It has been published here before under that title (GodWho), but I told Deana I'd try to keep the story "out there," since I agreed completely as to its importance. After having read it several times, I realized it is more far reaching than the original title implied. Having known Deana as I did, and even done some editing for her, I do not think it is "out of bounds" to republish with this title--particularly given the religions screens that so many politicians continue to hide behind and do terrible things to humans and the planet.
I myself am a "devout ex-Catholic," after 12 years of Catholic School, and well aware that one can find similar writings from other religions. For instance, "Why I am Not a Muslim," by Ibn Warraq (who had to change his name to protect his life). I wish I'd had this tract when I was about 15, searching for answers, or at least eliminations, regarding beliefs I was indoctrinated into that never sat quite right. I pass this on now for those who have eyes: Let them see; and for those who have ears: Let them hear.
In a moment of weakness I said, "Yes." when my eldest
son asked me to commit to paper my philosophy of life. At that moment I didn't
realize the enormity of the task of reporting something which has taken
seventy-three years to reach its present condition and is still in a state of
flux. But the boy wants it and you know how mothers are, if their child wants
something they will attempt to move heaven, hell and high water to get it for him.
Perhaps that isn't an apt analogy to use in discussing something as sacred as
God, but before we reach the end of this dissertation you may find it more than
I said this was going to be my philosophy of life so right there you can see that this is not going to be a mimic of something that has been said before. This will be ME. If anything appears here which has been said before it will be because I agree with it and for no other reason.
To understand a person's philosophy the reader must know where a person was raised, what kind of a childhood he had, and what influenced him to develop the philosophy he now possesses. You wouldn't expect a person to talk like Plato if he'd grown up as a water-boy on a slave ship. Absolutely not. If Plato had spent any time at all as a water-boy on a slave ship you can be sure his philosophy would have been of a different color altogether from what it was. So I must begin at my beginning.
For me my birth was particularly fortunate. First of all I was born healthy and strong into a family which, either deliberately or because they had too many children for the small house in which they lived and the size of their income, was one of benign neglect. Just the processes involved to feed and clothe the growing tribe consumed their limited resources to the point that there were little means and time left over to devote to our intellectual and spiritual growth. Our parents loved us and we knew they loved us but we were many times left to our own devises. Blessedly we were free of overt teachings about how God wanted us to act and what would happen to us if we didn't act that way. They were kind moral people and they expected us to be kind moral people and that was about the extent of it.
So like little Eva my philosophy just growed. Of course I heard about God, mostly from Sunday School and Primary teachers. It was from them, not my mother, whom I learned about saying my prayers at night, kneeling down by the side of the bed with eyes closed and hand palms together, fingernails scratching my chin, and talking to someone whose abode was strangely vague. It was very disconcerting to do this in a small 10 by 10 bedroom with four sisters in differing stages of dress and undress, talking about something not quite compatible with conversations with God. That was a condition on summer nights.
Winter nights were quite another matter. With no heat in the room and with winter's wind flapping through the ever present hole in the window glass, kneeling on the cold inhospitable floor, conversations with God tended to be of the briefest kind. When prayers were said under the covers with my warm breath thawing cold fingers there was always fear that words said in that irreverent position never went beyond the top quilt. It is only logical that when one doesn't speak with God, God will remain silent.
In those early years I had no doubt that God existed. He lived in that square rock church house in Banida, Idaho, with its big starey windows, which sat across the street from the yellow brick schoolhouse. At nights when I had stayed too long playing with my cousins at Aunt Liddy Geddes's and I'd run home between those two buildings I could hear my footsteps echoing back and forth like God was clapping his hands as he saw me pass. Whether God was clapping in approval or as a warning I never knew. That was the nearest I ever came to conversations with the old fellow,
We had memorized prayers we usually said at the dinner table. Dad always called on the youngest person seated to say the prayer. By the time we reached a point of being creative in those prayers our years of service were over.
Children disperse their own philosophy among their peers. One thing I found out was that God gave rules about where you ate your snacks. Banida, like most rural places in southern Idaho in the nineteen twenties, had very little indoor plumbing. The Palace of Necessity was usually a four by four foot square building sitting over a pit of sufficient depth and containing a seat with two or more holes where personal functions took place. In winter one chose to stay there only as long as absolutely necessary, but in summer it was a quiet moment conducive to reflection and introspection.
Many of my daydreams and air castles found substance in those rare moments of privacy. My friends informed me very early that I must never, at any time, consume food within the four walls. No one ever mentioned the sanitary implications of such an act. But they gravely informed me that such an act would be "feeding the Devil and starving the Lord." Far be it from me to cause the old fellow any discomfort. Things were pretty bad in Banida with the depression and all so I could well visualize similar conditions most likely would exist in heaven. I avoided starving the Lord at all costs.
My concept of just what or who God was grew in that small, confined, nonintellectual environment. God was one being, manlike. I imagined it was possible that I could meet him on the street and shake his hand and say "How do you do." He wasn't some mystical entity called love, or morality, or the essence of all being. Christ was a personage apart, an actual son of God. Christ was not God incarnate.
My mother would sometimes wax mystical and talk of strange happenings like the lost ten tribes of Israel who probably lived on a planet attached to our North Pole, or the three Nephites who would never taste death but roamed the earth helping people out when they most needed it. One day when I was helping her make cookies she asked me if I knew what the unforgivable sin was. I, already indoctrinated however lopsidedly in the Mormon ethic, answered, "Smoking."
She didn't laugh. The implications of what I had said evidently didn't dawn on her. She solemnly informed me that the unforgivable sin was denying Christ. "You have to have a sure knowledge of Christ before you can deny him," she continued. I can't tell you how relieved I was that I wasn't bordering on purgatory. I didn't know that much about Christ, except for Christmas, so I was in no danger of denying him.
I was always sorry I never knew my mother well. I left home to go to high school when I was fifteen and went back to Banida only one summer after that. I don't know what her philosophy was which relieves me of a lot of anxiety. If I knew what her philosophy was compared to mine today I'm sure I would be burdened with guilt. Too often a person's philosophy is a carbon copy of what his parent's were. Many hang on to unsatisfactory ideas because they don't want to hurt their dear parents. That is a personal choice everyone has to make. So that is why I say I was blessed with benign neglect.
