The Good News From God
“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg
We all know by now, the good news from God, don’t we? All of us have seen the work-shy men and women in v-neck pullovers on the streets with their trolleys and had them knock at our doors, come to spread love the word of Jehovah and his good news. Makes one wonder why everyone hasn’t converted already, if it’s so good? Salvation, community, what’s not to love? This is a non-political group, can’t fault a religious group that steers clear of the legislature. They don’t go about hacking people’s heads off in the streets or throwing acid in the faces of filthy unbelievers and those of immodest dress, that’s progress of a kind. There’s no genital mutilation. When’s the last time you heard of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the news? They are a relatively insular group, keeping largely to themselves, not interfering in the lives of others. Seems great. But is it? Recently, while on my way home from a visit to Cambridge, I came across a couple of Witnesses with their trolley, and I found myself scanning a couple of the leaflets and booklets, chuckling inside at a few of the titles. “Will Suffering End” caught my eye, and I picked it up and began to read. To my surprise, there wasn’t actually anything to be found here about suffering or pain or misery at all, merely a copious amount of scriptural references, regarding how Jehovah feels for his followers and all will be well come Armageddon, the usual rambling nonsense. After a few moments, a gentleman who
introduced himself as Doug approached, bouncing on the balls of his feet with much exuberance at the prospective victim, and began to discuss the ideas mentioned in the various pamphlets with me. Much of it made my head hurt, as the nonsensical often does, as he explained to me that the general belief was that the Bible contained all the answers to everything one may encounter in life, old and new testaments, and that it is used as a guideline for everything one does, says and feels. Then, after some brief rummaging, he produced a copy of the ‘Good News From God’ pamphlet, pictured right, and available for free (I urge all who appreciate good comedy to obtain and read it), which I perused and guffawed at more than once, later that afternoon. Yet, amusing as it was, I couldn’t help noticing how sinister it also seemed. Every single page was littered with scriptural references to explain it’s deluded teachings. Every single bullet point, in fact, on every single page, featured at least one reference to chapter and verse, often more. Now, the majority of Christians I know are of either the Catholic or Anglican denominations. I often find myself at odds with some of their ideas too, but where modern life and morality are concerned, we tend to be of one mind. In regards to freedom of thought, sexuality, dress, opinion, what books one may read and who one may associate with, all these basic freedoms that almost everyone takes for granted, be it Christians, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, whatever, all these things we all take for granted. And why not? It ought not occur to us to impose restrictions on these things, with one or two exceptions depending on faith and creed. One example of this, a particularly good example, would be the freedom of sexuality. Now most Kippers, especially, for this example, those of a Christian persuasion, are largely open to this subject. A sort of a ‘live and let live’ arrangement, regardless of personal approval. And most of these aforementioned people will criticise the Islamic faith and it’s Muhammadian followers heavily on the subject of homophobia. After all, polls show that Muslims in Britain almost unanimously consider homosexuality an unnatural for of sexual perversion, comparable to paedophilia (incidentally very common throughout Muslim lands) and who criminalise it in almost every single country with a Muslim majority, often imposing the death penalty, if not simple imprisonment and flogging. We only need to switch on the news or log into Facebook to see the treatment of the Yemeni couple, publicly caned for engaging in gay intercourse, or the internment of homosexuals in prison camps, only to be tortured and sometimes executed. And rightly so. The liberation of homosexuals from the grip of Islamic theocrats is one of the most urgent of our day. Yet what does the Bible say of homosexuality? “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” – Leviticus 18:22 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” – Leviticus 20:13 That’s a very nice one, isn’t it? Death and mutilation for those born different and those who dissent. Despite the fact the faith is alleged to be universal. But fear not, it goes on. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, men who practise homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” 1 Timothy. 1:9-10 Comparing acts of sex and love, perfectly natural and normal acts between consenting adults, are compared by this supposedly ‘holy’ text to theft, perjury, deception and even slavery.
