Do Religious People Believe “IN” God Or That They ARE “God”? I Suspect It’s Mostly The Latter…

Monotheism is dangerous — far more dangerous than polytheism — and far, FAR more dangerous than atheism. Let’s be clear: there have been atheistic despots (Pol Pot comes to mind). But, atheistic as they may have been, it was never their atheism driving their heinous cruelty because atheism doesn’t work like theism does inside our minds. For starters, atheism is entirely undogmatic. There’s no institution to create rules for adherents to follow — the whole basis for dogma. Simply put, there’s no institution and certainly no institution telling atheists how to think in order to demonstrate how “religiously” atheistic they are. Dogma is like a suit of armor around the religionista, protecting their delicate sensibilities from the harsh cruelties of the real world. Religion only works if a follower is willing to suspend all critical thinking; they must accept without question the institution’s interpretation of the world and human purpose within it. And all that purpose is directed, the religious believe, by an actual being named Yahweh.

Or do they? If you asked the average religionista how they feel about Yahweh and they’d stare back vaguely. How do they feel about who now? That’s because most religious people haven’t actually read any of the texts they supposedly base their lives on. They certainly haven’t approached their spirituality with an ounce of curiosity. That’s a large clue as to what they’re thinking. Or not thinking as is the case. In their defense, a lot of people cling to their religion because it was introduced to them when they were kids. The fear buttons pushed then to set the God hook deeply stayed pushed. Even rational people can be intensely irrational given a certain subject matter particular to them.

And what of the deity — or, rather the idea of “the deity” — that set in their heads when the idea was introduced to them in childhood? Even kids (like mine) raised in an entirely non-religious household have to confront religion because American society has been so “religionized” by the religionistas among us. This morning, for instance, a unanimous (but narrowly focused) decision allows Catholic Family Services of Philadelphia to continue discriminating against LGBTQ couples in its adoption business. The God of the Religious Right knows what he likes but even more what he hates apparently.

How exactly, I wonder, do the religious arrive at their conclusion that God doesn’t want them adopting children needing love and a family to loving families just because those families aren’t “traditional”? I suspect they pulled such a thing from their asses. The Jewish Pentateuch took more than a thousand years to come together; it memorialized longstanding tribal mythologies and beliefs. But, even as they practiced their faith, Jews questioned their faith because acceptance of dogmatism just isn’t how Jews roll. In point of fact, Jews are more a culture than a religion. We may have begun life as a religion but fifteen hundred years of forced isolation in Europe forced Jews to invent a culture unto themselves. That’s one reason why Jewish culture endures even as more Jews become less religious. Irreligion is not a deal breaker. You don’t stop being Jewish just because you practice another faith. Ask the rest of the world. They’ll tell you: once a Jew, always a Jew.

The religious put on quite a show when they want to demonstrate their fealty to Yahweh. That’s because Yahweh — Creator of the Whole Universe and Everything In It” demands fealty, neurotic psychopath that he is. In Yahweh’s defense, he’s not a terribly original creation and the first Jews didn’t really make Yahweh their one and only god for a long, long time. He probably had reason to feel defensive. Whoever the original Abraham character was — the tribal chieftain who migrated his extended family from modern day Iraq (where he came from — so the book says) to modern-day Israel where he and his family co-existed with the Canaanites whose god El, these transplants from the East seem to have liked. They must have liked El because they embedded El’s name in so many places that endured even after the Canaanites were long gone: Beth-EL for instance or IsraEL.

What it all demonstrates is who invented whom. Yahweh didn’t invent anyone. The Hebrews — borrowing from the Canaanites — invented Yahweh a/k/a “God”.

Now, keep in mind, almost no one who claims to believe in God knows anything about this. If you told them, they’d shake their head in disapproval. They’d insist that they know God exists because they have a personal relationship with him (in fact, they’re quite sure this cosmic force is a “him”). I bet it’s not too far removed from the personal relationship they have with the person who stares back at them from the bathroom mirror. I bet, if we could be there in the room there with most of them, they wouldn’t give Yahweh or God or anyone not there in the room with them the time of day. Much more real to them — the face staring back from the mirror.

And much more real? The voice that speaks as they gaze at themselves. That, really, is the “voice of God”. For some people, that would be a profoundly discomfiting revelation. For the deeply religious, it’s the voice’s “familiarity” that appeals. The voice of God sounds good in their heads. It won’t matter to them how it plays in our heads.

In fact, it won’t matter to them if it doesn’t.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust

It’s National Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road… Historically, it never ends well for Jews.

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated.  In my brain, those camps never went away.

I grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have made my community so horrified that they couldn’t bear to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. As my community tends to do, we made it a teachable moment. From a young age, I was told about this tragedy and shown images that burned into my mind forever. I don’t regret that for a second. I needed to remember these lessons – forever.

I have always been grateful to Hebrew school for making me the atheist I am today — and for giving me a stone, cold accurate view of the world — and my place in it because of my tribe.

There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. You can’t cram peoples’ heads with that much bullshit and expect the bullshit not to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram a nonsense, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads that actually runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger) — don’t be surprised when the nonsense becomes the message.

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust

According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road…

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated.  In my brain, those camps never went away.

I grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have made my community so horrified that they couldn’t bear to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. As my community tends to do, we made it a teachable moment. From a young age, I was told about this tragedy and shown images that burned into my mind forever. I don’t regret that for a second. I needed to remember these lessons – forever.

I have always been grateful to Hebrew school for making me the atheist I am today — and for giving me a stone, cold accurate view of the world — and my place in it because of my tribe.

