Friday, 9 September 2016

Time for a new religion


What follows is not real, and I don't believe it… just saying.

I'm wondering if we should revive the prophets of Ba’al.

As you know these were the chaps who Elijah so wondrously destroyed in I Kings 18. With historical hindsight we can see that the way they were presented in the Old Testament was very much from the ‘history is written by the victors’ school. In many ways we should see them as an indigenous religion which came into contact with nascent Israelite worship, and then subsequently came not into contact but rather into conflict with it. So the Israelite religion changed from being inclusive (taking the best from Ba’al worship, such as their fertility practices) to being restrictive (blaming the stranger in their midst for external pressures and defeats – ‘we were exiled because we were not strict enough to keep our exclusive faith in God’).


We cannot deny that Ba’al worship touched a psychological need in the people of the time. The little we know of the religion speaks of the need of the individual and the society to seek order in a disordered universe. The climatic changes that we see in the present day fit in much better with Ba'al worship, ‘appeasing’ a deity so connected with the uncertainty of weather systems. Of course, we should not speak of ‘appeasing’ the deity, but rather the response of the individual to apotropaic rituals (things that we do to avoid evil or bad results – such as throwing salt over the shoulder, or touching a lucky object). In this we can see that both the individual and society generally could benefit from ritual actions connected with a deity (in this case Ba’al) who is exclusively connected with an uncertain climate.


Some of the imagery of Ba’al is already current in our society. By this I do not mean the facile ‘satanic’ images, but rather the classic bull iconography. We can see examples of this in the great financial districts, notably New York. This symbol works on many different levels, from the strength and assertiveness of the individual, to the capitalistic economy which drives the world’s wealth. The individual nature of the bull, however, also shows  his limitless power to break from the oppression of man. Just as with the storms which he represents, Ba’al the bull cannot be controlled by the power of human action. It would only be through its destruction, the destruction of the bull/Ba’al, that man could assert his dominance. And with the world’s ecosystems, in the conflict between the storm clouds (Ba’al) and man, were man to win, it would necessarily bring about the annihilation of the other. The storm would be averted, the bull killed, but in the process humanity would bring about its own destruction. Ba’al and mankind live together in a harmonious symbiosis in which the human being finds his place with respect for the ecosystem, the storm, the bull-god Ba’al.


Ba’al also speaks to our present questions of self-identity and trans/gender. Although the main iconography is the bull, Ba’al is also intimately associated with his consort Asherah (Athirat) and his sister Anat. The latter, through self-harming knife rituals, tries to appease the god Mot, who represents death (the death of the individual and the world through the enslavement of the fertile Ba’al). Anat, through surgical modification finds for herself true peace. Asherah, through fertility rites and no modification, similarly serves her ‘god’. For his worshipers, then, they may be Anat (physical modification bringing about a new state of being) or Asherah (finding within themselves identity bringing forth fertility in whatever form).


We know that now we reject nothing that is good in any religion, and so it would seem to be perfectly permissible to revive a religion which existed successful for so many years. It is not manufactured as it was a real response of the human soul to God, that yearning of the human heart which asks the deep, fundamental questions. It could well be that a full presentation of Christianity is too much for people, especially with cultural differences and the negative connotations which some societies have for the faith of Christ. Surely it would be better to have any response to God, than none at all? And perhaps, dare I say it, something which has had no connection with Christianity, and so no allegations of suppression or conflict.


So perhaps a reviving of Ba’al worship is the way forward.

Then we can have a dialogue with it, and learn from it.

Wouldn’t that be nice.

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