In 1965 Time Magazine published an issue whose cover story addressed the question, “Is God Dead?” Today, the cover would read, “Is God Deadly?””
God is alive and well. It is we who are dying by the thousands and tens of thousands in his name. Whether you are a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim, liberal or conservative, the god of violence has his claws in you to one extent or another. You cannot read the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, or the Koran without hearing his voice condoning acts that we would call evil if he did not endorse it.
“Ancient history,” cry the Jews about the genocide of Israel’s Bronze Age enemies. “Future retribution,” cry the Christians about the transformation of Jesus into a war god in the Book of Revelation. “Self-defense,” cry the Muslims about the Koran’s call for jihad and murder of the infidel. The truth is, however, no matter how liberal or moderate you claim to be, no matter how clever you are in spiritualizing the violence of your scripture, these texts are poisoning your soul, and sending us into what may well prove to be a century dominated by religious warfare.
Years ago I wrote an article for Tikkun Magazine in which I distinguished the Torah of Love from the Torah of Fear. The first I claimed represented true contact with the Divine, the second was an all too-human (and most often male) use of a violent god in the service of human domination and exploitation. The Torah of Love speaks of universal justice, compassion, and humility. It honors each person as the image and likeness of God, and promises a future of universal peace where swords become ploughshares, and no one is afraid. The Torah of Fear offers us a world of endless conflict, the Chosen killing the not chosen, and god killing the Chosen for not killing the not chosen effectively.
What is true of Torah is true of the New Testament and the Qur’an as well. They too pass off human depravity as divine sanctity. The world is at war because we still worship at the alter of this barbarous god of death. It is time to stop. Not next year, not next month, but now.
It is time for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy to decry the madness of their respective scriptures, to affirm the human origin of sacred text, and to call on their co-religionists to reject the violence of their scripture and religions, and to seek the God of Love and the life of compassion and justice to which this God calls us.
The effort to free our texts, our faiths, and ourselves from the god of violence and violence of god will be slow and difficult. But there is no alternative.