Perhaps my beginning seems facetious. It isn't meant to be. The main purpose is to show the reader my naiveté and how totally unprepared I was to challenge anything I had been deliberately or inadvertently taught.
In 1847 the Mormon people separated themselves from the United States by a move west to a place shunned by most western immigrants. For decades they mixed affairs of church and state into their own type of theocracy where philosophical investigation was not only discouraged but was regarded as heretical. So in the small town of Banida no one challenged what church leaders said. God was three personages, God the Father, Jesus Christ was God's son, and the Holy Ghost.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, had seen them in person and talked with them, so he claimed. He received from God the precious gold plates from which he "translated" a history of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent who had been visited by Jesus Christ before his ascension into heaven. Joseph Smith was not only the instrument through which God gave that Book of Mormon to the world but he talked with God on many other subjects from where to build houses, what not to eat and drink, to how to get married so that a man's wife or wives, would follow him to the next world and there produce spirit children to populate other worlds.
There was no subject too trivial to bother God about. The dead could be redeemed from purgatory by having ordinances performed vicariously by someone living. Through the intermediary of Joseph Smith God called men on missions to proclaim the wondrous new gospel God had restored to the world and no man courted God's anger by refusing the call. Members were exhorted to obey all commands given by the voice of God so they would be worthy to serve a Godship of another world after the glorious resurrections.
BUT! If you were a woman you could not receive the highest glory except along with your husband. Never, worlds without end, could a woman receive a godship on her own merits. People of Banida were rarely concerned with discrimination when it came to things of God. In all of my growing up years I never heard anyone, male or female, voice any complaint of the sexist discrimination within God's kingdom.
Joseph said in one of his many creative moments, "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become." Wow! Who could ever top that? Such egotism. Such grandiloquent ostentacity! Hardly a Mormon eye blinks at this absurdity. Of course J.S. didn't elaborate. Was man going to inherit an "earth" already in existence somewhere in the Milky Way or beyond, or would he be given a do-it-yourself-kit and left to his own devices? The question has gone unanswered.
In this grand plan of life and salvation, once a woman was "sealed" to a man she was his forever and would be a candidate for the Celestial Kingdom only in partnership with him. A man could have as many wives as he chose to be sealed to him, if they were not already some other man's property. When a man died who had fathered children by a wife and she married another man, in the afterlife all the children that she bore the second husband would belong to the first husband.
With the coming of Joseph Smith, who lived, preached and stirred up animosity for himself and his people in the early part of the nineteenth century, all other religions on the earth were made null and void, according to Mormons. Perhaps, "having a form of godliness but no truth". According to the beliefs of Mormons those religions fell far short of the real thing. Mormons were God's special people. The whole supposition is magnanimous in its portent but in reality---zilch!
In my early years I had no inclination and absolutely no information on which to debate any of those issues. I went along with what I was told, sucked up in the "gospel net" the same as many others. I swallowed it, hook, line and sandbag. I was sewed up tight into the fabric of Mormonism, although at the time I didn't know it, and there I stayed being a Mormon woman, trying to be everything to everybody, being the virtuous, altruistic person God expected me to be. I never knowingly spoke to another person who wasn't Mormon until after I was married.
Periodically I grieved for those who were not as fortunate a I was in belonging to God's elite. I was devastated when members of my family were not living up to the rigid formula that would get them into the glorious hereafter.
I was a snob. I was one of the uninformed being led by the misinformed.
And then I became one of the misinformed who was leading the uninformed. Because I never refused a church assignment that was asked of me the church became my whole life. I won't bore the reader with the many church offices I held from the time of my marriage to J. Greene Wells in 1935 until I "saw the light" in 1960. At one Oneida Stake conference in the late forties I was asked by President Shirley Palmer to read the story of Joseph Smith's wonderful first vision to the congregation. I read it with all the feeling and reverence I had for the tale. There were those in the congregation who wept as I brought the story to them again. When it was over John Longden, the visiting General Authority from Salt Lake City, congratulated me on a fine performance. I believed it.
At that time I had no suspicion at all that the story of the first vision was written at least 18 years after it was supposed to have taken place, with several different accounts of it occurring in historical records and with no two versions agreeing as to content. Historians, even Mormon historians, admit the credibility of the account of the wonderful first vision is fogged in suspicion. The accounts of Smith's translating of the golden plates is equally complex and vague.
Then Syble married Max. Syble was Greene's sister, seven years younger than I. She has often confessed that I was her mentor. She believed everything I said. She was only seventeen and Max was twenty when Greene and I went with them down to the Logan, Utah LDS temple to be married for time and all eternity. I remember how on the trip back home after the ceremony I spoke of the wonderful blessings that would be heaped upon them now that they had taken the all important step in gaining a right to the Celestial Kingdom.
A year later Max died, leaving Syble with a small baby. Syble knew her world had come to an end. It was during the Second World War and Syble went to live with her parents who were employed at the Bushnell Military Hospital in Brigham City, Utah.
Nine months after Max's death Syble wrote me a letter. She had met a man, she said, whom she wanted to marry. In the logic of a Mormon woman she knew in the next world she would belong to Max. In essence her letter said, "What kind of a God can be that unfair to one of his so-called daughters, to force her to spend eternity with a man she didn't love? Can't a woman change her mind? I want Ardith, not Max."
Syble thought I knew the answer to that question? I had never thought on that eventuality before. But in my strong faith I knew that there was an answer somewhere. All I had to do was dig it out. I began searching the written word. What I found out wasn't answers to any of the questions I had, but more questions. Syble didn't wait for my profound advice. She and Ardith Beck were married.
Ardith had been raised a Mormon boy in a very devout family but he had received a B.S. degree in political science from the University of Idaho and he had also found out that there was a lot more to this world than what the Mormon philosophy embraced. He was already alienated from his family because he thought and spoke on a different level than they did. When he took Syble to wife outside the ceremonies of the Mormon Church he became further ostracized from them. Syble was sealed to another man and therefore any resulting children would belong to Max and not Ardith in the glorious hereafter. Ardith told me shortly after the marriage, "I'd be dead as a rock in heaven without Syble." Even though he had intellectually drawn away from the church he couldn't quite pull out of the net.
Years later Syble and her family came to Preston to have Sunday dinner with our family. Ardith and I got into a heated discussion about the Mormon Church. He told me that the Book of Mormon was nothing more than plagiarism and the product of Smith's imagination.
