Class Warfare Blog

July 19, 2019

God’s Powers—Omnipresence

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:11 am
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♫ He’s making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice
He sees you when you’re sleepin’
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

You better watch out, you better not cry
Better not pout, I’m telling you true
God is always watching . . . you! ♪

It seems that all of the powers attributed to the Abrahamic god are based upon what the god-believers want that god to do. Take for example, omnipresence. If this god is to be the judge of all humanity, he can’t be going about staging trials. He needs to be witness, judge, jury, and executioner. So, in order for people to not be able to hide from this god, it needs to know what you are doing all of the time. In order to “see” your misdeeds he has to be where he can see them, so he has to be omnipresent (and awake 24-7, and not distractible, and . . . , and. . . .).

To “explain” this ability, some theists have claimed that their god is “outside of space and time,” aka nowhere, while others have claimed this god is everywhere. In Gordian knot solution mode, Anselm claimed that both of those were true (and also claimed he resolved the conflict between them)!

To be omnipresent, this god is claimed to be a purely spiritual being. Of course, every time such a claim is made, problems accrue. For example, to make us “special,” it is claimed that we are made “in God’s image.” If this god is a being of pure spirit, existing outside of space and time, it has no image, so WTF? Every additional claim for a godly power creates conflicts with its other powers and makes the whole mess less and less likely. And starting from below 1% likelihood, going lower is not easy.

All of these “power problems” stem from one source: an insistence on monotheism. Who is going to be attracted to worship a god which is kinda great and sorta powerful and knows a lot of stuff? Establishing a monotheistic worship in a mostly polytheistic world is asking for a lot of competition.

This results in the social inflation of the monotheistic god’s powers. (Polytheist: My god is so powerful that he can throw lightning bolts at his enemies. Monotheist: Oh yeah, my god. . . .) The only end result for a monotheistic god’s powers is the most, the strongest, the greatest, the hugest, . . . , hmm, maybe Donald Trump is religious.

This all comes back to my basic question: why monotheism? By claiming to worship the One True God™, who is the only real god, means that everybody else is worshiping false gods and are very stupid to be doing so. This attitude doesn’t exactly ingratiate one to one’s neighbors.

Imagine living in a suburban neighborhood and when you moved in, your immediate neighbor to the left, built a tall fence so that he and his family did not have to look at you, forbade his children from playing with yours, gossiped to his neighbors on the other side that you were immoral idolaters and would come to no good. Can you imagine becoming friends with those people any time soon? Can you imagine them being good neighbors?

Imagine these standoffish neighbors, are surrounded by people like you, so there are now tall fences on all four property lines. They no longer gossip with their neighbors, but they continue to write letters to the editor of the local newspaper condemning the immoral, demon worshipers in their community.

A community of people not desiring to blend in, assimilate, or compromise anything aren’t going to be liked. If you think this is an uncharitable portrait, look up the ultraorthodox Jewish communities in New York right now and see what kinds of issues they are dealing with.

So, the Hebrews, situated in a high traffic land between largish superpowers of the day, adopt monotheism, thereby picking a fight with everyone around them. How did that work out for them as a people?

And please, comments that I am “blaming the victim” for what happened to them is not what I am doing. I am trying to get at why there was a push to convert the Hebrews from polytheism to monotheism (and then hand off that hot mess to Christians and Muslims).

For those of you that think “Hebrews? Polytheism? Weren’t they always monotheists? The answer is: not according to their Bible. Over and over again, those pushing monotheism (remember the winners write the histories) warned about worshiping false idols, false gods, building altars in “high places,” etc. If they were all monotheists, then why all the warnings? Israelite monotheism seems to date back to the seventh century BCE, but not earlier.

From the Biblical story lines and other histories it seems that the only beneficiaries of monotheism were the religious elites, the priests. The secular elites, kings and whatnot, inherited grief, grief, and more grief, so they were not all that rewarded by monotheism. The common people? They always were keeping their heads down, trying to avoid the attention of the elites. And, while a few busybodies were always looking to count coup on their neighbors, those people always had ammunition for their pettiness, monotheism didn’t provide any more of that.

So, why monotheism? The downsides were huge and the upsides were few. Any ideas?

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June 26, 2019

Evolution of the Gods—Why Monotheism?

