Fiduciary Theology, The Straight Path, And Pre-Destination

October 30, 2020 Category: Religion


{1  The concept of redemption is often a double-entendre.  For it has a moral connotation and a pecuniary connotation, each of which insinuates the other.}

{2  In other words, the unaccountable accountant is also a rapacious rent-seeker.  So how could he NOT be cooking the books?}

{3  As for-profit businesses, operations like Scientology and Landmark charge money for (alleged) Enlightenment–a gimmick employed by most other “self-help” cults, who’s members tend to measure “success” by personal financial gain.  Call it “salvation as affluence”–an approach epitomized by Calvinists, who deem wealth to be a sign of divine favor; and poverty to be a sign of failing to curry favor with the Abrahamic deity.}

{4  The rational here is that, in treating a Palestinian Jew as a savior-god is that in making his love a matter of remuneration, the Abrahamic deity would be no better than the tax-collectors (who show affection only for those from whom they first receive something).  Indeed, the protagonist of the Koran is the ULTIMATE tax-collector.  He treats his relationship with humans as a bargain–a DEAL. Consequently, such transactional soteriology is seen as cheapening what is a profound existential issue.}

{5  Such rigging is a problem regardless of whether one approaches it in the Christian or Islamic way.  The problem with “original sin”, it might be noted, is that we all start out in arrears; and so have to arrange a bail-out.  (See Appendix.)  The “catch” is that the bail-out comes for free IF we sign up for the program.  Jesus of Nazareth as the “Christ” paid our debt for us; but now we owe HIM, in the form of fealty / worship.  Meanwhile, the problem with Koranic theology (at least, with regard to “qadar”) is that it is established from the get-go whether or not we’ll END UP in arrears; so all we can do is pander as much as we can…and hope for the best.}

{6  It is known, for example, that homosexuality was welcome in ancient Mesopotamia; so this “path” certainly did not involve the kind of puritanism found in the Abrahamic traditions.}

{7  This mustn’t be confused with “din” in Hebrew, which means judgement.  The equivalent Sanskrit term is “nyaya”.}

{8  This is, of course, a precursor to the fabled “Night Journey” of Mohammedan lore.  However, this was a very special kind of revelation.  In Parmenides’ account, the goddess seems to be saying: Hey, I’m just bringing this to your attention; but don’t take MY word for it.  Don’t depend on precedent.  Question it.  Use your own powers of reasoning and see for yourself.  The actual passage: “You must hold back your thought from this way of inquiry.  Do not let habit, born of much experience, force you down this way, by making you use an aimless eye or an ear and a tongue full of meaningless sound.  Judge by reason the much-disputed refutation spoken by me.”  For more on flying horses, see my essays on “Mythemes”.}

{9  In Islam, piety is a function of SUBORDINATION, which is done more out of fear than out of love.  After all, the Koranic concept, “taqwa” equates piety with fear (as in the imperative: “ittaqullah”).  When it comes to Revisionist Zionism, the trope is used as the basis for ethno-centric hyper-nationalism.  In either case, following the divinely-ordained path is equated with fulfilling the destiny of the exalted in-group.  The “it’s all part of god’s plan” rationalization is an illustration that Providentialism and tribal Exceptionalism go hand in hand.}

{10  Much of this involves esoterica.  Indeed, “Vajrayana” is itself considered a mystical practice–as with “tang-mi” / “mi-zong” in Chinese mysticism or “mikkyo” in Japanese mysticism.}

{11  “Kismet” was adopted by the Ottoman Turks, and is now part of the Turkish vernacular.  It was rendered “qisma” in Classical Arabic.}

{12  The Asharites ensured that it was clear that there is no causation IN the world (as it is understood scientifically), but that god alone directly causes everything to happen (via his divine will; “innama”).  So when billiard-ball A hits billiard-ball B, it is not A that causes B to move; it is GOD that causes B to move.  The concern is that attributing the incident movement of B to A would detract from god’s omni-potency (absolute sovereignty): “jabr”.  According to this theological view, then, natural causation is an illusion (see footnote 22).  The Abrahamic deity is the author of ALL things, including the deeds and thoughts of every human being.  The Asharites, it might be noted, was one of the more influential movements in early Islam (see footnote 14).  Their view in commonplace Islamic theology to this day; as it is entirely in keeping with the Koran.}

{13  This is in keeping with the Gospel of John 12:37-40, where we are notified that Isaiah declared that god intentionally blinds certain people and hardens their hearts to ensure they disbelieve.}

