"Atheist Manifesto" ~ Michel Onfray. Part 1

Only selected parts from book "In Defense Of Atheism:
The Case Against Christianity,
Judaism, and Islam"
by Michel Onfray (2007)
Translated from the French by Jeremy Leggatt
Full book is free to download in the internet!

Down with intelligence!

Monotheism loathes intelligence, that sublime gift defined as the art of connecting what at first and for most people seems unconnected. Intelligence reveals unexpected but undeniable causalities; it produces rational, convincing explanations based on reasoning; it rejects every manufactured fiction. With its help, we can spurn myths and fairy tales. We need no posthumous paradise, no salvation or redemption of the soul, no all-knowing, all-seeing God. Properly and rationally directed, intelligence wards off all magical thinking.

The advocates of Mosaic law, Christian tale-spinning, and their Koranic clones share the same fable on the origins of negativity in the world. In Genesis 3:6 — common to the Torah and to the Old Testament of the Christian Bible — and in the Koran (2:29) we find the same story of Adam and Eve in a paradise where a God forbids them to approach a tree while a demon urges disobedience. In this monotheistic version of the Greek Pandora fable, a woman (of course) commits the irreparable, and her act spreads evil all over the world.

This story, in normal circumstances just good enough to earn a place in the roster of fairy tales or cautionary fables, has had incalculable consequences for human civilizations! Loathing of women and the flesh, guilt and desire for atonement, the quest for an impossible amends and submission to necessity, fascination with death and passion for suffering—all so many occasions for activating the death instinct.

What do the files on this story tell us? We find a God who orders the primal couple not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Clearly we are in the presence of metaphor. It took the church fathers to sexualize the story, for the text is clear: eating this fruit removes the scales from our eyes and allows us to distinguish between good and evil, and thus to resemble God. One verse (Genesis 3:6) mentions a tree to be desired to make one wise. Defying God's prohibition meant preferring knowledge to obedience, seeking to know rather than submitting. Or in different terms: opting for philosophy against religion.

What does this ban on intelligence mean? You can do anything in this magnificent Garden, except become intelligent — the Tree of Knowledge — or immortal — the Tree of Life. What a fate God has in store for men: stupidity and mortality! A God who offers such a gift to his creatures must be perverse . . . Let us then praise Eve who opted for intelligence at risk of death, whereas Adam did not realize right away what was at stake. The bliss of ignorance!

What do the poor wretches learn, once the lady tastes the sublime fruit? They see reality. Reality and nothing else. Nudity, their natural state. And with their freshly acquired knowledge, they discover their cultural allotment: the choice of fig leaves (rather than grape leaves) to cover their nakedness was symbolic of a future cultural heritage. Worse: they discover the hardship of daily life, the sorrow in every destiny, the battle between the sexes, the gulf forever separating man and woman, the inevitability of backbreaking toil, the pain of childbirth, and the sovereignty of death. Once liberated from their state of ignorance, they avoid the additional transgression that would have given them eternal life (the Tree of Life grew next to the Tree of Knowledge), for the one true God—decidedly gentle, good, loving, generous — spared them that fate by expelling Adam and Eve from paradise. And we have remained outside ever since.

Lesson number one: if we lose the illusion of faith, the consolation of God, and the fables of religion, if we prefer seeking knowledge and intelligence, then reality appears to us as it is, tragic. But which is better? A truth that removes all hope of immortality yet saves us from losing our life altogether by living it only half alive? Or a story that briefly consoles us but makes us waste the only thing we really possess: life here and now?

Litany of taboos

God was not content with that one prohibition on the forbidden fruit. Ever since, he has revealed himself to us only through taboos. The monotheist religions live exclusively by prescriptions and constraints: things to do and things not to do to, say and not to say, think and not to think, perform and not to perform. Forbidden and authorized, licit and illicit, agreed and not agreed: the religious texts abound in existential, dietary, behavioral, ritual, and other codifications.

