The Bible and Koran encourage and condone the worst aspects of human behavior: war, slavery, necrophilia, cruelty to animals, anthropocentrism, suicide, starvation, racism, xenophobia, blind faith, sexism, homophobia, nepotism, denial of reality, self flagellation, dichotomous thinking, torture, human sacrifice, symbolic cannibalism, and other insults to reason. The result has been to distort and pervert the worldview of all who cherish these religious beliefs and have faith in the dictates and promises of professional clerics.
Consider the suffering and misery that war has caused since the agricultural revolution and the inception of private property. You don’t have to be much of a guru to preach that war is the saddest and most unfortunate misery to plague any species. War is mostly unknown in the animal world except for a few insects (mostly ants) and with chimps in occasional skirmishes over territory due to human-caused shrinking of habitat. The Bible and Koran not only permit but encourage the faithful to pick up arms and bash the skulls of enemies, usually members of other tribes or people with dissimilar religious beliefs.
There are a myriad of quotations permitting or encouraging war. Here’s just a few:
Josh 8:1-2 The Lord then said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or dismayed. Take all the army with you and prepare to attack Ai. I have delivered the king of Ai into your power with his city, people and land. … take its spoil and livestock as booty.”
Ex 15:3 The Lord is a warrior. Lord is his name.
2 Kings 18:20 Do you think mere words substitute for the strategy and might of war?
I could go on and on. The Bible contains scores of similar quotes. How different history might have been if the writers of the sacred scripture had realized that humans are evolving hominids in early stages. Humans are mammals that need as infants to suck milk and hug one another—that’s what “mammal” means. War wouldn’t have been glorified but used only as a last resort, like a cat with its back against the wall, to be endured only in absolute self defense whereby every citizen avers, I will only fight defending my own land. Without Biblical thinking fighting in Afghanistan would be considered “nuts.”
Hitler and the Nazis thought war was a natural condition, a unique characteristic of mankind. War was so familiar to every generation it was considered part of growing up. Because of Holy Scripture, insanity was considered acceptable and normal.
The Bible not once decries and condemns the institution of slavery. What kind of moralist do you have to be to state that it’s wrong to force another person to serve you? Any scriptural reference to slavery is usually as if it were a normal and acceptable condition—like having furniture.
I once heard a lecture by Professor Teofilo Ruiz of UCLA, an expert in medieval and early modern Spain. I have to admit I was amused at the childlike logic of the Conquistadors as they landed in the mid-1500s on the shores of West Africa and began to ravage and plunder its land and people:
The land belongs to God.
These half-naked savages are obviously children of the devil.
God would prefer that we own the land because we are righteous.
If we enslave them, these sub humans will have a chance to return to God’s grace.
See my essay on Haiti for the lowdown on what these monsters wrought on the New World paradise they named after the Inquisition sadist, St. Dominick. If the truth were known, I think the Haitians and Dominicans would repudiate and disclaim all Spanish influence and culture in the fashion of the way the remembrance of Stalin disappeared after Khrushchev’s denunciation. You can’t even spot a bust of Stalin in Moscow today except in a few storage rooms of defunct government buildings. <i>Vive la memoria de los Tainos</i>, the native tribe totally obliterated by the newcomers in order to send gold back to the motherland by the shipload.
Usually defined as an erotic attraction to corpses, in a broader sense it can refer to a love of death and repudiation of the living—what Freud called <i>mortido</i>. Machines, guns, cemeteries, horror movies, grim colors, Dracula flicks, what the kids call “Goth,” slaughter houses, the sight of blood, black tee-shirts with skulls and devil figures, the allure of the macabre. It’s what makes people crane their necks as they pass by a lurid accident.
Just walk into the nearest church; it’s all around. What a down! The Stations of the Cross showing the savior paying the price for being anointed. Somber colors everywhere—purple, dark brown, black. Christ on the cross glaring pitifully at the churchgoer as if to say, “Behold my sacrifice just for you.” Some churches even depict Romans soldiers whipping and scourging the unfortunate savior. Many of these paintings are on stained glass, always in dark somber colors to block out sunlight. In very old churches and monasteries the nearness of death is so prominent they feature morbid reliquaries in the courtyard replete with big piles of rotting bones in clear view, a reminder of what awaits the brainwashed faithful.
What could be more necrophilic than the lives of the saints? Most of them scorned life preferring execution even when they could have escaped their tormentors with a disavowal and a wink. Mother Theresa was noted for wanting to teach her followers how to die. She would instruct them in a building she called the House of the Dying. In a biophilic world, she would have been teaching her proselytes how to sing and dance, have a good time, enjoy life and engage in gratuitous and joyful sex.