{14  The most notable proponent of Asharism was the doyen of anti-intellectualism, Al-Ghazali–who was eager to embrace the notion that Revelation must always trump Reason.  (The only form of Reason he endorsed was INSTRUMENTAL reason.)  The rejection of causality comported with Al-Ghazali’s repudiation of critical inquiry (which he saw to be incompatible with religiosity).  Moreover, it helped to rationalize the religious zealotry he propounded.  His approach had undeniable utility for those in power, so he promptly won the favor of the political elites.  After all, a population that is not inclined to question anything–as everything that happens is what god ordained–is a pliant population.  (“Everything is as it’s supposed to be; and all we need to know is that’s how god wants it.”)  The mainstream adoption of Al-Ghazali’s weltanschauung–replete with the Ashari view of “qadar”–precipitated the dissolution of Islam’s Golden Age, and precluded any Enlightenment from occurring in the Islamic world.  This denial of causality forestalled scientific activity indefinitely.}

{15  Contrast this threat to harden the hearts of the un-chosen–so as to existentially sabotage them–with Ezekiel 36:26-27.  “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”}

{16  For PIA, such obfuscation is common practice.  Simply find a superficially nice-sounding passage and take it out of context; then pretend it means something that it clearly doesn’t mean.  As discussed elsewhere, this is often done with 5:32, which mentions a statement that god made to the Israelites FOR the Israelites (to kill one soul is like killing all mankind; with major exceptions).  Rarely do Islamic apologists read on, and quote the following verse.  Indeed, 5:33 spells out exactly what the passage–taken in its entirety–is for.  What it is NOT is a general statement against taking the lives of fellow human beings, applicable to everyone.}

{17  Note that “plan” is sometimes translated as “scheme”.  In this sense, “planning” is “scheming”.}

{18  And, by the way, if you want to SEE what god’s plan is for you, 22:15 instructs you to commit suicide by hanging yourself…so that you can find out.}

{19  For what it’s worth, this deranged theme is corroborated in “Sahih” hadith.  For example, “Muslim” no. 6622 and no. 6921 notify us that god WANTS there to be sinful people in the world.  Thus: The Creator of the Universe has a vested interest in sinfulness so that he can carry out his plan–an integral part of which is filling up hell.  4:117-122 reminds us that satan is recruited to ensure this happens, yet is instructed to only mislead those whom god has marked for damnation.}

{20  The irony was that, once it became a political force, the Mu’tazilite potentates FORCED people to abide by this creed–using draconian means reminiscent of the Roman Catholic Inquisition (the “mihna”).  Call it “obligatory recognition of one’s freedom of will”.  (The jokes write themselves: You have no choice but to believe in free will.  Your are REQUIRED to think for yourself; otherwise you will be punished for insubordination.  Etc.)  It was a reminder that even when religionists attempt to promote autonomy, they have no choice but to subvert it in order to keep the religiosity intact.  As it happened, it was Mu’tazilism that was encouraging the “bid’ah” (innovation) that animated this “Golden Age” of intellectual vibrancy; so when the movement fell out of favor, so too did the trend of philosophical inquiry.  Alas, the most viable alternative to Mu’tazili thought at the time was the literalism preached by Ibn Hanbal.  And so it went, the Hanbali school rose to prominence.  The demise of Islam’s Golden Age followed soon thereafter (see my essay on Islam’s Pyrite Age).  The legacy of Hanbal is still seen in the Salafi / Wahhabi form of Islam…now with THEIR OWN Inquisitions.  Irony upon irony.}

{21  The belief is effectively: Whatever happens, happens because it’s part of god’s plan.  Thus the “give your life over to god” is an exhortation to surrender not only one’s will, but one’s mind.  This proposes a kind of empowerment via submission.  It also entails a kind of resignation: “It’s all in god’s hands; so who are we to question anything?”  Those is power have leveraged this for their own purposes: Don’t challenge the established order; be resigned to your assigned lot in life.  For everything is just as god has willed it.}

{22  This Ashari “anti-causality” paradigm mustn’t be confused with the “occasionalism” of, say, Malebranche; or with Hume’s “constant conjunction of events”–both of which were naturalistic.}

APPENDIX: Original Sin

The Koran reiterates the myth of The Fall in order to re-instantiate the doctrine of “original sin” (O.S.), as attested by 7:16-28 and 20:115-123. Thus: We are born sick, and god will make us better so long as we cater to his demands.

