Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book One - The Church of the Conquerors

The Butcher-Gods

In this last sentence we have summed up the fundamental fact about institutionalized religion. Wherever belief and ritual have become the means of livelihood of a class, all innovation will of necessity be taken as an attack upon that class, it will be literally a crime - robbing the priests of their age-long privileges. And of course they will oppose the robber - using every weapon of terrorism, both of this world and the next. They will require the submission, not merely of their own people, but of their neighbors, and their jealousy of rival priestly castes will be a cause of wars. The story of the early days of mankind is a sickening record of torture and slaughter in the name of ten thousand butcher-gods.

Thus, for example, we read in the Hebrew religious records how the priests were engaged in establishing the prestige of a fetish called "the ark"; and how the people of one tribe violated this fetish and wakened the wrath of Jehovah, the god.

And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and three score and ten men; and the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?

This terrible old Hebrew divinity said of himself that he was "a jealous god." Throughout the time of his sway he issued through his ministers precise instructions for the most revolting cruelties, the extermination of whole nations of men, women and children, whose sole offense was that they did not pay tribiite to Jehovah's priests. Thus, for example, the chief of his prophets, Moses, called the people together, and with all solemnity, and with many warnings, handed down ten commandments graven upon stone tablets; he went on to set forth how the people were to set upon and rob their neighbors, and gave them these blood-thirsty instructions:

When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: ... But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.

The records of this Jehovah are full of similar horrors. He sent his chosen people out to destroy the Midianites, and they slew all the males, but this was not sufficient, and Moses was wroth, and commanded them to kill all the married women, and to take the single women "for themselves." We are told that sixteen thousand single women were spared, of whom "the Lord's tribute was thirty and two!" In the Book of Joshua we read that he had an interview with a supernatural personage called "the captain of the Lord's host," and how this captain had given to him a magic spell which would destroy the city of Jericho. The city should be accursed, "even it and all that are therein, to the Lord"; every living thing except one traitor-harlot was to be slaughtered, and all the wealth of the city reserved to the priestly caste. This was carried out to the letter, except that "Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing" - that is, he hid some gold and silver in his tent; whereupon the army met with a defeat, and everybody knew that something was wrong, and Joshua rent his clothes and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord, and got another message from Jehovah, to the effect that the guilty man should be burned with fire, "he and all that he hath."

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned him with stones.

We have no means of knowing what was the character af the unfortunate inhabitants of the city of Jericho, nor of the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and all the rest of the victims of Jehovah. To be sure, we are told by the Hebrew priests that they sacrificed their children to their gods; but then, consider what we should believe about the Hebrew religion, if we took the word of rival priestly castes! Consider, for example, that in this 20th century we saw an orthodox Jew tried in a Russian court of law for having made a sacrifice of Christian babies; nevertheless we know that the Jews represent a considerable part of the intelligence and idealism of Russia. We know in the same way that the Moors had most of the culture and all of the scientific knowledge of Spain, that the Huguenots had most of the conscience and industry of France: and we know that they were massacred or driven out to death by the priestly castes of the Middle Ages.

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