Everyone wants to do things of earthshaking importance. So, religions come in to provide the do-big delusion on demand. Following the demand-and-supply mechanism, in purely mercantile fashion, literalist religiosity flourishes to produce nothing but kidnapping, assassination, airline hijacking, suicide bombing, mass murder, inquisitions, crusades, anti-Semitism, 9/11 and Mumtaz Qadri
At the time when the notable fragment of humanity is imitating Abraham’s sacrifice, let us dig deeper into his legacy. By digging deeper into Abrahamic legacy, I mean making it known, a little less mysterious, baffling and intimidating. By this rethinking, we will determine whether Abrahamic legacy is creation of healthy minded religious virtuous souls or a tool for pathologically diseased, unbalanced psychotic crooks who enslave people and make hell for heaven.
Abraham, the Hebrew patriarch and father of great monotheistic religions made an awkward move in a defining era in of world history called axial age. He lifted an insignificant tribal deity El and elevated it to the status of one true God. The sooner El was raised to the status of full-fledged God; He came to life.
“I would name you Yahweh and make you the only true God of my descendants”. The patriarch spoke to Him.
Yahweh was a demanding God. And every time our patriarch would satisfy His demand, He would become more challenging and the patriarch, some way or other, had to fulfil demands. Yahweh made him left Ur, in Mesopotamia, to sow his “seed” as He promised him to inherit the land.
Contemporary scholarship calls the period from 800 to 200 BC axial age for an interesting characteristic of this period. For, it was the period when, without any obvious transmission of ideas from one civilization to another, humankind was revolutionizing its thinking all across the globe. During this age major eastern religions, Taoism, Confucianism in China and Buddhism, Samkhya System and Jainism in ancient India were emphasizing materialist determinism in life cycle. In the same period, in China and India, secular trends of thought emerged. Ancient Indian seculars like Uddalaka and Makkalai and ancient Chinese humanists like Yang Chu, Hsu”-tzu, and Wang Chong in 3rd and 4th centuries B.C. had began to question God who interferes with human affairs. In the same period, Greek rationalism was flourishing in Athens.
But our patriarch, in the same period, crafts an ever testing God who was more interested in human affairs than Godly acts. Yahweh, this new God, made several demands but two of them were of onerous urgency: killing his son in name of God and destroying the very temple wherefrom He was lifted. The son, however, was changed with a ram but pagan hunting became a constant theme of the religion he founded.
So far story of son-and-ram is concerned; some notable anthropologists and historians say that this sacrifice symbolically represents a shift in rituals when human sacrifice was replaced with that of animal. However, on the other hand, we note, by digging somewhat deeper, that religious violence also tends to put greater emphasis on the symbolic part of the terrorist acts.
However, for critics of Abrahamic faiths, God’s abovementioned demands are at the very roots of subsequent infidel-branding, land-grabbing and killing which appears, time and again, as an essential motif of Abrahamic brand of monotheism. Hebrew Scriptures reveal that God, crafted by our patriarch, would no longer bear His ex counterparts and higher-ups being worshipped and offered services and sacrifices.
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14).
We can quote thousands of passages, from Hebrew bible, with reference to God expressing this jealousy, supporting violence and commanding to kill humans. For example, here is King James Version; of 21st Century which translates God’s central command in this way:
“And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them. Thou shalt make no covenant with them nor show mercy any unto them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2).
Following this divine command, as Torah states, Israelites devastated entire ethnic groups, killed all Amalekites including women and innocent children (1 Samuel 15:1-20 ).
Apologists believe these accounts to be metaphorical. If we accept their claim, a question arises that God, the omniscient, should know well that majority of human population is essentially literalist and have strong tendency to concretize the metaphors or symbols. Wasn’t God a taking a grave and heartless risk by camouflaging His message in metaphorical language?
If science, realizing this problem, can evolve a universal scientific language why not God who knows better according to the phrase we use many times a day? Has God, as a conscious craftsman been trying to hide His message of love behind violent words for He too was left with no other way, like James Joyce, to gain immortality?
Here, I am not denying the importance of symbol but, when religionists try to prove their religion to be scientific, they become literalists. When literalism is criticised on above grounds, they insist on symbolic interpretation.
They, however, do not realize that the very nature of symbol is its fluidity, its watery disposition, its suppleness and so, in most cases, translation and explanation evaporate its very essence as symbol, like language, it carries its culture with it and it demands a whole range of inalienable cognitive associations.
Moreover, symbol is not for all. Symbol can only be understood by great artists, poets, and creative geniuses. If very nature of scriptures is symbolic; then they should neither be translated nor interpreted because translation and interpretation concretize the symbols.
But everyone wants to do things of earthshaking importance. So, religions come in to provide the do-big delusion on demand. Following the demand-and-supply mechanism, in purely mercantile fashion, literalist religiosity flourishes to produce nothing but kidnapping, assassination, airline hijacking, suicide bombing, mass murder, inquisitions, crusades, anti-Semitism, 9/11 and Mumtaz Qadri.
One can ask that religion and violence are compatible but they are not identical. That is true but non-religious violence can easily be declared as unfair and punishable, even by insiders, but in religious violence, one feels and if one was channelled by higher forces and so, violence is done with the sense of righteousness as a Godly act.
Moreover, as we have already seen, scriptures of Abrahamic lineage command smiting, destruction, showing no mercy to enemies of God, slaying the idolaters after sacred months, taking them captives, besieging and preparing to ambush (verse of sword); the legacy of our common patriarch becomes even more dangerous when we see that the religions, he fathers to, are innately exclusivists and inevitably encourage violence against those who are branded outsiders. Each of the Abrahamic religion claims exclusive divine favour and creates a sense of unaccommodating righteousness and superiority which may cause nothing more than hostility.
When faith-based exclusivism is owned by a state; the net result of this unsafe union is nothing but magnified havoc. In religious states, huge armies of mortal youth are kept to fight eternal God’s battles and perform His revenge.
All this happens under the nose of the mobs sniffing blasphemy but, in this case, they are not programmed to smell their own masters. If some state or institution declares it’s very rationale to be fighting God’s battles and performing His revenge the state or certain institute, in other words, is saying that God is incapable of fighting His own battles and He would be in great trouble if we would not go for His help.
It is obvious that if we continue to contribute to the legacy of destruction; the time of global extinction will get closer and closer.
As we have seen, Abrahamic faiths, right from the axial age to the day, have been used as superstition-based methods cunningly devised for keeping people subservient and others terrorized. Opportunist politicians and dictators have used them to manufacture popular consent to extend their powers, mullahs, with the superstitious pulls of religions, have managed to enslave humanity—and see the atrociousness of their triumph—people, petrified in slavery, are kissing and worshipping their chains and shackles!
Jamshed Iqbal is a media critic, freelance writer & peace activist.