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Jan. 25th, 2010 @ 03:49 pm The Book of Genocide
I wanted to share an audacious Washington Post piece from Richard Dawkins, in which he makes an interesting point concerning the Reverend Pat Robertson’s recent attribution of Haiti’s pain to an alleged ancestral Satanism. Dawkins avers that, throughout this eschatological donnybrook, it is actually Robertson who has behaved as the legitimate Christian thinker, while the mainstream believers who denounce him are little better than hypocrites. In short, our notorious Darwinist has once again mounted an outrageous and offensive argument, one I would urge my readers to dismiss out of hand if it did not enjoy the annoying virtue of being true.

Now, I suppose Dawkins could be accused of being too ready to place some of the more lurid moments from Genesis – the worldwide flood, the razing of Sodom and Gomorrah – at the center of Christian theology. And yet he is well within his rights to do so. For hundreds of years the Old Testament was the sine qua non of Christian apologetics. The desert fathers, the medieval scholastics, and the Reformation theologians were absolutely obsessed with finding intimations of Jesus in Hebrew scripture – as well they should have been. Unless one reads Adam’s lapse from grace, the rainbow covenant, and other such episodes as actual events, no less historical than the Battle of Hastings, the very idea of an Incarnate Redeemer arriving in the fullness of time becomes incoherent – a capricious act by a fickle Creator. Only at our peril do we forget that today’s “fundamentalists” were yesterday’s respected Christian intellectuals.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and read Dawkins’s piece. And then, if you can stomach it, read the Book of Genesis – which I have recently taken to calling the Book of Genocide.

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/richard_dawkins/2010/01/haiti_and_the_hypocrisy_of_christian_theology.html?hpid=talkbox1
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 26th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
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People like Robertson make me so furious I can't form intelligent sentences with which to properly lash out at them. Some of the comments under Dawkins's article were also so ignorant they made my head hurt.

*sigh*

I'm going to go curl up in a ball and weep for a while.
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From:j_brisby
Date:January 31st, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
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Greetings, Mr. Morrow, this comment isn't actually related to your post, but I'm writing it out of desperation. You see, I've been wracking my memory trying to recall a little piece of information. Or more precisely, where I first encountered a little piece of information. I hope you can help.

It concerns an alchemical symbol; a diamond with a hook descending from it. Supposedly, it's a symbol for filtration. I thought it might make an interesting element in a tattoo design I'm working on. But now I'm trying to remember where I first encountered this symbol, and its meaning, and I'm coming up blank...except for a vague impression that it might have been in one of your books.

Does this ring any kind of a bell with you?
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From:james_morrow
Date:February 3rd, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
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I haven't brought alchemy on stage very much in my fiction. Could you be thinking of Theodore Roszak's "The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein"? Lots of alchemy in that novel.
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From:j_brisby
Date:March 19th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
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I found it! It was in Diane Ackerman's 'An Alchemy Of Mind'. Finally I can rest...
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 4th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)

robertson

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Some consider Robertson a blatant idiot on par with a hydrophoby dog (as they used to say of rabid sorts), but I think he is a canny showman. An interesting sidebar concerning regional disasters turns up in, of all places, Laurie Garrett's excellent "Betrayal of Trust", which is about public health and politics. In a lengthy note she describes a trip to Kinshaasa in the '90s during the time Clinton had cut off Mobutu and Robertson showed up in a show of support for "this staunch friend of the United States." It was an altogether despicable and puzzling display until she found out about Robertson's diamond mines in Zaire and Angola, operations threatened by Clinton's policies.

Diamond mines. The Lord giveth and Robertson casheth in.

Mark Tiedemann
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 2nd, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)

On the book of genocide you don't mention

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This fairly long comment of mine is a little late in the day but I think it warranted. Mr Morrow to be frank I find your criticism of Genesis as a book of genocide (echoing Dawkins) to be over the top, way over the top. I am no fan of institutional religion, I am no atheist neither btw, but the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a crude "morality" tale if ever there was one, is one very small part of Genesis and likewise a crude so-called morality tale not unique to the ancient Jewish book, whose sources and influences were not confined to ancient Jewry since they did not live in a cultural bubble, but a heritage and mutual influences of other religions and peoples from the ancient Middle and Near East and Meditteranean. Much of this past 'melting pot' is of course lost to us, the ancient past of humanity is both murky and confused to us. The Jewish religion itself constantly evolved, was never a single set belief system (and is not today) and this was typical of many of the ancient faiths in the region which influenced Jewry and which Jewry influenced in turn. Anybody who makes as cursory study of ancient religions of the Meditteranean and Near and Far East can see as much. This touches on other things though that are beyond the intent of my post...

