Disclaimer: No ruminants or humans were sacrificed in the writing of this essay. And no disrespect is intended toward any religion or persons of faith. Well, maybe a little . . . well, you know . . . ah . . . sometimes it . . . hey! it ain’t easy!
As you already know, the three great Western religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to take them in their chronological order—all owe their origins to one founding father, a patriarch named Abraham who was pushing his herds of goats or whatever around the Middle East somewhere around 2000 B.C. Also, as you already know, when I am taking potshots at organized religions I spend most of my effort on Christianity, less so on Islam, and usually not much on Judaism, unless it is implicated in what I have to say about all that bullshit in the Old Testament. But you also should know that Abraham is the guy that a god supposedly commanded take his son, Issac, to an altar on the top of a mountain and slit his throat and sacrifice to him.
Nice God, huh? Actually this is the Jewish God we are talking about here, a deity who is usually referred to as YHWH, which is the spelling for Yahweh, which is his name, but which his followers are not supposed to invoke (or forgot their vowels). I can tell you right off the top that any God that asked me to slit the throat of either of my daughters deserves the name ASHL, which I can spell out for you if necessary. Later, of course, he becomes God, the Father for Christians, and Allah for Muslims, making for a multi-monotheism over which a lot of throats have been cut on and off mountaintops. But I digress; I want to get back to Abe, and how he figures in the fundamental perversity of the three “organized” religions he is responsible for founding.
I want to do this with particular reference to a column I happened to read by a rabbi in a publication I stumbled upon on the Internet, the San Diego Jewish Journal. The author, who I will just call Rabbi G,* wrote a brief article under a column called “God Talk, “ called ‘Balance,’ that addresses the Biblical account of Abraham and Issac because on the first day of Rosh Hashanah the Los Angeles Times published an article stating that (these are Rabbi G’s words) “many Jews could not relate to the story of Abraham killing his son,” and (as I learned, this story is chanted on Akeidah, the second day of RH). [Still with me here?] The Times piece said that (G’s words again): “interviewees described God in the story as ‘strange and sadistic,’ while Abraham’s compliance in the test struck many as lunacy.” The purpose of Rabbi G’s addressing this matter this apparently to provide some “balance” but, as we shall see, apparently to act as an apologist for his own job.
“Before we can sign the founder of our religion to the loony bin,” Rabbi G begins, he wants us to understand that “we are sometimes called to make great sacrifices on behalf of our [deeply held] ideals. Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son for a larger cause—in this case, his belief in God.” Although Rabbi G states that “the Akeidah offers a powerful, but obvious lesson,” it doesn’t seem to bother him much that what he’s really saying is that God is just trying to determine if Abraham (or all of us) are going to sign on that he is the Adonai Echad, or the “one and only God.” Apparently, you have to be willing to kill your son if this nice God asks you to do it to prove your fealty to him. It’s a monotheism test; actually a one question quiz, which “Abraham passes… by choosing God.” [Spoiler: God sends an angel from New Jersey who says “fuggedaboudet” and Abe puts down he blade.]
How facile, how easy for the rabbi to find a justification for incipient filicide. [As we shall see below, he is almost occupationally compelled to do just that.] You can’t just state such a thing, so he needs to get a little Talmudic with us. Here he introduces the Hebrew word hineni, the word for “ultimate loyalty,” which articulates “a full, indivisible love, and unconditional connection.” And here, the Rabbi really gets to work scrambling things by alleging that “his message is that it is not possible to choose between my love for my son and my love for God. In essence, these are the same thing; they are not divisible. In fact, to abandon my love for my son—to kill my son—would be to betray my love for God. That seems to be the moral of the story. In the end, after all, God commands Abraham withhold the knife.”
Bullshit! (I don’t know the Hebrew word for it, but it must be something like “that smelly stuff that falls out of the back ends of cattle”). That’s not the story at all, that some ridiculous bullshit spin that rabbis (and priests, preachers, shamans, gurus and the like) are always returning from some mountaintop to not simply justify the existence of one God, but to justify their own selfish authority as interlocutors for some divine pronouncements.
So now let’s get to what this so-called “balance” is really about. It’s not about God, YHWH, or whatever you want to call the myth of the divine; it’s about Rabbi G, and Rabbi G’s job. It’s about the paternalistic authority of religion, and the guys whjo get to wear silly hats and spout whatever that Hebrew word is for . . .
And here’s why. First, we have to remember that this is the interpretation of someone who believes in the existence of another, divine, someone that he can’t see, that no one has ever seen or heard, but that some quasi-mythical patriarch on the fringes of prehistory who was interested in affirming his own paternalistic authority through some delusional encounter with the divine. From this totally unconfirmable account from the past, related presumably through some unidentifiable, and allegedly “divinely inspired,” accountant, three major religions have created a lot of jobs for phonies who can’t produce a single shred of evidence that God— whatever you call him— even exists, much less plays games of mountaintop “chicken” with delusional goatherds.
Indeed, anthropology probably provides a much more plausible account of this kind of behavior, coming from a time in which clan headmen, or patriarchs, ruled with almost absolute authority, and in which sons, particularly when they were coming of age were a threat to their fathers’ complete ownership of resources and even, in times of plural marriage, a threat to their access to all females. Finding a justification for the killing of a son, just as justifications were found for female infanticide, probably worked better in these circumstances when powerful male leaders could descend from the nearest mountains with the authority of the divine.
Rabbi G states that: “I am a better father when I am a good rabbi, and I am a better rabbi when I am an attentive father. (If this sounds boastful, I’ll admit that it’s taken me 20 years to figure this out).” Yeah, well it’s taken 3000 years for people to finally begin to see through this bullshit in growing numbers that we might get to the point where the power over secular life that theists like yourself have arrogated and consolidated with political and military power, might finally be put in your place, which would be in the dustbin of irrationality. This may sound harsh, but it flows almost seamlessly, historically and logically, from such self-serving interpretations of Abraham and Issac and the concept of unquestionable loyalty to God that so many credulous fools who fall prey to your scriptural spins find divine justification for going out and slashing the throats of those who do not subscribe and whom you call infidel and, it always seems, are illegally living on land that was “promised” to you.
To say, as you do [I guess I am speaking directly to the Rabbi now], that “to choose one, is to choose the other,” is an insult to the very linguistic core of the verb (it’s an action, not a tautology) to choose, and an insult to logic, to reason and to infinitives everywhere. One chooses to believe (credere) in what is imperceptible, or not. You chose; you can’t have it both ways, except, I guess in that delusional universe you occupy. Your fundamental problem is that you can’t see this story is pure metaphor, pure imagination, or even pure delusion, or maybe a form of early anthropological reportage) which it most likely is, is a form of theopathology, because then the keystone of your fairytale arch is at risk, the very existence of God.
It’s your occupation, but don’t feed us the crap that it’s what God wanted you to do, and don’t feed us crap like this ridiculous scriptural spin from Genesis. Preach peace and tolerance, snip foreskins, enjoy the wine, take the paycheck, but don’t insult our intelligence. Oh, and if you think you hear the voice of YHWH and he asks you to slit your son’s throat? Just tell him to fuck off. Happy Hanukah.
© 2013, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 12.7.2013)