Class Warfare Blog

February 6, 2019

The Mistake of Monotheism

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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Prior to the rise of monotheistic religions, we had polytheism, that is “many gods.” During the early “Pax Romana” all of these gods coexisted reasonably peacefully. As long as one made the appropriate sacrifices to any of these gods, one was considered a theist and not an atheist.

But then the idea of there being but one god came along … and then the trouble began.

In order for there to be but one god, then all of the other gods being worshiped must be false gods, that is no god at all. Coexistence between other god worshippers and the monotheists declined to the point of disappearing completely.

This was not the only problem, that is monotheists v. pagans. When Christianity split off from Judaism, the Christians had actual battles with a great many fatalities over the “trinity.” To preserve the idea that there was but one god, the Christians, who wanted Jesus as their god, decided to fold three gods into one: “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Not three gods, just one. (Talk about belaboring a point.)

If you look at Christian scriptures, you will find a full panoply of gods but which were given other names. The demigods who were God’s helpers were called “angels” as if that disguises their character as something not god-like. One has to ask “Why does an all-knowing and all-powerful god need “helpers” or “messengers”? And, if their powers were god-like, how were they then not demi-gods at least?

So the gauze of monotheism in Christianity is really quite thin.

This brings up the question of “Why monotheism?” In the early Bible passages it is clear that the ancient Israelites were not monotheistic, and that they had to be beaten into submission to the idea, to accept the yoke instead of being “stiff-necked” (all ox herders understand these terms better than we do now). So, why indeed?

Clearly what is involved here is ecclesiastic greed. If one accepts polytheism, one accepts the friendly competition for “alms.” There will be no monopolies and there will be winners and losers. By being audacious and claiming a monopoly in the form of “there is but one god” one is making a claim for wanting it all. Only the worship of our god counts, the rest of you are doomed.

Can you think of any reason beyond the purely pragmatic to claim that there is but one god, all “evidence” to the contrary? (I am using the word “evidence” as theists use it. If you accept their kind of “evidence,” it is clear there are many gods, not just one.)

A classic example against a monotheistic viewpoint in Christianity is the elevation of Hell and Satan under Christianity. Satan in the old testament is shown making prop bets with Yahweh (poor old Job being the target). This doesn’t exactly sound like the Prince of Evil, now does it. Under the influence of Zoroastrians and other Persian cults while in Babylon, the Jews came back to Israel prepared to write weapons grade scripture but actually refrained until the Christians came along and had to distinguish themselves from the Jews (for market share).

What is Satan, other than a god? Satan is claimed to have been created by Yahweh but that is normal. Most gods are created by other gods. Satan is said to have opposed god’s will to the point of rebellion (Now, that’s a sin!) … and survived to tell the tale! Who could survive the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful god but anther god? Satan is so powerful, he can actually, according to scripture, hide things from Yahweh (making the claim that Yahweh is “all-knowing” a bit hollow). So, Yahweh doesn’t seem to me who he is claimed to be and Satan is a comparable power, aka god … a lesser god, but still.

So, what do you think? What is so all-fired important about monotheism, other than its marketing aspects?

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December 29, 2017

Monotheism Only an Inch Deep

I noted in my reading the other day that the Catholic Church fell all over itself finding a person named Brigit to canonize after the church took over Ireland. St. Brigit’s declared feast day just happened to coincide with the feast day of the Celtic goddess Brigit. An amazing coincidence, no? And, of course, there is some debate over whether St. Brigit was a real person. So, if you can’t find an appropriate real person to canonized, canonize a fake person.

This was the same procedure used by the Romans when they conquered a new people. All of that people’s gods were swept up into the mix of Roman gods. Some equivalences to Roman gods might be noted but if there were a passel of absolutely new ones, well, the more the merrier. The master administrators the Romans were almost guaranteed there would be an office to keep all of these gods straight, and of course there was, a significant one.

