The Dangerous Arrogance Of Monotheism

Had God really created humans – and not the other way around – he surely would have done a better job.  It takes a human being to invent a creator so neurotic he can’t content himself with HAVING created everything, he needs one of his creations – us – to praise him relentlessly for having done it – and then for  every other little thing he does – like a three year old who needs the endless stroking just to master toilet training.  To be fair then, it’s not God’s fault he is the way he is – petulant, jealous, irrational, inconsistent and homicidal.   It’s ours since we’re the ones who invented Yahweh.

That’s the Biblical “God’s” name: “Yahweh.  It’s not “God” – god is Yahweh’s job description as in, “Say, what does that Yahweh guy do for a living anyway?  Surely he doesn’t really think he’s a god!”   Ah, but Yahweh does think he’s a god – and we’re the ones who put that notion into his head. 

The writer Karen Armstrong spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun before leaving her order and becoming one of the foremost writers on religion in the world.  She now teaches at the Leo Baeck College For The Study of Judaism and The Training Of Rabbis and is an honorary member of the Association of Muslim Social Sciences.  Her religion bona fides are rock solid.  In A History Of God, Armstrong writes about her experience as an eight year old trying to wrap her mind around the whole idea of “God”. 

“Hell,” she writes, was something she “could grasp imaginatively.”  God, on the other hand, was “a somewhat shadowy figure, defined in intellectual abstractions.”  At eight, she had to memorize the catechism question “What is God?” with the answer first drawn up in the Nicene Creed in 345 AD: “God is the Supreme Spirit, who alone exists of Himself and is infinite in all perfections.”  As the adult Armstrong puts it, that definition left her cold then and leaves her even colder now: “It has always seemed a singularly arid, pompous and arrogant definition.”

Arrogance and monotheism.  They go hand in hand like Adam and Eve. 

Human beings have probably been creating gods as long as they’ve been aware enough to think; the gods filled in the gaps in their limited knowledge base.  The gods’ existence explained why the world “was” to begin with and why it worked the way it did.  Armstrong points out that when “people began to devise their myths and worship their gods, they were not seeking a literal explanation for natural phenomena.  The symbolic stories, cave paintings and carvings were an attempt to express their wonder and to link this pervasive mystery with their own lives…”.

The polytheistic pantheon didn’t present a gulf between human beings and the gods.  In fact, in most polytheistic visions of the world, “…men, women and the gods themselves all shared the same nature and derived from the same divine substance.  The pagan vision was holistic. The gods were not shut off from the human race… divinity was not essentially different from humanity.  There was thus no need for a special revelation of the gods or for a divine law to descend to earth from on high.”

We like to think of monotheism as an evolutionary improvement upon polytheism – as if, by finally boiling the divine pantheon down to just one god, humans made some great intellectual leap forward.  That’s such a monotheistic way to think.

My Hebrew School teacher Henry Hyman taught me that the Biblical texts are works of culture and religion; they are in no way historical texts though they do reflect history.  A lot of Jews – if you ask them “who wrote the Pentateuch?” will answer “Why, Moses did!”  No, Moses did not write the Old Testament.  He didn’t write anything as far as we know because, as far as we know, he never wrote anything down.  There is nothing whatsoever in the archaeological record that even hints an actual “Moses” existed. There’s nothing whatsoever in Egyptian records (and, in the ancient world, they were among the best) that aligns with the Exodus story. You’d think losing a Pharaoh and his army to such amazing supernatural means would appear somewhere. It doesn’t. That’s the problem when you don’t write things down. It’s hard to believe you actually had the experience. Also, if you don’t write things down, it’s hard to make a case for you being a writer of anything — like the Torah.

Here’s a rough timeline for how we got from polytheism to monotheism and then formal, written-down monotheism:

1850 BCE: a person we now refer to as “Abraham” leaves Ur (in what is now Iraq) and settles to the west in Canaan.  The story passed down that he did it because Yahweh told him to. Per Armstrong: “We have no contemporary record of Abraham, but scholars think that he may have been one of the wandering chieftains who had led their people from Mesopotamia toward the Mediterranean.” 

1200 BCE: the wave of Hebrews who’d emigrated to Egypt during a severe famine in Canaan return from Egypt contending they’d been enslaved while there.  They claim to have been liberated by a deity called Yahweh, the god of their leader Moses. Note: By now, these stories have existed in oral form only (as far as we know) for hundreds of years with zero reliable continuity from teller to teller (never mind generation to generation, decade to decade or century to century).

700 BCE: Over a thousand years of history FINALLY gets written down.  Contemporary thinking remains in general agreement about WHO finally committed a millennium of folk traditions to scroll and ink: Biblical author “J” gets down to work in the southern Kingdom of Judah) while “E” starts writing in the northern Kingdom of Israel.  Right off the bat, there are significant differences in how each writer conceived of and wrote about Yahweh. “J” referred to the character as “Yahweh” while “E” used the title ‘Elohim’ as the deity’s name.  One stays “familiar”, polytheist style, while the other uses not Yahweh’s name but a high honorific. Two different people give us two different Yahwehs — right in the cult of Yahweh’s founding documents. Oy.

