Literalist Fundamentalism Requires Murdering Children

“As the stag pants after the waterbrooks, So pants my mind after you, O gods! My mind thirsts for gods! for living gods! When shall I come face to face with gods?”
~ Psalm 42

From the perspective of egoic individualism, what Julian Jaynes simply referred to as ‘consciousness’, there is a sense of loss and longing for the archaic authorization of the voices and visions from gods, spirits, and ancestors. But there is simultaneously a fear and denial of this archaic authorization that can undermine and usurp the walled position defended as the demiurgic ego’s domain.

The takeover of Jaynesian consciousness didn’t happen naturally, easily, and quickly. It was a slow process of suppressing and eliminating the voice-hearing bicameral mind, including the regular killing and sometimes wholesale slaughter of the remaining bicameral humans. This is attested to in the Old Testament where even voice-hearing children were not to be spared by their own parents who were commanded to murder them.

“And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.”
~ Zechariah 13;3

* * *

There is a present and practical implication to these thoughts. Literalist fundies like to claim they follow all of the Bible without any personal interpretation or cultural bias, treating it as the actual voice of God whose meaning and intention are simply known to the Elect of God’s People. But that is obviously bull shit. Our grandfather, a minister, stated that anyone could find a Biblical verse to support anything they wanted to believe. Such self-serving delusion does not make one a good Christian.

The stories, histories, traditions, teachings, moralities, commandments, laws, etc accumulated from dozens of separate cultures and populations before finally being written down in the Tanakh during the Axial Age. There is no consistent and coherent theology that can be found, as the monotheist authoritarian priestly class that wrote it down was drawing upon the prior paganism, polytheism, and henotheism; the traces of which remain in the texts they recorded and rewrote, edited and interpolated.

One would literally be insane, dangerous, and criminal if attempting to apply everything in the Bible to modern life and society. The Tanakh is a holy text not only to the Jews but also to Christians, Muslims, and Bahai. Could you imagine all of the monotheistic fundies all over the world suddenly doing every batshit thing the Old Testament commanded, even killing their own children when they claimed to hear voices, even the voice of God?

Then there is the additional problem that so much of what is in the New Testament contradicts and opposes what is found in the Old Testament. In fact, that is why the New Testament canon was created by Marcion, specifically to show and prove that the loving God of Jesus was not and could not be the same as the bloodthirsty, tyrannical, and demiurgic Yahweh. Jesus’ teachings and example are dramatically different from everything that came before in the Jewish tradition.

In challenging the commandment to execute wrongdoers, Jesus confronted the righteous Jews ready to stone someone to death by saying that anyone without sin could cast the first stone. Yet no where in the Old Testament does it ever state or suggest that being free of all sin is a requirement for punishing other sinners. For Jesus to say that was a complete defiance and overturning of Jewish tradition, law, and practice.

Indeed, that was the whole point. Jesus stated in no uncertain terms that he came to fulfill the law, that is to say the old laws no longer applied — not abolished but simply irrelevant and moot, no longer applicable. He brought a new revelation, not anti-authoritarian revolt that reacts against the old but non-authoritarian love that manifests the radically new. Love was all that one needed to understand, as it always had been the one and only truth, so claimed Jesus.

Based on everything we know from the Gospels, Jesus would’ve condemned any parent who murdered or attempted to murder their child for hearing voices. When he was brought to a man possessed by demons, he didn’t declare the man must be punished, banished, or killed. No, instead, he healed the man of what was possessing him. Anyone who believes that they should fully and literally follow the Old Testament, even to the point of murdering children, whatever they might be they for certain are not a Christian or at least not a follower of Jesus.

* * *

As supposedly described by the Hebrew prophet Zechariah and, below that, as explained by Julian Jaynes:

King James Bible
Zechariah 13

1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

3 And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.

4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

5 But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.

6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.