Hardly seems like much of an improvement, does it? What is worth noting at this point, is that the vast majority of Christians here in Britain do not share this sentiment. Some certainly consider homosexuality unnatural in terms of procreation and evolution, and it would be difficult to argue with them. No matter how many times I try, I can’t seem able to get men pregnant. Nature is against me there, it seems. But very few will resort to outright bigotry and contempt for homosexuals. This is due to two factors, primarily. The first would be that most feel that the teachings of the old testament are both largely outdated and were neutralised, in a sense, by the teachings of Jesus and the gospels of the new testament. The second would be that of simple human solidarity and the understanding of universal rights of freedom and individuality. The latter is commendable, if a little obvious. The former, I feel I can’t offer much commentary on, as an unbeliever. Though I would welcome any faithful input. Witnesses, however, in their ‘soft fanaticism’ are absolutely convinced, as no mammal can be, that both the old and new testament are the unalterable, unadulterated, pure messages from God, that must be taken as, well… as gospel, and provide the answers to everything.
So why is it that the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t keep slaves? “You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” – Leviticus 25:44-46 This injunction, encouraging slavery and xenophobia all in one, as a sort of ‘Brucie Bonus’ is found in exactly the same book of the Bible that so many use to justify their homophobia. Seems rather selective, does it not? But soft, we find many more such conveniently ignored injunctions.
“Whosoever … hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookback, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken … He shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries.” – Leviticus 21:17-23 So the sick, the infirm, the disabled, anyone with an unfortunate mole on their neck, anyone not ‘pure’ or ‘perfect’ is to be shunned and refused entry to places of worship. Well, it would go a step or two towards explaining why most Witnesses make little to no attempt to help the homeless, even when proselytising a matter of feet away from them.
What about the disgust of the female sexuality or birth canal? “When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean.” – Leviticus 15: 19-20 All these just from Leviticus. And there are many, many more such reprehensible injunctions to be found here, along with in Exodus, Romans, Timothy, Deuteronomy, etc, I urge you to seek them out. You will soon see why most Christians can no longer take them seriously. This is because they are usually perfectly decent people like anyone else, not fanatically indoctrinated from a young age with graphic depictions of women and children screaming in agony at Armageddon, when God is going to come down and slaughter every man woman and child who does not conform perfectly to the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There are two problems here, the first being that Biblical teachings, or rather scriptural teaching in general, are provably inaccurate. Look at Genesis 1, for example. God makes water before he makes light. This means that there were no stars to fuse hydrogen and helium into heavier elements like oxygen. Water is one part oxygen, to parts hydrogen. If one were to take the stance of a Biblical chemist, as it were, one must admit to denying the most basic scientific facts such as the molecular structure of water. Which, unlike scripture, is the result of a few hundred years of chemistry and scientific observation. And this is Genesis 1, this is the first part! Already out of the window. Hardly inspires hope in the rest, does it?
The second problem is that these preachments are not only unsound, they are evil. What is evil? Well stop and think about morality for a moment. Morality is, according to Oscar wilde, how we judge those we personally dislike. Seems very apt here, doesn’t it? But no, morality can be established by examining human and animal well being, both objectively and subjectively, in relation to human and animal well being. Imagine, for instance, that you encountered a culture that engaged in a practice whereby an elderly man could often be caught sucking on the penis of an infant male. This would be worthy of nothing less that the utmost contempt and revulsion, surely? Ah, but he has his excuse all ready for you. He is undertaking the rite of Peri’ah Metsitsah, a form of hasidic, Jewish circumcision, whereby a mohel takes a scalpel, knife, sharp stone, and cuts around the prepuce of the foreskin. He then proceeds to take the infant penis into his mouth, removing the foreskin and stemming the blood flow via suction, before he spits out the amputated flap in a mouthful of blood and saliva. This practice increases the risk of infection with potentially fatal viruses and bacterium such as genital herpes, by 300%, and is still legal in much of the world. In one particularly notorious case in 2005 in New York, a 57 year old mohel caused the deaths of no less than three young boys by this practice. Contemporary mayor Bloomberg covered up reports, censored recommendations against the practice, and said in a press statement, and I quote; “What’s important to remember is to ensure that his right to practice his religion is not infringed.” This is not the only occasion where religious preachments and traditions have resulted in a rather negative impact on well being. And yet we still seem fairly indifferent to such carrying on, when it is done in the name of God. We have a bias in favour of this or that faith group, typically. Most reading this are likely rather disinclined to take a fond view of Muslims, for instance, more in favour of Christ. But please, take a few brief moments to consider this approach. Especially those of no faith. Anthropologist Donald Symons once wrote
“If only one person in the world held down a terrified, struggling, screaming little girl, cut off her genitals with a septic blade, and sewed her back up, leaving only a tiny little hole for urine and menstrual flow, the only question would be how severely that person should be punished, and whether the death penalty would be a sufficiently severe sanction. But when millions of people do this, instead of the enormity being magnified millions-fold, suddenly it becomes ‘culture,’ and thereby magically becomes, rather than more, horrible, and is even defended by some Western ‘moral thinkers,’ including feminists.”
