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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Profiling a Psychopath

Here is a profile: the subject is petulant, petty-minded and vengeful: someone who demands attention, and becomes darkly jealous as soon as he thinks that anyone else is getting more attention than he is. He also lays down impossible demands which he insists that others follow, but does not follow them himself. Oh, yes: I should also mention that this man is a mass murderer responsible for thousands of deaths. Who is he? Some despotic Idi Amin-style tyrant? Some brutal Pol Pot dictator ruling through fear? No, this dangerously psychotic individual is of course the god of the Old Testament described in human terms. I can now add that this god also appreciates blood sacrifices made in his name (as the [1]Cain and Abel story dramatically underscores), up to and including [2]human sacrifice.

Any and all of the above character traits and actions can be read in [3]scripture. This god even describes himself as a [4]jealous god. He is an appropriately primitive Bronze Age deity with all-too-human emotions and failings. Although surely being ‘God’ excuses all of these things, right? I mean, being God means you get to make up the rules as you go along, doesn’t it? Being God means that everything you do must be inherently ‘right’, because, well… you’re God, after all. And if you’re God, then everything you do apparently can be excused on the grounds that you have this inscrutable and mystical thing called a ‘plan’.

No, not in my book. Following such a god means that you have lowered the bar of your own moral values down to those of this petulant and jealous dictator god. This god who demands that ‘thou shalt not kill’, and then proceeds to lay down a hatfull of transgressions for which the punishment is cruel and bloody death, either by [5]stoning or by being [6]burned alive. Not to mention that he decides to rub out his entire creation (with the exception of a single extended family and the animals they take on board), apparently for no better reason than that [7]‘the wickedness of man was great in the earth’ – as if things are any different now.

Of course, being omniscient as well as omnipotent, God would have known that he’d be destroying his creation a little way down the road even at the time that he brought it into existence. But trying to plot the twisted logic of a psychopath is a dangerous road to tread. Or to paraphrase what [8]Clarise Starling’s FBI boss advised her prior to her interview with the intellectually brilliant but barkingly psychotic Hannibal Lecter: inside this god’s head is not a place that you want to be.

I remember once remarking to someone who bought into all this that if the scriptural God were a person, he would be incarcerated in an institution for the criminally insane. That was several years ago. I dearly wish that I could write here that I have changed my mind, that I now have come round to seeing things in a different light, and that I now understand the god of scripture more. But I cannot. And I do not. Because scripture has that writ-in-stone immutability, and what is in there cannot be changed or spun in some other more acceptable way. It is as it is. And the actions of God are as they are described there, as anyone who doubts me can check for themselves through my chapter-and-verse citations below. 

Faith is not something that you can cherry-pick. If for you it governs your moral compass and the very fabric of your life, then it’s way too important for that. Unless, of course, you view your faith on an only-choose-the-nice-bits basis. In which case it must be something other than the faith which you claim it to be. Because with true faith, it’s all in, or all out. And when all’s said and done, a Bronze Age god is and remains a Bronze Age god. 

But what is a Bronze Age god doing in the 21st-century?

From Ken Russell's Altered States
I am aware that I have not even touched on the God of the New Testament, where the concepts of Heaven and Hell hold sway. A New Testament god who actually uses such savagely crude reward-and-punishment mind games to keep things in line, who subjects any souls who refuse to bend a knee to him to agonizing torments which last for all eternity with neither hope nor possibility of any reprieve or relief, lays claim to being….... ...a god of love?

[1] Genesis 4:1-5

[2] Judges 11:29-40.

[3] Please see my post Frontier Justice in the Promised Land.

[4] Exodus 20:5, and Deuteronomy 4:24. 

[5] Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and numerous other instances.

[6] Leviticus 20:14.

[7] Genesis 6:5.

[8] In Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs – of course!

Images of Anthony Hopkins in the role of Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, from the novel by Thomas Harris, distributed by Orion Pictures Corporation.

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