The Ten Commandments
A Book by Joseph Lewis
The Second Commandment


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The Observance of This Commandment and the Origin of Anti-Semitism

It is admitted by the highest Hebrew authorities that this Commandment was responsible for stifling the artistic instinct in the Hebrew people. They cannot boast of a single achievement in the realm of art during the centuries they were under its influence. Because of their deluded belief in the prohibitions of this Commandment, Israelites considered it a deadly sin to make reproductions in painting or sculpture "of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth." A devout Hebrew would not even look at an image; in fact, if he glanced at a statue, he was commanded to make a special prayer in expiation for having committed a sin! [*65] The ancient Israelite was condemned to live in a world without form, without shape and without color.

No wonder his existence took on a drab and mournful hue. His sensibilities were dulled to the beauty and symmetry of life. The observance of this Commandment by the Children of Israel put blinders on their eyes and obscured their vision of life to such an extent that they were unable to see the rainbow of existence. For that is what art is. Art is life and love and inspiration and achievement. Life without art is like living without freedom. Art and progress are inseparable twins, without which life holds no promise and no happiness. The Biblical Hebrews threw the precious pearls of happy events to the winds of memory. By observing this Commandment, Page 157 they imposed imprisonment upon themselves. They preferred the black crepe of death to the multicolored loveliness of life. They preferred the mask of sorrow to the smile of joy. They became the Children of Darkness for the love of their God.

Nor is that all. The influence of this Commandment on their actions when associating with other peoples has been the direct cause of their tragic suffering, and made them the victims of the supremest tragedy ever endured by members of the human race.

The people under whose jurisdiction they lived could not understand their slavish devotion to a deity who imposed such outlandish religious rites. The Children of Israel were regarded with amazement and suspicion by their neighbors, who could not understand their fantastic ideas about life, and their continual occupation with prayer to appease the wrath and anger of their jealous deity. It also seemed extremely ludicrous to others that a mere "image" could cause so much fear and consternation.

Any image in the presence of the Hebrews provoked a violent reaction and the most fanatical demonstration. After their defeat by the Romans and the loss of Jerusalem, they refused not only to use, but even to gaze on the figures engraved on the Roman coins! They refused to handle or even own such money! They preferred to starve, if necessary, rather than violate the provisions of this Commandment. So determined was their refusal that the Roman governors decided to issue coins with their own emblem for the exclusive use of the Hebrews. The emblem was the horn of plenty, inscribed with the words "Commonwealth of Judeans," instead of the images of the Roman Emperors. [*66] Why the cornucopia should not have been in violation of this Commandment, and an engraving of an Emperor's head should have been, is not clear, but there are more strange things in the religion of Judaism than were ever dreamt of in my humble philosophy. (And so an innocent coin, whose validity and value were never questioned, provoked the Hebrews to hysterical opposition to its handling and use.) If the Bible God was so insistent that the Hebrews Page 158 use no money with images engraved thereon, he should have provided them with other coins to meet their needs, as he did manna from heaven. [**67]

After the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, the Emperor Tiberius sent Pilate to govern the new province. One of his first acts was to erect statues of Caesar throughout the new kingdom, symbolizing control of the territory. No sooner were these statues erected than the Hebrews once more protested against the appearance of images among them. Fortunately for this study, we have a record of the actual event written by Josephus, the Jewish scholar and historian, who was probably an eyewitness to the scene. His descriptions of this and similar events are so vital in analyzing the influence of this Commandment that I shall quote his own words, lest it be doubted that such acts actually occurred:

"Now Pilate, who was sent as a procurator into Judea by Tiberius, sent by night those images of Caesar that are called ensigns, into Jerusalem. This excited a very great tumult among the Jews when it was day; for those that were near them were astonished at the sight of them, as indications that their laws were trodden underfoot; for those laws do not permit any sort of images to be brought into the city.

"Nay, besides the indignation which the citizens had themselves at this procedure, a vast number of people came running out of the country. These came zealously to Pilate to Caesarea, and besought him to carry those ensigns out of Jerusalem, and to preserve them their ancient laws inviolable; but upon Pilate's denial of their request, they fell down prostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights.

