Monday, June 25, 2007

The Impeachment of Jehovah: Introduction

Since getting onto the subject of the Old Testament in FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS, I’ve received accusations of “selective prosecution” – that is of picking on the on Old Testament (and therefore on Judaism). Why am I writing satirically about Yahweh/Jehovah (different versions of the same name) and not about the New Testament, or Buddhism, or Confucianism, or Islam? Why will my next post be called, “The Impeachment of Jehovah”?

I now answer with several reasons in addition to, “I feel like it.”

It started when Wombat made a comment about the fictional Babelfish on Strange Questions from a Strange Mind That prompted me to reread the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, which in turn led me to think that any god figure which destroys the unity and collaboration of mankind and dooms it to misunderstanding and war is more bad (or insane) than good.

So, I was moved by those chance events to write “Nice Guy, Jehovah” (May 25). Of course I was aware that the Babel legend, like much else in the Bible, existed long before the Hebrew tribe incorporated it into their biblical books, but I wasn’t writing a history of mythology. I was writing a satirical piece on Jehovah as presented to me in my culture. During my Protestant childhood I was indoctrinated with large doses of the Old Testament and told that it was absolute truth dictated by God to His prophets. That is a major reason that the Jewish scriptures – and not some other scriptures – have become my target.

I am not being blasphemous because, for me, the Old Testament Jehovah is not God, but rather the anthropomorphic creation of an ancient, aggressive tribe. And so when I make fun of Jehovah and the Old Testament stories I am not making fun of God, but instead of a figment whose attributes and pronouncements served the political and other self-interests of a particular tribe – as by making the tribe Yahweh’s chosen people and elevating Yahweh above all other gods for good measure. Judaism as developed in the Old Testament is politics raised to a cosmic level.

I have no inclination to satirize the Eastern religions and spiritual philosophies as embodied, for example, in Taoism or the Sanskrit scriptures because they are entirely different from tribal myths and appeal to me as enlightened and profound philosophy. A sage once said that all religions could be a path to God, but only if their message is one of love and compassion. A far cry from Yahweh’s territorial conquests and bloody smiting and “eye for an eye” revenge.

A particular reason for “picking on” the Old Testament with a clear conscience is its use to this day as a supposed justification for the brutal colonization and daily rape of Palestine by European and American Zionist Jews. The Old Testament is supposed to be their real estate deed to property which has belonged to other people for at least the last 2000 years. Where would all those Christian “I love Israel” and “God Loves Israel” bumper stickers be without the Old Testament myths? And when honest Jewish historians and archeologists undermine the Old Testament mythology, as they frequently do these days, a loud wail of disapproval goes up from the Zionists because archaeological evidence and historical truth are being put above Israel’s political interests as represented in the Old Testament’s false history.

I believe that a myth should be critiqued differently when it is asserted to be literally true – particularly when it is put forth as proof of divine approval or disapproval of certain human actions – than when a myth is recognized to be a myth. Myths are rich in meanings beyond words but run aground and beg for ridicule if taken literally, especially if used to support the supremacy or rightness of one group above another.


  1. Although I loathe the abuse of religion and the Zionist propaganda that has infected the Christian religion, there are parts of the 'Old Testament' that are exceedingly beautiful:

    'Lord who rules over all,
    how lovely is the place where you live!
    2 I long to be in the courtyards of the Lord's temple.
    I deeply long to be there.
    My whole being cries out
    for the living God.
    3 Lord who rules over all,
    even the sparrow has found a home near your altar.
    My King and my God,
    the swallow also has a nest there,
    where she may have her young.
    4 Blessed are those who live in your house.
    They are always praising you.'

    Here is a god who welcomes the wild birds into his temple, to nest safely near the altar. I think that the 'fire and brimstone' and imperialist aspects should be winnowed out, allowing the rest to stand. One can't completely disregard a book that has inspired so much in Western art, literature and music.

  2. As ever dear Fleming I agree with the main thrust of your piece (! do you believe me?)

    But the uncritical acceptance by the non-religious of gentle Jesus and the entire set of oriental scriptures is an Achilles heel of progressive Western thought. (See my latest piece and you'll see I too was a victim.)

    The association of the Old Testament with political extremism is a mere grain in the hour-glass, an irritating grit in the eye of history.

    Israel's brief glory is little more than sixty years, beset by the same attacks of Philistines and Moabites .

    I was reading the book of Job last night and struck by its poetry; and recalled that in English villages for centuries if you were lucky to receive any schooling, you might never know any book but the Bible, whose imagery would fill your head as you scythed the ripened wheat fields, and dug ditches, and bent young hawthorns and maples to make hedges.

    In those days violence was more endemic, with public hangings, soldiers mown down in hundreds in every battle, vast gulfs between rich and poor.

    Slaves dreamed of redress, using the Old and New Testaments to fuel their aspirations for justice and relief.

    Darwin came, Nietzsche came: new prophets. The old certainties have withered, and Jehovah---this is where I agree with you---needs to be relegated to the shelves of classic fiction.

  3. Freyashawk, I would be much more open to whatever is beautiful in the Bible if I approached it fresh, without still feeling from my childhood its heavy weight as a psychological bludgeon. I believe that you had an upbringing which enables you to see the Bible without a lot of dreary and frightening psychological baggage.

    I should add that my parents did not at all use the Bible as a bludgeon, but the simple act of subjecting an impressionable and imaginative child to Sunday School classes and church sermons takes a terrible toll. One of the great wishes of my life is that I could wipe out all of that.

