I have been working on my new book – a sequel to The Christian Fallacy. This has involved, inter alia, reading the Old Testament prophets. And what depressing reading it makes. They all follow a single pattern. God tells them how pissed off he is with the Jewish nation; he rants a lot about how he is going to cut them off from his favour; and then intimates that nevertheless, if they are repentant he will forgive them and take them back. So – boring as well as depressing, but someone has to do it, and I willingly suffer for my art. But something struck me as I waded through interminable pages of divine hissy fit - it all sounds like nothing so much as an immature and insecure lover, alternately wheedling and threatening the object of his affection, in pursuit of the sought for reciprocation. This shouldn’t surprise me of course – God admits as much when he tells Moses that he is a jealous God. But it was the cause of God’s anger that really struck me. You would have thought that there had never been a more wayward nation on earth, the way God goes on about it. Were they up to terrible sexual depravity; or perhaps they were intent on rape and pillage of their neighbours; or perhaps the murder rate was unusually high? But no, the problem seems to have been that those silly old Jews would keep on worshipping other Gods than Him. The central allegory of all the prophets is that God has married the Jewish nation and they have repaid him by just going off and whoring with His competitors.
What on earth is this all about? I suspect that the religious persecution of the Jews down the centuries owes no small part to pious ‘Christians’ reading this guff and deciding to act on behalf of their odious deity. Presumably, the truth is that the Israelites were no worse than the rest of us, trying just to get by in a cruel and indifferent world - to feed and raise their kids and get the odd five minutes when they could have a drink and put their feet up. We are so used to all this nonsense from our religious indoctrination at school and elsewhere that we fail to pause and see it for what it is. God wants us, like an immature lover, not just to respect and obey but to worship him. I looked the word up. It means to offer praise to God. For what exactly? For creating me? I created my three kids, but my love for them is absolute and unconditional, not dependant on them telling me at every opportunity how great I am. For creating the world? Well, it can certainly be a beautiful place, but it can be a supremely ugly, dangerous and painful one as well. Apparently it was Eden once and Eve went and spoilt it for the rest of us. But that is like saying that because my kids have better things to do than sit around praising me all day, I should give my grandkids a hard time.
Sorry God, but if this is the best you can do, praise and worship are off the agenda. No wonder the ancient Israelites went off whoring off after your rivals – they were looking for gods who might actually make the world a little easier to live in, not punish it for some mythical act of disobedience. Remember the scene in Bedazzled (the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore original, not the ghastly remake) in which Cook, as the Devil, plays God and gets Moore's Stanley Moon to worship him. After a short time, Moon declares himself bored, to which the Devil replies ‘Exactly. That’s how I felt’. I sympathise with Cook’s Satan and if I had a soul, I would rather join him for eternity rather than spend it with a jealous would-be paramour who after all this time, still hasn’t worked out the simple truth that made Erich Segal a fortune: ‘Love means never having to say you are sorry’.