In fact the five books of the Tanach (what you call the Old Testament but it is not the same book in a Christian bible do you know that and do you know why, and I don't mean the lost in translation problem wich is a significant one by itself) have multiple authorships and diverse sources, hence the many contradictions and different names for God and gods (yes gods). Of course there is much to condemn and criticise severely in the Jewish book of faith, including Deuteronomy and Leviticus and some of the books of the prophets as you know well (and you mention this in your fictions of course) yet the Tanach also contains stories of heroism, great mythical tales that are genuinely epic and moving, tales of triumph against the odds, of loss and betrayal and redemption and great stories of human drama, of love and hate and everything in between, there is beautiful poetry and not everything is meant to be taken literally (like the stories of Jonah and Adam and Eve).

Fact is we live in a world in which Jew-hatred has reached heights in the West unseen since WW2, and it is particularly pervasive and deep-rooted among the political Left (their protest too much denials to the contrary) and the Jews are once again at a very real risk from a second Holocaust in the Middle-East, and your comments are made against this backdrop. This backdrop of pervasive and viscious Jew-hatred is not of course your fault but it needs to be taken into account, this is the harsh reality and one needs to pause and think before one puts finger to keyboard and the like. I am not advocating any kind of self-censorship here just balance and perspective and maybe some deeper reflection. After all rabbis in the synagogues of the world do not use the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to advocate their congregants to genocide any more than they use the selfsame tale of Lot to advocate incest with one's teenage daughters if they are cute and you are drunk or advocate their rape at the hands of a baying mob if the circumstances so warrant. No more than rabbis advocate chopping off the hands of uppity females and stoning rebellious sons at the gates of the cities, simply because it is in Torah. The mass-murder, tyranny, exploitation, greed, barbarity and oppression in the world that is happening all over has nothing to do with legends and myths from Genesis.
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From:james_morrow
Date:April 3rd, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)

Re: On the book of genocide you don't mention

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Dear Anonymous:

I appreciate your passionate reply. As an aficionado of Jack Miles's "God: A Biography," I am quite familiar with the concept of the Tanach (or Tanakh) -- familiar enough to know that you're using the term somewhat confusingly: the Tanakh isn't synonymous with "the five books" (the Law, Torah). Rather, it's the whole omnibus comprising Torah, Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Hagiographa).

I was employing the phrase "Old Testament" ironically, but I now see that my intention was not clear. From a Jewish perspective -- and from my own as well -- "Old Testament" is an incoherent, condescending, and often offensive term (as opposed to "Tanakh" or "Torah" or even "Pentateuch"). I should have said "so-called Old Testament."

Please note that my quarrel is with Pat Robertson -- whose evangelical theology, I feel, is viciously anti-Semitic at its core -- and also with the specific and eccentric interpretation of Adam's disobedience articulated by Christian thinkers over the centuries. I was not critiquing Judaism at any level. In the future, let's do each other the favor of careful readings.

B'shalom,

James M

Edited at 2010-04-03 03:11 pm (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 4th, 2010 05:57 am (UTC)

Re: On the book of genocide you don't mention

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Mr Morrow thanks for your reply

You write:
"I am quite familiar with the concept of the Tanach (or Tanakh) -- familiar enough to know that you're using the term somewhat confusingly: the Tanakh isn't synonymous with "the five books" (the Law, Torah). Rather, it's the whole omnibus comprising Torah, Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Hagiographa)."

ah yes I actually am aware of that. I mistakenly wrote Tanach when I meant to write Torah. That was a silly error of mine, so silly that I can't believe I made it, but I see that I did. I am well aware of what Tanach stands for (I speak Hebrew). Thanks for the correction to a really stupid mistake of mine. Shows one should do a proper double check read-through before posting. Agreed on the likes of Pat Robertson and evangelical theology. However such types as Robertson are not the only ones who share a world-view that is anti-Semitic to the core. It is not 1966 (where most American Jews are still living frankly), when it comes to Judenhass you don't have to stray very far from "progressive" leftwing circles.

Larry
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 2nd, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I continue..

