The superhero God is unjust, untrustworthy, unintelligent 1

But Dennis Prager, like billions of others, think he’s nice, smart, fair, and honest.

Dennis Prager is a perceptive conservative writer, but unfortunately he’s afflicted with religion.

He writes at Townhall:

If no one goes to prison for actor Alec Baldwin’s accidental killing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, our society will have failed a crucial moral test.

We will be saying human life is not sacred; that it, in effect, is of little or no consequence.

The killing was, we presume, unintentional (though we do not know for sure, as the possibility remains that someone had motive to load the gun with real ammunition). But that does not mean that no one should be held culpable and punished. Society must regard the taking of human life — even when unintentional — as something terrible.

So if you accidentally fall from a height on top of someone and kill that person, you must be punished? How just is that?

If Alec Baldwin did something wrong, but only if he did something wrong, may he be punished. We don’t like him, but that’s irrelevant, and it is not the Alec Baldwin shooting that we are concerned with here. It is Prager’s and God’s morality.

Prager goes on:

I get this principle from the Bible …

Ah, from the Bible! No surprise then.

… which was, until the last century, the source of America’s and the Western world’s moral values.

To the extent that it was, much injustice resulted. Fortunately there were also laws which in many codes, some much older than the Books of Moses, distinguished crime from accident.

This principle is repeated over and over in the Bible’s first five books (the Torah), the source of all biblical laws. This repetition strongly indicates how seriously the Bible takes this issue.

The five books of Moses are full of God’s capricious and often cruel decisions and actions. One of them, Exodus, has its chief hero, God, fiddling with the mind of the Pharaoh of Egypt so that one moment he’s prepared to let Moses lead the Hebrew slaves out of bondage, and the next moment he isn’t. And this happens over and over again. It’s a tease. Promise given, promise broken. It’s only when God has all the Egyptian boy children in Pharaoh’s city killed  – the Angel of Death enabled to distinguish which household with a boy in it must suffer the loss because God gets the Hebrews to mark a sign with animal blood on their front doors so his messenger passes over their dwellings (which were well away and apart form the Egyptians’ anyway) – that Pharaoh lets Moses lead the slaves away. And even then God “hardens his heart” yet again, so he sends enforcers after them to bring them back.

Now don’t say that’s not dishonorable of God! And how about unjust and cruel to the Egyptian parents? On the whole, not great examples of moral behavior, wouldn’t you say? 

And after the Pharaoh chapters, this supreme moral guide, the Torah, gets even sillier.

We could offer many examples of its silliness, but we’ll stick to Dennis Prager’s text for precepts he considers supremely admirable. They are silly enough:

He writes: 

Example one:

Exodus 21:28: “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned …”

The obvious question is: Why would the ox be put to death? It is surely not guilty of murder; oxen have no free will. The reason it is put to death is that the killing of a human being cannot go unpunished.

The Jewish Bible scholar, professor Nahum Sarna, wrote:

The execution of the ox was carried out in the presence, and with the participation, of the entire community (the animal was stoned, not merely killed) — implying the killing of a human being is a source of mass pollution and the proceedings had an expiatory function. The killing of a homicidal beast is ordained in Genesis 9:5-6: “For your own life-blood I will require a reckoning: I will require it of every beast … Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in His image did God make man.” The sanctity of human life is such as to make bloodshed the consummate offense, one viewed with unspeakable horror. Both man and beast that destroy human life are thereafter tainted by bloodguilt.

You see? Man is made “in God’s image” therefore the ox must be stoned to death. Okay?

Example Two:

Deuteronomy 19:5: “(If) a man goes with his neighbor into a grove to cut wood; and as his hand swings the ax to cut down a tree, the ax-head flies off the handle and strikes the other so that he dies, that man shall flee to one of these cities and live.”

Again, the Bible describes a homicide that is entirely accidental. But the person who accidentally committed the homicide is not free to live a normal life. He cannot go on with life as if nothing happened. While he is not to be executed, he must flee to one of three “cities of refuge” in ancient Israel. There he may not be killed or otherwise hurt by a member of the killed man’s family. But he is not a completely free man.

So there were sanctuary cities even in those days! To be a punishment, they were probably derelict, crime ridden, filthy, with many living on the streets.

Prager continues:

In my Bible commentary, The Rational Bible, I quote Leeor Gottlieb, a professor of Bible at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University: “The Torah is morally ahead of some modern societies, in which people’s lives go on nearly uninterrupted if they killed unintentionally.”

As the Bible explains five verses later:

Thus blood of the innocent will not be shed, bringing bloodguilt upon you in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you.

Human bloodshed brings bloodguilt upon the land.

A tremendous lot of human blood, the innocent sort included, is shed on that land in the five books. At least as much as anywhere else in the inhabited world. And much has been shed on it in the three thousand years and more that has passed since Moses died. So bloodguilt is upon it. What is God or man going to do about it?  Rationally now: what?

Ah, there is something that can be done to cure bloodguilt when the cause is not a particular known person. A prayer can be said. An incantation. Apparently it does the trick:

Example three:

Deuteronomy 21:1-4 and 7: “If, in the land that the Lord your God is assigning you to possess, someone slain is found lying in the open, the identity of the slayer not being known, your elders and magistrates shall go out and measure the distances from the corpse to the nearby towns … And they shall make this declaration: ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. Absolve, O Lord, Your people Israel whom You redeemed, and do not let guilt for the blood of the innocent remain among Your people Israel.’ And they will be absolved of bloodguilt.”

