Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mark Twain's Guest Post: Or, The Skeptic's Annotated Bible is a Far More Important Commentary than Rashi

The torah selection below is from Shmuely Clemens' (Mark Twain) "Letters from the Earth"

Twain wants to show, plain as day, a passage that shows just how immoral God was, assuming he wrote the bible and that the events of the bible happened (which I do not, and I assume Twain didn't either). But if you do, I think it will help to see that just quoting the torah is a form of reductio ad absurdum! Think about it, I just have to say, "OK, you believe in god, right? And he wrote this book? Ok, flip to Numbers 31. And so on. There's no way any of you can believe this God is the one you pray to, "the most vindictive character in all of fiction" as Dawkins would call him. Thus, you cherry-pick what laws to obey or what things to internalize and comfortably delete the rest. There are consequences for this, the least of which is not that you are wasting a lot of time indoctrinating yourselves and your kids, infecting them with the virus of faith.

Here's Shmuely's commentary and quote:

"Will you examine the Deity's morals and disposition and conduct a little further? And will you remember that in the Sunday school the little children are urged to love the Almighty, and honor him, and praise him, and make him their model and try to be as like him as they can? Read:

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people....
7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.
9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.
10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.
11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.
12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.
13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.
14 And Moses was furious with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.
17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoever hath killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify both yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day.
20 And purify all your raiment, and all that is made of skins, and all work of goats' hair, and all things made of wood.
21 And Eleazar the priest said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord commanded Moses....
25 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation:
27 And divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation:
28 And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle....
31 And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses.
32 And the booty, being the rest of the prey which the men of war had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousand sheep,
33 And threescore and twelve thousand beeves,
34 And threescore and one thousand asses,
35 And thirty and two thousand persons in all, of woman that had not known man by lying with him....
40 And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the Lord's tribute was thirty and two women.
41 And Moses gave the tribute, which was the Lord's heave offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as the Lord commanded Moses....
47 Even of the children of Israel's half, Moses took one portion of fifty, both of man and of beast, and gave them unto the Levites, which kept the charge of the tabernacle of the Lord; as the Lord commanded Moses.

Later, in the book of Judges, Yahweh instructs the Jews to mass-murder the Midianites again, this time 120,000 of them.

The finest version of this scriptural source is in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, a contribution to insight into the real torah far greater than Rashi. Why? Because you see who God really is, not who Rashi, Tosofos, Avigdor Miller, Artscroll or your yeshiva or kiruv rabbeim tell you "God" is.


Here's a similarly immoral selection from the torah:
10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it....
13 And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. 16 But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.

Nowadays, you have nice Artscroll books (you gotta love the chapter on "dealing with bullies!")and shiurim and the like and you've grown up believing in "God."

But is your "God" this god? If you're a good frummie, and a parent, your living room bookself is no doubt adorned with books that glean all sorts of lessons on child-rearing and how to be a good spouse, right? There isn't a single book that says God's ideal environment would be say, like what we're seeing in the streets of Baghdad, correct? So, where does all of this come from? After all, God commands daughters who lose their virginity before marriage (according to incredibly primitive means of determination that are inherently barbaric- presence of absence of blood in sheets) to be stoned to death in front of thier father's homes! That must be great for the girl's siblings to see, and her parents. And, thanks to Yahweh, you virgins are damned if you don't, damned if you do- since He apparently orders fathers to swear to kill their daughters for remaing virgins as well! Or, if not killing them, putting them to use, of course, by offering a virgin daughter to a rape-thirsty mob. What say you, Rabbi Artscroll?

And, just be forewarned, in case you actually decide to start thinking morally for yourself, beware of the consequences.

I have said this elsewhere, but it bears repeating, you didn't get any of your basic morality from the Torah. If you followed the Torah strictly, you'd be more like the religious maniacs in baghdad, blowing each other up, executing and torturing each other for religious reasons.

17 Comments:

Blogger Baal Habos said...

