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This piece was written over a decade ago.  At the time, I was living in Arkansas, where the Southern Baptists are far from the most conservative religious people.

I was generally assaulted by religion, religious tracts, and the religious view of history.  Being a taoist didn't help.  That just labeled me as a heathen.

So occasionally I responded with words of my own.  This essay was one fo those responses and is one of my favorites, actually.  Others will no doubt have their own opinions...

In the Beginning

Once upon a time there were what I will call people.  They weren't much what we so-called modern people would call "civilized," but they managed a life in concert with some of their fellow folk.  Most of their efforts revolved around eating (or at least in how to find something edible), avoiding being eaten (since there were so many other creatures with the same basic imperative to find food) and protecting their offspring (which seemed to be the inevitable outcome of some of their nightly group quests for warmth and safety).

At some point in time, these people became aware that life, for them, could involve more than this.  Someone noticed that a lightning strike created a quite bright and very hot aftermath and managed to bring some it to their camp.  Someone began to make sense of someone else's guttural noises.  Someone began making useful things from the bones and hides of some of the creatures they had slain for food.

Of course, these things didn't happen all at the same time, nor is it likely that they happened in the same place.  But for the purposes of our story, I don't think that is really important.  Eventually the people had limited control of fire, could communicate somewhat vocally, and could make some rudimentary but useful tools.

Some of them were good at finding edible parts of some of the foliage...and they discovered that some of the less edible parts were useful as well for healing the sick and lame.  Some of them were good at finding and catching fauna that was fit to eat.  And some of them were good at raising the offspring.  Others were comparative masters at controlling the fire.  Some were very inventive at coming up with new tools that could be used in their endeavors.  Still others were good at telling interesting stories.  They all did what they were good at.

It would be so nice to think that these people lived together in harmony and eventually became us...modern, "civilized," humans.

But somewhere along the line, something went wrong.

Was it the fact that part of becoming a good hunter was learning to kill?  Did that instill a need for violence in some of the people?

Was it the fact that some of the plants that were found were dangerous or deadly?  Did some of the gatherers use them for less than benign purposes?

Was it the fact that some of the nurturers became too possessive of the offspring?  Was jealousy the culprit?

Did the fire tenders and the tool makers fight over control of the use of the flame?

Or perhaps the stories that the story weavers told began to slight some of the folk.

It is, of course, impossible for us to know.

But we now find ourselves in a world filled with those sorts of problems.  Some people are altogether too violent and abusive...and so enamored of large scale conflict...of war...that their actions will not let the rest of us have any peace.  Some people are so jealous of the possessions of others...even of the kinds of lives that other people live...that they do their best to bring those other people down in lieu of raising themselves up.  The tool makers (industrialists) and fire (energy) controllers vie with each others to make ever more efficient weapons of environmental destruction.  Some of the "herbalists" have perfected ever more effective addictive and/or behavior-controlling drugs with which to prey upon they rest of our society.

But it is perhaps the story tellers that may have done the most damage.  Stories about what had happened apparently were not enough.  People, after all, have basically poor memories.  They see what they wish to see and hear what they wish to hear. Somewhere along the way, a story teller decided that reporting on what had happened was not enough...that even just embellishing the story wasn't enough. He...for from the result of his actions we can tell it was a man who had a very poor regard those that were not-men...began to flavor his stories his disregard of the not-men, even going so far as giving them the name "woman" and intending it to mean "someone who is less than a man and of use only to serve men sexually and menially."  Those who did not fit into his grand scheme of men and women were beneath his contempt and he refused to acknowledge them.  He developed a "moral code," codifying the supremacy of men over women and the supremacy of his people over any people who did not believe in a like manner.  He invented a patriarchal history.

Obviously it takes more than one man to accomplish this.  But in the old days, story weavers learned their art by apprenticing to other story weavers.  Hence they also adopted the beliefs of their masters.  And a story teller who only accepts male apprentices can keep patriarchism going for a few generations...all it takes is to keep it up for longer than people can remember.

Certainly there were story tellers besdies than the misogynist ones.  But they were at the mercy of others who declared them vile and ignorant.  It is apparent that in far too many places, they succumbed to the onslaught of this new "religion."  Oh, in some distant places there still exist other histories of our beginnings.  But those who follow the existing patriarchal triad...Judaism, Christianity, and Islam...do their best to extinguish, demonize, or discount those stories.

There will definitely be some who say that I am in error (or worse)...that the stories that are told in these religions and the codes of living instilled by them have total...or at least a large degree...of accuracy.  And why not?  Their belief system contains all they need to justify their subjugation of all they need...the animal and plant kingdoms, the very Earth itself, and even other humans...to their demands and wishes.

To those that say that this is rubbish...well, what can I say?  They are my beliefs.  And I believe in the freedom of thought.  I dream of that better "civilization" that might have been, of that society in which all people could do what they were good at in peace and harmony.

History certainly shows what has happened in the name of these other beliefs.

Cross-posted at Docudharma

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Sun Sep 16, 2007 at 04:51 PM PDT.

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