The following is a small portion of Therese Taylor’s “Faith and Curses,” one of 41 articles in Disinfo’s new anthology, Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion, edited by Russ Kick. Other contributors include Richard Dawkins, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Rushkoff, and H.G. Wells. All major religions, and some minor ones, are covered. (More information is here.)
In Taylor’s article, the Australian university professor provides an entertaining look at the cursing of God’s supposed enemies in each of the three monotheistic religions. Here’s the opening:
God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
Nahum 1:2 (KJV)
The Bible cites the word of God as, “Behold I set before you, the blessing and the curse” (Deuteronomy 11:26). We all hope to see blessings, and religious teachers tell us of them. What of the curses?
Curses are not remote in pagan antiquity nor lost as a means of expressing religious feeling. The infliction of harm, whether by God or his agents, is definitely part of the history of religions that we would consider mainstream.
In 1986, during an Israeli election campaign, voters in the holy city of Jerusalem were treated to an advertisement which showed “a group of rabbis, including Rabbi Josef clad in gold brocaded robe and a black felt Ottoman-style hat murmuring religious curses against their opponents. The committee regulating election coverage allowed this, but cut out a section where the rabbis threatened that the wrath of God would fall on those who did not vote for Shas.”
Some people will do anything to win an election.
Shas, a political party in Israel, is notorious for mixing religion, superstition, and appeals to fanaticism. Their constituency is the Oriental Jews – a community marked by tribal loyalties and familiarity with the folk religion of the Middle East – a religion of jinns, spirits, insights from holy men, and visits from the souls of the dead.
Religious curses might be expected from Shas. But they are not alone in this. Shas is merely openly articulating a belief found in most major religions, but which tends to be downplayed by contemporary clerics.
Shrines of the Virgin Mary, writings by Protestant divines, holy legends of the Sufis, and other religious literature contain evidence for the belief that it is not just wrong to defy God’s representatives on earth. It is also dangerous.