- Religion and Philosophy
The Evolution of a Deity
A study from Boston University concluded that young children with a religious background are less able to distinguish between fantasy and reality compared with their secular counterparts. “In both studies, children exposed to religion were less likely to judge the characters in the fantastical stories as pretend, and in line with this equivocation, they made more appeals to reality and fewer appeals to impossibility than did secular children.”
Today about 28% of US adults continue to believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally - talking animals and all! Children are not born believers and, depending on geography and family, their religion was chosen for them. For instance, a child born in the US or Europe will more likely become Christian while a Middle Eastern child will become Muslim. Some will grow out of it, others won’t.
A 2012-2013 Gallup Poll concluded that about 85% of the US citizens believe in a supreme being and roughly 57% believe in evolution – even though evolution is not a belief system. One needs to consider that not all atheists are on board with the theory of evolution, or at least don't understand it. But let’s take a look at the Christian/Judaeo god. What do we know about him, her or what? If we ask 100 different people, we get 100 different answers. Is it possible that God is a product of evolution as with Superman? Let’s take a moment and compare the two starting with the Man of Steel.
On April 18, 1938, we saw the debut of Superman when he appeared in Action Comics #1 thanks to the creative minds of Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster. They would have never known that their creation would go on to become an American cultural icon and serve as a blueprint for the countless super heroes that would soon follow. Superman went on to be named by the San Francisco based games and entertainment media company, IGN (Imagine Game Network), as the greatest super hero of all time. One doesn’t become so popular without years of intense marketing campaigns but, either way, that’s quite an achievement for an undocumented alien!
Superman given name was Kal-El and was an orphaned child from the planet Krypton. When he arrived on earth, he was adopted by a local farm couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent and renamed Clark. The only super power he possessed in these early years was super human strength. This was due to his birth planet which had such a massive gravitational force one would require super human strength to simply stand upright! But he was unable to fly at this time as he was required to leap over obstacles or simply run to get to his targeted destination - remember “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”? To keep his adventures fresh and moving forward, Siegal and Shuster threw in an arch enemy by the name of Alexander Joseph “Lex” Luthor who first appeared in the April 1940 edition of Action Comics #23. Lex was a gifted scientist, inventor, and philanthropist but nuts, kind of like a nerdy bad boy. By late 1941 the animation artists complained that drawing all the extra cell frames of Superman simply leaping over everything became too time consuming and expensive. This is also the reason why Bugs Bunny and other cartoon characters were drawn with only four fingers. So to solve this, Superman was given the ability to fly without any visible means of propulsion. This simple modification made Superman’s job of saving the citizens of Metropolis much more productive and cost effective for the producers and animators. By the Cold War era he developed a laundry list of super powers such as heat vision, freeze breathing, fly through space along with X-ray vision. If we couldn’t beat the Russians into space, we might as well show them up with a bad-ass super hero!
This brings us to another guy who also started out in humble beginnings and later became a super hero in his own right. Well, sort of. Instead of being born on a distant planet, he was born in the ancient Middle Eastern country of Canaan and made his debut in the Middle or Late Bronze Age. Today he’s universally known as “God”, but his given name was El and he started off with little to nothing in the way of possessing super powers. El was viewed as supreme over his 33 Canaanite co-gods in the pre-Sargonic period (around the 23rd Century BC). By this time there were about 2,400 deities throughout the Middle East while only a handful were worshiped directly. Deities were not much different from humans as they also had families, personality quirks, ate, drank, and participated in many adventures. El was no different and there’s several stories written about what he did before appearing in the pages of Genesis. We know this from recently unearth clay tablets found in the ancient port city of Ugarit (located in modern Syria). We learned that El was quite the adventurer but couldn’t hold his wine very well. He was married to goddess Athirat and goddess Raḥmayyu and had a boatload of kids: Hadad, Yam, Mot, Shachar, Shalim and Ba‘al(?) to name a few. One such tablet entitled, Shachar and Shalim, is fairly erotic. Without going into too much detail lets just say it tells the story how he met his two wives who later bore his first two children - something about El roasting a bird along a sea shore of the primeval seas while maintaining an erection. Then another tablet tells us the time he invited other gods to a huge banquet only to disgrace himself by getting drunk and passing out in their presence. Writers back then knew they had to keep their stories interesting and moving along in order to stay in business. So they writers sent El on wild adventures like battling sea monsters in the primeval sea and tackle the desert elements to build a desert sanctuary for his family. Like Superman, he was also given an arch enemy, a villain named Attar whose counterpart would later become Lucifer or Satan.
It was common for a god to be adopted and worshiped by neighboring countries or even a conquering foreign army. For example, Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and war was adopted and renamed Ishtar by the neighboring Akkadians and Babylonians. She was adopted once again by the Greeks and renamed Aphrodite in 300 BC when Alexander the Great took his show on the road. When the Romans rolled into Greece, they liked her so much they took her with them and she became Venus. This is what happened to El around 1,400 BCE when he was adopted by a small Hebrew tribe, one of many Semite tribes coexisting in Egypt. Like the young Kal-El, El was also molded into Hebrew life by shedding his wild and crazy Canaanite days and given a proper Hebrew name of Yahweh. When this small group left Egypt, not only did they take him along, they also took along a few Egyptian ideas such as judgment in the afterlife, a shortened version of the Egyptian 42 Commandments and the crazy idea of monotheism which got Pharaoh Akhenaton into hot water. In Exodus, it tells the story of these migrants constructing a golden calf (universal sign of the various Middle Eastern moon gods) which indicates that most of them were still polytheists. But that all changed when it was declared that Yahweh was the one and only true god. Tell that to the other cultures and surrounding empires.
