Monotheism and its Discontents (or the AMERICAN BRAIN)
by Gore Vidal
Oh this guy is so kewl, he rocks my universe!
Concepts from outer space! Screws with my head bigtime
It is very easy to discuss what has gone wrong with us. It is not so easy to discuss what should be done to correct what has gone wrong. It is impossible in our public discourse to discuss why so much has gone wrong and, indeed, has been wrong with us since the very beginning of the country, and even before that when our white tribes were living elsewhere.
Unfortunately, there are two subjects that we are never permitted to discuss with any seriousness: race and religion, and how our attitudes toward the first are rooted in the second. Thanks to this sternly -- correctly? -- enforced taboo, we are never able to get to the root of our problems. We are like people born in a cage and unable to visualise any world beyond our familiar bars of prejudice and superstition. That Opinion the Few create in order to control the Many has seen to it that we are kept in permanent ignorance of our actual estate. Even so, a number of prisoners are testing the bars. Some actually got loose in Los Angeles, for a weekend. The wardens are alarmed. The two trustees they are offering us are not acceptable to the restive prison population, while out of Texas, now strides a small but imperfectly formed man, differently, gloriously advantaged size-wise, and in his tiny paw, there is--no, it can't be but yes, it looks very like--a key. Oh, Ross, free at last! Failing that, build us a better, more prisoner-friendly cage.
A political analyst wrote at the time of the New Hampshire primary that
the two irrelevant candidates for President this year, Jerry Brown and
Pat Buchanan, should leave the field to the heavyweights --like Bush and
Clinton. As the media are a large part of the mess that we are in, the
journalist --deliberately?-- got it wrong. Brown and Buchanan were the
only substantive, relevant and representative --in the best and worst
senses-- candidates on display. So let us brood on them and what it is
that they represent in the way of race and religion, the two root
The word "radical" derives from the Latin word for root. Therefore, if
you want to get to the root of anything you must be radical. It is no
accident that the word has now been totally demonized by our masters,
and no one in politics dares even use the word favourably, much less
track any problem to its root. But then a ruling class that was able to
demonize the word "liberal" in the past ten years is a master at
controlling --indeed stifling-- any criticism of itself. "Liberal" comes
from the Latin liberalis, which means pertaining to a free man. In
politics, to be liberal is to want to extend democracy through change
and reform. One can see why that word had to be erased from our
Meanwhile, the word "isolationist" has been revived to describe those
who would like to put an end to the national security state that
replaced our Republic a half-century ago while extending the American
military empire far beyond our capacity to pay for it. The word was
trotted out this year to describe Pat Buchanan, when he was causing
great distress to the managers of our national security state by saying
that America must abandon the empire if we are ever to repair the mess
at home. Also, as a neo-isolationist, Buchanan must be made to seem an
anti-Semite. This is not hard to do. Buchanan is a classic Archie Bunker
type, seething with irrational prejudices and resentments, whose origin
I'll get to presently.
The country is now dividing, as it did a half-century ago, between those
who think that America comes first versus those who favour empire and
the continued exertion of force everywhere in the name of democracy,
something not much on display here at home. In any case, as the whole
world is, more or less, a single economic unit in which the United
States is an even smaller component, there are no isolationists today.
But the word games go on and the reversals of meaning are always a sign
that our corporate masters are worried that the people are beginning to
question their arrangements. Many things are now coming into focus. The
New York Times promptly dismissed Buchanan as a minor irritant, which
was true, but it ignored his potentially major constituency --those who
now believe that it was a mistake to have wasted, since 1950, most the
government's revenues on war.
Jerry Brown alarmed the Times even more than Buchanan did. There was the
possibility that he could be elected. More important, he might actually
change our politics in the sense of who pays for whom. In a sudden
frenzy, the Times compared him to Peron --our Jerry?-- a dangerous
demagogue whose "sharp edged anger ... resonates among a variety
Americans." Plainly, the ownership of the country is frightened that the
current hatred of politicians, in general, may soon be translated into
hatred of that corporate few who control the many through Opinion, as
manufactured by the Times, among others.
