In previous blogs, I have tried to make the point that institutionalized religious organizations which represent themselves as the “spokespersons of the Creative Force of Time, Space and Conscious Awareness (God)” need to be seriously re-evaluated. They need to be re-examined in light of our evolving knowledge and understanding of who and what we are and our relationship with the time/space continuum in which we live and have our being.
Furthermore, I strive to make the point that this re-evaluation should clear the air of long held definitions of deity. I refer to definitions that instill guilt, fear, frustration and anxiety in the religious relationship. And, on that note, I strive to expose the priest class and/or ministers who utilize these elements for mass manipulation. Who, for power, prestige and profit, bang believers over the head with these invented and self-serving motivators. Again, I am referring to:
a) Guilt (according to the Yahwist priests) due to ”original sin’ and other acts committed or omitted.
b) Fear (according to the Yahwist priests) because of God’s wrath out of vengeance, punishment or sometimes, simply indifference.
c) Anxiety (according to the Yahwist priests) because we can never know exactly where we stand in the ‘eyes’ of this definition of God anyway.
d) Frustration (according to the Yahwist priests) because, in truth, nothing we may do in terms of prayer, piety or profession seems to make any difference.
And, yet, we are culturally conditioned into clinging to these spiritually debilitating ancient and superstitious concepts by institutionalized religions that perpetrate them through the malleable minds of children generation to generation via Sunday Schools and Catechism classes. Based on so-called ‘lessons’ in the bible!
Punching holes in the bible
So, I punch holes in biblical traditions, legends and folklore to help open the door to new forms of spiritual expression which view humanity as an evolving and refining expression of the Creative Scheme. With a universality as opposed to biblical selectivity (chosen people). I present a view of religiosity that elevates and ennobles the practitioner with a spiritual resource that enhances personal empowerment. I allude to a point of view that dovetails what we are learning through science and technology with what we can experience through the spiritual dimension of our being.
Having said all of that, the hole I am punching today concerns the notion that ‘God’ decreed a generational line of kings from the “seed of David” to ultimately establish a holy kingdom on planet Earth. The kingdom would be the final preordained and prophesied stage of a tiny country in the area of Palestine and, on fulfillment, would be the leading political entity in the world with material riches … gold, silver, precious gems and whatever … pouring in from all four corners. Of course, the citizens of this country (Israel) would all enjoy the ‘good life’ par excellence as God’s ‘chosen’!
But, in order to continue being the ‘chosen people’ and remaining on the ‘good side’ of God, they would have to conform to the dictates of the priest class which included worship, sacrifices and the donation of other forms of riches to the Temple. Money, gold and silver would not be refused in this endeavor. Apparently God appreciates a little gelt with the guilt.
This notion is called, “The Messianic Hope”.
“Out of the seed of Jesse”
Prior to the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians, the destruction of the central Temple in Jerusalem and the deportation of tens of thousands of Jewish captives from 597 through 586 BC, there was no thought of a someday glorious future kingdom as per the ‘promise of God’. The kingdom, for better or worse, was a political fact and the priest class went happily about its business. They claimed military threats and national insecurities were punishments from their definition of God because the population was failing in one way or other. They blamed the people for any natural disasters, famines or plagues because they fell short of whatever it takes to keep on pleasing ‘God’. And, they claimed the best way to keep ‘God’ in an agreeable mood was through their priestly practices. Of course, offerings in the form of livestock, labor and money went a long way to keep things on a pleasant course. Yahweh equaled big business! It was only afterwards, among the Jewish communities in Babylonian captivity that the idea of a someday great king would once again rule a someday great Israelite nation with a someday re-established central temple as a bridge between their definition of God and the world.
While in Babylonian captivity, the legend of King David (who ruled nearly five hundred years before) became romanticized and exaggerated to an enormous degree. After all, David established Jerusalem as the center for the Yahwist priest class (who, in turn, endorsed him as being divinely selected for the role of king.) And his son, Solomon, actually built the first Yahwist temple. Plus, tradition held that all the succeeding kings were descendants of David, empowered by divine right. Since tradition held that David was the son of an Israelite named Jesse … it followed that, someday, the divinely ordained lineage of David, the seed of Jesse, would again be present on a throne in the new and re-vitalized Israel. David, the chosen by God. David, the anointed by God. David, the messiah of God.
After the deportation of Judea’s leading citizens and middle to upper social class, remnants of the population still remained in the area. Somewhat disorganized and, as such, not directly connected to the central government in Babylon. But, it really wasn’t an important matter. Feeble as they were, they represented no threat to Babylon and there was no immediate danger of foreign invasion from that quarter.
