Sunday, March 11, 2012

The names of God (in foreign languages)

“Any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.” John Donne, English priest. 

This Easter, coming up, it’s worth taking a look at what mankind is doing in the Middle East at the moment, in the names of God. The native peoples of the region have for years been resisting invasion and occupation by overseas nations – Britain, the USA and Israel, mainly. Religious differences are not among the official reasons for the invaders’ brutalities, but they have been a useful tool to suck in Christians and Jews in support of all the aggression. The victims’ god is an Evil God, and people like that must themselves be evil, right? It stands to reason. Sub-humans, in fact. Vermin, cockroaches: their lives are of no account.

The West’s Christian-Jewish mass media uses false translations and false-flag attacks as evidence of its enemies’ devilish designs; the Moslem mass media probably tries to do the same, though not to the point of endorsing overseas invasions. As in every war in history, each side claims that its god is superior to the other’s. Each piles disrespect on the other’s god, and on its name.

But the names of gods come and go with the spoken languages of peoples. The name of God in the Aramaic language of two thousand years ago was, actually, “Allah”. That was Jesus’s god, since he spoke Aramaic as his native language. The same name is used today not just by all Moslems, but also by all Christians in the Middle East, to the best of my knowledge. The name derives originally from the earliest reported Biblical name of a tribal god – Elohim, which is actually a plural form from the time before the Children of Israel settled on a single deity.

Most of the names of gods began as tribal names. Germanic Gott (= God) came from the tribe that called itself Goth. Southern Europeans use variants of the name of Zeus, which is traceable back to an early Sumerian god. In all the wars fought in medieval Europe, I’ve never read that Dieu or Dios was ever hated with the intensity that Allah is today. Why is that? Did the medieval English miss a trick, or were they just not as stupid as we are? “My name for the #1 god of the world is the True Name, and if you don’t agree I will kill you and all your babies.” Even in our isolated little parish of Cayman we can see the awesome stupidity of that.

All the world’s torturers and mutilators believe their god is on their side. Well, fair enough; what’s a tribal god for, if not to be on the side of its priests and their congregations? Unfortunately, much of the torture and mutilation is done in the name of Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild, with Christian congregations praying their hearts out for more of the same while cursing the evil that is Allah. As we speak, there are eighty million Iranians waiting to be bombed out of existence by the agents of those congregations. We are asked to imagine Gentle Jesus wandering around preaching “nuke the bastards!” Not so meek, not so mild; just out for Allah’s blood.

Easter is a time to be thinking about such things. The spring equinox has been a religious born-again festival for many thousands of years. Its modern name derives from the last part of the name Zoroaster, an ancient Iranian god. By one of its variants, Aster, Istra, Ishtar, etc, it would have been the tribal god of the Hittite-era nation of Isuwa. My January blog posting The Children of Israel reckoned that Isuwa was the origin of the name Isra (-el), holy to Jews and Christians today.

Oh, the irony. Oh, how the gods must be laughing.