Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Virus and the Cure

 


I do not want to hammer away at this, but it is a truism that if you protest racism you are going to upset some racists.

Recently, an Anguillian radio host took a turn on his radio station against a citizen who dared to express his opinion of Covid-19 vaccination refusers.  The citizen criticised persons who refuse vaccination, claiming they will hinder the reopening of the island’s tourism-based economy.  The citizen in question is White, and the radio host is Black.

He urged government that, When everyone who wants vaccination gets it, probably in May, we need to open.  Do away with the 14-day quarantine.  It is not realistic to expect tourists to endure that.  People who choose not to get vaccinated should stay home and hide out.  They should not have the option of hospital treatment, they should not get to work in tourism, travel, public service, or any forward-facing job.  I do not want to be held hostage by people who choose to hide from covid.   there has to be an exit strategy, or we will collapse economically.  Government needs to view the requirement for vaccination as a Health and Safety issue, much like hard hats on a construction site.  If you work in construction, you wear the required PPE.  No-one can tell the employer they cannot demand PPE.  Workers who refuse get sent home.  In any hospitality related job, workers who refuse vaccination should be sent home.”

So, the background to this incident is the coronavirus pandemic and the controversy over both the disease and the cure.  The disease is real, as every virologist and epidemiologist has convincingly explained.  In addition to the many preventable deaths, the crippling, long-term damage to the health of survivors is worrying.  It is not just the lungs that are affected.  So too are the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and blood.  Governments all around the world are working with the World Health Organisation and centres for disease control to develop mechanisms for preventing and curing the diseases caused by this virus.

This has not stopped the many loud and deranged Covid-deniers out there.  Most of them are White but some of them Black.  Some White ones, like Robert Kennedy Jr are persons of influence.  They are listened to and believed by Anguillians, among others.

These vaccination sceptics are busy publishing propaganda against the vaccinations that are offered against the virus:  their approval was too hurried.  They are unproven treatments.  They will inject poisons into us.  They are intended to kill us off.  They are a conspiracy by foreign billionaires to reduce the earth’s population.

These messages of disinformation and misinformation by malicious trolls are widely propagated on Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, and other social media.  They have infected the minds of many otherwise intelligent listeners in Anguilla.  Some have understandably developed unfounded doubts about not just the existence of the virus but, more worrying, about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

So, back to the incident in question.  The radio host ranted on his radio programme for nearly an hour against this “bold statement made by that man.”  He repeatedly warned the citizen that he had overstepped his bounds.  What he wrote was disrespectful to Anguillians because he was not a “born Anguillian”.  His tone was too abrasive.  He was being disrespectful to Anguillians.  He had to understand that, as someone not born here, he could not be allowed to “get in front of Anguillians.”  Ninety percent of the villas are now owned by White expats.  They have taken over the villa business in Anguilla.  They have come to believe that all Anguillians are inferior to them.

According to the radio host, the citizen’s real offence was that he was an “expat”, a White man, lecturing Black Anguillians.  The radio host, while protesting that he was not a racist, that he loved some Whites who knew their place, proceeded to attack the citizen entirely based on his colour and place of origin.  Where, he asked, did this expat citizen get the power to be able to speak like this without fear to born Anguillians?  Who, he asked, emboldened him?  Who did he think he was to speak to Anguillians in this tone of voice?  He threatened ominously that this person ought to be afraid for speaking out in this way.  He needed to apologise to us for his words and their tone.  The warning of violence was unmistakable to the alert listener.

The radio host’s entire critique of the citizen was not a reasoned repudiation of the citizen’s opinion on this public health issue.  It was an unspoken but false suggestion that White people believe in the virus while Black people hold the better view that the virus is fake and the vaccination dangerous.  White people, he implied, conspire to kill off black people with a dangerous and unproven vaccination.  Four hundred years of slavery, he stated, had alerted Black Anguillians to be alert to the natural race prejudice of White people and to reject their views.  Black people were justified in refusing to accept the Covid vaccination.

It was a classic racist rant.  I know the radio host and I do not believe he is racially prejudiced.  But he must be careful about how he expresses himself.  Every word appeared designed to trigger outrage and fear in the Black listener. It was an indulgence in race blaming, envy, and victimhood.  It appeared designed to stir up listeners to condemn and destroy this stranger in their midst, this foreigner from afar who had dared to express his opinion about vaccination deniers.  It was a shameful performance on the part of the radio host.

