Temple in time

My understanding of the significance of Sabbath opened slowly like a rose to reveal a more complicated and alluring beauty than I had imagined.

We humans think we are in charge of our worlds. We organize, create, build, and sweep up as if we are running the show. Sabbath is about giving up this control, acknowledging we aren’t the bosses by surrendering for a day the drive to alter the world in any way. At the same time, it’s a celebration of being. It speaks to the fundamental struggles of the Jews. For a people with a history of being slaves, this day of is a powerful statement of freedom. Slaves can’t decide when they’ll work and when they won’t. Sabbath is an exercise of free will. The fact that Sabbath can be practiced anywhere is vital for a people who spent generations on the move. Unlike temples made of stone, temples built in time are yours no matter where you are. Far from just the Jewish day of worship, when Jews go to synagogue on Saturdays, it is the Sabbath itself they are celebrating.

Yet, I wasn’t surprised to learn that even the most observant use creative loopholes such as lights on timers and slow cookers set on Friday morning. Some also have low-tech solutions. One man I met at Saturday worship services told me that growing up as an Orthodox Jew his favorite Sabbath activity was playing Scrabble with his siblings. To keep score, they would fold pages of a book, a dog-ear for each point. “It’s not writing!” he said when I narrowed my gaze at him. I wasn’t too shocked to find out he was a lawyer.

It took a while, but eventually I was able to pull my attention away from the activities that are not allowed on Sabbath to those that are encouraged. What’s a Jew to do? Say her prayers and go to synagogue—of course. Other than that: read for pleasure, tell stories, play games that don’t involve writing, nap, eat food that’s been prepared in advance, kick back in a hammock, daydream, take a walk around the neighborhood, eat some more, nap again, contemplate the beauty of creation, be grateful to have one day every week when hustle of normal life is set aside.

The idea of a weekly block of time free from work is a notion that much of the world has embraced, religious and secular alike. The weekend has become so central to how we experience time that it’s hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. Yet, the original intent has been turned inside out: we use our weekends to prepare for the work week—not vice versa. Laundry, groceries, cleaning—Saturday and even Sunday are opportunities to get chores done so that come Monday we can focus on our jobs or school or whatever it is we really do. Even the most observant Christian family does not use Sundays to officially suspend the daily grind. Meals will be cooked and cleaned up after, laundry will be washed and folded, errands run. Special “family time” may be carved out, but no radical existential statements underlie the day. The Sabbath may have been a potent gift to the world, but we’ve been running with it so long and so hard that not only has the contents dropped out along the way, we’ve forgotten what was ever in the box.

Advertisements

45 thoughts on “Temple in time

  1. Agreed mostly, except for this bit:

    Sabbath is an exercise of free will.

    Respecting the Sabbath is NOT an exercise of free will, since compliance is REQUIRED in order to not violate Divine Will, AKA sin. Heck, respecting Sabbath is one of the 10 commandments, as a day to be set aside as consecrated to God, kept holy.

    Similarly, choosing to violate (‘break’) Sabbath is not an exercise of one’s free will, since if someone actually believes in God, they believe God doesn’t give humans permission to violate His rules without expecting to be punished for it, as if God will accept an excuse, “But God, I was exercising MY free will….”

    Numbers 15:32 tells us what happened when someone was found collecting sticks on the Sabbath: they were put to death by stoning.

    THAT’S what happens when a mob forgets that their God is a made-up concept, and allows their figments of their overactive imagination get carried away: people die. No one asked WHY the man was picking up sticks (he may have been trying to build a fire to keep his sick family warm, for all we know): just that the death penalty imposed and carried out. Yes, I know it’s likely a ‘cultural marker’, one means to signify members of ‘in-group’ vs ‘out-group’, ‘us vs them’ (Gentiles) thinking. That’s hardly a defense: in fact, it makes it all the more inexcusable.

    Jesus was repeatedly threatened with stoning for healing on the Sabbath; apparently he got away by the skin of his teeth (well, until, you know he outlived his luck) by claiming he wasn’t healing for his own personal gain, but doing so to the glory of his Father (thus risking blasphemy charges). Jesus forced changes in Judaism’s “no excuses accepted” for Sabbath-breakers, where the hard-line Pharisaical stance gave way to more liberal interpretations.

    But again, how many people have to die before some see the SLIGHT problem with believing in imaginary beings? Sabbath is an anachronistic and absolutely illogical and mindless of a vestige of the past as is imaginable (think about it: a God who says to keep a day Holy, under DEATH THREAT?).

    As such, it’s about as insightful and beautiful as any other murder by murderous thugs can be, be they operating under the name of Islam or Judaism (and there’s not much difference, from what I can see: both are as imaginary as the rest).

    Dave

    • Well, Dave, as usual your comments are as subtle as a sledgehammer. But you do bring up an interesting point. The free will here is to be exercised within strict parameters. Does that negate it’s “freeness?’ Also, the punishment of stoning seems to me to be enforced by people (in those times and places where it has occurred). Many Jews don’t do Sabbath perfectly and they are not stoned to death. I think this is more of an issue of a controlling government or mob mentality.

      • The free will here is to be exercised within strict parameters. Does that negate it’s “freeness?’

        The term ‘free will’ is easy to understand, where “free” implies “free of punishment or consequences”. But if a decision carries a reward (or punishment) for choosing one course of action over another, the choice cannot accurately be characterized as a “free will” decision.

        Theologically (non-philosophically) speaking, there’s only TWO types of will:

        1) God’s Divine Will, expressed as either a positive (Thou Shalt Do X) or negative (Thou Shalt Not Do X) commandment. The Sabbath was ordered by YHWH to be observed under penalty of death, and the Book of Numbers records such a death sentence carried out. Hence the decision cannot be properly characterized as a “free will” choice, since God stated it as Divine Will AND the decision carried punishment of death.

        Rather, the choice to NOT comply may be accurately characterized as exercising one’s “freedom of choice” to disobey God. The phrase ‘freedom of choice’ carries a very different meaning from the term ‘free will’, since the former implies one is free to pick their poison, and they expect to pay the price.

        2) Man’s Free Will. ‘Free will’ is to be used by mankind for those situations where God hasn’t already stated His Divine Will, AKA “conscience matter”, where a believer is supposed to decide after Bible study, prayer, then deciding whatever course of action they believe will make God the happiest.

        Corinna said-

        Also, the punishment of stoning seems to me to be enforced by people (in those times and places where it has occurred). Many Jews don’t do Sabbath perfectly and they are not stoned to death. I think this is more of an issue of a controlling government or mob mentality.

        Well, thank God Judaism hasn’t existed as an independent theocracy for what, over 2,600 years now? Since 586 BC, when the Hebrews were conquered by the Babylonians and taken into captivity (and with rare exceptions, eg the 100 yrs under the Hasmonean Dynasty)?

        Instead, Judaism has existed as a minority group scattered across foreign lands, or where the land of Judea has been ruled over as a colonial holding of some foreign Empire (Persian, Greek, Roman, etc) and hence why they’ve been disallowed from carrying out stoning and other forms of religiously-motivated capital punishment without express approval of their overlords. I have no doubt that such restraints are NOT a matter of some having the DESIRE to do so, but simply a reflection of lacking the political power to self-govern.

        (Google for Rabbi David De Sola Pool’s 1916’s work “Capital Punishment Amongst the Jews”, for a review of how the Sanhedrin had increasingly become a toothless tiger under centuries of Roman rule. In fact, shunning grew as a direct result of Judaism’s losing the ability to stone their fellow Jews, and shunning is a practice that is still with us today as a form of ‘virtual stoning’.)

