Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Trouble with al-Llah

Gabriel shows Muhammad the Jewelled Tree in Paradise on his Night Flight

Before making any decision that there is no God but al-Llah and Muhammad is his prophet, or that belief in God is beneficial to us, or that religion is essential, to save, or to win the world, we need to look a little more closely at the radical ways the prophets who founded Judaism, Christianity and Islam overthrew existing fixed beliefs about God, and how humans have related to God and the mystery of existence, over much longer time scales than the fourteen centuries since Muhammad, and the few millennia since Jesus and Moses. At the same time, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing to ourselves, and our possible relationship with God, if we fall into the trap of revealed beliefs held without question.

Unless we do, we may find that we have made god and religion into something truly diabolical that, no matter how much we treat it with devotion, and believe it to be true, ultimately manifests itself in violent oppressive ways, leading to conflict and destruction. Indeed it may be that unswerving belief in God is the greatest obstruction to knowing God, and that prescriptive religions take us further and further from the truth, and from the presence of God, for the very reason that, rather than freely resonating with the mystery of existence, they demand unflinching submission to an idea of God that has become a prison constructed by visionaries of another generation, which holds us apart from God as living beings, in a way we do not realize is a fatal trap.

‘Al-Llah’ is simply “God” in Arabic. Muslims believe that al-Llah is the same God of reality, that is worshiped by Christians and Jews alike, and is indeed the God of Abraham, who is referred to in the Pentateuch as El – again simply meaning “God” in an older Semitic tongue. El is referred to in various forms, anciently in Genesis as El Shaddai – “Lord of the Mountain”, reinterpreted as “God Almighty” and later as El Elyon, or God most high. Likewise we have Islamic invocation to “al-Llah the merciful, the compassionate”. However the name El also refers to a more ancient deity - the old father god of the Canaanites, who had as partners Athirat and Anath, before the tumultuous natural power of Ba’al took over the agricultural consciousness of Canaan.

Al-Llah is praised by Muslims as being the ultimate God of reality – a God acting in history, not limited by any iconic form, or name, just as YHVH, or Jehovah, the God of Moses is lauded as being the true god of reality, in contrast to the profane idols of the gods and goddesses of the nations. And just as YHVH was in Genesis said to also be the god of Adam and Eve in Eden, so is al-Llah said to be the God of Adam. Yet despite his abstract aloneness in Eden, Jehovah was originally paired with Asherah and Anath in the older Hebrew cultures at Geza and Elephantine, before the Goddess was later cursed as a pagan icon in Josiah’s reign and the Asherah was burned in the Vale of Kidron. Just so in Islam, al-Llah, was paired with al-Lat, as “God” and “Goddess”, along with al-Uzza and Manat, as the banat al-Lah or daughters of God, until Muhammad cast the ‘Satanic Verses’ against the banat, and the shrines of the Goddess, beloved to the Arabs of Mecca, were destroyed upon his victorious entry into Mecca.

Some of the worst features of Gods, or God, as portrayed by man, is the vindictive jealous personality, displaying love conditional on worship, and vengeance and retribution, particularly in the hell fire of the days of judgment, if people do not submit themselves in submission, as literal slaves to the jealous God. If God is really the one true God of existential reality, why should ‘he’ mind what way people express their devotion? Why not every which way, masculine and feminine, as lovers and partners, as much as slaves, as all embody the respect of sacredness? These features of personality, even of love and compassion, let alone anger, show us that the nature of God is as the nature of man, and in his jealousy as the male sex seeking sexual control over the female, and dominion over nature, not at all the cosmic creator of everything, from living tissues, to stars, planets, and the big bang.

Although Jews, Christians and Muslims believe their God is the one true God of reality, more real than the pagan deities of the stars, and of statues and idols, the idea that smashing an icon makes the God or Goddess unreal by comparison with the God of a revealed religion is a naive error of idolatrous hubris. Just because God doesn't have an idol doesn't mean he is the real God. Simply replacing one form of idol – a stone - with another material object – a revealed scripture to be obeyed and feared in spite of its manifest conflict with reality – is no divine revelation at all. Both are idolatrous and neither is more real. It is absolutely clear, both from the Gods and Goddesses of history, and those of iconic religions today, that iconic deities were regarded as receptacles of a spiritual reality as abstract as the claimed realities of Jehovah and al-Llah.

