And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. – Genesis 22:9-13
The recent events in Manchester, where children died in a heinous act supposedly meant to appease the madness of the god of the desert, made me think of the episodes of child sacrifice in the Bible–like the murder of Jephtha’s daughter, or the attempted murder of Isaac. Many of the audience members were little girls. It seems like the “logic” of the demented fanatic who planned the attack had something to do with how girls should not go to concerts, or enjoy pop music, or do anything fun.
The fact that the attack does not at all surprise me may be a sign that these kinds of terrorist acts have now become officially normal in the West. Militant atheism becomes morally necessary when child sacrifice is treated as normal by men of God.
Let’s say, for the sake of extracting didactic value from the parable, that the events described in Genesis 22 are historical. Might it not be possible that the “angel” or voice that stopped Abraham from offering his own son as a “burnt offering” was …. well, an ATHEIST that happened to be walking by? Is it not possible that a man of no piety, moved by the sight of an old bearded man who was about to raise his knife to slay a child, either impersonated a heavenly voice from a tree top, or showed himself and shamed Abraham, and maybe even provided his own ram to be sacrificed instead? That’s certainly far more plausible than the descent of an angel or extraterrestrial being from the heavens–which then raises the question of why an angel didn’t intervene in the sacrifice of Jephtha’s daughter later in another Biblical book.
I would argue that we need more atheistic angels today engaging in activism on behalf of the world’s children. The Manchester attack specifically targeted young girls in their teens and tweens. But elsewhere in the world, there is genetal mutilation of girls, violence in schools in Islamized countries where fanatics do not believe girls should be afforded access to an education in order to escape the cycles of poverty, and in the US we are seeing the appropriation of the education system by religious groups under the auspices of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, an extremist hell-bent on establishing a kind of Christian theocracy in the United States.
One worrisome and undiscussed aspect of this problem is that the ill effects of massive indoctrination frequently take a full generation to be seen–as we saw in Uganda with the Kill the Gays bill, which was advanced about a decade after the Republicans in the US earmarked a full third of money meant for HIV prevention education in Africa for “abstinence only” programs–a coded way of transferring millions of dollars to homophobic churches so that they can spread hatred against vulnerable LGBT individuals in African lands. The connection between the Christian Right in America and the fanatical anti-gay hysteria that led to violence by mobs of Christians and near genocide of LGBT people, was explored by Rachel Maddow and also covered by the Life Media. The main questions raised by these events in my mind are: what do we owe the future generations of LGBT citizens in our own country? How will the children indoctrinated thanks to DeVos’ efforts vote and behave towards their gay neighbors and children in the future, when they’re adults? Will they have a basic grasp of science, and be able to apply critical thinking skills, or will they choose faith over facts?
In order to obtain protection from other men, any means for attaining this end is a natural good. – Epicurus’ Principal Doctrine 6
Imagined this way, as redemption by an atheist, the unbinding of Isaac takes on a whole new meaning as an act of godless grace and as liberation from the curse of Abrahamic fanaticism. Perhaps it is time for secular angels to emerge again and intervene to proactively protect the children. High on the agenda:
- We must protect the right of all children to a fully secular education, free from religious coercion and indoctrination, at home and abroad
- We must confront the genital mutilation of girls (and, perhaps, also of boys) by making it illegal and prosecuting the perpetrators
- We must make sure that whatever sexual education teenagers get, is free from Platonic / anti-sexuality propaganda by religious groups
- Religious beliefs are not above reproach: they have REAL consequences in the lives of people who may or may not share them, and many of these beliefs are evil. It is in the best interest of civilized society of investigate and criminalize those who hold and spread dangerous and evil religious beliefs, for the sake of safety. Religious liberty must not be construed as the right to endanger the lives, the health, and the safety of others.
This blog is written in memory of the victims of the Islamic attack in Manchester and in solidarity with all Epicureans and secularists.