He said I cried. I don't remember that I did. He called me Horatio. "There is much more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamed of in your philosophy." Ardith knew more about Shakespeare than I did at that time. He knew a lot more about a lot of things than I did at that time.
I set out not only to find the information which Syble asked of me but I also set out to prove that Ardith was wrong. I read the Book of Mormon seven times from cover to cover. I read the Bible four times cover to cover, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the History of the Church by B. H. Roberts many times, still hunting. Many other books too numerous to mention. Soon a pattern began to show through. Women were second rate members of the human race, belonging to men, controlled by men, of little use even to themselves without a man. I loved my daughter the same as my sons. What kind of a God was it who disliked his daughters so intensely as to make them second class citizens in his family? And that rational inquiry was not a way of life but heresy. Proof was of no value. God must be accepted without proof. Something was putridly wrong in that philosophy.
The process of my investigation took place over a period of many years. I lived my life, full and useful and enjoyable as I studied. On the surface Greene was indulgent of my investigation, not apparently concerned with what I was hunting. I don't even remember discussing it much with him.
In the summer of 1958 I decided to enter Utah State University, not to find answers to the many questions I had, but to get an education as a teacher and speech pathologist. I broadened. I remember sitting in biology classes and trembling as I heard and read about the biological world and about evolution. In geology I thrilled to the story the rocks told of the early beginnings of this world and mankind. I learned about the scientific method of establishing facts. I took many psychology courses and learned about the many vagaries of human behavior.
I read and collected books about the philosophy of religion and politics, especially those of Walter Kaufman. I discovered Fawn Brody's book, No Man Knows My History and Juanita Brooks' Mountain Meadow Massacre and learned how both of those woman were chastised by the Mormon Church for their candor. I read the history of John D. Lee and many other men of the early church in Missouri, Illinois and Utah.
Then I took a psychology class from James Tjedski. He said, "How do you establish what is true? You take a premise, gather all the knowledge that you can on one side of the premise and all the knowledge you can get against it. Then you put that knowledge on a scale. If the scale tips significantly to one side or the other that side of the premise is probably true, but not absolutely. Perhaps tomorrow you may find evidence to shift the weight to the other side. There is a challenge to you to be honest with yourself, don't be so in love with one side of the question that you ignore all the evidence against it. All you can say for sure is 'With what I know today this seems to be true.'"
Sometimes I went home from his class trembling with the experience of learning something I had never known existed. I felt as if I were breaking out of a chrysalis in which I had been confined one painful step at a time. As you can plainly see, Tjedski didn't last long at Utah State University.
As my intellect broadened, I fought a deep sense of guilt that I was looking into secret places that were forbidden me. I could feel the chains breaking which had been confining me, holding me back from new things which should have been given to me freely. I couldn't blame my parents nor my teachers. They had been imprisoned in the same chains which held me.
Common sense kept whispering in my mind's ear. "If a particular religion is to govern a person's life, as it had governed mine, then that religion should not be above debate." But Church doctrine made debate a nasty word. "Lean not unto thine own understanding." "Do as church authorities tell you." "Believe without a sign." "Kill reason." "Belief comes first and knowledge comes afterward." These were ideas so firmly established within my being it was like extracting a tooth to discard any of them. But when evidence kept staring me in the face I had to admit I would only be a fool to continue to believe the old things in the old ways. "Indeed, Ardith, there were a lot of things in heaven and earth than were ever dreamed of in my philosophy."
It would take volumes, and many volumes have been written, to itemize all the reasons which proved that Joseph Smith lied when he said the Book of Mormon was translated from golden plates laid up by the power of God to come forth at the last days. It took the reading of many books both pro and con on Mormonism.
To my despair my investigation imposed upon my intellect several irrefutable facts:
1. Joseph Smith didn't get around to telling of the remarkable first vision until 18 years after it was supposed to have happened, and then when he did tell it there appeared three or four different versions until even modern historian are suspecting the authenticity of any of the stories.
2. There is little consistency in the stories he told about the golden plates. At one time he said he received the plates and they remained in his possession until he was commanded to return them. But he didn't show them to the three witnesses who saw them, an angel did, and they saw them with their mind's eye. Another time when people were afraid the plates had been stolen he reassured them that an angel had them. A statement made by Oliver Cowdery when he said in his history of the church, "You would have thought Joseph and I were bereft of our senses if you would have seen us translating the plates with the plates nowhere in sight." Joseph ostensibly looked in his hat and read the translation from the Urim and Thummin inside his hat. The Anthon transcript was a hoax all around. No man could say that Smith's translation of the Egyptian figures which Martin Harris took to the language specialist Anthon was a correct translation of those figures when the Egyptian language had not been broken until 1838. Smith translated the Pearl of Great Price from an Egyptian papyrus which modern scholars have found to be just prayers for the dead which was often buried with the mummies.
3. He copied into the Book of Mormon at least 25,000 words directly from the King James Version of the Bible, with only an occasional change of a 'wherefore' or 'it came to pass'. the King James version was the final product of four or five translation from the Greek, the Latin and the Hebrew plus 1600 years of cultural change, many of those changes yet to happen and the transporting of early books of the Bible across an ocean onto another continent which already had a civilization sophisticated enough to have a perfect calendar and yet comes up matching the King James version perfectly. Did Joseph Smith actually translate those 25,000 words from golden plates dug up on a hill in New York State, or did he just copy it from the King James version of the Bible? Oh come on now, how gullible does a person have to be?
The Book of Mormon is so full of things that couldn't possibly have happened like the use of chariots in war when there is no evidence that the American people ever used the wheel except as a toy. There are numerous other things I won't take the space to mention here. Most genuine scholars don't even want to be bothered about trying to disprove the Book of Mormon. It would be almost as egregious as spending time to prove that Jack and Jill really did go up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Actually the Book of Mormon is its own greatest witness of its fraudulent origin.
4. Smith lied and he admitted he lied, many times excusing himself that God had told him to keep certain matters secret from even his own people. He lied to his own people about the early practice of polygamy, that infamous practice which exploited Mormon women and he advised his brethren to lie also. He lied publicly to his people when he had already taken several women as spiritual wives. He lied when he said the temple ceremony came from God when it was an obvious steal from the Masons.
