Mankind is instructed and urged by religious institutions and by the purveyors of religion to strive to be like God. The goal to be God like is not without pitfalls and unanticipated contradictions and perils.
Two large segments of the religious world have arguably the most troubled history of any–Christianity and Islam. These two grew out of the history of the middle-east God of the Hebrews–Jehovah.
At a time when most of the world had a God for almost every aspect of life and death on earth, the Hebrew’s God proclaimed that he was the one and only God and demanded, upon pain of death, that everyone worship him. He demanded that he alone should be obeyed, worshipped, honored, feared and loved.
When some did not obey these selfish, narcissistic and dictatorial demands, he commanded his faithful followers to kill those who did not do his bidding. There was no diplomacy, outreach, mercy and no missionaries sent to convert those who knew him not. He was jealous of those other Gods who received from their faithful, obedience, love, etc. He was angry toward those who were not faithful to him. There was no tolerance, love or goodwill extended to the non-faithful.
And this God, Jehovah, is supposed to be our role model. Unfortunately, many Christians and Muslims try to model their behavior and beliefs on the Jehovah Model.
It says volumes about Jesus that he tried to supplant this harsh model with a tincture of mercy, tolerance and love. He did not advocate killing non-believers. Instead he associated with all and advocated mercy, toleration and love toward all. He did not put himself in the narcissistic position of seeking honor, worship or accolades for his work, but took a humble position in all things.
The philosophy Jesus espoused has been only partially successful as can be seen by the crusades, enslavement of human beings by other humans as in Old Testament times, the Inquisition and almost continuous warfare in which Christians have been engaged since his time on earth. Muslims, following the teachings of the Old Testament Jehovah as presented by Mohammed, have adhered the Jehovah Model perhaps more closely than have Christians.
Today Christians strive to throw off the attributes exhibited by Jehovah while giving lip service to the idea that he is the perfect role model.
It is amazing that our values are often the direct opposite of those evident in the Jehovah Model. We value tolerance, the right to disagree and to worship and believe as we chose, love of our fellow human beings, the sanctity of life and taking an humble position when recognized for our good works. If our life and work is considered great enough by our fellows that a day each year is dedicated to us, we are honored and humbled by it. The Jehovah Model, which demands that one day each week be dedicated to him, is beyond the pale.
Those rulers who exhibit the most Jehovah like behavior (eg. Hitler/Stalin) are distinguished by almost universal rejection–to the everlasting credit of their subjects and of all mankind.
The major difference between Muslims and Christians, especially American Christians, today can be best understood by how strongly they try to hue to the Jehovah Model. While historically Muslims have held more closely to the Jehovah Model, American Christians especially certain of those of the radical fundamentalist type, are rapidly vying to be in the forefront of regression back to the Old Testament Jehovah Model. For example the Christian Reconstructionists, The New Apostolic Reformation, Dominionism and many more such Radical Right groups that have arisen in the United States in the last 60 years.
One of the most meaningful descriptions of psychosis is the simultaneous presence in the mind of mutually contradictory ideas with no resulting tension. Do we not have a fine example of that in the practice of holding Jehovah as the perfect model for behavior while avoiding using that model as something of value in our own behavior?
Jehovah is, of course, a mythical repository for the aggression, prejudices, hatred, attempts at social control and power plays of the ancient Hebrews and pre-Christian Israelites and Arabs.
Psychiatry has identified another important mental mechanism –identification with the aggressor. Jehovah was definitely a powerful and aggressive figure in the minds of the people; so powerful that the only perceived way to survive was to identify with him.
Jesus, who never claimed to be divine and who I consider to be a courageous fully human reformer, also identified with Jehovah while trying to free his middle–eastern society from the stultifying/negative influence of that same Jehovah. He was only partially successful in his efforts. The animal instincts are still sufficiently present in humans to make us comfortable with the dark side; at least comfortable enough that we continue to identify with the aggressor.
The various Popes and Mullahs have positioned themselves as being more like Jehovah than have other humans. With their power they were able to imitate Jehovah by ordering their followers to massacre by crusades those who were not approved or considered faithful. The Popes took it one step further in initiating the more recent Inquisition. Now we have started another round of Jehovah like activity known this time as Terror.
As usual a significant portion of mankind looks to a Jehovah like leader to carry the fight to the “others”. The more merciless the fight the better it is liked. Jehovah’s instructions to his faithful to attack, leaving nothing living, neither men, women, babies nor livestock would make a suitable battle cry for these followers of Jehovah.