Now to the root of the matter. The great unmentionable evil at the
center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text
known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved
--Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are,
literally, patriarchal --God is the omnipotent father-- hence the
loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the
sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of
course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in
place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would
reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately,
totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the
sky-god's purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his
authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one
Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family home.
The founders of the United States were not enthusiasts of the sky-god.
Many, like Jefferson, rejected him altogether and placed man at the
center of the world. The young Lincoln wrote a pamphlet against
Christianity, which friends persuaded him to burn. Needless to say, word
got around about both Jefferson and Lincoln and each had to cover his
tracks. Jefferson said he was a deist, which could mean anything or
nothing, while Lincoln, hand on heart and tongue in cheek, said he could
not support for office anyone who "scoffed" at religion.
>From the beginning, sky-godders have always exerted great pressure in
our secular republic. Also, evangelical Christian groups have
traditionally drawn strength from the suppressed. African slaves were
allowed to organise heavenly sky-god churches, as a surrogate for
earthly freedom. White churches were organised in order to make certain
that the rights of property were respected and that the numerous
religious taboos in the New and Old Testaments would be enforced, if
necessary, by civil law. The ideal to which John Adams subscribed --that
we should be a nation of laws, not of men-- was quickly subverted when
the churches forced upon everyone, through supposedly neutral and just
laws, their innumerable taboos on sex, alcohol, gambling. We are now
indeed a nation of laws, mostly bad and certainly anti-human.
Roman Catholic migrations in the last century further re-enforced the
Puritan sky-god. The Church has also put itself on a collision course
with the Bill of Rights when it asserts as it always has, that "error
has no rights." The last correspondence between John Adams and Thomas
Jefferson expressed their alarm that the Jesuits were to be allowed into
the United States. Although the Jews were sky-god folk, they followed
Book One, not Book Two, so they have no mission to convert others;
rather the reverse. Also, as they have been systematically demonized by
the Christian sky-godders, they tended to be liberal and so turned not
to their temple but to the A.C.L.U. Unfortunately, the recent discovery
that the sky-god, in his capacity as realtor, had given them, in
perpetuity, some parcels of unattractive land called Judea and Samaria
has, in my mind, unhinged many of them. I hope this is temporary.
In the First Amendment to the Constitution the Founders made it clear
that this was not to be a sky-god nation with a national religion like
that of England, from whom we had just separated. It is curious how
little understood this amendment is --yes, everyone has a right to
worship any god he chooses but he does not have the right to impose his
beliefs on others who do not happen to share in his superstitions and
taboos. This separation was absolute in our original Republic. But the
sky-godders do not give up easily. In the 1950's they actually got the
phrase "In God We Trust" onto the currency, in direct violation of the
Although many of the Christian evangelists feel it necessary to convert
everyone on earth to their primitive religion, they have been prevented
--so far-- from forcing others to worship as they do but they have
forced --most tyrannically and wickedly-- their superstitions and
hatreds upon all of us through the civil law and through general
prohibitions. So it is upon account that I now favour an all-out war on
Let us dwell on the evils they have wrought. The hatred of blacks comes
straight from their Bad Book. As descendants of Ham, blacks are forever
accursed, while Saint Paul tells the slaves to obey their masters.
Racism is in the marrow of the bone of the true believer. For him, black
is forever inferior to white and deserves whatever ill fortune may come
his way. The fact that some monotheists can behave charitably means,
often, that their prejudice is at so deep a level that they are not
aware it is there at all. In the end, this makes any radical change of
attitude impossible. Meanwhile, welfare has been the price the
sky-godders were willing to pay to exclude blacks from their earthly
political system. So we must live--presumably forever--with a highly
enervating race war, set in train by the One God and his many hatreds.