400 BCE: The accumulated religious texts, collected over the course of three hundred years, are collated into the final text of what we now call “The Pentateuch” — The Five Books Of Moses. The Old Testament.

When “P”, the next recognized authorial voice arrives at about this time, he makes some important distinctions and “clarifications”.  P is likely responsible for “In the beginning” as we now know it.  This version of Yahweh has big plans for human beings – and for Abraham in particular.  P is busily shaping the narrative to suit an evolving concept.

Armstrong asks: “Did Abraham worship the same God as Moses or did he know him by a different name?”  Hell – was Abraham even really a monotheist never mind the first monotheist? “Israelite religion was pragmatic and les concerned with the kind of speculative detail that would worry us” says Armstrong, “Yet we should not assume that either Abraham or Moses believed in their God as we do today.”  It’s probably more likely that the early Jewish patriarchs were pagans who shared many of the religious beliefs of their neighbors in Canaan.  Armstrong points to the strong likelihood that Abraham’s Yahweh was El, the High God of Canaan, dressed up a little and repurposed.  Among the clues: Yahweh introduces himself to Abraham as “El Shaddai” – El of the Mountain – and his name is preserved in such Hebrew names as “Isra-EL” and “Ishma-EL”. 

But, even the way the characters relate to Yahweh is telling.  “Abraham and Jacob both put their faith in El because he worked for them: they did not sit down and prove that he existed; El was not a philosophical abstraction… pragmatism would always be a factor in the history of God.  People would continue to adopt a particular conception of the divine because it worked for them, not because it was scientifically or philosophically sound.”

Armstrong nails it right there – people accept the divine because “it works for them” and not because it actually “works” as an explanation.

Ask any two theists (for example, Biblical authors “J” and “E”) to describe their vision of Yahweh and the odds are pretty much certain you’ll get two different visions.  Theists will quickly point out either that no one can really “know” God or that God appears in very individual ways to individual people.  It must be good to have one’s cake and get to eat it too.  That “having it both ways” is easy when you never have to show your work. Or actually pin down your “God” character to consistent specifics. 

But, having it both ways is how theists roll.  They can and do revise Yahweh on the fly.  They can hang any attribute they want on Yahweh without fear of contradiction.  Yahweh is whatever his individual believers believe he is. Who are we to contradict them?

And, if Yahweh chooses to speak through them (and not, say, YOU), that’s simply because Yahweh works in mysterious ways. 

Ironically, the first Christians were thought of as atheists by the Romans because they were so vocal in their rejection of the Romans’ pantheon of gods in favor of Yahweh, a god the Romans didn’t believe in.  The Romans put up with the Jews – who more passively believed in their monotheistic deity.  Paul’s mission to spread the religion he was inventing with each Epistle – sharing the good news that Jesus rose from the dead – was harder for the Romans to ignore. 

Paul’s genius was to supercharge Jewish monotheism.  Not only did this deity personally make human beings from a mix of the divine & actual dirt – using himself as the design prototype – this deity was involved in his human creations on a quotidian basis.  In fact, Paul’s version of Yahweh was so involved, he was offering up a way for every human being to beat the thing that scared them most of all: dying.  How’s that for a deity!  And all anyone had to do was believe in the version of Jesus that he, Paul, was creating for the Gentiles (the Jews in Palestine, including Jesus’ family, having rejected it as nonsense). 

That is why Paul went to the Gentiles to invent Christianity – his tweaked version of Jewish mythology (tweaked so that Jesus would fit right into the mythology) didn’t conform to the Jews’ version — which they told him, pointedly.  So, off Paul went to make up his own. Out in the Gentile world, Paul’s inventions played far, far better. There was no one to say “Hey, wait a minute! Jesus never said that!

Now, let’s track monotheism’s progress from this point forward.  The Jews – their temple now destroyed for good – pretty much do nothing with Yahweh other than pray to him as his official “chosen people”.  A lot of good that does the Jews.  Mighty as Yahweh is — parting oceans is no small feat — he can’t seem to get a simple temple to himself rebuilt. And being Yahweh’s “Chosen People” turns out to be not just a headache but a full bore migraine. Though they “invented” the idea of monotheism, all the other monotheists declare open war on the Jews.  Go figure.

By the time Paul and the early church fathers get done with Yahweh, he’s a different deity altogether.  He’s become completely bi-polar.  One moment, he’s the angry, Canaanite El of old, the next he’s knocking up a virgin (like a horny Greek Satyr) so that his sprog can die for humanity’s sins.  Jesus – the guy preaching “Do unto others” and “Suffer the little children” and “The meek shall inherit the earth” – has zero place in Paul’s creation aside from being a kind of Jesus McChristian mascot.  Come for the “Do Unto Others” but stay for the “Beat Death”.   

