In The Beginning (A Chapter from my book A Field Guide To Humanity, Volume I)


Humans, species Homo Sapiens Sapiens Sapiens (‘wise wise wise man’), are the dominant, if arrogantly-named, life-form on Earth. En Masse, it is correct to refer to the nearly 7 Billion humans as ‘Humanity’, despite the fact that curiously few of them have ever been shown to be humane. ‘Self-Absorbed Jerks’ is more accurate, but is generally considered less proper, and often leads to a physical confrontation which will be won by the more muscular, rather than the more correct, individual.

Humanity has numerous ideas about how they came to be, what their place is in the Universe, what’s it all about, and various other angsty topics. There are a huge number of religions, belief-systems, philosophies, and cop-outs, to deal with these questions, and more are being invented every day, mostly in San Francisco, where crafting a new religion is a pastime right up there with the cross-word puzzle.  Outside of the Bay Area, new religions are basically built out of old religions – mostly by applying ridiculous levels of importance to a single, utterly trivial, vague scriptural reference. The fact that the subject was apparently unimportant enough that Almighty God didn’t see the point of making his feelings clear on the issue never seems to get brought up.

“Sadly,” commented one southern pastor with evident relish, “While large numbers of people throughout the world think the tenets of Christianity involve faith in the Lord and love for their fellow-men, they run the risk of damnation for not washing one another’s feet after the example of our Lord!”

There are similar claims made by sects which say that what’s really important to God is Worship on Saturday rather than Sunday, or Baptism by total immersion rather than sprinkling, speaking gibberish, handling venomous snakes, or confession to a Priest prior to death.

Apart from Christianity, there are religions that claim you can only attain eternal life by being born into the right ethnic group, and others that claim eternity is reserved for those wearing a full beard, while abstaining from alcohol, oppressing women, and addressing God 5 times a day, on their knees, facing East. Failure to subscribe to the more extreme version of that particular faith is rewarded by death, sometimes administered by rockets, crashing airliners, or by proximity to an exploding member of the faithful wearing a coat lined with C4 (said member gets an immediate pass into heaven, along with the flight-crews of the crashing airliners – the guy firing the rockets has to wait, despite his arguably important addition to the infidel death-toll.)

The above descriptions apply to religions generally accepted as ‘Legitimate’ by the US Government, if not by one another. Other religions, typically referred to as ‘cults’, usually don’t last long enough to attain Governmental acceptance, as their members have a tendency to commit mass-suicide on the evening news …

Despite the plethora of beliefs, both theological and temporal, in general attempts to explain the origin of things fall into one of two categories:  ‘Special Creation’, and ‘Scientific Cosmology’.

In Special Creation, as is claimed by 3 of the 5 major religions, a Deity specifically created the world and the human race in all of their current glory, only better.  Most of these stories involve people hand-crafted out of dirt, specify the perfection of these adobe people (except that the Male is generally touted as being the somewhat more perfect of the pair), then posit a Fall, where one of them (the woman usually gets the blame) did something stupid, and the man was too busy staring at her breasts to correct her, and both get their asses kicked out of paradise, and, as a result of their stupidity, the entire planet goes from being “Very Good”, in the estimation of the Deity, to “Meh …”  In many of these accounts, not long after this, things go so utterly wrong that the Deity wipes out nearly everyone in a great flood, and starts over, only he kept some of the original dirty people around, so stuff quickly goes to hell again.

The other two major religions, Buddhism and  Hinduism, grew out of the same roots, the Cosmology of which falls strangely between western religions and science: it declares that no one can know the exact origin of all things – a creation undeniably took place, but no one has yet claimed responsibility, nor issued any demands.

Scientific Cosmology takes a more ‘rational’, ‘reasoned’ approach – an approach based on observation, experimentation, and hard, provable facts.  In this view, the Universe just happens to happen, because it happened, ok, and, though one of its fundamental laws is the idea of causality, when scientists are pressed as to just WHY it all happened, they typically say “It just did ! Ok? If it didn’t, we’d need a God to kick things off and we can’t have that!”