  4. VIncent, as always you've sent a worthwhile and thought-provoking comment. In this case, for some reason, I just don't know what to say except "Thank you." I am going to read the post on your blog which you mentioned.

    Thanks for the interesting comment.

  5. whoever the chap was in the old testament that was laying waste to entire populations he/she/it was no messenger of love and compassion.

    more like a model for hitler or any one of a string of mad popes.

    i was fortunate enough to be raised in the gentle telling of a loving jesus in the anglican church in rural berkshire in the sixties.

    for that i wull be eternally grateful.

    taking the old testament as gospel truth gives angry souls the permission to anything and everything from cutting people off on the highway to acts of terror.

  6. Well said, Alistair. I'm glad you agree with me -- and I'm glad that you were spared a lot of the Old Testament garbage. I like this that you wrote: "taking the old testament as gospel truth gives angry souls the permission to anything and everything from cutting people off on the highway to acts of terror." It also gives some people an excuse to lord it over the other animals and kill them at will.

    It occurs to me that my Sunday School may have been mostly about gentle, loving Jesus, and that it was my mistake to read the Old Testament (and the terrifying book of Revelation) . . . but after all, it was all supposed to be the word of God. But I'm beginning to think that some Christian denominations pay much more attention to the Old Testament than others. You would think that a truly Christian church would devote itself entirely to the New Testament.

  7. As I understand it the Rastafarians read a lot of the Old Testament and no one could have a gentler attitude than they.

  8. it is interesting that i was adopted into a household where my father was catholic and my mother was c of e.

    we went to the church of england because they accepted any and all without the rituals of indoctrination and my father couldn`t gain my mother`s agreement of baptism and confirmation as catholic for myself and my brother.

    i consider myself lucky as a result.

    such archaic mind control is an artifact of feudal tyranny that is emerging again as the literate fragmented individual man once again becomes absorbed into the tribal matrix thanks to the internet.
    (a view held by marshall mcluhan that i tend to agree with.)

    the game called by macciavelli and w. shakespeare in starting all over again.

  9. Vincent, I can't resist. After reading about the Rastafarians and their beliefs, the muses visited this upon me:

    I've never seen a Rastafari
    I never hope to see one;
    But I can tell you, anyhow,
    I'd rather see than be one.

  10. I would join the Rastas tomorrow, or perhaps soon, if I were the joining kind, and if I smoked the holy herb, and if I could worship anyone at all, let alone the Emperor Haile Selassie. The fact that I am white with hair that won't easily form dreadlocks, would not put me off at all.

    So I'll ask you to respect the religion of others, Mr Lee!

  11. Well, my witty friend Vincent, I’ll just say this about that:

    1. The bone that stuck in my throat was acknowledging the Emperor Haile Selassie to be God incarnate and part of the Holy Trinity. I never got past that in my study of Rastafari. (I should actually have favourably disposed because the best sandwich at the Ocean Deck Restaurant is “Rasta Chicken” . . . but I never knew until today that the name of my favourite sandwich had religious significance. The restaurant claims they were given the recipe by a Caribbean islander who couldn’t pay his liquor bill.)

    2. I’m not impressed with a God incarnate who died of respiratory complications and is not reported to have risen from the dead, even if he did wear a pretty uniform. I mean, how can you worship a God incarnate who is no longer carnate?

    3. As far as the dreadlocks are concerned, I believe that God is no respecter of hairdos.

    4. I don’t want to be unfair, but my quick look at Rasta forces me to put it in the same category as religious myths claimed to be literally true and therefore a fair target for inspection and mockery. I respect the believers and their freedom to believe, but not the claimed literal truths of their beliefs. I have the same problem with the origins of Mormonism even though the Mormons seem to be happier and more successful than a lot of groups. Obviously the psychological and spiritual effects of what a person believes are more important than the objective truth of the beliefs.

  12. Well, now. You have just made me realise something, Fleming. Subscribing to a religion is just like falling in love---with a person or thing.

    You let yourself be blind to its faults because you are in need of the benefits of perfection.

    If I am looking for a religion---I can imagine it though I am not---I'll be influenced in various ways and if I have choice I will choose one and then ignore its obvious faults.

    The Bhagavad Gita is a very attractive little book to certain kinds of seekers, however Lord Krishna, who has incarnated as Arjuna's charioteer, advises Arjuna not to bother about the dilemma that the enemy includes his close friends and relatives including those who taught him to fight. "They're dead already, so kill 'em!" he exhorts. The reader is troubled by this advice, but what the heck, let's assume it's symbolism, and anyway, it's just a book.

    In other words, every ointment has a fly, every works is jammed by a spanner, every woodpile conceals a . . .

    Where were we?

  13. Vincent, you have said a book full in that last comment. Your idea that adhering to a religion is like falling in love will always stay with me. Unfortunately falling in love,while one of the most happy and exciting things that can happen to a person, has also been considered a form of temporary insanity. . . as you explain in your second paragraph.


  14. Vincent, congratulations on your new blog, QUOTIDIAN STUFF. I just looked at your first post there and am as impressed as I anticipated I would be. I don't like to make comparisons among bloggers, but your original blog, A WAYFARER'S NOTES -- --
    has already established that you are one of the most gifted and insightful writers on the Internet. You deserve a lot of readers, and I hope you soon have them.