        I dunno if you had the stomach to watch the videos of modern-day stoning under Islamic law, but some of those videos are from countries where misogynistic Sharia law prevails (Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, etc); you’ve gotta love a little bit of that ol’-timey religion of the Abrahamic faiths in action! (The Torah still calls for death by stoning, FWIW, just like the Quran does. Whether it’s widely ignored or not is besides the point, and speaks more to the sheer absurdity of looking to 2,800 yr old legal codes as if they’re somehow “superior” to what modern secular societies have to offer today.)

        Corinna, what possible excuses can you imagine for God condemning a Sabbath breaker to death for the crime of picking up sticks to make a fire (in Numbers 32)? People haven’t changed THAT much since then, and the Torah account is undeniably clear. The Sabbath violator wasn’t exiled or separated from the community; he was STONED to death.

        You even seemingly point to the frustrating Sisypean task of trying to enforce a day of Holiness, in your conclusion:

        Special “family time” may be carved out, but no radical existential statements underlie the day. The Sabbath may have been a potent gift to the world, but we’ve been running with it so long and so hard that not only has the contents dropped out along the way, we’ve forgotten what was ever in the box.

        So, I’m a bit confused: is this forced day of rest in the name of Holiness a good idea in your mind, or not? Is the Sabbath (under threat of death penalty) an example of “mined wisdom” that religion offers as “essential wisdom that allows us to live better”?

        I’m hoping you possess some moral purview that I’m just somehow missing here, since the Sabbath isn’t worth even the loss of ONE life, in my Secular Unholy Book. God is once again somehow demanding everyone honor the sanctity of life and what a Great Guy God is by demanding the TAKING of lives? It just honestly makes no gob-smacking sense to me, so lay it on me, if you or anyone else can.

        Dave

        • Oh, Dave. Yes, I think understanding the intent of Sabbath is one of the nuggets for which I’m mining. I think bringing some of the spirit of Sabbath into even a secular life could be beneficial. I do not believe in forcing anyone to do anything and I don’t think God wants us to stone a person ever–I don’t care what you think the Bible says or instructs. Also, I think the discussion of whether freedom can exist within certain confines is legitimate. In most disciplines–I’m thinking of writing or painting specifically–you learn the rules first and then the goal is to exercise freedom within those confines.

          • Oh, Dave. Yes, I think understanding the intent of Sabbath is one of the nuggets for which I’m mining.

            And what is this profound insight, again? Something about needing to remind oneself not to work themselves to death, enforced under…. wait for it!….. penalty of death?

            Isn’t that a “problem” that is likely to self-correct, eg wouldn’t workaholics work themselves to death? Derp? Does anyone really NEED a “superior moral-lawgiver” to tell them “all work, no play, makes Jack a dull boy”?

            I think bringing some of the spirit of Sabbath into even a secular life could be beneficial.

            Hmmm, maybe I’m just not following.

            How exactly would I do that, as an atheist?

            Are you suggesting that I accept the presence of uncertainty in my life? Hmmm, OK, but why still not sure why you’d assume I haven’t figured out that basic life lesson before now (as if there’s ANY OTHER CHOICE in life BUT to accept that $hit happens, AKA “unforeseen circumstances befall all”)?

            As an atheist who KNOWS Jehovah (the God of Abraham depicted in the Tanakh) doesn’t actually exist, you know I’m going to analyze what Earthbound EFFECT such Sabbath laws had on the society in which it was implemented, and you don’t have to be a cultural anthropologist (eg Jared Diamond) to realize that a mandatory ‘observe the Sabbath or die’ rule served as a bald-faced attempt to exert power and control over fellow Hebrews, enforced in the name of worship to Jehovah. It’s a carte blanche “get out of jail free” card to murder those who’d oppose attempts to control them in the name of God, using an “appeal to Divine Authority”; it’s a freebie to get away with murder of another human, since it’s done in the name of God(s). Remember, the Jews tried to STONE Jesus for such Sabbath violations (that is, if the NT is to be believed).

            As such, it serves as a GREAT way to eliminate heterodoxical believers and atheists from within a population (at least the ones who refuse to remain silent and ‘go along to get along’ by not opposing the longest-running Priestly-Rabbinical class protection scheme/sacrifice racket in history (which kept the Priestly class well-fed, indeed)). I see it as little else other than that: an excuse to get away with forcing others to comply, at the threat of death; all excused in the name of service to God(s).

            It should go without saying that believers in God are NOT exactly big supporters of “free speech” rights: until at least 200 years ago in the West, people were STILL being put to death for blasphemy/being atheists, and some still ARE being executed for such crimes in 2013 in Islamic countries, for the crime of daring to publicly state that Allah doesn’t exist. The World has a LONG way to go towards moving beyond religious intolerance, ignorance and bigoted-thinking, and you’re playing a role in the battle, whether you want to admit it or not.

            I do not believe in forcing anyone to do anything and I don’t think God wants us to stone a person ever–I don’t care what you think the Bible says or instructs.

            And where’d you get THAT idea? Does God reveal his Will directly to you, perhaps in a vision? (You wouldn’t be the first to make THAT claim, BTW.)

            Unfortunately, you’re now arguing against the 3,000 yr old long-cherished core fundamental beliefs of Judaism too, since the Torah clearly demands Sabbath observance in Exodus (which is modeled after Genesis’ day of rest following creation of the Universe), eg the Nevi’im (Prophetic writings of the Tanakh) contains the prophetic warnings of Ezekiel and Isaiah condemning Jews for their repeated failure to follow God’s rules, explaining that God was turning his back on His Chosen People by allowing them to be scattered amongst Gentile Nations (Diaspora) for their repeated failure to observe the Sabbath as their #1 criminal offense against God Himself. That’s not just Dave Perez’s interpretation of Judaism: ask any rabbi.

            Now sure, they might hem, haw, and tap-dance around that truth, but they cannot deny that Sabbath observance REMAINS a fundamental practice of Judaism without risking being accused of attempting a revisionist reinterpretation of the Tanakh.

            The only reason Jews DON’T stone other Jews who don’t respect the Sabbath today is simply because they CANNOT, having been forbidden from doing so by “inferior” (man-made) secular laws. As I said above, one need only consider what happens when theocracies get into power in Islamic countries (eg Iran) to see what happens when the rocks are allowed to fly in the name of worship to Allah.

            Also, I think the discussion of whether freedom can exist within certain confines is legitimate. In most disciplines–I’m thinking of writing or painting specifically–you learn the rules first and then the goal is to exercise freedom within those confines.

            The problem is that religious theology is NOT just “another discipline” like writing or poetry: some people really DO BELIEVE God exists, and honestly believe that God can exert control over their lives and souls after death, even threatening them with eternal damnation in Hell (at least in some flavors of Christianity). Fostering that belief allows others to CONTROL them, in the name of God and acting out of THEIR own eternal soul’s self-interests.

            I suspect you’re butting up against your own lack of beliefs here, since it’s as if you’re forgetting that some believers are NOT playing make-believe deity God, but they really DO believe in God(s)?

            Now sure, it would be GREAT if more believers were able to maintain a healthy skepticism about their personal God fantasy and keep one foot firmly planted in reality, realizing that while their ideations may provide some selfish teleological benefits to them in the here and now (eg gives them comfort in times of crisis, etc), it’s not really “REAL”. That’s the entire premise of the series of articles, based on the presupposition of gleaning religions for that which is useful, and discarding the chaff.

            However, as a fundamental article of FAITH, almost all religions require believers to accept their personal ability to make sound moral determinations is “horribly flawed”, and vastly inferior to God-given “superior” laws (which includes the Sabbath observation, BTW), but you seem not to understand and/or accept that what you’re asking believers to do is quite impossible if they TRULY accepted that concept, for how are they able to mine for wisdom by picking and choosing what to accept as valid and what to discard, WITHOUT exercising their OWN sense of independent moral determination? How does one choose which bits to keep and discard, without using one’s OWN personal moral sense?