The radio host seemed to assume that every Anguillian listening to his rant would agree with him.  It assumed that the average Anguillian shared his racist views.  I do not accept that Anguillians generally believe themselves, because of their colour or their place of birth, to be either victims or superior to anyone else.  This is not just a chip on the shoulder.  It is nothing but a demonstration of a crippling inferiority complex.

Personally, I believe that any person among us who refuses to take the anti-Covid vaccine when it is offered is a danger to not just himself.  He is a public health risk to the general population.  He should be sanctioned by law.  There should be a fine or imprisonment.

Those of us of a certain age can remember in the 1950s and 1960s when we were not allowed on an aeroplane if we could not produce the yellow WHO Smallpox vaccination certificate.  No sensible person at the time objected to this legal requirement.  If we are going to be enclosed in a limited space with fellow travelers, we should not be made to feel we are being entombed with them.  Once the Covid-19 vaccination campaign has come to an end, airlines and ferries should be obliged not to accept as a passenger anyone who does not produce a valid vaccination certificate.

When we are relaxing with friends around a social meal or a drink in a bar, we are entitled to feel safe.  We should not be exposed to reckless individuals who care nothing of our health.  In the USA, when we try to buy a drink in a bar, we are asked to show identification to prove we are over twenty-one.  We should similarly be required by law to show our vaccination certificate to prove we are safe to be included in the clientele.

Anyone refusing to be vaccinated in Anguilla should be refused entry to ‘planes, ferries, restaurants and bars.  It should be a prerequisite, an essential qualification, for employment in the tourism industry.  No teacher should be allowed in school who is not vaccinated.

It may not yet be politically feasible to make Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory by law.  But every effort should be made to encourage Anguillians to get vaccinated.  In fact, we need to work hard on vaccinations for disinformation of all kinds.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

On God

 

I was brought up to be a good Roman Catholic.  I was baptised and confirmed.  I was a dedicated church goer as a child.  I never missed church on Sunday unless serious illness or some other similar circumstance made attendance impossible.

 

A good Catholic schoolboy in Trinidad (Ladislao Kertesz)

I was taught that only Roman Catholics would go to heaven when they died.  All other Christian churches were heretical, and their followers were condemned by early Popes to eternal damnation when they died.  And the Pope was infallible.  All other religions, Muslim, Hindoo, and Buddhist were false religions whose followers were similarly condemned to hellfire and incapable of ever enjoying salvation.

I felt I was privileged to be a member of one of the oldest and most powerful of the Christian churches.  We called the modern American ones such as the Seventh Day Adventists, the Southern Baptists, and the Mormons “Sideways Churches.”  It felt wonderful to be so superior and one of the elite believers.

I never attended any religious service in one of the heretical churches, save very rarely for one of the ceremonial ones of weddings and funerals.  I certainly never risked my eternal salvation by crossing the threshold of a mosque or temple.  No amount of soap or water would have washed off the dirtiness I was sure.

I completed my primary and some of my secondary schooling at the Abbey School, Mount Saint Benedict, in Tunapuna in Trinidad and Tobago between 1955, when I was nine years old, and 1964.  I was an indifferent student, always in the bottom half of my class.  I hated sports and any organised school activity.  My main interest was in running wild in the forests surrounding the school, and in the library.

In my first year, I informed Bro Vincent, the Sports Master, after my first cricket match, that I would never again play the game.  My introduction to it had been miserable.  He told me that he would ban me from the swimming pool if I did not play the next weekend.  When I was banned from the pool, I announced that I would no longer play football for my House.  I was banned from the Saturday matinee movies.

In retaliation, I made myself a long bow and cut reed arrows.  I spent many a happy Saturday afternoon in concealment on the hilltop above the cricket field firing arrows at the fielders below.  For this I was ordered to attend the Headmaster to receive six strokes of the rod on my backside.  This happened nearly every Monday for at least five years.  When I complained to Fr Bernard that I had never been caught doing anything wrong to deserve the flogging, he replied, “Then, take the strokes, Don, for all the things you have done that you never got caught doing.”