As in any court of law when a witness lies many times his word loses its credibility. If he lies about one thing, says the opposing attorney, then he will lie about many other things until no one can believe what he says.
I studied, prayed, analyzed, and agonized trying to find just one thing that wasn't suspect in Smith's life and in his writings. At last I was impelled to admit that Joseph Smith had been a fraud and a tyrant no matter how charismatic, personally charming, and occasionally sympathetic he could be.
The bulk of the proof is J. Smith's fraudulent actions came not from anti-Mormon sources but from Smith's own words, his accounts of his own actions and his historically substantiated personal behavior.
Brigham Young had this to say about Joseph Smith: "Joseph was mean from birth, wild, intemperate, dishonest, tricky, but for all that he was a prophet of the Lord. These trifling faults were as nothing against the religion he founded. I care not if Joseph gamble, lie, swear, run horses and marry women every day: for I embrace no man in my faith" Perhaps that also reveals something of the character of Brigham Young. No matter how clean, industrious and family oriented Mormons now are it doesn't erase the smut of their beginning, nor does it add one whit of credibility to the Joseph Smith story.
I fluctuated back and forth between the pull of the old ways and what I intellectually knew to be true. At that time the church had a poster that was on display in the foyer of every church. A person pointed a finger directly at you and said, "Be honest with yourself." When I would go to church that poster would slap me in the face. I would sit and listen to what was said, get angry at the stupidity of it, go home and swear I'd never go to church again. Then like some drunkard going back to his drink I would go back again and search for something I could rely on and that poster would slap me in the face again, "Be honest with yourself."
Be honest with myself. What was I getting out of church affiliation? Sociability. That was all I found. Sociability is fine but not when you have to pretend to believe the nonsense that you now know is nonsense in order to belong. I got to feeling like a hypocrite. In October of 1960 I wrote in my diary that there were too many things against the Mormon Church, the lies, the fraud, the lechery, the tyranny, the exploitation of women, their brain-washing of children. I wanted no more to do with it.
When a person perpetuates lies and fraud believing it is the truth is he blameless? He is not. He becomes a liar himself. What responsibility does a person have to substantiate the truth of the doctrine he's spouting before he passes it on to unsuspecting people as fact? If there were a severe penalty connected to such an activity it would silence a hell of a lot of preachers. Evidently when God, or whomever, made the commandments, teaching untruths wasn't considered worthy of any concern.
Is emotion evidence? Just because a person wants something to be true does that add one whit to its validity? I ran upon a quotation from Socrates: "Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt--particularly to doubt one's own beliefs, one's dogmas, one's axioms. Who knows how these cherished beliefs became certainties, with ease, as if some secret wish did them, clothing desire in the dress of thought? There is no real philosophy until the mind turns around and examines itself." It seemed to me as if the long dead brain of Socrates was speaking to my own brain.
At that time I intellectually withdrew from the church of my childhood and early adulthood. It wasn't easy. For the better part of ten years it was a source of anxiety. But no longer. I have continued to read and study all religions, all philosophies, hundreds of books and all I find is more evidence to substantiate my withdrawal from the Mormon Church. You can only see what it is like when you get out of it, view it from a distance.
I copied this from a book I read but I've forgotten the title: "She felt the way she did when Jehovah's Witnesses stood on her doorstep and talked about God or when fresh young Mormons tried to convert her, young men with shaved faces and shaved minds, who grinned at you politely, despite your sins and talked of life and eternity as if they'd been equipped with looped tapes in some Salt Lake City basement." It is only when you regard it from a distance, from a new perspective, that you see its real face.
But in October of 1960 I hadn't even scratched the surface of a tantalizing new world I was seeing for the first time. There was more to come. It was like stepping back in time. With each step I took backward new terrain opened up to my view. When I became familiar with that new set of facts my mind would ask, "What's behind that?" As I searched I grew. When I stretched my mind over new ideas I knew it could never, worlds without end, return to its once puny size.
Once burned, twice shy. When I admitted my disenchantment with what I had once believed, I didn't turn to other churches for new comfort. After forty three years I had my eyes open. I couldn't force them shut again. I didn't try to find an opiate which would shield me against the cruelties of this world. By that time I had met many of history's theologians, scientists, philosophers, and thinkers. I gobbled up books on all those subjects as if I were starving for knowledge, and I was.
Darwin had a large influence on me as did Walter Kaufman, Will Durrant (my mother was a Durrant perhaps Will and I were related). I drank in Voltaire as if I had just come from a long hot walk in the dessert. I loved Eric Hoffer, Nietzsche, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, to name only a few. I read their works not once but many times, learning something from all of them but developing a sense of discrimination as I compared one authority's philosophy with that of another and subjecting them all to Tdjeski's scale.
I read books on early Christianity, besides the Bible, I studied Augustine, Martin Luther, Wycliffe, St. Francis, many on the Catholic Popes, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the religious wars in Europe and England. I should have kept track of the books I read. I had no idea I was going to attempt to document what I believe or I would have done so.
Let's pretend I made a documentary account of those times. Come with me over the past thirty years and I'll show how the documentary was made. Let's press the fast-backward switch on our VCR and as the film rolls backward we will catch glimpses of the men and events which played parts in the scenario The Making of Deana Jensen who has the audacity to write GODWHO.
I rode with Darwin on the Beagle and was with him when he wrote, "Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy of interposition of a deity. It is more humble and I believe true to consider him created from the animals." and wondered at the courage it would take for Darwin to defend that statement in that period of time.
I knew John Calvin and John Knox and bled with them as they saw mans' depravity and mourned for his sins. I helped Martin Luther nail his grievances against the Catholic Church on the Wittenburg Chapel Door and stood with the crowd which watched him consummate his marriage to a nun.
There I was watching with the rest of the curious as religious zealots dug up the bones of Wycliffe and hanged those bones for heresy because Wycliffe had translated the Bible from the Latin into the "language of the Angels" so that common people could read it.
With Thomas Aquinas I searched the forbidden manuscripts of the early Greeks and saw how he stirred Greek philosophy into the soup of Christianity. On Christmas day in 800 I saw Pope Leo III place a crown on the head of the emperor Charlemagne and realized how that incident sealed the bond between church and state which would imprison the freedoms and intellectual development of man into a state of inertia for at least another 800 years.
