Gods of the Flesh was published on Jan 15, 2019. Based on feedback (I am very grateful to a particular friend), changes were made before the end of the month. Some of these were grammatical fixes, but the current edition also includes a few content updates.
From “The world as we know it”
Many writers have struggled to describe Eastern philosophy in a way that makes sense to Western readers, and I was no exception! I finally decided to alter the awkward paragraph beginning with “This idea is not as mystical as it sounds…” Here is the new version.
“This idea is not as mystical as it sounds; in fact it is fundamental to Eastern religions. Buddhists hold that matter and energy are indistinct from consciousness. It is not that they are identical; rather, you cannot have matter and energy without consciousness, and you cannot have consciousness without matter and energy. Science teaches that matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed, but they continually change form—and this is exactly what Buddha taught about consciousness.”
From “The invention of the Bible”
One reader objected that I did not provide academic sources in this controversial chapter. I could only compare the situation to climate change: Scientists discussing climate change no longer need to point to a specific scholar or study that corroborates their findings; the consensus among scientists is unanimous. Religious and political interests have nevertheless convinced the public that there is no consensus, so dialogue breaks down. In the same way, religious and political interests have convinced the public that there is no consensus on who wrote the Bible or when—but in fact most of the information in this chapter was being discussed as early as 1880. The first popular work on the Goddess Asherah (discussed in Part IV) was published in 1968. Contemporary scholars still keep to the old theories, or versions of them—and not just secular scholars like Francesca Stavrakapoulou. You can find discussions of Hebrew polytheism and the Deuteronomistic editors in the works of Jewish and Christian scholars like Ziony Zevit or Rodney Stark. To be more clear about my research and intentions, I added a paragraph before the passage beginning “When I shared all this information with a devout Jew…” I also expanded the paragraph about Josiah to name the Deuteronomists specifically, although the subject was too broad for thorough discussion.
“The Law of Moses itself may have been written just before the Exile. Even Christian scholars agree that Deuteronomy is a late work, part of a national epic called the ‘Deuteronomistic history’ that incorporated Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. One theory holds that the lost Book of Moses belonging to Josiah (a version of Deuteronomy) was written and planted by the priests who ‘discovered’ it. The Bible says that when the Law of Moses was read, the king wept because he had never heard it, and he found it terrifying.”
“If this information seems radical or unfounded, it’s because biblical scholarship encompasses theology, biblical criticism, and biblical archaeology—but most people are only familiar with the former. We know C.S. Lewis and the popes, but not Raphael Pattai or Frank Moore Cross. As William Dever laments, critics and archaeologists have long fought among themselves about the particulars of their theories, while leaving the public in the dark. Since the late nineteenth century scholars like William Robertson Smith, they have held a general consensus about who wrote the Bible and when. But while they debated whether two or three authors wrote the Book of Isaiah, many have missed the big questions of why the Bible was written at all, and why monotheism supplanted polytheism during the period of the Exile. Theologians are happy to point out this discrepancy.”
On "Reproductive Justice"
Chapters do not necessarily appear in the order they were written. “Crimes Against Humanity” and “Reproductive Justice” both deal with dialogues and stigmas surrounding abortion, but “Crimes Against Humanity” was actually the last chapter finished. The original publication contained the phrase “fetal rights” in “Reproductive Justice,” although I would later amend my language: “We’ll call it a baby if you don’t call it murder.” Edited copies substituted “rights of the unborn” for “fetal rights.”
On “Algebra Lessons”
Original drafts of this chapter discussed both Relativity and Quantum Physics. These schools offer competing theories about the nature of time, while both agree that the human perception of time is misleading at best. Prior to publication I had cut much of the information on Quantum Physics to focus on the more familiar subjects of Einstein and Relativity; but a few of the cuts were admittedly sloppy and made it seem that Einstein said things that were really part of Quantum Physics. The chapter was updated accordingly. For example, it is more correct to say that Quantum Physics (rather than Einstein) demonstrated that “the equations governing physical phenomena make sense whether or not time is a factor, and whether time is moving forward or backward.” As for Einstein himself, I do not find much justification for those who dismiss the metaphysical implications of his works. His writings on Relativity often begin with starkly philosophical concepts and progress from there into mathematics. The distinction between philosophy and mathematics itself is extremely modern: From Pythagoras to Descartes, many of history’s greatest mathematicians were also its greatest philosophers.