9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
by Julian Jaynes
pp. 310-312

A further vestige from the bicameral era is the word ob, often translated as a “familiar spirit.” “A man also or woman that have an ob . . . shall surely be put to death,” says Leviticus (20:27). And similarly Saul drives out from Israel all those that had an ob (I Samuel 28:3). Even though an ob is something that one consults with (Deuteronomy, 18:11), it probably had no physical embodiment. It is always bracketed with wizards or witches, and thus probably refers to some bicameral voice that was not recognized by the Old Testament writers as religious. This word has so puzzled translators that when they found it in Job 32:19, they translated it absurdly as “bottle,” when clearly the context is that of the young frustrated Elihu, who feels as if he had a bicameral voice about to burst forth into impatient speech like an overfull wineskin.

The Last of the Nabiim

We began this chapter with a consideration of the refugee situation in the Near East around the latter part of the second millennium B.C., and of the roving tribes uprooted from their lands by various catastrophes, some of them certainly bicameral and unable to move toward subjective consciousness. Probably in the editing of the historical books of the Old Testament, and the fitting of it together into one story in the sixth or fifth century B.C., a great deal has been suppressed. And among such items of information that we would like is a clear account of what happened to these last communities of bicameral men. Here and there through the Old Testament, they appear like sudden glimpses of a strange other world during these periods which historians have paid too little attention to.

Groups of bicameral men certainly persisted until the downfall of the Judean monarchy, but whether in association with other tribes or with any organization to their hallucinated voices in the form of gods, we don’t know. They are often referred to as the “sons of nabiim,” indicating that there was probably a strong genetic basis for this type of remaining bicamerality. It is, I think, the same genetic basis that remains with us as part of the etiology of schizophrenia.

Edgy kings consulted them. Ahab, king of Israel in 835 B.C., rounded up 400 of them like cattle to listen to their hue and clamor (I Kings 22:6). Later, in all his robes, he and the king of Judah sit on thrones just outside the gates of Samaria, and have hundreds of these poor bicameral men herded up to them, raving and copying each other even as schizophrenics in a back ward (I Kings 22:10).

What happened to them? From time to time, they were hunted down and exterminated like unwanted animals. Such a massacre in the ninth century B.C. seems to be referred to in I Kings 18:4, where out of some unknown, much larger number, Obadiah took a hundred nabiim and hid them in caves, and brought them bread and water until the massacre was over. Another such massacre is organized by Elijah a few years later (I Kings 18:40).

We hear no more of these bicameral groups thereafter. What remained for a few centuries more are the individual nabiim, men whose voices do not need the group support of other hallucinating men, men who can be partly subjective and yet still hear the bicameral voice. These are the famous nabiim whose bicameral messages we have already selectively touched upon: Amos, the gatherer of sycamore fruit, Jeremiah, staggering under his yoke from village to village, Ezekiel with his visions of lofty thrones on wheels moving through the clouds, the several nabiim whose religious agonies are ascribed to Isaiah. These of course merely represent the handful of that much larger number whose bicameral voices seemed to be most consistent with Deuteronomy. And then the voices are as a rule no longer actually heard.

In their place is the considered subjective thought of moral teachers. Men still dreamed visions and heard dark speech per-haps. But Ecclesiastes and Ezra seek wisdom, not a god. They study the law. They do not roam out into the wilderness “inquiring of Yahweh.” By 400 B.C., bicameral prophecy is dead. “The nabiim shall be ashamed everyone of his visions.” If parents catch their children naba-ing or in dialogue with bicameral voices, they are to kill them on the spot (Zechariah 13, 3-4).That is a severe injunction. If it was carried out, it is an evolutionary selection which helped move the gene pool of humanity toward subjectivity.

3 thoughts on “Literalist Fundamentalism Requires Murdering Children

    • Thanks! We’re glad you appreciated it. We rarely intend to write pieces like this, but end up feeling a moral obligation to do so, as having been raised in liberal, progressive, and compassionate Christianity. We want to defend Jesus, as the original Western advocate of egalitarianism and loving-kindness, against the followers of the Anti-Christ who conspire to co-opt Jesus toward anti-Christian machinations, to put it in fundy language.