For obedience can be measured only by proscriptions. The greater their number, the greater our chances of falling into error, the fewer our chances of attaining perfection, the deeper our guilt. And it's a good thing for God—or at least for the clergy who identify with him—to be able to manipulate this powerful psychological tool. Everyone must at all times know that he must always obey, must conform, must do as he should and as religion demands. Not to behave like Eve but, like Adam, to submit to the will of the only God.

Etymology teaches us that islam means submission . . . And what surer way of renouncing intelligence than by submitting to the taboos of men! For we hear the voice of God only with difficulty, infrequently or not at all! How can he make plain his dietary laws, his dress codes, and his ritual preferences other than through a clergy that imposes bans and decides in his name between the licit and the illicit? Obeying these laws and rules may be submission to God, but it is much more certainly submission to the one who speaks in his name: the priest.

In the Garden of Eden, that blessed time of communication between God and his creatures, God spoke to Adam and Eve. But contact is broken after the expulsion from paradise. Hence the widespread belief that God sends us signs of his presence. He is manifest in every minor detail of daily life, in the most trivial act. God is not only up in heaven: he is everywhere, watching us and warning us. That means the devil, too, is lurking in his shadow.

Since God is in the details, the details acquire vital importance. For example, Jews do not allow themselves to eat shellfish because God recoils from aquatic creatures lacking fins or scales and wearing their skeletons outside their bodies. Catholics likewise abstain from meat on Good Friday — a day presumably notorious for its excessive levels of hemoglobin, And Muslims forgo the pleasures of pork sausage. All three are occasions, among many others, for displaying faith, belief, piety, and devotion to God.

The permitted and the forbidden play a leading role in the Torah and Talmud, are somewhat less important in the Koran, but are especially prominent in the Muslim Hadith. Christianity — all praise (for once) to Saint Paul! — does not weigh itself down with the whole list of major taboos that Leviticus and Deuteronomy invoke in order to coerce, forbid, and constrain in every field: table and bedroom behavior, harvesting, textures and colors of the wardrobe, the hourly employment of time, etc.

The Gospels forbid neither wine nor swine nor any other food, any more than they insist on particular garments. Membership in the Christian community requires adhesion to the Christian message, not to the details of lunatic taboos. It would never occur to a Christian to deny access to the priesthood to a deformed, blind, lame, disfigured, misshapen, hunchbacked, sickly individual, as Yahweh demands of Moses when he is selecting a candidate for the profession (Leviticus 21:16). On the other hand, Paul remains a stickler for the licit/illicit rule in the sexual domain. On this point, the Acts of the Apostles testify to an intimate link between Old Testament and New.

Jews and Muslims demand that we think of God in every waking second. From dawn to dusk, sleeping to waking, no aspect of behavior, even in principle the most trivial, is exempt from interpretation: observing the ritual prayer hours, what to eat and not to eat, how to dress. No personal judgment or individual choice is involved, just obedience and submission, denial of all freedom of action, insistence on the rule of necessity. The licit/illicit logic locks the believer into a prison where abdication of will signifies an act of allegiance and a proof of pious behavior. It is an investment repaid a thousandfold—but later, in paradise.

Obsession with purity

The marriage of licit and illicit works in parallel with the coupling of pure and impure. What is pure? Or impure? Who is? Who is not? Which individual decides these questions? Who authorizes and validates the decision? "Pure" designates the unmixed. Its opposite is the alloy. On the side of the pure are the one, God, paradise, mind, spirit. On the other side of the barricade are the impure: the diverse, the multiple, the world, the real, matter, body, flesh. The three monotheisms share this vision of an ideal world, and hold the physical world in low esteem.

Clearly, a series of impurities identified by the Talmud can proceed from practical wisdom. There is no question that a dead body, a rotting cadaver, the leaking of bodily fluids, leprosy all signify impurity. Common sense associates decomposition, putrescence, and disease with risks and dangers to individuals and the community. Catching fever, contracting an illness, causing an epidemic or pandemic, spreading sexually transmittable diseases, all these justify concern with prevention and an effective public-health response. Not allowing evil to take us by surprise is the first duty of virtue.