I taught myself early to speed read.  I learned the name of the skill only after President JF Kennedy was inaugurated, and his ability to get through hundreds of pages of briefings before breakfast was described.  By the age of twelve I was assisting in the school library.  By about the age of fifteen, when Fr Augustine was the official Librarian, he made me his Assistant and gave me my own key.  I was free to let myself in and out as I chose, within school rules.  By this time, I was relieved of any obligation to join in school sports.

With such access, I read nearly every one of the tens of thousands of books on the shelves.  I devoured the forbidden books in a locked cabinet behind the curtain on a top shelf, such as the unexpurgated Canterbury’s Tales.  I got most of the way through the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  I remember I started on this when I needed to learn about sex.  I began with the relevant article in the “P” volume and moved on to “V”.  Each article ended in a list of cross-references.  I made notes of them and read them too.  I was particularly taken by the multi-layered transparencies that illustrated the scientific articles.  By the time I left the school at seventeen, I had read much of each of the many volumes.  I have always preferred to master the theory before I try the practical.

My early experience of church and religion was without complaint.  The High School was run by Benedictine Monks.  The many cruelties we experienced from them were not excessive.  Few if any of us were permanently scarred by them.

We were not, so far as I know, sexually abused by the Monks.  The only homosexual practices we heard of were between a very few of the boys.  Supposedly, these were always foreign boys, never West Indian ones.

The physical punishments the Monks imposed on us, making us spend a half hour on our bare knees, on the yard’s gravelled surface, in the blazing sun, for some minor infraction of discipline, for example, did not scar us so much as prepare us for life’s injustices.

We knew or imagined stories about the life histories of the Monks.  They were mainly European Dutch survivors of the Nazi Holocaust of the Second World War, in which most of our fathers had served in one army or the other.  There were stories circulating that some of them had been slave labourers in the factories of the Ruhr Valley in Germany.  Their guilt at surviving when most of their family members had been murdered by the Nazis was the cause, we told each other, of their reputed self-torture.  Some of our parents had been Prisoners of War who survived brutal internment in camps in France, Belgium, and other countries.

On one occasion, when a Monk teacher stretched to reach a high point on the blackboard, specks of red appeared on the back of his white cassock.  There were gasps of horror.  We agreed it was blood from his self-flagellation with a barbed wire whip the night before.  Only years later did we learn that it was red ink from a pen flicked by a boy in the front row.  Such incidents heightened our awareness of the horrors some of them had endured to survive and come out to teach us in Trinidad.

My first loss of faith occurred when I was seven years old.  It was shortly before Christmas.  I was arguing with my little friends whether Santa Claus existed.  I was horrified to learn that they did not believe in Santa.  They insisted that our parents bought the presents.  I indignantly rose in defence of Santa.  I resisted all attempts to convince me he was imaginary.

When I got confirmation later that day that Santa was not real, I was devastated.  My whole world view was hollowed out.  I had never experienced such betrayal before.  I immediately knew that I would never again believe anything my mother told me.  It seemed obvious to me that she could not be trusted to be truthful about anything important.  These instantaneous judgments have followed me all my life, much to my loss.

This stage of my religious career lasted I suppose until I was about nineteen years of age.  At the age of eighteen I became a student in the United Kingdom.  I arrived there to study law in the summer of 1964.  First, I completed my O-Levels and A-Levels before enrolling as a student barrister at the Inner Temple.

I spent my first four years in the UK boarding at an international student hostel at 23 Lansdown Road in Notting Hill Gate owned and run by the Pushkin Society.  There were always between thirty and forty students of all ages and genders boarding there.  For the first time, I was exposed to persons of different religions, nationalities, and backgrounds.  The hostel was a hotbed of animated discussion on every topic among the young and not so young occupants.

I came to live at this hostel as a callow, uneducated, religious believer, who had never in my 18 years in Trinidad had an intellectual conversation.  To be able to join in the discussions, I read everything I could put my hands on.  I gobbled up books on sociology, psychology, philosophy, ancient history, comparative religion, archaeology, economics, zoology, botany, genetics, and any other subject that came to hand.  I sucked it all up.

At that time in Notting Hill, one could purchase a Penguin Classic paperback for six pence in one of the many second-hand bookshops.  One could also exchange two books for one at no extra charge.  A Penguin paperback seldom took more than a day to devour.  I recall it was not unusual for me to acquire a dozen books at a time.  A bottle of Algerian red wine cost less than a shilling.  A pound of ground coffee cost about the same.