      For all the claims made about basing their entire lives on the Bible, one finds it hard to believe that Biblical literalists have ever read the Bible for themselves and taken seriously what they read. We can get into arguments of Biblical scholarship and exegesis that unpeel layers of discrepancies and inconsistencies. But we don’t need to go that far. Like the literalists love to point out, some passages really don’t require any interpretation, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

      When it states that you should murder your own children for hearing the voice of Yahweh, there are no two ways to interpret that, no way of getting around that commandment from the mouth of a prophet speaking on behalf of Yahweh. It’s completely straightforward. Zechariah was not speaking metaphorically or in riddles. It’s not a parable. He simply, directly, and literally was telling the Jews of his time to end the lives of their children by thrusting a sword or knife through their children for the ‘sin’ of daring to do what Zechariah himself had done, to listen to the voice of Yahweh and speak of it.

      The motivation for writing this post was in response to a close friend of ours. He is a refugee from an Islamic country that is an authoritarian theocracy, both patriarchal and tribalistic. He is critical of authoritarianism and yet naive about it, since it was the world he grew up in and so he knows nothing else. He is unable to step back to see it for what it is and still is attracted to theocracy, but oddly also attracted to social democracy — ideally, he’d like to live in a paternalistic theocracy that enforces social democracy onto society or something like that, a rather unlikely outcome once authoritarians gain power.

      If you read the Koran, you’ll notice that it regularly criticizes wealth-hoarding and high inequality. So, oddly, it’s precisely our friend’s authoritarian theocratic upbringing that prepared him for a more economic populist outlook in seeing the problems of modern American capitalism. It’s one of the things that we respect in the Islamic tradition, even as that holy text has some truly evil commandments and rationalizations, just like the Old Testament — the Koran is a guide book about how to live in a violent, war-torn land because that was the world of that time; not exactly helpful for living in the modern non-tribal West.

      It speaks to the tribalistic mindset when tribalism first began declining in that region. So, Mohammed’s words still speak to those in tribalistic societies or with tribalistic nostalgia, even as the Koran as a literary document is showing the early steps of escaping oral-based tribalism in replacing it with theocratic nationalism that supersedes the archaic authorization of tribal traditionalism. The problem is that the solution Mohammed offers is to replace one kind of violence with an even greater violence of militaristic Jihad, to subjugate everyone else to monotheistic totalitarianism, a Pax Islamica.

      The paternalistic leveling impulse given voice in the Koran was not an opposition to authoritarian power but what was perceived as the wrong kind of authoritarian power — it needed to be raised up to a more cosmic level through the despotic rule of a divine overlord. Even so, it interestingly opens itself up to economic populist ideology and policies. It’s the reason that usury is outlawed in Islamic countries, as it once was in Christian countries. Yet plutocracy remains powerful in the Islamic world, such as in Saudi Arabia; something that our friend sees as morally wrong.

      The Koran, if only partly, offers an antidote for some of the failings of Islam. This allows more liberal and progressive Muslims a way to challenge some of the worst elements of authoritarianism. But if one is to be a literalist, much of what is described and commanded in the Koran is truly horrific. And there isn’t even an equivalent of a Jesus to provide an alternative example of defiance toward cruelty, since Mohammed as self-proclaimed final prophet claims to have replaced Jesus. The Koran, in many ways, simply reinstates many of the worst elements of the Tanakh, after Jesus had done so much to counter their poisoning affect on the human mind, heart, and soul.

      More powerfully than Mohammed, Jesus also repeatedly challenged the same kinds of economic problems of selfishness, heartlessness, corruption, and greed. That is another thing too few literalists take literally. In response to Jesus telling a rich guy to give away all of his wealth, how many rich Christian literalists have literally followed Jesus’ commandment, rather than rationalized it away? Literalists pick and choose what is convenient and self-serving, as if the Bible were a theological buffet to sate their lust for self-righteous power.