Impurity contaminates: place, location, life inside the tent, contact with other people of course, but also close personal proximity, uncovered vessels in the household, all may be implicated in contamination. The infected person in turn contaminates everything he approaches or touches until purification and ablution put an end to this state of collective danger. The health professional rightly sees such measures as steps designed to avoid the propagation of impurity. But for other kinds of impurity, the prophylactic argument does not answer. What do we risk in approaching a menstruating woman? Or one who has just given birth? Both are impure. Just as we may understand fear of abnormal flows that might point to hemorrhage, gonorrhea, or syphilis, so we must question ourselves about this horror of menstrual blood or of the woman who has recently given birth. Unless we advance the theory that in both these cases the woman is not fertile, and that she may therefore freely dispose of her body and her sexuality without risking pregnancy—a condition ontologically unacceptable to the rabbis, proponents of the ascetic ideal and of demographic expansion.

Muslims share many concepts with Jews, and in particular this fixation on purity. In a general sense, the body is impure from the simple fact of being. Hence a sustained and permanent effort to keep it pure through a series of precise steps: circumcision, cleaning and trimming the beard, mustache, and hair, paring nails, forbidding the ingestion of food not ritually prepared, proscription of all contact with dogs, naturally an absolute prohibition on pork and alcohol, and radical avoidance of all bodily matter—urine, blood, sweat, saliva, sperm, feces.

Once again, of course, all this can be justified rationally as prophylaxis, hygiene, cleanliness — but with never a hint of why pork rather than camel meat must be avoided. Some suggest that the pig is an animal emblematic of certain Roman legions, an unpleasant localized memory. Others point to the omnivorous nature of the animal, a consumer of public refuse . . . Hatred of the dog may hark back to risks of bites and rabies; the ban on alcohol to the fact that hot countries seem favorable to indolence, siestas, and the urge to reckless slaking of thirst, in which case water or tea in quantity are preferable to alcohol because of its known effects. All this can be rationally explained.

But why not be content with a secular rationale? Why transform these sound, legitimate prohibitions into grounds for strict rules and inflexible laws, and then make eternal salvation or damnation dependent on their observance? No one questions the need for clean latrines, particularly in periods or places where sewage facilities, running water, flush toilets, septic tanks, and disinfectant products do not exist.

In the Hadith, there are detailed instructions regarding anal cleansing: no fewer than three stones to be used, no recourse to garbage (!) or to bones (!), and no urination in the direction of Mecca. There are also rules on one's state of preparation before prayer: no previous emission of seminal fluid, of gas, urine, feces, menstrual blood of course, but also — and this leads to a break in the link with Islam — no sexual relations during one's partner's menstruation nor anal penetration (here again because it means sex divorced from procreation) . . . It is hard to see the rational, reasonable connection.

Respecting the body

All the Jewish and Muslim taboos — so similar to each other—are due to associating the body with impurity. The body is dirty, unclean, infected, composed of vile materials. There are all sorts of bodies: libidinous, malodorous, sodomite, filled with nasty fluids and secretions. Some are infected, sick, bleeding. There are cadavers, bodies of dogs and women, made of garbage, made of filth. Stinking bodies, sterile bodies, barren bodies, loathsome bodies.

One hadith preaches the need to purify the body through the practice of ablution (ritual washing). It states that the more often ablution is performed, the greater one's chance of reaching heaven with a glorious (in the Christian sense) body. On Resurrection Day, the body is reborn, radiating light from the points where it contacted the prayer mat. A physical body of dark, black flesh is contrasted with a spiritual body, white and incandescent. Who among simple folk could love an earthly, sinful body when a beautiful, perfect, celestial one is guaranteed to every believer who abides by the licit/illicit rules in accordance with the pure/impure principle?

The purification ritual also furnishes an opportunity to treat the body with respect, as if it were not our own flesh but an entity unto itself. Every organ has its place in a process of organized, meticulously ordained prayer. Nothing escapes Allah's eye. He is concerned with: suitability of the materials utilized (water, stones, sand, soil), numbering the viscera, systematizing the steps of the ritual, the order of passing from one part of the anatomy to another during ablutions, choreography of the repetition of gestures. Fingers, the right wrist, forearms, elbows, do it three times, etc. Don't forget the heel; if you do, that omission leads to hell.