I held the candle as Augustine wrote his mountains of prose pleading with God for mercy and enlightenment and saw how he, too, stirred Plato, Pythagoras, and Aristotle into the Gospels. I knelt with Galileo when he confessed aloud to the Catholic prelates that the earth stood still and the sun moved around it--he confessed he was mistaken when he said the earth moved around the sun. But I heard him whisper as he left the church, "But the earth still goes around the sun." I stood on the f*ggots and was burned with Bruno in punishment for his scientific investigations.
I walked with Paul on his way to Damascus and felt his inner rage against his Jewish heritage and knew that Paul's personal zeal, his enthusiasm and love of the mystical would make him the real Judas. In Jerusalem I walked with the apostles of Christ and heard their displeasure with Paul's ministrations.
I listened to Jesus stress obedience and not the development of reason, and heard how he relied on dire threats rather than argument. I could see he never conceived of rational inquiry as a way of life. Study made it clear to me that Paul was the real architect of Christianity. He made Jesus into something he was not.
I stopped by Athens to hear Aristotle and wanted to throw rotten apples at him when he talked about women. "Women is to man as the slave is to the master, the manual to the mental workers, the barbarian to the Greek. Woman is an unfinished man left standing on a lower step in the scale of development. The male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the one ruler and the other is ruled: and this principle extends, of necessity, to all mankind. Woman is weak of will and therefore incapable of independence of character or position." Instead I cried because I knew he wasn't the first person nor the last one to say those things about women who weren't like that at all. I grieved that religious zealots were his pupils and mimicked his words.
I heard Epicures say. "Soul and mind evolve with the body, grow with its growth, ail with its ailments, and die with its death. Nothing exists but atoms, space and law; and the law of laws is that of evolution and dissolution everywhere." and knew why the church at Rome had suppressed the Grecian manuscripts. I read Plato's Republic and could see how Christianity had stolen Plato's ideas of heaven, purgatory and hell and many other ideas without giving him credit and at the same time calling the knowledge of the Greeks, pagan. It was as the expedient Christian church believed "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em." or "If someone has a better idea than you steal it from him and call it your own."
I traveled beyond Isaac, Jacob, Abraham and Moses to the grand production, the play in the Garden of Eden which I watched with delight as I had watched Jeremy Irons play Duke of Athens in Stratford on Avon. Nothing but a play. A play probably written to entertain but then taken seriously with historical ramifications that reached into all the world. I raged that millions had been taught, and are still being taught, that the fictional play was literal.
Back to Hammurabi I went and read the Ten Commandments Moses said he had received from God. I called on Confuscious and Buddha, studied the Vedas of Midras, Hunduism and the Upanishads, the many and varied tribal cultures that evolved around the world. I realized that all of them had a code which resembled the Golden Rule about being concerned with one's neighbor.
Suddenly we stop. Nothing more on the tape except what we read in the bones, in the tools, in long buried camp fires, warriors, bison, ceremonies painted on walls of caves and in the rocks. At last we see thinking man pulling away from the rest of the animal kingdom.
We start up the VCR again, this time we go slow forward. In the first scene we see thinking man walking upright carrying his stone tools, carrying his child on his shoulders. The child's mother walking beside them. In John 1:1 in the New Testament of the Bible it says, "In the beginning was the word." Many interpretations have been put on that simple sentence but to me it means that is where man came to be, when he began to communicate verbally with other people. That was where he separated from his fur-skinned relatives, when the first infant said "Mama" and meant the woman who gave him suck.
That was the giant step in the anthropological evolution, when man could communicate with his neighbors in abstract terms, remember the stories his father told him and repeat them to his children. Man's curiosity, his brain which can perceive dangers and remember consequences, looked at his environment and asked Why? Why does the sun disappear in the evening and then come up in a different place the next morning? Why does the sun nearly disappear in the south when days or short and then swing back to the north when the days grow longer? Why does a person lie down to go to sleep and then bloat up and stink?
It was unfortunate from the beginning that men and women are inclined to construct answers even when they do not have enough information on the subject to give correct answers. Thus answers, in the beginning had strong mythological quality. What added to the confusion was that man had no compunction against spreading false information. It is part of the ego of knowing man that what he says has validity.
The man or woman who knew the most was usually looked upon as the leader. So to be hesitant in giving an answer to a subordinate's question was a sign of weakness. Darwin's law of the survival of the fittest was as active in the sociological field as it was in the biological field An appearance of superiority, strength, often discourages attacks and encourages confidence. Man/woman developed early the skill of bluffing, putting on the bold front, telling things as truth when there was no proof at all, just to give them prestige and a position of power. The more egotistical the leader the more creative his answers were.
Since man didn't have any knowledge of his environment he saw gods, mystical beings in everything. He saw the river roaring away, didn't understand the law of gravity, and assumed that the river moved under its own power---it was alive. He saw the destruction of the lightning and his primitive thinking made it an angry god out to punish him for something he had done wrong.
Thus laws came into being controlling behavior so as not to anger the gods. The person in the group who was in the know gave out the laws. It didn't take much for a god to be created and those gods were perpetuated by the telling and embellishing from generation to generation. The mystical has an anti-rational and anti-logical bias, and above it grows contempt for reason. In every society a system of rules grew and as the leaders enjoyed and enhanced their power the stronger hold they had on their followers.
The more power the leaders got the more they wanted. And these leaders found out their words and commands had more effectiveness when the leader gave his commands in the name of some god. Gods became a source of control of societies. Rituals evolved and were perpetuated by brainwashing. Perhaps more so if there was some sacrificial offering connected with ritual. The gods were even more effective if people were taught the gods could see inside a person's brain, listen to what he was thinking.
When writing came into being those rules were written down and the written rules became scripture. As each generation grew up and studied the old scriptures some of the more creative of the scholars made changes and new interpretations. Therefore almost all writing was done to reinforce laws and beliefs that already existed, or to revise them, put new interpretations on them or to introduce new laws.
After many generations there got to be so many gods that priests were in a dither trying to keep track of them all. At last someone consolidated them all into one god, one god above all the other gods. That god was a jealous god and he stated "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The Biblical character of Moses became a convert. That's why the Bible was written, to prove there is but one god, and Moses by his own declaration and his political position over the Israelites who had been in slavery for many generations in Egypt, became the intermediary between that one god and man. That was the impetus for writing down the scriptures which eventually came to be collected into a single book, to prove that there was only one god, to show his power and his wisdom and to put fear into the heart of the doubter.
