Recently in discussing the role of religion in wars over the centuries, my sister wrote:
“The Jewish people conquered and obtained land, because God told them to. He kept his word to Abraham, telling him he would give his descendants that land, though it took hundreds of years. He said plainly in his word that it wasn’t due to the goodness of the Hebrews, but as a punishment to the nations there, due to their unacceptable practices…”
I wrote back:
Surely you realize that the claim that ‘God told us to do it’ is an entirely self-serving justification for whatever the Jews wanted to do. The Old Testament, written by Jews, is full of their violent behavior, not only by conquering tribes in order to seize the lands, but in admonitions like ‘an eye for an eye’ and other aspects of their primitive early laws.
By the way, if you ever want to know how the Israelis got a lot of their Old Testament stories–especially the creation stories–check out Sumerian history recorded on clay tablets. The Sumerian civilization predates the rise of Jewish tribes by at least a thousand years. Tribal people who would become Israel lived in the hills around early Sumerian cities and adopted much of the Sumerian mythology. Here are a few of the Biblical stories that are copied from earlier Sumerian beliefs:
- In the beginning, there was chaos (Enuma Elish–Sumerian story of creation)
- Chaos was transformed to order (Enuma Elish)
- God/gods created all things (Enuma Elish)
- Light existed before the creation of the sun and moon (Enuma Elish)
- God/gods were displeased with humanity and decided to destroy humanity via the flood (Epic of Gilgamesh, Eridu Genesis, and the Epic of Atrahasis)
- The flood (Sumerian kings list)
- One man and his family survived the flood (Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld)
- Those on the Ark opened a window near the end of the journey sending birds as scouts
- Food and drink can give eternal life (Adapa)
- After the flood, this one man gave thanks to his God
- The early settlers in Mesopotamia were of one speech (Enmerkar and the Lord Aratta)
- The language was confused (Enmerkar and the Lord Aratta)
- Migration originated from those who survived the flood
- The Sumerians knew the concept of eternal life in paradise and were seeking it (Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld)
But I’m off topic. I deviated into that to explain why I have zero faith in the Jewish idea that they were God’s chosen people. They were just a scrappy little fringe tribe that came together around an adopted mythology and used violence to take what they wanted.
Warmongering and violence inflicted by the Jews is part and parcel of their history. Consider when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom. In modern terms, God was demanding genocide of an entire people.
But then, the Old Testament idea of God included wiping out all of humanity because God was offended by sin. According to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods who set up the great flood were offended by the NOISE.
Similar edicts by God urged the ‘utter destruction’ of the Canaanites when the actual motivation for Jews was to take over Canaan instead of continuing to live in the mountainous regions where few crops could thrive. i.e.–the Jews wanted the land and they’d do whatever it took to get it including slaughtering as many Canaanites as necessary including women and children.
Yes, the New Testament claims certain teachings of Christ were meant to limit or eradicate the old ‘eye for an eye’ mindset of the Old Testament. “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing,” for example. But I’m pretty sure that while this idea sounds good in church, in reality many Christians today are among the first to hoard guns and exert deadly force when they feel they are threatened. It is Christians who pray over a campfire then turn around and start killing Afghans, or Syrians, or whoever else they decide to improve or challenge in their native lands!
Or, on a lesser more pathetic scale, pray in a huddle to win a football game before trotting onto the field to physically assault one another.
To me, even going into places to evangelize — teaching the ‘pitiful heathens’ about God — is a form of violence. There are tribes who existed for thousands of years in peace, living off the land and worshiping in their own way, now told that their beliefs are all wrong and they must adopt this new religion in order to be ‘saved.’ Suddenly they become caught up in a war of dogmas–Islam vs Christianity, mostly, although in India and Myanmar for example, the conflict is between Buddhism and Islam. Africa right now is an absolute nightmare of warring tribes operating under the flag of Islam or Christianity, a situation I blame entirely on Christian missionaries who were so arrogant to believe that undermining tribal traditions with this new religion could ever turn out well.
While we can agree that Islam is often the birthplace of radical sects pursuing jihad in the name of their religion, we can’t escape the long history of equally abhorrent behavior by Jews and Christians. I mean, all you have to do is read through the Old Testament to see the countless times that the Jews use “God said” to justify their aggression against other people who possessed lands or other resources the Jews wanted. According to the pope, God said Christian crusaders should invade the Middle East and exterminate the ‘infidels’ (Muslims) who had occupied Israeli (Canaanite) lands for 500 years. The latest version of this mindset is before us today–Israel has not only taken most of the land away from Palestinians, but continues to attack and kill those who protest and move forward with taking more land–bulldozing homes, orchards, and gardens to drive out Palestinians. The situation in Israel is infuriating to any neutral observer.
I think this kind of attitude of ‘God said’ and its subsequent use to justify aggression both in personal dealings and in national ones, is an underlying cause of the hatred directed toward Jews over the centuries. At the end of WWII, sympathy for the Jews after Hitler’s holocaust led Western powers to grant Jews a place of their own by taking a SMALL PART of Palestine to create Israel. Jews had not ‘owned’ a homeland since around 600 AD, so it’s hardly a matter of giving back what had been theirs any time recently. What other place on earth takes land away from its current occupants and gives it to people who lived there 1,400 years ago? This came about due partly to a strong Zionist movement among the Jews living in places like the U.S. as well as Christian fundamentalists eager to facilitate the predictions of Revelations. *sigh*
Here’s what the Jews have done with that:
Finally — here’s a hilarious take on the situation with the land now mostly called Israel.
Sibling response to this email? Silence.
And that’s fine, because a) there is no reasonable response, b) we’ve argued about this for decades, and c) they do not have interest in challenging the belief system in which they’ve been brainwashed since birth. They’re comfortable with what they believe. How I escaped is beyond my comprehension, but I am thankful for it. I’m especially encouraged that nearly one out of three people in the U.S. today share my disgust with religion and the evil it often perpetrates.