although it's usually a combination of all three. Quite an astonishing achievement really, to gather 750 pages worth of crappy stories in the time of Gilgamesh, Homer, Virgil and countless other jewels of ancient literature, including great works on humanism and science. The bible is also often classified as literature, although I'm having a real hard time understanding just why. I don't mind silly - we could say "people were different then" - but I do have a big problem with evil. When a god actively commands or condones harm to be done to nonbelievers (or animals to be slaughtered to glorify his name, for that matter), there is something seriously wrong with the premise. Unsurprisingly, this inherent evil has kept most people happily occupied for the past 2500 years or so - so many people to kill, it just never ends.
At around this time, someone is bound to mention the 10 Commandments. Stick to them and you can't go wrong, right? Sadly, this calls forth several big buts - even bigger than, say, Nicki Minaj's glorious, well, assets. First of all - there are several versions of the "big 10", so which one do we take? Then: the first three are not even real commandments, just one "long, raspy throat clearing by an admittedly touchy dictator", as Christopher Hitchens so succinctly put it in "The New Commandments" (check it out here). Then the rule about honouring your father and mother: in old testament territory, they certainly have interesting ways of showing it, with dads fucking their daughters and sons taking their mothers for a wife. But the main problem, the J-Lo of buts so to speak, is the one mostly overlooked by apologists: these commandments are only valid within the tribe (the same goes for quranic commandments). This means an Israelite may not just kill a fellow Israelite; he'd need a good reason for it (luckily, plenty can be found, I might add). For everyone else, it's basically up for grabs, or even worse: there is a certain pious sense of duty in butchering, raping, enslaving and subjugating as many unbelievers as possible for the greater glory of god. Can you remember a single chapter so far that wasn't steeped in blood? These commandments were only intended as a sort of first legislation effort to pull together a violent itinerant desert tribe, thereby creating an uneasy and combustible marriage of moral (whatever there was of it in those days) and judicial guidelines. Once again, these rules did emphatically NOT apply to unbelievers and apostates. This is not my invention; it is really easy to see by just reading the bible.
Yes, but that is the old testament, the "progressives" retort at this point; those are all stories and parables (of what, they sadly cannot tell me) and should be taken with a pinch of salt. What is important is to remember that god is a god of love and to embrace the teachings of Jesus. I mentioned before that I hold this to be a very problematic stance, as it cuts out the whole history and even purpose of the Abrahamic religion. Furthermore, how could we ever condemn fundamentalists and terrorists for merely obeying divine orders? That's what humanity has been doing for thousands of years, after all. I am very glad we made so much progress that at least a part of all believers recognises by now that we needn't always kill each other to achieve "peace" (see XXII). We've come a long way, but as long as the connection with the old testament is maintained, the doors are still wide open to fundamentalism and silliness. As far as I'm concerned, the only way christianity could ever "progress" is by disowning the old testament and all its cock-and-bull stories for the evil book it is. YHWH is a cruel bastard, a powermad dictator in the vein of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Hussein or Kim Jong-il. Christians should simply learn to accept the facts that all living things evolved from a common ancestor, climate change is a reality and gays are people too (many already do, happily). For all I care, one could still keep (selected) teachings of Jesus, but obviously the "kingdom of my father" and all that jazz would have to go too. The teachings of hell and eternal punishment are sick and evil; they firmly belong to the old testament bogeyman ethos, so out they go. But what about the soul, or life after death? Well, if it makes you happy… and as long as you don't actively try to bring people closer to a purported afterlife. But we have free will to choose good over evil, right? The drawback being, we'd never know whether we had ultimately made the right choice. And what sick and perverted creator would invent something complex & stunningly beautiful like humanity and then proceed to endlessly test it in the harshest and cruelest way imaginable, subjecting the many failed ones to eternal damnation and torture? And how is it that this whole salvation/damnation deal of the soul only seems to affect homo sapiens? Don't other animals deserve some consideration too? (the word "animal" being a dead giveaway here - you know what it means, right?) It's not so long ago that people thought animals could also be in liege with the devil, after all... many cats, goats, dogs, horses and I don't know what else (frogs! evil!) have been put to death by over-zealous nutcases, who in their ignorance, bigotry and conditioned fear/love ossification may have really thought they were actually helping their lord.
But what about the persistence of evil then? That should be a matter of simple faith: either your precious god is incapable of ending suffering and evil, in which case he is a blundering idiot, not at all-powerful, and hence subject to failure (a Wizard of Oz-style con man trying to scare us with sleazy tricks from behind the curtain), or he is glorious and perfect, but for some (ineffable!) reason seems perfectly satisfied with keeping things as they are. In which case it constitutes a severe lack of faith from his followers if they meddle with The Plan: your god knows exactly what he is doing, so if he allows gays, abortions, atheists, cartoonists, evolution and climate shift there is a jolly good reason for that. Keep your bloody primate's paws off my Ineffables! I always wondered why so many religious people seem to think it their solemn duty to assist their chosen god in the (apparently never-ending) battle against evil. Sure, the devil's awfully powerful & wily, but in the end, according to popular mythology, he is just a fallen angel, another creation of god - an almighty and all-knowing god, no less.
So what about genocide and the crusades? Humans everywhere - to this day - enthusiastically butcher other people (god's creation, just like them) in their eagerness to win themselves favor in the eyes of their chosen god (there's a choice selection of One True Gods™ - a god for every predilection). There is something utterly wrong and narcissistic at the very core of all this, and many people can't get unstuck from this peculiar brand of Doublethink. Yes, we know religion is the problem - that old virus, malware, parasite, blind passenger of evolution, cancer of the brain. No, religion can't be the problem, just look at all the beauty created in its name and all the happiness and joy it causes people every day, praise the lord, aymen.
As long as this oxymoron persists, fear and superstition will continue to reign supreme, and for every act of goodness, intelligence, courage or creativity there will be retaliations: a madman with a gun, a suicide bomber child, an ugly old imam dripping poison into the ears of his uneducated and malleable followers, gory and barbaric videos of beheadings and cruel executions. Yet all this will have nothing to do with religion, obviously. Just some confused people who got it all a bit wrong, really. Most Muslims I know (or Christians, Jews & all the other sorts, as a matter of fact): totally nice people really. Couple of bad eggs, hard to avoid. Just don't offend them, they're a bit touchy. It's a culture thing, silly really. Best not to say anything at all. I mean, even that über-cuddly pope Teddy Bear the First would smack you in the face if you were to insult his mom... those cartoonists asked for it, in my opinion. That was just not very nice of them, a bit rude, not really necessary, y'know? Well alright, I know the torah, bible and quran are brimming with blood, it's one big blood orgy in there, nothing but fear, terror, the killing of infidels (or anybody you don't like or trust, really), and complete and utter submission. God/al-lah/YHWH (select favorite delusional here) just looooves it when you are scared shitless and obey his every whim. It's a good thing nobody takes that stuff literally, right? And anyway, who ever actually reads that shit? (apart from irreverent atheists like me, that is) Religion to most people just means some vapid and insipid wet towels about being nice to each other - watered-down tenets nicked from humanist thinking, but what's the harm in that, eh? As long as it makes people happy... all the rest is just some crazies, right? Boys will be boys, they so love to be right you know. Now is that a Kalashnikov in your pocket or are you just pleased to read this?