During all this time, and for about the first six months, I attended a Roman Catholic Church every Sunday in Notting Hill.  The diversity at the hostel began to make me aware that people of other religions could be good people.  Could it be that contrary to the teaching of my church, their souls might arrive in heaven?

There was an older student, Aziz Baluche, who was a native of Baluchistan.  He was a Sufi Muslim of about seventy years, who had earned his doctorate in classical Spanish guitar at a university in Cadiz before the Spanish Civil War.  He was an accomplished Sitar player and an impressive scholar.  Curiously, he earned his living reading astrological charts and playing the Sitar professionally.

Aziz was also a law student, a member of my Inn.  He taught that we were all different, with our own cultures and beliefs, none more superior than the other.  I came to consider him as near to a saint as anyone could get.  I used to say that he was the most truly Christian person I had ever known.

For the first two or three years at the student hostel, one of the residents was a Professor Douglas Kennedy.  He was originally a US national from Detroit who had fallen in love with Paris during his march from the beaches of Normandy to Germany as a young man in 1944.  After the War, he went to university in the US.  He got his first degree in geology on the GI Bill and completed his education in France.  He became in time a noted archaeologist, specializing in Hittite in cuneiform.  By the time we younger students became acquainted with him, he was a professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris.  We were all impressed that while his English was that of the gutters of Detroit his French was pure and elegant.

Douglas Kennedy was at the time supposedly one of only four English-speaking persons fluent in Hittite.  He spent his summers in London where he conducted research in the British Museum on the clay tablets that various archaeologists had brought back to Britain from the Middle East.  Every night, he sat at a small round table in his relatively spacious room at the hostel, pouring over photographs of the cuneiform inscriptions on the tablets that he was studying.  He told us he was writing a book on transportation by means of the donkey across the Arabian Peninsula three thousand years before the current era.  We were impressed.  He taught us to enjoy French press coffee.  This he drank all night long, pausing only for an occasional glass of red wine.  The coffee and wine were like honey to bees for us young students.

We students spent many a long evening in his room discussing what interests all young people: sex, religion, and politics.  We learned that you could order your own blend of coffee by the pound at the neighbourhood coffee shop.  Kenyan beans were the cheapest at the time, while Columbian and Jamaican beans were the most expensive.  We learned to distinguish the flavours of the preferred Arabica blend from the more boring Robusta.  Now, I only use Haitian, Costa Rican, or Dominican Republic ground coffee. 

I learned to prefer cheap red wine over cheap white wine.  I learned to tease the French girls by turning a bottle of red wine in front of the gas heater, explaining when asked that I was trying to bring it up to Algerian room temperature.  Besides the wine, coffee, and the girls, one reason for hanging out in Douglas’ room was that he could afford to insert a fresh shilling in the gas meter all night long whenever the gas ran out.  Our rooms were small, dark, and cold by comparison, particularly on the long winter nights.

At night, we young students sat about arguing on his floor, smoking cheap tobacco, and drinking wine and coffee.  Kennedy, as an older person, a noted academic, and a huge intellect, occasionally lifted his head from his photographs and notes to settle a heated discussion.  He was intensely sceptical about everything, especially on politics, economics, and other social issues.  The student life in the Notting Hill of the late 1960s was intoxicating.  We youngsters took away from these early years of academic and intellectual stimulation life-long attitudes that we would never lose.

There came a point when I walked out of the church.  And I never went back.  The immediate cause was the sight of a fat, slovenly, red-nosed, Irish priest preaching hell and damnation.  The hypocrisy of his evidently glutenous lifestyle, and its contradiction with the subject of his sermon turned my stomach.  I could not help it.  It was an instantaneous reaction.  And, permanent.

This happened before my nineteenth birthday in the summer of 1965.  It struck me that everything I had so confidently previously believed about faith and religion was a total fiction.  The shock and hurt of the realization drove me to frantic depression.  It was the loss of Santa Clause all over again, but worse.  Only the wine, three packets of cigarettes a day, and the arms and the guitar-playing of a wonderful French lady, a student of industrial arts living at the hostel, kept me sane.

