This week's Time magazine just showed up in the mailbox, and within is an interesting little piece about the notorious moodswings of the Abrahamic God throughout history. It won't appeal to fundamentalist true believers of any of the Abrahamic faiths, that subset who believes that their chosen scriptures were truly and literally divinely inspired; but for the rest of us, it's an interesting little illustration of the beginnings of those faiths and what they mean for us today. Judaism was, of course, a very polytheistic faith in much of its early history, and much of scripture acknowledges this, though, again, "true believers" are well conditioned not to notice such things. During long periods of Biblical history, tolerance toward those of different beliefs, and acknowledgement and even worship of other gods was completely permissible; on the other hand, there are also long periods where such an ecumenical approach gives way to a decidedly monotheistic and often eliminationist worldview. The same holds true in early Islamic belief. So, was "God" changing his mind? Or were these political decisions and feelings, projecting on "God" the political realities and goals of the tribes, at the given time? I would suggest that the latter is the case. Truly, tribal visions of the divine did seem to correlate quite nicely with whatever view the tribes held of themselves (and others) at the time, and religious belief and worship was shaped around it.
06 June 2009
The article suggests that Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are all religions of war -- but they're also religions of peace, depending on which scriptures the adherents choose to focus on. I've heard so many Christian people (Arabic scholars, all, and experts on the Koran, I'm sure) bitch and moan about how Islam is a "murderous" religion, about how "those people" don't value life, etc. As an agnostic, my reaction is always a bit bemused: have you read YOUR scriptures lately, my dear? Because your Old Testament/Torah God is a bit of a schizophrenic warmonger when he wants to be, as well!
The point is that these scriptures do indeed contain many keys toward reconciliation on a large scale, between all religious people, as well as those of us who are not religious. The question, though, is whether or not adherents can stop obsessing over the more tribal, war-mongering aspects of their scriptures, and look instead for the wisdom of tolerance and peace.