Join Build A God Workshop - Blog#3 - 25 January 2019
Blog #3 – Join the Build a God Workshop
January 25, 2019
So imagine that you are a scribe, sitting cross-legged in a large tent, in the shadow of the mighty Sphinx, in a desert landscape dotted with pyramids. You are one of the select few men invited to a private conference thirty-three centuries ago, addressing the problem of sacrifices to the gods. Yes, men, because this was a man’s world. Three other men are seated at your table, and introduce themselves as Zarathustra, Akhenaten, and Abraham. As the host of this conclave, Akhenaten speaks first.
Akhenaten: Welcome Zara, Abram, and John. My name is Akhenaten, and as you know, we convene here tonight to address the slaughter of our citizens, from here in the Black Land, to Canaan and Phoenicia, Assyria and Persia, and the worlds beyond. Warfare over land has increasingly invoked the gods for justification, and even worse, the sacrifice of human life to please the gods is accelerating. Here at home, my predecessors have taken their servants to the afterlife with them, some by poison, some even buried alive. Far to our east, they sacrifice perfectly healthy horses to their god, Tengri. Zara, you’ve told me of the cruelties imposed on animals and humans in Persia to placate your gods. And Abram, you have lamented the sacrifice of children in your midst, by burning for God’s sake. Sorry, but my humor runs dark at times. The three of us sit here at this moment because we detest the sacrifice of our citizens to the gods, this god, that god, the god next door, the god beneath the seas, gods upon gods. There are too many damn gods, and not enough blood to please them. As for you, John, your reputation as a scribe precedes you, and we wish you to record these proceedings for posterity, but feel free to speak up. We can always benefit from the perspective of an unbiased outsider. The question that we’ve come here to answer is, “What are we to do about all of these gods and sacrifices?”
Zara: We must slay them, and, as we have discussed in our messages, supplant them with a single deity for all to worship. This one true god shall ban both warfare and sacrifice in his name.
Abram: I agree wholeheartedly, as does my son, Isaac. How about the name “Yahweh?” It has a commanding aura, doesn’t it?
Zara: I was thinking more along the lines “Ahura Mazda.” And perhaps he needs an adversary, someone the commoners can blame their evil impulses on. If we can agree on the need for a devil god, perhaps “Angra Mainyu” would be a good name.
Akhenaten: Ahura what? Sounds like you’re talking with your mouth full. No one this side of the Nile could pronounce either of those names. Why not something simpler, like Aten.
Zara: First you insult me, and then you want to name our new god after yourself. You Egyptians have shit for brains.
Akhenaten: You’ll be fortunate to find your way back across the Nile if you spit such venom toward me again.
Abram: So, can we just agree on Yahweh? He’s not named after any of us.
Zara: No, we can’t call him fucking Yahweh! That sounds like the name of a sniveling eunuch that we’d kick around a Persian playground for sport.
Abram: How dare you!
John: Guys, Guys! Settle down. We’re all here for the same reason. Let’s focus on the common ground that brought us here in the first place. And if I may, since we’re talking about gods, why don’t we just call him “God.”
Akhenaten: We can certainly consider that compromise. God: the god above all other gods. Or better still, the one and only god, powerful enough to vanquish all competitors, eternally. We could empower Him with a capital “G,” and give “Him” a capital “H” for good measure. But can we table our discussion of this simple but mighty name, and turn our focus to the nature of this God?
Zara: Agreed. For starters, He should be all-powerful, capable of terminating any opponents, divine or human, with a flip of His divine wrist.
John: But Zara, is there any room left here for the feminine nurturer, the mother of the earth, and her connection to nature?
Zara: We need hierarchy and structure: God above man above nature. Would you have women equal to men in power, or animals equal to men? Of course not! The gods are too equal to begin with. Without a power structure, we maintain a recipe for warfare between the gods, and between humans. My god is better than your god. We shall reduce the litter of gods to one and only one god, with our God as the puppet king over the true ruler, mankind. Not womankind, not nature, but man, which means men. Does your woman rule you at home? What the hell is wrong with you?
John: Sorry sir. I thought you wanted suggestions. I’ll return to my transcribing.
