Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Nature of Delusion and the B.S. Detector

“No man in the Bible ever received more approval from God than David. No man represents a better model for how we should live our lives. What more could you or I ever hope for than to be called a man after God’s own heart?”
Patrick Morley

Sentiments like this are broadcast, printed, and proclaimed by Christians daily, yet there is no truth in them.

How could well-educated, smart Christians (including me in the past; well maybe not so smart;-) believe in this considering that David actually acted much worse than leaders of ISIS and HAMAS?

When I reflect back on the many years from childhood to middle age that I thought David was a wonderful role model, a great human and man of God, I see so
clearly how we humans can be caught in religious, cultural, or political delusion, thinking the utterly false is the truth and the good.

David actively raided and massacred whole villages of people, slaughtering every single individual, so he could steal their many possessions, and lied about it in the process. (1 Samuel 27: 8-12) The word in 1 Samuel, "raided," in Hebrew means to strip corpses.:-(

David was ethically much worse before he ever committed adultery. His evil actions developed very early, first by abandoning his wife who had saved his life! Hardly, a man after God's own heart. How many people now days would look up to a husband who abandoned his wife? The Hebrew Bible speaks of how she loved him, but nary a word about him loving her. It appears that he only used her to get into King Saul's family.

Notice, he's not doing very good on the 10 Commandments, not at all, (and this is early on in his career). Lying, stealing, murdering, coveting...

After abandoning his wife, marrying other women, becoming a polygamist, he lives as a terrorist out in the desert. But all of this is seldom dwelt on by Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Baha'i. Instead, they focus on the fact that David doesn't assassinate King Saul when he has the opportunity to do so. We were repeatedly told about this growing up, how wonderful that David didn't take revenge on King Saul. What a cruel misrepresentation of the facts...

Finally, even worse, years later, when he has become king, he steals his former wife from her current-husband, but then even worse, treats her horribly.

And don’t forget, though David promised not to get revenge on on a man named Shimei, before he dies David orders that the Shimei be killed after his death! He also orders the killing of Joab. What a tragic immoral way to end your life, planning revenge.

And there's more. But all of this is so negative, despicable, and immoral.


How is it that we read over the texts in the Bible (or other literature) and don’t see the truth? I guess it is sort of like editing a book. One can go over your text with a fine-toothed study, watching for missing commas, misused prepositions, repeat words, etc., but still miss a minor error or three, because the human brain reads past the errors making the effort to read what is supposed to be there.

But a meticulous, very detailed oriented individual, like why my wife, can spot at least 3 or 4 errors in most published books, without even concentrating on the task, just catching them, while at the same time enjoying the story.

Hemingway allegedly rewrote some of his novels and stories 30 or more times, trying to get them exactly right (and no doubt also error free).
One of his most famous statements on writing applies here just as well to living, about ferreting out the bad:

INTERVIEWER: “…Graham Greene said that a ruling passion gives to a shelf of novels the unity of a system. You yourself have said, I believe, that great writing comes out of a sense of injustice. Do you consider it important that a novelist be dominated in this way—by some such compelling sense?

HEMINGWAY: “Mr. Greene has a facility for making statements that I do not possess. It would be impossible for me to make generalizations about a shelf of novels or a wisp of snipe or a gaggle of geese. I’ll try a generalization though. A writer without a sense of justice and of injustice would be better off editing the yearbook...

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.”
The Paris Review, Spring 1958

Of course, we know that Hemingway was in some ways a very unethical, destructive person, even committing adultery with the babysitter!

For whatever reasons, he usually had a very poor “built-in, shockproof, shit detector” when it came to living a true life, but his point is well taken even if he didn't use a moral detector in his life.

And in his writing, he did use such a detector very well, was a creative genius, usually getting prose so right.

But let's all of us try to do the same in our lives.

Let us examine all areas of philosophy, religion, worldviews, and politics and keep in constant use a manure/paddy/B.S. detector, to protect us from the sludge, sewer of wrong, and horrific evil that passes for good.

Terrible things get bandied about as true by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Pagan, and Atheists.

If I had had a good B.S. meter, very early on, way back in the early 1960’s, I would have seen the horrific wrongs of religious falsehoods such as the model of David, and many other wrong beliefs.

At least, I did get upset at 11 years of age in Sunday school when our teacher taught us the story about how Elisha called down curses on a bunch of kids for making fun of him. According to the story, Yahweh sent out bears which mauled the children.

That shocked me and horrified my young conscience. Everything about the story rang false.

And there are so many other stories, I soon found as I read and re-read the Bible. The more I read and studied the more I became despairing. Finally, I did get a B.S. detector working.

But I wish I had learned to use my thinking ability much earlier and I could have avoided a lot of heartache, wrong choices"for the Lord," etc.

Use your own B.S. detector continually to avoid all sorts of bad religion, ideologies (which at first sound so good), and so many unwise beliefs and actions of humans.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox


Yekaterina Haussler said...

Hmmm. In spirit, I agree with you, Daniel: many things that were presented to us as good and commending when we were children, turned out to be "less good" at best, or even horrific, when we grew up and had a chance to form our own views. That being said - David is the "hero" of the past. Perhaps, "in the old days" (read - ancient prehistoric times, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) he was considered a hero... When you judge an ancient character by the standards of the modern world, the hero (almost) always loses. The only exception I could see is Buddha - Siddharta Gautama (by Herman Hesse), and even then one may argue that his "adventures" with Kamala were "tasteless" or "deviant". Yet, my own "BS detector" turns on right around that moment, and I ask myself, "Doesn't judging ancient heroes by today's standards look like another failed strategy? It makes us believe that we are so much more advanced, so much more... understanding of good and bad than our ancestors were. Yet, that is not so, it's an assumption we adopt, and it makes us (potentially) blind to so many injustices of the modern world, which have taken a different, more subtle form, but are just as horrific as they were in the ancient times.
David had power. He could slaughter whole villages "in the name of god", which made people believe that - since he won - god was on his side. His power made him a hero. Sound familiar? (Perhaps, the word "power" should be replaced with "financial strength" in today's world, but the idea is the same: someone with a lot of influence will be a public hero. Because "public" is nothing but a crowd, and it will eat whatever it is given - bread, shows, vulgarity... Even executions, as long as they are presented as entertainment).
I personally always preferred Hercules as a hero- he bore more personal responsibility for his actions, although a lot of what he did was dictated by Fate... or those women that challenged goddesses in skill - and lost - but were mentioned and always remembered, like Arachne and Nioba.
Thank you,

Daniel Wilcox said...

You wrote, "When you judge an ancient character by the standards of the modern world..."

Ah, but that wasn't my point. I wasn't judging David by standards of the modern world, but by the 10 Commandments which had allegedly been given to Israel hundreds of years before David lived, and by other ethical standards of God. If David really was the "apple of God's eye, really was a "man after God's heart," then he shouldn't have been lying, stealing, coveting, massacring...

Such an evil person, massacring whole villages so as to steal loot is hardly a model to instruct kids, teens, and adults with. Yet David is held up as an ideal model (except for his older age adultery with Bathsheba of course).

Hercules...Reminds me of when I used to teach the Greek stories of The Illiad and The Odyssey and other ones. Fascinating characters though they were so much like their Gods in their behavior.

Did you ever read C.S. Lewis' famous Pagan novel, Til We Have Faces. It's my understanding that he and his wife considered that book is best one.

Katya, Thanks for stopping by and commenting.