In Babylon, around 550 BC, when the captive Israelites (fearing for their lives) wrote down their story (the Torah) they pretty much kept Yahweh’s old Canaanite family in tact. In a verse in Genesis 6:1-2 “1. And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them 2. that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives, whomsoever they chose.” But he didn’t have the ability to ascend to the heavens at this time. He relied on foot power and simply walked upon the earth like the rest of his fellow deities that he was extremely jealous of. In Genesis, he had no idea that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and had to wander the garden while calling out for them since he wasn’t given all-knowing/seeing powers yet. But that will change in the coming years when Christianity came to dominate the Roman Empire. Roman Emperor Constantine just legalized Christianity in an attempt to bring order to his kingdom. Some old pagan gods were retired while others were demoted and given new job titles such as arch angels. This was a chaotic business so he started a series of committees to straighten this all out starting with the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. After months of voting and debate these guys came up with the idea of making Jesus the Son of God and brought us Easter. This brought great changes and a huge promotion for Yahweh. Yahweh was no longer depicted as the old man sitting on a mountain throne sporting his bull horn head dress and tails. He was moved up into the world, quite literally, and was relocated in the Kingdom of Heaven where he now spends his time playing SIMs with our lives! Forget that free will garbage; he now has a plan for us! Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was thrown into the Dark Ages. The church now ruled everything and, like the DC Comics, began a successful mass marketing campaign to spread Yahweh’s popularity. But the problem they faced was making the illiterate community understand their message. To accomplish that they simply rounded up their prospective target audience and beheading those that refused to accept their new god.
By 1600 the world changed with the invention of the telescope. No longer was there a belief in a canopy firmament as described in Genesis 1:6-8 that kept the overhead primeval waters at bay. This caused a huge problem for the powerful church and they sent their theologians to work. They were handed the task to come up with an explanation of why you can’t see Yahweh in the sky with the new spy gadgets. The solution was simple! They converted Yahweh into supernatural being! Now he was he everywhere watching everyone at any given moment! To do this productively he was given his trademark all-knowing/seeing super powers! It’s interesting to note that the church denied the existence of a vacuum for many years simply because they claimed that God couldn’t exist in a vacuum. Anyway this idea worked for the masses for the next 400 years and it also covered the questions raised by astronomers when peering into their powerful telescopes in the early 20th century. Things really got nerve racking when the Russians launched Yuri Gagarin into space on April 12, 1961. He allegedly said, “I don’t see any God up here!” which was more likely a propaganda stunt by Soviet Premiere Khrushchev. Maybe that was their response to this country since we just added “In God We Trust” (Who’s “We”?) to all our paper currency in 1957 to show the atheist Soviet Union that this country still had a hard time separating church and state (which was a contributing factor for the 1917 Russian Revolution). Of course not everyone in the USSR was atheist as Gagarin was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church.
So far we compared the similarities of Superman and Yahweh but there are some drastic differences in their personalities. During El’s Hebrew transformation to Yahweh, he developed quite an attitude. For instance Superman likes women and treated them no differently than men. According to Genesis, Yahweh is very chauvinistic since he punished Eve worse than Adam, even though he was just as guilty. In Yahweh’s eyes, women are no better than slaves or even worthless. But believers will say that he loves us (even though nowhere in the Bible does it say that God loves anyone) because he sent his only son to become a sacrificial offering to forgive our sin that he imposed on us ever since Eve took dietary advice from a talking snake. He loves us so much that he even went so far as to create a certain place for those who didn’t love him back! What a guy! But there is one incident where everyone was treated everyone equally. After loosing control of humans and giving us free will, he went ahead and slaughtered every man, woman, child, and fetus with a flood because they didn't do as he pleased. This stolen Sumerian flood epic would later become a beloved child’s story which went on to be taught in Louisiana public schools! One notion that the flood story tended to leave out that Yahweh didn’t think his plan all the way through because the earth was soon repopulated with the same idiots that he was trying to destroy. For those into intelligent design, wouldn’t the creator have to be more intelligent than what is being created? Of course Clark Kent thinks that putting on a pair of glasses will completely conceal his Superman identity.
We just discussed the evolution of Yahweh, the god worshiped by Christians, Muslims and about 50% of the Jews and the Man of Steel. Like Superman, Yahweh started out with humble beginnings and was later given extraordinary super powers to battle an evil super villain and perform insane miracles all within a 30 mile radius located in the Middle East. In reality Superman and Yahweh only exists in the imagination only to come to life when we read about them in books or watch them on the big screen and TV. But saying that Yahweh or God is real simply because the Bible simply tells us so is like saying that Superman is real because the various books and DVDs simply says he is. It comes down to the fact that Superman is just another man-made super hero just as Yahweh just an ancient belief, just like the other 4,000 deities of the world.
Jan 9, 2016