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July 08, 2007
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July 08, 2007

Page: 32/37

Home > 2007 Issues > July 08, 2007

Think It Over

Should we accept the tribal gods of others?

By M.S.N. Menon

How can we? They reflect the values and experience of their creators. We have our tribal gods. They reflect our values and experience. One cannot change one?s history for the history of another. This is not possible.

Yahweh is the tribal God of the Jews, Jehovah of the Christians, Allah of the Arabs and Indra of the Aryans. They cannot be converted into universal gods. Their tribal associations will never be forgotten.

?What has degraded religion to a theatre of cruelty and barbarity,? says Valson Thampu, an eminent Christian leader of India (recently appointed Principal of St. Stephen?s College, Delhi) ?is the ownership mentality (intrinsic to tribal religions) of the devotees vis-?-vis their respective gods. Yet the truth is that, he says, ?a God owned by a segment of the human species is no God.?

What is so bizarre about this whole thing is the effort of Christianity and Islam, both tribal religions, to impose their tribal gods on the rest of mankind. The Hindus and Jews are free from this folly.

Hence it is that we have two contrary images of gods in almost all religious traditions, says Rev. Thampu. The first image is that of a tribal God, whose affinities and concerns are limited to a designated group?a tribe. The other image (now being promoted as part of modernisation and prettification in order to globalise their presence) is that of a transcendent deity, who has no favourites and whose concerns are non-partisan.

Today tribal gods are out of fashion. They appear to be very primitive. Hence the efforts to make them appear transcendent. Let us see how it is done.

Jewish holy books suggest that Yahweh was only a minor tribal God (Deuteronomy). He was chosen God of the Jews because he was a God of war. The Jews were in great need of a warrior God. Moses himself was a warrior. Hence his preference for Yahweh.

To give the Jews additional identification, Moses abolished idols and idolatry. And he introduced circumcision among Jews. Above all, he entered into a covenant with Yahweh by which Jews agreed to worship only one God?Yahweh. And Yahweh promised in turn to defend the Jews and dwell among them.

The covenant followed the model of treaties which Hittite kings drew up with their vassals. The vassals promised to follow no other law but that of the Hittite king. This became the foundation of monotheism followed by the Semitic peoples.

Almost all tribal gods are cruel and ruthless. Fear was the ruling motive. Yahweh was one. Allah was another. Listen to these words of Yahweh to Moses: ?Thou shalt no other gods before me. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.?

Obviously, Yahweh believed that there were other gods, that he was only one of them. The concept of a universal God?a God of all mankind?was foreign to the Jews, Christians and Arabs, whatever they might say today. They are being universalised today to make them acceptable to the peoples of the world. Moses never said that there is only one God in the universe.

It is said that the Semitic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have a common God, that these faiths have a common source. This is yet another distortion. There is nothing common among these gods. Here is what a Jewish prophet warns the Jews: ?Because you (Jews) did not seek the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart? you shall serve your enemies when the Lord will send them against you?.And He will put a yoke of iron upon your neck until He has destroyed you.? Mark the cruelty! The God of the Christians could never have said this.

The God of the Christians preached non-violence. He was prone to kindness, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. How can the Jewish and Christian gods be the same in these circumstances?

?O true believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads,? says Allah. Surely, he is neither like Yahweh nor like Jehovah.

Allah was one of the Arab gods at the Kaaba. In fact, he was the tribal God of the Quraish tribe, the tribe of the Prophet. Allah (al-Ilah) is originally the name of the moon God. By the way Ilah is the daughter of Manu, the Hindu law giver, who gave birth to the human race.

Mohammed raised Allah, the tribal God, as the only God of the Arabs just as Moses raised Yahweh as the only God of the Jews.

How can these tribal gods of others be relevant to us Hindus? It is time we gave thought to these matters.

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