The creation story has been told from many different cultures and in many different ways usually verbally for many generations until it was finally written down.
Whoever wrote the book of Genesis in the Bible decided he was going to commit the story to paper. Who can tell at this late date what was the purpose of that particular writer when he committed that story to writing. Was he consolidating many stories into one? Was he writing down a particular story someone had told him? Was he writing down a story different from the one his father had told him? Was he being satirical? Did he do it because he had a free day and thought he'd try his pen at something? Did he take, as some have said, several stories and try to make one out of them?
Some historians say that there were many writers who contributed to those first five books of Moses. It is immaterial to this work whether there were one or many. The result was the same. The story of the creation was the first bit of "proof" that there was only one god. And that story set the world on a giant sidetrack with eyes on the mystical instead of on the human race. Even up to the present time millions believe that fictional tale to be an account of what actually happened.
In the early days, before the writing of scripture, societies had been ruled by matriarchs, the giver of food, the sustainer of life. Man resented his dependence on women. His ego told him she was his inferior but she provided food when hunting was poor. She made clothes to keep him warm in the cold. She made moccasins that protected his feet during the hunt. If she refused him sex he would fight her for it. She knew who got things done. She could survive without man but man couldn't survive without her. He resented his dependence on her. He was jealous that she could give birth and he couldn't. To control her he belittled her and all her sex. For generations the main god was female.
It is entirely probable that the story of Adam and Eve was written to put woman in her place. In the first story in Genesis God made Adam and Eve at the same time out of the dust. But in the second version God made everything, the plants, the beasts of the fields the skunks and the cactus, before he decided that Adam should have some one to "help" him. He took a rib out of Adam's side from which he made Eve. He called her woman, because she came out of man. Now, after this scripture was given to man by the undebatable God, man could say to woman, "You belong to me because I gave birth to you. So there!" It is significant that Adam didn't give birth a second time.
The God of the early Bible was not a likeable chap. He was cruel, vindictive, giving orders to generals to kill everyone in certain cities and punishing the general if he failed to kill every last one. That God ordered human sacrifices until Abraham rebelled against it. When Moses wrote his own version of the moral code of Hammurabi, he made the first and greatest commandment, "To Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart might and strength." By that unfortunate statement he set the Jewish people off in a disastrous direction. He turned their eyes away from mankind and toward mysticism by commandment, set such fear in them of God's anger and retribution that few people got around to considering the next commandment which was to love your neighbor as yourself.
That first commandment made it a sin to doubt the existence of the mystical force that made the world, has control over it and everything that exists in it. It made doubt a sin. It made curiosity a sin. The binding of the intellect was the original sin, not sex. When Eve wanted to eat of the tree of knowledge God cursed her for it.
God didn't understand women because men didn't understand women. Dumas said, "The Bible says that woman was the last thing that God made. Evidently he made her on a Saturday night because she reveals his fatigue."
To me this misunderstanding of women is one of the most important pieces of evidence that man wrote the scriptures. Man couldn't understand women so he ignored them and/or maligned them, subjected them to his will without their consent
As we travel through those biblical times we find accounts of prophets speaking with God. All we have as proof that those messages from God were valid is the say-so of the so-called prophet. When Moses saw God in the burning bush there was no other witness. God never revealed himself to more than one person at a time. In reality the only "evidence" we have of the existence of such an important being is hearsay and you know how much validity hearsay carries in a court of law. If a man sees what no other person sees, and if he hears what no other person hears, then we must speak of a derangement of the senses.
It is impossible to pin down two people who agree on what God is (was) because too many people spoke with God and did so out of their own imaginations. Voltaire said, "If there was no God man would have created him." Of course you have to realize that if people in Voltaire's day said blank out that there is no God he was in danger of being invited to a necktie party, or worse, to a roasting and he was the roast. Voltaire wrote with humor and satire. I suspect when he made that statement he was doing so with tongue in cheek. I will paraphrase Voltaire and say, "All gods are man made and that's why the workmanship is so shoddy that it can't stand investigation."
It took many years of investigation, the hashing and rehashing of yeahs and nays before I ever reached that conclusion.
By the time Christ came along the Jewish religion was steeped in ritualism and petit laws. Theologians say Christ brought love into the world. Love was in existence long before he ever showed up and if this world is ever to be saved from total destruction love of our neighbor will have to be more than a pretty phrase.
Very little is known of the historical Jesus but the one fact comes loud and clear. He was a rebel. He rebelled against the rigid rules of his culture and he rebelled against the rule of Rome. The Romans executed him for his rebellion. It was Paul, who had never even met Christ, who made him into what he wasn't. He took philosophy from early Athens, the virgin birth, the perfection of man, the existence of the soul, the life beyond death and wove them into the life of Christ. Paul was suspected by the remaining apostles of Jesus but as the centuries rolled along new interpretation was piled upon new interpretation. The New Testament of the Bible is a thinly disguised exegesis by writers writing many years after the events were supposed to have happened attempting to prove the divine origin of Christ from what had previously been written in the Old Testament.
The idea of a sacrificial being was an idea accepted by the Sumerians and Babylonians who believed that man was created by the sacrifice of a god or gods who were killed that man might live. Lamba-gods (carpenter gods) were killed so that man might be given life with their blood. Over the eons of time scriptures change by creative writers taking old legends and putting them in up-to-date clothes.
The collectors who finally put together the New Testament chose only those writers who said what the collectors wanted them to say. Those books were written when people began to ask "Just who was this Jesus you talk about?" Two, three, four hundred years after the events were supposed to have happened. It wasn't one person's deliberate attempt to falsify things but one small lie (an unverified statement) embellished by the next person, added to by the third person, added to or subtracted from by the fourth person. The same process Darwin had watched in the changing of the species by the survival of the fittest. Men loving the power they had over the minds and bodies of other men, embellishing that power, expanding its scope. Until the Christian church had grown large, rich and powerful. That is the picture which comes through from honest, extensive investigation.
Then came the big sell-out.