The Hebrews invented monotheism by all accounts. Prior to the invention of monotheism, everyone was in some form a polytheist. (I know this is not strictly accurate but I am not chopping details at the moment.) Now, it wasn’t exactly the case that polytheism did not work. It worked very, very well for what religions do. All of the positive benefits of, say, Christianity, can just as easily be attributed to polytheism, but polytheism actually offers more. The “more” in this case is religious tolerance. If one traveled in the ancient world, one ran into batshit crazy beliefs of all stripes. People believed the world was created by a god vomiting, or a god masturbating, etc. But people were used to different beliefs because they themselves “believed” in multiple gods. (The word belief is maybe a bit loaded for this situation. Gods were part of the fabric of society. Not believing in them was similar to not believing in goats or streets or armies. Not believing was not much of an option. )

The Romans made a great deal of hay out of this as they were a typical smash and grab civilization (their continued existence was based upon looting), different from others only with regard to the sheer size of the effort, and the first thing they would do when they conquered a people was to define a correspondence between the gods of the conquered people and the Roman gods. The Romans felt, rightly I think, that if people were forced to worship strange gods they would resist Roman rule more than if they were allowed to keep their own, comfortable, well broken in gods. So, the Greeks had a messenger god (Hermes) that was equated to the Roman messenger god, Mercury. Any conquered people who had a messenger god would be told that the Romans also worshiped “their god” but they just called him Mercury. Since they worshiped the same gods, they were less alien to one another and the assimilation could begin. The Romans invested a great deal of effort in doing this, keeping extensive records on these correspondences (in the Office of Cults, or some such bureaucratic group).

So, polytheism was perking along quite nicely, and the Hebrews were not different in this. The conversion of their religion from polytheism to monotheism shows up quite clearly, even if all you have to study is the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament). So, I know this is quite a long set up, but my question is simple: why monotheism?

It is now clear that this transition to “pure” monotheism began in the late seventh century BCE (thousands of years after the supposed times on the earlier OT). The effort lead to the first written Hebrew Bibles a couple of hundred years later, written by the same kinds of people. So who were these people? My guess is that I don’t think you will be surprised to find out that it wasn’t the common people. They couldn’t read or write and weren’t interesting in much more than the survival of themselves and their families. The only people capable of such a campaign were the elites. As the story is told (in Kings, if memory serves) the “priests” “discovered” an “old” document that clarified their religion for them. The King, being a representative of God on Earth (an anointed king, that’s what that means), had this document read from the ramparts of his city, and ordered all of the people to come, hear, and pay heed. If the Bible is to be believed, the message didn’t get out into the hustings at all quickly, nor was it enforced well, as polytheistic practices continued for centuries after this event.

So, this “found” document. What was it? It was a declaration of pure monotheism and the rites need to follow it.

So, one answer to the “why?” question is simply to say that God revealed His true desires this way . . . but that is a specious response. Why did he wait so long? Why wasn’t it clear from the beginning? Why was the worshiping of “false gods” tolerated for so long? And so on. Even the fundamentalists who believe that the Earth is only a bit over 6000 years old would be hard pressed to explain why Yahweh waited until about 2600 years ago to explain the rules of the game.

So, why monotheism, really?

Polytheism has religious tolerance built into it. Monotheism has religious intolerance built into it. When you worship the One True God™ all other gods are false gods. Worshiping them becomes abominable (literally). Your worship is right and correct, theirs is wrong headed and it undermines the worship of the One True God™. Recall that the Christians did not get in trouble with the Romans because they worshiped the OTG™. They got into trouble because they wouldn’t add the emperor to the list of gods to receive worship. What was a simple thing for polytheists was an immensely troubling thing for the Christians. The Christians, in addition, found themselves tying themselves into knots to preserve the illusion of being monotheistic, creating bizarre concepts such as the Trinity. All of the “other” gods and demigods got makeovers or erased. (If Satan isn’t a god, a being powerful enough to oppose Yahweh and still exist, then what is a god?)

Monotheism does cause problems but it also increases team member commitment to the team.

So, why? Why did the elites care to make this change? The obvious answer is power. Later when Christianity became a state religion of Rome, a whole bunch of pagan temples, pagan land, pagan wealth flowed into the hands of the elites. The more lands you got, the more money, the more power you had. (Consider the display of wealth that is the Vatican, all considered “necessary” for the Pope who is a head of state.) Prior to this Roman adoption, Christians didn’t have churches. Afterward they did. The Romans insisted they have “temples” just like all of the other cults.

So, the Hebrew elites (all were religious because you could not be an elite and not be a religious figure) pushed this change and the more power they gathered to themselves, the more they pushed it. (You don’t go faster hitting the brake pedal.) That power was really just in the central halls of government (palaces and temple) but most everybody prefers to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small one in a big pond.

There really is no other reason. To make it a theological decision, instead of a political decision for example, there is much more to explain, as indicated by some of the above with little in the way of ready explanations. Granted this monotheism brought down criticisms of fanaticism and worse, but Jews tended to be fairly highly regarded because of their consistency. Of course, the Roman elites rarely encountered “ordinary” Hebrews outside of battles and then Roman soldiers were the only ones allowed to touch them. The Roman elites interacted with priests, rulers, merchants and the like. They didn’t even collect their own taxes, they sold the tax receipts to entrepreneurial Hebrews (as tax farmers), which is why “tax collectors” were widely despised. So, the regard for Jews by “the Roman elites” was of the “Jewish elites.” Those rich/powerful people, they sure stick together. This seems to be rooted in their common pursuit of ever more political power.

February 6, 2019

The Mistake of Monotheism

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

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?

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
Tags: , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , ,

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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