            The point is, Corinna, if you TRULY believe a God exists who conveys His wishes for mankind via the Bible, then you have NO OPTION BUT to comply with His Divine Will, since Christianity and Judaism doesn’t allow the excuse of claiming ignorance (“I didn’t KNOW X was a sin” doesn’t fly as a defense). I hate to be the atheist telling you the news here, but if you truly BELIEVE that an Abrahamic God actually inspired men to write the Bible to record His Divine Will in the OT/NT, then the onus is on YOU to learn God’s Will and to COMPLY.

            Learning of God’s Will is not some ala carte buffet, where you personally get to pick and choose which Divine commands you WANT to follow: as Jesus said, anyone who violates one of God’s laws might as well have violated them all.

            So whether you even recognized it yet or even want to admit it or not, YOU, Corinna, as a member of the human race, are placed into a ‘forced-choice’ dilemma of having to decide if you will learn and comply with God’s will. Per the Christians here, you are only playing into Satan’s plans by denying your role in the “Universal Sovereignty Issue”.

            You like the idea of giving up the ability to make your own moral determinations and NOT doing the work of exercising independent moral decision-making? GREAT! There’s PLENTY MORE of that kind of blind obedience where that came from, since the Sabbath is only a mere TASTE of that kind of relinquishment and abandonment of moral self-determination to another “superior” being who’s track record is not so hot. And thanks for offering, but God’s currently not hiring chiefs (messiahs/prophets), only injuns (followers).

            Once again, we’ve seemingly converged back to the ugly topic of men who’d attempt to control others (the famous, “just ignore the man behind the curtain” refrain comes to mind). It’s funny how often it always comes back around to THAT theme, esp whenever the topic is religion, huh?

            PS don’t blame me for being the whistle-blower: I honestly believe TRUTH stands to CORRUPTION, and the ones you should REALLY be upset with are the ones who’d play the control game in the name of God(s).)

            Dave

            • Dave, I haven’t bought this “all or nothing” idea when it comes to religion–this entire project/exploration is based on the idea that perhaps “some” may work, especially well-chosen bits of wisdom that have been “mined.” I’m sure there are some faithful within every one of the religions who would agree with you–that tends to be a fundamentalist refrain no matter your point of view. But, then, there’s the rest of us humanity just trying to do the best we can and to make our world a less fractured place for those who live near and far.

              • Hi Corinna,

                Thanks for the honest reply.

                From my limited vantage point over the fog of the internet, it appears you may be trying to play a form of “Pascal’s Wager”, as if you’re not really sure IF God(s) exist or not, or what His exact wishes for mankind may be, so hence you’re ‘hedging your bet’ by not betting on any ONE number and diffusing your risk. At least you could claim that you tried to do SOMETHING, in case God DOES exist. I get it: been there, done it.

                The problem is that believers (‘fundamentalists’ as you say) will tell you that you CANNOT hedge your bets like that, as if placing bets around the craps table: you HAVE to go “all in” or God won’t reveal His inner secrets to you.

                Some truly ARE psychologically-trapped in a “do or die” situation, which is as far from a “free will” choice as we can GET, since it’s eternal bliss/reward behind Door #1 and eternal Hellfire behind Door #2. That is NOT a “free will” choice, by ANY stretch of the imagination. The entire dilemma is silly, since what if the “Real God” was named Ahuru Mazda, and it sucks to be you if you weren’t born on the right side of the Planet? Point being, the entire scenario has all the hallmarks of coming from men, not from God(s).

                Corinna, you don’t really think you’re the FIRST person EVER to have awoken from a state of blissful somnolence (raised as a “none”) only to discover that other people TRULY BELIEVE that you and themselves are in this position of being FORCED to make a choice, right? THAT would be a very naive and self-centered thought (which is what religion plays on: an appeal to personal narcissism, that the deity who created EVERYTHING wants to be BFF with lil-ol’ US, and will torture us for an eternity if we don’t reciprocate). Organized religion has a few MILLENIA more experience with exerting social control over their rank-and-file members for the purposes of manipulation. They HAVE given it more thought than a typical “none”, and on a day when the headlines ring out with Sunni killing Shia killing Sunni, both in the name of Allah, you’d THINK it would be clear that religion is ALL about power and control as much as about love for one’s fellow man. I’m physically SICK of such dysfunctional “love”, if THAT’S what a belief in God requires.

                Here’s a cartoon video which sums up the situation you and the rest of us find ourselves in (and try to ignore the potty-mouth bits, which only detracts from the basic valid point which the cartoonist was trying to make).

                Ask yourself: in your heart of hearts, using your OWN moral compass (as “flawed” as it may be: just ask any Christian who will tell you how flawed it is) would such a God(s) even DESERVE someone’s respect or love, if you didn’t perceive Him to be holding a gun to your head?

                Dave

  2. Interesting to observe your insights into the Sabbath experience. I prefer a daily meditation which reminds me of the gift of the present and the opportunity for joy and service in every day.

    • Hi Valerie, It seems to me that meditation would offer some of the same benefits as the “unplugging” of Sabbath. I’m thinking specifically of getting to a place in your mind that is more still and quiet and, hopefully, noticing/appreciating the present moment.

  3. I observed the sabbath as part of a Christian denomination along with the annual holy days for 9 years. The book of Revelation shows that after Christ returns during the milennium the sabbath and holy days will again be observed…how long it doesn’t indicate. I will have to say I did not find the sabbath observation a burden nor were the holy days. As I worked for the church observation was never a burden as everyone I knew observed them also. This can be a spiritual way of life and enhance your perspective and values but outside a communal setting presents problems in todays worldI I count that period of my life as some of the happiest!

  4. Corinna, this is one of the most beautiful and meaning descriptions of the meaning of the Sabbath that I have read. Thank you for it. I won’t say much, except I’m going to make a copy of it so I can give it some concerted thought. The second paragraph is priceless. Thanks.

  5. Hi Corrina—

    What I see in your initial post and in a couple of your responses to others’ comments is a striving for balance. Our six days of work needs to be balanced by a day of rest, contemplation, and thanks, The stereotypical portrayal of a wrathful Old Testament God is almost as old as the Bible itself, but if you read it in context, and for the message it delivers, it too, is about balance. I think someone, a few posts ago, pointed out the “Eye for an eye” rule, which seems so barbaric to us now, was actually one of the earliest efforts to bring balance to crime and punishment. In many ancient societies, punishment was way out of proportion to the crime, with death being the typical result. As harsh as many of the OT rules seem to us, we have the luxury of looking back through thousands of years of legal, moral, and spiritual evolution. For every instance of a wrathful God or seemingly meaningless rule, there is a story of His mercy in the Old Testament.

    On my first read through your initial post, I started thinking about the old problem of rules vs. faith, and how some modern Jews have found creative ways to work around the laws against doing labor on the Sabbath. But then I started thinking about your last couple of paragraphs; how the prohibitions are really set up as boundaries that encourage focusing on family, prayer, rest (physical and mental), and a spectrum of positive motives. I think you summed it up well when you said there are “freedoms within confines”. We can think ourselves free of any number of things—religion, political affiliations, family obligations, even society in general, but we are still bound by natural laws like gravity and aging. Try to break these natural laws, and there are consequences; try jumping off your roof an flying and see what happens when you ignore the law of gravity. I think the OT was setting up boundaries that reinforced the Jews’ status as a chosen people; when they were broken, there were consequences.