Patriarchal rage at the though of Woman ever usurping Man's place at the
helm, in either home or workplace, is almost as strong now as it ever
was. According to the polls at the time of the hearing, most American
women took the of Clarence Thomas against Anita Hill. But then the
sky-god's fulminations against women are still very much part of the
psyche of those in thrall to the Jealous God.
The ongoing psychopathic hatred of same-sexuality has made the United
States the laughingstock of the civilised world. In most of the First
World, monotheism is weak. Where it is weak or nonexistent, private
sexual behaviour has nothing to do at all with those not involved, much
less the law. At least when the Emperor Justinian, a sky-god man,
decided to outlaw sodomy, he had to come up with a good practical
reason, which he did. It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery
is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited. But our
sky-godders, always eager to hate, still quote Leviticus, as if that
looney text had anything useful to say about anything except, perhaps,
the inadvisability of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area.
We are now, slowly, becoming alarmed at the state of the planet. For a
century, we have been breeding like a virus under optimum conditions,
and now the virus has begun to attack its host, the earth. The lower
atmosphere is filled with dust, we have just been told from our
satellites in space. Climate changes; earth and water are poisoned.
Sensible people grow alarmed, but sky-godders are serene, even smug. The
planet is just a staging area for heaven. Why bother to clean it up?
Unfortunately for everyone, George Bush's only hope of winning in the
coming election is to appeal to the superstitious. So at Rio he refused
to commit our government to the great cleanup, partly because it would
affect the incomes of the 100 corporate men and women who pay for him
but largely because of the sky-god, who told his slaves to "be fruitful
and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have
dominion...over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Well, we
did just like you told us, massa. We've used everything up. We're ready
for heaven now. Or maybe Mars will do.
Ordinarily, as a descendant of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment,
which shaped our Republic, I would say live and let live and I would try
not to "scoff"--to use Lincoln's verb--at the monotheists. But I am not
allowed to ignore them. They won't let me. They are too busy. They have
a divine mission to take away our rights as private citizens. We are
forbidden abortion here, gambling there, same-sex almost everywhere,
drugs, alcohol in a dry county. Our prisons are the most terrible and
the most crowded in the First World. Our death row executions are a
source of deep disgust in civilised countries, where more and more we
are regarded as a primitive, uneducated and dangerous people. Although
we are not allowed, under law, to kill ourselves or to take drugs that
good folk think might be bad for us, we are allowed to buy a handgun and
shoot as many people as we can get away with.
Of course, as poor Arthur (There is This Pendulum) Schlesinger Jr. would
say, these things come in cycles. Every twenty years liberal gives way
to conservative, and back again. But I suggest that what is wrong now is
not cyclic but systemic. And our system, like any system, is obeying the
second law of thermodynamics. Everything is running down; and we are
well advanced along the yellow brick road to entropy. I don't think much
of anything can be done to halt this progress under our present
political-economic system. We lost poor Arthur's pendulum in 1950 when
our original Constitution was secretly replaced with the apparatus of
the national security state, which still wastes most of our tax money on
war related matters. Hence deteriorating schools, and so on.
Another of our agreed-upon fantasies is that we do not have a class
system in the United States. The Few who control the Many though Opinion
have simply made themselves invisible. They have convinced us that we
are a classless society in which anyone can make it. Ninety percent of
the stories in the pop press are about winners of lotteries or poor boys
and girls who, despite adenoidal complaint, become overnight millionaire
singers. So there is still hope, the press tells the folks, for the 99
percent who will never achieve wealth no matter how hard they work. We
are also warned at birth that it is not polite to hurt people's feelings
by criticising their religion, even if that religion may be damaging
everyone through the infiltration of our common laws.
Happily, the few cannot disguise the bad times through which we are all
going. Word is spreading that America is now falling behind in the
civilisation sweepstakes. So isn't it time to discuss what we all really
think about our social and economic arrangements?