I see this problem often, from stupid ideas about politics or the nature of reality, for irrational, irresponsible, purely impulsive and emotion-based methods of thinking, etc. My own psychiatrist, with whom I seek council and therapeutic aid for aspects of ASC, informs me that because my brain is ‘wired’ so differently to over 90% of the worlds population, I must begin to accept that it is me that is wrong on such issues, because I am in a minority. This general attitude makes no sense. It is a ridiculous suggestion that this or that idea, irrespective of evidence or rationality or observable moral implications and consequences, is validated purely by the number of it’s adherents. As for this or that action or behaviour. We could apply this to genital mutilation, flat-earthers, Brexit, whatever. One has the right to an opinion, certainly (something my shrink has claimed I do not). The Taliban has many of those. However, it would be in error to say that they have anything meaningful or worthwhile to contribute to discussions about quantum physics or neuroscience or behavioural psychology or epidemiology. The same for the Ku Klux Clan or the bloody Sith Empire. So why, on other issues, are we so inclined towards relativism and impartiality? Bearing in mind George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, I wonder to what extent, if any, the concept of political correctness has served to lend weight to ethical relativism?
Numerous behavioural psychologists and neuroscientists have published studies and journals linking an individual’s faith to a ‘reward system’ of sorts, of the imagination, and much of the envy and self-righteous gusto found by the most credulous and fanatical of believers, the inquisition for instance, can be easily linked to a chemical process in the brain known as ‘Schadenfreude’, which literally translates to the words ‘pain’ and ‘joy’. This works as follows; When observing an individual or a group of individuals you dislike, perhaps for ideological differences, perhaps because they have wronged you or someone you know in some way. When you observe them in a state of distress or anguish, be it physical or psychological, you might feel a smug sensation, you find yourself thinking that they deserve it. This is caused by the release of a hormone from the dorsal striata in the brain called dopamine, which causes us to feel pleasure. This is the same hormone that causes you to enjoy your favourite food or really good sex, and the same hormone that causes addictions to substances like alcohol or heroin. Now perhaps you will help them out of their predicament anyway. Perhaps your pleasure at their suffering is perfectly justified – they may be a child rapist or a mass murderer. But this process occurs in your brain regardless of whether you consider it right or wrong. Regardless of one’s views on the authenticity of faith or the respect you feel appropriate to afford it, this is an undeniable, medical certainty which any reasonably intelligent schoolchild should be able to grasp, without the allure of paradise and the pain of eternal torture present as encouragement either way. But that’s main feature of this religion, isn’t it? It’s allure, it’s promise, it’s purpose and it’s focus, is simply death.