In addition to the reading and arguing, we foreign students explored the Natural Science Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.  We bought the cheapest tickets to be allowed to sit on the steps and in the passageways of the theatres.  We saw the plays of Sophocles and of Shakespeare.  We walked all the way to the West End instead of taking the public transport we could as students hardly afford.  I read everything anthropological I could lay my hands on, from The Descent of Man to The Naked Ape.  I read the biographies of Galileo, and Copernicus.  I learned how the Christians persecuted the early astronomers, demanding belief on pain of death that the Earth was flat, and the Sun orbited the Earth, not the other way round.

For my A-Level studies in English History, I chose the Reformation.  Newly liberated from any notion of the truth of Christian teaching, I was particularly interested in the period.  It was this course of study that first exposed me to the long history of cruelty and murder visited by the Christians and other religions on each other.  I learned how over the centuries one denomination massacred another in the name of faith.

I was appalled at the stories of the Christians and Muslims killing each other over religion.  I learned how the Muslims spread from their heartland of Arabia through North Africa and southern Europe, killing off the pagans they met along the way.  It seems they sometimes preserved the Jews and the Christians as fellow “people of the Book”.  What a revolting book!  My disgust with everything to do with faith and religion grew, until I became nauseous whenever I recalled my previous religious beliefs and practices.

My abhorrence of everything to do with faith in God grew as I learned of the sheer ignorance of the early church, the cruelties of the Inquisition, and the mass murder of the Amerindians.  Religious faith is the main cause, over the length of human history, of war, torture, murder, and mayhem.  I concluded that the root of all evil is religion.  I resolved for the rest of my life to do everything I could to oppose this evil dominion over the human mind and spirit.  In my early twenties I became what I still am, a militant atheist.

Legal practice, The Valley, Anguilla, 1989 (Penny Slinger)

I did not know it at the time, but my personality type is apparently obsessive-compulsive.  I suppose I am additionally on the autistic spectrum, certainly on the Asperger’s Syndrome scale.  I learned I was an obsessive-compulsive in a psychological course for judges organised by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in about the year 1999.  As part of this course, we had to fill out a questionnaire concerning our preferences and predilections.  At the end, we scored ourselves. 

The advice given us judges by the two lady professors from the University conducting the course was ominous.  The one personality-type you did not want to be if you were to be a good judge was the obsessive-compulsive type.  Apparently, the tendency for these sufferers is to make up your mind about the case you were trying when you are only half-way through the trial and have not yet heard all the evidence.

The professors explained that obsessive-compulsives have one advantage.  Coming to a decision is never a problem.  We do not spend days struggling to make our minds up.  We make our decision and act on it.  It is the perfect personality for a general of the army who must send men into battle to die.

I recall the Chief Justice sitting next to me peeping at the score I gave myself and whispering that I was not to worry at the results, as he was even higher on the obsessive-compulsive scale than I was.  He did not show me his score, so he may only have been trying to reassure me.

Courtroom No 2, Kingstown, Saint Vincent, 1999 (Aileen Smith)

In the years that followed my adolescent conversion to atheism, my confidence in the truth of this conviction only grew.  The more I read of the horrors inflicted by Christian leaders on their flocks, the more opposed to Christianity, and by extension to all faiths, grew.

It became apparent to me that the principal reason most men join any priesthood is their demented need to get into the pants of their young charges.  Men, I concluded, are driven by one or more of only three forces.  There is the need for sexual release, perhaps more powerful even than hunger.  There is the need to acquire wealth, a motive that has helped church leaders by tithing and donations to become rich as Croesus.  Then, there is the need for power.  With total control over the minds of their flocks, ministers of religion can extract cash, impose their sexual urges on the credulous boys and girls in their custody, and exercise unlimited power over their lives and fortunes.  Most popes, bishops, priests, pastors, reverends, mullahs, muftis, pundits, and Buddhist monks are predators.  Jim Jones was a perfectly developed example of a true man of faith.

It is not only male clerics who are monsters.  Reading of the evils of the Magdalene Sisters towards the girls of the Magdalene Laundries of Ireland during a period of two and a half centuries is stomach churning.  Women may enjoy a nurturing character not shared generally by men.  But faith can twist them into evil beings in the same way as men.

Acting Justice of the Court of Appeal, 2012 (Nat Hodge)

God, I am sure, has reserved the deepest and hottest part of Hell for members of the clergy of every faith and denomination.  The Christian variety, guilty of inflicting more harm, suffering, and pain than any of the others, I consign to spend all eternity in the deepest frozen pit of the Ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno.