The Lord Our God, father of Jesus has plans but people will have to believe if those plans are ever going to get realized.  Though Jesus specifically advocated against his followers joining a religious institution (he taught “speak directly to God”), Paul had no such compunction about churches because his success depended on having them, Jesus be damned! 

There’s that monotheistic arrogance for you! 

Already, “Do unto others” has become “Do what Paul says” and once Paul’s ideas become the church’s, it’s full on “Do what we say”.   Paul never, EVER speaks for Jesus.  The Yahweh he’s speaking for is entirely of his own making, too.  That — Paul’s vision — is the church that arises from this construction. Soon enough, a formalized, “catholic” church emerges. The Catholic Church early on put its stamp on “what God is” when they collectively created The Mycene Creed in 325. When Catholics recite their catechism, they’re uttering some version of this creed.  The church is telling each and every believer what ITS version of God is, never mind their “personal perceptions”.

Though Jesus would have you speak to God directly, “his church” says, “no, ask us first”.  But then, Jesus didn’t seem to suffer from the arrogance of monotheism.  He may be the one “Christian” ever who didn’t.

Conservatism — By Its Nature — Will Always Look Backwards First

I don’t judge conservatives because they want to conserve — as their name says. I judge them because they won’t admit WHAT they want to conserve. Considering as you can’t conserve what doesn’t exist, conservatives have zero interest in the future. That’s Progressives’ territory. That’s why I prefer the descriptor “progressive” to “liberal”. Progressive is just more accurate — every fiber of my being wants humankind to progress as quickly as we can into the future (because we’ve made a total hash of the past). Just as “Progressive” neatly describes my overall direction with one word, so, too does “conservative” describe the direction conservatives want to take America. What do conservatives want to conserve? What does any individual conservative want conserved? For them, the present is the perfect place to start. If they could literally take us back to the past — to the idealized time and place in their head that they think of as “perfection” — they absolutely would. Same as a Progressive would whisk us all off to a perfect future of enlightenment and harmony. Like I said: I’m not here to judge (in this blog post). I’m here to understand.

Look, the future is scary. Who knows what’s going to happen? If I take off my “Progressive World View Specs” and put on a pair of borrowed “Conservative World View Specs” (they’re way too tight for my liking), I begin to appreciate the security the past held for some. In our part of the world, Europeans got it into their heads that the brutal lethality of the pathogens they carried with them meant they were morally superior to the indigenous peoples of North America they rolled with relative ease BECAUSE they’d been decimated by European pathogens. Europeans didn’t walk onto a “virgin continent” waiting to be enlightened by them, they entered a graveyard — the ground softened not by their ideas, a little by their superior weapons, but mostly because the pathogen load heading west (smallpox, measles, whooping cough, bubonic plague, malaria, yellow fever, dysentery) was more overwhelming than the pathogen load heading east (syphilis). Europeans carried more than just disease with them though. They brought their monotheistic religion — and their monotheistic religion convinced them that THEIR god was THE god and THEIR god said THEY could do whatever they liked to other people — especially if they believed in other gods or, worse, no god.

“Manifest Destiny” was no different from Cortes decimating the Aztecs and Pizarro brutalizing the Incas. “Gold, glory and god”. That was the mandate. Europeans took the Americas with relative ease but not for the reasons they thought or still think. Better and more pathogens. That’s it. That’s the difference.

But, once convinced of their superiority, Europeans would not be dissuaded. Europeans even used their most sacred religious texts — the thing upon which they based their entire civilization — to JUSTIFY enslaving other humans. If bondage and stolen labor were good enough for iron age people, then, damn it, it should be good enough for us! When you cloak your justifications for slavery and personal superiority with the divine, perhaps you can be forgiven for thinking you ARE the “alpha and the omega”. You’ve come to believe your wardrobe is who you are — and you think you’re God.

But for their pathogens, white Europeans might not have had such an easy time dominating the America’s. Their beachheads might have been smaller and less successful even over time. Instead of being easily rolled by the Europeans — who they outnumbered by a lot! — the Aztecs and Incas might have recognized the Europeans for the competitors they were. I bet, given the chance, the Aztecs and Incas might even have learned from the Europeans, found ways to either approximate or steal the Europeans superior war-fighting technology. We’ll never know. When Americans began rolling across North America, their destinies manifested, each mile further west they traveled convinced them that they were truly on a divine mission — new crusaders, if you will, conquering Indians instead of Muslms.

The “All men” that America’s founders thought were “created equal”, were white and they were all men. In their defense, maybe they weren’t quite as ‘enlightened” as they thought. But, that’s the America conservatives want to conserve. That’s the “original version” of America constitutional originalists are thinking of. They believe THAT is the America the rest of us should still be living in. If the founders couldn’t imagine a thing, then we just have to live in an America that laments its founders’ lack of forward-thinking chops. Talk about the tail wagging the dogma! Except that wasn’t how those men thought. They made the document dynamic.