In any case they describe a tumultuous Big Bang, originating at an indescribably tiny spec into which all the matter and energy of the known Universe was squeezed. Or maybe rubbed. The explosion resembled an orgasm, which many of these people have never come by honestly, and things have been coasting along ever since – presumably there are cigarettes, and pillow-talk going on somewhere, most likely hidden from view behind the postulated Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which absolutely cannot be detected, but which makes up about 80% of the known Universe. They think. But, hey, they aren’t asking anyone to take it on faith, except that, yes they are…

“Look,” an irritated cosmologist explained, “The Math is really complex, ok, and we haven’t, uh, completely worked everything out … just trust us, and try not to call that faith. Because we have math. And stuff.”

It should be fairly clear by the above that neither Religion nor Science adequately describes things, and both are in a perpetual war for funding. Or the souls of mankind. If those exist. And I’m not saying. So there.

While the two views differ considerably regarding the origin of the Universe, the Scientific view offers no insight at all into the afterlife.  Religion enthusiastically jumps on this deficit, and an absolutely ungodly number of teachings ensue.

In the religious view, an afterlife generally involves some idea of morality, and there’s usually an escape-clause that allows people to be jerks while they’re actually living, then be forgiven for being jerks and go on living forever.  Whether or not they’re allowed to continue to be jerks depends on the specific flavor of the religion involved. The Norse, Greeks, Romans, and some versions of Islam, for instance, treat the afterlife as an extension of this life, only with hotter chicks.  Animist religions, like Shinto, generally teach that if you live a crappy life, you come back as something like a manure-shovel, while, if you live a good life you come back as a song-bird (then have the opportunity to die from eating pesticide-ridden worms, because some other guy is living a crappy life.)  Buddhists tend to believe you live many lives, slowly learning to be better and better people, till you reach perfection, and become Everything and also Nothing.  A leading Buddhist Monk, who asked not to be identified, described it as “Kinda Zen, kinda mystical, and it really can’t be explained to you ordinary mortals, so just take our word for it that it’s great, and get back to your life-lessons before our Karma runs over your Dogma!”

With Karmic justice, if you live a bad life, you come back as yet another person, but bad crap happens to you till you get it right. Given the number of people living crappy lives, and the number of people complaining that crappy things happen to them, one has to assume that Karma is an utter bitch. Meanwhile, there’s no evidence that anyone has made it all the way to the top, except for Buddha, and, while there are no witnesses, I’m not about to say he doesn’t exist/unexist, because if he happens to be/not be, I don’t want him pissed/not pissed at me.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims live their lives, and then are Judged.  If they’ve lived well, and qualified for the grand forgiveness package, they’re required to be ‘perfect’ in the afterlife, which is hardly ever visualized as being fun. I mean, really, even if it’s not Harps and Clouds and hymn-singing and stuff, no one’s allowed to tell dirty jokes, or do any of the things that are typically mentioned in dirty jokes, so it’s really hard to see how anyone will be having any fun. I mean, at all. If, on the other hand, they’ve lived crappy lives, or failed to qualify for forgiveness, they go to Hell, which is widely considered to be even less fun – but at least they don’t have to be perfect, so they’re free to bitch about it.

There’s also Hinduism, featuring an enormous pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, many of whom are equipped with extra appendages, and who are pictured as having the most perfect breasts to be found in all antiquity.  Hindus apparently believe in the whole many lives thing – which gave rise to Buddhism – but, in their version, when you do good, you move up a step in the divine evolution from bugs, through various beasts, to the different castes of human from untouchable to brahmin. Eventually, if you play your cards right, you come back as a cow. It apparently doesn’t get any better than life as a cow, but at least in India, they’re sacred, rather than, as in the US, the source of hamburgers.

The last of the great religions is Sikhism, which I know jack about, but those guys look really fierce, and I’m not about to piss them off by just making stuff up.

I said the ‘Great Religions’, because the ones I mentioned boast the greatest numbers of followers – but there are plenty of other religions in the world, from Wicca and Paganism, to Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and various cults.  Many of these distribute literature about themselves, or go door to door with their message of faith and hope, not unlike old-style book and record clubs.  Getting yourself off their mailing lists is roughly as difficult as counting to 8 zillion by prime numbers, and it is frequently simpler to just answer your door with a flame-thrower.

