The Murderous God of Genesis 22 (the Akedah) in Three Recent Public Discourses: A British Popular Anti-Religious Book, a US TV Series and a South African Poem. (- Or: Criteria for God-Hood and Faith in Secular Media)

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Christo LOMBAARD, University of South Africa, South Africa
Genesis 22 (known within Judaism as the Akedah) relates the psychologically disturbing account of how God instructs Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a token of devotion. Apart from almost two and a half millennia of interpretative wrangling with this text and two centuries of academic scholarship on it, this account keeps recurring in various ways in modern media too. Three such publications are here taken into review: a section of the popular 2006 book The God delusion by British biologist Richard Dawkins; an interchange between two of the main characters in the US TV crime series Bones (series 2, episode 2); and a 2016-published poem called "Sacrificium" by South African poet Lina Spies in her most recent poetry volume, Sulamiet. In these three public fora, which may be placed variously on a continuum between religion-positive and religion-negative views, the problem of the murderous God of the Genesis 22 account is in each instance treated differently, and creatively so. Interestingly, and unintentionally, in these treatments (as in many others) implicit criteria on the part of the authors are revealed of what would in secular discourse be acceptable for acknowledgeable God-hood and/or for legitimate faith. Identifying these and other implicit criteria are of importance in placing on a clearer footing the often binary religion-positive / religion-negative discourse within publicly secular societies. In turn, such greater clarity tends to indicate that the rhetorics employed in this debate frequently stem not from the oppositioning of "religious" and "non-religious" points of view, but from two equally religious orientations, though of opposing perspective regarding the phenomenon of faith.