Take away the native peoples who were here for ten thousand years before the Europeans set sail just for argument’s sake (though I bet their traditions would still help us a lot). Prior to the arrival of the Europeans — and then everyone else on the planet — this continent had no “native culture”. That is, European culture was not “native” to this place. Now, when we say, “European culture”, we don’t mean one thing. German culture is not so different from English culture (their royalty’s all related) but very different from Italian culture. It took a thousand years for several of the more prominent tribes of France — the Franks, the Merovingians, the Carolingians — to evolve into what we now think of as “French people”.

Remember how some of the French had no problem collaborating with Germany during WWII? That wasn’t a new behavior, that extreme pragmatism in the face of shifting political tides. In “A Distant Mirror”, her wonderful history of “the calamitous 14th century”, the historian Barbara Tuchman returns repeatedly to the story of Charles de Navarre (10 October 1332 – 1 January 1387), a French knight, in his time called Charles the Bad. He was King of Navarre from 1349–1387 and during those years — as the Hundred Year War raged on, Charles (whose property was in Normandy) saw the English and the French armies go back and forth across his domain repeatedly. The war pitted he French crown against the English crown; both wanted to declare the other’s as theirs. While he could have remained loyal to France the whole time — and simply took his licks (being sacked and burned) each time the English plowed through. Instead, Charles chose to ally with the English BEFORE they got to his land. Suddenly, this French lord couldn’t be more English. He’d welcome them to and through his territory, feeding them, housing them, giving them happy endings if they wanted them.

Then, when the tides changed yet again — and the war’s momentum swung back to the French, Charles would hang out his tricolor as if he’d never taken it down. Why, Charles had ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia AND those damned English! Vichy France’s pragmatic survival instincts kicked in at least six hundred years before we realized. That behavior pattern is part of what we think of as “French” behavior in national affairs. Same token — the Swiss and their neutrality are not new either. The Dutch have always been traders. The Germans have always been… well… “German”. The more closely aligned with the Catholic Church a country was — like Spain — the more cruelly dogmatic it became. Franco and the Spanish Inquisition are directly related.

Even the Europeans will tell you how their neighbors are. Especially the Europeans. When those people came here, to America, they all brought their national personalities with them. No such personalities existed here. But, Europeans weren’t the only non North Americans hitting our beaches. Before too long, people from all over the world had “discovered” America — and saw that they, too, could fill this empty canvass with themselves. Who “got here first” is a nonsensical argument since, really, no one was here first. And, as for whose money paid for it? That’s swell, but “ownership” is a concept invented by men to justify their claim that a thing — land, a cave, a woman — was theirs. The concept of “ownership” saves us from having to piss on or lick everything to prove that it’s ours.

Conservatives, if they could, would piss on or lick practically everything (licking it all first before pissing on it, I’m betting). Conservatism hews closely to its “religious values”, don’t forget. They believe in a kind of perfection perverted — an Eden destroyed by a woman. They believe that humanity’s fall from Grace was redeemed by a man-god born of a virgin, sent to die for all of our sins (though, if he doesn’t get betrayed by Judas and doesn’t die for our sins, I’m kinda wondering what that woulda been like but nevermind). Let’s be real. Down deep, there’s no such thing as a “God-fearing conservative”. No truly conservative person fears God.

That’s because most every God-fearing conservative doesn’t believe IN God, he believes he IS God. They won’t put it that way. Instead, they say “I understand what the lord wants from me” or I have a personal relationship with God!” He looks around at others who think they understand God and shakes his head sadly. Poor, misguided fools think God speaks through them, can ya believe it? Even those of us who “think” we understand God need to be set straight by this guy because HIS version of God is THE version of God (no substitutes accepted).

Enlightenment scares these people almost as much as Enlightenments do. Conservatives have rooted not just their religious faith but everything they think in the belief that a sky deity loves them and wants them to do his bidding here on earth. How things WERE — that’s what the sky deity wants. And if how things ARE RIGHT NOW is the closest we can get to HOW THINGS WERE then so be it. We’ll take what we can get. We’ll enshrine as much of yesterday into today as we possibly can and turn off the engine.

Unlike conservatives, Progressives aren’t intimidated by the unknown. We’re adaptive by nature. New information isn’t anathema to us, it’s our life blood. And if new voices bring new information or new ways to problem-solve? So much the better! The future is going to happen whether anyone likes it or not. Change is inevitable. It’s only ever a matter of time scale.

What do conservatives want to conserve? Everything you need to know is right there in the pause BEFORE they start to answer. They’re making a list, don’tcha know! They’re thinking about everything from the past that they wish could become permanent. The playing field was not level in that past. It wasn’t meant to be. Only the “equal” “all men” were expected to play, being the only ones qualified to play — by themselves of course.

That’s the America conservatives want to conserve. It’s why they’re always looking backwards, hoping to see the past come alive again. It’s the America they had full control of, before the rest of us realized how little they understood it.