We can dispense with the notion that these rites are based solely on the desire for cleanliness. Some of the rules do promote cleanliness. For example, take care not to soil your garment with urine. In the toilet, do not wipe with the hand you eat with. But the argument does not hold up when we examine the hadith that authorizes masah 'alal khuffain (wiping wet hands over the tops of one's leather slippers) as a valid substitute for washing the feet. Some imams also permit performing masah on cloth socks, provided the cloth is very thick and sturdy. Either way, the feet get purified without getting washed! Can God's reasons be purely hygienic?

Training the body in the practice of purification goes hand in hand with training in the proper practice of prayer—the five daily prayers, all announced by the muezzin from the heights of his minaret. Organizing our time and even our bodies to suit our own needs is out of the question. Getting up and going to bed both depend on the muezzin's call, as does one's progress through the day, for everything comes to a halt for prayer. The schedule is rigid: it signifies order (the oldest go first), organization, and communal harmony. Prostration follows a very strict code: seven bones must be in contact with the ground—forehead, both hands, both knees, the extremities of each foot. (We will not quibble with the imam, but a single foot has five toes, two feet have ten, and, with a little help from chiropody, we have overshot the theoretical seven bones by a wide margin...).

Certain postures are prohibited because they do not conform to the rules. Certain ways of inclining the body or of prostration are also taboo: they too must be performed according to the rules. It is out of the question for the body to move with joyful spontaneity, for it must demonstrate its submission and obedience. One cannot be a Muslim without a zealous display of one's pleasure in observing the details. For Allah himself resides in the details. (One final word: the angels like neither garlic nor shallots. We therefore refrain from strolling in the vicinity of the mosque with those cloves in the folds of our djellabas, and even more from entering the sacred precincts with a burnoose redolent of garlic!)

Producing the holy books

Hatred of intelligence and knowledge, the requirement to obey rather than think, the role of the licit/illicit—pure/impure coupling in eliciting obedience and submission rather than thinking for ourselves — all this is codified in the books. The three monotheisms are seen as the religions of the book — but their three books seem far from mutually supportive. Paulines have little liking for the Torah, Muslims do not really treasure the Talmud or the Gospels, upholders of the Pentateuch see the New Testament or the Koran as so much fraud . . . Naturally, they all teach brotherly love. Thus from the very start it seems difficult to appear beyond reproach to our brethren of the Abrahamic religions!

The creation of these so-called holy books proceeded in accordance with the most elementary historical laws. We should approach the whole corpus from a philological, historical, philosophical, symbolic, allegorical (and every other qualifier) standpoint hostile to the belief that these texts were inspired and dictated by God. None of them is a work of revelation. Who would have done the revealing? Their pages no more descend from heaven than those of Persian fables or Icelandic sagas.

The Torah is not as old as tradition claims; Moses is improbable. Yahweh dictated nothing—and in any case, Moses could not have written down what Yahweh said unless he wrote in hieroglyphics, since the Hebrew script did not exist in the time of Moses! None of the evangelists personally knew the famous Jesus. The testamental canon arose from later political decisions, particularly those reached when Eusebius of Caesarea, mandated by the emperor Constantine, assembled a corpus stitched together from twenty-seven versions of the New Testament in the first half of the fourth century. The apocryphal writings are more numerous than those that constitute the New Testament proper. Muhammad did not write the Koran. Indeed, that book did not exist as such until twenty-five years after his death. The second source for Muslim authority, the Hadith, saw the light of day in the ninth century, two centuries after the Prophet's death. Hence we must infer the very active presence of men in the shadows of these three Gods.