"On the next day Pilate sat upon his tribunal, in the open market-place, and called to him the multitude, as desirous to give them an answer; and then gave a signal to the soldiers, that they Page 159 should all by agreement at once encompass the Jews with their weapons; so the band of soldiers stood around about the Jews in three ranks. The Jews were under the utmost consternation at that unexpected sight. Pilate also said to them that they should be cut in pieces unless they would admit of Caesar's images, and gave intimation to the soldiers to draw their naked swords. Hereupon the Jews, as it were at one signal, fell down in vast numbers together, and exposed their necks bare, and cried out that they were sooner ready to be slain than that their law should be transgressed. Hereupon Pilate was greatly surprised at their prodigious superstition, and gave order that the ensigns should be presently carried out of Jerusalem." [*68]

The statues of Caesar were removed from Jerusalem, and when the Hebrews objected to the use of the Roman flag, it, too, was removed from their midst. [**69]

Another event of equal import followed quickly upon the heels of the preceding one, and again we go directly to Josephus for the amazing details in proof of the paralyzing influence of this Commandment on the lives of the Hebrew people.

During the reign of Herod the Great, his public works were the envy of the world. He built magnificent palaces and beautiful marble baths, erected coliseums and stadiums for the Olympic games, developed the country's harbors, and encouraged commerce and peaceful foreign intercourse. He even went beyond his own province, and invited the people of other communities to enjoy the fruits of his generosity. Josephus describes Herod's ambitious undertakings in the following passage:

"He appointed solemn games to be celebrated every fifth year, in honor of Caesar, and built a theatre at Jerusalem, as also a very great amphitheatre in the plain. Both of them were indeed costly works, but opposite to the Jewish customs [italics mine]; Page 160 for we have no such shows delivered down to us as fit to be used or exhibited by us; yet did he celebrate these games every five years, in the most solemn and splendid manner. He also made proclamation to the neighboring countries, and called men together out of every nation."

Such laudable endeavors should have been highly praised and not stupidly objected to because "we have no such shows delivered down to us" from past generations. But back to Josephus's description of Herod's great efforts to bring all peoples together under the banner of Sport in a spirit of co-operation:

"The wrestlers also, and the rest of those who strove for the prizes in such games, were invited out of every land, both in the hope of the rewards there to be bestowed, and the glory of the victory to be gained. So the principal persons that were most eminent in these sorts of exercises were gotten together, for there were very great rewards for victory proposed, not only to those that performed their exercises naked, but those that played the musicians also, and were called Thymelici; but he spared no pains to induce all persons, the most famous for such exercises, to come to this contest for victory." [*70]

And now Josephus tells us that of all the games, of all the amusements, of all the activities, even the fighting of the lions, it was

"... the trophies [which] gave most distaste to the Jews, for as they imagined them to be images included within the armour that hung round about them, they were sorely displeased at them, because it was not the custom of their country to pay honours to such images.

"Nor was Herod unacquainted with the disturbance they were under; and as he thought it unseasonable to use violence with them, so he spoke to some of them by way of consolation, and in order to free them from that superstitious fear they were under; yet could not he satisfy them, but they cried out with one accord, out of their great uneasiness at the offenses they thought he had been guilty of, that although they should think of bearing all the Page 161 rest, yet would they never bear images of men in their city, meaning the trophies, because this was disagreeable to the laws of their country." [*71]

In an effort to prove the harmlessness of these trophies, and in an honest attempt to emancipate them from their superstition, Herod had the Hebrews examine the trophies, at the same time removing the shield to show that nothing but bare wood was attached to them. Josephus records the scene, and I quote:

"Now when Herod saw them in such disorder and that they would not easily change their resolution unless they received satisfaction in this point, he called to him the most eminent men among them, and brought them upon the theatre, and showed them the trophies, and asked them what sort of things they took these trophies to be. And when they cried out that they were images of men, he gave order that they should be stripped of these outward ornaments which were about them, and showed them the naked pieces of wood; which pieces of wood, now without any ornament, became matter of great sport and laughter to them, because they had before always held the ornaments of images themselves in derision."