Science, while saying nothing about an afterlife, has lots to say about life in general. The scientific view postulates that creatures started out as simple single-celled organisms, and gradually evolved into more complex forms. This can easily be demonstrated for every species except man (who, the scientists insist, is no different from any other animal, except that there are sex-offenders, and some members of the species have tried mating with other species, which is disgusting, but didn’t actually screw up evolution, because there are no off-spring from that sort of thing. Except, you know, between Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans.  But definitely not with sheep!)

When it comes to Humanity, even the scientists are forced to admit, the whole damned process has come off the rails. Mankind is the only species on this planet (or any of the others, as far as humans know) that actively uses scientific and technological break-throughs to prevent evolution from weeding out the most idiotic of human behaviors.

A simple glance at man’s recent history will bear me out. Before fuses and circuit-breakers were invented, for instance, idiots were electrocuted, died, and often left no children to pass along the genes that encoded for that particular form of idiocy. In the past two centuries, not only has fuse and circuit-breaker technology advanced to unparalleled heights, but law-makers, known to be among the most idiotic members of the species, have insisted that the law contain requirements to install these things, so that people stupid enough to use a blow-dryer in their shower survive to sue the manufacturer of the blow-dryer for not printing an explicit warning on the device that you shouldn’t use the damned thing in a shower or you could die …

It’s getting worse, too, as more and more idiots pass on their genes to new generations of total freaking idiots. Since the latter half of the 20th Century, the United States, arguably the most advanced country in the world, has been forced to print labels on, build safeguards for, or recall, anything that could even be remotely imagined to hurt anyone, under the wildest, most bizarre circumstances. Ever. And hundreds of thousands of people every year fail to read the warnings, do the idiotic thing that the warning warns them not to do, and are saved from death by the safe-guards, so that

they can pass on their genes to their increasingly idiotic off-spring. Along with the settlement proceeds from their increasingly idiotic, but successful, lawsuits.

This is all kinds of messed-up.

Sorry. I’m supposed to be discussing religion. We’ll get into Law later in the book. After I’ve had my blood-pressure medicine.

Mankind’s earliest religions we know very little about:  most of what is known is from beautifully executed cave paintings in France and Spain, which depict an Animist-style religion similar to that practiced by many hunter-gatherer peoples today.  The art depicts rituals where guys dressed like animals dance in a ritual circle, to bring good luck to their hunters.

This is sort-of like a guy telling himself that if he dresses up like a woman, and prances around, he’ll get laid. (While this approach is remarkably effective for Gays, heterosexuals find it considerably less productive. Admittedly, very few hetero men are graceful enough to pull it off, and, as the old saying has it, “Laughter is the Enemy of Desire”. A somewhat newer saying is that “Most men in drag are freaking hilarious!” Oddly, women tend to be just as attractive when dressed up as men as they are wearing lady-clothes – leading one to strongly suspect that men are just funny looking, and that we don’t really notice it till they draw attention to themselves by wearing dresses.)

After about 30,000 years of that, animist traditions stopped all over Europe in favor of more organized religions. Presumably, one of the guys called a meeting and said “Look, fellas, this ain’t working … I know a guy, who knows a guy that says …”

Violá … organized western celtic religion is born.  Eventually, whole pantheons of Gods and Goddesses came into being, from Odin the All-Father, and Zeus the Lord of the Gods, to Smelleus, the forgotten Greek God of Room Deodorizers (Ok, yeah, I admit it, I made that one up.)  Many of these deities had the manners of a spoiled child, while others seemed to delight in having weird sex. Zeus was particularly well known for this, getting it on with women in the shape of a Bull, a Swan, a thunder-cloud, etc …

Parenthetically, to the best of my knowledge, no one in all of western civilization has ever asked what the hell Leto was doing making it with a Swan. Or how that was mechanically possible. Or why Leto was ok with people publicizing it. I mean, nowadays, accuse a President of getting a blow from an intern and he’ll smile modestly and proclaim he didn’t have sex with that woman – yet there Leto is, not even threatening legal action …

Never mind. You get the point. And, if you don’t, the point is, no one has ever questioned it – which says some seriously icky things about human sexuality.

