It is only in times of social dissolution, as in the last age of the small Semitic states, when men and their gods were alike powerless before the advance of the Assyrians, that magical superstitions based on mere terror, or rites designed to conciliate alien gods, invade the sphere of tribal or national religion. In better times the religion of the tribe or state has nothing in common with the private and foreign superstitions or magical rites that savage terror may dictate to the individual.
William Robertson Smith
To Judaism Christians ascribe the glory of having been the first religion to teach a pure monotheism. But monotheism existed long before the Jews attained to it. Zoroaster and his earliest followers were monotheists, dualism being a later development of the Persian theology. The adoption of monotheism by the Jews, which occurred only at a very late period in their history, was not, however, the result of a divine revelation, or even of an intellectual superiority, for the Jews were immeasurably inferior intellectually to the Greeks and Romans, to the Hindus and Egyptians, and to the Assyrians and Babylonians, who are supposed to have retained a belief in polytheism. This monotheism of the Jews has chiefly the result of a religious intolerance never before equaled and never since surpassed, except in the history of Christianity and Mohammedanism, the daughters of Judaism. Jehovistic priests and kings tolerated no rivals of their god and made death the penalty for disloyalty to him. The Jewish nation became monotheistic for the same reason that Spain, in the clutches of the Inquisition, became entirely Christian.
Very Like a Whale One thing that literature would be greatly the better for Would be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor. Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts, Can'ts seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to go out of their way to say that it is like something else. What foes it mean when we are told That the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold? In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experience To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot of Assyrians. However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus hinder longevity, We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity. Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold, Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf on the fold? In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there are a great many things, But i don't imagine that among then there is a wolf with purple and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings. No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof; Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red mouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof woof? Frankly I think it very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say, at the very most, Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host. But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he had to invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate them, With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers to people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot of wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them. That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets, from Homer to Tennyson; They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison, And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket after a winter storm. Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we'll see which one keeps warm, And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly, What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.