Although Josephus tells us that many of the Jews accepted Herod's explanation of the harmlessness of the trophies, and were not "displeased at him any longer, still some of them continued in their displeasure" for using these images in his festivities. A conspiracy was formed to kill Herod, and as the plot was progressing, "one of those spies of Herod's that was appointed for such purposes, to fish out and inform him of any conspiracies that should be made against him, ... found out the whole affair and told the king of it, as he was about to go to the theatre." The inevitable result was that the conspirators were apprehended, and confessed that "the conspiracy they had sworn to was a holy and pious [italics mine] action; that what they intended to do was not for gain, or out of any indulgence to their passions, but principally for those common customs of their country which all Jews were obliged to observe, or to die for them." Page 162

Nor do I think it inappropriate at this time to mention a significant incident in the life of Herod, as recorded by Josephus, to indicate his sympathetic attachment to the Children of Israel:

"He also fell in love again, and married another wife, not suffering his reason to hinder him from living as he pleased. The occasion of this marriage was as follows: There was one Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there; this man had a daughter, who was esteemed the most beautiful woman of that time; and when the people of Jerusalem began to speak much in commendation, it happened that Herod was much affected with what was said of her; and when he saw the damsel, he was smitten with her beauty, yet he did entirely reject the thought of using his authority to abuse her, as believing, what was the truth, that by so doing he should be stigmatized for violence and tyranny, so he thought it best to take the damsel to wife. And while Simon was of a dignity too inferior to be allied to him, but still too considerable to be despised, he governed his inclinations after the most prudent manner, by augmenting the dignity of his family, and making them more honorable; so he immediately deprived Jesus, the son of Phabet, of the high priesthood, and conferred that dignity on Simon, and so joined in affinity with him [by marrying his daughter]." [*72]

The rebuilding of the great Temple of Solomon (which had been destroyed in conflict) was part of the public service that Herod had rendered to the city of Jerusalem. It stood at the entrance of the city. "The expenses he laid out upon it were vastly large," Josephus says, "and the riches about it were also unspeakable." [**73] At another time Page 163he describes it as being more beautiful than the legendary Temple of Solomon, for "when the morning sun burst upon the white marble, Mount Moriah glittered like a hill of snow; and when its rays struck the golden roof of the sacred edifice, the whole mount gleamed and sparkled as if it were in flames." On top, above the gates of the temple, he erected a great eagle of black and gold as a symbol of the power and strength and greatness of the Roman legions, but the Hebrews objected to the eagle above the gates of the temple, as being contrary to the laws of their religion, which prohibited images within their midst, and which, if it remained, would bring down upon them the vengeance of their God.

It should be mentioned that while under Herod and other Roman Emperors, and until their dispersion, the Jews enjoyed, despite their subjugation, special privileges to practice the rites of their religion with the same freedom that they had possessed in their own land. This privilege naturally did not give them the right to interfere with the religious exercises of other people, or to impose their beliefs upon others, or restrict others from practicing their own mode of religious worship. [*74]

As Herod lay on his deathbed, an event took place of such portentous consequences that I must again quote the words of Josephus for their significant relationship to this Commandment and its dire influence upon the Children of Israel:

"There also now happened to him, among his other calamities, a certain popular sedition. There were two men of learning in the city [Jerusalem] who were thought the most skillful in the laws of their country, and were on that account held in very great esteem all over the nation; they were, the one Judas, the son of Sephoris, and the other Matthias, the son of Margalus. There went a great concourse of the young men to these men, when they expounded the laws, and there got together every day a kind of an army of such as were growing up to be men. Now when these men were informed that the king was wearing away with melancholy, and with distemper, they dropped words to their acquaintance, how Page 164 it was now a very proper time to defend the cause of God, and pull down what had been erected contrary to the laws of their country; for it was unlawful there should be any such thing in the temple as images, or faces, or the like representation of any animal whatsoever. Now the king had put up a golden eagle over the great gate of the temple, which these learned men exhorted them to cut down, and told them that if there should any danger arise, it was a glorious thing to die for the laws of their country; because that the soul was immortal, and that an eternal enjoyment of happiness did await such as died on that account; while the mean-spirited, and those that were not wise enough to show a love of their souls, preferred death by a disease, before that which is the result of a virtuous behavior." [*75]

And so the great golden eagle was pulled down from the temple and smashed to pieces. The learned Hebrews of the Law were correct about dying "to defend the cause of God and his Commandments," because this utterly outlandish demonstration provoked the Romans to retaliate, and in the conflict nearly forty of those guilty of this fanatical and destructive conduct were killed.

But another event, of far more importance and significance, was shortly to occur, the effects of which were to produce a drama of such appalling consequences that not only had it not been known to mankind up to that time, but it is doubtful whether it could have been conceived as a probability. This unbelievably tragic drama was to be written with human blood and indelibly stained upon the years of the centuries.

