I was listening to Leonard Cohen`s the story of Isaac. Its an interesting story and I began thinking about its implications. It deals with one patriarchal elderly man prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to the one true God. Its key therefore to fundamentalism, the power of elderly men over women and young children. In the Biblical story there is no mention of what Abraham told his wife Sarah as he took Isaac to the mountain, it does not say what Abraham said to Isaac and last of all it does not say what he said to Isaac after the convenient finding of the ram caught in the thicket.
What would Isaac have said to his mother on his return/ What did Abraham say to Isaac after the event of being placed on the altar? What would Abraham say to Sarah about the trip and the events that happened? This story bothered me greatly as a child, it bothers me now.
It seems to me that its all about the establishment of monotheism, of old men not talking, relating or explaining. Not granting power to others. Its a distasteful story and leads to the idea of the one true God. Its a foundation for women and children to be seen as possessions and not people, its a beginning for persecution because one old man has a personal relationship with God. Whether it is Abraham or Stannis Baratheon . Of course Abraham did not go through with it but the implication is that he would have had not an Angel intervened.
Cohen's words are powerful when he states that the song is for those who would sacrifice one generation on behalf of another. The word sacrifice means to make holy but that's not for me there are many other sacred and holy events that patriarchal society denies. I have been one who has believed perhaps for the last twenty or thirty years that monotheism is Imperialism in religion.
I am still convinced that all faith is “Mythos”. I do not use this as a pejorative term but recognise now that we are all animals of varying abilities and talents. Our spirituality must reflect this if we are to have true understanding and a means to live spiritually and passionately. What follows is part rant and part passion. Perhaps the mixture of rant and passion still explains my ambivalence even now to organised religion
If they want me to believe in their god,
they'll have to sing me better songs.....
I could only believe in a god who dances.
Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and
believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks--those who write
new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and
fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the
-- Friedrich Nietzsche,
"Thus Spoke Zarathustra",
No polytheist ever imagined that all humankind would come to live in the same way; for polytheists took for granted that humans would worship other deities. Only with Christianity did the belief take root that one way of life could/should be lived by all.. If only one belief is true, every other is wrong. For polytheists, religion is a matter of practice,not belief, and there are many kinds of practice. For Christians , religion is a matter of true belief, and therefore every way of life which does not accept must consequently be an error..
While many polytheists may vigorously defend their deities, they never perceive themselves as missionaries. It is certain that without monotheism humans would still be violent unstable beings ; yet history would have spared us from wars of religion. If the world had been spared monotheism we would not have developed communism or indeed global democratic capitalism. It is possible to dream of a world free from militant faiths religious or political.
Yet it is also true that unbelief is a move in a game set by .believers. To deny the existence of a God is to accept the categories of monotheism. As these categories fall into disuse, unbelief becomes uninteresting, and soon is meaningless. Many humanists say they want a secular world, but a world defined by the absence of the Christian God is still a Christian world. Secularism like chastity, a condition defined by what it denies.. If atheism has a future, it can only be in a Christian revival ; and it is true that both Christianity and atheism are declining together.
Atheism is a late bloom of a Christian passion for truth. No Pagan is ready to sacrifice the pleasure of life for the sake of mere truth.. It is an artful illusion, not unadorned reality that they prize. Among the Greeks, the goal of philosophy was happiness or salvation, not truth. The worship of Truth is effectively a Christian cult.
The old Pagans were right to shudder at the uncouth earnestness of the early Christians. None of the Mystery religions of the late Roman Empire would have claimed what the Christians claimed- that all other faiths were in error. For that reason non , none of their followers could ever become an atheist.. When Christianity alone claimed they possessed the truth they condemned the rich and lush profusion of the pagan world with damning finality.
In a world of many gods, unbelief can never be total It can only be a rejection of one one practice and gods and acceptance of others or else as Epicurus and his followers the conviction that gods do not matter since they have long ceased to bother about human affairs. Christianity struck at the root of pagan tolerance of constructed interpretation. In claiming that there is only one truth faith, it gives truth a supreme value that it has not had before. It also made unbelief in the divine possible for the first time. The long delayed consequence of Christian faith was an idolatry of truth that found its most complete expression in atheism. If we live in a world without gods , we have Christianity to thank for it. Iamblichus of Chalcis commented
"You Christians have driven the Gods from the world and made it a lonely place".
Read Cohen`s Lyrics and reflect
The door it opened slowly
My father he came in
I was nine years old
And he stood so tall above me
His blue eyes they were shining
And his voice was very cold
He said, "I've had a vision
And you know I'm strong and holy
I must do what I've been told"
So he started up the mountain
I was running, he was walking
And his axe was made of gold
Well, the trees they got much smaller
The lake, a lady's mirror
We stopped to drink some wine
Then he threw the bottle over
Broke a minute later
And he put his hand on mine
Thought I saw an eagle
But it might have been a vulture
I never could decide
Then my father built an altar
He looked once behind his shoulder
He knew I would not hide
You who build these altars now
To sacrifice these children
You must not do it anymore