What is death? Is death the end? Is there no way to avoid death? Is death the end? These are questions that play at the mind of every human being, it is in our nature to fear death. Self preservation is one of our most basic instincts. We fear death, we fear pain, we fear solitude. This is simply to be expected. But what do these charlatans really offer as an alternative? And at what cost? Let’s say you’re standing in your kitchen. It’s been a long day at work and you decide to make yourself a nice bacon sandwich. You stand in front of the oven and switch on the hob, heating it up in preparation for your frying pan. Do you touch the hot hob? Of course you don’t. Is this out of fear? Are you frightened that if you get to close your hand will suddenly burst into flames? No. You simply know that you’ll get burned, and that it will probably hurt. This is no more than a simple application of common sense. There is no fear required, it is of no immediate danger to you provided you simply show a little due diligence and don’t behave like an idiot around hot things. The exact same principle could be applied to an iron. When you’re stood in your sitting room in front of the ironing board with a pile of shirts, do you suddenly leap back in horror, afraid the hissing iron will scald you? Or perhaps when you’re driving to work one morning, do you find yourself careering off the road in a state of panic because you saw a statistic about road deaths? No person of sound mind would do this. However if someone were to hold a saucepan of boiling water and threaten to throw it over you, you might feel something similar to fear. But even then, this is not fear, this is your self-preservation impulse kicking in. You feel a rush of adrenaline and you react instinctively to the situation in the best way your knowledge and experience allow, perhaps backing away slowly, or delivering a fast and well placed kick, causing your would-be assailant to fall and spill the water on the ground, neutralising the immediate threat to you. These reactions are based on experience. If you were a practiced martial artist and were confident in your ability, you may choose the latter option. If you’re taken by surprise or unable to defend yourself, you may retreat backwards to relative safety. Or you might do something completely different. Either way, this is a product of experience. So what goes through our minds when we consider death? To a certain extent fear, genuine fear, is natural, as we have no first-hand experience of it. We are alive, so how can we be familiar with being dead? Fear of dying, the action of dying, is perfectly rational. I’m sure we would all much prefer to die peacefully in our sleep than to be crushed by a heavy object or to drown. If for no other reason than the physical pain and anguish we would experience. This is not to say there are no other reasons. For example we may wish to avoid being burned or mutilated so as to mitigate the trauma for our loved ones who must identify our bodies. But the role this religion plays in death is essentially to deny it’s existence for true believers and conformers, while appealing to Scahenfreude by guaranteeing it for outsiders. It’s part is not unlike that of the snake oil merchant from that western movie you saw as a child. “Come one, come all. Sample this product, and for just $2 a vial, you can be without the burden of those arthritic knees or your weak heart. You’ll have the stamina of an athlete and the wisdom of the elephant…” … “Come one, come all. Donate to our temple and defer to us, and for nothing more than the suspension of your critical faculties and a lifetime on your knees, and you may cheat death itself! You may live for eternity in heavenly paradise! Come on, you know you want to…”
Let us, for the sake of an argument about reality, and the validity of the claims made by this organisation of literalists and fundamentalists. The Bible states that rainbows are four thousand years old, and an apology for the flood; “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” – Genesis 9:12-15. This is not only ridiculous, it is insanely stupid, as chromatic aberration and the dispersal of light has been a constant phenomenon since the first photons came into existence around fourteen billion years ago. Aberration is due to the way light refracts through mediums of this or that index, and the angle at which they do so. Refractive index expresses the ratio of the velocity of light of a given frequency in a vacuum, to the velocity of light of the same frequency in the refracting medium. Its actual value varies slightly, depending upon the colour of the light which is being considered. At present, in the UK and the USA, the refractive index for the middle of the visible spectrum is stated for the helium d-line (wavelength 587.56nm) whereas in Europe the mercury e-line (wavelength 546.07nm) is chosen to represent the middle of the visible spectrum. These wavelengths of light, ranging from red, amber, yellow, green, all the way through to violet, travel at different velocities. We typically measure this by ABBE numbers, using the sign Nc, which refers to the value assigned to the refractive index of a medium using hydrogen C, with a wavelength of 656.27nm, which represents the red end of the visible spectrum. This affects dispersion and aberration because the red (hydrogen C) travels through the medium (in this case, water) faster than the blue wavelength (hydrogen F, at 486.13nm), despite having less energy. The light interacts with the water at differing speeds, depending on wavelength and thus disperses them accordingly, with the red end (hydrogen C, or Nc) being deviated or bent more than the blue end (hydrogen F or Nf), simulating a prism and producing a rainbow effect, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. As long as photons have existed and there has been anything for them to refract through, aberration and dispersal has occurred. Now I am a trained