It is puzzling that the Romans eventually adopted a monotheistic religion, Christianity, because of all of the problems created by just the idea. Prior to Judaism, polytheism ruled. A few places dabbled in monotheism (Aten in Egypt, etc.) but those efforts failed. Under polytheism, people were quite tolerant of other people’s gods, which made for social harmony. The suite of gods that came with such beliefs had many benefits. While most of these systems had an over-ruling Big Kahuna god (Odin, Zeus, Jupiter, Brahman, etc.), those gods were rarely called upon for help. The lesser gods were much more approachable because they specialized. Each was the god of this or the god of that. If you wanted a good crop of olives this coming season, a believing Greek didn’t go to Ares, the God of War for that; they went to Demeter, the goddess of the harvests. So, there was a built-in incentive to learn all about the appropriate gods and how to beseech them. Also, since there were so many gods and goddesses, there was no Problem of Gender of just the one god. Both feminine and masculine qualities were recognized in gods.

And, if there was a drought, or crop failure, or devastating storm while at sea, the big god didn’t get blamed for that. The smaller gods were notoriously capricious and it never shocked anyone when one of these acted up. As a consequence, there was no “Problem of Evil” to deal with. There was little to no conflict (jealousy, yes; open conflict no) between faiths; many coexisted side-by-side. Like I said, social harmony, much valued by the Romans and all other empires.

Along comes Christianity, a form of monotheistic Judaism on steroids, and all of a sudden, things were quite different. Jews and Christians did not tolerate other religions at all. They refused to acknowledge the divinities of any of the Roman emperors, which was the primary cause of their persecutions by the Romans. The Romans thought them more than a little problematic because of this, so why embrace them?

I suspect Constantine was trying mightily to hold a shaky Roman empire together and thought that bringing Christianity into the fold might normalize their relations with the state. Basically, taking an unruly, more and more powerful group, and co-opting them. (Christianity was not adopted as the state religion of Rome until later. Constantine made it a state religion of Rome.)

The problems inherent in harmonizing a monotheistic religion, though, were quite great. As far as the people were concerned, if there were only one god, then that god was responsible for all of the bad things that happened as well as the good things (aka the Problem of Evil).

The Catholic Church (and all other Christian churches) solved this problem by making the veneer of monotheism so thin as to be almost invisible. Christians, for examples, had more than a few wars over the creation of the trinity: three gods in one! These are not three gods! There can only be one god, so these three … well, it’s complicated. There are not just three versions or manifestations or disguises of the one god. Zeus could walk the Earth as a bull or swan, and still be Zeus; now that was a disguise. The Trinity was and is … a mystery … three gods of one essence, whatever the heck that means. (I think it means “one, not three,” and nothing else.)

Because there was only one god, one had to approach the “all mighty” for even the most trivial of favors, the things always done by demigods in the polytheistic religions. So, Christianity (and Judaism) invented all kinds of god helpers. There were angels and archangels and cherubim, seraphim, and whatnot. What are these other than demi-gods? And to cover the Problem of Evil, Satan was invented. Here is a god if there ever was one. Imagine a being responsible for all of the evil, temptation, and lies, and Republican politics in the entire world … but He is not a god, nope; there is only one god. In any polytheistic suite of gods, Satan would be a major god.

Then there are the Saints. Christians scoff at Roman emperors deifying themselves. (Actually, they had to be dead first, so they had people to do that form them … there were forms to be filled out, rituals and sacrifices to do, etc.) What are saints but deified humans?

St. Brigit of Ireland is apparently a “patron” saint of Ireland, which is another way to say “important” and “popular.” Brigit started out as a Celtic god and ends up being a Catholic saint, serving the exact same purpose: providing a mechanism to appeal to the god(s) for favors. Why bother “Him” if you can pray to a saint to get a small job done.

So, Christianity is “monotheistic” in name only. In its structures, even the Protestant structures with no saints and whatnot, it is still quite polytheistic. This is why Yahweh/Jesus cannot do away with Satan, even though He created Satan. To do so would give the people no source for all of the evil in the world other than Yahweh/Jesus.

Always give the people what they want, otherwise they will turn on you. This is an inherent principle in the structure of all scams. The scam is to appear to give them what they want, without actually giving them anything. A mob “protection” racket is a prime example. For just a small or maybe large fee, the mob will protect your business. Who will they be protecting your business from? The mob, of course.

Some wonder why I spend so much time discussing religion in a class war blog. I do so because religion is one of the, if not the, primary control mechanisms by which the “elites” extract wealth from the masses (us). The current mainstream religion of the U.S. insists that each of us is weak and sinful and can only be saved by turning over all of our decisions to them. Saved from whom? Guess.