And, what if, I am sometimes asked, when I die, I should come to judgment and meet God?  What will I do?  First, I will ask Him to explain what He was thinking of.  If He is indeed so all-powerful, all-seeing, all-pervasive, and all-merciful, what did He mean by allowing polio, smallpox, leprosy, measles, HIV, dengue, and the other haemorrhagic fevers, from bringing untold suffering, misery, and death to us humans over tens of thousands of years?  What kind of a loving and merciful god is He, that to gain His favour we must prostrate ourselves on the ground and grovel before Him? 

I still do not understand what abject ignorance causes so many of the credulous among us, in the middle of a pandemic and a hurricane, to praise His mercy and love with excessive religiosity even as our families and friends fall victim to acts of god.

I tell you that if I ever meet this evil, sadistic, and megalomaniac god, I plan on giving Him a good slapping up.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

God's Mother and Father

 


The Judeo/Christian God is of quite ancient ancestry.  He emerges from the Bronze Age (circa 3,200-1,200 BC), some 5,000 years ago.  In many ways, he is typical of the several other male, Middle Eastern, Bronze Age gods.  There was Horus of Egypt, Utu of the Sumerians, Helios of the Greeks, and many others.  But who were his mother and father?

For millennia, a variety of mother goddesses flourished in the Middle East.  She took many names and forms.  She is found in the Ashanti Asasa Ya; the Egyptian cat goddess, Bast; the Roman fertility goddess, Bona Dea; the Celtic hearth goddess, Brighid; the Greek goddess of the harvest, Demeter; and the Greek life force from which all other beings sprang, Gaia.  Freya was the Norse goddess of abundance, fertility, and war.  The Egyptian goddess Isis was honoured, as the mother of Horus.  She was the divine mother of every pharaoh of Egypt, and ultimately of Egypt itself.  The Egyptian goddess of fertility, Hathor, is often painted nursing her son Horus.  She is taken as the inspiration for the classic Christian portrait of the Madonna and Child.  There were countless others.

1. The Venus of Hohle Fels

The 40,000-year-old mammoth bone carving of the Venus of Hohle Fels (above) is the oldest known representation of the human form.  Its exaggerated anatomy and massive breasts are a powerful depiction of being female, symbolizing the fertility goddess’ characteristics of sex and reproduction.

 

2. The Venus of Willendorf

The 30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf (above) is another Stone Age carving discovered in Austria.  Hundreds of similar ancient female figures of the mother goddess have over the years been discovered by archaeologists.

Study of the history of religion through the ages reveals that the mother goddess took a variety of different forms.  Sometimes she was represented as a snake, or a vulture, or the Moon.  Each symbol represented a cycle of death, birth, and regeneration.  The snake hibernates, and then wakes up and sheds her skin.  The vulture recycles dead flesh by eating it.  The Moon dies and is reborn every 28 days, mirroring the feminine menstrual cycle.  The archaeological record shows that her veneration as the supreme god goes back tens of thousands of years.

In the millennia before the male god-figure rose to ascendancy in the Middle East, a variety of mother goddesses proliferated.  It is uncertain which one of them can with accuracy be named as Yahweh’s mother.  Worship of her was universal throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.  Her adoration in various forms lasted for tens of thousands of years, from early pre-history to the Iron Age.  She could have been any one of them, or all of them.  Her temples were gradually destroyed, and her cult extinguished, by the followers of male gods Mithras, Yahweh, God, and Allah as they began their ascent to the summit of mythology.  For the last two thousand years, these male versions of god have triumphed among the superstitious.

Her priestesses celebrated fertility, bounty, and life.  The fertility religions which venerated the mother goddess stood no chance of surviving once the male gods began their inexorable spread across the western world.  They could offer little opposition to the warlike adherents of the male gods who came to overthrow them.  One by one, the priestesses were sliced down, and their temples burned.  Left to lord it over the religious battlefields were the three Abrahamic gods:  Yahweh, the God of the Jews; the God of the Christians; and Allah, the god worshipped by the followers of Mohammed.  They hold sway among the superstitious of today.  Their main challenge is from those who have come to realise they are all made up superstitions.  But we can with some confidence conclude that Yahweh’s mother was the mother goddess of antiquity.