and qualified ophthalmic laboratory manager. It is my job to understand the physics behind light, including the concept of chromatic aberration. We can physically demonstrate that this occurs, and must always have done so. To claim that the aforementioned scriptural arguments are ‘true’ would be to create a substantial, epistemological problem between the epithet applied to the texts, and the facts insofar as they may be observed and demonstrated, to the point where we completely devalue and dismiss the definitions and implications of words within our Anglo-Saxon tongue. Who cares about proselytisation and sadomasochistic speculation about eternal torture after death for peoples lives you happen to disapprove of when the basic metaphysical claims can be thrown out the window in two minutes flat? We haven’t even left the first book yet! I recently had a disagreement with a fellow writer here at KC, who claimed that my position is morally flawed, as claiming that we are descended from animals by the process of natural selection means that cohesion and cooperation would be impossible, as evolution entails only the survival of the fittest, on the basis of aggression, strength, and physical dominance. Well, How many animals will, for instance, follow another animals gaze, as opposed to head movements? We have evolved with a clear, white sclera around our iris, that is easy to spot, because to follow one’s gaze has innumerable implications and applications in social situations, and in language development in children, in respect to the critical period for learning and neural plasticity, which I outlined in my essay Give Up Education As A Bad Mistake (named so as an homage to my beloved Morrisey). I can present to you a small handful of references on the subject, including a scholarly paper by Simon Baron-Cohen, who is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of Cambridge and Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is Director, Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge. He has a degree in Human Sciences from New College, Oxford, a PhD in Psychology from UCL, and an M.Phil in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London – which means he knows a lot more about this than the majority of people do – even those who have had the ‘truth revealed’ to them.’
And this is one very small aspect of evolution that has absolutely nothing to do with physical dominance and strength, and everything to do with social cohesion that is claimed cannot exist within an evolutionary process, along with how the zealot’s hypocrisy and pig-headedness works directly against it.
Now in itself, this may seem quite harmless. It’s simply an idea of consolation, albeit a rather bad one. It allows us dipsticks to feel like we’re not alone in the universe and that no matter what happens in this life, how we succeed or fail, who we love and who we lose to death, we get another go after we’re done. Apart from being a subject of pure fantasy and wishful thinking, this is not in any way harmful to anyone who still invests some degree of effort in their life here in the land of the living, so to speak, and recognises its value. After all, what is there apart from the present moment? But after a point, this ‘faith‘ negates the need for this, and everything becomes about paradise on earth (or heaven, in the case of the lucky 144,000, chosen by the Heaven’s Select Committee, as far as I can tell) or death in the coming apocalypse – about what happens after death. We spend our entire lives worrying about where we go after we die, and how to influence this. And this is where dogma enters the fray. This is when Jehovah’s self-appointed intermediaries and earthly agents, the pompously named ‘elders’ and the hysterically named ‘faithful and discrete slaves’ (It’s brilliant, is it not?) come along and dictate to us how we may and may not behave, how and what we may or may not think, who and how we may or may not love, lest we be denied our spot in heaven, or be cast into an everlasting flame. This is a fear that we have not evolved to be able to deal with. Humans are designed to tackle danger in the sense of ancient tribesmen in the jungle, considering what to do if they encounter a lion. When it comes to things we can’t or couldn’t explain, such as why the rains didn’t come this year, and now we have no crops, or what could be the cause for this awful hacking cough my baby has, or most importantly, what happens to me after I die? Well we had to imagine whatever we could, much like a child. And like children, when we are threatened with physical pain if we do not behave this way or that way, or offer tribute and deference to this or that person, we experience a genuine fear and typically conform, because unlike most rational instinctive reactions to threats, we lack any experience with this situation, and very few Witnesses today, among many others, have not been educated to address this extortion racket maturely. And going back to the Rapture and Armageddon claims, for a moment. What is it we are examining here? This is, for all intents and purposes, not only a genocide of brutal, torturous methods of innocent children whose only crime was to be born into the wrong faith or with the wrong sexuality, this is an act of religious cleansing, at the behest of the dear, great, unquestionable leader of the one, great, pure people…. Where have I heard this before?
I quoted at the beginning of this piece, Steven Weinberg. The full quote reads “Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham. Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person, whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God’s will. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.” If we examine morality through the lens of human and animal well being, through basic solidarity with our fellow living creatures, as opposed to supposedly divine revelation, how can any of this possibly constitute moral teachings?