But, about fifty years after the Babylonian conquest of Judea, Cyrus, The Great of Persia defeated the Babylonian king, Nabonidus in 539 BC and became emperor of a huge piece of Asian geography which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to Western India. That included the tiny country of Judea and the Phoenician city states established on the coast.
Conquer, Control & Collect
Part of Cyrus’s international policy was to control the outlying regions of his enormous empire through the priest classes of those distant lands. He has been praised as a champion of religious freedom for not interfering with local religions. But, religious freedom wasn’t his main motivator. It was control. He made a deal with the priest class of local religions. The priests would tell the masses that Cyrus was “their salvation from ‘God’ (however ‘God’ was defined by that culture). Then, recognizing Cyrus as a divinely ordained ruler, the masses would process tribute through the priest class back into the treasuries of the Persian Empire and remain loyal because they were duped into believing that their ‘God’, somehow, wanted it that way.
Cambyses II, Cyrus’s son, had plans to further his father’s conquests by adding Egypt to the Persian Empire. He invaded Egypt successfully in 525 BC and assumed the role of Pharaoh. When his son, Darius, became emperor Egypt began plotting to rebel and regain its independence. The first Egyptian insurrection occurred in 486. Darius died in the month of October 485 BC and his son Xerxes became the new emperor. Xerxes needed a more reliable structure in the area of Judea as a buffer and launching platform with regards to the troublesome efforts of Egypt.
Utilizing his grandfather’s ploy of strengthening relations in far flung sections of the empire through the priest class, he sent the high priest, Ezra, back to Jerusalem to organize the local Jews into a reliable buffer zone. (See Josephus Flauvius “Antiquities Of The Jews”). Of course, part of the commission included, “… prayers and sacrifices for the well being of the Persian king and his sons”. Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel (the biblical heroes of the reconstruction period) were in the employ of the Persian Empire. In fact, Zerubbabel is not even a Yahwist name. It implies worship of the Canaanite god Baal … a nature god. Their mission was to effect a reliable buffer zone controlled through a hierarchy of priests loyal to Persia. Rebuilding the temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians was a great step forward in instituting this loyal religious revival. To get the job done, however, the priest class used the ever reliable motivators mentioned in the beginning of this blog: guilt, fear, frustration and anxiety!
They convinced the inhabitants of Judea … some, having lived there since the deportation and others having returned from exile … that ‘God” was mad at them for neglecting the temple (translated into, “failing to live under the tithe and tribute collecting control of the Persian paid priest class.”).
Consider the account of the prophet, Haggai, supposedly speaking for ‘God’. (Hag. 1:10-11) Haggai, as ‘God’s mouthpiece, curses the Judean population for not completing the reconstruction of the temple. ‘God’ is supposed to have told them that he, personally, diminished their national productivity to punish them. That he, personally, caused droughts, famines, crop failures, diseases among livestock and plagues among people. Why? Because they did not complete building the old temple or, for that matter, fall under the controlling influence of the Yahwist priest class.
The ploy worked. Between Haggai, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and other Persian agents, control was re-enforced and the Persian Period lasted for two hundred years. Of course, the bible depicts these events as miraculous interventions in the development of the new Israel by Yahweh (with a few Zoroastrian embellishments). The ideas of Satan, Paradise, Heaven & Hell were inherited from Persia. And, more importantly, the idea that Persian emperors were a blessing sent by ‘God’ for the betterment of the Jews was the cherry on top.
The formula for manipulating masses of people by taking advantage of the need to find an expression for the spiritual side of their nature is simple:
1.) Scare them with horrible consequences (like national disasters, natural disasters or, even damnation of the immortal soul) on one hand.
2.) Promise impossible benefits on the other (like material wealth, power and ,even, forgiveness of so-called “sins”).
3.) And, finally, convince them that all this is in accordance with the divine will of ‘God’.
This is all predicated on a definition of deity that acts like a paranoid and anti-social bi-polar child. A deity with whom you can make ‘deals’ and whom you can please or anger depending on a wide range of known or unknown extenuating circumstances. But, a class of priests or ministers must always be necessary as intermediaries and … keepers of the coin.
The bible is dripping with variations of this definition.
A better and more enlightened view of the spiritual nature of our being and its relationship with the Universal Force of Life is not beyond our grasp or our understanding. To begin, we need to look forward, not backward.