Yahweh’s paternity is subject to less uncertainty.  The Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep IV (1352-1336 BC) ruled an empire that included Palestine, Phoenicia, Nubia, and Egypt.  There were hundreds of gods of both genders worshipped throughout the empire.  Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaten when he established a new religion that taught there was but one god, the sun god Aten.  This theory of one supreme, male god was previously unknown.

3. The cartouche of Akhenaten’s name

Akhenaten and his wife, Queen Nefertiti, worshiped only the sun-god, Aten.  The priests of Amun and the other ancient gods of Egypt considered Akhenaten to be a heretic.  The Heretic King is believed to be the first person to promote a monotheistic religion, the belief in only one god.

Moses appears to have been an Atenist priest who was forced to leave Egypt with the people who were to become Israelites.  He and his followers took the new theory of a supreme male god with them out of Egypt.  Such an idea did not previously exist in the Middle East.  Some scholars even theorise that Moses was none other than Akhenaten himself, fleeing the uprising against him by the followers of the old gods.

4. King Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti with three of their daughters under the rays of the sun-god (circa 1350 BC)

The date of the Exodus from Egypt is uncertain and controversial.  It is placed by archaeologists as early as 1446 and as late as 1290 BC.  The details of Moses’ life, and the accuracy of the Hebrew Old Testament’s account of the Exodus, are mired in controversy.  This is not unusual given that the books of the Old Testament were preserved through centuries of unreliable oral tradition.  The stories of the Jewish Bible were not written down for the first time until Ptolemy II arranged for them to be documented in the mid-third century BC, a thousand years after they were first made up.  However, a date in the thirteenth century for the Exodus is generally accepted.  The identity of the specific pharaoh involved remains an open question.

It is clear from the sequence that it was this event that brought the male god, whom the Israelites subsequently came to name Yahweh, from Egypt to Israel.  This god whom Moses and his successors syncretised out of the Aten and the god versions of Canaan remained an essentially barbaric, murderous and jealous Bronze Age god.

5. Statue of Akhenaten

Akhenaten’s chosen religion did not survive long in its original form.  Once he left the scene, the worshipers of the old gods wasted no time in tearing down the temples to Aten and chiselling away most references to him on the monuments Akhenaten built.  But the Aten’s legacy survived elsewhere.  The progeny of the Aten flourished in the deserts of the Sinai Peninsula and later in the sands of Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula.

6. The Tetragrammaton YHWH, the name of God written in Hebrew

During their forty years in the desert, the Hebrew-speakers developed their theology of the male god, Yahweh.  He seems to have gradually evolved by a merger of the Aten of Egypt and El, the supreme god of the Mesopotamian Semites.  Moses can thus be said to have achieved the monotheism that Akhenaten sought to promote.  In this way an African deity, the Aten, has a good claim to be the one true father of Yahweh.

In the earliest Christian writings, the concept of God was governed by the invocation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Since the 1st century, Christians began to call upon God with this name.  By the time of the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325, this version of the Christian God had come to receive universal acceptance among believers.

Anxious to distinguish their god of the New Testament from the barbaric god of the Old, and to emphasise God’s preference for love over vengeance, the followers of Christ made several adaptations that Christians are familiar with today.  The Sermon on the Mount preached by Jesus, together with the three virtues taught by St Paul, remain core Christian teaching.  Christianity may be said to distinguish its adherents as sitting at a cultural peak of all religious superstition.

7. The earliest known depiction of the Trinity, 350 AD

It is interesting to note that, in syncretising his own version of god, the child-rapist, mass-murdering prophet of Allah, Mohammed, preferred the more savage version of god promoted by the Hebrews.  Allah, according to the teachings of Mohammed, has not mellowed with age as the Christian god has.  His followers still practise the barbaric customs of stoning to death, cutting off limbs and heads, and child rape as marriage, pioneered by the religious of the Bronze Age, promoted by the followers of Yahweh, and recommended by Mohammed.  He married his favourite wife, Aisha, when she was six, though he claimed not to have taken her to bed until she was nine years old.

The present-day followers of either one male god or the other are in a majority throughout the world’s believers.  Yahweh, the first son of the Aten, has a mere 15 million Jewish followers.  His half-brother, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is followed by 2.5 billion Christians.  The third and youngest son of the Aten, Allah, is worshipped by the followers of Mohammed who number some 2 billion.