That was "God" version 1.0.0

It was upgraded (at no charge) with a later release.

12/17/2006 11:02 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Yes, but the Rabbis wrote some pretty buggy software! Their "Oral Torah" patch really makes this Tanach application crash frequently.

12/17/2006 1:36 PM  
Blogger ohevshalom said...

I just found your blog and I've been fascinated by it! Sorry this comment is not about the above post, but instead about your blog in general. I went back and read a few of your earliest posts. I was intrigued b/c you mentioned Rabbi Kelemen. I actually had a really bad experience with him. I went to Neve Yerushalayim around the turn of the millenium... I was in their "intro" program for BTs. It was made out to be a place full of intellectual stimulation, questioning and learning. Of course, once I got there, I found none of that was true. I felt that the rabbis were making a huge effort to convince us of the truth, but it seemed totally unnecessary to me, since all of the girls in my class (except me) were there because they wanted the frum lifestyle, they didn't need to be convinced with the Bible Codes and that crap, the girls were totally unquestioning. They just wanted the husband and kids and they didn't care about anything else. I however have a science background and I found the "explanations" for the "proof" of things like the 7 days of creation to be totally ridiculous. I made the mistake of questioning Rabbi Kelemen in class, and he shut me up in a vicious way, I suppose because he didn't want my opinions corrupting my brainwashed classmates. I spoke to another rabbi about the problems I was having with my faith (or lack thereof) and he told me that in all his years at Neve I was the first girl to come to him with a question like that and not "how soon can I get married?"! I think he was as surprised as I was. I left Neve soon after and went back to my secular life. One thing that I was struck by at Neve was how all of the BTs were coming to religion not from some newfound faith, but from a secular life that was so horrible that the girls wanted what they thought was the exact opposite - the frum life. The girls were all children of divorce, with histories of depression, drug or sexual abuse, eating disorders, etc. I am not saying all BT girls are like this, but the ones I met at Neve were. I have often thought that I would have been able to go all the way as a BT if my own life had been just a little worse =) but my parents are married and I don't have a drug problem, etc. So the secular world didn't seem as impossible to me as the other girls and I returned to it and have been very happy. I wonder if the same thing applies to the boys. Are they trying to escape the same things the girls are? Also, it doesn't surprise me that there are BT divorces, etc when the girls are coming from this background. Anyway, I could write for hours on this topic, but I'll stop. My heart goes out to anyone who feels trapped by this religion.

12/18/2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Ohev, fantastic account. Kelemen is a fraud. I know several girls who went there and he was the guru, they had to win a lottery to walk home with him to ask him questions and he did his creepy stand-up routine.

Yes, the guys are the same way. There are recovering addicts, and many,many from divorced homes in particular. Some have nervous tics that get worse and worse.

The rabbi at machon shlomo tried the same technique on me- acting as if he'd never heard that question before and how odd it was for anyone to question anything. Likewise, the guys all went there to learn how to fit in, a strong BT impulse. Thus, they wanted to get "learning skills" and the like.

My wife didn't have a lot of problems, but she's glad to have some kind of jewish identity now and found the structure and community elements comforting. Many people do. She never got all "frummed out" and self-righteous, which is nice.

I'd love to hear more. There are a lot of women out there that just read blogs, but don't post their views. Perhaps you'd like to turn your comment into a guest post?

12/18/2006 11:59 PM  
Blogger ohevshalom said...

ah, I forgot about the lottery to talk to R. Kelemen! ha! also, the girls talked about him like he was some rock star. He was the "cute" rabbi. It seemed inappropriate to talk about a rabbi like that, but they all did. And he was always talking about how he used to be a ski instructor, such a cool rabbi. But his logic only works if you are either already convinced or a little dim.

It's funny that you say your rabbi said the same thing to you, I really thought the rabbi was telling me the truth, but now I see it's a good psychological tactic on their part to make it seem that nobody else has questions.