However here I mention the elephant in the room, there is a religious book that does advocate genocide and unlike the Tanach it forms the mainstay, the backbone of the book. Its fanatical followers do take this book's bloodlust very seriously and every day people are killed and maimed and oppressed because of the teachings in this book, a book that is not Genesis and has nothing to do with the Jews. It is this book of genocide that threatens the Jews with another holocaust in fact. One cannot understand Ahmadinejad and the mad mullahs of Iran, Al-Queida, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Janjaweed of Sudan, the Muslim Brotherhood and other fanatical groups around the world who the NY Times and the like appears to go out of its way to ignore, unless one knows this book. I do not want to be misunderstood here, I am not saying all Muslims are fanatics or that there are no moderate Muslims, there are millions of moderate Muslims. However Islam is not a moderate religion, it is inherently fanatical. Understanding the difference here between Muslims and the faith of Islam (both Sunni and Shi'ite) is crucial. Political correctness prevents us from even acknowledging what I write here, which can easily be verified for oneself. Ask any atheist or apostate from a Muslim background (if you can find one that is who is open about it!). Unlike in North America wrt Christianity, their apostacy if they make a noise about it, can get them beaten up and even killed, depending on where they live. Even in the West. Really.

Just being a female gets you a life of misery and oppression and always subject to the threat of beatings and even death, not inspite of this book or a misunderstanding of this book (and Muslim Hadith) but because of this book. Yet the silence from liberal atheists and secularists and feminists for that matter on this book of which with a very few exceptions, they know nothing as they know nothing of Islam, its dogma and history is deafening; even as the consequences of this book being taken seriously are more with us in the West today (never mind the rest of the world) than has been the case for centuries. So the silence on this book of very real genocide (yes the Qur'an) which has literally millions of followers who take it SERIOUSLY (I mean the Muslim fanatics here, not the moderates) all around the world including in North America, a book whose deadly consequences leave us with more dead and maimed every week, week after week, month after month, year after year without end and any end in sight; whilst calling the first book of the Jewish bible genocidal with all its sinister implications that are left unsaid, even if unintended, rippling in its wake. All this unremarked upon and not consciously recognised at all, is something that should give one cause for considerable reflection. Every day it seems people are blown apart or murdered, children included, in bombings and jihadist terror from Pakistan to Afghanistan and Iraq, from Nigeria to North Africa. Women are killed in honour killings and disfigured and suffer genital mutilation from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Somalia and Nigeria all thanks to this book (and other Muslim texts) and its teachings. Wherever jihad is waged, from Nigeria to America (and the shadow of 9-11 and its consequences are still very much with us) and Europe where it is intensifying to Somalia and Sudan to Kashmir, the Phillipines and Thailand to the islands of Indonesia, and then there is Iran with its ticking bomb, none of this holy war can be understood unless one understands the real book of genocide. Then again this book of genocide has nothing to do with the Jews and their faith, and unlike the Jews, if you call out the real book of genocide for what it is, well you just may end up dead or in hiding, like Theo van Goch, Pim Fortuyn, Salman Rushdie and plenty others, which kind of proves the point. Against the Jews you can say pretty much whatever you like, no matter how outrageous or misinformed and blatantly false. Le plus ce change..
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 2nd, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
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final comment...

here is much more that can be said here but I cannot write a book, for one the cruel irony that is lost to most everybody (especially the kind of smug types who are so convinced they get irony) including Jews who are so fast asleep in the main to what is going on just beneath the surface, on the nature and roots of anti-Semitism among the Western "secular" Left, ironic since its deeper roots and dynamics are not removed from the backdrop of Christian anti-Semitism over the centuries. That is a whole other thing though. That irony though touches on several taboos and it's just one reason why it is not recognised except by very very few. If the gods do exist (well maybe yes maybe no) they do have an ironic sense of humour, if a very dark one.

Incidentally the worldwide flood (a universal legend found throughout many cultures of the world in fact, from ancient Greece to India to the New World) is like Sodom and Gemorrah, not at the centre of Christian theology. The Passion Play is, along with the Nativity, and the life of Christ in between (even if it is a fiction). Hence CHRISTianity.

Larry aka anonymous
I hate to post under the anonymous tag but appear to have a problem posting with livejournal. It causes confusion I know. I am not to be confused with the other anonymous Jew who left a very thoughtful post on the Lieberman thread.
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From:james_morrow
Date:April 3rd, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
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A point of education and clarification. The antecedent to the worldwide flood narrative is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, including many of the same details that later appear in Genesis, such as the bird who heralds dry land.