A Constituency Of One

“I alone can fix it” was a tell. For starters, it ain’t true. No one alone can fix anything. Donald Trump with an army of followers couldn’t fix a damned thing though, all credit to him, he and his army of trolls came damned close to “fixing” our democracy for good (and the bastards are still at it!) Trump walked in the door compromised (as everyone who was anyone in the GOP’s leadership knew even before they made Trump their presidential nominee in 2016. “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” said current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy as he entered a room filled with GOP leadership a month before they made Trump their official nominee for POTUS in 2016, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!. The evangelical community forgave Trump — a man guilty of literally every mortal sin — because they saw a man as cravenly cynical as they are. The Right Wing money (the Kochs, the Mercers, Sheldon Adelstein and the lesser I Pillow acolytes) saw their last shot at installing a state of permanent minority rule under Trump’s tin pot authoritarianism — a country Trump indeed “fixed” (though not alone) — all in service of his true constituency, himself — his Constituency Of One.

What is this madness? Where does this mania — this conviction that one person is the sun, the moon, the stars, the alpha, the omega and everything in between — come from? It sure as hell doesn’t come from reality. And it sure as hell isn’t healthy (our current situation being the data set). Some people, to this day, ache to be ruled by a king chosen by God. By “God”, they mean the stern, unsmiling, unforgiving (except of them) voice in their head. Religious fervency is as big a tell as “I alone can fix it”. Scratch the surface of your average religious fanatic and you’ll realize: they don’t believe IN God, they believe they ARE God — that’s why God speaks through THEM. That’s why THEY understand God while almost no one else does. That’s why it’s incumbent on THEM to do God’s bidding here on Earth. If not them, who?

Manifest Destiny was this idea taken to its most horrible extreme. White people doing God’s bidding because (really) white people think they’re God. Bringing God and Jesus to the ignorant, unwashed natives whether they liked it or not. One person’s “enlightenment” is another person’s genocide.

A constituency of many probably wouldn’t go there. A diverse constituency definitely wouldn’t. A diverse constituency dedicated to the well-being of every part of it? It’d be an absolute impossibility. What that means is, the further away we can get from a constituency of one, the healthier we get collectively and personally.

Donald Trump epitomizes white, male greed. He’s unapologetically piggish. That’s why so many white men love him: he’s the alpha pig they wish they could be. They, too, wish they could have a constituency of one the way Trump does. Trump can do or say anything — and get away with it! They believe that if Trump is president forever, they, too, can get away with everything forever. They can get away with unspeakable greed but also unspeakable hatred. “Cancel Culture” is white peoples’ code for “Whattaya mean I can’t call Black people the “N-word”, Jews the “K-word” and everyone else whatever the most insulting ethnic reference is — that’s how I feel about them!’.

Libertarianism thinks “freedom” means “you’re not the boss of me”. What it really means is “no woman can ever be the boss of me”, “no Black person can ever be the boss of me” and “no Jew can ever be the boss of me”. Other white guys? They’ll make an exception. Libertarians want all the benefits of freedom but they don’t want to take any of the responsibilities that do come with those benefits. They want to be able to preach “do unto others” while raping and pillaging relentlessly. It all goes to serving the needs of the one, screw the many.

Personally, I blame monotheism. This absurd, fictitious concentration of all the world’s purpose and knowledge into one “mind”, alternately deeply mysterious yet just knowable enough to know what the deity hates. When such an all-powerful, all-knowing thing smiles upon you, who are you to deny that smile? Want to know who God is? Stand before your bathroom mirror and really look yourself in the eyes. Voila! You’re looking right into the eyes of God. Are you underwhelmed or overwhelmed by that?

How shall we measure success as a culture? Surely, you can’t look at where we are — so much wealth yet so much poverty, sometimes pretty much right in the same place — and think we’ve done something special here. The happiest countries on earth just so happen to be the most socialized, too. Yes, the citizens of those countries pay more in taxes but they, they GET more — and expect more. America is about to get a big taste of how effective UBI (universal basic income) is at getting an economy back up onto its feet — and keeping it there. A consumer economy like ours relies on as many consumers as possible having as much money as possible in their pockets. The more those consumers spend, on goods and services provided by other consumers, the healthier the economy will become because all that consumption will create even more demand for still more goods and services. Success will breed more success.

It works. There’s data that says so whereas with “trickle down” economics, there isn’t any such data. There’s just the guy at the top saying trickle down works while he trickles down nothing but waste products.

A constituency of one strikes again.

Donald Trump will learn the hard way where a constituency of one leads. So will every Republican who co-conspired with him. Don’t think so? Let’s revisit a few months from now, AFTER Merrick Garland’s been at the newly refurbished Department of Justice for a while. No one wants Garland to do anything other than enforce the rule of law equally. If that’s ALL he does, if justice for its own sake motivates him then once he pulls the first thread of the January 6 conspiracy to commit insurrection, he won’t stop until the entire garment is gone. The insurrection threads will lead right to Donald Trump. But then, so will all the Russia threads that Merrick Garland’s team will begin tugging on. At the end of the day, everything about Donald Trump’s corrupt tenure in the White House will lead to Russia one way or another.