A former fratboy BT I knew told me that he thought there were lots of fratboy BTs because they find the group mentality of yeshiva familiar and comforting after spending time on their own in the real world, post college, without the safety of their fraternity.

By far the weirdest experience I had was pre-Neve when I was talked into attending Aish's Discovery day- trapped in a room all day, listening to such BS. I had plans in the evening so I had to leave, even thought the class was running late. Some girls working there actually chased me on the street to try to get me to stay. It really felt like a cult. I can't believe anyone would believe any of the crap they told us that day.

All the same I was left in a weird position after leaving Neve, because I definitely think the frum way of life is better than the secular, but I don't believe in the religion at all. I wanted to believe, but I can't.

12/19/2006 12:30 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Well, I'm here to say, that in spite of all my atheist ranting, I actually do like some of OJ. How ironic if I engaged in kiruv on this site. But, seriously, I wish, as many do, that there could be a "sortadox" community, where people still veg out on shabbos, have Friday night dinner at least and perhaps have community/social activities on shabbos day. But you could swim in the pool if it's hot out, etc. Not sure why such a rewarding system requires a daddy-god...

Conservative J. tried but I think it largely failed to keep the good parts of OJ. I do feel there's some movement afoot to try to come up with what people are seeking without all the nonsense. The secular "sex and the city" or "friends" lifestyle is really about the here and now so much that anyone with a sense of purpose and desire for a fulfilling future knows it isn't going to work.


Anyway, my wife also went to Neve for a bit, but more recently. You should talk to my wife, whom I've been trying to get to guest post since day one. I know it's cliche,but she's been too busy as a homemaker! But she does love her life. But just this week she said she's going to guest post soon.

If you email me an email address to reach you, I'll give you her email address. She could clue you into the pros and cons that she's seen. I have my views, but it's best for a woman to hear it from a woman. Plus, my wife didn't do the shidduch scene, which is just awful for BT's in particular. The majority of happy couples that we know, met first and then went BT. The shidduch ones are the sketchiest, if they're still married at all... Then, you have the girls that are stilllll looking, after years, and these are quality people. It's terrible.

I will say that, had I never become a BT along with my wife, you know, going for the family values, etc., I wouldn't be the happy, fulfilled person I am today. I too came from a divorced background, although my wife didn't and had a very stable upbringing. For me, OJ was like a cast on a broken arm, however, once the healing was accomplished, I no longer needed the cast anymore.

You clearly don't need the cast either, but perhaps meeting a not-so-frum, but family oriented guy is more likely in a BT/post-BT setting.

So, there you have it. Feel free to email me at baaltshuvaanon@aol.com with whatever email you like and I'll get back to you, or I should say my wife will.

12/20/2006 1:58 AM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

Agreed there's lots of brainwashing in many of the BT schools. Agreed the schools promise intellectual stimulation and really seem to mean that they get stimulated brainwashing you. But should that be an indictment on all of the religion or is it just the foolishness of those schools.

12/20/2006 4:09 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

I dont have time now to get into this, but I want to applaud you for standing up to the great R. Avrech just now.

I did notice that he is ignoring you.

Your eloquence and intellect were very high over there.

Me, he has banned, i made similar point as you did till he banned the IP address and that stuff.

Peace,
Rick

12/28/2006 12:06 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

I also feel trapped in Orthodoxy. The thing is, I enjoy a bit of it.

If I am in a strange foreign city on a Shabbos, I will note the time Friday eve late, and make for my hotel room, shower, mark that Shabbos has started. I may put on the TV.

How do you feel about your children being frum?

I have mixed feelings. Otoh, they are totally into it. I prefer their behavior and character over what would probably, be the case if they went to Public school.

What they have is that virginal innocense.

But w/ a Dad who is plotting the next irreligious move? it's crazy, and I think I have found a home here on your blog, i hope so anyways.

12/28/2006 1:44 PM  
Blogger psy1801 said...

I like the "sortadox" idea. Probably closest thing i've heard to my beliefs/feelings in a long long time.