I recently quoted in a previous essay, an Islamic State recruitment magazine, entitled Dabiq. Named after the city where the Jihadists believe God will finally come down and destroy the world, granting true believers paradise, and casting everyone else into the flames. Is any of this sounding familiar? In issue fifteen of Dabiq, entitled ‘Breaking The Cross’, one particular article called ‘Why We Hate You, And Why We Fight You’ caught my eye. The article is extensive, and mid way lists six specific reasons for their opposition to western, secular democracy, also known as civilisation. The first three are as follows;
- We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you.
- We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted, a matter that doesn’t concern you because you Christian disbelief and paganism separate between religion and state, thereby granting supreme authority to your whims and desires via the legislators you vote into power. In doing so, you desire to rob Allah of His right to be obeyed and you wish to usurp that right for yourselves.
- .In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage war against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.
In my essay ‘Secular First‘, I began by quoting the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus; “Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.” – ‘Change only the name, and the story is about you.’
The Witnesses are not a violent people, but deeply intolerant. Change the word ‘hate’ to ‘disapprove, shun and hold in contempt’ and that’s you people in a nutshell. You teach that disbelievers are of poor character and not to be associated with, attempt at carnal relations with outsiders is forbidden on pain of rejection by the entire community. Homosexuality is equally forbidden. Premarital sex, also. Quite the obsession with sex, here, as a side note. In a debate regarding the usefulness and the morality of the Catholic Church, Steven Fry remarked on the Church’s very similar obsession with sex, saying “The only people obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese.” Once more, Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.
I have spoken in a previous essay about by friend in the Witnesses, a young man with whom I have had carnal relations. He and I are now an item and cohabit together, after being repeatedly humiliated and bullied by the members of this extortion racket. He was, unfortunately, victim of systematic sexual abuse by male, non-witnesses for many years. Like many others, this was enough to warrant discipline from the ‘elders’ of his congregation. Demands of contrition and repentance for the crime of being raped. Ordered to pray for ‘forgiveness.’ Intimately and inappropriately interrogated as to specific acts, positions, how much he resisted, and judged on the basis of this. Many such rape victims are subject to such inquisitions by these ‘elders’, made to feel as though they are responsible and often shunned for it. The same treatment is afforded to those abused by fellow Witnesses, and victims of domestic violence. He has now been shunned and disfellowshipped for associating with me, a non-Witness, let alone engaging in sex as a male non-Witness. Where one loses all social contact and both their friends and family will refuse any and all contact and association, refusing to so much as make eye contact with their relatives and loved one’s in the streets, either out of piety or fear of suffering the same fate. This is particularly damaging for several reasons.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses are frowned upon and regarded with contempt for associating with outsiders, making friends and social contacts outside of the community. So if a Witness either dissassociates or is disfellowshipped, and thus shunned, they often have nobody in the world to turn to.
- In many cases, Witnesses must be cast also from their homes when shunned, which is especially damaging for those younger Witnesses, who are unable to support themselves independently.
- They are often unable to support themselves financially as they are equally frowned upon and regarded with contempt for having full time employment, well-paying employment or what may be called social jobs, i.e. working with the public, and those in such positions are often pressured to resign. This is because their time is regarded as being better spent with congregational activities such as proselytising and going door to door with leaflets, or in Bible study.
- Many Witnesses are essentially prevented from growing up; allowed little access to the outside world, be it socially, professionally, sexually or academically, frowned upon for attending institutions of higher education such as college or university, and are not allowed to engage in any form of intimacy prior to marriage – which is forbidden with anyone outside the organisation.
I think it can be agreed that this sinister cult does a very good job of ensuring that nobody has an easy job of leaving. With the indoctrination, the social pressure, social and sexual repression, the intimidation and blackmail, the bullying, the victim-blaming, the way they keep their members poor and ignorant, and the guarantee that if they should dare to leave, they will lose everyone and everything they have ever known.