Russia, Russia, RUSSIA. Take that to the bank and prepare to be the richest person you know.

There are few things more dangerous to the group than a member who only sees a constituency of one. That person does not see the group except as an impediment to them getting what they want. It’s a damnably male behavior, an outgrowth of having a “squirt ‘n go’ sexuality. The human male at his sexual peak is designed to spread his seed as many places as possible with little regard for what happens after he’s spread that seed. A woman doesn’t have that luxury. Any time a male squirts inside of her and goes — especially if she’s fertile (and even if she’s on birth control) — there’s the possibility that a child will result. As the excellent Gabrielle Blair has written on Twitter, women can orgasm without causing reproduction to possibly occur. Men, can’t. All the pregnancy risk literally comes from men.

A woman would never say “I alone can fix it” because women know biochemically that it’s bullshit. One could certainly try to bear and raise a child on on one’s own but it’s almost certainly doomed to fail. As Hillary Clinton pointed out, it does “take a village” to raise a child. For starters, it’s just way easier to have help birthing a baby — then keeping both baby and mother fed in the baby’s first days. It takes a village to educate a child and coach it through soccer or gym practices. Women can tell you that anything of value demands a village’s input.

American diversity is proof positive of what a village can do when it works together, benefitting from all the knowledge all that diversity organically brings. That IS American Exceptionalism — the fact of our diversity and its output. Hell, we even put the idea of diversity’s benefits on our Great Seal: E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. That’s the only “one” here that has a shot at fixing anything — the one that is the sum of us, not the relentlessly egomaniacal neuroses of the hopelessly deluded, mediocre-to-its-core one of us.

Success relies on many people working together. Failure really can flow from one person. Hell, the Coronavirus Pandemic started with ONE PERSON. Though a Hitler or a Pol Pot or a Donald Trump rely on the madness of crowds to do their dirtiest work, it still begins with that one person’s ability to bamboozle other people into thinking they’re special — anointed by the divine, in fact. Surely a deity clever enough to create literally everything wouldn’t be this painfully neurotic about one of his creations (even if it is his “favorite”). Surely, such a powerful creature wouldn’t lose his mind just because one of his creations either doesn’t “believe in him” or “sanctify him” to his liking. Seriously, what kind of third-rate deity is that?

That, too, is the end product of any “constituency of one”: mediocrity. Gods can’t be judged since there’s no one up to the task. That means a god can get away with anything — as gods do.

Or did…

Trump’s constituency of one is about to crash into the Will Of The People and its constituency. Each greedy Republican — and their “constituency of one” — also will crash and burn. In their darkest moments, I sure hope the words “I alone can fix it!” flashes across their minds, suffusing their anguish with a self-loathing glow. Slowly, but surely, each and every Trumpian or Republican constituency of one will morph into a constituency of done.

Maybe Monotheism’s The Problem…

I have always been grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today. I mean that in the nicest way possible. I’m pretty sure I dropped from the womb a total non-believer, but whatever lingering doubts I had about atheism being “the truth faith” were swept aside by eight years of religious education. The story that iced it for me — made following my tribe’s faith a total non-starter — was the “Abraham and Isaac” story. The three Abrahamic religions all hold up Abraham as “the first monotheist”. In actual historical fact, whoever “Abraham” actually was, while he may have been an early convert from polytheism to monotheism, he was by no means the first human to toss all the other gods in favor of just one, in Abraham’s case, Yahweh. The “innovation” in the Hebrews’ monotheistic creation was their deity’s relationship with people. Yahweh wanted one, having personally created us.

None of the characters in the Abraham-Isaac story made sense to me — even when I was a kid. Yahweh the god is petulant and petty. He’s powerful enough to create literally everything in existence, yet out-of-his-mind-neurotic because humans keep screwing up. Are there any other worlds out there this Yahweh character feels compelled to keep flooding and destroying because he got one of the pieces wrong? How many generations of human — after Adam and Eve — did it take for people to forget Yahweh created them? Why would Yahweh — creator of everything — let a single human get that wrong to begin with? If Yahweh created everything, why would he countenance the creation of other gods — even if only inside peoples’ minds? And, what kind of father is Abraham? He’s a couple hundred years old (per the text) and wants, more than anything, a son with his wife Sarah (whose baby-making machinery was equally old, but never mind!) He has a son with Sarah’s maid Hagar (Ishmael — the foundational character in Islam’s story) but it’s not the same. Finally Sarah bears Abraham the son he’s always wanted.