Unlike the previous instance, in which the (unintentional) killer is known, the killer of the slain man found “in the open” is not known. Nevertheless, the community is still held accountable and must ask for forgiveness for not preventing a homicide.

The message is, they should have known the murder was going to be committed. It was immoral of them not to know.

Prager’s last example is not from the five books. But his attitude to what happens is set by the biblical rules.

Example four:

The final example is not biblical but from my radio show. Many years ago, a woman called to tell me about an ostrich raised on her family’s ostrich farm. One day, this ostrich kicked her father to death.

 I asked the woman what was done to the ostrich. “Nothing,” she replied.

Given my biblical background, I was taken aback.

“So you tell people who visit your farm, ‘This is the ostrich that killed my father’?”

“Yes,” she responded.

In my view, that cheapened her father’s life and death.

So Prager would have had the ostrich killed, not because it was a danger to other people which would be rational, but as condign punishment. Because? Because man is made in God’s image. Because human bloodshed brings blood upon the land. Because of mass pollution, and expiation is required to cleanse it. Ideally, the woman should have summoned her neighbors to help stone the ostrich to death.

And this code of behavior, this ancient prescription for the provision of justice, is, according to the sage Gottlieb and to Prager himself, morally advanced!

The Bible has lots of dramatic, exciting, shocking, amusing, puzzling, frustrating, and satisfying stories in it. (We like the one about God refusing Cain’s offer of vegetables, preferring Abel’s meat.) It also has – at least the so-called “Old Testament” has in the King James translation – lots of very beautiful poetry in Isaiah, Job, Psalms, Daniel, Ecclesiastes … Parts of it are a good read,  and it is essential to a proper education.

But it is not a moral guide.

Posted under Ethics, Judaism, Law by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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The Jesus gang and the Mohammedan menace 12

We often say of Christianity, that its theology is absurd, its morality impossible, its history bloody; and that it brought down a thousand years of darkness.* 

Peter Gay, in the first volume, Chapter Four, of his two-volume magisterial work The Enlightenment: an Interpretation, describes Christianity in terms that are equally disparaging:

Romans had at least made a serious attempt to construct a civilization founded on reason, not myth. Then came Christianity, profiting, vulturelike, from decay, preserving ideas that deserved to perish, and stamping out ideas that deserved to survive.

In its early history, its very origins, there was something unsavory about Christianity. Significantly, it flourished in an age of decadence and among the lower orders, among men and women sunk in ignorance, vice, and despair. Significantly, too, it hammered out its doctrine, its discipline and organization, amidst undignified wranglings, inane debates in endless assemblies, angry conflicts over trivial matters, mutual slanders and persecutions. Christianity claimed to bring light, hope, and truth, but its central myth was incredible, its dogma a conflation of rustic superstitions, its sacred book an incoherent collection of primitive tales, its church a cohort of servile fanatics as long as they were out of power and of despotic fanatics once they had seized control. With its triumph in the fourth century, Christianity secured the victory of infantile credulity; one by one the lamps of learning were put out, and for centuries darkness covered the earth.

“St. Paul” was the author of the Christian religion. How his wild fantasy – that a dead Galilean Jew was “God” – came to be believed by uncountable millions of human beings for two millennia and continuing, is hard to account for. Edward Gibbon suggests in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, that the new religion caught on as it did – secondarily, says the great ironist, “to the convincing evidence of the doctrine itself, and to the ruling providence of its great Author” – was that it promised “a future life” after death. But Roman myth taught that there was an “afterlife” too, and if the Elysian Fields were not as glorious as Christian Heaven, at least Hades was not as terrible as Christian Hell.

As for the Galilean Jew himself – called “Jesus” by his Greek-speaking first worshiper who never met him and was not interested in his life or his birth name – well, he probably did exist, and was (again and always probably) crucified by the Romans as an insurgent leader. Like other insurrectionist Jews in the age of the Emperor Tiberius, he led a gang of cut-throats, including Judas Iscariot, the “dagger-man”, and James and John, the Boanerges, the “sons of thunder”. The only thing that was different about him was that he was an extreme religious fanatic, to the point of insanity, really believing that if he prayed hard and long enough, and his followers then brandished a couple of swords at some Roman soldiers, Jehovah would do the rest; upheave the earth, flood the valleys, terrify the Romans until they fled from Judea, so that the Israelite Kingdom could be restored. (“Thy Kingdom come!”) But as that didn’t happen, it is of no importance.

The religion founded by “St. Paul” has been of fearful import. But the worst of it is over. Discredited and disarmed, most effectively by the Enlightenment, it is not a serious threat to life and limb anywhere in the world any more – though some atheists complain that Christians in the southern states of the USA treat them harshly, and constitute an active danger to the thriving abortion industry.

The religion that is gravely dangerous to the world now is Islam. Islam needs to be discredited and disarmed. It needs to be exposed in all its naked nastiness for all that it truly is: supremacist, totalitarian, homophobic, misogynist, murderous and savagely cruel. It needs to be despised, argued against, relentlessly mocked.

Yet as long as “Jehovah”, and “God”, and “Jesus”, and the many gods of Hinduism, and even the frail and arcane divinities of academic “agnostics” continue to be fed with belief, it will be impossible to evaporate “Allah” into thin air forever as he desperately deserves. 

 

*For our full condemnation, see the series of essays titled The Birth and Early History of Christianity, under Pages in our margin.

Posted under Christianity by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 28, 2018

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