and Confuctianism are both philosphies rather than religions. Philosophy also provides answers to ethical and ontological questions. To some extent, science hopes to also provide answers to ontological questions as well.
    I don’t think it’s totally fair to write off all religious people as nutcases, but whether one needs religion to live a moral life is debatable.”

    Now, that would make a good guest POST, Laci.

    M_R seems to be avoiding the discussion. He brings up Hammurabi’s eye-for-eye law code and suggests that it is a moral code to live by. I would like to ask him what exactly does he like about the Hammurabic Law Code. Hammurabi’s laws were for a different culture, while the Mosaic Code was for another and different culture.

  16. “If Buddhism is called atheism on account of its refusal to take poetry for actual fact, its followers would have no objection to the designation.”

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