Episode XI: Puppy Love
First, I'd like to quote the section of the Mahabharata involving Yudhishthira's refusal of heaven, because I think it is one of the most beautiful instances in all of world religion. This is from the William Buck retelling:
The drums of heaven thundered. Indra's chariot settled down next to Yudhishthira. The Lord of the Gods joined his hands together and said, "Namas. We bow to you. Get in; I've come to take you from this death-desert."
"My brothers and our wife must come with me."
"Leaving their bodies, they have gone before you," answered Indra. "Come, get in."
"Lord of the Past and Present," said Yudhishthira, "this little dog who is my last companion must also go."
"No," said Indra. "You cannot enter heaven with a dog at your heels. He is unholy and has no soul."
"He is devoted to me and looks to me for protection. Left alone he would die here."
"There is no place for dogs in heaven. They are unclean. It cannot be."
Yudhishthira frowned. "It cannot be otherwise."
"Don't you understand? You have WON HEAVEN! Immortality and prosperity and happiness in all directions are yours. Only leave that animal and come with me; that will not be cruel."
"Is this place some part of my kingdom?"
"It is, Majesty."
"Then I am who will decide what shall be done here. I do not turn away my dog; I turn away you. I will not surrender a faithful dog to you. Truth and a thousand sacrifices were weight somehow in a balance, and you have heard which was heavier. Whoever comes to me from fright or from disaster or from friendship- I never give him up."
"But I can't take him!" said Indra. "I'll put him to sleep; there will be no pain. No one will know."
"Lord of Heaven," said Yudhishthira, "you have my permission to go."
"Your splendor will fill the three worlds if you will but enter my car alone," said Indra. "You have left everyone else - why not this worthless dog?"
"I have decided," answered Yudhishthira, "and more than that does not concern you."
Then very quickly Indra knelt on the sand and bowed his head. "My Lord Dharma!"
Yudhishthira turned in surprise. The little dog that had been lying in his shadow was gone, and in its place stood Dharma, tall and blond and grey-eyed.
"Yudhishthira, do not bow to me, my son," said the god. "Blessings to you, as a dog I followed you across this desert. You have compassion for all creatures, and that is not weak but strong, and what you believe in you have defended to heaven's gate."
Now, onto less awesome things from our friend the Old Testament...
Yahweh's particularly terrible way of solving the Egyptian ENSLAVEMENT of the Jewish people (which, of course, never happened...I refer you to this nice summation of the evidence against pretty much everything the Bible asserts about the Egyptians and their relations with the Hebrew people) is too well known to go into in greath depth here. The one thing that I would like to point out is the section in Exodus 10, where Pharaoh is about to let all of the Hebrews leave, men, women, and children, and it's not good enough for Moses, who wants him to also put up the sacrifices and burnt offerings to Yahweh as well. And Pharoah was about to go along with this weird little request until "THE LORD stiffened Pharoah's heart and he would not agree to let them go." So, Yahweh, not content to let his beloved people experience freedom unless he gets a little something-something on the side, then intervenes to mess with the Pharoah, forcing him to say no, and then, in the VERY NEXT SECTION, says "How dare you say no! Now I kill your babies!"
Christians that I've spoken to about this strange little episode excuse it by saying that The Lord Hardened His Heart is just a figure of speech, not an instance of actual intervention by Yahweh. Okay, fine, even though Jewish practice really doesn't let you use the name of the lord for colorful literary purposes, and this takes us away from The Bible as Literal History, to The Bible as, Eh, You Know, a Matter of Speaking, which some are fine with, and others less so. Still, figure of speech or not, the fact remains that for an omnipotent being to kill all of the first born children of a massive civilization to achieve his purpose is distinctly repulsive. There is NO reason that Yahweh HAD to do it that way - it was his CHOICE to do so, and it says much about his psychology (or rather the psychology of those compiling this history), that he chose to do it in this particular way. But what is more vile yet is that, instead of this day being a day of deep shame, a day of reflection on the horrible horrible thing Yahweh unnecessarily did to achieve the freedom of one's people, this day is a FUCKING HOLIDAY!! If they called it what it is, God Kills A Shitton of Babies Unnecessarily Day, instead of Passover, I'm guessing it would be slightly less celebrated....
Now, the circumcision episode begins with Shechem, son of Hamor, raping the Israelite Dinah. He is, it turns out, in love with her, and asks her hand in marriage from Dinah's brothers. Awwwwwwkward. They could have said no. They could have punched Shechem in the face. I'd be cool with that. Instead...
Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor - speaking with guile because he had defiled their sister Dinah - and said to them, "We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to a man who is uncircumcised, for that is a disgrace among us. Only on this condition will we agree with you; that you will become like us in that every male amoung you is circumcised. Then we will give our daughters to you and take your daughters to ourselves."
So the tribe goes ahead and agrees to circumcision, and then...
On the third day, when they were in pain, Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob's sons, brothers of Dinah, took each his sword, came upon the city unmolested, and slew all the males.... The other sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the town, because their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and asses, all that was inisde the town and outside; all their wealth, all their children, and their wives, all that was in the houses, they took as captive and booty. Genesis 34.
But that's not my favorite part yet. When word gets back to Jacob that his sons have just KILLED EVERY MALE, and taken every child and female as a slave, of an entire tribe, as revenge for some lame shit that this one guy Shechem pulled, Jacob's response is "You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed." And that's it. His sons just murdered defenseless men and enslaved children, and his response is "Man, this is gonna get me in trouble with the neighbors." It's like your delinquent son setting a house on fire and your first response being, "Why did you do that?! Did you even THINK of the property values?!" So, yes, a very moral and high response from Jacob, equating to "Murder all you want, so long as nobody finds out."
But of course Yahweh, who has strictly forbidden murder and is a just and equitable god, takes the sons and father to task for their horrid, horrid behavior. And by takes them to task, I mean, in the very next chapter, he blesses them and promises them prosperity and and a kingdom for their fine fine work: God appeared again to Jacob on his arrival from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him, You whose name is Jacob, You shall be called Jacob no more, But Israel shall be your name... A nation, yea an assembly of nations, Shall descend from you. Kings shall issue from your loins. The land that I assigned to Abraham and Isaac I assign to you; And to your offspring to come will I assign the land. (Genesis 35)
- Count Dolby von Luckner