    If observant Jews see the Sabbath rules as supporting God’s wish for them to have a day of rest, to enjoy the fruits of the weeks’ labor, and to set aside time to think about Him, rather than a burdensome set of prohibitions, then I think they fulfill the intent of Sabbath. If we Christians could do the same with our rules for the Sabbath and the way we’re supposed to live our lives every day, we might get the same sense of release from the everyday burdens of this world. Like Walt said, your last sentence was a powerful reminder of what Sundays and Sabbaths are supposed to focus on. In the end, I don’t think it’s really about the rules and what they allow or prohibit. It’s the attitude you have about the Sabbath and what it means that determines how you truly fulfill its intent.

    • Hi Tim,

      The stereotypical portrayal of a wrathful Old Testament God is almost as old as the Bible itself, but if you read it in context, and for the message it delivers, it too, is about balance. I think someone, a few posts ago, pointed out the “Eye for an eye” rule, which seems so barbaric to us now, was actually one of the earliest efforts to bring balance to crime and punishment.

      That’s just an utterly shameless attempt at apologetics, Tim. Really?

      God is SUPPOSED to be the perfect ABSOLUTE moral lawgiver, where God-given morality is EVERLASTING, and for all TIMES and PLACES, NOT subject to “cultural relativism”. Point being, God cannot cite “cultural relativism” as a defense while operating under the banner of being the ULTIMATE source of Divine Moral authority. Uh-uh, that’s not going to work.

      You’d think the fact that Jehovah was beaten to the punch by Ahuru Mazda (the deity of Zoroasterianism) by issuing the World’s first Divine prohibition against slavery would give Christians a clue, since the Hebrews held captivity in Babylon were amongst the World’s first benefactors of such an anti-slavery law by being released from Babylonian captivity (Cyrus the Great was even lauded as the Jewish Messiah in the Nevi’im). But nope: the Hebrews started up the practice of slavery again, once the Persians were conquered by the Greeks and ousted from Israel; they picked up right where they left off by buying and selling other humans. It only took another 1,800 yrs before the World decided slavery was simply wrong, since the Bible endorsed it.

      Dave

        • Thanks, but I’ll keep playing that tune until I get an answer, and not just an evasive response.

          I see you still haven’t even attempted to defend the indefensible, offering an explanation of WHY slavery is an example of God’s “perfect” morality in action, or even realizing that you’re flip-flopping like a fish on a dock, claiming God is the source of “absolute perfect morality” one minute, then spinning around to claim that God is a “cultural relativist”, the next. You don’t even recognize the contradiction, greedily taking both sides of the argument when they’re mutually-exclusive?

          PS if the ‘slavery thing’ is getting old, feel free to replace it with genocide, the condoning of rape, stoning of adulterers/atheists, infanticide, incest, etc or any of the other examples of heartless brutality on offer in the OT as examples of YHWH’s “perfect” morality in action as seen under the “Children of Israel”.

          Those scriptures won’t just go away, and their damning existence in the historical record of the World’s moral codes isn’t simply eliminated by Jesus and the New Covenant. And that’s the problem with plagarizing another groups religion and hijacking it’s Holy Book on which to base a sequel work of fan fiction: you inherit it’s weaknesses and flaws.

          Dave

          • Dave, first, this is Corrina’s blog, and this thread is about Sabbath, so I have no intention of getting in a protracted discussion about the historical context of selective Biblical passages. Slavery, the unjust treatment of women, and a thousand other social evils occurred in all cultures in all times, including our own, and trying to blame the Bible for them is like blaming the Eiffel Tower for causing lightning. I would remind you, in our own time, it was a minister of the Christian faith you mock who led the civil rights movement in this country, based on his understating of the Bible’s moral imperatives.
            I’ve noticed a consistent thread in most of your posts. You brag about doing “the hard intellectual work” that’s freed you from religious bigotry, as if those of us who believe in God just woke up one day and decided there is a God whom we must blindly follow. Most of us on this blog, myself included, have come to our own understandings of God (or a higher being) through thought, contemplation, and discussion with others. Yes, we struggle with some parts of the Bible, such as the terrible violence as the Israelites conquered the promised land. But we also savor the stories of His overwhelming mercy, such as His rebuke of Jonah when He spared Nineveh.
            You also like to point out how much the Judeo-Christian tradition has borrowed from other religions, such as Zoroastrianism. That may or may not be true, but it really has no meaning, especially after the tenth time you’ve told us. Zoroastrianism wasn’t the first religion, and borrowed freely from other regional faith traditions as well. A common cultural dialogue is to be expected when civilizations share their stories.
            I participate on this blog to hear others’ points of view, and to share ideas, not to browbeat or insult them. I have no intention of changing anyone’s mind, nor do I think do they of changing mine. The only way to respect another’s point of view is to understand it, although understanding and respect do not imply agreement.
            The only way I know you (or you know me) is through what we post here, and I’ve never been much for amateur psychoanalysis, so I’ll refrain from making any character statements. But, most of your posts remind me of the flip side of that which you most seem to fear, the religious zealot. You seem unable to accept the legitimacy of anyone else’s point of view, nor will you allow for much in the way of disagreement. Perhaps, like a fundamentalist, you fear that any chink in your self-proclaimed perfect logic may cause the whole house to crash down around you. It’s just a guess–I really don’t know why you seem to be so offended by other peoples’ ideas on faith. But I do know one thing—your reliance on what you call your “own hard work” to build your own sense of morality is no more legitimate than whoever is standing next you at this moment, and will last only as long as the next idea you or someone else embraces. It’s awfully easy to live up to a standard you create. The people on this blog are reasonably intelligent and really don’t need a self-appointed “whistleblower” to coerce them into your way of thinking.

            • Hi Tim et al,

              Slavery, the unjust treatment of women, and a thousand other social evils occurred in all cultures in all times, including our own, and trying to blame the Bible for them is like blaming the Eiffel Tower for causing lightning.

              Even overlooking the defense of, “but everyone else was doing it, too!” (which any mom would answer with, “If all the OTHER kids were jumping off a bridge, would you do it, too?”), you’re seemingly overlooking that faithful and observant Jews were ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED by God to follow the ‘Law of Moses’ to commit what could only be characterized as genocidal campaigns against their neighbors that included God directing them to commit war-crimes against their fellow “Children of God”, the Non-Chosen People (Gentiles). These actions could only be described as brutal war crimes, using any modern-day standards of morality (eg Geneva Convention, etc). The Jews WERE following God’s written laws, using the old failed Nazi Nuremberg Defense of “we were only following God’s orders”. Even aside from the purely silly codes (eg “don’t mix linens with cottons”), there’s plenty of amorality on display if you’re only willing to see it it, eg death penalty for gays, atheists, adultery, etc.

              How could you NOT catch that when reading of the military campaigns recorded in Deuteronomy, 1st/2nd Samuel, 1st/2nd Kings, Joshua, etc? Or like most Christians, did you just put on the blinders to ignore that bit?

              Even worse is the Jews felt they HAD to enforce these amoral codes under threat of their OWN death for failing to enforce God’s Divine Will, risking “being vomited from the land” for sharing in the sins of those who violated the laws. The Law of Moses SHOULD contain obvious CLEAR-CUT examples of morality and fairness that is heads-and-shoulders above the laws of the surrounding Nations, when if you actually studied comparative ancient legal codes, you’d know isn’t the case. The Torah is simply derivative of older Sumerian and Babylonian codes, in some cases, even more regressive and authoritarian.

              If there’s one overarching theme of the OT, it’s a series of excuses being offered for why Jews were defeated in battle and taken captive by Babylon/Sumerians, etc with the common refrain being that the Jews had somehow failed to enforce God’s prohibitions in the Torah, and hence why Jehovah turned his back on his people (Isaiah and Ezekiel repeats this message, which also explains WHY the Pharisees gained more power over the more-liberal Sadducees: the Pharisees were the more literalist conservative hard-liner Jewish sect who appealed to the populace (think modern-day Tea Party conservative republicans), and thus were the ones who most objected to Jesus’ questionable claims to being a Jewish messiah. Ironic, no?