It seems clear to me that this cult of death, funded directly by the Watchtower Corporation is evil, it’s followers sub-human. I ask why, when Islamic beliefs held by conservative, sometimes fanatical and yet non-violent Muslims and Islamists are regarded as so abhorrent and criticised as such, why is this organisation not treated with the same contempt and the amused incredulity if not outright abuse it so thoroughly deserves? As a private business, as it is, for all intents and purposes, the British Government and all other businesses and companies are within their rights to both boycott it and ban it as Russia has. Especially as a private business that regularly violates some of the most basic, fundamental rights of it’s prisoners; Freedom of expression, freedom of the mind, freedom of sexuality and the right to a family life, freedom of education and employment. Many are pressured or even shunned by their entire communities for these ‘offences’, on nothing more than a scriptural basis. And I would appreciate someone telling me why this isn’t happening. And if this is what they call good news, I’d hate to see what constitutes bad news…
One of the most amusing things about religion is the sense of exclusivity one finds, when perusing the various holy texts of so called revealed religion, especially since the aforementioned texts all read more like political manifestos than philosophical works. There is an old English poem that reads;
‘We are the pure and chosen few,
All the rest are damned.
There’s room enough in hell for you,
We don’t want heaven crammed.’
It’s interesting, as some believers aren’t quite so puritanical as that. Not quite a la cart in interpretation, merely more humanistic. I find it especially interesting how many believers (in politics as well as religion) seem to believe certain things simply because they think they must, in order to believe something else. Like taking it as a complete package by default. Most people with such beliefs seem to profess those beliefs as part of a larger rejection of conventional facts, such as natural selection, for example, as an act of group think, of a kind rather than with true conviction. And for most of us, conviction lies on a continuum rather than being all-or-none phenomenon. After all, beliefs are ultimately about the probability that something is true. It does get somewhat concerning (and amusing) to see how some people of faith are relatively open minded, and others will never change their position, regardless of contradictory evidence. Funnily enough, the DSM-5 and the International Classification of Diseases defines a delusions simply as a “fixed belief that is not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence.” Lends some credibility to the title of Dawkins bestseller…
A lot of it comes down to hearsay and a seemingly infinite stream of Bronze Age myths and metaphysical falsehoods from local pastors, imams, rabbis, priests, etc. All of whom invariably preach their own personal interpretation to their congregation or community.
It’s quite easy to look upon such people as charlatans, cynically peddling their mind control to the credulous, the desperate and the vulnerable. Religion does of course behave in this way, as the vulnerable and the desperate are often the easiest to talk into subservience, but in many cases the preachers and authorities are just as pious as those they preach two. Now, it is often claimed that a delusion cannot be defined as such, if it is shared among a culture or sub-culture. However I would suggest that in such cases, what one may observe is what psychiatry used to term shared psychotic disorder, whereby a charismatic or authoritative individual is able to share his or her delusion with others. This was referred to by French psychiatrists as folie à deux, which translates approximately to ‘madness between two.’ Though in this case it would be more accurately referred to as folie à mille. Easy access, or exposure to such an abundance of misinformation, especially from purportedly trustworthy sources, can make it quite difficult to distinguish between those who are delusional and those who are merely conned. A line that becomes especially blurred given that most religion is learned in childhood, and education – before the age of reason is reached, and during a stage called neural plasticity; the critical period for learning, before the two hemispheres of the brain fully lateralise. Most of the information absorbed at this period of development is very difficult to readdress in later life, due to subconscious emotional investment, and a certain degree of instinct. Plus the dependency on endorphins and other tasks associated with faith, can affect the structural development of the brain too. The irony here is that believers in creation or intelligent design (the theory offered by theologians), often fancy themselves as skeptics, who have “learned the truth” and know better than to be taken in by science’s theory of natural selection, like so many sheep. Of course we all risk becoming sheep when we allow ourselves to be led astray by narratives that lack any evidence, and charismatic purveyors of fiction posing as fact. As such, our critical faculties and indeed our right to free expression and free inquiry, must be retained and maintained at all times. The assorted holy texts are collected accretions of retranslated plagiarisms of superfluous injunctions with no relevance to actual morality, inasmuch as it may be determined and demonstrated, and metaphysical claims that can be thrown out the window with a very basic grasp of simple, scientific realities, and a pinch of objectivity and intellectual honesty. The ten commandments are a perfect example.
