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A  Ruling  Narrative - A Reflection on the Irrational in History A Ruling Narrative - A Reflection on the Irrational in History
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2012-09-08 07:37:18
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History is known to be rather accidental and irrational nowadays, though in the 18th and 19th centuries thinkers thought they had unlocked its inner secrets, and revealed its inner, rational core.  This essay is an attempt to show that, although material determinants of social and political action throughout history do show predictable and rational patterns, human cultures are ruled more by their native narratives, which tell them who they are and how they should live.  Among these narratives are master narratives, which organize the other narratives, by a process that resembles what microbes do: they infect them.  It is worthy of note that most master narratives have a religious character.

In the modern age the clearest case of a master narrative has been created by Calvinist Christianity, a heresy that engendered the work ethic, capitalism, and more than half of modern imperialism. 


Though not as evil as many other gods in the history of man, Yahveh is a distinctly evil god by any measure.  When asked his name, he responds:  “I am that I am!”  That is, he is identical with his own existence.  But what does that mean?  It means that he is his own will, what Nietzsche aptly called “the will to will,” and is quite willing to strike down anyone who questions any of his commands.  In this he is much like the completely irrational gods of the Mayas and the Aztecs, who required blood to be appeased in multivarious ways, especially on ceremonial occasions.  Yahveh is an advocate of genocide, but He protects His chosen people, the Jews.

It is worth noting that this will to will is similar to ukases of the Czars of pre-revolutionary Russia, i.e., not done after considerations of correctness or suitability to the situation at hand, but justified only by the fact that it is the will of the ruler, and there is no appeal from this decisionism.

Saint Paul’s Invention.

Christianity is the invention of that great Idealist, Paul.  How he could have made such a great mistake in judgment is beyond explanation.  His beautiful prose, great idealism and universalist message are as noble as those of other great universal religions, Buddhism and Islam.  (Perhaps all this was part of God’s plan, to set the world into errancy.) 

In my opinion, Paul created a Jesus that is not true, because it is at variance with many passages in the synoptic Gospels.  His image of Jesus is entirely one dimensional.  Had he not heard about the Gadarene swine?  About the fig tree that Christ killed because he was annoyed by it?  What of his claim up until near the end of his life that he was “the Son of Man,” not “the son of God”?  Then he seems to have reversed himself.  He began to claim much more, that his father was God.  By the standards of the Jews, he was properly punished for blasphemy. 

His self-confidence that he could command bands of angels to overcome Pontius Pilate if he so wished was not exercised.  Why not?  And had Paul heard of the words in the Scriptures when Christ was on the cross, “Father, father, why hast Thou abandoned me?”  His last phrase according to the Scriptures is translated as:  “It is consummated” but I think the phrase meant something more concrete, something like “I’m a goner!”  Surprise and despair seem to have forced those words from him, when only minutes before he died he realized that no one was going to help him, and his claim to be the Messiah was false.

Paul sanctified Jesus by falsifying his human nature, made him other worldly, charitable, perfect and holy.  But Jesus was more likely a moralist, a conservative Jew, critical of the nationalists called the Pharisees, who were also nationalists.  In his last days Jesus had already become a delusional individual who had become too successful for the powers that ruled in Jerusalem, and he paid the price. 

Paul’s image of Jesus is so rarified that it could not be that of a mere mortal man, which Jesus was, after all.  How else was it possible for him to die?  The claims of his resurrection are weak, since he appeared only to those who already were his fervent disciples of long standing.  But, no matter, Paul was able to resurrect Jesus all by himself, and his letters display a generous spirit, a beautiful ability to express the optimism that all believers  would be saved, and that the world would be remade “in the twinkle of an eye” by the strength of faith.  Most beautifully, Paul emphasized the three virtues of faith, hope and charity, with charity being the most important of the three.  In this manner Paul made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Again, Paul’s picture of Jesus is contradicted by much that is found in the Scriptures.  Why didn’t Jesus come down from the cross, marshal armies, and bring about the end of days right then and there?  Though, according to Paul, “we do not know the day or the hour” of the second coming, he seems optimistic in the belief that it would be soon.  But it has not been soon.  And there is no evidence that this scenario has any probability of happening in these latter days we live in.  And this has relevance to the next subject, the exodus into the land of Canaan.

