Monday, August 11, 2008

One of my favorite articles online...

Not sure why...

Spring 1997 Michigan Today---The language of the desert

These conditions also may be why the religion of the Hebrews was so appealing. Mendenhall cites Judges 8: 22-3. When various tribes of Israel ask Gideon to accept traditional hereditary rule over them, Gideon replies, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you."

Yahwism emerged as a sort of peasants' revolt, in Mendenhall's view. "It prohibited graven images. But what were they? They were images of pharaohs and gods, and the purpose of the gods was to furnish authority to the kings as the embodiment of the gods." The ancient Israeli treaty, or covenant, made directly between one God and the people who accepted him, meant that the arrangements between God and the people were immune to kingly authority.

A point I've made regarding atheism versus religion. It's either a system open to challenge based on the dominant central focus, which in the case of atheism is man, which means consequently right and wrong are whatever those ambitious enough to take power and those strong enough to keep it say it is or a system closed to challenge as neither you nor I can proclaim and prove we alone have G-d's ear, despite the attempts of many holy men to claim it.

"Despite the persistence into our own time of an essentially 19th-century view that Biblical narrative is basically historically accurate and supported by the archaeological evidence," Mendenhall says, "there never was a Hebrew conquest of Palestine. But there was a religious conversion to a monotheistic faith of the existing population.

"Now I think that almost everybody has given up that 19th-century theory, but they don't have anything really to substitute for it, whereas I think I do," he continues. "That is, that Moses and a small band came out of Egypt with a new mission and a new concept of God and religious community, one bound together by a voluntary covenant rather than a monopoly of force. When political systems and empires were being destroyed all over the Near East, it really offered a very welcome alternative to populations who no longer had a community or whose communities had been destroyed."

I know that many will sneer at the idea, but what is better? The idea that G-d sent us to slaughter people the way the peoples we supplanted had done for countless centuries before? Or that G-d sent us out to deal with his great creation, free will, and win the day by overwhelming rightness of what we offered?

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