Abram: Our God must not only be manly and all-powerful, but all wise as well, carrying the wisdom of the ages. Better still, let Him be the source of all wisdom! The First Cause, He who existed before all else, and hatched the universe from His mind. Mind will precede matter and nature.
Akhenaten: That works, but we’ll need to be able to join Him in an afterlife. Otherwise, there’s not enough incentive to believe in Him. We all know and fear the power of death.
Zara: Cranking up the death anxiety is a no brainer. But how about an evil dimension? A temptress to seduce the weak minded with The Lie. Perhaps I pounced too soon on our poor scribe, and there is room for his female deity after all.
Abram: We could call her Eve.
Zara: On second thought, we need to close the door on female manipulation. You know how they are. If you give them a scrap of supernatural power, there’s no telling how they’ll seduce our women. Our bedrooms could be turned upside down.
Akhenaten: Indeed. We couldn’t tolerate a Creatrix, and we can’t have vaginas ruling the Underworld either. It would leave our women with no power base but evil. It’s best for them to have no power at all, than to have an evil goddess as their last resort.
Zara: So, let’s have someone manly like Angra Mainyu preside over an Underworld, a prison so vile that violators of God’s rules would be paralyzed with fear before they misbehaved. Supernatural capital punishment as a threat to anyone who blatantly violates our rules, but we’ll call them God’s rules, and control the masses indirectly, from above.
Abraham: Brilliant. Perhaps we can call them the Commandments, and have them etched in stone. We can hire someone to “discover” them on some mountaintop in a thunderstorm, and claim that our God instructed him to spread the word to the masses. Perhaps my son, Isaac, could do the deed.
Akhenaten: Or my own son, Tutankhaten.
Zara: Enough on the nepotism. But can we agree on the twins, white and black, the Good God and the bad god, each with their own zone of the afterlife, above and below, to reward and punish?
Akhenaten: Yes, I think we’re united on this, Zara, and the Commandments idea is solid as well Abram. But should the good one be loving or fearsome?
Abram: Both. Give the masses a heavenly daddy who can provide both the love and the firmness that they often miss at home. Let Him promise love, yet inspire fear, and leave the nastiness and torture to the less powerful bad guy. And let this one God be all knowing and all seeing, so everyone knows that he can see your behavior, even your thoughts. An eye in the sky, a pause button on behavior.
Zara: But what if the commoners ask too many questions, and ask for proof of these new gods?
Akhenaten: How much proof do they ask for now? Selling gods is easier than giving away water in the desert. They all want to believe in powerful protectors, and this one will be the most powerful of all. But to silence the intellectuals, we’ll make our gods invisible, and have the big guy insist on unquestioning faith in His existence and wisdom, or else.
Zara: Invisibility! What an awesome power. But we have to make Him at least a bit human-like so the masses can identify with Him.
Abram: Yes, but take it a step further. Let Him create the entire universe for man’s benefit, and reserve the afterlife for mankind only. They’ll eat that up in all four corners of the realm.
Akhenaten: Of course. Put us where we belong, or at least where we long to be, at the center of the universe, and the focus of God’s attention. They’ll swallow it faster than bread in a famine. But now that we agree on the basics, how about the name? Can I talk you into Aten?
Zara: Ahura Mazda will sell in Persia, but to make it easy on your ears, how about Ahura?
Abram: Those names will sound foreign to Israelites and Canaanites alike. Yahweh still works better for us.
John: Perhaps in each of your cultures, our God could present a different face, but we could all agree he is the one and only true God, with many faces. Otherwise, we could come to blows in the future over which god, or face of god is true.
Zara: That works for me, and we can all see that the scribe is smarter than he looks. Surely, we will not fight after we each give our solemn word.
Abram: So, there we have it – one God, many faces.
Akhenaten: John, please create copies of our settlement, in your finest calligraphy, for each of us before Zara and Abram ride out in the morning. We’ll sign it at sunrise. Gentlemen, it’s been a divine pleasure.
The fantasy above starts Chapter 5, “The Build a God Workshop” in my forthcoming book, Beyond Atheism – A Secular Approach to Spiritual, Moral, and Psychological Practices, available on Amazon 2/14/2019.
How would you build a God? How would you improve on the current versions? We’d love to hear your ideas below.
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