These "protests" began to irritate the populace, and each demonstration provoked more violent reactions. Here and there among the Roman people were loud cries to suppress this "peculiar" people who so fanatically objected to what they termed "images," which were regarded by the Romans as great works of art representing their government. Despite pleas by enlightened Jews to their hotheaded brethren to stop these superstitious manifestations, many Greeks and Romans began to feel that these demonstrations cloaked more than a mere Page 165 violation of a religious precept, and that they actually had a seditious purpose. Drastic action against the demonstrators was threatened again and again, but each time the Emperor restrained the populace from giving vent to the growing antagonism.

An opportunity for action finally presented itself when the Jews persisted in their opposition to the erection of statues in other parts of the Roman Empire.

A statue of Caesar made by a noted sculptor was placed at the entrance to the harbor of a small seaport in Galilee. It was supposed to demonstrate the loyalty of Judea to Rome, and was greatly admired as a work of art. The Hebrews, however, objected strenuously to having it there. They did not consider it a work of art or a symbol of loyalty to Rome. They regarded it as an affront to their God because of his prohibition against graven images.

Let us turn again to Josephus:

"When all Herod's designs had succeeded according to his hopes, he had not the least suspicion that any troubles could arise in his kingdom, because he kept his people obedient, as well by the fear they stood in of him ... as for the provident care he showed towards them, after the most magnanimous manner, when they were under their distresses....

"But then this magnificent temper of his, and that submissive behavior and liberality which he exercised towards Caesar and the most powerful men of Rome, obliged him to transgress the customs of his nation, and to set aside many of their laws, and by building cities after an extravagant manner, and erecting temples; not in Judea indeed, for that would not have been borne, it being forbidden for us to pay any honor to images, or representations of animals, after the manner of the Greeks, but still he did thus in the country [property] out of our bonds, and in the cities thereof." [Italics mine.]

I have quoted Josephus at length to show that the Romans gave full consideration to the objection of the Hebrews to the presence of images among them. Neither Herod nor any other Roman governor held the spectacular Olympic Games in Jerusalem proper or erected Page 166 statues of their Emperors in Judea, despite the fact that the Hebrews were a conquered people. Up to this time the Israelites had enjoyed the same civil rights and privileges as the Greeks, whose country they partly occupied. They could practice their religion to the fullest extent, provided they did not interfere with the laws of the country. This was a remarkably liberal and tolerant attitude for the time, despite the fact that both the Greeks and Romans regarded these superstitious beliefs and practices of the Israelites as beyond all reason.

The bigoted, intolerant and fanatical opposition to the use of images even in the Greek and Roman provinces cost the Hebrews their national existence.

I quote Josephus again:

"... Now upon observation of a place near the sea, which was very proper for containing a city, and was before called Strato's Tower, he set about getting a plan for a magnificent city there, and erected many edifices with great diligence all over it, and this of white stone. He also adorned it with most sumptuous palaces, and large edifices for containing the people; and what was the greatest and most laborious work of all, he adorned it with a haven that was always free from the waves of the sea.... This city is situated in Phoenicia, in the passage by the sea to Egypt between Joppa and Dora." [*76]

"... Now there were edifices all along the circular haven, made of the polished stone, with a certain elevation, whereon was erected a temple that was seen a great way off by those that were sailing for the haven, and had in it two statues, the one of Rome, the other of Caesar."  [**77Page 167

These two statues were demolished by the Jews. Caligula, the Roman Emperor, was informed of the deed. [*78] Because of these fanatical demonstrations against images, they were charged "with neglecting the honours that belonged to Caesar; for while all who were subject to the Roman empire built altars and temples to Caius (Caligula), and in other regards universally received him as they received the gods, these Jews alone thought it a dishonourable thing for them to erect statues, in honour of him." [*79]

In retaliation for this unprovoked and unjustified conduct, the Emperor ordered that statues of himself be put in the Temple of the Hebrews at Jerusalem as a warning that such civil disobediences would not be tolerated again.