              So by trying to please Jehovah’s laws given in the Torah (Deut 18:20), the Jews actually got the blame by Christians for killing their own God on the cross, and Jews suffered Christian anti-semitism for 2,000 years afterwards at the hands of Christians like Martin Luther! Never-mind that per Christian theology itself, Jesus HAD to die in order to fulfill the prophecies and atone for Adam’s ‘original sin’ by serving as the ‘perfect sacrifice’, ushering in the Kingdom of God! Thus, the Jews HAD to fulfill prophecies. Such illogic is (yet) another irresolvable contradiction of Christian theology as to why Jews deserve the blame, when they were only trying to please God by rejecting another failed messiah claimaint in the first place.

              So the irony is that Jesus was rightly rejected by observant Jews as a false failed messiah, and the Jews were FORCED by the Torah to put false messiah claimants to death: false prophets were seen as a threat to Judaism by spurring development of a radical sectarian off-shoots of orthodox Judaism, where Jesus didn’t fulfill the prophetic criteria found in the Nevi’im (read Aslan’s “Zealot”, as he briefly touches on the valid reasons WHY Jews rejected Jesus). Hence 1st century Palestinean Jews were so worried about not messing up again after being held captive in Assyria and Babylon and pissing off God that a climate of strict blind obedience to Jewish authorities emerged, and led to millions of lost lives in the Jewish-Roman Wars for a century after Jesus’ death.

              You really need to review ancient Hebrew beliefs and the roots of Christianity, and learn about how Jews viewed their relationship with God, perceiving a RESPONSIBILITY to ENFORCE Divine Laws in order to not be punished by Jehovah for “sharing in the sins of the sinners” of those who broke the Law of Moses by failing to dispense justice.

              I would remind you, in our own time, it was a minister of the Christian faith you mock who led the civil rights movement in this country, based on his understating of the Bible’s moral imperatives.

              Unfortunately, the Bible is clear-cut on it’s endorsement of slavery, whether you’re talking about the Torah (Exodus 21) or the words of Jesus, who even used an example of a slave owner dashing his slave to death for failing to follow his orders (!), in the parable of the “Faithful and Wise Servant”. Oh, yeah: Jesus didn’t believe that the “love your neighbor as yourself” commandment applied to loving your neighbor’s SLAVES: they were considered the master’s PROPERTY, and as the Torah says in Exodus 21:21, it’s perfectly OK to beat a slave to the point of death, just as long as it doesn’t die within a day or two: “Notwithstanding, if he (the slave) continues to live for a day or two and then dies, he (the owner) shall not be punished: for he (the slave) is his money.” Charming, huh? Blood-curdling show of sympathy, for the slave is considered mere chattel, property of the owner.

              600,000 lives were lost in the U.S. Civil War, and both sides pointed to the SAME “Holy Book” in order to make their claim for why God was on their side (and the South actually WAS correct, since the Bible actually endorses slavery).

              And sure, MLK may have engaged in a bit of scripture-twisting and lying to justify his cause of fighting for civil rights, by why should MLK even be placed in the position of being forced to lie in the name of an amoral practice endorsed by God? The Bible is a BARRIER to basic civil and human rights, as it DOES support discrimination against non-Jews, AKA Gentiles, as is evidenced by the OT’s endorsement of owning slaves from “the surrounding Nations”.

              Are you forgetting that other Christian ministers argued AGAINST MLK’s stance to support the civil rights movement just as vigorously, using the SAME Bible as the basis of their defense? And THAT’S your idea of “perfect” morality?

              I’ve noticed a consistent thread in most of your posts. You brag about doing “the hard intellectual work” that’s freed you from religious bigotry, as if those of us who believe in God just woke up one day and decided there is a God whom we must blindly follow.

              Huh? No I didn’t. It took YEARS of thinking and study to free myself of the restrictive bonds that held me back, fearing Divine retribution from God for daring to think sinful thoughts. My family were strict JWs, and actually believed I was expressing the worse thing possible by saying I was an atheist: in their minds, that was tantamount to saying I wanted to DIE in Armageddon, which is JW eschatology, is a fate WORSE than death.

              I am currently SHUNNED by my JW family members, as they are trapped within a control structure that lies and covers the sins of the Governing Body, feeling it’s OK to lie in the name of God. I went with the TRUTH, they went with the faux TRUTH, AKA the lie of religion.

              There are people (esp young people) who aren’t as strong as I who will commit suicide when their entire families and congregations shuns them: I’ve heard of a few, and for anyone to be placed in that level of control and held in the name of a grand LIE is simply reprehensible (to the point where I wish there WERE a just and fair God, to dispense judgment and demand vengeance for killing in his name).

              But I’ve noticed a trend in your posts of evading questions and engaging in ad hominem attacks. That’s OK, as I know in your heart of hearts, you do it ONLY because you likely really believe that your performance is being observed, and your “perfect” moral guide book tells you stuff like “the fool in their heart says there is no God”. I know, imagine THAT: the Bible, a book of religious propaganda where belief in God is required, telling the readers that THEY’RE the smart kids, since THEY believe in God! Whoda thunk?

              Most of us on this blog, myself included, have come to our own understandings of God (or a higher being) through thought, contemplation, and discussion with others. Yes, we struggle with some parts of the Bible, such as the terrible violence as the Israelites conquered the promised land. But we also savor the stories of His overwhelming mercy, such as His rebuke of Jonah when He spared Nineveh.

              Yeah, that Nineveh account is a heart-warming one, isn’t it? But why, again?

              The Ninevites catered in to God’s demand to do what He says or else face destruction (Sodom-style), and they WERE SPARED by a merciful God! Cool! God kept his end of the bargain (another Mafioso-style offer that imperfect humans can’t refuse, if they know what’s good for them)! Then God rebuked his reluctant servant Jonah for acting like God actually cared what he thought, as if he weren’t a maggot that the Bible repeatedly tells humans that were. Yes, that’s a heart-warming story, indeed, and mildly-suggestive of a diagnosis of Stolkholm Syndrome.

              You also like to point out how much the Judeo-Christian tradition has borrowed from other religions, such as Zoroastrianism. That may or may not be true, but it really has no meaning, especially after the tenth time you’ve told us. Zoroastrianism wasn’t the first religion, and borrowed freely from other regional faith traditions as well. A common cultural dialogue is to be expected when civilizations share their stories.

              Well, that’s a break-though then, since you’re at least admitting that many of the OT accounts were not “God-given”, but are merely adaptations of pre-existing myths from older neighboring cultures. Bible scholar and historian John Van Seters has written many books on how eg Genesis is heavily-influenced by Greek mythology, eg Adam and Eve is a recasting of Prometheus/Pandora, where only the names have been changed; the completion of the Torah was likely required as part of the “Persian Imperial Authorization Theory”, which holds that the Jews were released from captivity in Babylon and allowed to self-rule if they submitted a written legal code to their Persian overlords. The promise of self-rule served as plenty of motivation to compile the Torah in writing, and gain their relative independence.

              From worldology.com:

              Note: Treatment of Conquered Nations. The Persians were largely humanistic, and more humane in their governance of conquered peoples than they experienced under previous regimes. The Persian religion of Zoroastrianism forbade slavery, so it was generally not practiced or permitted. The Persians allowed exiles from Babylonian rule to return to their homelands (such as the Jews under Darius I), and conquered nations were allowed a generous amount of autonomy.

