Thursday, December 20, 2007

Competitive Grovelling

I have remarked before that one aspect of religion that I find most puzzling is the apparent need that God has to be worshiped. This is part of the reason I find it difficult to believe: the notion that an entity capable of creating this entire universe gives a rat's ass about being worshiped strikes me as being inherently implausible. Think about it: what kind of entity creates sentient beings and then demands ritual grovelling at periodic intervals? In my experience with people, those who demand the most obsequious displays from others are the least worthy of them. If God really cares whether people worship a golden calf, he's a megalomaniac. As I said before, if I were God, I'd think it was funny. (Or I would take the golden calf to be a crude representation of Me, made by primitives incapable of understanding My true glory. It's the thought that counts, right?)

I realize that religious people seem to be happy, but honestly, it makes me wonder about people. Why, outside of a kinky sex scenario, would anybody find this sort of ritual self-abasement to be fulfilling? Kneeling, bowing, singing songs that say "I suck and you, invisible being, are great." What's the fun in that? I certainly can't prove this, but it strikes me that religious denominations that require less grovelling have to psychologically more healthy than those which tend to require more. So churches that don't do the whole kneeling thing are better than those that do. At least from this perspective.

Anyhow, as religions go, Islam is certainly very high on the we-require-grovelling scale. As Christopher Hitchens observed, Islam "invokes prostrate submission or 'surrender' as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain." Like Hitch, I want to push back, hard, against the deference and respect that Muslims demand -- which is why I support recreational Koran desecration.

In any case, those looking to explain how screwed-up and backward most of the Islamic world is might consider that the abnormally-high level of abject surrender demanded by Islam might be a part of the picture. P.Z. Myers recently linked to a story illustrating just how screwy Islam is. You know what a "zebibah" is? Well, I didn't, before reading this story. It's Arabic for "raisin," but it refers to a mark on the head caused by bashing one's head on the ground five times a day in prayer, as Muslims are wont to do. Having such a mark is now a status symbol among Egyptian Muslims -- "I'm more pious than you, because I bash my head harder."

Seriously, is it any wonder that Muslims blow themselves up for Allah and whip women for showing some ankle? They think God wants them to bash their heads on the ground five times a day. If you live in a universe run by such a sick deity, it is hardly surprising that you do sick things.


MikeT said...

The God of the Bible is different from the other gods in this respect.

1) The only worship that means anything to Him is worship that comes from a love of God; God does not expect those outside the covenant to worship Him, and membership in the covenant is voluntary.

2) The New Testament takes a twist on worship that no other text does: "whatever you do, do it for the glory of God." Make the best food you can for your family, to give glory to God for the love you show. Be the best engineer, lawyer, doctor, burger flipper, etc. to give glory to God for what He has enabled you to do with your life.

Properly understood, the highest worship that a human can give the God of Israel is to be the very best they can be, to maximize the good they do with the gifts God has given them, and in all things, give glory to God by properly reflecting God's love and grace toward others.

It might amuse you to know that the Bible refers to these acts of prostration and false piety (because it comes purely from observing rigid laws, and an unchanged heart) as being as worthless and unclean before God as the menstrual rags used in ancient times.

Milo Johnson said...

That "no true Scotsman" thing just never gets old, does it?

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