In any event, the Deluge continues to occupy a central place in the evangelical Christian imagination -- consider all those expeditions to Mount Ararat -- and yet the whole ark narrative is fundamentally a celebration of divine genocide: hence the admittedly provocative title of my posting.

You're certainly right that Sodom and Gomorrah is not at the center of the Christian argument -- but the entire enterprise *does* turn on the Fall of Man as recorded in the Torah (though that is not how a Jew would read the Garden of Eden story). Dip into Christian theological literature, from Augustine to Kierkegaard, and you'll see what I mean.

I believe your quarrel should not be with liberal secular humanists like myself, whose views are radically and demonstrably at odds with two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism, but rather with the evangelicals and the Rapture mongers. You seem to be angrily invested in an anti-secularism whose roots elude me.

I heartily agree with you that we must not strain on the gnat of Sodom while swallowing the camel of Jihad. Thousands of atheists, secularists, and feminists have expressed their disgust with radical Islam over the years -- consider, for example, Sam Harris's widely read "The End of Faith" -- and I'm bewildered that you imagine otherwise. But that is another day's discussion.

Edited at 2010-04-03 04:51 pm (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)

Gen

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For Jim:

It is not so much the Book of Genesis rather it is the Book of Joshua that is the Book of Genocide. The 33 cities utterly destroyed, the people in entirety, the oxen, the trees, etc. Total annihilation.

Elie Wiesel was asked about this and he said that the Book of Joshua was the only book of the Old Testament that did not contain poetry. I guess we understand now?

And the Great Flood is not just a metaphor. Could have really happened. A comet or asteroid of prodigious size smacking down in mid-ocean would have caused tsunami and earthquake of earth-shaking proportions. Biblical even!!

A man in Holland has just built a full-size ark! Really!

It is reputed from Jewish apocrypha that the ark was lit on the inside by a "pearl" mounted on the roof. Actually a specially faceted crystal that refracted light to the inside of the ship. Modern technology did not "invent" such a device until the 19th century. Spooky, isn't it?
From:lenoxus
Date:October 26th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Gen

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the Great Flood is not just a metaphor. Could have really happened. A comet or asteroid of prodigious size smacking down in mid-ocean would have caused tsunami and earthquake of earth-shaking proportions. Biblical even!!
If that had happened, there would be (literally) tons of geologic evidence which we are not seeing. We do have plenty of evidence of past worldwide catastrophes, but not for a Great Flood.

The Bible implies that the whole of the Earth was covered in water above the highest mountains, which a single ocean collision could not have caused. (In fact, no amount of collisions could, because the water would have gone back down to the oceans anyway).

Any number of geologic events are "technically" feasable, but that sure doesn't mean they actually occurred.
It is reputed from Jewish apocrypha that the ark was lit on the inside by a "pearl" mounted on the roof. Actually a specially faceted crystal that refracted light to the inside of the ship. Modern technology did not "invent" such a device until the 19th century. Spooky, isn't it?
I wonder what crystal-based 19th-century device is specifically being referred to here. In any case, it's not spooky at all for someone to imagine a mystical object which is later roughly imitated with technology. Modern television is "spookily" similar to ancient ideas about seeing distant events on the surface of a pool of water. Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
From:lenoxus
Date:October 26th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)

Late to the party…

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But there's another point that needs to be added regarding the Bible's bloodier moments…

In the United States, the main cultural consensus on the Bible is that is is more than "just a book". As a result, atheist criticism of it is naturally going to focus strongly on the negative, the point being to show not that the Bible is entirely the work of bad people, but that its authors were non-inspired human beings, and that the God character that it presents (if interpreted as a single character and not an amalgam of various God-concepts at various points in history) cannot possibly be all-good.

One could make a similar list of the sociopathic acts committed in the 70-year history of Batman, a character interpreted in different ways by each comic book artist. The reason that that would be mostly pointless is that no sane person thinks that Batman comics are inspired by a being who is omnibenevolent. The fans understand that he's fictional.

"Book of Genocide" is an over-the-top description meant to highlight stories that are either glossed over or, worse still, celebrated. Yes, the Bible has beautiful parts, but that's irrelevant because the standard it is claimed to meet is perfection. (Either that, or its advocates convolutedly say it is an imperfect work nonetheless more "inspired" than other holy books.) If even a Shakespearean tragedy were sold to us as a guide to morality with its flawed, murderous protagonist as the ideal being, we would give it a similarly derisive nickname. Hamlet, in addition to speaking incredible soliloquies, makes mistakes. Does God?