              I participate on this blog to hear others’ points of view, and to share ideas, not to browbeat or insult them. I have no intention of changing anyone’s mind, nor do I think do they of changing mine. The only way to respect another’s point of view is to understand it, although understanding and respect do not imply agreement.

              And your problem is? That’s exactly what I’m doing here, too.

              Unfortunately, some people cannot separate their beliefs from their egos, and any challenge of their beliefs is going to be interpreted as a personal attack on THEM or their value as humans. Christians are particularly prone to this, since the Bible ENCOURAGES them to become emotionally-invested in the stories, telling them they’re IMPORTANT PLAYERS in the events contained in storyline, inviting them to develop a personal relationship with God and Jesus to play a role. It’s a recipe for making believers ideas quite resistant to challenge, since their barriers and defenses arise; they think that God is watching their every thought and move, under the constant Heavenly 24/7 thought surveillance that makes the NSA privacy intrusions seem lackadaisical and sloppy.

              The only way I know you (or you know me) is through what we post here, and I’ve never been much for amateur psychoanalysis, so I’ll refrain from making any character statements. But, most of your posts remind me of the flip side of that which you most seem to fear, the religious zealot.

              Here’s the difference: I’ve DONE my homework, and can confidently and safely assume I’ve done more research on your beliefs that even you have. That’s just a fact: I studied biology in undergrad, got a doctorate in biology from Cal, I know theology, have taken comparative religion courses, etc, and am not a newbie to the debate. If that makes me seem arrogant, so be it, but it’s a FACT.

              You seem unable to accept the legitimacy of anyone else’s point of view, nor will you allow for much in the way of disagreement. Perhaps, like a fundamentalist, you fear that any chink in your self-proclaimed perfect logic may cause the whole house to crash down around you. It’s just a guess–I really don’t know why you seem to be so offended by other peoples’ ideas on faith.

              Nope. I’m actually more insulted by the “arrogance of ignorance”, those believers who, if they’re self-aware enough to realize that they lack any evidence to support their belief in God, INSIST that EVERYONE ELSE dummy-down to THEIR level and just believe like they do. They cannot defend their beliefs, or explain WHY they believe as they do, and expect everyone to place value on their wishes for what they WANT reality to be, as if reality is open to a popularity-opinion poll.

              THAT’S the highest possible arrogance, IMO: demanding that others IGNORE available evidence and toss out any evidence that counters THEIR Bible, since it dares to challenge THEIR precious belief system. That takes some arrogance, but then a Christian is also a pretty good actor at playing the humble servant of Jesus, playing up to the “he who is first is last” game.

              But I do know one thing—your reliance on what you call your “own hard work” to build your own sense of morality is no more legitimate than whoever is standing next you at this moment, and will last only as long as the next idea you or someone else embraces.

              Uh, that’s exactly my point: despite Christian’s claims and self-assurance of telling themselves that THEY have all the answers to life’s BIG questions (which is confirmed by the Bible, which ALSO tells you that Christians have ABSOLUTE Truths), and claiming to possess the superior moral authority of God, the Bible does not live up to the claim.

              My point is that ALL humans are playing on the same field, which is something painful for those who want to have God on their side are reluctant to give up. By professing to have all the answers as Christians are want to do, you’re actually fooling only yourself.

              If that wasn’t hamstringing enough, Christians (like MLK) are forced to engage in a series of post-hoc rationalizations to explain WHY they think a particular Bible passage is applicable to any given moral situation they face, not recognizing that THEY are exercising THEIR PERSONAL moral authority to decide which scripture applies. It’s why a Jihadist feels perfectly justified flying a hijacked airliner into the WTC, or a Christian mom feels justified in killing her son and then killing herself, thinking that she’d insure her son going to Heaven and herself going to Hell.

              Problem IS, both persons made decisions based on FLAWED premises, the assumption of the existence of an imaginary being for which no evidence exists. The problem is the Bible encourages blind obedience to authority, and not developing one’s OWN moral decision-making capabilities (which is a high crime per the Bible, trusting one’s own moral decision-making skills being the gravest sin).

              In my book, retarding another person’s moral development is a high crime against humanity, since it’s discouraged people to think on their own two feet, and retarded the moral development of mankind over millenia with NOTHING to show for it but arguably alleviating some stress from feelings of uncertainty and not knowing. Instead, the Greeks have encouraged the study of philosophy and ethics for 1,000 yrs before Jesus walked the Earth, and asked questions that have led to the development of ethics and morality without relying on the moral authority of a false Gods.

              It’s awfully easy to live up to a standard you create. The people on this blog are reasonably intelligent and really don’t need a self-appointed “whistleblower” to coerce them into your way of thinking.

              No? That’s funny, as the serpent in the Garden WAS the first-recorded whistle-blower in the Bible, where he actually told the Truth, but his “crime” was undisclosed release of information, telling the secrets God didn’t want his telling Eve. Perhaps that’s why the Christian Gnostics saw the serpent as the “good guy”, the Prometheus analog of the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box, the demiurge God who was the friend and protectorate of mankind saving us from the capricious Zeus. I wrote an article on that:

              http://awgue.weebly.com/the-paradox-of-adam-and-eve-and-how-the-new-world-translation-fruitlessly-attempts-to-keep-it-hidden.html

              Dave

              • Dave, I came to my beliefs only after years of the same kind of intellectual work you’ve done. I’d share it here but the only result would be another torrent of words and its clear by your insistence that the Bible is the result of a multi-century conspiracy of deceptive advertising that nothing I, or anyone else, would make the slightest impression on you. Were I motivated enough, I suppose I could search for equally arcane sources to refute each of your points, but at some point discussion degenerates into mere argument. And, as much as you may resent it, I owe you nothing–no explanation, no description–nothing. Why? Because even if my beliefs were based on pure emotion or personal experience, or what I read in the Sunday comics, they would be mine, and of the same value to me as yours are to you. I’ve never questioned yours. or anyone’s right to question the basis of my faith, but I take quite strong exception to you telling me what I have to believe if I’m a Christian. That’s a call you don’t get to make for me or anyone else.

                Obviously, you feel the only way to lead a moral life is in spite of, rather than because of, faith. I think moral living is possible under a broad spectrum of belief, from none to the most orthodox. And that’s where the great divide among us lies. In your world, the only way Dr. King can stand for justice is by “being forced to lie” about Biblical moral lessons. Forced to lie–really? That’s so unbelievably cynical it beggars a logical response. Rabbi Aaron gave us wise counsel in advising not to get caught up in technical discussions on faith and religion, and your statement is a perfect example of why.

                • Hi Tim,

                  its clear by your insistence that the Bible is the result of a multi-century conspiracy of deceptive advertising that nothing I, or anyone else, would make the slightest impression on you.

                  Actually, NO: a mound of compelling evidence from reputable Biblical scholars could do it. I won’t hold my breath, though, since I’ve looked, and there’s nothing.

                  See, unlike many, I let my conclusions FOLLOW the evidence, not vice-versa. To do otherwise is to reach a conclusion without first weighing all available evidence, which is a GREAT method making bad decisions.

                  Were I motivated enough, I suppose I could search for equally arcane sources to refute each of your points, but at some point discussion degenerates into mere argument.

                  The only problem with “mere argument” (as you say) is if the parties engaging in the debate aren’t actually committed to arguing in “good faith”, i.e. being willing to admit when they’re wrong, not cemented in their partisian position and hence locked in their close-mindedness.

                  Now as a rationalist, I’d HAVE to be a Bible believer yesterday and profess my belief in God after only being presented with a shred of evidence to support such belief. It’s not like I WANT to be an atheist, it’s just that why SHOULDN’T we start from the default position disbelief? You don’t believe in pixies, fairies, unicorns, ghosts, goblins, etc, too, do you? Of course not. So why does God(s) get “special pleading” in your mind?