"... Accordingly, he (Caligula) sent Petronius with an army to Jerusalem, to place his statues in the temple, and commanded him that in case the Jews would not admit of them, he should slay those that opposed it, and carry all the rest of the nation into captivity; ... Petronius marched out of Antioch into Judea with three legions and many Syrian auxiliaries." [*80]

"... But now the Jews got together in great number with their wives and children into that plain that was by Ptolemais, and made supplication to Petronius, first for their laws, and in the next place for themselves. So he was prevailed upon by the multitude of supplicants, and by their supplications, and left his army and the statues in Ptolemais, and then went forward into Galilee, and called together the multitude, and all the men of note to Tiberias, and showed them the power of Romans, and the threatenings of Caesar; and besides this, proved that their petition was unreasonable [italics mine] because while all the nations in subjection to them placed the images of Caesar in their several cities, among the rest of their gods, for them alone to oppose it was almost like the behavior of revolters, and was injurious to Caesar. [*81Page 168

"And when they insisted on their law and the custom of their country, and how it was not only not permitted them to make either an image of God or indeed of a man, and to put it in a despicable part of their country, much less in the temple itself, Petronius replied, 'And am not I also,' said he, 'bound to keep the law of my Lord? For if I transgress it and spare you, it is but just that I perish; while he that sent me, and not I, will commence a war against you; for I am under command as well as you.'

"Hereupon the whole multitude cried out that 'they are ready to suffer for their law.' Petronius then quieted them, and said to them, 'Will you then make war against Caesar?' The Jews said, 'We will offer sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people'; but that if he would place the images among them, he must first sacrifice the whole Jewish nation; and that they were ready to expose themselves, together with their children and wives, to be slain." [*82]

This last statement is of the utmost significance, as it reveals beyond all doubt that it was only because of the images that the Jews made these violent objections, and not because of any mistreatment by the Romans. On the contrary, they specifically state that because of their fair treatment by the Romans they would make sacrifices twice a day for Caesar. It was, then, the blind and slavish obedience to this Commandment that was responsible for their intolerant and fanatical acts.

Petronius sought the individual leaders of the Jews and tried to convince them of the propriety of carrying out Caligula's orders, but to no avail. We continue with Josephus's narrative:

"... so they threw themselves down upon their faces, and stretched out their throats, and said they were ready to be slain; and this they did for forty days together, and in the meantime left off the tilling of their ground, and that while the season of the year required them to sod it. Thus they continued firm in their resolution, and proposed to themselves to die willingly rather than see the dedication of the statue." [*83Page 169

Though Petronius tried to intercede in their behalf, the Jews paid dearly for their opposition to the statues of the Emperors. Their demonstrations had been so frequent, and their conduct so fanatical, that despite the restraining order of the Emperor himself, it was too late to prevent the frightful consequences of their acts. As a result, they suffered the savage brutality of the first pogrom in the history of this "God-intoxicated" people.

Their failure to make images was one of the serious charges brought against them by Apion, who led the first anti-Semitic demonstration that resulted in making the Children of Israel outcasts in the family of nations. Their refusal to relax, in the slightest degree, from fanatically observing this Commandment brought down on their heads the most devastating punishment ever suffered by a race of people. They were deprived of their civil rights, beaten by infuriated mobs, and driven out of the city into prescribed quarters; thus began the establishment of the Ghetto and the beginning of that anti-Semitic hatred that was to swell into the spectacle of horror that it has since become. [**84]

The complete dispersion of the Hebrews took place after Titus Caesar captured Jerusalem. Though Claudius Caesar later restored their former civil rights, the poison and virus of religious prejudice induced by their fanatical demonstrations had already taken root. In the nineteen hundred years that followed and to this day, the Bible God's Chosen People have suffered every known torture, persecution, massacre and martyrdom as well as every conceivable infamy and humiliation known to man.

The rewards "enjoyed" by the Hebrews for their faithful observance of this Commandment are the beatings and massacres of pogroms, the misery of Ghetto life, and the humiliation and oppression which follow the epidemics of anti-Semitism that have spread like a plague Page 170over the face of the earth. What a price to pay for such blind obedience to a superstitious taboo productive of such barren results! [**85Page 171

There is a popular misconception that the prejudice against the Jews started after the supposed crucifixion of Jesus. This is not true. The story of the crucifixion of Jesus antedates the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem. The crucifixion story is the result of their fanatical demonstration against the Roman ensigns and statues, and was not the cause of what is now called anti-Semitism.

