God: the Original Fascist

Part 4a: Holy Wars—Manifest Destiny in a Biblical Setting

a series submitted by A. Brooks, a reader of REVOLUTION newspaper

Revolution #019, October 23, 2005, posted at revcom.us

EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of articles was submitted by a reader who was inspired by Bob Avakian’s writings and talks on religion and, further provoked by discussions and arguments with friends about the Bible, engaged in a systematic study of the first five books of the Bible. These books, which are known as the "Mosaic Books" (and which contain such crucial passages as that outlining the Ten Commandments), lay out the foundation for some of the Bible’s most important themes. After having read these five, Mosaic books of the Bible, the reader was struck even more deeply by how profoundly the essence of the Bible’s message has been distorted and hidden.

Parts 3a and 3b in the previous two issues showed how, according to the Bible, God consolidates his rule by total fear and terror.

Throughout history, horrible atrocities have been committed by one people against another in the name of God. These atrocities have been characterized by the highest degree of sadistic savagery, and have usually been fueled by two related notions: the notion of superiority as a people (with religion--and in particular, Christianity--frequently offered as the supposed justification for this designation of superiority); and the notion of entitlement to occupied land that comes with this notion of superiority. In other words, the philosophy driving conquest throughout history can often be boiled down to a notion that one people are entitled to the land of another because they are superior, with the religion of the invaders often serving as the means by which these invaders convince themselves of their superiority.

As mentioned earlier in this series, this type of logic has been used to justify horrific slaughter and destruction against innocent people--including in the "modern era," from the time Columbus first set foot in the Americas, to the enslavement of Africans in those same Americas, to the unspeakable horrors perpetrated upon Jews during the Holocaust, to the colonization of native peoples in Africa, Asia, and the Americas by European rulers.

It is again important to understand that it is no accident that brutal conquests such as these have so often been done in the name of a Christian God, or that religion has been cited as the means by which invaders shall dominate others, plunder their land, and then justify the whole thing. No, instead, the blueprint for this sort of Holy Conquest can indeed be found early and often in the Bible itself. The essence of the narrative found in the Five Mosaic books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) is this: God has "chosen" certain people and he is entrusting, instructing, and demanding that they follow absolutely his teachings and Commandments. Any of those within this "chosen people" who violate this absolute rule and its absolute commandments--and certainly any human beings who do not belong to this chosen people to begin with--had better take cover!

The understanding that conquest is a key theme of the Bible can be reached following two general paths: One is by studying the story of God’s chosen people as they trek towards the land of Canaan, which God has promised to give to this people and their descendants. In tracing this story, it quickly becomes apparent that this "promised land" is not vacant, but rather is occupied by a variety of peoples, including the Amorites, the Hittites, the Canaanites, and the Jebusites. The other main way to arrive at a full picture of the brutality committed in God’s name is to simply study what God repeatedly says should be done to any peoples--in general, in any time or place--whom his chosen people encounter, especially if, in any way, they pose an obstacle to god’s great plan.

Let us begin with the first theme: God’s ruthless ethnic cleansing in the land of Canaan. We first read of God’s plan to annihilate all inhabitants of this land in order to clear the way for his chosen people in Exodus: "When my angel goes before you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I annihilate them, you shall not bow down to their gods in worship, to follow their practices, but shall tear them down and smash their pillars to bits." (Exodus 23) Here we see the clear justification that God is offering behind his total destruction of foreign peoples and towns: the fact that the people of these towns are worshipping other Gods besides Himself. In the next passage, the Bible makes it clear that the peoples whose fate is annihilation are, at the time he is speaking, the inhabitants of the very land he has promised to his followers: "I will send forth my terror before you, and I will throw into panic all the people among whom you come....I will send a plague ahead of you, and it shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites... I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hands and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not remain in your land, lest they cause you to sin against me." (Exodus 23)

In the above passage, we see one of the first instances of an insidious and recurring theme that the Bible offers up: Refusal to make peace with other peoples, even if these peoples are willing to make peace with God’s followers! Further on in Exodus, God again commands his followers that under no circumstances must they make peace with those who inhabit Canaan: "Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest there be a snare in your midst. No, you must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, and cut down their sacred posts." (Exodus 34)

In Leviticus, God refers again to one of his favorite practices--inflicting plagues as a punishment on those who do not follow him: "When you enter the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I inflict an eruptive plague upon a house in the land you possess," God begins, before outlining the proper procedure for cleaning a house that God Himself infected with the plague! (Leviticus 14) In Leviticus 20, God again offers a supposed justification for the brutality he is inflicting upon the inhabitants of Canaan: That justification, once again, is that the inhabitants of the land deviated from or resisted his ways: "You shall faithfully observe all my laws and all my regulations, lest the land to which I bring you in to settle spew you out. You shall not follow the principles of the nation that I am driving out before you. For it is because they did all these things that I abhorred them and said to you: `You shall possess their land, for I will give it to you to possess.’" (Leviticus 20)

In Numbers, God speaks to Moses and employs a familiar trick device used by conquerors and imperialists throughout history: casting the conquered in the role of the aggressor, and the invaders in the role of the attacked. God provides to Moses a series of instructions for the proper procedure for when "You are at war in your land against an aggressor who attacks you." (Numbers 10) Notice the way in which God has distorted the equation here: His followers have assembled armies to invade a land that is already occupied, yet God refers to it as "your land" by mere virtue of the fact that God has decided that things are so. Proceeding from this assumption that the land of Canaan is naturally "theirs," God’s followers are then supposed to be imbued with some sort of legitimacy that makes any attack on them by "aggressors" (i.e., those already inhabiting the land) illegitimate. Taking a look at the current U.S. occupation of Iraq, as well as the countless other wars waged by American and other imperialist powers, I must return to my refrain: Sound familiar?

Next week: Part 4b: How God also relies on his chief foot soldiers to articulate his philosophy of conquest.