Friday, November 20, 2015


God is dead, said Nietzsche; and we killed him. But god has always been dead. 

God is the parent who dies to give us life, the totem animal we kill and eat to live; and because we know right from wrong, we ask his forgiveness.

Other animals kill and eat without asking their prey’s forgiveness. Life feeds on life. But we are not other animals. We know right from wrong.
How shall we comfort ourselves, asked Nietzsche; we most murderous of murderers? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not become gods ourselves to be worthy of it? 

It’s not that great a deed. We’ve brought many gods to life, and then killed them. The assumption that we can therefore become gods ourselves is hubris, which the Greeks knew is a form of madness. 

Every society has created a myth of a Golden Age when we humans lived in harmony with other animals, predators with their prey. Even now fascists are nostalgic for a Golden Age when masters and their slaves lived in harmony.  

That paradise was lost, and human history began, every myth agrees, with a crime. But few remember what that crime was.

The punishment for that crime, every myth agrees, was death. Not death as we knew it when we lived in paradise: part of a natural cycle in which nothing is ever lost, but only changes form - but death as we now know and fear it: an unnatural absence of life. Horror vacui. So if the punishment must fit the crime, that first crime must have been an unnatural death, a murder.  

But the first murder, according to Judeo-Christian myth, was committed only after Adam and Eve were exiled from paradise. The crime for which they were punished with exile – the original sin, according to religious fundamentalists (who do not understand the myth they claim to take literally) - was disobedience.

"From any tree of the garden you may eat freely”, god said to them. “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."  

But the serpent told Adam and Eve their god was a liar. “Ye shall not surely die: For god doth know that, in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”. 

So Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge, and immediately they knew they were naked; and they were ashamed.  

They were naked before they ate, but only after they ate did Adam and Eve know that being naked was wrong. 

They also knew their god had lied. 

Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge did not kill Adam and Eve, as their god said it would. Instead it made them as gods, knowing good and evil, as the serpent said it would. And because they were as gods, they judged themselves, as gods would. But they did not judge their god. 

The people who made this myth depicted their god as a liar. Nevertheless they needed to believe in him (they needed faith to believe in him because reason shows he is a liar). They imagined a divine ruler because they didn't believe they were capable of ruling themselves. 

Seeing they had disobeyed him, god said "Behold, the man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil. Now he may put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”.

To whom did this 'one true god’ say that ‘the man is become as one of us’ if not to other gods? His fear, and theirs, was that if men became as gods, knowing good and evil, they would no longer need gods. To protect themselves, the gods banished Adam and Eve from paradise. 

It's only after Adam and Eve leave paradise that their sons quarrel, which leads to the first murder (in Judeo-Christian mythology, murder is always fratricide - Cain vs Abel, Jacob vs Esau. The Jews dared not imagine killing god the father precisely because they knew they had imagined him).

Now we, the children of murderous Cain, wander the earth as homeless exiles. But we have always wandered the earth, because the earth is our home. 

Older myths say paradise is not lost. It lies all around us, but we cannot or will not see it. 

We became as gods when we learned the difference between good and evil; and we judged ourselves and each other as our gods judged us. But good and evil, like the gods who embody them, are human inventions. We can return to paradise if and when we stop judging ourselves and each other, and forgive ourselves and each other.

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