                  If you have evidence, then bring it on! As someone committed to the rationalist approach, I’m committed to following wherever the facts may lead in order to move towards “the truth”, so if you’ve got some evidence which I haven’t seen before (and I try to stay up on Biblical research, as it interests me), lay it on us. I DOUBT you DO, mind you (this is not my first rodeo), but it’s possible. The concept of a ‘rationalist theist’ is NOT impossible: all I’d need to become one is SOME evidence that withstands even the slightest scrutiny and evaluation.

                  And, as much as you may resent it, I owe you nothing–no explanation, no description–nothing. Why? Because even if my beliefs were based on pure emotion or personal experience, or what I read in the Sunday comics, they would be mine, and of the same value to me as yours are to you. I’ve never questioned yours. or anyone’s right to question the basis of my faith, but I take quite strong exception to you telling me what I have to believe if I’m a Christian. That’s a call you don’t get to make for me or anyone else.

                  Well, you DO value “the truth”, don’t you? I mean, do you REALLY want to live your life based on believing lies?

                  If so, then you’re right: we DON’T share similar values, as MY entire LIFE has been committed to relentlessly searching for truths (eg spending a decade towards earning a doctorate in a scientific discipline from Cal, in pursuit of that goal of helping others in the hear and now, and not waiting for Heaven to provide an answer).

                  Oh, and FWIW, I don’t hold out any hope of life in Heaven with the Flying Spaghetti Monster for spreading the atheist message: it just my feeling of responsibility for my fellow man that drives me to share the salvation of intellect and rationality with others. You’re welcome. 🙂

                  Obviously, you feel the only way to lead a moral life is in spite of, rather than because of, faith. I think moral living is possible under a broad spectrum of belief, from none to the most orthodox.

                  Actually NO: that’s NOT “obviously” my belief (so you need to start quoting me, if it helps prevent you from misrepresenting my beliefs, AKA committing a “straw-man” fallacy, as you just did).

                  I fully ACCEPT that Bible-based morality IS possible, just that it’s INFERIOR to OTHER methods of determining morality, primarily for THREE reasons:

                  1) compliance is based on authoritarian threat/reward which is actually non-existent (there is no Hell/Heaven) and/or not believable (hence why there’s TONS of theists in prison: it’s not working),

                  2) The Bible prescribes immorality and calls it the epitome of God-given morality, when NO ONE in their right mind would claim to be “superior morality” in 2013 (eg slavery, genocide, murder of non-believers, discrimination, misogyny, etc, etc, etc),

                  3) As the Sabbath thread shows, the proscribed behavior that defines compliance with “God’s Will” is vague, poorly-worded, and open to misinterpretation, when there’s something like 33,000 flavors of Christianity ALONE who all cannot agree on even the BASICS, let alone the more difficult principles.

                  That’s a DEADLY combination, eg Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly DIE (and their children die) for their refusal to accept blood transfusions, based on their FLAWED misinterpretation of Genesis 9:6 (yes, I’ve known of JW’s who’ve lost their lives and left orphans and widows behind, due to their tragic ignorance, misguided beliefs and faith in the Bible). You’d agree THAT’S a problem, right? Or are you willing to tolerate the sins and crimes of others, thinking that God will fix it all, in the end?

                  Others though are willing to KILL others in the name of Jesus, with Christian cousins killing their Abrahamic Islamic cousins: or haven’t you read the headlines of the ongoing bloodshed in Egypt and Syria lately?

                  Point being, religions offer a flawed system of morality which has been tried for 3,000 yrs, but it’s time to move beyond the silliness of Holy Books and religion. Religious beliefs exact a COST; it’s not all about how it makes YOU feel good.

                  DO you share ANY kind of a sense of responsibility out of “love for your fellow man”, if that love MIGHT include foregoing your personal right to religious exercise in the name of accepting rationality? Now THAT would be a sign of love for your fellow man: standing up and saying, “Look, it’s all make-believe”.

                  I won’t hold my breath: I don’t think most people have that kind of “love” for others inside of them.

                  In your world, the only way Dr. King can stand for justice is by “being forced to lie” about Biblical moral lessons. Forced to lie–really? That’s so unbelievably cynical it beggars a logical response.

                  Exodus 20-21 is pretty clear on laying out Jehovah’s endorsement of the slavery trade: to deny it is to argue against ALL evidence, INCLUDING the Bible itself. Is the Bible lying?

                  Like the old saying goes, you can lead a Christian horse to water, but you can’t make it THINK. I truly don’t suspect you share my and Thomas Paine’s values of pursuing TRUTH above all else, but hope springs eternal that you’ll prove me wrong.

                  Rabbi Aaron gave us wise counsel in advising not to get caught up in technical discussions on faith and religion, and your statement is a perfect example of why.

                  I must’ve missed that comment, but imagine that: a Rabbi telling everyone to “just ignore the man behind the curtain”. You don’t actually think he MIGHT have some vested interest in discouraging people from investigating the roots of Judaism and Christianity, do you?

                  Dave

                  • Dave, I’ve already decided to bow out of this blog because of your distracting, insulting, and belittling posts to me and others, even towards those who share your doubts about the afterlife. I’ve no doubt you are learned in many areas, but the ability or desire to treat others with the respect you freely give yourself is not one of them. I’ve got an advanced degree as well, plus a boatload of professional certificates, along with the humility to know they don’t mean much unless I use them to greater good. I’ve only one parting question. In this and other posts, you call yourself a rationalist, yet you’ve referred to a desire to help others, and the beauty of nature and music. Where is the rationalism in that? What scientific proof can you offer that appreciation of fine art, nature, or the closing aria from Madame Butterfly is rooted in a rational human biological or social need? In what scientific context can helping others be proven to further the species? Whether or not you believe in any kind of deity, trying to pretend you are totally rational is your version of the “man behind the curtain” you so often mention. A leopard killing a gazelle is acting rationally, because it needs meat to survive. Emotion, empathy, and compassion are the things that elevate us above the rest of the mammals, but they have no roots in cold rationality.

                    P.S. I believe the phrase is “here and now”, not “hear and now”, unless your an ENT.

          • Dave, I have seen it true in my own life that pride and arrogance and self-centeredness have blinded me to the wisdom of others. A self-focused life left me feeling that I had to be right about what I thought was really important. I’m not your judge, Dave, but your evident arrogance and fear (based on the fact that you won’t seem to allow anyone the possibility that they may be right and you wrong) leads me to hope that you will pay close consideration to what Tim has said, not to defend yourself, but to ask yourself that there is anything wise in what he says.
            Walt

            • Thanks for the words, Walt. Among the few things that have penetrated my thick skull in this life is that I do not, nor does anyone else, have all the answers, especially when it comes to matters of faith. Nor do I presume to know how God chooses to work in each individual’s life–I just know how He works in mine, and I try to stay true to it. I wasn’t especially religious for a good part of my life. My parents weren’t church-gores, and outside of parochial school, I could count the number of times I went to church on one hand. I didn’t attend church regularly until my late 20’s, and didn’t begin to really give my faith much thought until well after that. So the faith I’ve developed is based on mature thought. I’ve read books on a broad spectrum of beliefs, from die-hard Roman Catholics to hard line atheists and everyone in between, and each has effected and shaped my belief system in some way, as I hope it will continue to. I hope I never get to the point where I’m so cocksure and smug in my beliefs there’s no room for little more knowledge and a few more questions…

            • Walt, where’d you get the idea that I’m seeking or offering certainty or possess an irrational fear of anything?

              I’m a man of science, and the very “language” of science is dealing in statistics and probabilities, where claims of certainty are rarely offered, but surety is measured in confidence intervals, the level of warranted confidence we have in the results not being wrong. I HAVE to be comfortable with uncertainty, and grasped that concept long ago, since I know there’s no Almighty Brain that possesses Divine omniscience and all the answers.