And the primary message is that when you die, you will be rewarded and your enemies punished but, whatever you do now while you are alive, just don’t rock the boat. Too may elites are dependent upon your passivity! Remember, you are unworthy … as one evangelist puts it “God only requires from you the honesty to admit that you are morally and spiritually a failure. You can come to Christ just as you are.” He will accept scum like you, but only if you accept someone else controlling your life. Their class (the religious and secular elites) are making war on our class (the hoi polloi/you and me) and their religion is a tool of the oppressors.

A Note on Original Sin Many Christians believe in Original Sin as the source of mankind’s sinfulness. Sin is defined as a transgression of the law of their god. But the Bible describes what is called the War of the Angels, who rebelled against God’s will by refusing to bow down to mankind on the occasion of the creation of man. So, how original could Adam and Eve’s sin be if there were angels transgressing God’s law well before their “fall?” For those who therefore claim that Adam’s sin must have come first; if that were so why would God demand his angels, his perfect heavenly angels, bow down to such sinful creatures? It seems a stupid idea, no?

It seems, rather, that disobedience of Yahweh’s will was commonplace, not something that was so heinous that it should become heritable by all humans … unless, unless you wanted to beat people’s spirits down so low they would jump at a chance of salvation by doing what you tell them to do. (Luigi and Salvatore, your local protection insurance payment collectors, would be proud.)

December 1, 2017

The Argument from Design Started the Whole Thing (Wrongly)!

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:06 am
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There are many “logical” arguments for the existence of a god or gods and one in common use today is the Argument from Design or more formally the Teleological Argument for God. This argument has been stated in many ways going back thousands of years. Here is one of the more famous versions:

The Teleological Argument For God (Paley)
1. Human artifacts are products of intelligent design; they have a purpose.
2. The universe resembles these human artifacts.
3. Therefore: It is probable that the universe is a product of intelligent design, and has a purpose.
4. However, the universe is vastly more complex and gigantic than a human artifact is.
5. Therefore: There is probably a powerful and vastly intelligent designer who created the universe.

I was reading a fascinating book last night, filled with historical delights (The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican by Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner, HarperCollins) and they dropped this bombshell:

Architectural design as a metaphor is so important in classic Jewish thought— later adopted by the Neoplatonic school— that it is linked with the beginning of monotheism and Abraham’s discovery of God. How did Abraham come to the startling conclusion that there must be a single, unique Creator? The Midrash explains that Abraham, living in a pagan world, at first could not conceive of a Higher Power. One day, however, “Abraham passed a palace with beautifully constructed rooms, magnificently tended lawns and intricately planned surroundings and suddenly said to himself, ‘Is it possible that all this came into being on its own without builder or architect? Of course that is absurd. And so too must be the case with this world. Its ingenious design bespeaks a Designer’” (B’resheet Rabbah, 39: 1). It was the concept of a Divine Architect that brought the idea of One God to humanity.

The focus of my interest, Michelangelo, had secretly studied Torah, the Kabbalah, and various Midrashes. People who are focussed on the Christian tradition steadfastly ignore Jewish literature that they have not appropriated, like the Midrashes which are commentaries by scholars on their Bible. (Unlike Christianity, Judaism encourages questioning scripture and seeking answers and these commentaries are just that: questions and the answers they came up with.)

This Midrash states unequivocally that the creator of the major monotheistic religions, Abraham, was stirred to do so solely from the argument from design!

Wow, does this mean our current crop of creationists, those hewing to the concept of Intelligent Design, are right?

Allow me to re-examine the argument from design, with a slightly different focus.

The Teleological Argument Against Gods
It is claimed “This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.” (Isaac Newton).
1. The statement that “This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being” is at best an opinion.
2. An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infallible god would never allow his believers to use opinions as proofs.
3. Therefore, if the proof is true then God does not exist.

The grand conclusion is that Abraham based his claim for there being but one god, and not many, on the argument being true, but if the argument is true, then there cannot be a god or gods, then we can conclude that there are no gods by the argument from contradiction (something cannot be both true and false, right and wrong, etc.).

Ta da!

Abraham proved himself wrong!

