Alpha God by Hector A. Garcia (book review).
Perhaps the title of Hector A. Garcia’s book ‘Alpha God’ would make more sense when you see the lengthy sub-title ‘The Psychology Of Religious Violence And Oppression’. From the start, Garcia points out that the history of violence associated with any religion is right across the board. In the final chapter, he shows even early Buddhists were tarred with the same brush which did surprise me considering their pacifism today. As older religions get supplanted by new ones that have fewer gods and ultimately only one, the new priests are happier killing off the old followers than converting them to the new faith. Religions walk hand-in-hand with battle conquests, so not only are you gaining new territory but the hearts of the oppressed in more ways than one. It was a dog kill dog world.
I couldn’t help remembering odd references from my early reading of the Bible and how there were challenges between the priests of Baal and the Judaism priests supporting Yahweh as to who could arrange the best miracle. I wonder what would have happened had the newcomers lost although the Bible only shows the winning battle? My more pessimistic side also wonders how much trickery was used as well. I mean, we’ve seen sticks change into other objects in magic shows today. Would it look even more spectacle back then when a stick was changed into a snake?
Be prepared to have your beliefs challenged with ‘Alpha God’. Garcia makes a good point about how the head gods are always male and reflect the fact that the priests themselves were male and enforcing their place in society as indeed their aims. There’s also an element of natural selection here that women will pick the most dominate men to father their children although I have to wonder at the priests who profess abstinence. Then again, look at who tales the tales and you have to wonder what happened below the surface.
Every chapter produces a gem of information or observation. Our fear of movie monsters stirs genetic memories from our more primeval ways although I do wonder why it makes us fascinated in watching them. Do we think that the TV or cinema screen acts as a cage to keep them in?
More involving is the chapter on proclivity and humans are no better than their fellow apes. Garcia pointing out that the various deities having the same morals as humans should be telling enough and none are immune from such examinations. Although I’m pointing out a lot of Christianity examples here, it’s more to do with my own familiarity with the subject but other religions are also adequately covered. In the Old Testament, Garcia points out fifteen significant people who have a harem of wives which says a lot about the lack of monogamy in those days. King Solomon alone had 700 wives and 300 concubines which must surely have made his nights interesting.
What is more telling is why would any deity want to mate with a human woman when they can create without them? I can see some argument that it makes for a better connection to their followers but that doesn’t seem like the kind of thing any deity would lower themselves to do. If you were having doubts about any faith you support, this one should have you re-examining some of its logic.
One oddity is women preferring taller men to procreate with. Genetically, this would mean we should have a predominance of tall men but that still hasn’t happened yet, although height is going up in all but eastern countries. What is more scary is the abuse of women across the religions for proclivities. It gets into the media a lot today but was far worse centuries ago.
The examination of how men go to war with the belief that their enemy is less than human is something I learnt a while back. It breaks the natural barrier of killing our own species. The examination here goes more into how genetically embedded it is. Something I hadn’t remembered was that circumcision began with Abraham to appease his deity as a form of self-sacrifice and then spread to all babies of his faith. Considering the sandy environment they lived in, circumcision is actually a sound thing to do even if it is dressed up in religion. Oh, you can also add Jephthah to the list of Biblical people who sacrificed his daughter to his god for the price of a victory at war. Bet that never comes up in sermons. For the sake of equality, double standards also appear in the Koran as well with Mohammed’s deadly raid on desert caravans.
The kissing of rings, hands and feet are seen as an act of servitude and loyalty and is still used by religions today and as Garcia points out even amongst some criminal fraternities. Then again, so does a food sacrifice to deities who clearly do not need to eat. Indeed, the entire aspect of fasting has a similar effect and even I have to ask does it make anyone more worthy from the act other than being on an unusual diet plan?
Something Garcia points out is that atheists and agnostics are more familiar with religious knowledge than those who support it. From personal experience, I’ve pointed out some things from the Bible to the door-calling religious that they seemed to have overlooked and marvel at either their self-censorship or the inability to question what they are taught. So much for free will. As Garcia points out, with examples from American evangelism, people give up their money to such leaders who then proceed to live millionaire life-styles will make you think and why it hasn’t really caught on over here. Even he says it’s a telling example of his own society.
Garcia points out how deposed leaders tend to get their just deserts but this tends to happen to the real tyrants than the run-of-the-mill leaders. In some respects, I wish he’d explored this topic further especially with those leaders who align themselves with religion because they so often grab both worlds that way. He does point at Sharia Law and its extremism today and how reaction goes before intellectual thought in the Middle East. If you take my examples above from the Christian religions, extremism was rife there as well.
Don’t think Garcia is all out at attacking religion. In one of the latter chapters, he gives telling examples of the moral conduct they also preach and that there is much the Bible and Koran share in common. In other reviews, I’ve pointed out religion was used to educate people on this although its effects have been variable depending on how high you are in the chain of command and then they think they’re working in tandem with their deity. It’s also rather interesting how control is maintained by tyrannical leaders using the power of censorship and book-burning to keep the population under their thumb by keeping them uneducated.
As you can tell by my reactions above, there is a lot to learn from this book and I’m only really touching the surface. If you want a better understanding of how religions work, let alone how much they have in common, then ‘Alpha God’ will really made you think. The writers amongst your will surely have enough fodder to add interesting aspects to your fiction and we’ve seen how that influences people. Will there be any deity reaction? I suspect, it will be similar to the cosmos at large and not really care. Read this book and understand the implication from the people who serve it. This book will really make you think.
(pub: Prometheus Books. 287 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $19.00 (US), $20.00 (CAN), £12.81 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63388-020-7)
check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com