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by Zettel 

Posted: 30 June 2015
Word Count: 157

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It is time, in all conscience
Human conscience
Not to pray. In God's name deny
Next world promises
Man-made lethal lies 
Of a Man-imagined paradise
Heaven's rivers in spate
run red with human blood
Murderous metaphysics multiply
Myriad-worded menus
Without a scrap of food
And blood for wine
Sustain Man's brute addiction
To religious power, might, and death
Not in our names 
Despairing, weeping Gods decry
Only in the form of absence 
May we love unbound
For us the only absolute
Is life: this life, not some future lie
This wondrous, sacred gift of now
Fragile finite transient
Our sole duty to preserve
This end all means must serve
The gods are in despair today
jesus weeps: mohammad mourns
and elah's wrath is roused
Their creation, Man whose love of hate
and hate of love ascends
women, givers of life He rapes unheard
What a piece of work is Man
Death His dominion now. 

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 19:43 on 02 July 2015  Report this post
Hello Zettel – The language of this poem is powerful and there are many arresting lines. No doubt as to its quality. However, I feel on the edge of understanding what you are saying – but not quite there yet.
There’s a very strong statement throughout about ‘Next world promises’. This is very close to the humanist/ atheist argument that belief in the rewards of an after-life is an instrument of power. The poor ‘Without a scrap of food’ and having only ‘blood for wine’, and all those who lack opportunities for a fulfilled life, are persuaded to take comfort in the prospect of an after-life – the purpose being to keep them content and subordinate and not demand a better life here and now.
It’s the view expressed so eloquently, and disturbingly, by the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov – speaking of the poor:
Peaceable will be their end, and peacefully will they die, in Thy name, to find behind the portals of the grave--but death. But we will keep the secret inviolate, and deceive them for their own good with the mirage of life eternal in Thy kingdom. For, were there really anything like life beyond the grave, surely it would never fall to the lot of such as they!
Where I become unsure is in those lines where you are saying the gods despair and weep that Man has invented such an idea. One question that springs to mind is: if human life is mortal, can there be immortal gods? Especially gods who lament the human condition, but never act? There is a theism which says there is a god who created the universe but is indifferent to it; but your gods are not indifferent. I would think that if we say life after death is a lie, then the existence of gods is a lie too.
Or are you saying the gods weep because of what Man has made of the concept of an afterlife? Because it is used as a way of maintaining power and privilege and degrading the mass of humanity? Perhaps you are saying that God exists but condemns – cannot forgive - humanity for our abuse of this belief that is at the heart of religion.
I hope the above makes sense. It would be interesting to discuss all this with you. I haven’t said anything about the poem’s craft, and there’s a good deal to be said, mainly praise, e.g.for lines such as
Heaven's rivers in spate with hate
run red with human blood
(Maybe ‘with hate’ could be omitted) and
This means no end must serve
But there may be some revision points too. We can get around to that.

Zettel at 22:38 on 02 July 2015  Report this post
i'd like to go into this but at the moment I can only post by phone. Look forward to clarifying when I have better access. Best Z

Zettel at 13:28 on 03 July 2015  Report this post

I was born in Thetford whose most famous son was the much negelected Thomas Paine. Paine wrote an immensely powerful critique of all Religions and their baleful effect on human life. He stopped short of 'denying' God whatever that may mean.

In his recent series Brian Cox noted with an approval I share that I think it is within Hinduism, that creation came before the Gods

Simone Weil, the French Philsopher often wrongly, 'claimed' by almost all the Christian sects etc made this striking remark:

"He whom we should love, must be absent." and again:
"Any religion that claims that God acts whenever he has the power to do so, is blasphemous"

Finally Wittgenstein said:

"It is not how the world is that is the mystical, but that it is."

Some elements of  the muddle and complexity of these ideas is present in my poem.  I guess I am close to the second of your conceptions above. And certainly in sympathy both with Paine's profound mistrust of religion and indeed perhaps his 'agnosticism' about 'God'.

For me, human life can be the only absolute. And the life in question must be this life, the one we have, the one we experience - for anything else is by definition speculation at best and delusion at worst.  I think Pascal's Wager is profoundly immoral and I would reverse it: if we do not, cannot (I would add should not, must not) know 'God' then we should not behave as if He does exist out of fear of punishment; we should accept that the preservation of human life, our own and others' is an absolute principle to live by.  I stop short of full-hearted Pacifism because the world and elements in the apparently basic natures of human beings, especially in groups,  may require one to risk harming one human being or group of human beings in order to save the life/lives of others.  But for me this must always at all times be an irreducible necessity, never to be celebrated and lauded. I hate Remembrance Day (as 2 or 3 poems attest), NOT because I do not revere and respect the sacrifice of the dead: but precisely because I do respect and revere them, I feel we dishonour them by all the militaristic pomp and display with its disturbing undercurrent of worshipping power, might. I would love for Remembrance Day to be celebrated with massive parties all over the land with Art and Theatre, Sport and Music in every town, city in the land. The kind of celebration children would love and you would have no qualms in taking them to. At the 11th minute of the 11th hour etc - all this celebration of life not death would pause for a few moments of remembrance and then resume celebrating exacty what the 'fallen' would want to share - life itself.

So you are right: I am deeply suspicious of  what Men ( and it is, shamefully, predominently Men) have done with Religion and the very idea of a God.  The God of Men is the God of power and Omnipotence. Christianity tries, but for my money largely fails, to balance the contradiction of an all-powerful God who is also all-loving.