In effect, the Abrahamic deity created us with an ailment so that we could then thank him in the event he opts to cure us (otherwise known as the “create the sickness, then offer the cure” routine.)  That such a scheme is predicated on a strangely self-ingratiating deity seems not to occur to most votaries. *

The protagonist of the Koran has a very low vision of mankind.  As he states in 14:34, “Mankind is most unjust and ungrateful.”  According to Islam’s holy book, the Creator of the Universe is displeased and disappointed with his Creation…and seeks to do something about it…just as would any perturbed totalitarian dictator.  As with most self-absorbed rulers, the protagonist of the Koran is very, very impressed with himself–and demands that everyone else be impressed as well.

The “catch” in Islam is that there is no O.S.  We all begin life with an even “balance” in our account–neither in the red nor in the black.  This initial state is known as “fitra[h]”; and we proceed from there according to merits (via “ihsan”) and demerits (via “dhanb” / “khati’a”) that are accumulated over the course of one’s life.  Thus the treatment of salvation / damnation as transactional.

It is not for nothing that the source of O.S. in the Christian tradition was an abiding fascination with “Man’s Fall” in Eden for having had the insolence to hunger for knowledge.  (His crime, after all, was eating from the tree of knowledge.)  In this scheme, Kant’s credo, “Sapere Aude!” [dare to know; i.e. have the courage to use your own mind] is an unforgivable transgression.  The supplicant is expected to simply BELIEVE; and to NOT be too interested in eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  (As a cheeky New Yorker cartoon once put it, it’s as if god forbade seeking to know things while seeming to add: “But feel free to eat of the shrub of delusion.”)

This creed, then, is founded on an exaltation of intellectual IN-curiosity–the epitome of anti-intellectualism; which equates with a deference to “received wisdom” (which is, it turns out, rarely ACTUAL wisdom).  This deference is what enables a dogmatic system to subsist.  For when part of a memeplex is to NOT QUESTION the memeplex, the memeplex immunizes itself from the dangers of critical scrutiny.  It is, after all, the memeplexes that are the best at self-reinforcement that tend to survive.

The notion of O.S. is effectively a built-in dogma-protection feature.  It is not for nothing, then, that Saul of Tarsus was the first major proponent of O.S.  He was obsessed with the inherent stain of humanity; and saw this as the primary excuse for submission to his new cult (which, it turned out, had very little to do with “The Way” founded by the quasi-historical Jesus of Nazareth, as found in the Gnostic and Synoptic Gospels).

This motif is to be contrasted with the Buddhist tradition, in which attainment of Enlightenment [alt. Awakening; “bodhi”] is the sumum bonum of existence.  In its foundation myth, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) is BORN UNDER a tree of knowledge (the so-called “Bodhi” tree).  Lo and behold: It is supposed to have been a fig tree, which means it bore fruit which we are ENCOURAGED to eat.

The Mohammedan tradition offers its own twist on the anti-knowledge theme.  In effect, the Koran’s protagonist created us with an ailment so that we could thank him for curing us.  That such a scheme is predicated on a strangely self-ingratiating deity seems not to occur to most votaries.  This entails that we must essentially apologize for being human.  Here, humanity is NOT something to which one should aspire.  Rather, it is something from which one must be redeemed.

The Koran does not posit O.S. in the Christian sense.  Instead, it puts mankind in another kind of theological bind.  We are in jeopardy of displeasing a pathologically vindictive cosmic overlord.  (Indeed, a predicament of epic proportions!)

And so it goes: Instead of a deity offering to save us from a condition of inherent depravity (in which we must apologize for our humanity), the Koran’s protagonist–temperamental and unyielding–offers to save us from…HIMSELF.  That is to say, he’ll rescue us from the terrifying consequences of his own wrath.  

Thus we are put in a terrifying imbroglio by X, then expected to be thankful when X offers us a way out.  If we refuse this fantastic offer, we’re told, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves.  Soteriology, then, is a marketing strategy (insofar as salvation is a consumer product).

Regarding this gimmick, the contrast between Christianity and Islam is interesting.  In Christianity, we’re injected with the (alleged) poison before the game even begins; then we are offered the (alleged) antidote…dangling just out of reach.  As the lethal toxin of O.S. is coursing through our veins, the clock is ticking, “So make your choice before it’s too late.”

In the Koran, on the other hand, we’re threatened with a vile of lethal poison–which will only be withheld if we obey (and flatter) our master.  Meanwhile, our master holds in his other hand a magical pill (that promises to transport us to Never-Never Land).  It’s all in HIS hands (and he is extremely temperamental).  Therefore, we’d be well advised to placate him.

Of course, in both religions, the “poison” is a hoax.  Mankind needs no “cure”. **  There is no existential predicament.  We are in no dilemma…other than that of our own making.  This intellectually bankrupt–and spiritually debilitating–mindset is based on a sham.  That is, it countenances a predicament that is self-imposed.  So why all the fuss?