1. I am the lord thy God.… Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. I the lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain, for the lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt do no murder.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.
The first three of these present no observable relation to either earthly law nor morality of any kind. They are simply arbitrary snarls of an imagined celestial dictator, designed to intimidate and control the credulous. Notice how commandment number two promises even to punish innocent children; guilt by association no less. The late Christopher Hitchens once commented on this, saying “The collective punishment of future children, for the sin of lèse-majesté, may not strike everyone as an especially moral promise.”
Four is quite interesting, particularly as the various authors of the Bible seem somewhat conflicted as to the origin and the purpose of the aforementioned day of rest. In Exodus 20:8–11, the reason given for the day off is that “in six days the lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day.” Yet in Deuteronomy 5:15 a different reason for the Sabbath observance is offered: “Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.” This, along with the fact that there are at least four versions of the ten commandments to be found in the old testament, tells us that god (or the humans that invented him) is improvising, a revisionist, capricious, jealous, ill-tempered and arbitrary. Which is not a brilliant combination.
Five is amusing inasmuch as it makes a change from the others. Instead of threats of bloody slaughter and that of one’s blameless children, it offers bribery. “That thy days may be long upon the land which the lord thy God giveth thee.” This perhaps has the slight suggestion of being respectful to Father and Mother in order to come into an inheritance. How very selfless.
Six through to nine are arguably the only commandments entailing anything resembling examples and suggestions of good moral behaviour. They are also rather self enforcing by definition. I am yet to encounter any community or society which encouraged murder, theft and perjury, at least against it’s own people, that did not die out very quickly. The same applies to scriptural injunctions relating to hygiene, cannibalism and bestiality. These ‘rules’ are generally self enforcing. The only thing of note worth pointing out is that surely bearing false witness envelopes using provably false metaphysical claims to discriminate against those your faith tells you to? Can anyone name me one Christian denomination that doesn’t do this?
Ten is arguably the most telling. Not only does it include women in the same category as chattel and property, it also forbids one from THINKING in a designated manner. It does not command against nor punish for an act or a behaviour, it forbids people even to THINK in a certain way. This is unfeasible, which God must know only too well, having endowed us with the ability and indeed the natural inclination to covet and to aspire. It doesn’t seem like much of a non sequeter to say that one may quite rationally conclude from this that god only made us in this way in order to punish us, indicating great sadism. I mention aspiration, as covetesness is necessary for it’s presence, which is in turn vital for human progression. Without some degree of covetesness, one cannot aspire to certain goals, and as such will stagnate. So… We have misogyny, limitation and thought crime all in one, neat package.
So that would be a good example of divinely revealed morality, which is, in seven out of ten instances, either amoral or immoral.There is, as far as the evidence suggests, no celestial being, no supreme leader, no absolute truth, no divine revelation, no totalitarian state, and any claim that if we only surrender those critical faculties and throw ourselves on it’s claimants mercy is to be deeply distrusted. And if we are to build a tolerant, healthy, enlightened society, devoid of such ignorance, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc, then we must begin by repudiating such claims.
Should one of jehovah’s premature bystanders be reading this essay, and have had the mental resilience to have made it this far without a handkerchief and smelling salts, your faith is a joke. Your absurd claim to moral authority is a joke. Your scriptures are a joke. Your behaviour and treatment of those for whom you claim responsibility is a disgrace. The indoctrination, the manipulation, the guilt tripping, the inquisitions, the separating of families who commit thought crime. Your life is absolutely dependent on a work of fiction that anyone with even a basic grasp of science could repudiate in two minutes flat. There is no final solution, there is no absolute truth, there is no supreme leader, dear leader, no infallible representatives, and anyone who not only devotes his life to such absurdities but demands others do so ‘or else’ is a failure, a coward, and may not call himself a man. My advice, should you be determined to take a literal reading of your scriptures, would in fact originate from one of the less vulgar parts of them, considering that perhaps there’s more value enjoying this life in emancipation from imaginary shackles instead of tormenting yourself, not to mention a lot of children (at the expense of taxpayers like myself) with threats of eternal torture for thought crime? After all “A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine. But a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17:22