The Wandering of the Peoples as the Agency of Imperialism: a Record of Genocides

In the end, the theme of the Exodus has had a very outsized effect upon some Christian communities, and this model has been used to very evil effects.  This set of experiences shows how religion, like art, can have unsuspected effects by forming prejudices in large populations, inciting imperialism over the course of centuries all over the globe, causing millions of deaths as a result.  Master narratives can, as mentioned above, infect whole cultures and populations.  Without doubt these “seeping” influences are, to say the least, self-serving lies, not fair applications of the original narrative. 

The master narrative occurs in the Book of Exodus, the contract between Yahveh and his chosen people, the Jews languishing in the land of Egypt as slaves, and his promise to endow them with the land of Canaan as their land, with his authority as guarantee.

But there is a moral problem here.  Yahveh is not a rational God, and in many respects is an evil God.  He is God, but as irrational as willing itself, akin to Nietzsche’s “will to will.”  And what does He will?  Many evil things, such as the murder of two-thirds of the tribes of the Jews themselves, and, worse, several genocides of the peoples who rose up to protect themselves from these outsiders.  In several cases, the Jews are reluctant to commit these crimes, but Yahveh insists that they go back and finish off those whom He had commanded them to kill.  Only if they obey without question will they reach and inherit the land of Canaan. 

This narrative has had great popularity and therefore influence in modern times, especially among Calvinist Christians.  Many groups of people have decided for themselves that they have the right to commit genocide because they identify themselves with the Israelites of old. 

More interestingly, many of the slaveholders also thought they were doing no more than the ancient Israelites.  How this could be believed is astounding, since there never was a counsel from on high that the genocides of Exodus ever be re-enacted.  In other words, there never was a second covenant, and the first and only covenant had been fulfilled and therefore had lapsed. 

But under the influence of Calvinism the English invaded Ireland in 1586 with a view to eliminating the entire Irish race, and came close to doing so several times.  The Dutch invaded what is now called South Africa in 1642 and promptly waged war against the native populations, then instituted the race laws that relegated the original inhabitants to inferior legal status.  French Calvinists joined them in 1688.  The Germans conquered South West Africa and by 1905 had laid plans for the complete extermination of the native peoples of that region.  The government of the United States moved closer and closer to such a position with respect to the native Indian populations until they all were subject to residency in one or another of mainly desolate lands reserved for them, from the time of Jackson to the reign of Grant.  In this endeavor, the role of the anti-Christian Mormons was especially egregious, the Book of Mormon portraying Native Americans as demons whose proper sphere as the center of the earth, where they spawn.

But not the Black slaves in the United States!  One has to sympathize with their plight, as victims of the most painfully rigid and oppressive regime in the history of the modern world.  The Christian Bible offered the Jews as an example for them to throw off of chains that symbolized their captivity and their yearning to be set free.  It was a model for these oppressed people to strive to undo the effects of so many horrendous crimes that marked black slavery throughout the Americas. 

It is worthy of note that few Roman Catholic imperial states instituted slavery.  Exceptions to this rule are Brazil, Cuba and several other islands in the West Indies.


In these and many other cases the narrative that justified these slaughters and removals was understood to be an imitation of the ancient Israelites, reinforced with racist babble.  A program of such magnitude as the world had not seen in the past or in the future ensued.  And the delusion was that the armies of such a night were doing God’s work!  How purely racist, genocidal, and prideful mass murders could ever be accounted as praiseworthy examples of God’s will must remain a mystery, and perhaps the worst evil that has ever been visited upon defenseless peoples in the history of the world.  For, from small beginnings this movement of European Christians into all the other continents bloomed into full-blooded Imperialism, which ruled virtually the entire world for three centuries.  These latter day saints, who imagined they were just imitating the genocides of the Israelites, thought themselves liberated to repeat the actions, even though God had not spoken to any of them, and it was more than two millennia since the drama and the guarantee had been given. 

In this crazy scenario, this most roundabout promise made to anyone or any group in all history managed over time to justify so many injustices and murders that no one with an ounce of common sense would believe it for a minute.  But it is very powerful in the modern world, since the most “progressive” nations on earth are home to this mad heresy.

