(from my book in progress, Supernatural Hypocrisy: The Cognitive Dissonance of a God Cosmology”)
…We have had time to evolve since those dark days. Yet, how could we, when there were so many examples and encouragements to keep us uncivilized and vicious?
In the story of Abraham and Isaac most Americans are familiar with, God commanded Abe to sacrifice his son to Him. Old Abe never batted an eye. Good thing an Angel stilled his hand just in time. Abraham was praised and promised blessings because he feared the Lord enough to sacrifice his son, whom he loved, because “God” told him to.
Abraham’s “devotion” to God makes him a model of faith to Christians and Jews alike. . .right. But a model of WHAT? I have a few suggestions. How about a model of zealotry? A model of stupidity? A model of a schizophrenic killer?
What would have impressed me more, and made a great deal more sense, is if Abraham would have instead said, “I will not kill my son for you, because to ask this of me proves that you are evil, and I will neither worship nor obey an evil God.” That would have shown Abraham to be truly a model for other people-not of faith, which this shows is not a positive thing to have, but a model of ethical, loving behavior. This would have also shown him to have courage in the face of some request made by a God he worshiped, but who had obviously become something not worthy of adulation or obedience. And if God had really been testing Abraham’s mettle, He would have responded, “You are indeed a man of great courage and integrity and compassion and ethics, and I am well pleased.” But as we all know, that’s not what happened.
To anyone reading this, Christian or not, if you really believed God was telling you to kill your own child, would you do it? It is my most fervent wish that all of you will answer a resounding and unhesitating “No.” If you answered otherwise, you are no better than Abraham, and no better than our more modern example of the 39 year old Texas woman, Deanna Laney, who thought that God told her to kill her three sons. She managed to succeed with two of them, sparing only the infant, who will now have a life of dependency on others, since the injuries from the attack will forever render him incapable of self care.
As a nation of ethical, loving, and compassionate people, we were shocked and disgusted by this heinous act. Why do we see this behavior as abhorrent in real life, but hold it up as some paragon of virtue when referring to faith and the Bible?*
Oh, it gets worse. This next tale is not one I ever heard before reading the Bible, and it is glaringly apparent why not. It’s another example–not so summarily candy-coated–of why blind faith can be one of the most evil things in existence.
Jephthah. He made a stupid promise to God that if He would award him victory in battle, he would sacrifice the first person to walk out of his house and greet him, after returning from a mission of slaughter in war, and give this doomed candidate as a burnt offering to the Lord. **
When Jephthah returned home from the exhilarating slaughter of thousands, the target for sacrifice turned out to be his daughter. He just decided, “Oh, oops. Too bad, have to kill her. I promised.”
I can mark that off to human stupidity, but then, God didn’t stop him. Was God stupid? Or just unfathomably mean? God allowed Jephthah to kill his own daughter, and proves Himself again, a blood-thirsty apathetic being.
With complete comfort, I challenge God Himself to come down here and explain that one to me. But God won’t do that, because though Christianity is one of the “revealed” religions, this in no way indicates that God ever reveals Himself in any real way.
Both of these stories are examples of religious zealotry, not at all contrary to what the Muslim hijackers did when they piloted the planes into the Twin Towers. They, too, were following the literal instructions given to them in their holy books, the Koran and the Hadiths, (which is second only to the Koran in sanctity, and gives more detail about the life of Mohammad).
Now, it would be cowardly of me not to think about this, and what it really means. A parent would actually kill his own child because some deity told him to-told him, apparently, by way of a voice in his head. (Isn’t this similar to what murderous schizophrenics experience?) Abe didn’t know God would stop him. He did it with the fullest intention of completing the hideous task. And Jephthah not only did the same thing, but came up with the wager by himself, as a way to reach his dubious goal of successful, widespread slaughter.
So. This still happens today, though not cloaked in the shroud of admirable character. Quite the opposite is true, isn’t it? God didn’t stop Deanna Laney, either, though she was about to kill her kids believing that’s what God wanted. Why didn’t God step in and say, at the very least, “No, no, Deanna. . I’m not doing that stuff anymore. I decided it was better to just kill my own son to cover all the sacrifices we might need in the future, and be done with it.” (Well at least God did what he expects of others, that one time). But God didn’t stop her, just like He didn’t stop Jephthah. Thankfully, our judicial system did something about it, by putting her on trial, judging it wrong and worthy of punishment. Unfortunately, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was committed to a mental facility for an unspecified period of time.
But if you are either guilty or insane for thinking that God told you to kill your kids, are either of those valid reasons to defend the virtues of Blind Faith?
*And more poignantly, there is no mention of how Isaac felt after his sacrificial test. I can’t imagine that he would be able to love his father after being tricked and nearly killed by him. The two dead Laney children could not be reached for comment, and the one who survived won’t ever be able to comment.
** First, I am struck by the absurdity of this deal. Why would anyone make such a vow in the first place?