The Catholic Church had grown powerful in the cities, especially in Rome. Charlemagne was the Emperor of central Europe. But the rural areas were filled with Barbarians, the Goths the Visigoths who warred among themselves, resisted both the church and the state, terrorized everyone with their raids into the cities. Charlemagne and Pope Leo III collaborated, agreed to join forces. On Christmas day in 800 A D Charlemagne accepted the crown of Emporer from Pope Leo III thus forming the formidable Holy Roman Empire. Between the two of them they brought the pagans under control. What few personal freedoms the citizens had were no more. By the time the two forces became one force the little man, the peasant, the ones who did the plowing, harvested the grain, made the bread, was in bondage.
Everything was given and taken in the name of God. God blessed whom the church blessed. God cursed whom the church cursed. The Pope blessed the wars of the Emperor. Armies marched to protect the Pope. The costs of feeding, and arming the armies was on the necks of the peasants. The costs of building the enormous cathedrals and filling them with works of art landed on the necks of the peasants. Man was forbidden to read the Bible by which his life was governed. Priests of the church were forbidden on penalty of death to teach the peasants to read. The dark ages descended on Europe. God held total control over the lives of men.
The only changes that were made for the benefit of man came from the few in the lower echelons of the church who went against the rules. Those who taught people to read in spite of the rules, who opened hospitals in spite of the rules, who resisted the collecting of fortunes by the clergy in spite of the rules.
Wycliffe gave his life to translate the scriptures into English so men could read for themselves the rules God had set down. Martin Luther tried to right the wrongs he could see which were perpetrated by greed among the clergy of the Catholic church, but he did it in the name of God. The idea of God and Jesus Christ by that time had grown so strong very few people could think beyond it. Those who tried to bring logic and rational thinking to the minds of men were shut up, burned at the stake, or hanged, dragged and quartered. Fear reigned everywhere, even among the elite. One never knew when an enemy would point a finger at him and cry traitor, heretic, atheist.
My study was only about the Christian world. Similar dramas were taking place world-wide in other religions; In 1982 I visited the Orient. At a Buddha shrine I saw many small boys running around. The tour director told us that in the Buddha religion the belief is that the first born son belongs to the family but the second born son belongs to the church. When the second son reaches four years of age he is given to the monastery for them to educate and care for him. The parents are allowed to see their son once a month. At the age of 18 years the boy is given a choice of returning to the outside world or remaining a monk. After 18 years of brainwashing it is doubtful that many are inclined to face reality and a life in the real world.
Is the faith of that Oriental mother of lesser quality than the faith of the Christian woman who is following the teachings of her church? They are both doing what they have been taught since birth, to obey without debate. Most every organized religion asks for devotion by faith, acceptance, obedience.
Our VCR travels take us through the times of John Knox, the vital force of British Protestantism against Catholicism. John Calvin, Wesley, the Huguenots, the Albeginsians, the Moors. Oceans of blood shed in the name of God and for God. The blood of the Catholics shed when the Protestants gained the power. The blood of the Protestants shed when the Catholics gained power. All of them claiming to be the bastions of morality, carrying out God's wishes.
To have to accept a whole world of beliefs forced on us by our environment, without a chance to choose or build our own world of beliefs, would mean a thousand fold frustration even if all that is forced on us were based on painstaking research. But soon we realize that people will lie to us whether they know the facts or have not bothered to determine the validity of them.
Religion makes man a stranger in the universe. It raises a thirst in him that cannot be quenched. It doesn't teach man to be at home in the world and be part of the animal kingdom but rather separate himself from it and make the earth his temporary abode and thus relieve him of any worry or concern as to the earth's final demise. To all theologians the dragon that must be slain is reason. The idea of God has its roots in the opinion that the world and the universe are artifacts and as such have had to have an intelligent designer. The conclusion sounds plausible "Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom natural things are directed---and that being must be God." But that simple explanation is given by those who do not understand the complexities of nature.
Religions are NOT the bastions of morality. Morality is imbedded in societies. Religions' first and greatest immorality is in professing to have perfect knowledge when there is none. Churches and dogmas have value only so far as they assist societies in the building of morality but not at the expense of intellectual development, honesty and truth. Few of them can meet that criteria.
Nature doesn't rule discord. Nature is discord, a survival of the fittest. The struggle for existence is not an evil. It is a reality. There is no hidden plan of God or nature. God forgives. Nature doesn't. You have to adjust, cooperate, or die. In truth the world is neither with us or against us.
This is the conclusion I came to as I studied the times when religions were at their peak, God is a cop-out, The idea of God takes responsibility off the shoulders of man and puts it on some mystical being. The idea of God relieves man of the guilt of his failures because he is offered forgiveness. Sophocles said, "Wonders are many and none is more wonderful than man." The only salvation of man is man.
This isn't a philosophy I whipped up but one I've labored over for many years Every statement I have made here has been substantiated and corroborated by many sources. The wonderful mind of man, which took him out of the tree tops and flung him into the skies, is the world's most marvelous resource. It makes man the supreme being of the universe. It is the most maligned, the most stifled, the most denied, the most enslaved, and the most misused of all resources.
What is it about man that pulls and holds him to this mostly senseless mysticism? Let's focus our VCR on today and see what happens.
"Change and decay in all around I see. O, thou who changes not, abide with me." So the old church hymn goes giving voice to man's continuing search for permanence. Man wants something that is constant, something that he can depend on. Everything around him is in a state of flux. As Shakespeare said, "First we ripe and ripe and then we rot and rot and thereby hangs a tale." We don't like the continual changes. We want the wheels to stop and let us stay where we are. We are egotistical enough to believe we are creatures which are above that constant change and eventual death. This world is not our permanent home. We want to think that this life is only one step in an eternal plan.
To the idea of inevitable death humanity imposes the image of life continuing after death. Therefore the human mind turns toward mysticism to identify and describe the post-death existence and to give comfort as death approaches. Religion is a reaction against this fear. It was not in the first place a belief in deities. That evolved as there was consolidation of the many gods in mysticism into one god. The theorizing minds tend to over-simplification, which becomes the root of all the one-sided dogmatism which gives religion a sense of certainty, puts it down where even the most naive souls can grasp it.
Religion is humiliating for human intelligence, yet humanity clings to its absurdity and error. It is bewildering that the most crass superstitions have long been regarded as a universal fact. Man is the only creature endowed with reason yet he is also the only creature who pins his devotion and hopes on things unreasonable.