The “Mother” of all stories about death-loving religious fanatics has to be the story of the Zealots of ninth-century Cordova Spain, as depicted in <i>The Age of Faith</i> by Will Durant, Part Four of <i>The Story of Civilization</i>. A pretty young girl named Flora was a child of a mixed marriage—Christian and Mohammadan. When her father died she resolved to become an uncompromised Christian. She fled from her brother’s protection to a Christian home, but was soon discovered and captured. After repeated beatings without success, she was brought to the Moslem court, the <i>qadi<i>, who might have beheaded her, but decided to beat her some more in one last feeble attempt to knock some sense into her. She soon escaped to a convent where she met a young priest Eulogius with whom she formed a spiritual bond. When a fellow priest named Perfectus heard her story, he became so incensed he marched into the Moslem court and started ranting about Mohammed being a “servant of Satan, impostor, adulterer, and child of hell.” The <i>qadi</i> thought he was crazy but decided to decapitate him anyway and the Christians of Cordova buried him “with the pomp of a saint (850 AD).”
Not to be outdone, Eulogius formed a group of monks, today known as the “Zealots” who were determined to denounce Mohammed publically and accept martyrdom joyfully just to make a point and show how stubborn they were. One by one over the next few months they ranted about the shortcomings of the Holy Prophet and one by one their heads plopped into the bloody execution basket. Over a dozen young men met death in this gruesome manner, all because the Holy Scriptures embraces death as the portal to heavenly bliss.
Cruelty to Animals
It was a sad day for the rest of the Animal Kingdom when some Iron Age fisherman or goat herder wrote:
Gen 1:28 God blessed them saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”
Can anyone deny the connection between this line and the fact that humans are growing over the planet like bacteria on a rotting apple? The population of the planet just a hundred years ago was around 1.6 billion. In spite of massive loss of life through WWI, the great flu of 1919 (killed one tenth of humanity), WWII, the Korean War, Viet Nam, Yugoslavia, AIDS, constant terrorism and two evangelical Bush administrations, the human growth curve has barely budged from its astronomical, multiplicative progression. We should reach seven billion this month as I write this paragraph. Population has quadrupled in less than a century and, thanks to Yahweh and Allah, shows no sign of abatement.
When I was in Catholic grammar school in the ‘50s, I could never understand what the SkyGod got out of watching a baby lamb’s throat slit—as in the story of Abraham and Isaac. Suppose I did that to you. "Oh, I love and honor you so much, I’m going to take this little puppy and bash its head in—just to demonstrate how much I respect your power."
Biblical thinking has separated humans from the animal kingdom in that people believe they have a soul and the animals do not. They interpret “dominion” to mean we have the right to enslave (beasts of burden), sacrifice, brand with glowing iron, hunt, kill for sport, eat and use animals for laboratory experiments. Biblical thinking has caused the extinction of approximately half the planet’s biodiversity in less than a century. We are losing 125 precious species every single day and the Great Tropical Rain Forest of Brazil at about half of what it was a century ago. Dr. David Jablonski of the University of Chicago, an expert on extinction, predicts that by mid-century most of the familiar life forms—lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants and most personally to us as a species, the great apes—will all be gone. Only some old photographs and computer images will be all that remain to add a sense of wonder and amazement to young humans. But it will never be the same; the guilt and regret will burn deeply on the human psyche. (See my essay on this on Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s website. I first wrote about this planetary tragedy in 1970.)
We have a soul and the animals do not. What anthropocentric nonsense! It’s as if the Bible gave humans an excuse to plunder and abuse the planet’s other life forms just for the fun and convenience of it. How wonderful and important is the work of Jane Goodall, who demonstrates convincingly that chimps have individuality, emotions and a unique personality just like we do.
Gen 1:26 Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”
Next to “fill the Earth and subdue it” in 1:28 and the line about “be fruitful and multiply,” this is the most damaging, arrogant, egotistic line in the entire cuckoo, goofy-ass book!
First of all, I thought the Bible was about monotheism. What the heck is the writer talking about “our image and our likeness”? The writers of the Pentateuch couldn’t even decide how many gods there are.
And to think that this omnivorous, crying, defecating, copulating, eructating, expectorating, perspiring, urinating and flatulating biped is the likeness of God! On routine study of biology, it’s pretty evident that we’re creatures of the Earth: we grew out of the Earth. Our bodies are composed of the materials of the Earth. We even store our genetic information in exactly the same way as every other creature on the Earth—including plants.
This delusion about being the image of God has turned mankind into a monster, nature’s Frankenstein. Consider what humans are doing to farm animals. There’s absolutely no respect for the fact that they living creatures just like we are. Confining beef cattle and hogs in narrow overcrowded chutes and pens is unconscionable. A veal calf spends its entire months-long life tethered by a six-foot chain to a iron post—completely alone, completely untouched by another of its own kind, completely confused and disconnected from life itself. Think of the horror of being born into such a condition. I once saw a video on the PETA website of a food factory worker grinding off the beak of a days-old chick. To my mind this is the equivalent of grinding off the facial features of a newborn baby, so as to leave two eyes, two air holes and a hole to pour in food.
