Misunderstanding The Sky Man

It may be that, as humanity spread across the globe, each small band of hunter-gathers feared and hated every other small band, seeing both the intrinsically creepy Not-Us and a situational competitor for resources. We cannot know for sure, but we should note that most other animals seem to behave this way. Even so, something new entered the world when the meme of “chosen people” was invented to put a powerful sky man behind the normal animal desire for one’s neighbour’s goods, mates or territory. This locked the fear and hatred in to a degree that would hardly have been possible before; if self-interest failed, instruction could step in. What is more, the instruction plugged straight into the greatest human psychic need after food and shelter and so forth – not the high-falutin’ concept of self-realisation but the down-and-dirty need to be better than you (see my essay “A Theory of Everybody”). Having to share the status of Chosen by the Sky Man with a limited number of other members of your in-group is actually quite a small price to pay, given the size of the out-group whom you have now been given divine permission to despise. And loot.

Once the fatal idea is formulated, it need not be confined to the primal inventors, but is available to everyone. All you need to do is pick some external distinguishing mark you bear, and say that the Sky Man has chosen people with this mark to rule over all others, or at the least to be better than them. Do the thought experiment: think of some group marker and then imagine that the Sky Man has called all its bearers to be a chosen people authorised to plunder the rest. Does it work? Of course it does. There is scarcely any individual, and certainly not any group, who would say no to the chance of sky-sanctioned acquisition. And no one is immune to the siren song of being told that they are better than others. We might even ask whether there is in fact any other reason to believe in the Sky Man. Perhaps asking him for better crops or a wife or an exam pass all came later and the very bottom line, the original prime directive, was “Grab the cockroach’s Stuff!” Another ancient function of the Sky Man, also perhaps preceding petitionary prayer, was to excuse and divert attention from poor tribal leadership.

It is true that you generally get adherents of the Sky Man who take a different line, ‘spiritualising’ the predatory message so that it means something about one’s own moral rearmament instead of demonising the neighbours for whose goods you hunger so. But these are always an eccentric minority. Rather than saying that they alone perceive the true message, we might equally well say that they are the ones who have never gotten with the original programme – which we could therefore describe as a not-for-prophet enterprise.

Posted on July 28, 2009 at 22:13 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Economic Tech

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