Postscript If you are a student of history or just like good political intrigue, this is a fabulous book. All kinds of secret messages are buried in the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, including the current Pope being given the finger! In it you will also learn that in this time period, the Blood Libel was rampant. (Jesus was killed by the Jews, get them! This of course, totally ignores basic facts, like if Jesus were not killed, Christianity wouldn’t exist, plus these people believed their God controlled all things, so how could the Jews have done otherwise than God’s desire, to have His Son sacrificed? That these same people claim to prove the existence of their god by logic stretches credulity.) One consequence of this widespread Jewish persecution was that Jewish doctors were forbidden to practice their medicine on Christians (or else!) … well, except for the Popes, all of whom had a Jewish doctor on staff. (You have to draw a line between doctrine and stupidity apparently.) Hypocrisy, thy name is religion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 20, 2016

A Origins of Monotheism

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:30 am
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I have been writing about sporting equipment lately. Too often athletes using a piece of equipment and liking it offer opinions that are unfounded. They say “My whatzit is the best” and “This is the best whozewhatsit on the market.” These enthusiastic and uniformed opinions are apparently human nature. Various forms are used to create such “endorsements.” Some say that their thingie is as good as the “best thingie available.,” as in “It is as good as a Mercedes but much cheaper.” Others start with how good their piece of gear is and then switch to deriding the comparable items: “Oh, they’re good but way overpriced.” or “Those are overrated.”

That got me thinking about the progression of the Hebrews in the Bible from being a polytheistic bunch to being monotheistic. Even using the chronology of the Bible, much of the Bible wasn’t written down until very late in their history and that which was was kept away from the hoi polloi (many of whom couldn’t read in any case). But you can see the progression in the Bible itself, what with the Hebrews starting to drift away from Yahweh worship the minute Moses takes a walk up a mountain. Even well later Temple leaders struggled to get the people to accept that there was only one god worth their worship, to the point of enforcing it with regulation and Temple soldiers. Even through that period, there were still comments about people building little shrines to other gods up in the hills and it took quite a long time to root them out.

So, what we see, in the scriptures of all three “major” monotheistic religions is a people who were quite comfortable worshiping a multitude of gods. Then there are religious authorities working over time to get them to only worship one god. (This didn’t happen in Greece and Rome. In those traditions the religious leaders simply decided to “go along to get along.”)

So, if you were a religious leader and trying everything you could to convince people to worship just one god, what would you say? You would say things about how good our god was and how many good things were given to us, god’s chosen people. Here scripture has a very mixed record because Yahweh doesn’t treat His chosen people well at all. Any time the Hebrews got their asses kicked by an opponent, the religious leaders claimed that their god, Yahweh, made it happen to punish them for their transgressions against Yahweh. When King David incurs Yahweh’s wrath, He punishes the King by killing several tens of thousands of David’s subjects. (David, being part of the 1% gets special treatment.) If I were one of the “chosen people” so treated I would not look on that as being especially worthy of worship.

“(Your gods) are weak and puny and can’t do squats until they pass out …”

Usually you blame bad stuff on the other guy’s god, but that would introduce the question “How come their god kicked our god’s ass?” and that just wouldn’t do. So, you say wonderful stuff about your god (he loves you, he gave you the entire Earth to do with as you will, he gives you slaves to work and virgins to bed as you like, he is a really cool god), then at the same time, you denigrate the other gods. They are weak and puny and can’t do squats until they pass out … (Sorry, I slipped into Arnold Swartzenegger there.). They are false gods, they are evil, they vote Roman, whatever they could come up with. And there is only a small next step between those “other gods” being “false gods” to being “nonexistent gods” … “There is no god but Allah.”

It is not at all strange that the big push for monotheism came when Jews were allowed back into Palestine from Babylon and allowed to rebuild the temple that was destroyed. They could convince themselves that they had been “punished” because they hadn’t done Yahweh right and that they were now back in His good graces, so they better not eff up again. There was more than a little pressure to toe the party line. (And they did create this story line, pretty much out of whole cloth, that too, can be found in scripture.)

This very human tendency to ratchet up the criticism of “others,” and exaggerate the praise of what is ours can be seen in our current campaigns for political office, in fan behaviors at sporting contests, and in general discourse, even with regard to selecting what sporting equipment to buy.

So, monotheism, in my mind, most probably evolved from polytheism due to overzealous religious officials trying to tout their god and denigrate the gods of others. You can see how it happened by reading scripture.

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