We have to ask ourselves how we got so cruel, so sadistic. It’s only through some delusion, some false belief that we’re able to commit such evil. Humans are the image of God and must subdue the Earth. So humans fulfill their religious belief system through the terror of baby chicks and veal calves.
All the evils listed in this essay’s first-paragraph Pandora’s Box, all taken together, do not equal the suffering and misery caused by the benumbing, obtunding, beclouding, deadening of Earth Consciousness. Religion has divorced us from nature at the cost of destruction of biodiversity. Tethys, the great ocean, is the mother of life and deserves our love and respect. To the ancient Greeks she was the Titan from the union of Gaia and Uranus—the Earth and Sky. Tethys is real and tangible: we can swim, sail, use water to wash ourselves, surfboard, admire her vastness, watch a stunning sunset, cruise across the planet. It’s pleasurable just to be near her. Water is literally what we are and mammalian body temperature simulates the condition of the primordial ocean. But the Holy Virgin Mother Mary has usurped this love and admiration, such that we treat the mother ocean like a cesspool and pay homage to plastic figurines.
Only a creature spiritually lost and self alienated could be so cruel to other entire species—and not an occasional mindless killing, but an ongoing everyday event.
It could be argued that if the tables were turned, what would the cold-blooded reptiles and barn animals do to us? The Mesozoic Epoch was no place for a mammal; that’s why all mammals sleep; reptiles dominated. But that was before thought and reason evolved. Humans are capable of compassion and non-kinship, non-species altruism, but due to the anthropocentrism caused by religion, humans don’t see it that way and continue to plunder the other life forms.
If it weren’t for organized religion self-inflicted suicide would be a thing of the past. The Bible doesn’t say much on the subject, so our civil laws against suicide must be a consequence of “Thou shalt not kill.” It’s OK to use robot pilotless drones to blow people up on the other side of the world like in a video game, but for someone suffering from AIDS, or wasting away from Lou Gehrig’s disease, suicide is a no-no.
Suicide.org lists the 2001 U.S. suicide rate at 10.8 per 100,000 population. This number is spurious and meaningless, because, due to the political influence of religion, suicide happens to be illegal—as if the state could prevent you from committing suicide if you were determined to do so. The number would skyrocket if people with joyless, miserable, hopeless lives were allowed to end it. Legal euthanasia would virtually eliminate self-inflicted suicide.
To think this country put a man like Jack Kevorkian in prison as if he were a con man or corrupt politician. Kevorkian ended the suffering of over 130 people and didn’t get a thing out of it other than the humane satisfaction of being an agent of mercy. If a new religion based on the revelations of science ever develops, Jack should be considered for sainthood—along with perhaps Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin, Christopher Hitchens, and some of the great humanist/atheist philosophers of history.
Suppose we offered the choice to death-row inmates across the nation. I’d bet that many of the thousands of walking dead would jump at the opportunity to end a life a misery, self-alienation and loneliness.
Every year 15 million people, mostly children, die of starvation. The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed, and one-third is starving. In the decade of the ‘90s alone, over 100 million people have wasted away.
Nobody is going to tell me that religion doesn’t play a key role in this horrible human tragedy. “Be fruitful and multiply” fits in here like a glove. I have no idea why the pope and other religious leaders can’t see the connection. Adhering to the tenets of the Bible and Koran often results in leading your offspring (not “children” which is too human a word, offspring) into a meaningless, lonely grave.
On CNN or one of the “Feed the Children” commercials, how many times have you seen the malnutrition symptom called <i>kwashiorkor</i> showing a starving child with the characteristic distended belly, protuberant bones and bulging eyes? It happens 15 million times per year and someone in the world dies of starvation every 3.6 seconds.
I remember seeing a news video of a young Somalian man living in a refugee camp in Darfur. Like most of the inmates of the death camp, he was gaunt, bronze colored, leathery skinned, with exophthalmic eyes that seemed to stare vacantly into the void. He was in the process of burying his fifth child to die of starvation. Not that she was his fifth child who happened to die; there were four others who died of starvation before her. To me the natural reaction on seeing this adversity is to say, “you stupid criminal, haven’t you and your mate learned your lesson by now? How much suffering must your children endure before reason and sanity enter your familial life?”
The answer is, I fear, no amount. Religion has so beclouded this man’s reasoning that he can’t see the connection. He believes he is doing Allah’s will and obeying the commands of the Koran. Christians in the group believe birth control will result in eternal damnation. He believes Allah blesses his wife and him for every child they bring into the world. He prayed so earnestly as family and workers lowered the meager body bag into the shallow grave, making sure with meticulous care that her head faced Mecca. If only he’d had the two dollars to pay for the cab ride to the hospital, the pitiable child might have been saved, he might have thought. But that’s okay, he and his wife can always try again and Allah will take them to his bosom. His dead four-year-old daughter undoubtedly dwells in Paradise as he prays at her grave. So in a way it’s a good thing that he helped bring her into the world, even for so short a time.
Reader, this is the end of Part I. I’ll finish my list of the evils in Pandora’s Box next time.