There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. You can’t cram peoples’ heads with that much bullshit and expect the bullshit not to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram a nonsense, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads that actually runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger) — don’t be surprised when the nonsense becomes the message.

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it.

The WORST Thing About Anti-Semitism Is How IRRATIONAL It Is…

A Thought Experiment:  You walk into a room.  Another person enters and punches you – hard.  You ask — “What was that for?”  And the other person responds “Because you killed my god”.  Being a RATIONAL person who doesn’t want to get punched again — and who doesn’t want to resort to violence yourself — what’s your response?

There is no response.  The moment you engage with that conversation, it wins — because YOU have to agree that its made-up bullshit could be true — otherwise, why are you arguing with them?  Everything after — ‘But that’s not true…’ is a waste of time.

Want to know why Jew Hatred has lasted as long as it has?  Because who can argue with someone who, to put it another way, thinks HARRY POTTER IS REAL?  How can you argue with someone who clearly BELIEVES IN MAGIC?  How can you argue with someone so confounded by the very texts they claim to ‘believe in’?  How can you argue with people who are confounded by those texts because the INSTITUTION that assembled them and shaped them and crafted them into a particular narrative had that very hostility toward the Mother Religion in mind?

You can’t.

Instead you get vilified.  You get re-imagined as something you aren’t.  You get to be “We hate Jews cos Jews killed Jesus”.

What was it Marx said about religion being the opiate of the people?  He had that dead wrong.  If only it were an opiate that medicated people or narcotized them.  It’s much more like meth or angel dust.  It gets brains hopped up on something almost entirely artificial.

There are great, meaningful, profound lessons to be taken from the assembled texts of the Old and New Testaments.  Why is it religious people seem to take NONE of those lessons away with them?  The whole reason Jesus’ message still resonates today — even in the minds of an atheist — is because it’s so essential to living a good life:  “DO UNTO OTHERS”.  But not only simple enough for even a troglodyte to grasp — “DO UNTO OTHERS” is ‘actionable’.  it’s not some airy-fairy abstract notion of ‘goodness’, it’s a simple proposition:  “How do YOU wish to be treated?  Then treat every other person exactly that way.”

Boom.  The genius that evolved at the very tail end of the Genesis through Book of Revelations story — its takeaway theme.  The whole point of the exercise.

Except it was never about Jesus or the Jews or their message.  Why on earth do you call it ‘Christianity’ anyway?  Paul (the former Saul of Tarsus) is really the faith’s ‘inventor’.  Paul’s the guy who broke with Jesus’ family — because they were happy being Jews while Paul had other ideas.  That’s Paul, by the way, who (just going by the story here) never met Jesus ever.  Or heard his voice.  Or heard his message.

But it was Paul who ‘spread Jesus’ message’.  Except — looking over the sales materials — all the letters and epistles Paul sent to the nascent congregations of non-Jews that were flickering to life all over the Roman Empire — Paul was spreading Paul’s message a lot more than he was spreading Jesus’.

Jesus (it was never his name — just like ‘god’ is not Yahweh’s name — it’s his job description) was born, lived his whole life as and died A Jew.  If you called him a Christian to his face, he wouldn’t know what you were talking about.  And if you told the Actual Jesus (if he ever really was) what YOU now believed because YOU believed in HIM — He’d be stunned.  And he’d think you were insane.  Because very little of what YOU believe is what HE believed.

Paul started out needing to deify Jesus.  Paul traveled in messianic times.  To make his case that Jesus was a more real deal than any of the others, he needed to conform Jesus’ story to the pre-existing Hebrew mythology — all those texts we now call the Old Testament.  The messiah story had rules — and if Jesus was going to be the messiah, he had to fit into the rules.  He had to be connected to King David.  He had to be prophesied.  He had to be born in a certain place under certain conditions.

Paul broke with Jesus’ family because they didn’t want to go there.  They didn’t want or need to be part of another religion because they were perfectly happy being Jews — as Jesus had been.

If Jesus was an actual person, he existed in a world that ‘had rules’.  It worked a certain way and didn’t work in lots of other ways.  The temple hierarchy, for instance, behaved one particular way and not in a lot of other ways.  Paul (or ‘the school of Paul’) — not having been there — and having an agenda — described the scene as he needed it to be and not as it was.

Paul’s bottom line was this:  He needed a reason for Jesus’ deification — a purpose that accepting the faith would accomplish:  Salvation.  From Death.  If Jesus could be resurrected, so can you.

None of that came from Jesus.  The idea of  ‘A Church’ certainly never came from Jesus.  As I read the texts, Jesus wasn’t all that ‘down’ with the Institution.  His whole deal — as I read what JESUS SAID (and not all the other drivel put into his mouth by ‘the apostles’ — check out The Jesus Seminar — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar — it was a group of 50 bible scholars and 100 laymen, founded in 1985 with the mission of discerning, if they could, an actual human Jesus from the texts), was you can have a direct relationship with the deity; you don’t need a temple or a church (or the institution inside them) to do it.  In other words, to create a church around Jesus is to, right off the bat, do the OPPOSITE of Jesus.

But, what would Paul know?

Virtually everything about the story of Jesus’ death is a fiction.  It’s no more real than Harry Potter.  There are facts and then there’s bullshit.  To hate Jews because they ‘killed Jesus’ is bullshit.

To KILL THEM because of it?

There are no words that can adequately describe it.  Maybe one:  “ANTISEMITISM”.