Recent Developments

Re-enter the Jews.  During the course of modern European history, the revival of nationalism in the 19th century caused much trouble for the Jews, who were seen as a foreign excrescence.  Aided by a false reading of Darwinism it culminated in the mass murder of these defenseless people by the Nazi regime in World War II.

The conclusion drawn by the remaining European Jews after 1945 was to refound their native land, and in 1947 war broke out between Jews and Arabs in Palestine with the result that the state of Israel was founded in 1948.  But, again, since Yahveh had made no second promise to them, their interpretation that the one promise covered 2000 years is patently false, for the reasons given above. 

The Jews are cognizant of the objection that the covenant is not eternal.  In response they teach all their schoolchildren that when Zionism re-discovered the land of Israel in the late 19th century, they found that the region that was once called Canaan was found to be empty!  They thus seek to evade the objection made above, but at the cost of obvious prevarications.

Though decency and solicitude for these unfortunate people requires that some measure of autonomy should be allowed them because, though illegitimate, their claims seemed minimal and permissible on a utilitarian calculus.  However that may be, their attitude has changed over time, and bears a racist edge.  They have become overbearing in the same vein as the earlier thoughts and deeds of European imperialism. 

More and more, the Israelis have become racial purists, and do not hesitate to use violent means to continually widen their borders.  With arrogance and a total lack of understanding or pity, they have managed to duplicate many of the same kinds of atrocities on the indigenous population as the European powers had, though on a reduced scale, all the while claiming that only they, unconnected to this land for 2000 years, are the true indigenous population.  Not surprisingly, these absurd claims are enthusiastically backed up by Evangelical and Calvinist Christians from all the Western nations, who are very powerful in their home countries.  Thus is the fate of the Palestinian people apparently sealed.  Population removal is the only logical solution, as in many of the other cases mentioned above. 

This can lead us to only one conclusion:  Christianity has been, and still remains the most violent of all religions in the modern world, and the claims to various lands that they have despoiled are obviously merely an ideological trick for their wicked ends.  The ruling narrative errs, and the error is used to exterminate people, just as Hitler used Darwinian ideas (another master narrative) to justify his genocide of the Jews and gypsies in Europe.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-09-08 07:04:49
Larry, much food for thought here, worthy of Nietzsche’s prose and his all out attack on Christianity... It is so rich in fact that it will take a while to digest and I am sure it will stimulate more discussions and dialogues on the matter among perceptive readers. What distinguishes Ovi magazine is not so much the various disagreements among different opinions but the convivial discussions and dialogues and even debates that it spurns. The magazine has always encouraged those kinds of disxussions as long as they remain respectful in the best tradition of free speech; for that is the way friends talk to each other. I say this in the light of the recent diatribe that has occurred while people piously talkied of contemplation and meditation...

So, let’s by all means have a preliminary discussion on the matter. I agree in principle that whole communities and even nations are often governed by grand narratives and even myths. In our country we have the myth, for example, that George Washington never told lies, a la Kant. Where I disagree is that myths and grand narrative are ipso facto irrational and misleading lies. Often the contrary is true. It is the myth which often reveals the deeper and more encompassing truth not the rationalistic disquisitions a la Descartes or a Kant.

But there is another fundamental disagreement and it has to do with the very nature of religions in general and Christianity in particular. I believe that Nietzsche was misguided at best. That the Judeo- Christian ethos is ambiguous and even a paradox there is no doubt but I find the Ten Commandments not the capricious dictates of an irrational God but perfectly rational and universally acceptable.

The ambiguity is built into Christianity. It is because of such an ambiguity that it may result in the worst kind of corruption which you fairly decry. As the Romans put it: corruptio optima pessima. In fact, when religion is corrupted it is no longer a religion with a binding purpose (to live in solidarity and community) but a pernicious cult. It is not helpful not to distinguish cults from religions and throw the baby out with the bath-water. Catholicism, for example, gave us corrupt popes (Dante places three of them in hell) but also a St. Francis of Assisi and thousand upon thousand of saints. It is not fair to ignore those in order to better attack Christianity; they are very much of the phenomenon of religion as William James has well taught us.

