All right, folks, let’s get a pattern going! Every other post will be this new sub-title, “Better Living Through Blasphemy,” and I assure you we’re all gonna be watching out for stray lightning bolts and car bombs after this bit. In these articles, I’m not going to outright bash a religion (though indirectly, for sure). Instead, I’m going to point out a religious misinterpretation or hypocrisy that I feel needs to be cleared up. It’s the pointing it out and explaining why it’s falsified that’s blasphemous, though, especially when you consider our first contestant: The First Commandment.
That’s right, folks, we’re going after the Big Man; The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Eli; YHVH; Adonai; He Who is Called “I Am.” Whatever you want to call Him, it’s time to clear up his petty jealousy a bit. “Petty jealousy, Spooder?” Yes, that’s exactly what I said, but let me tell you why. First, a look at an English translation of the commandment itself:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.
It is written: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (Note: This last bit is Luke 4:8, thrown in for later context.)
Yyyyyeah, see, there’s far more to this than most modern worshippers (read: Christians) like to read in to it. First and foremost is the fact that to the Hebrew people, this isn’t just rhetoric. It’s a command. Adonai (Ba’al Hadad? Big G?) was a jealous, vengeful, and controlling deity during his first interactions with the Hebrew peoples, and after freeing them from Egyptian bondage, they owed him. This commandment was not a lashing-out over a simple golden calf. No, it was a declaration. An important one, too, when you see that opening line. As cited by Jonathan Sacks, God’s opening words in the revelation at Mount Sinai were not, “I am the Lord your God, creator of heaven and earth”, but “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Kuzari I: 25). He’s establishing dominance right away. I offer this interpretation, instead:
“Look, you little Hebrew bitches. I saved you. You’re mine now – you owe me. Your other gods? They’re dead to you now. Your idols, be they of me or of anything else? Get rid of them. You need them no longer. They don’t control you, and you owe nothing to them.
Let me make this clear: Whatever you worshipped before, stop it. Worship me and me alone now.”
There’s your First Commandment, folks, in what’s believed to be a more proper context. In this context, a major problem comes to mind right away: the acknowledgement of other gods or avenues for worship. Kind of creates a big “whoopsie” to the whole “One True God” thing. After all, we might still be able to argue that there may indeed be one true God for many people in the world, but even Adonai Himself (through Moses) acknowledges that there are others. Where’d they go?
Simply put, “we” felt there was no longer a need for them once the Canaanites transitioned in to being Israelites. ‘Anat, El, Dagan, Yammu, Ba’al Hammon, Ba’al Berith…many just kind of fell away from the collective memory as time went on. The important thing to remember, though, is that they were there, and that for at least a while they mattered. As I grow older and more open to the world, this is what gives me a hard-on against the Abrahamic religions: Adonai Himself said “There are other gods, but they don’t matter,” and somewhere along the way some old guy with a shitload of child wives said “There are no other gods,” and his word became more important than His.
What. The fuck? Of course there are other gods! We have documentation of their worship – have had it for centuries! Zeus, Dionysus, Hermes, Osiris, Jehuti, Baldr, Aegir, Vishnu, Kali, Quetzalcoatl, Lugh, Brigid, Cernunnos, Clapton, Ao, Helm, Kord, Atheismo, the motherfuckin’ FSM! The list goes on and on, and it’s Ok to add to the list! You’re not suddenly some “horrible sinner” if you acknowledge that maybe – just maybe – Adonai isn’t your only solution! If you’re devoted to worshipping Him, more power to you, but don’t shit on others simply because of the choice your ancestors made for you!
Look, I get it. Interpreting divine will is hard. Interpreting divine wisdom, even harder. We have had years of mortal interaction and meddling throwing wrenches in the work, especially if we’re specifically poking at the Christian Bible. We’ve got the Talmud, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a few other bits of folklore worked in there with what we may think would be “genuine” wisdom. More disturbingly, we’ve got evidence poking at the idea that the earliest – earliest – versions of the New Testament weren’t written until between 60 and 90 CE, long after the death of Yohoshua bin Youssef, so who the fuck knows if it’s even true?! (Pause for lightning bolt strike.)
All I’m trying to say is that mortal interpretation – and mortal tampering – matters, and quite a lot. If Adonai acknowledges other gods, why do his followers only view them either as jokes or as outright affronts to their faith? They’re not! They’re just…well…there. Off doing their own things, being worshipped in slightly other ways, but still hoping that people will do the “right” thing for everyone’s betterment. It’s one of the oldest, pettiest popularity contests, and as such many of us don’t even understand the rules any more.
Take a deep breath. Step back. Think about the intention and original voice of your holy texts as they tell you how to interact with the world. Think about meaning, and then go deeper to find cultural meaning. A polytheistic desert people suddenly worships only one particular deity? That’s fine, but the others didn’t suddenly vanish solely because they chose (eventually) to do so. It didn’t suddenly invalidate other peoples’ gods. Stop acting as such. Open your mind.
If you’re one of the worshippers of this particular god, I’m not saying “stop worshipping Him.” I’m not even trying to tell you to worship someone else. I just ask that you understand that the choice you made was a covenant between a rescuer and the rescued – coercion, without any other way to mince words. It’s had its benefits, sure, but it was a covenant created under duress that didn’t suddenly invalidate all of the others for the rest of the world.
Be kind to one another, and that includes the religious front more and more each day. When the worshippers of the same deity can’t even get their interpretations to align (I’m looking at you, Christians and Muslims), who’s to say which story is the definitive one? If the One True God’s meaning isn’t even being properly conveyed any more, is it still “Truth,” or merely one possible “truth” out of several? I can’t answer that, and probably neither can you. And that’s Ok.
Whether you worship something, many somethings, or even nothing, intention is always important. Know the origins of your beliefs. Understand them and defend them when you have to. Seek. Knowledge. Only then can you find the true face of Dog.