Street shrine Kathmandu

Religions, such as Hinduism, are perfectly capable of celebrating the godhead in all manner of iconic or idolatrous shrines, statues and personalities, of many gods and goddesses, and yet Upanishadic spiritual philosophy and meditation is in many ways the quintessence of spiritual attainment, and a path of discovery each person can follow and test for themselves meditatively and contemplatively, without having to be enslaved to any one point of view. Christian Catholicism is also manifestly idolatrous, despite claiming to worship the one true God. Because Hinduism has retained the diversity of its deities, it is still possible for women in India to gain empowerment and spiritual autonomy from the presence of the black Goddess Kali still present in their midst as a symbol of female empowerment not subject to the dictates of men. Jewish women are similarly reaching out to Shekhinah, Lilith and Asherah as spiritual symbols of a new autonomy. Buddha entered into the void of enlightenment denying any assumptions of the existence of God, implying that a fixed belief in God may be an impediment to enlightenment, rather than a spiritual necessity.

Given the common monotheistic belief in the one true God of reality, one would expect there to be a fundamental agreement between Muslims, Christians, and Jews, that they worship the one true god merely in different ways, and are therefore bosom partners in a democratic reality. However, here a dark shadow of male supremacy enters this celestial realm, because each religion has its own version of apocalyptic supremacy, in which the other paths are subservient and subordinate in a vision of ultimate utopian domination of one religion of “God” over another in the end of days, which could lead to a final nuclear confrontation and an Armageddon we all need to avoid for the future of life itself.

The Jews have long cast themselves as the chosen elect priests of the Lord and preach an apocalyptic Zionism today. Christians in turn have cursed the Jews for disowning Jesus, and consider his second-coming in Parousia, the ultimate end-of days, in the cosmic victory of their Lord and the Father God, and of Christianity as the predestined religion of the Earth. Muslims likewise preach that Muhammad is the final prophet of al-Llah, that Jews and Christians, although also followers of the path of the book, unlike the accursed idolaters, are subject religions to be taxed and subservient, and that in the end of days, all will be converted to the one true faith of Islam, poosibly in association with a return of Jesus and the Mahdi as 'perfect humans'.

Worse still, each of the three, while claiming to protect the rights of women, have actually suppressed them and made women subject to the will of men, just as men are subject to the will of God. Although many Muslim women claim the religion protects the rights of women and protects them from molestation by ravenous Muslim men, this is in reality far from the truth and a deception created by the belief itself. Women are regarded as men’s property, so sexually enticing that to protect family and husbandly honour, they must be covered, sometimes from head to toe, they must be chaperoned by a male relative, cannot move and work freely and they are only half the value of a man in law. Women are subject to dire punishment of stoning to death for adultery and honour killings remain rife in many Muslim countries. Female circumcision is practiced as a sunna or tradition in several Muslim cultures, in the light of the prophet’s purported comment favouring it in moderation because it made the husbands happy.

Each of the three religions, despite claiming God is merciful and compassionate, have committed violence and genocide in the very name of God. The Hebrews committed genocides at Ba'al Peor, Hazor and Jericho, although their actual scale is debated. Christians, in the shadow of Jesus’ crucifixion, have become obsessed with death in martyrdom, and then turned to bloody Crusade against more cultured Muslims, such as Saladin, and their own peoples, and committed Inquisition against their own people in the form of burning women and men alive and drowning them for perceived sins of witchcraft or Gnostic heresy.