What did Jung say? Man is religious by nature, throw religion out the window and it will come back the back door; and he said a mouthful. What Jung meant is that when religion is demonized and rejected it will come back as a different kind of narrative: an ideology for which people are willing to fight and to die. How many people have died in the 20th century because of Nazism and Communism who were in effect a substitution for Christianity? At the very least one can count a couple of million people.
Of course one can make the argument that it was Christianity, what you misguidedly call the most violent of religions which produced both Nazism and Communism together with anti-Semitism and Western imperialism and colonialism; and the argument has been made, especially by Marxists, but that would be stretching it considerably and in fact, to my mind, it reveals an unfair ax to grind on the part of Marxism against religion.

You mention Calvinist theology which eventually is utilized to buttress the worst excesses of capitalistic greed and unfairness (Weber’s thesis) but isn’t the Marxist ideology another grand narrative which claims to be perfectly rational and scientific with the aim of substituting the grand narrative of Christianity? Isn’t that grand narrative which spun the ideology behind the Communist totalitarian scheme of world domination and totalitarian control that makes the schemes of the Vatican look like a pick-nick? I wonder.

As I mentioned to Mr. Mouzuviris I wrote an article on the ambiguity of Western Imperialism in Ovi some five years ago. I’d be interested in your take on it. I supplied a link to it under his article on free speech in the EU.

Moreover, I have written an article on the ambiguity of Christianity in the light of Diego Fabbri’s work which should be out soon. Perhaps we can continue our convivial dialogue after it comes out, if you wish and have the time. Best regards.

Emanuel Paparella2012-09-08 08:40:53
Correction: where it says a couple of million people, it should have been a couple of hundred million people.

Emanuel Paparella2012-09-08 17:38:09
A follow-up: on Paul's "invention" I'd be interested in your take on the quote below. I think Chesterton, for one, would have quite a bit to comment about it.

The English author Wyndham Lewis wrote this (in a Foreword to Rotting Hill, a book of his stories published in 1951):

“Socialism as a final product of bible-religion. Conscience is at the root of the principle of Social Justice – without it what would be there? … It is all that remains of Protestant Christianity …
Let me try and show in a few words how absolutely impossible socialism would have been without the Christian religion. … Liberalism was an early stage of socialism. … The logical conclusion of … [the] preachers of social fair play, of social justice, was for the classes possessed of money and power to surrender them, and, of course, for England itself as a nation owning a quarter of the globe to surrender everything – as has recently been done in the case of England’s greatest possession, India – except this island; and even that must in the end not be looked upon with too possessive an eye.
Now, without the teaching of the New Testament – and we must not forget the Old, and that the Jews were the most moral nation the world has ever seen – or some similar teaching such as Stoicism (and there are exceedingly few teachings of this type), no man gives up anything he has acquired whether it be wealth or land or goods. Why should he? He will fight to defend them with desperation. If you informed him that “Property is theft” he would laugh at you. Such a saying, in the first instance, to be successful, had to appear with a supernatural sanction. To test the accuracy of what I am saying, you only have to consider whether you would give up anything but a small fraction of your property in order to share it with your less fortunate fellows. There are very few of us who would willingly do so. But a long process of religious conditioning (latterly operating through such words as “decency”, “fair play”, etc. etc.) has led us to a point at which we empower the State to deprive us of practically everything. This is the work of Jesus.”

Lawrence Nannery2012-09-10 05:47:33
Dear Emmanuel:
thank you for these arguments, which contain manypoints that I accept.But I shall get back to you about all this in a day or two.

Lawrence Nannery2012-09-19 23:50:18
Dear Emmanuel:
thank you for these arguments, which contain manypoints that I accept.But I shall get back to you about all this in a day or two.

Lawrence Nannery2012-11-02 20:28:17
To get to the point about socialism, finally, I want to mention that the earliest Christians were actually Communists in the most radical sense of the term.
Modern socialism was a reaction to the horrible conditions and obvious exploitation of the laboring poor. It was originally used as a word in England. The Roman Catholic Church believes in the social nature of man, and therefore has a good starting point for a critique of capitalism, which is, at its heart atheistic but, honestly, I do not know why they never developed it.
For example, in 1848 Pio Nono turned from a Liberal to a reactionary; and in the 1940's Pius XII closed down the "worker-priest" movement in France.

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