God is Propaganda
"God is love," and also the author of hell. Yes, and hell was made infinite to make God's love infinite. Thus, to square the equation, we may legitimately say that "Hell is love." Or, as Dante preferred, he made hell to say, "I too was created by Eternal Love."
Such theological word games as these turned me off from Christianity. It was hell, really, that made the word "Christian" sour in my mouth. But afterwards I began to wonder, "Yes, but if God is not love, what then is he?" Richard Dawkins' impressed me: "God is a virus." That is, God is an effective meme. And as an effective meme, he was readily able to spread through our collective minds. With this stroke of metaphor, the argument that "The voice of the people is the voice of God," or, that God is proved because so many people believe in him, is ruined. What is most believed is not a farthing more true. Perhaps just the opposite. Perhaps what is easiest to believe is the easiest to think. Perhaps God was the appeal to laziness--"Oh don't worry about thinking. God knows the truth and that's all that matters."
However this metaphor--God as virus--misses two crucial facts about God:
The obviousness of this might shortsight the reader to its subtlety. Of course God was used as propaganda throughout history. Most wars begin with a consultation of the priests (God's spokesmen) or otherwise the assurance that God wills this war, and those that we oppose are blasphemers, heathens, infidels, or otherwise immoral according to the standards of our God. The examples for this are too numerous to bother with. One need only think of the Jewish' Final Solution towards the Canaanites, as described in the book of Joshua, the glories of the Crusades (from which CS Lewis has the nerve to cull an ideal: the Christian warrior), or the endless and grotesque antics in the Middle East for the last 100 years.
Yes, God is used for propaganda, as everybody will admit. But he is made to say at one point, "Do not take my name in vain." Despite the threat of curses on those who do, God has done nothing to counter those who misuse his name. God is made to support Nazis, crusaders, jihadists, genocides, and despite this, he never corrects his "spokesmen." He is seemingly powerless to contradict his interpreters, but offers us silence as his support is claimed to justify atrocity after atrocity.
I don't think this fact bothers enough people. The only justification for history's lack of providence is the claim that in the afterlife, God will make everything all right again. According to this theory, there is conceivably nothing history can do to disprove God. Whatever happens, whoever gets killed, whoever is the victim of genocide, whatever is blown up, atomized, vaporized, gassed, roasted, and/or tortured can make absolutely no comment on God's action in history--in a word, "providence" is a completely empty word, because we have no clue when, how, or if God acts in history.
This is well-known to the students of history; I won't overstate it. Instead, let's look more closely at the phrase "God is propaganda." Obviously I don't mean that Propaganda is God. There are propagandas against God, after all. What I mean by this is that God is nothing more than an instance of propaganda.
Consider it. What have the last 1,000 years of theology--the "logic of God"--demonstrated? Theology has demonstrated nothing about God, but it has remade God. The first God was a fictional character. The theological God however, is nothing more nor less then a list of adjectives. God is just, God is wise, God is omniscient, omnipotent, omniloving, omnipresent--indeed he is all of these things in that he is the list itself. Which is to say, the theological student can contain the whole body, heart, mind, and soul of God in his spiral notebook.
Therefore, it doesn't matter if omnipotence, omnilove, and omniscience contradict reality. Who cares? God is therefore also a contradiction of reality. But there is a crucial definition of God. God is the concept whose essence entails believing his essence entails existence. This adjective on the list, "existing," is also a quality of God because man created God and defined him as such.
God is propaganda. And to narrow the term, God is a rhetorical device of propaganda. "Godisms" are the rhetorical use of God to justify a claim, affect cheap profundity, or instill instant importance to any bit of trash.
We know that the philosopher's God is a set of adjectives--no more!; that the "God of Isaac and Jacob" is a set of narratives--hardly more; and Jesus?--a set of episodes, surely, but more importantly, a set of 1st century BCE rabbinical quotes--that's all. Jesus is essentially and completely encapsulated in a set of plagiarisms from the Jewish tradition. Whatever the historical Jesus may have said or done is irrelevant and irretrievable; to us, he is these quotations, and also the rhetorical cradle the preachers offer them in.
