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.