Dwindling aimlessly in the realm of unbelief, as I am doing recently, I am reading “God and the State” by Bakunin, along with a plethora of other books. A passage from God and the State stood out for me, because it sums up exactly how I feel about Christianity, and it’s obvious contradictions.
“The Bible, which is a very interesting and here and there very profound book when considered as one of the oldest surviving manifestations of human wisdom and fancy, expresses this truth very naively in its myth of original sin. Jehovah, who of all the good gods adored by men was certainly the most jealous, the most vain, the most ferocious, the most unjust, the most bloodthirsty, the most despotic, and the most hostile to human dignity and liberty-Jehovah had just created Adam and Eve, to satisfy we know not what caprice; no doubt to while away his time, which must weigh heavy on his hands in his eternal egoistic solitude, or that he might have some new slaves.
He generously placed at their disposal the whole earth, with all its fruits and animals, and set but a single limit to this complete enjoyment. He expressly forbade them from touching the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He wished, therefore, that man, destitute of all understanding of himself, should remain an eternal beast, ever on all-fours before the eternal God, his creator and his master. But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.”
I wanted to expand on this quote.
What Bakunin is getting at, is the idea that the God of the Bible is a ruthless, heartless, crazed dictator. He wants His subjects to understand that they should not question Him. He holds the ultimate knowledge and they shouldn’t. If anyone disobeys him, as Adam and Eve did, they shall be punished. The Catholic Church similarly seemed to punish anyone throughout the centuries, who fell across ideas and discoveries that ran contrary to their teaching. The Church’s treatment of Galileo is a famous example of the brutality of the Church when its authority is challenged. God had the same superiority complex, and tantrum when humanity demanded educating, in the garden of Eden. He created the concept of sin, He punishes a concept that he created, and then a few thousand years later He sends His one begotten son, to die an horrific death in order to absorb the concept that He created in the first place.
God placed a restriction on knowledge. He demanded obedient slaves, and if they wanted to improve their knowledge, they would be punished. Alongside complete obedience, he demands worship. This seem like a game. It serves no overriding purpose. Pawns are played with. And to make matters worse, those pawns are given curiosity and a yearning for knowledge and self improvement, built into their mentality. This wretched little game played by God, is both pointless, and torturous.
Along comes Satan. A symbol of evil, simply, it seems, because he tempts humanity away from God. I’m not entirely sure why this is considered a great evil. We must first accept that we wish to be next to God, to be tempted from him. And that requires our faculties of reason. Perhaps then, Satan is getting a bit of a bad press. Why is the questioning of authority a bad thing? It seems to me that questioning authority, is the basis of liberty. God wants complete obedience as revealed through scripture. This means any progressive free thinking is entirely forbidden. It means if our conscience tells us that a cute old lesbian couple, deeply in love, are not evil people destined for hell, we are to ignore it and instead choose prejudice as sanctioned by the Bible. If we follow our conscience (a conscience given to us by God in the first place), we are simply being tested by the evil of Satan. It means, Galileo should have been imprisoned for questioning Christian dogma, dogma that plunged Europe into a devastating Dark Age, ruthlessly suppressing all advancement, and discarding advances made by the Greeks. Free thought and curiosity, according to God, is a sin. That is the way of God. Satan, if anything, tells you to think for yourself.
If I am to think that the the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of first born children, sanctioned and executed by God in the book of Exodus, is wrong, I am being tempted by the Devil away from God. I should be condemning those first born children. That is the reality of being close to God.
Further in Exodus, we see God demanding the deaths of anyone who dances around the golden calf. This includes family, children and friends of the group. Exodus 32:28 suggests 3000 people were slaughtered for dancing around a calf. I’d say this God is evil.
In Numbers 31, God commands the total annihilation of the Midianite people (The Midianites were a tribe of Abraham’s descendants through the line of Keturah. This story always struck me as particularly cruel, whenever I read the Bible. I have my copy of the Bible sat on my lap as I write this, and I cannot for the life of me workout how anyone can read it, and not despise this God as we despise people like Hitler and Pol Pot. He seems no different. After the annihilation of the Midianite people, Moses, working on the command of God, says:
“……. kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.”
Kill all the male children, but keep the female children, as long as they’re virgins, for themselves. Nice. 32,000 virgins in all. I am not sure how Christians or Jews can suggest that any children deserve that treatment. The Midianites inhabited a large area. Much of Northern Arabia was Midianite territory at one stage. They were a diverse people.
An authoritarian God, cannot also promote truly ethical values and behaviour. An authoritarian God necessarily negates free will. We must be good because we’re commanded to be good, by the standard of Holy Texts that most of us find the majority of, to be abhorrent to our sense of right and wrong. Morality is not morality, if it is forced and threatened.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church”, a book of defined Catholicism suggests that Satan exists only because God allows him too. In paragraph 395, it states:
Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence.
You may be mistaken into thinking that the above is the ramblings of an insane person. You’d be wrong. But only slightly. It is the ramblings of an insane institution; the Church. God allows Satan to exist. God therefore allows what he considers evil to exist. He is not at war with evil, he will never be at war with evil, because he is in complete control at all times. Which suggests, he isn’t all that loving afterall. But we knew that, given that he’s already wiped out a few million people, whilst condemning young virgins to a life of abuse at the hands of his followers (Catholic Priests are carrying on the tradition recently, it would seem).
Paragraph 397 states:
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
- Interesting use of the word ‘freedom‘. You are ‘free‘ to decide whether or not to believe in God’s word, but if you choose not to, you will be punished. That’s like saying to your child “You are free to play with the skateboard indoors, but if you do, I will put your head in the oven.” Freedom isn’t freedom if one of the two available chooses includes awful punishment.
In fact, there are virtually millions upon millions of people condemned to death, and violent deaths at that, by God. I cannot for the life of me find one death ordered by Satan. All he tends to do, is tempt people to question everything this maniac in the sky tells them. Satan, although portrayed in Christian literature (although not so much in the Bible) as the fallen angel turned demon, sent to tempt humanity into evil, seems actually to be the voice of reason. If we were to take the Bible as metaphor, perhaps one could infer that Satan represents reason, and enlightenment, whereas God represents Christian/Islamic dogma and slavery.
The only way we “know” that Satan is evil, is because it is alluded to in the Bible and subsequent Christian texts. Forgive me for saying, but I am not going to rely on the writings of the single most violent and corrupt institution that has existed over the past two thousand years, to lecture me on what is good and what is evil. How hypocritical of them. It also suggests that Satan is far more powerful than God. The entire history of humanity and its suffering, according to Biblical principles, was caused by Satan. The triumph of free thought over mind-dictatorship.
Bakunin points out that Satan is the first great rebel against great an evil authoritative figure. He encourages disobedience and questioning. He is the founder of the enlightenment, millennia before the enlightenment takes place. Satan is the Christian version of Prometheus. A champion of mankind. It would appear that Christianity has taught us, that an entity that gave us the courage to investigate for ourselves, and expand our understanding, and to question everything; is evil. Genocide on a scale that would make Stalin fall to his knees in awe, gets twisted and presented as “good”, whereas educating people away from this nonsense, is presented as “evil”. Christianity is therefore a very regressive force within society. The Catholic Church embodies this regressive nature perfectly.
The Enlightenment, and all the advances it brought with it. The scientific method, political and social rights, evolutionary theory, separation of Church and State….. This is what the Biblical God forbids, and attributes entirely to Satan.
We should perhaps be a little more critical of the Theocratic dictator God whom punishes you for loving the ‘wrong’ person, requires constant worship, and demands complete obedience, and a little less critical of the free thinking, enlightened Devil.