When we accept as we must, that almost all abuse of all kinds of women and children is perpetrated by men; sickeningly men in positions of trust like Priests, Teachers, Scout Leaders, fathers, brothers etc etc it is hard not to feel that Man is not made in God's image but rather Man has made God in his image and hence the worship of power and omnipotence. Human experience and relations are complex but rape for examples for me  is primarily a crime of fear and self-loathing. As for abuse of children - I can't pretend to understand how anyone could...... I suppose, as the Existentialists pointed out - the only sure way to avoid 'bad faith' self-deception and self-delusion is to take as a principle that we always have a choice - not perhaps a good or comfortable one; but sometimes the lesser of two 'evils'.

If as in her deeply  paradoxical way, Simone Weil was saying that 'God' so loved His creation that He became part of it and thereby chose 'love' over 'power' - then it is even more down to 'us'  to do what we an to improve this world and stop hankering for underserved and self-deluded 'rewards' in the next.

You're right though: Dostoievsky put it much better and more eloquently in the Brothers Karamazov. There is no better distillation of my feeling about this stuff than the rejection of an 'eternal plan' of any kind if takes the "tears of just one child.........."

There are I admit  contradictions within my poem - but as this over-long response may indicate - it is entirely apt that they are there. I don't think it is 'given to us' to know. Mystery fosters wonder and wonder feeds joy. The only price we pay is certainty. That's sort of ok with me. Though it's sometimes very hard.



Zettel at 08:50 on 05 July 2015  Report this post
"The realisation that life is absurd cannot be an end but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point."

Albert Camus

James Graham at 20:02 on 05 July 2015  Report this post
Your reply is in tune with my own views on so many points that I don’t think we are going to have a lengthy philosophical disputation. Like you, I have read and greatly admire both Paine and Weil. Weil’s statements are extraordinary. The ideas of both these thinkers point to some kind of theism and also to a rejection of any religion that preaches a God who acts, especially one who punishes. You’re absolutely right about Pascal’s wager:
... we should not behave as if He does exist out of fear of punishment; we should accept that the preservation of human life, our own and others' is an absolute principle to live by.
I agree too about pacifism. If military action can defeat Islamic State, then it must be done. And about Remembrance Day: there should be a celebration of the life that the ‘fallen’ might have shared if they had not been sent to their deaths in a war instigated by Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns and Romanovs, power-holders without legitimacy. Any part of Remembrance that is solemn and contemplative should remind us that the war was a crime against humanity and that the dead were victims of mass murder by archaic feudal governing elites. (WWII is different; the Third Reich had to be defeated, though there are persuasive arguments that Hitler could have been stopped much sooner if the Tripartite Alliance proposed by the Soviets had become a reality and there had been no appeasement.)
And of course you’re right about the abuse of women and children being partly a reflection of the creation of God in Man’s (the male gender’s) image. One of the many verses in the Bible that makes my blood run cold is the Man-made God’s admonition to Eve: ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee’. This is hateful. The original misogynist. If this is read as fiction, merely an ancient story, it’s unpleasant enough but can be dismissed as such; but it has been made a sacred text, invested with authority which it is heresy to question. It’s as if, through the ages, a person could be burned at the stake for claiming that Odysseus’ adventure with the Cyclops was just made up! The Man-made God has engendered a very destructive view of women – and even the children they bear.
There are I admit  contradictions within my poem – but...it is entirely apt that they are there. I don't think it is 'given to us' to know.
Knowing your poem better now, I can see your justification for these ‘contradictions’. Ambivalences and paradoxes perhaps rather than flat contradictions. They are in the poem because they permeate our thinking about the meaning of our existence. To gloss over them would be to over-simplify.
I said I would make some revision suggestions.There are very few.
1. ‘In hate’ could be omitted here:
Heaven's rivers in spate
run red with human blood
The image is so powerful that hate emerges strongly from it anyway. To use the actual word may be spelling out the idea too much.
2. ‘Yahweh Job’ – the juxtaposition of the two names makes them appear to be the same being. A little puzzling, unless you mean Yahweh is not an external God but the dominant mythical figure in Job’s consciousness. The Man-made God again. ‘Yahweh Job’ might be taken to mean ‘Yahweh-obsessed Job’or ‘Yahweh-tormented Job’. It remains a little unclear.
3. A suggestion for a better choice of word:
love of hate
And hate of love prevails
‘Thought-provoking’ is such a cliche, but it certainly applies to this poem. Thought in some depth. This needn’t be the end of the matter; if there are any other points you would like to raise, please do so.

Zettel at 01:24 on 07 July 2015  Report this post
Thanks James - agree amendments improve.

Don't think there is any substantive difference between us now on this.

Agree the jaweh ref unclear. I wanted to include all 3 of the Abrahamic religions of the book(s); next-worlders all. Aas wrath and vengeance sems to dominate the image of the Jewish God I've used that.

thanks for the time and effort you have devoted to this. As ever it is much appreciated and rewarding to share the exploration of similar points of view.



James Graham at 11:42 on 07 July 2015  Report this post
It reads very well indeed now. I notice one more excellent detail: you have jesus, mohammad and elah without capitals, and not only Man but the pronouns He and His capitalised, reversing the conventional usage in reference to God.
It's a fine poem of real depth, and it was a pleasure to discuss it and appreciate its insights.


Zettel at 01:03 on 16 July 2015  Report this post
LIkewise. Thanks James


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