The New Testament narrative of the nailing of Jesus to the cross has no more basis in fact than the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, and contains about the same amount of truth. There is serious doubt as to whether Jesus ever lived, as there is not a single authentic piece of historical evidence to substantiate his existence. [*86] It is most probably one of the many monstrous tales that were fabricated about the Hebrews after the fanatical demonstration in the Page 172 observance of their superstitious religion. [*87] The wildest and most fantastic tales concerning their religious observances were circulated solely for the purpose of further arousing the antagonism already manifested against them.

If the position of wealth and power once possessed by the Catholic Church is a sample of the punishment the Bible Deity inflicted upon it for its violation of this Commandment, then how are we to describe the "reward" that the Children of Israel "received" for their observance? If their plight is a sample of their God's blessings "to them that love me, and keep my Commandments," then indeed their dispersion and wanderings over the face of the earth, the persecution, torture and massacres they suffered, might well be called justice with a vengeance.

If the "punishment" inflicted upon the Catholic Church for its deliberate violation of the provisions of this Commandment were to be compared with the "rewards" enjoyed by the Children of Israel for their strict observance of them, I think that the Jew, rather than Jesus, should be pictured with his hands and feet nailed to a cross, wreaths of thorns on his torn and mutilated head, and his bleeding heart exposed to the world. The crucifixion is a truer picture of the Hebrews' plight on this earth for having been sacrificed for the sins of their God than it is a symbol for the supposed sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

If the rules of conduct as stated in this Commandment are without practical value, and are not productive of the results warranted for them; and if the penalties stipulated for the violation of the provisions are not imposed, and the rewards provided for the observance are not bestowed, then this Commandment is twice false: it is false in its premises, and false in its promises.

 
The Bible God and the Idea of Monotheism

The first sentence of this Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," destroys beyond doubt the contention of those Page 173 who attribute to the religion of Judaism a monotheistic conception of the universe. That the Hebrew Deity reflects a conception of a Creator of the universe is another of the innumerable false opinions which, for centuries, people have held concerning the Bible. There is not a single intelligent argument, statement or fact in the Bible for such a conception of the universe -- and for a good reason.

The mentality of the Biblical Hebrew was incapable of originating an idea of this nature. Like all the other ignorant people of his time, he was beset with myriad superstitions and held in bondage by the delusive belief in primitive magic. He did not have sufficient knowledge to be able to comprehend that natural laws govern the universe. The monotheistic conception could only evolve with the expanding mentality of the human mind.

The mind capable of conceiving a universe created according to natural laws and subject to no human intervention did not evolve until nearly two thousand years after the recordings of Hebrew tribal thought. This conception culminated in the great Alexander von Humboldt's declaration that "the universe is governed by law," which is the result of the accumulated wisdom of scientific progress. The Bible did not contribute a single item to the discoveries that led to this sublime conclusion.

The God of the Biblical Hebrew was a personal concept, while monotheism is universal. The Hebrew concept of God was egocentric; the monotheistic conception is geocentric. The conception of a Supreme Ruler of the universe has as its counterpart the immutable laws that govern life and all things in nature. The Hebrew God is the very antithesis of this universal conception.

The mentality of the Biblical Hebrew was unable to conceive of a universe under the control of immutable laws entirely immune to personal persuasion. A conception of this kind was not only impossible for his limited understanding, but was utterly unsatisfactory. He wanted a God possessing human emotions; one who would come to his aid in times of necessity. Page 174

The Bible Deity had a thousand vagaries and could be influenced by prayers, appeals, sacrifices and oblations. He possessed the basest of human attributes, and was subject to the seductions of the flesh, as innumerable Biblical accounts testify. He demanded and got the "animals without blemish" and the "first fruits" of the season. No god was ever created superior to the intelligence of the people who worshiped him, and most gods represented the lowest, rather than the highest, cultural level of the age in which they existed.

The belief in a personal relationship between the individual and his imaginary Creator is held by most primitive peoples. They have not sufficient knowledge even to comprehend that the world could not continue if each individual were able to control the affairs of the world for his personal convenience and benefit. The good fortune of one would be the undoing of another, while the inherent selfishness of all would destroy completely any semblance of hope for equality.

The more helpless man finds himself before the forces of nature, the more does he believe and rely upon a God. The stronger he feels, the more able to cope with the conditions of life, the less his need for supernatural help. The less need of a God, the more co-operation with his fellow men; the fewer the religions, the higher the morality. The standard of ethics rises in inverse proportion to man's religious beliefs and observances.