These early religions had no discernible ethical or moral teachings, nor any particular code of behavior, except that whatever ridiculous thing a God or Goddess told you to do, you’d better freaking do, or something awful was going to happen! Alternatively, if someone made a prophesy, you should really just give up and deal with it, because trying to find a loop-hole was just asking for trouble!

Take Oedipus, for example. Someone made a prophesy that he was going to grow up to murder his father and marry his mother, which, c’mon, even without a whole lot of morality in your religion is generally considered to be bad. And, you know, icky. So his dad decides “Screw this!” and ties the kid’s feet together and leaves him laying out on a mountainside to die. Some shepherds come along, not knowing anything of the icky prophesy, and they’re all like “Oooooh, a babythis should get the wife off my ass!” And they take him away and raise him and, yes, you guessed it, he grows up to murder his father and marry his mother …

Later, not knowing the dude who killed the King was himself (I mean, heck, he figured it was just another old dude that he killed,) he goes looking for the King’s killer, figures out that it was himself, is stupid enough to come clean to his Mom/Wife, who promptly offs herself, and then he decides he can make up for it all by blinding himself. With some needles he swiped off of the corpse of Mommy/Wifey.

(Sadly, that’s not the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of. It’s not even the weirdest thing I’ve heard of this year! Not to disturb you or anything, but … ok, never mind: it would disturb you.)

(It involves guys voluntarily whacking off vital body parts. I’m not kidding. Deliberately. I mean, really, what kind of sick idiot decides to amputate his own … sorry. Disturbing. Not another word. Promise.)

(But Ewwwww!!!!)

Ahem. Religion. Yeah …

Sometime after the Hellenic period, but before the Vikings stopped raping and murdering and took up permanent residence in places that were increasingly hip-deep in Christians, and decided “what the hell, when in western Europe …”, Religion began to embody principles of Ethics and Morality.

Most of these ideas were pretty standard in civilization by that time, but people were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that their Gods were always behaving suspiciously like ill-mannered Frat-boys, what with the carousing, and the stealing and the murdering, and raping. Worse, given that everyone knew those stories, and that blind dude went and made them all into some catchy rhymes, a disturbing number of guys were walking around thinking they could do whatever they damned-well pleased – if it was ok for Zeus, or Hercules, or Achilles, after all, why the hell shouldn’t they be allowed to rape, murder, steal, etc???

Something had to be done. And, in about 1772 BC, a guy named Hammurabi, who was a King in Babylon, reasoned “Hell, maybe no one ever told these guys this sort of thing was wrong …”  Given the amount of poetry lauding rape/murder/stealing, and the absolute lack of any poetry stating the opposite, this seemed plausible.

The first problem, he realized, was that no one had ever written down a code of laws, so he grabbed a bunch of his Priests/Scholars/Smart-guys-women-won’t-sleep-with (in those days, rather than fight it, most scribes were Eunuchs, and could therefore claim that it wasn’t their fault they weren’t getting any,) and set them to work writing down the laws of his kingdom on stone and clay tablets. Finally, there was a code! There was law, there was going to be order! Then Residual$!!!

Soon after, of course, he realized that the second problem was that no-one knew how to read.


While wracking his brains for a solution, he briefly considered putting the whole thing in verse – I mean the impetus for all manner of bad behavior was epic poetry, so maybe the solution was law, in the form of epic poetry. Early focus groups found it all boring and demanded to hear more Rape/Murder/Plunder poems …

“Ok,” he thought “New plan!  We start working it into all the religion we’re dinning into these guys, so they’ll make offerings at the temple … ” (which he split with the priestly types and used to finance his fleet of golden chariots.)

Or, well, something like that. I’m just guessing here. What is known is that the Code of Hammurabi was the first written compilation of law, and, given that God never sued Hammurabi for copyright infringement, it must be assumed the 10 commandments happened soon after  that.

Jewish Law Firms have been an important part of history ever since.

Did you enjoy this post?  If so, check out A Field Guide to Humanity, Volume I, from which it is drawn!,-volume-i

You might also want to check out my website, or subscribe to my Bublish Profile …


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~ by dourscot on April 17, 2015.

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