Buddhism, on the other hand, would be completely safe if the Buddha were disproved. If we could demonstrate that Buddha never existed, the faith would shrug and say, "but it was never the person of the Buddha that mattered to us"--not to say that it is only Semitic theism that is propaganda.
But let us consider another Semitic religion: Islam. Here we have another God: the idol of epithets. The corpus deim here is a set of adjectives reverently attributed to the divine. Scarcely more.
If God is propaganda, what then is essential to propaganda? What is essential is that the beliefs, attitudes, and practices associated with it spread. Thus God was knit carefully. What he was said to be, say, and do were worked out through observing folklore and folk mythology, through the attempts of thousands of propagandists (prophets) to speak for God, for the inevitable failures to be dismissed as false prophets, and the most rhetorically convincing to be canonized.
Thus the practice of worshipping becomes clear. The worship of God is advertising. By praising God through worship, songs, chants, pictures, and sacrifices, his role as "the most important thing" is demonstrated. God is sold. The priests, traditionally the most educated--and also the most shrewd--maintained their power by carefully painting and quoting God. It was their profession and life to make God their puppet.
Worshipping is advertisement, and competitive advertisement at that. The wrong God, called an idol, is lambasted by priests with such distasteful vehemence, that if they were to make modern day advertisements we would gape. God, if you want a definition a theist would agree to, is essentially "the thing we must obey." This characterizes the effect the theists use him for. God said it, God demands it, God wills it, thus you must obey. What better propaganda is this?
And this also explains the arms race of the religions each putting forth their own "God." God's favor of a group of believers is measured by how many converts they can dupe. I recall a couple of Mormon missionaries smugly telling me that they were the fastest growing religion on the earth. As if truth were ever popular! As if a perfect being would want to be popularized in the first place!
By now you have guessed my joke. The word "Propaganda" is Latin, from the phrase Congregatio de propaganda fide, "congregation for propagating the faith." That is, it is a Catholic neologism for their tactics for converting foreign peoples.
Consider, then, what the missionary field is all about. The missionary is in essence a person specially trained to convert foreign people who have no training in resisting it. I think of the na've aboriginal faced with the university students who spent years training on how to propagate the "word of God." Even a brief study of the missionary field will show you that no trick is too ruthless, no lie too wicked, if it converts but one soul.
Hell, which is really just a form of God, is the most infamous propaganda, and, like much other propaganda, is based on a trick of catastrophizing. Jesus repeats John the Baptists saying "repent, for the end is near." The end was not near. The world did not end. But if you listen to many Christians nowadays, they will assure that they have "read the signs of the times," and know that Jesus will rapture away his chosen in a matter of years, if not months.
"For the end is near," Jesus says, in the tone of the waterbed commercial warning us that "supplies are limited, act now!" or the car sale that warns us "Sale ends Monday!" Pure propaganda, and, of course, complete bullshit. Jesus unequivocally promises us that the world will end "before this generation perishes," and "while many of those standing here are still alive." Paul believed the end was near. John the revelator swears it. Bullshit. And, like effective bullshit, it still keeps stringing them in to the fold to this day.
Yes, religion preys on our fears and ignorance, this is clear. Or as a true believer acknowledges: "all the other religions prey on the fears and ignorance of men." Well then, is this a virus? And if it is, what can cure us from it?
The cure for religion is a healthy mind, one that recognizes the forms of propaganda and defends itself against them. As I often say, "Knowing how to ask questions is a form of omniscience." In other wards, know how to use logic and inquiry to blast the claims of salesmen. Study everything closely. Wash your eyes with cynicism so that you can see clearly. But always approve of your eyes, your mind, your own rational ability to understand. If you trust yourself, you will not be cheated.
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