W. Robertson Smith summed up the claim that Judaism contributed the idea of monotheism to religious thought by saying that "what is often described as a natural tendency in Semitic religion toward ethical monotheism is in the main nothing more than a consequence of the alliance of religion with monarchy." [*88] The Jewish Encyclopedia states that the religion of the early Hebrew people was "monolatrous rather than monotheistic." They believed that the Hebrew God was "the one God and their God but not the one and only God." He was the national God of the Hebrews just as "Chemosh was the god of Moab and Milkom the god of Ammon"; there could be "no Page 175 other God in Israel ... it did not affect the reality of the gods of other nations." [*89]

"The ethical monotheism of the Prophets of Israel was not the product of any philosophical thinking," [*90] states another high authority. After a lifetime of research, Professor James H. Breasted substantiates this statement in emphatic and unequivocal terms: "In the Second Commandment that [the Bible Deity] laid upon the Israelites, he himself recognized the existence of other gods when he said, 'Thou shalt not have other gods before me.'" [*91]

The Bible Deity is an anthropomorphic God who is supposed to answer prayers and confer favors and rewards, who demands sacrifices, metes out punishment for disobedience to his commands and wishes, and penalizes the children of men for their "sins." He could free a people from bondage, cause locusts to devour a land, and just as easily drive them away; he could cause pestilences and floods, harden hearts, and do all manner of evil; he could send manna from heaven; he could divide the waters of the sea; he could stop the sun and the moon. He was jealous and vindictive; his anger caused the earth to tremble and brought consternation to the hearts of men.

All primitive peoples contemporaneous with the Hebrews, especially at the time the Decalogue was probably written, believed in a plurality of gods. The sky was full of the gods of the Babylonians, the Chaldeans and the Egyptians. The Biblical Deity was but another of these provincial gods of primitive man.

The conception of the God of the Bible is explained by the Catholic Encyclopedia, and is applicable to all forms of belief in a personal God:

"The notion of the Supreme God, needed for religion, is not the highly metaphysical conception demanded by right philosophy. If it were, but few could hope for salvation. The God of religion is the unspeakably great Lord on whom man depends, in whom he Page 176 recognizes the source of his happiness and perfection; He is the righteous Judge, rewarding good and punishing evil; the loving and the merciful Father, whose ear is ever open to the prayers of His needy and penitent children. Such a conception of God can readily be grasped by simple, unphilosophic minds, by children, by the unlettered peasant, by the converted savage." [*92]

What an open confession of the infantile conception of the Bible Deity and the religions based upon the belief in such a God!

This substantiates my contention that a monotheistic conception of God could not be comprehended by the authors of the Bible, and the Catholic Encyclopedia adds additional and still more damaging testimony when it states further the modern rationalist's and evolutionist's point of view that "the mind of man was in the beginning but little above that of his apelike ancestors, and hence incapable of grasping so intellectual a conception as that of Monotheism." [*93]

It is just as erroneous to attribute to Judaism the idea of a Supreme Creator of the world as it is to regard the Hebrew language as the original tongue of mankind. Just as we know that the primitive language of a Biblical Hebrew was utterly inadequate as a foundation for all other languages, so with the idea of the Hebrew God. It was not because of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel that other languages came into existence, nor was it at Mount Sinai that the idea of a Supreme Being entered the mind of man.

Numerous passages in the Bible clearly describe the nature of the Bible God, and his repeated and constant warnings against the worship of other gods is proof that there was a belief in the existence of other gods. Surely, if the Hebrew God himself admitted the existence of other gods, there is little else for the believer in the Bible to do but accept this admission.

For Biblical evidence of the belief in other gods, I quote:

Joshua, Chapter 24, verse 14:

14. Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away Page 177 the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.

Exodus, 22, verse 20:

20. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

Judges, Chapter 11, verse 24:

24. Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.

Kings 1, Chapter 11, verse 33:

33. Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moahites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.

In primitive societies such occurrences were not unusual. A new god was like a new leader. All allegiance to the old had to be abandoned; the new leader demanded undivided support. Unless the old ties were completely severed, there would be no success in whatever was undertaken. This Commandment explicitly states that the Israelites not only believed in other gods, but worshiped them. They also worshiped images, and continued to do so for several centuries after this Commandment was "handed down." They were no different from the other ignorant and barbarous peoples of their time.

This primitive anthropomorphic concept of God has been fundamentally responsible for paralyzing man's brain. The unquestioning faith in the supernatural ability of the God to interfere in the affairs of the world has been the great stumbling block to intellectual progress.

