From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister
From time to time, as all writers do, I receive anonymous letters. In a number of such letters I have been asked: “Why don’t you quote God, instead of men?”
That always reminds me of a great cartoon in The New Yorker magazine a number of years ago. A minister is standing, robed, in his pulpit with waving arms and he is saying “and now, reading from the Bible, God says… and I quote of course.”
To deal with this question, I thought that a little multiple choice survey might help.
- Which of the following Gods would they like me to quote? Yahweh; Elohim; Ahura Mazda; Ra; Osiris; Zeus; Jupiter; Dionysus; Demeter; Asklepios; Hermes; Aton; Odin; Thor; Varuna; Shang.ti; Amaterasu; Omikami…Oh, well, that’s enough — and we have not even touched on the goddesses.
- If it’s Biblical gods they’re interested in, I am curious as to which one they would like quoted… Yahweh, Elohim, Hadid, El Shad.ai, the Ba’alim, Anat, the anthropomorphic “God” who walked and talked in the garden, the God and his songs who came down from the mountaintop to sire children by earth women (Genesis), the jealous and vindictive god, the god of war, the God who was spirit (Jesus), the God who was love (John). And that is only a few of the options.
- I assume that those asking such a question still believe, even now, that the bible is the infallible, without error, word of God. So which of the following Biblical stories would they like me to write a column on for moral and spiritual edification?
The lovely, inspirational story of Lot’s two daughters gave him wine and then went to bed with him, and conceived by him. (Genesis 19:30.38) Today, we call it incest. Of course it could be called “holy debauchery,” I guess.
Or, there is the rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon. “Do not force me” she pleaded, but he, “being stronger than she” just went right ahead. (2 Samuel: 13:14)
Or a little gang rape by God’s “without error” word might uplift our readers. In the Book of Judges, Chapter 19, verse 25, we are inspired by the story of a gang of men who took a woman and “abused her all the night long until the morning.” Then in verse 29, we are moved to new spiritual heights as they took a knife and carved her up into 12 pieces.
Let us consider genocide. That is where you wipe out an entire cultural group. Now, our “man of God” Moses did just that. In the Book of Numbers, Chapter 31, Moses gives this command: “kill all of the men, and all of the male children, and kill all of the women who have had intercourse with a man, but keep for yourselves the young women who are virgins.”
And God blessed all of that carnage, rape, murder and genocide. Is that the god they wanted quoted from the without error word?
“Any system of religion that has anything in it that would shock the mind of a child, cannot be a true system,” wrote Thomas Paine.
Which of the current, popular concepts of God would they like for me to write about? God as “divine windowpeeker,” God as “cosmic bellhop,” God as “celestial hitman”?
Is it not time that we said — with honesty and integrity — that the majority of the Biblical concepts of God are archaic and an insult to contemporary knowledge and spirituality?
People who cannot even explain a light bulb go around telling us all about God — the mystery that is behind one hundred billion major galaxies. They can’t explain how a radio works, but God they know all about.
“By what right do we take this little agitation of the brain, which we call ‘thought’… by what right do we finite mortals… arrogate to ourselves the ability to comprehend the infinite mystery… we call God?” — the philosopher Hume