The manufactured need to purge the inherent guilt of humanity is a ruse–using the timeless formula: Create the (purported) disease then offer the (purported) cure.  The cure rests on the notion that an innate sinfulness needs to be expunged in the prescribed manner–as if worship could somehow–magically–serve as a kind of atonement for what is held to be a universal crime.

Must we grovel before a (interminably temperamental and pathologically vindictive) despotic overlord (i.e. the protagonist of the Hebrew Bible), and beg to be forgiven for being human?  Given all the injustice and pointless suffering in the world, and given the fact that this despotic overlord is as petulant as he is petty, it seems that the guilt lies elsewhere.

If one were to meet the Abrahamic deity, it’s not we–as humans–who are obliged ask for forgiveness from him; it is HE who should be asking for forgiveness from US.

And so it goes: O.S. creates a longing to atone for an ethereal guilt that we carry about all of the wrongs we may have done; all the ways we may have displeased our master.  Yet it tells us that the stain in endemic to humanity itself.  It is our HUMAN-ness that is tarnished.  Show remorse for having been unethical?  No.  We must show contrition for being human.  Humanity is our SHORTCOMING, not our salvation.  It is not something to embrace, but something for which we should apologize.

We might ask: Which is worse?  Feeling as though one needs to be forgiven for being human or feeling that one needs to beg for mercy from a cosmic overlord inclined to exact vengeance on us if we fail to pay him adequate tribute?  Either way, he allegedly made us the way that we are.  While O.S. tells us that god made us human and expects us to feel bad about it, the Koran tells us that god made us his slaves and expects us to grovel in submission so as to keep him appeased.

Religion is a sort of business, after all.  As with most cult activity, Faith is a commodity to barter and trade.  Salvation is effectively rendered a consumer product.  When it comes to deliverance supply (i.e. supplication) will tend to meet (the perceived) demand.

If the goal is to sell something, then (persuasively) create the perception of a need for it…and demand for it will ensue.  Hence the “create the sickness, then offer the cure” gimmick that is used by all three Abrahamic religions (and, for that matter, Scientology, the military-industrial complex, and the for-profit-sickness-treatment-industry).  This ploy is epitomized by 19:71: “Everyone is approaching hell.  This is an irrevocable decision of god.”  Thus, we are plunged into a dire predicament BY god…SO THAT god can save us from it.  All of us are then expected to spend our lives pleading the god to extricate us from this existential pickle…even as he deliberately put us there.

Suffice to say, the Koran’s protagonist has a very low vision of “nas” [mankind]; as he fashions the entirety of humanity as his slaves.  As he states in 14:34, “Mankind is most unjust and ungrateful.”  According to Islam’s holy book, the Creator of the Universe is displeased–and disappointed–with his Creation…and seeks to do something about it…just as would any perturbed totalitarian dictator with unruly subjects.

As with most self-absorbed rulers, the protagonist of both the Torah and the Koran is very, very impressed with himself–and demands that everyone else be impressed as well. But, in the end, we must ask: Are we obliged to apologize for being human?

Humanity is not a transgression; it is a progression.

{*  Never mind the cockamamie theme of vicarious atonement, whereby god is said to have tortured HIMSELF (on behalf of mankind) so that he didn’t have to punish mankind for its inherent guilt; and that simply recognizing this fact is adequate for absolution (whereas anyone who fails to recognize the fact deserves eternal punishment).  Justice knows no surrogates.  More to the point, the notion that god sacrificed himself TO himself is rather a rather topsy-turvy theological gimmick.}

{**  And so it goes: Our humanity is our guilt; our guilt is our humanity.  This deranged theme goes back to the earliest days of the Abrahamic tradition.  In Judaism, we are expected to believe that mankind is saddled with an INNATE STAIN.  We are told we must contend with this; and the only way to do so is via the good graces of a cosmic overlord.  Yom Kippur is entirely about atonement.  Atonement for what?  As with Christianity’s conception of O.S., humans must apologize for our humanity.  During Yom Kippur, Jews are exhorted to spend the entire day pleading for forgiveness.  Forgiveness for what?  For being human.  Only other people can forgive us for injustices we’ve committed against them; so the forgiveness sought during Yom Kippur is of an entirely theological nature.  As with Islam, the Abrahamic deity is said to have a log-book [The Book of Life]–a ledger in which he inscribes names so as to keep track of who’s naughty and who’s nice.  Just as it is with the logs kept by the Koran’s protagonist, the notion of a cosmic register is every bit as daft as Santa Claus’ list.  Hence the conception of salvation / damnation as transactional.}

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