And, what does this loving, doting, adoring father do one day — with the son that he loves more than life itself — when the voice in his head says, “Hey, Abe — grab your kid and a sharp knife: we’ve got some business to transact”, what does Abe do? He takes that child he loves more than life itself to the place the imaginary voice in his head told him to. If the voice says “sacrifice your son”, that’s what Abe’s doing, no second thoughts. If not for the intercession of an angel — who offers up a goat as a sacrifice to replace Isaac (and what did the poor goat do to get hauled into this bloodbath?) — Abraham murders his own child, end of story.

I remember thinking back then “And the point of this story is…?” I grasped but couldn’t then articulate the perversity of monotheism and its strange “asks”. To accept monotheism, you have to accept Yahweh. And, to accept Yahweh, you have to accept a deeply flawed human creation. Only a human would think Yahweh, as written, is much of a deity. I bet among actual deities, Yahweh couldn’t get hired to bus tables at the Deity Café. He certainly wouldn’t get invited to sit down with them and play in any of their reindeer games. Yahweh’s too puny.

Or, is Yahweh too clearly what he is — a human creation? That’s an important distinction if we’re discussing the Creator Of Everything. Who created who first? Considering as Yahweh wasn’t the first god a human ever invented and wasn’t even the first god that the Hebrews followed (they also followed ElBaalAsherah, and Astarte before the cult of Yahweh over-rode all the other gods and the Hebrews settled on Yahwh as their “Hear, Oh, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”.

Here in the west, we tell ourselves that monotheism was an evolutionary step above polytheism. It was in the sense that monotheism emerged after polytheism as a new way to see the world. But is monotheism an “improvement” the way evolving webbing between our fingers would make us better swimmers? Did monotheism’s creation in the human mind produce improvements to human life for having been created? One could argue yes. In praise of monotheism, great buildings rose. Great art was made. Much thinking has been directed towards it. But, one could also argue that monotheism has been a curse.

It all comes down to Yahweh. As written, Yahweh has it in for his human creations. He tried once already to wipe us all out via flood (if you accept the stories as reality — a dubious thing to do). Apparently the new humans that rose after Noah were no better than the rotten humans that preceded Noah. Yahweh felt they were so rotten that he’d have to create a mechanism to “absorb” all that human rottenness, dispose of it somehow and then permanently redeem these creatures who constantly disappoint him. Yahweh created a “son”. But, not just a son — a way (if you believe in that son just the right way) to beat the thing that scares humans most: death.

The Jews ultimately evolved Yahweh into a creature who commanded them to make the world a better place for them having been it. The Christian world evolved Yahweh into a bully who insists you believe in his son — and his son’s ability to conquer death — or he’ll kill you.

Jesus taught you don’t need a temple or its priests (or a church and ITS priests) to have a relationship with God. And, by the way? Do unto others. But that’s not how the Paul heard it or sold it. He downplayed the “Do unto others” part and cranked up the dogmatic rules involved in beating death by believing in Jesus. To Paul’s credit, his invention was sheer genius. It’s longevity speaks to that. Christianity isn’t a religion you embrace if you want to “Do unto others” (you can do that without it), it’s one you embrace if you want to “live forever”. That’s the “good news” inside every Christian’s “testimony” — a dubious path to eternal life.

Once taken up by a believer, monotheism can morph into authoritarianism faster than any other belief system. How can it not? Where’s the check on Yahweh’s voice? It’s not like Yahweh walks in the door a rational character. His only real innovation is the ability to reproduce with humans. And what does Yahweh have in mind for his child? Death. If the mythology is going to work — if Jesus is going to be proven the actual “messiah” — then a bunch of things have to line up (at least in the telling). To begin with, Jesus has to die because Eve disobeyed Yahweh when she ate from the tree of knowledge thus committing the “original sin”. On top of that, Jesus also has to come from the priestly line and then from King David’s line to boot. Plenty of gymnastics to pull off there.

Plenty of dogma, too. Spirituality demands zero dogma. Religion relies on it exclusively to suck you in and keep you in. Monotheism relies upon the most rigid dogma of all — because it’s deity is so rigid (even at his most “forgiving”). “I am the Lord, your God and thou shalt have no other gods except me!” Gosh, Yahweh, when ya put it that way

What if the monotheist’s core assertion is wrong? What if there is a deity of sorts out there, but it’s not named Yahweh and the deity’s on a completely different mission than the knowledge-challenged Yahweh? What if Yahweh was as real as Harry Potter or Voldemort? Here’s the problem — if I base everything I think on a false premise — if Yahweh isn’t “the guy” despite what Yahweh cultists insist (what if Buddha cultists are right instead?) then literally everything that I do because I believe in Yahweh rests upon a flawed foundation. My core reason for doing anything is based on nonsense.

Or the wrong god maybe… .

The bottom line is this: religion itself is inert until a human being picks it up and puts it on. The “armor of Christ” that the Apostle Paul urged Christians to wear only becomes real and fully active inside a believer’s head. Even a “loving God” needs to be defended to the death.

I take it back. It’s not monotheism that’s made a mess of the world, it’s monotheists.

Are There More Atheists Out There Than We Think?

