Saturday, February 26, 2011
Putting My Cards on the Table
King David seduced Bathsheba, the wife of one of his Captains (Uriah) and for this seduction he was punished. King Arthur's Guinevere had an adulterous affair with Lancelot. The story of human frailty has concerned us for as long as we have had an imagination and provided the subject for morality tales probably for almost as long. We do not deify human beings or rather we should not allow it to happen. But it does, and it places their crimes outside of morality, sanctifying evil. And then we mimic the worst aspects of our idols flawed human personality.
If our era is known for one thing it will be that we have been driven to worship without ever considering its consequences. Rock stars, royalty, footballers, big breasted women, gangsters, politicians and priests have all been objects of our adoration; the list is endless of those whom we imitate in a desperate desire to be somehow touched.
The global press by kowtowing to extremism has encouraged violence and is unlikely to be sympathetic to critical comparisons of differing histories. But a more pernicious reason for this obsequious and too often conciliatory demeanor is that commercial considerations lead to society justifying and then condoning asymmetrical morality.
I am going to put my religious cards on the table. I do not believe that I or anyone else is in some way born to possess superior ethics. The soul is a fiction that was created at a time of ignorance and fear and now exploited by those who want to separate us all into neatly defined categories so that they may condemn us and make use of the invisible and indefinable for their own greed. The soul is the Emperors new clothing for the intellectual and the theologian. We are all given choices in our life. My convictions are perhaps no better and no worse than anyone else’s religious beliefs. Unless that is, you insist on telling me that your faith, or your way of life is superior to mine. Because history has consistently demonstrated that power is a stronger driver than ethics, and religion is the perfect vehicle for intolerance, paving the road to conquest by discrimination and terror.
Respect is an absolute that we have lost. The one test that humanity has consistently failed is to put itself into the place of the ‘other’. Hillel reduced this to a simple formula, he said ‘do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you, all else is commentary.’ Perhaps it is time for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be reissued, replacing Jews in the fantasy with Muslims and Christians; to lose its meaning, obscenity has to be generic not specific, but human empathy is emotional, not intellectual, and we learn to respect others from fear, not principle.
Ken Stern, director of Antisemitism and extremism for the American Jewish Committee neatly summarized it this way: "One of the ways I determine whether bigotry applies in a situation is to take the same scenario, change some of the players and see if the same results apply."
We are told that we should not dwell on the aspects of God because as speculation it is unprovable and therefore a waste of human energy; time is better spent doing good deeds. But men have created gods of terrible power and brutality. Justice and mercy is consigned to followers only and denied to the ‘other’. Men may have recorded the words of their gods but they fashioned them in their human image. If God was a man we should laugh at him because one does not kill in the name of an object of fun.
I do not believe that my god is the misogynistic bigot society portrays her to be. I do not believe her to be the destroyer of worlds, the polluter of planets and the misanthrope who tortures and kills. Instead I look at the beauty around me and I am certain that God is a woman.