"The New Testament, the Church, and Christianity, were all the creation of the Calpurnius Piso family,
who were Roman aristocrats.
The New Testament and all the characters in it - Jesus, all the Josephs, all the Marys, all the disciples, apostles,
Paul, and John the Baptist - are all fictional."
Abelard Reuchlin
"How well we know what a profitable superstition
this fable of Christ has bee for us"
Pope Leo X (1513-1521)

To establish the authority of the definitive version of the Koran, the political authorities — notably Marwan, governor of Medina—began by collecting and then burning and destroying all existing versions in order to avoid historical confrontation and chancing upon vestiges of human, too human, manufacture. (One version indeed escaped from this auto-da-fe of the seven earlier versions, and still holds sway in certain African countries.) Marwan's act was a precursor of the many book burnings kindled in the name of the one book. Each of these three books claims to be "the only book that matters." Each of the three main religions claims that it alone possesses the one true holy book, which contains the whole of what needs to be learned and known. Like encyclopedia compilers, they have gathered the essentials, rendering it unnecessary to look in other books (pagan, secular, heretical) for wisdom that is already found.

The Christians set the tone with Paul of Tarsus, who called for the burning of dangerous books (Acts 19:19). The demand did not fall on deaf ears: Constantine and most subsequent Christian emperors sent philosophers into exile and persecuted polytheist priests, declaring them social outcasts, imprisoning them, and killing many. Hatred of non-Christian books resulted in an overall impoverishment of civilization. The establishment of the Inquisition and, later, the sixteenth-century creation of the Index of Forbidden Books were the climax of this campaign to eradicate everything that deviated from the official policy of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church.

The desire to be done with non-Christian books and the mistrust of unfettered thinking beggared philosophy, forcing its practitioners to give up the struggle, to remain silent, or to express themselves with extreme prudence. (The entire roster of important philosophers from Montaigne to Sartre, in a line including Pascal, Descartes, Kant, Malebranche, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Rousseau, Bergson, and so many others — not to mention materialists, socialists, and Freudians — enjoys pride of place in the Index.) The Bible, claiming to contain everything, banned everything it did not contain. Over the centuries, the results were devastating.
Countless fatwas were proclaimed against Muslim authors even when they did not defend atheist positions, did not discredit the Koran's teachings, and did not indulge either in blasphemy or invective. It was enough simply to think and write freely for the thunderbolts to come crashing down. The slightest deviation came at a heavy price. Exile, prosecution, persecution, libel, even assassination, all these horrors were perpetrated by the likes of Ali Abderraziq, Mohammed Khalafallah, Taha Hussein, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, Mohammed Iqbal, Fazlur Rahman, Mahmoud Mohammed Taha.

In their implacable opposition to free expression, the priests of the three religions preferred to authorize the conjurers whose deft manipulation of language, verbal contortions, and jigsawpuzzle formulations blew smoke in their readers' eyes. What did these schoolmen achieve over the centuries beyond a verbal repackaging of ancient fables and ecclesiastical dogma?

Jews, Christians, and Muslims love memory exercises, particularly in regard to the chanting of the faithful. Muslims memorize the suras of the Koran at a very early age and learn to chant them with the correct elocution (tajwid) and the correct delivery (tartil). Proper articulation and intonation of the Koran (tajwid) requires a slow, melodious declamation with rich flourishes, such as singing several notes to one syllable of text. Tartil is a slow, rhythmic, measured, and meditative delivery. Traditionally, theological schools teach seven ways of reciting the Koran, the differences between them being a matter of linguistic and phonetic variables: consonants stressed, unstressed, without overtones; dropped vowels; change in inflection; very soft tone of voice; or verbal ornamentation, such as deliberate repetition of a phrase at the beginning of successive verses. All this contributes to subordination of the spirit and message of the text in favor of pure literary style. The words lose their meaning, and their repetition becomes an artistic performance.

The litanies we hear in Koranic schools — madrassas, often centers of hostility to falsafa, or philosophy—bear this out. Students learn by reciting aloud, as a group, in cadence, in a collective and communal rhythm. Their dirges help them memorize the teachings of Yahweh or Allah. Jewish mnemonic technique also offers a method of apprenticeship in reading and the alphabet by an association of letters and contents that rests on Talmudic doctrine.

Thus, books aim paradoxically (after they have been memorized wholesale) at what virtually amounts to their own elimination! Rationally enough, students learn the Torah or the Koran by heart. Thus, when the danger of persecution raises its head or when conditions such as exile make it impossible to have the volume at hand, the believer still enjoys mental possession of the book and its teachings.