      Although Islamic, our friend began attending an evangelical church, if more moderately conservative than some. And he has fallen under the sway of Christian literalism and it’s link to the reactionary right-wing, including the kinds of Youtube videos that serve no purpose other than indoctrination and mind-fuckery. As he basically received no meaningful formal education in childhood, he lacks critical thinking skills of media literacy and information literacy. Even his ability to read his severely limited and his reading comprehension skills even more deficient. Yet, to his credit and despite a probable but undiagnosed learning disability, he is still struggling to attain his GED.

      His state of uneducation isn’t his fault, but it hobbles his mind nonetheless. He has no dependable way of intellectually discerning the truth value of claims and so he often takes at face value what he is told, particularly when it confirms the authoritarian biases he was raised with. He is the perfect target of literalist apologetics. He has almost no defenses against it. We are among the few people in his life who can speak to another way of understanding and viewing the world. He respects us, but he constantly disbelieves anything that contradicts literalism, fundamentalism, and theocracy. He wasn’t raised in liberal democracy and simply does not grasp what it is or why it matters. As a friend with concern, we’ve felt compelled to help him from getting pulled too far into the reactionary darkness.

      The direct reason for this post is that this friend is schizophrenic and has had a hard life, the reason he escaped as a refugee. Before being treated, he heard voices and it led him to being institutionalized for a time. And, interestingly, his grandmother openly spoke with a Jinn, an earth spirit, that no one else could hear. In traditional Islam, supernatural voice-hearing apparently was still common enough to be accepted as normal until quite recently. But apparently that has finally changed and, as in the West, voice-hearers in much of the Islamic world are simply treated as insane or dangerous, to be institutionalized or chained up, made into pariahs or probably sometimes killed.

      We wanted him to understand the implications of religious literalism. Muslims claim to adhere to the Judeo-Christian holy texts, as they do with the Koran. Like Christians, they see the Tanakh as their foundational holy book. We mentioned this murder of children who hear voices, but as typical he doubted it and demanded to see the exact quote. So, we went to dredge it up and decided it needed to be made into a post, as an example that others also might learn from. Literalism is madness that splinters the mind and psychotically disconnects one from reality, along with rending one from a shared humanity. No one is actually a literalist because it’s an impossible and demented aspiration. But the harm of literalism is very much real.

      Anyway, we worry about our friend. He seems so impressionable, but it goes along with what we like about him, as he means well in his sense of faith. He has such a heartfelt sincerity about him with not a trace of guile. He is the most kindhearted person we know. Yet even our college-educated parents are so easily indoctrinated and manipulated by the weaselly rhetoric of reactionary mind viruses. We hate the idea of how the reactionary right takes advantage of those who are the most vulnerable, be it from lack of education and literacy, from overwhelming stress and crippling anxiety, or from sickness and age-related neurocognitive decline. We will always defend our family and friends, to the best of our ability, from those who seek to do them harm. It’s the very least we can do.

  1. Perhaps observing from “outside”, this is a quite interesting perspective. However, I very much agree with the observation that a dependence upon anachronistic ideological consistency for social solutions can simply lead to absurdities. Back in November of 2017, I wrote an article titled, “Hell”, after attending a local Republican Party meeting where I observed that a significant number of attendees (perhaps amplified by their volume) who’d adopted some kind of reactionary version of Christianity as their ideological perspective seemed just fine with the idea of mass murder. And it didn’t escape me that they were also circling around Donald Trump as their savior.

    Raised with a typically “Japanese” sense of ethic, I’m neither here nor there on the idea of “religion”, which tends to be approached from a more existential perspective in modern Japanese culture. So it strikes me that there’s ultimately a pragmatic aspect to living in a just and decent society; and that if one’s faith doesn’t line up with that reality, then a person might want to ask his or her self, “Why?” I think most people who can muster up even a modicum of objectivity can discern whether or not a perspective or an act reflects helpfulness and compassion versus vindictiveness and destruction. And more often than not, it seems the usually fearful appeals to justification of the latter tend to revolve around someone ready to lead his flock right into the pit of despair.

    Good wishes to you.
    -Kumi

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