Step One: define “atheist”. Step Two: since, one way or another, everyone can be seen by someone else as an atheist, “yes”. There are way more atheists in the world than we acknowledge. In fact, some of the most theistic people we all know, are, in their way, the most a-theistic, too. But there are plenty of people who don’t think much about God one way or the other. Granted, these people aren’t one-hundred-percenters. They’re more “agnostic” really where God is concerned. But, just as they’re not “faithful” atheists, neither are they full-fledged theists. I’m old enough to remember when being an atheist or claiming you were one put you into instant conflict with almost everyone you knew. The more theistic would look on me with pity — and a degree of scorn. I was told more than once that I “couldn’t be an atheist” — that it was “impossible” because a world filled with atheists — having no God to guide them — would surely destroy itself via violence. As if God hadn’t written the book on how to destroy the world via violence.

From a polytheist’s point of view, all monotheists are atheists. A Christian who believes that Yahweh (the character we call “God” has a name — “Yahweh”; “god” actually is his job description) is the only god, must first deny every god in the polytheist’s pantheon. Unless the polytheist also believes in Yahwheh, the denial of all his gods makes the monotheist an atheist. From the polytheist’s vantage point, a person who believes in Yahweh rejects the gods that exist and, instead, believes utter nonsense. In fact, Romans did consider Christians “atheists”.

As I said above, some of the most ardent theists are, in fact, the most atheistic people of all. Take televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his Kenneth Copeland Ministries. For reference, if you haven’t already (and even if you have), it’s good to let Brother Kenneth remind you himself how a “man of God” and a “total charlatan” can be one and the same person.

Every televangelist has a dirty, dirty secret. They share it with an awful lot of churchmen. The entire Catholic hierarchy is based on this notion — that no one actually believes IN God, they believe they ARE God. If God speaks through YOU and not some “ordinary” person because YOU “studied ‘his’ texts (never mind how those texts got to us and the editorial perspective they represent), it’s because YOU think you’re special in the eyes of God. When you look in the bathroom mirror — that is who you see staring back at you: God. You may look heavenward with your prayers, but the answer to your question always has your voice in your ears. Or a demagogue’s. Because the demagogue is speaking just like your God speaks.

If you dig deep enough into most every theist, at some point — as they parse their version of God from their neighbor’s (their neighbor is misinformed, you see — that’s why they go to a different church), you’ll have to confront one cold, hard fact: THEY think THEY have it right. God has made it clear to them that they hear God correctly. God is “love”, not the crazed, blood-lusting mania that other guy thinks God is. But, how do they know? The crazed, blood-lusting guy seems pretty convinced that the Voice of God in his ears is the Voice of God. How does any theist know for sure that their version of God is the version of God?

Unless they’re just guessing they’re right — and living with the uncertainty — they’ll have to take ownership of being the alpha and omega themselves. They are the actual source of the tree of knowledge, the actual piece of prohibited fruit and the serpent, Eden being a product of their imagination. Or some other human’s that they’ve adapted as their own. That’s how a church works. It imprints its version of God onto yours, conforming yours to theirs. Either accept their version of God or risk being called a heretic (with all the fun that comes with it).

In a sense, any version of God (“Yahweh” or otherwise) that conflicts with another risks being atheistic because of what it’s denying. A white supremacist’s version of God cannot co-exist with the magnificent creature leaping and dancing inside the head of a choir member at any AME church. Those Yahweh’s do not look the same. They don’t “think” the same either.

The good news for all those theists about to confront their own atheism? They’ll find way, way more sympathy for them than if they were traveling in the other direction. Atheists live dogma-free lives (at least where religion is concerned). They may trip themselves up in myriad other ways dogmatically, but they won’t hobble themselves over Yahweh. They’ve heard “the good news” and the good news is they ain’t buying. Believe anything you like. It’s not bringing you back from the dead. It just isn’t.

The problem, as always, is less the religions people invent than it is the religionistas who practice those religions. Even a message as simple, elegant and (most importantly) DO-ABLE as “Do unto others” couldn’t survive churchification. Paul certainly didn’t think much of “Do unto others”. He may have used that to open the sales pitch but he closed the deal with “…and if you accept MY version of Jesus then you, too, can defeat death!” The history of the Christian Church (from the point of view of those outside it) hinges on “accept MY version…”.

Jesus’s core message doesn’t require an ounce of dogma to follow: “Do Unto Others”. That’s probably why Paul and the early church fathers rejected it. But then, Paul and the early church fathers also rejected Jesus’s teaching that no one NEEDS a church. The only church one needs, said Jesus, is Jesus. Temples and their priests are all corrupt. Skip em — and go directly to the Divine Source. Skip the dogma, too. If you’d just do that one thing — unto others — you’d be the perfect student and follower of Jesus.

Or has that never been the point?

Even a simple atheist can “Do unto others”. All things considered, as a guide to “how to live a better, happier, more successful life”, there isn’t any better advice. Ah, what atheists could teach Christians about how to be better Christians…