Passover is as Disgusting as Easter

So today is the first day of ‘Passover’, and while it’s not enormously mature, I felt impelled to point out what a horrible affair the whole thing is, like almost all religious ceremonies.

Let’s set aside all the lambs who have been sacrificed on this day across history, and focus on the story that’s here commemorated. It begins with a confluence of class and tribal oppression; the Israelites in Egypt were enslaved, and specifically were enslaved as Israelites. But the majority of egyptians were also enslaved (my knowledge of Ancient Egyptian politics is sketchy, so I’m using ‘enslaved’ in a broad sense).

So how would the most sensible, ethical, and compassionate being in the universe deal with this intersection of oppressions? Maybe by encouraging unity and co-operation between oppressed Egyptians and oppressed Israelites? Maybe by shining Divine Light into their hearts so that they could live together peacefully and overthrow their common oppressors?

Nope. The morally perfect creator of the universe manifested Itself through vicious assaults on one section of the oppressed, in order to put pressure on their rulers to grant freedom to another section.

Or rather, not freedom, but separateness, permitting the Israelites to be ‘free’ in the sense that they were under the command of Israelite rulers and slave-owners and men and priests. Leaders who will happily massacre those who disobey their commands indiscriminately, even if that means 3,000 in one day (Exodus 32:27).

Who does this remind you of? One spitting image is the LTTE or Tamil Tigers. Oppressed ethnic group? Yup. Response by massacring and suicide bombing the oppressed civilian members of the dominant ethnic group? Yup. Goal merely of getting Tamils their own state, to be ruled and exploited by other Tamils? Yup. Proven willingness to murder members of their own group to keep power? Yup. Essentially a bunch of gangsters? Yup.

The divine God of Exodus is on the same moral level as the most corrupt and murderous “national liberation movements” of our time – the Shining Path, the Khmer Rouge, the generals and guerrillas of Algeria or Angola or Zimbabwe. Hamas.

This, of course, is not surprising if you think about who this divine being is. ‘Adonai’, ‘Dominus’, ‘Lord’. Lord of hosts, king of kings. These words are so old and familiar that it’s easy to neglect what concrete things they refer to. A ‘dominus’ is an owner of slaves, a ‘lord’ a parasitic warmonger. ‘Hosts’ are armies, i.e. large groups of men who divide their time between killing other groups of men and raping, looting, and burning once victorious.

And yet we worship them, we speak these words with reverence. More appropriate words for such people, I would suggest, are ‘criminal’, ‘parasite’, ‘cannibal’, though that’s unfair to most criminals, parasitic organisms, and cannibalistic species.

This God is not remotely transcendent – He is banal, mundane, even vulgar. He represents the response to oppression that says ‘let us murder, maim, and burn sufficient people that we pass from being the oppressed to being ourselves the new oppressors’ – or, for the majority of people, ‘let us replace oppressors we feel different from with oppressors we identify with’.

Similarly, consider how the Israelites escape the tenth plague (the slaying of the oldest children) – they have to kill something, and the blood of that death protects them. It is quite literally kill or be killed. That this the law which Divine Justice lays down – the only survivors will be the muderers, no-one can be neither killer nor killed.

He says to those locked into the system of bloodshed and hierarchy to stay within it, scrabbling for a place nearer the top. The average human being has the potential to be more transcendent than that, to actually conceive of breaking out of the hierarchy mindset altogether.

The God of the old testament is an object worthy only of contempt, and the ‘liberation’ of the Israelites from Egypt (at the expense of Egyptian people, children, and animals) is not something worth celebrating.

P.S. on the other fast-approaching religious celebration, I can think of no better summing up than this (the bit in italics).

6 Responses to “Passover is as Disgusting as Easter”

  1. missivesfrommarx Says:

    It’s not that I disagree with what you’re saying about ancient Israel, but that’s just not what Passover is about for most people. For most people I think it’s about food and fun. How many Americans think about colonialism on Thanksgiving Day? Just the academic types. The rest are enjoying time with family and friends. I think we’re wrong to confuse the origin of a ritual practice with its contemporary incarnation.

  2. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Obviously there’s some truth to this. There is a difference between the official origin and meaning of a celebration and its social reality, and I’m only talking about the former. I’d just say that I don’t think we should entirely ignore that official origin, because I think regarding it as irrelevant goes against how it understands itself. That is, many religious people would say (would have to say) that Passover does mean something, that it’s not just an arbitrary excuse for food and fun, that it’s important. So it’s sort of a dilemma: either abandon the idea of a transcendent, mystical, authoritative religion, or maintain it and accept the crap that it’s full of.

  3. missivesfrommarx Says:

    Fair enough. I too don’t think the origin is entirely irrelevant—it’s just that the tradition is usually pretty flexible.

  4. SnowdropExplodes Says:

    I hope you realise the intellectual pedigree of these types of arguments, because they were associated with some pretty nasty people throughout history.

  5. Missives from Marx Says:

    SnowdropExplodes: I don’t want to speak for Alderson, but if I get your drift you’re suggesting that these criticisms might be (are?) anti-Semitic? I want to point out that there is a huge difference (although I’ll allow they’re related) between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism.

  6. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    You mean Christian anti-Semitism? I am aware of that (not in much depth, admittedly) but not enormously bothered. I’ve yet to find a major and influential culture not suffused by violence and domination, and I see no point in dignifying anti-Semitism by refraining from critique of the Jewish religion (or of the Old Testament in Christianity, and indeed somewhat in Islam) in order to avoid it.


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