5/17/2007 3:55 PM  
Blogger michael.greenspan said...

I don't think this post (the actual blog post, not these unrelated comments) says anything about whether God is moral or not. This whole issue doesn't even make sense; we are not to judge whether or not God is moral or is not, because he IS what defines morality, right and wrong. So just because by your misinterpretation of a translation of this out of context text, God does things that you do not agree with or understand, this does not take away from the fact that it is indeed moral.

And let's suppose for a minute that you are using as a standard for morality "Western" values of freedom and democracy (which are rooted in Jewish G-d's morality). Then what this God is doing makes perfect sense. According to the Torah, sexual promiscuity is one of the worst things that a person can possibly do. If you look at this text in context, and read the parsha before, you will know that the Midianites and the Moabites were trying to destroy (ETHNICALLY CLEANSE) the Jewish people, but God would not let this happen because he favours Israel. So the Midianites and Moabites decided to try to seduce the Israelites into doing sexualy immoral acts, and they themselves also engaged in these acts, specifically to upset God and to make the Jews lose His favour, so He would stop protecting the Jews. It is in this context we have the quotes such as your highlighted 31:17-18:

17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.


Basically, kill the evil people who want you wiped off the earth, who have purposely engaged in sexual immorality with the specific aim of infuriating God, but the people who did not engage in these actions, the virgins , do not kill them and let them join you, perhaps as slaves, perhaps not (I'd have to see the commentaries). In fact, if anything, this is not a manifestation of a brutal evil God, this is truly the manifestation of a compassionate just God who is only punishing those who undoubtedly deserve it, and yes, there are people who deserve punishment. Since when is Western society against defending itself? Since when are people who defend themselves against an enemy who wants them wiped off the earth considered "immoral"? I suppose in this day in age, with all the naive liberal sensibilities, we are all supposed to hold hands and ignore our enemies with hopes they will go away. I am thankful to find that God is not like this and is showing us an example of standing up for what's right and dealing with evil in an efficient, effective, and definitive way. I think our modern world could actually learn a lot from this text. So thank you for bringing it up!

I'm not going to go through this whole text, but you know as well as I do that you have pulled it out of context, with a translation that suits your needs. The skeptics annotated bible does not give any context with its comments, and uses an english translation, and is not a legitimate source for bible criticism.

7/06/2007 9:17 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

michael greenspan said:

"I don't think this post (the actual blog post, not these unrelated comments) says anything about whether God is moral or not."

That's because you want to distance yourself from nazi-like text in your holy book, as other apologists have before you.

" This whole issue doesn't even make sense; we are not to judge whether or not God is moral or is not, because he IS what defines morality, right and wrong."

If he exists, a claim for which you have no evidence. However, I'll go with your claim and say, rephrase this essay for just how immoral the torah's several writers were. Better?

"So just because by your misinterpretation of a translation of this out of context text, God does things that you do not agree with or understand, this does not take away from the fact that it is indeed moral."

Oh, okay, here we go. Killing children is moral in context, as is killing non-virgin women, but prefering the virgins to stay alive at the same time. Yes, moral, Checkmate.

Ummm, what do you claim is "mistranslated?!"

7/08/2007 5:59 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

michael greespan said:

"17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Basically, kill the evil people who want you wiped off the earth, who have purposely engaged in sexual immorality with the specific aim of infuriating God, but the people who did not engage in these actions, the virgins , do not kill them and let them join you, perhaps as slaves, perhaps not (I'd have to see the commentaries)."


Oh, so the "little ones" aka children were leading the jewish people into sexual immorality? And, btw, where is that bit about the sexual immorality in the torah? And since it's such a grave sin, why didn't god the moral kill Solomon, the whoremaster with 1000 wives, king of the jews? Didn't he set a rather poor example for the kingdom?

You are speaking like a truly indoctrinated person who won't let himself feel the injustice of the torah's slavery, mass murder and immoral codes.