Muhammad condemned the Arabs needlessly to jihad or holy war, because he had cursed the Goddess, beloved of the people of Mecca. He then committed a genocide of 700 Jewish men in Medina, for fear of a betrayal which had not actually occurred. This proved a waste of human lives and a disgrace to any pretense of being a spiritual master, because there was no final battle with the Quraysh, since Muhammad negotiated and then abrogated the peace Treaty of Hudaybiyah and then marched on Mecca by force of numbers. Ever since, Islam, while professing to be a religion of peace, has committed itself to a violent confrontation for supremacy, dividing the world between the domain of submission, as slaves in submission to God and the domain of war – Dar al-Harb.

All who would stand apart have been converted by the sword or killed as idolaters, or repressed, like the original Sufis and the Bahai’s today, because they challenge the notion that Muhammad is the final prophet, or claim that the individual can become one with God, as al-Hallaj was crucified for saying ‘Ana al-Haqq’. While Muhammad rightly decried the paganism of launching Jesus into the status of only begotten Son of God, so Muslims today commit the same pagan error, threatening anyone who would depict the Prophet with death, particularly if these depictions are critical or satirical. Ultimately this violence comes to its own reckoning, in the struggle between Sunni and Shia, just as the Christian violence has, between Catholic and Protestant.

In the end of days, Islam has become a religion purporting to be one of peace, but committing mindless terror and murder of the innocent, in violent martyrdoms and suicide bombings that are an affront to any God of reality, and certainly to al-Llah the merciful and compassionate. Because the peace of Sakina has been subjugated to the deception of takiya, the old evil of jihad continues to emerge as the Shaitan of Islam.

In the modern era of scientific discovery, ideas about God need to get up to speed with our discoveries of the natural world and transform themselves from the religion of end of days high noon confrontation and retribution to the religion of tolerance, of the immortality of the Tree of Life and the closing circle of ecosystemic coexistence. Archaic tribal and religious laws struck in the 6th century cannot fairly be applied in the 21st without committing grave oppression of the people.

We now know that the universe is literally full of billions of stars and galaxies amidst annihilating forces, the big bang and black holes. The idea that the one and only God of reality has such tunnel vision that he communicates only, or even principally on one planet’s end of days through a couple of final prophets revealed laws, or an only begotten Son he has sacrificed for the sins of man, shows no comprehension of the ways of the universe. The idea that the key defining events of human destiny in heaven and hell have been cast in stone centuries before we discovered the cosmological laws of nature, nuclear weapons of mass destruction, the genetic code, and are now having dangerous consequences of a mass extinction of the diversity of life through our own impact on nature, is fatally maladaptive.

If there is any truth at all to the existence of God, it is a truth that remains as real for each generation to experience, and to interpret from the very source in new ways, as it was for Jesus or Muhammad. We are the living sentient beings of this generation, who must bear witness to the ultimate nature of reality, and take full personal responsibility for the consequences, if we allow our religious beliefs to damage the planet, and compromise the future of life in paradise. We thus have to learn to come of age and grow up. We are no use to God as his slaves, who mindlessly follow the Sharia of past centuries. We need to learn to take cosmic responsibility for our actions, and to live in peace and mutual respect with the other living beings, who take their turn as each living generation, to act as stewards and guardians of the future of life on Earth. We thus need to move from religion to responsibility and from imposed law and revealed truth to personal experience and a spiritual democracy, in which no party tells another what they should believe.

If we go further back in human origins, we know that it is a fantasy that there was a first man Adam and a first woman Eve living with God in Eden. This is a cultural myth of our falling out with nature in a future shock, which is only coming to a completion this generation in the unveiling of our scientific and cultural knowledge of existence and the universe. In fact Homo sapiens came out of Africa as part of our evolutionary emergence, and the founding societies, far older than the 5,000 years of the fertile crescent and the paths of the book, possessed just such a degree of personal autonomy and personal responsibility, as scattered bands that only seasonally gathered into larger groups.