Hatred of science

This law of the one book, total and all-inclusive, coupled with the unfortunate habit of believing that
"everything" can be contained within a single text, means that there is no recourse to nonreligious (which is not to say atheistic) books, such as scientific works. Monotheism does not really like the rational work of scientists. Clearly Islam embraces astronomy, algebra, mathematics, geometry, optics, but only to calculate the direction of Mecca more accurately by means of the stars, to establish religious calendars, to decree prayer hours. Clearly Islam values geography, but only to facilitate the convergence on the Kaaba when pilgrims from all over the world flock to Mecca. Clearly it prizes medicine, but only to avoid the impurity that mars one's relation with Allah. Clearly it esteems grammar, philosophy, and law, but only to enrich commentary on the Koran and the Hadith.This religious instrumentalization of science subjects reason to domestic and theocratic uses. In Islamic lands, science is not pursued for its own sake today but for the improvement of religious practice. Centuries of Muslim culture produced inventions, research, and important discoveries in the area of secular science, such as algebra and astronomy, as well as being responsible for the preservation of classical texts. One hadith indeed celebrates the quest for scientific knowledge as far afield as China, but always in the logic of its instrumentalization via religion, never for the human and immanent ideal of social progress.

Christianity too considers that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for the effective functioning of the church. For centuries the Bible inhibited all research that scrutinized and questioned its contents (without ever contradicting its claims). Faithful to the lessons of Genesis (knowledge is not desirable, science distances us from the essential — God), the Catholic religion impeded the forward march of Western civilization, inflicting on it incalculable damage.

From Christianity's earliest days, in the beginning of the second century of the common era, paganism in all its aspects was condemned. Everything it produced was rejected, tied to false gods, polytheism, magic, and error. Euclidean mathematics? Ptolemy's maps? Eratosthenes' geography? Aristotle's natural sciences? Aristarchus's astronomy? Hippocrates' medicine? Herophilus's anatomy? They were simply not Christian enough!

The discoveries made by Greek geniuses — Aristarchus's heliocentrism, to take just one example — were obviously applicable independently of the gods and the religious systems of the day. What did the existence of Zeus and his kin matter when one had to determine the laws of hydrostatics, calculate the length of a meridian, invent latitude and longitude, measure the distance between us and the sun, argue for the revolution of the earth around the sun, perfect the theory of epicycles, elaborate the map of the heavens, establish the length of a solar year, link tides and lunar attraction, discover the nervous system, offer theories on the circulation of the blood, all of them truths of no interests to the denizens of heaven?

Turning one's back on the results of such research, acting as though these discoveries had never taken place, starting everything again from scratch is at best stagnation, evidence of a dangerous hostility to change. But at worst it means speeding blindly backward—while others forge ahead — to the darkness from which every civilization, by its nature and by definition, strives to free itself in order to be. Refusal of the Enlightenment characterizes the monotheist religions: they prefer mental night for the nurturing of their fables.

Solving the woman problem

Should we discern the logical consequence of hatred for intelligence in the hatred for women common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? According to the holy books, original sin, error, the desire for knowledge, all stem from the decision of one woman, Eve. Adam was an innocent fool, content to obey and submit. When the serpent speaks — nothing wrong with that . . . don't all snakes speak? — he addresses the woman and starts a dialogue with her. (In the Koran, the tempter is called Iblis or Shaitan. For centuries, millions of Muslims have performed a ritual "stoning of the devil" as part of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.) Seducing serpent leads to seduced woman leads to woman the eternal temptress. It is an easy progression.

Hatred of women is like a variation on the theme of hatred of intelligence. To which might be added hatred of everything women represent for men: desire, pleasure, life. Curiosity as well—many dictionaries confirm that inquisitive women are widely dismissed as "daughters of Eve." They generate desire; they also generate life. Original sin is perpetuated through women — that sin which, as Saint Augustine assures us, is transmitted from the moment of conception, in the mother's womb, via the father's sperm. The sexualization of sin!