Btw, Hitler also said that killing the jews was in "self defense" of the german/aryan people. Jews were corrupting, like a vermin and were out to get, even kill good non-jewish germans.

I guess that justifies the holocaust as well?

7/08/2007 6:06 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"The skeptics annotated bible does not give any context with its comments, and uses an english translation, and is not a legitimate source for bible criticism."

Yes, spoken like a person who truly accords biblical criticism the proper level of respect.

Artscroll doesn't translate the killing of the little ones any differently, does it? How can you justify that? YOu must not have any children, or you would know that anyone who commands killing children is immoral, under any circumstances.

Also, your statement that "'Western' values of freedom and democracy (which are rooted in Jewish G-d's morality)" is pure falsehood. Freedom and democracy are Enlightenment values and are anathema to torah laws. THere isn't a hint of freedom or democracy in the torah, you fool!

God commands, either directly, or via proxy, Moshe Aron, sanhedrin (none of whom are democratically elected!) and imposes plagues, floods, burnings, stonings, meat force-feedings, etc to enforce the decrees. Clearly, the masses are ignored, and their longings for free choice are as well.

You clearly haven't thought this through very much. You must have spent too many hours in yeshiva looking at the trees but not finding the forest.

Recap: the torah is not even slightly responsible for democracy or freedom. Corporeal punishment is perhaps the one of the few laws you could trace, and sodomy laws. Adultery laws predated the torah in hammurabi's code, by 1000 years, and corporeal punishment, too, for that matter.

7/08/2007 6:15 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"If you look at this text in context, and read the parsha before, you will know that the Midianites and the Moabites were trying to destroy (ETHNICALLY CLEANSE) the Jewish people, but God would not let this happen because he favours Israel."

Clearly, this drasha wouldn't have gone over too well in 1938 germany, when the temples were destroyed. Where was god at these times, praytell?

It seems like he was only available during prehistoric times when great godly acts were cannonized in myths. Does reality ever play a part in your religious worldview?

7/08/2007 6:22 AM  
Blogger truthbtold said...

Ohevshalom is classic.
Her post is so filled with lashon hara, condescending observations, and seething disdain it borders on disgusting:

since all of the girls in my class (except me) were there because they wanted the frum lifestyle, they didn't need to be convinced with the Bible Codes and that crap, the girls were totally unquestioning. They just wanted the husband and kids and they didn't care about anything else.

HAHA....it sounds like you didn't care about anything else except to prove them wrong! Did it ever occur to you for one nanosecond that maybe they didn't question cause they were mature enough to open their minds and get some answers, while you sat restless and angry in your seat as every word spoken convinced you how right you were.

One thing that I was struck by at Neve was how all of the BTs were coming to religion not from some newfound faith, but from a secular life that was so horrible that the girls wanted what they thought was the exact opposite - the frum life. The girls were all children of divorce, with histories of depression, drug or sexual abuse, eating disorders, etc. I am not saying all BT girls are like this, but the ones I met at Neve were. I have often thought that I would have been able to go all the way as a BT if my own life had been just a little worse =) but my parents are married and I don't have a drug problem, etc. So the secular world didn't seem as impossible to me as the other girls and I returned to it and have been very happy.

LOL! Wow, you are one huge raging bitch!! Are you sure your secular life was that good???? So condescening.....like all these girls you met didn't have such a hard life to begin with, now you have to burden them with the thought that their choice to live a moral life is a further symptom of their fucked up lives....real nice! No wonder you don't like Judaism!!
Start a new religion, the religion of stuck up stupid bitches!

9/07/2007 2:58 AM  
Blogger truthbtold said...

ohevshalom writes:

My heart goes out to anyone who feels trapped by this religion

And ohevshalom, I have no doubt their hearts go out to you, trapped in your narrow mind!

My heart however does not go out to you, I think you are a stupid condescending, patronizing bitch. Piss off. HA!

9/07/2007 3:02 AM  

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