A false, distorted conception produces a false, distorted viewpoint. No wonder this perverted view of a God has distorted man's viewpoint of life. A wrong conception of the universe and its motivating force will inevitably produce acts contrary to basic facts and out of harmony with life itself. If man is taught that disease is sent as a Page 178 punishment for sin, he will certainly not be stimulated to find the cause and cure of any particular disease. On the contrary, innocent acts will be suspected of having caused misfortune, and vicious acts often committed in expiation of supposed wrongs. This is exactly the attitude which has resulted from the influence of the Commandments. It has built temples for gods and dungeons for men; it has caused man to waste his affection upon ghosts and destroy his fellow man.

Not a single department of human activity has escaped the blight of the virus of religious superstition. Pleasure was regarded as sinful, and suffering became the purpose of life. If man's lot was to be an expiation for his sins, how could there be any smiles or laughter? How can joy exist in a world created for human misery? If the God we worship as the only true one bids us punish those who worship another because of his jealousy, is it surprising that members of different religious beliefs hate one another so bitterly and intensely? How can we expect to abolish religious hatred and racial prejudice while we continue to worship a jealous and vindictive God?

Instead of regarding social institutions in a utilitarian light to promote the happiness of mankind, they were restricted to those matters which had the "approval" of this God in an effort to avoid his wrath. There is hardly a social relation that has not been hampered and restricted, hardly a triumph of the intellect over the tyrannical forces of nature that has not been condemned, by the believers in the anthropomorphic Bible Deity.

When anesthesia was first introduced, it was objected to on the ground that the alleviation of pain was an affront to the Lord because he had ordained that man should suffer for his sins. When "twilight sleep" was introduced to mitigate the agony of childbirth, it was bitterly opposed because of the Biblical injunction, "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." To relieve pain was condemned as a monstrous heresy; it would deprive God of his most effective weapon, for how else could he punish the children of the earth for their sins?

The bitterest opponents of the dissemination of birth control Page 179 information are the religionists who take literally the Biblical statement that man should be "fruitful and multiply." [*94]

Even the use of knives and forks was condemned as impious because God had given us fingers to eat with.

Not very long ago, when some humanitarian people sought to establish a child welfare organization, a minister protested on the ground that if God had wanted better care to be taken of the children, he would have so provided. And when an effort was made to raise the school age of children in the State of New York, it was bitterly opposed by the Catholic Church. [*95]

Benjamin Franklin was condemned as a mocking atheist for his invention of the lightning rod. It was characterized as the "heretical rod" designed to rob God of his power to inflict just punishment on those who provoked his wrath.

Thomas A. Edison's invention of the electric light, which has been of such immeasurable benefit to humanity, was condemned "as interfering with the divine plan of the world which God had ordained that it should be dark at night." [*96]

When the Wright brothers announced the invention of the flying machine, religionists denounced it as an impious and blasphemous invention because it would be used to trespass on God's domain. It was fanatically condemned as "a flying insult in the face of God." [**97]

Slowly but surely, as must all erroneous beliefs, this idea of an anthropomorphic God will vanish from the mind of man. Just as brave and courageous thinkers of the past were responsible for the emancipation of the human mind from the deceiving and illusory concepts of the world in which we live, so today we find our leaders of Page 180 thought urging the abandonment of false conceptions of God and the universe. Albert Einstein, "the famous unifier of time and space," has proclaimed that man must abandon the idea of a personal God if we are to achieve "the Good, the True and the Beautiful in humanity itself." Professor Einstein said:

"During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution, human fantasy created gods in man's own image, who by operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer." [*98]

No more conclusive observation on this subject can be made than that by Professor Leuba, who said: "The higher the state of intellectual progress, the less is there a belief in a god." [*99]

The following newspaper item, though intended humorously, is not without truth:

"Among the last wills and testaments recorded in Cherokee County, North Carolina, is that of an eccentric woman who left part of her estate to God. In an endeavor to settle the case properly, the usual suit, naming God a party thereto, was filed. And in the summons, the sheriff made this response: 'After due and diligent search, God cannot be found in Cherokee County.'" [*100]

The sheriff's report that "after due and diligent search God cannot be found in Cherokee County," might well have been the report had he made a universal instead of a local search for the beneficiary of the "eccentric woman who left part of her estate to God."



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