The monotheisms infinitely prefer the angel to the woman. Far better a world of seraphim, of cherubim, of thrones and of archangels than a feminine or mixed-gender universe! And above all, no sex. Flesh, blood, libido, naturally associated with women, give Judaism, Christianity, and Islam welcome excuses for stressing the theme of the illicit and the impure. Thus they wage war against the desirable body, against the menstrual blood that briefly liberates women from the burden of motherhood, and against hedonist energy. Bible and Koran overflow with rapturous anathema on these themes.

The religions of the book detest women. They admire only mothers and wives. To rescue women from their consubstantial negativity there are only two solutions — in fact a single twostep solution—marrying a man, and then bearing his children. Caring for their husbands, cooking for them, handling household problems, feeding, caring for, and educating his children, they have no more time for addressing the feminine within. The wife and mother kill the woman — which is exactly what the rabbis, priests, and imams count on to ensure the male's peace of mind.

Judeo-Christianity promotes the idea that Eve was created secondarily, as an afterthought, from Adam's rib (Genesis 2:22)! An inferior cut off the prime beef, a humble sparerib. (As Adam's wife, of course, she appears in the Koran [sura 2:35]. But the fact that she is never named is revealing . . . because the unnamed is unnamable!) The male came first, and only then, like a leftover fragment, a crumb — the female. Everything is against Eve, starting with her order of arrival. Her subordination to her husband set the pattern for womankind's existence. Above all, though, she was responsible for original sin. And she has paid heavily ever since.

Her body is cursed, and she is too, in her totality. The unfertilized egg emphasizes the feminine and negates the maternal; it is a sign of womanhood — but empty womanhood, divorced from motherhood. Therefore, a menstruating female is impure. The blood indicates periods when conception is not possible and is a reminder of the danger of infertility. For a monotheist there can be no more hideous oxymoron than a barren, sterile woman! And during menstruation she is at no risk of pregnancy, meaning that sexuality can be dissociated from fear and practiced for its own sake. The possibility of sex divorced from conception, and thus of sex alone, of pure sexuality — that is absolute evil.

.... or This....

Christian first communion
Christian first communion2
Mass Muslim Marriage in Gaza

In the name of this same principle, the three monotheisms condemn homosexuals to death (Leviticus 20:13). Why? Because their sexuality precludes (or precluded until very recently) the destinies of father, mother, husband, and wife, and clearly asserts the primacy and absolute worth of the free individual. The bachelor is only half of a person; he is incomplete without his female partner, says the Talmud. The Koran (sura 24:32) commands single men to marry. For his part, Paul of Tarsus saw in the solitary male the perils of lust, adultery, and free sexuality. Hence, given the impossibility of chastity, his endorsement of marriage — the least objectionable justification for the libido.

We find a similar horror of abortion in the three religions. The family functions as the fixed horizon, the basic cell of the community. It implies children, whom Jews consider to be the condition of their people's survival, whose number the Christian church wishes to see grow and multiply, whom Muslims see as a mark of the Prophet's blessing. Everything that disturbs this demographic metaphysics arouses monotheist anger. God does not approve of planned parenthood.

Yet immediately after childbirth the Jewish woman is considered unclean. Blood, always blood . . . If she gave birth to a boy, the ban on entering the temple lasts forty days; if she bore a girl . . . sixty! Thus spake Leviticus .. .To the present day, Orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning prayer recite, "Praised be God that he has not created me a gentile. Praised be God that he has not created me a slave . . . Praised be God that he has not created me a woman" (Talmud, Menahot 43b). Not to be outdone, the Koran does not explicitly condemn the pre-Islamic tribal tradition that ascribed shame to a man who fathered a daughter and legitimized his deliberations on whether to keep the child or bury it beneath the dust (16:58).

As for our jovial Christian kin, delegates to the Council of Macon in 585 submitted for discussion a book by Alcidalus Valeus entitled Paradoxical Dissertation in Which We Attempt to Prove that Women are not Human Creatures. Paradoxical? In what way? We do not know if the attempt was successful; i.e., if Alcidalus won over his readers. But the Christian hierarchy was already sympathetic to his point of view: we need only recall Paul of Tarsus and his countless misogynistic pronouncements. In any case, the church's age-old prejudice against women remains to this day an undeniable fact.


Part 2, soon

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