Karl Marx said religion was the opiate of the people. It softens the blow of death of a loved one. It boosts the courage of the dying. It may put regret for his actions in the breast of a dirty, rotten sinner. But then it may not, because that person is given the option of repentance if he believes in god, and therefore he has an out.
Religion often serves as an opiate to those who live under hopeless oppression. By being humble and accepting their lot the oppressed are building up 'brownie points' with the celestial score keeper who will pay up--sometime. They are proving themselves strong to themselves as well as to others. "I can take it" a sort of victory to those who have won no victories. This is why women are frequently the backbone of churches. Forced into roles that are often intolerable they live the good life in spite of their burdens. The promise of a better life in the world to come helps them endure what they can not change.
"Teach your children in the way they should go and when they are old they won't depart from it." So says the Bible. But so say all those who wish to indoctrinate others. Hitler said "Give me the child until he is twelve and I will give you the man."
The Bible also says: "Lean not unto thine own understanding." Thus giving the death blow to curiosity and debate, putting the responsibility of ones behavior on the authority, thereby taking ones destiny out of ones own hands and putting it into the hands of someone else. That's a very dangerous thing to do if one values his freedoms. Religion an opiate? Definitely. But like all opiates it threatens to enslave its user.
God cannot be proved by the intellect. He can only be known through the emotions. Martin Luther said; "You have to kill reason to know god." But if you kill reason you kill the intellect and leave man defenseless.
When a child is trained to think in the mystical modus that God is watching over him, directing him and will punish in some nether world all who disobey him, or reward him for good things done, then he begins to regard the world as down a long corridor. He thus falls prey to all sorts of holy excesses, fanaticism, self torment, prudery, gullibility and a morbid inability to meet the world. The healthy mind, the one which is free of all fetters of mysticism doesn't need to be born again. He sees life for what it is and can accept it. It is only the warped mind, the sick soul who needs to be born again to be happy.
The pretense of religious belief when one really believes otherwise is one of the greatest forces that keeps organized religion active and alive. A fear of ostracism if the family finds out a member is in rebellion from the things that person was taught as a child. There is a social need to belong to a group, or a political reasons (it gives a sense of worth to be affiliated with a popular religion), reasons of expediency, (I can make profitable connections belonging to this group). There is usually a fee, tithe, required to maintain ones membership in such organizations.
As custodians of offerings, tithes, contributions, church is BIG business. The greatest fraud of that arrangement is that the church is accountable to no one but the nebulous God who seldom if ever considers bank accounts, investments, embezzlements, misappropriations and plain stupid mismanagement.
Churches won't let churches die. There is too much money involved. When a person spouts a mysticism and money begins to flow in then it solidifies and grows. The more money a church gets the more power it has and the more it promotes mysticism. Such wealth puts much power into the hands of those who want to strengthen the church for political management. Power gives up nothing unless it is forced to give it up. Changes in churches come about not from the top but by insignificant people gathering together, realizing that changes are needed, putting pressure on leaders until they force changes at the top.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not freedom of religion which has made this country great, but freedom from religion. Religion can go just so far and then political action contains it. One particular case was the Mormons and their practice of polygamy. After more than fifty years of legislating against polygamy and having the Mormons thumb their noses at all laws concerning marriage, the Federal Government put all the church's property into the hands of a receiver in 1889. Officially the Mormons gave up taking several wives each. Unofficially it kept going on even by high church officials until there was another confrontation in 1905. Polygamy is still being practiced by fundamentalists to the embarrassment of the present day Mormons.
If religious zealots can defy civil laws with polygamy because it is their religious belief there is danger of any kind of "kookiness" coming under the umbrella of religious freedom.
Historically the church, especially the Catholic Church, has wielded so much power that mankind was literally held in intellectual bondage for over a thousand years. Thousands of people killed during the Inquisition in the name of religion. Many others deprived of their human rights. Any changes which came about were through heresy and individual disobedience. Yet in the face of such a history the church, all churches, claim to be the bastions of morality, the keeper of morality, the guardian of morality.
They announce this often and long and loud trying to give themselves a purpose to remain in existence. They claim that belonging to an organized religion guarantees that their members will have moral training. The role of churches in morality is a point to be debated. In actuality morality is imbedded in societies. Almost all moral codes tell of the necessity of caring for your neighbors, reverencing your parentage, loving your children, taking nothing from the earth unless you return something of equal worth to the earth. But those are social laws. They are not divine laws, laws revealed by God. They are universal laws which must be obeyed if the human family is to continue.
The greatest immorality of religion is that it teaches as truth things which have no basis in truth. The existence of God. A God who directs the universe. God speaks to men. There will be life after death. You will be punished in an after life for contributions to the church which you have withheld, all kinds of punishment for all kinds of sin. None of them are honest enough to teach, "What I am telling you may not have any basis in fact. Go out and find out for yourself." In my opinion it is child abuse to fill a child's brain with half truths and whole lies until when he comes of age to think for himself he has no brain to think with. You are not excused of child abuse as a parent if you haven't established that which you are teaching him is the truth.
Even the greatest thinkers fumble and stumble when they try to deal with the idea of God, not because they are slow of speech or inadequate to deal with mystical subjects but because God does not exist and they are trying to make a falsehood a truth and that is impossible.
Man should display moral behavior because he is nature's greatest creation and should respect every other human being as of equal worth as himself. That which is good for his neighbor must also be good for all men and by arbitration all conflicts shall be settled. The same moral concern should be displayed to all of the earth's creatures and even to the earth itself. God doesn't demand it. Nature demands it. If man does not heed this moral code then nature will exacts its toll. Nature does not forgive man his trespassed.
Bio of submitter, Daniel Geery : I lived off the grid with family in an earth-sheltered, solar powered house, for 15 years; wrote a book on earth-sheltered solar greenhouses; had a heart transplant in 2005; got fired from a tenured teaching with a perfect teaching record; later worked in a multi-cultural elementary school with 20+ native tongues; designed and patented the "Aquaglider" and "Hyperblimp"; received a Lindbergh Foundation Award to study right whales with Hyperblimps; recently married a wonderful woman, excellent writer, cook, and gardener, who is kind, gentle, warm, funny, loving, and spiritual in a cosmic sense.