I have a really cool brother in law named Brad. Right before I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2002 I went and hung out with Brad one night and as a going away gift he gave me a book he thought I'd enjoy. It was called "Skinny Legs & All" by Tom Robbins. I didn't like it and put it down pretty quickly. I was a very different person then (a republican even) and I had never really questioned my beliefs up to that point.
A year or two later I decided, for one reason or another, to give "Skinny Legs & All" another shot and this time I finished it. Its pretty good but this is not a review. In the book one of the characters, a rabbi, tells the protagonist that Old Testament Israel perpetrated what he considered to be the first Holocaust on the cultures of Phoenicia and Canaan. I thought this was interesting so I dived into my copy of the old testament for some investigation. I think this was the first big step in my de-conversion from Christianity.
I'm not going to go through the story in detail because you can find your own copy to reference, but I'll summarize the big points for you.
Moses had been leading the Israelites around in the desert for quite some time, because they weren't quite ready to enter the land that Yahweh had promised them. But then Moses died, and made Joshua their leader. Whereas Moses was content to wander around in the desert until Yahweh, in his wisdom, deemed it the right time to move into the promised land, Joshua wasn't so patient. Did I mention that the "Promised Land" already had people living there? It did. They were the Canaanites and Phoenicians and they had their own cultures with rich, creative, full lives and if our holy text can be relied on, they didn't pick this fight.
But Yahweh told Joshua that "wherever the sole of your foot falls, I have given to you." So big Josh decides its time to take the land they were promised. He sends spies into the city of Jericho to scope it out but the authorities get wind of it and start looking for the spies. Thank god for whores though, because one of them hid the spies in her house and lied to the cops for them. She basically sells out her own people to save her ass and makes a deal with the spies to spare her and her family when the onslaught comes. What character! What integrity!
So according to the good book, Josh and his crew march around the city seven times and then when they do their battle cry the walls fall down. Then they proceed to murder every man, woman, and child in the city. They also kill the donkeys and steal all the silver and gold because that's important to Yahweh. I guess the 10 Commandments should read "Do not murder.. except people that aren't Hebrew...I don't care so much for them."
Some people will say that the miracles are proof that Yahweh wanted this done. Oh yeah, he also parted another river so they could get there. But I say that history is told by those who win. Who was left to contradict them? They perpetrated genocide and infanticide on the opposing culture. They could've written that Yahweh himself came down and ended the fight with a sawed off shotgun and a flaming baseball bat, if they'd wanted to. And what was the Canaanites' crime? Not being Israelites? Living on land that was someone else's even though they were probably the first to inhabit it?
Then the book of Joshua also makes sure to mention how famous Joshua became and how everyone thought he was such a badass. Yeshua makes a big deal about humility and the meek inheriting the earth. I'm wondering how he would've worked this invasion.
I don't even honestly know if this happened at all. I mean, I'm pretty sure all of the miracles are made up to make it look like a mission from the Most High and not so much a crazy blood thirsty bigot leading his people to commit mass murder. But I think my biggest problem is how the church views this asshole. As a hero.
So to me there are two different ways to view this epic, each as distasteful as the next.
1. This is the story of a sick man who came into power over a nomadic people who were tired of being nomadic. They committed a holocaust and used a deity to cover their shame with arrogance and self importance. This was ethnic cleansing in its earliest incarnation and if we read about it anywhere other than the bible it would turn our stomachs and rightly so.
2. Let's suppose that every word of this is true and Yahweh really did request these things of his humble servant Joshua. If that is the case, then Yahweh is simply not a loving god. He is a monster; a primitive, sadistic, blood thirsty, racist, monster to whom we are all playthings. I wouldn't want him living on my street let alone bow to him.
The church could look at this story and say, "Let us never forget how we have inside us all a potential for evil, as Joshua did. Let us learn from his vanity." Instead they look at it and say, "He had to wipe them out or else their cultures would influence the Hebrew culture and they were God's chosen people, they had to stay pure. So its good that he did that. Yahweh has a plan." The whole thing is silly. If someone came up to you and said with conviction, "God has given me your house." What would you honestly think about that person? Would you move your shit out that day to make room for God's servant? Or would you call the cops because this person is clearly deranged and makes you feel more than a little uncomfortable? That's the one I'd do. If god wants someone else to have my house he should at least run it by me first. I'm sure the Canaanites would've appreciated the courtesy, as well.
I know a lot of the people that read this blog are Christians and Jews and it is certainly not my intention to offend you in anyway. It is my intention to share my journey in the hopes that it makes you take a little closer look at your god and your faith. I've talked to a lot of believers lately and to me it seems that the only difference between me and several of them is that they still have a desire to believe these things and I do not. But wanting something to be true or good and something actually being true and good are not the same things.
I hope we all find what we're looking for.