Given that there are some 8 billion people in the world at this point in the early twenty-first century, that leaves 3.5 billion pagans who do not claim allegiance to any of these religions.  How many nominally religious persons believe the nonsense taught by the high priests of their male dominated religion is doubtful.  It is probably no more than fifty per cent.  But that is another story.

In conclusion, we observe that new religions traditionally emerge from among the poor and the oppressed.  Over time they progress from being a persecuted minority to the generally accepted code of belief.  Forecasting the future is more difficult than excavating the past.  But we can confidently anticipate that at some date in the future, when the religions of the Christians and the Muslims begin to go the way of Baal and the Aten, a Rastafarian Queen will ascend to the throne of England and her religion will be the norm through the civilised world.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Letter 2020

 

Don and Maggie wish you a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous and Healthy New Year in 2021.

We have done practically nothing at all for the year.  Our long-planned, grand, Easter, Maggie’s Family Gathering went down the tubes for a reason you will have no difficulty guessing.

Maggie’s annual summer trip to Europe went down the same tube. She retired from volunteering at WISE at the end of the summer term. At 72 and going deaf, she decided that 12 years was enough. She will miss the students and the teachers but will keep in touch. She does aquarobics 2-3 times a week, for an hour each time, and comes home exhausted and content to collapse for an hour or so while Don feeds the dogs.  She was re-elected to the Board of the Anguilla Mortgage Company at its (virtual) AGM in March and goes off to meetings at regular intervals.

Don’s main excitement was his cataract operation in nearby Marigot which meant he had to spend two weeks in quarantine in the Guest Shack.  He is now without spectacles.  As he has been heard solemnly announcing, this is the first time he has been able to drive a car without spectacles since he was seven years old.

Dick Foran was not in Anguilla to take Maggie for her traditional November Birthday meal at Hibernia Restaurant, so Don had to dig into his reserves and act as a stand-in.  A delicious meal as usual: 

1. Don and Maggie at Hibernia Restaurant

 

2. Don spectacle-less at Ola’s Restaurant

One adventure we enjoyed was taking advantage of Kathy Haskins’ special rate for a “staycation” for locals at her Shoal Bay Villas Hotel, and spent a lovely week playing at being tourists.

We have enlarged the family with three more mutts from AARF (Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation).  The two biggest take it in turns to spend the night inside on internal security guard.  The other four are on duty patrolling the outside.  We take the usual precautions urged on all retirees everywhere of trying to be home before nightfall, and ensuring the doors are all locked before we go up to bed.  If we are driving home after dark, we use the automatic door lock, and shut the windows.  With the coming layoffs in the public and private sectors, we expect civil disturbances, including home invasions of the elderly, to increase.  There is no evidence of this occurring at present, only our naturel paranoia.  Remember the old warning, “Just because I am paranoid does not mean they are not really out to get me.”

 

3. Maggie playing tourist at an empty Shoal Bay East beach

Our only overseas visitors were Gad and Ruth Heuman, friends from the Association of Caribbean Historians, who stayed at Carimar Beach Club.  Don enjoyed lecturing the Professor Emeritus of Caribbean History all about the history of Anguilla – Don’s version of it, anyway.

The yard occupied most of Don’s waking hours.  He has dug up almost every cubic centimeter of dirt and wheelbarrowed it outside the fence.  Only the pots in the vegetable garden will contain dirt.  The surface of the yard is now completely covered in concrete and gravel.  He is making good on his promise to himself that he will not spend his old age weeding Anguilla rock stones and pretending to keep a garden.

 

4. Don with 3 of the 5 children proudly showing off the graveled, dirt-less front lawn

 

The rest of the family (Morocoys) at dinner

Kitchen scraps and garden clippings, as you see above, go to the tortoises (the peafowl were lost in Hurricane Irma in 2017).  In Anguilla we have both the yellow leg and the red leg varieties.

 

6. Cheap labour employed to gravel the yard

The pandemic has been kind to Anguilla from a health point of view.  The few cases we have had were all caught either by testing at arrival, or at the second compulsory test taken towards the end of the guest’s obligatory 14-day quarantine.  Most of the staff employed in the tourist industry were laid off but received a monthly allowance from the Social Security Fund by an amendment to the Act made to permit this irregular use of the Fund.  The money won’t last much longer.

Keep safe, and hope to see you in the New Year.