Peoples such as the Bushmen, who come closer to these origins, do have Gods surprisingly similar to the best aspects of Jehovah and al-Llah, as creator gods of life and misfortune, each with their consorts, but they do not play a coercive role on human actions, but are rather informative of the meaning and continuity of life. Moreover, although the men like to consider themselves elders defining culture, the women are not corralled, veiled or forced into submission, or sexual obedience by threat of torture and capital punishment and despite the threat of individual male violence affirm their own right and ability to make sexual choices in the ongoing flow of life and reproduction. Moreover practices such as trance dancing ensure that the members of society share an egalitarian experience of the spiritual realm, which they affirm from their own personal experience rather than the imposed will and doctrine of prescriptive belief.

We are, like all animals, a species of two sexes, and all the evidence is that humanity emerged and became super-intelligent, not because men controlled women, or because people were the slaves of God, but because women were able to make sexual choices, and neither sex had the upper hand, but had to put on their very best performance in good hunting, music, story-telling, craft and emotional affection to have an opportunity to procreate their genes with the opposite sex, amid the ecstasy and longing of sexual fruition and falling in love. No religion which assigns women to be half the worth of a man in law, or which denies women their heritage of sexual choice, can be a religion of the true God that generated nature.

In the evolutionary scheme, the religious impulse may have a significant genetic basis, promoting societies with strong internal cohesion, which limit internal conflict by enforcing moral codes, so as to become dominant over other competing societies. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all show strong tendencies in this direction. This needs to be held in check for human society, in the closing circle of the planet, for us to remain free from utopian oppression and survive and enrich the sustainable paradise of nature throughout our generations.

The idea that humanity is intrinsically sinful and needs a God to pass judgment on our sins in the day of the apocalyptic unveiling is manifestly in error. Humans also possess original virtue and are capable of great compassion, love, ethical selflessness, and moral rectitude, which compensates and complements individuals' natural tendency to compete for survival. This is part of our evolutionary endowment, and the idea that God is going to disrupt the natural life flow of this one little planet to bring about an end of days judgment, is merely a self-centered reflection of our own cultural future shock and our gravitation to a final cultural high noon of our own religious making.

Despite nature being partly a matter of tooth and claw, in which predation, injury, or disease can become a condition of traumatic pain and suffering, nature is also splendid and magical in its genesis, and life in human emergence has been both rewarding and enduring. Hell is not some punishment in an afterlife, but what we make this life into, when we are prepared to commit ourselves to violence and annihilation in the name of religion. Hungering for the afterlife is a delusion which takes us ever further from taking personal responsibility for the brief time we do have on Earth, which in the blessed flowering of the universe, we should be using compassionately, not violently, to make this paradise heaven on Earth, rather than a polluted limbo, heading down towards hell. The idea that heaven is full of black-eyed virgins, who are made pure each night for the sexual pleasure of men in the day, is a false sexually chauvinistic vision, that leads to an evil path of destruction and violence. It is also a travesty of the interdependence of sexuality in procreating life, as flawed as the Christian fantasy that there will be no sex in heaven.

To be able to discover the deepest mysteries of the spiritual realm, the nature of consciousness and the meaning of life, we each need to be free as living sentient beings to witness the nature of existential reality, and interpret all religious and spiritual ideas for ourselves, without casting any assumptions over the nature of living existence, or the inner spiritual depths of conscious experience, that will limit our ability to resonate with the mysterium tremendum. We thus seed to set aside any fixed belief in God, or we will never be able to know truly what our part in the cosmic process actually is, nor to enter the inner abyss of the mystery of existence.

Human societies have, throughout the ages, sought such direct communication with the mystery of existence through the shamanic vision quest, and later through contemplative insights, such as those of the Sufis, Christian mystics, Jewish Kabbalists, Indian sadhus, and Buddhist and Taoist sages. No religion which denies the right of the individual to worship or communion with the mystery as they see fit, which converts by the sword, or casts a death fatwah for apostasizing, or insulting God, or making sexual choices, can be a true religion of God.

, , , , , ,


Truth Seeker said...

Your article is amazing. I am so sorry that I can't express enough my enthusiasm with your writing since English isn't my mother tongue and I lack English fluency.
Keep going with your fantastic work.

My best,


Anonymous said...

true words indeed

personal responsibility is key

we can see where irresponsibility leads, and the justifications fill many bookshelves