Although we may not discuss race other than to say that Jesus wants each
and every one of us for a sunbeam, history is nothing more than the
bloody record of the migration of tribes. When the white race broke out
of Europe 500 years ago, it did many astounding things all over the
globe. Inspired by a raging sky-god, the whites were able to pretend
that their conquests were in order to bring the One God to everyone,
particularly those with older and subtler religions. Now the tribes are
on the move again. Professor Pendulum is having a nervous breakdown
because so many different tribes are being drawn to this sweet land of
liberty and, thus far, there is no indication that any of the new
arrivals intends ever to read The age of Jackson. I think the taking in
of everyone can probably be overdone. There may not be enough jobs for
very many more immigrants, though what prosperity we have ever enjoyed
in the past was usually based on slave or near-slave labour.
On the other hand, I think Asians, say, are a plus culturally, and their
presence tends to refocus, somewhat, the relentless white versus black
war. Where I am as one with friend Pendulum is that the newcomers must
grasp certain principles as expressed in the Declaration of Independence
and the Bill of Rights. Otherwise, we shall become a racially divided
totalitarian state enjoying a Brazilian economy.
To revert to the unmentionable, religion. It should be noted that
religion seemed to be losing its hold in the United States in the second
quarter of this century. From the Scopes trial in '25 to the repeal of
Prohibition in '33, the sky-godders were confined pretty much to the
backwoods. Then television was invented and the electronic pulpit was
soon occupied by a horde of Elmer Gantrys, who took advantage of the tax
exemption for religion. Thus, out of greed, a religious revival has been
set in motion and the results are predictably poisonous to the body
It is usual, on the rare occasions when essential problems are
addressed, to exhort everyone to be kinder, gentler. To bring us
together, O Lord, in our common humanity. Well, we have heard these
exhortations for a couple of hundred years and we are further apart than
ever. So instead of coming together in order that the many might be one,
I say let us separate so that each will know where he stands. From the
one, many, and each of us free of the sky-god as secular lawgiver. I
preach, to put it bluntly, confrontation.
Brown and Buchanan, whether they knew it or not, were revealing two
basic, opposing political movements. Buchanan speaks for the party of
God --the sky-god with his terrible hatred of women, blacks, gays,
drugs, abortion, contraception, gambling-- you name it, he hates it.
Buchanan is a worthy peddler of hate. He is also in harmony not only
with the prejudices and superstitions of a good part of the population
but, to give him his due, he is a reactionary in the good sense
--reacting against the empire in favour of the old Republic, which he
mistakenly thinks was Christian.
Brown speaks for the party of man --feminists can find another noun if
they like. Thomas Paine, when asked his religion, said he subscribed
only to the religion of humanity. There now seems to be a polarising of
the country of a sort that has never happened before. The potential
fault line has always been there, but whenever a politician got too
close to the facts of our case, the famed genius of the system would
eliminate him in favour of that mean which is truly golden for the
ownership, and no one else. The party of man would like to re-establish
a representative government firmly based upon the Bill of Rights. The
party of God will have none of this. It wants to establish, through
legal prohibitions and enforced taboos, a sky-god totalitarian state.
The United States ultimately as prison, with mandatory blood, urine and
lie-detector tests and with sky-godders as cops, answerable only to God,
who may have just sent us his Only Son, H. Ross Perot as warden.
For once, it's all out there, perfectly visible, perfectly plain for
those who can see. That Brown and Buchanan will not figure in the
election does not alter the fact that, for the first time in 140 years,
we now have, due in part to their efforts, the outline of two parties.
Each knows the nature of its opposite, and those who are wise will not
try to accommodate or compromise the two but will let them, at last,
confront each other.
The famous tree of liberty is all that we have ever really had. Now, for
want of nurture, it is dying before our eyes. Of course, the sky-godder
never liked it. But some of did --and some of us do. So, perhaps,
through facing who and what we are, we may achieve a nation not under
God but under man --or should I say our common humanity?
Speech at The Lowell Lecture
April 20, 1992
For another great thinker combing the AMERICAN BRAIN, read MORTIMER ADLER
For a more Zen philosophy that will obliterate the hold of the American brain, light up a doobie or drop mushrooms or take LSD. My yogi pal wrote me:
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