              Instead, the role of offering ABSOLUTE certainties and assurances of possession of absolutes truths is the domain of religion: I’m an atheist, and am quite comfortable with not knowing, and what cannot be known.

              The allure behind religion is unreasonably thinking one CAN possess absolute truths that are promised as truths in the Bible; the sense of confidence bestowed serves as a temporary reduction in the stress of admitting we all face uncertainty and doubt. But rather than actually learning what IS known and knowable, Bible believers prefer to clutch to the false sense of security by telling themselves they possess a sure thing.

              Take Psych 101, and you learn it’s a fundamental exploitable weakness of the human psyche to show a preference for an unwarranted false sense of surety that we’d LIKE to be true, over a sober and more-accurate assessment of the risks where we may NOT want it to be the truth. People prefer a “sure bet”, and hence why most people will always fall for the scammer who tells them what they WANT to believe. The wise man Homer Simpson said it well when he said, “it takes two people to tell a lie: one to tell it, and the other to BELIEVE it.” Homer’s no fool….

              Unfortunately, the Bible IS demonstrably and provably WRONG. However, you don’t want to hear THAT, since it makes you feel vulnerable. So don’t let me blow the efficacy of your security blanket, though.

              As Bertrand Russell said:

              “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.”

              Dave

              • Dave:
                I told you why I think you are afraid, and I did not say that it was irrational. You may think yourself comfortable with uncertainty, but I have seldom seen you admit that anyone else might be correct. I can certainly be wrong about this, but such a stance often proves the person is afraid to be wrong. Your faith in rationalism should give you pause–it rather sounds like a religion.

                If certainty is measured in in levels of warranted confidence, then how is it that you can say you “know” there is no almighty brain. By definition, you cannot. I know that you have said in past that you are actually agnostic but only an “atheist” when it comes to “your God” (I assume referring to the God of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that some of us claim to believe).

                btw, I think that the Bertrand Russell idea works two ways.
                Walt

                • Thank you, Walt. You have pointed out the faith of Atheisanity, as my husband coins it. I don’t mind people having it, as long as they admit it.

                  It’s good to talk to you again. We have been having computer troubles and also VERY busy.

                  Yours in Christ,

  6. I like and agree with what Tim says about the intent and attitude of a person determining their observance. And I like to imagine God’s intent and attitude when he told Moses this law. The Jews were slaves at the time, who couldn’t “decide when they’ll work and when they won’t.” I imagine the gift that the Jews felt they were being given by their God, a day off! and how the original observances of the Sabbath were celebrations of freedom and God’s care for them. I think THAT is the intent and attitude about the Sabbath that God meant in the first place. Didn’t Jesus say “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath?”

    In my state, alcohol sale is prohibited on Sundays. I imagine the attitude and intent of that law originally, did it have to do with maybe the assumption that you can’t worship God as well when you’re drunk? Does it serve a purpose now, today, especially when it applies to ALL residents of the state, whether they believe in God or not? Is it fair to force people to observe the Sabbath whether they want to or not? I say no and I think it’s the opposite of the original intent.

    Corinna, I felt a “ping” when you described what I do too often — use Sunday to prepare for the rest of the week instead of the other way around. Still, I work really hard on Saturdays in order to have a time on Sunday when I can sit by the river with my journal and a glass of wine (take that, prohibitionists!) and be with my heart and my God.

    • Hi Shelley, What a lovely little respite and ritual! Since having this experience in L.A., I’ve almost subconsciously integrated Sabbath into the rhythm of my week. I make a more concerted effort to get my chores done during the week so that come Friday evening and Saturday I can be free from those sorts of duties. I don’t avoid everything an observant Jew would (I’ll watch a movie and I still turn on my laptop, etc.), but it’s more the spirit of the Sabbath I embrace. I read for pleasure more, I try not to drive anywhere. It’s given my weeks a new pattern.

  7. Good day, friends, Corinna. I enjoyed this post very much. I have been thinking lately about how I misuse the Lord’s day, and the Orthodox emphasis on the Sabbath made me think more of that, and how to remedy it. I have tended to use Sunday as my catch up on odds and ends day. Instead of keeping the peace and serenity I gain from Mass and spending the rest of the day enjoying it and dwelling on the food I have been given, I tend to let it dissipate in odds and ends chores. And I am the one who loses from that, not God.

    So. I think I will use your post, Corinna, and it’s insights into Orthodox practices, to start shaping my week so that I spend more of my Sunday enjoying the peace within. That, in turn, will lead me to being better prepared for the week to come.

    Yours in Christ

    • Raised in Pennsylvania under “blue laws” for which one could be arrested for opening a grocery store or mowing the lawn on Sunday, having a grandmother who countered criticism with, “the better the day the better the deed,” I never understood the religious implications. Besides the sabbath involved was Sunday. Thanks, Corinna, I think I can appreciate many benefits now from the reminder of many things. One other point; I am too regularly brought up short by someone hearing one aspect of my thinking and extrapolating it into a universe of beliefs then attributed to me that supposedly characterize, explicate, and define what, therefore, I MUST believe. Reminds me of my father, (biological dad, not . . .well, you know) who was an obsessive anti-catholic, telling me during the campaign that JFK, if elected, would be a “bad man.” His reasoning? If JFK were elected and followed the instructions of the pope, he would be a bad president. If he did NOT follow the instructions of the pope, he would be a bad catholic. THEREFORE, he would be a bad man, QED. In many ways a great man, but you couldn’t reason with him. RIP, pop.

      • Phil, my old man was a Southerner, raised in the 20’s and 30’s, and didn’t move to California until the War brought him here in 1941. You’d expect someone like that to have certain views on race, but all he had to say is that “anyone who judges the person by the group is a damn fool”. He didn’t use a lot of words, but he made his point!

  8. I’ve been here reading and pondering…..wishing that there was something I could add to the conversation. It is not that I don’t understand the idea of the Sabbath…..I am old enough that most stores were not open on Sundays…..and I certainly understood the intent for it to be a day of rest, although living on a wheat farm this was not always possible, especially during harvest. But really, as a 50 year non-believer in the OT and the NT, all of this unnatural maneuvering to find time to not work makes very little sense to me. I do understand the positive nature of taking time out of our busy, over-connected lives…..especially since many families do not sit together at breakfast or dinner, do not sit around and make music or talk together, or do not take even short stay-cations nowadays, etc, The benefit of being forced by tradition to participate in quality downtime could be seen as positive. But it still seems so choreographed to me that it would lose some of the punch it is intended to create….or is it the non-punch!

    Anyway, free choice or not free choice….no matter to me as a non-believer. But I can see that bringing “some of the spirit of Sabbath,” as Corinna put it, could greatly benefit when folks get ultra-busy and in the work rut…..or the getting ready for work rut. This would especially help young people establish the idea of balance in their lives, a habit. worth pursuing. And I don’t think it is a matter of all or nothing. As a spiritually secular individual, I can integrate something like daily meditation/prayer into my life without declaring myself to be Buddhist or Christian. Some spiritual practices do not belong to any particular religious group……they are universal….and we would do well not to bicker over them.

    Dave, you and I are probably the closest in belief system of most of the folks on this blog……but I continue to be puzzled about why you believe you will turn any heads or change any minds with all kinds of academic knowledge and biblical research. It is not that some folks haven’t rationally thought through their beliefs, as Tim notes, but for the most part religious beliefs are not based in the rational realm (my opinion)……they arise from other places, and for most people, pushing at them is just going to make folks hold on tighter. But I understand your frustration, I think. I have chosen to be silent for the most part about these Orthodox Jewish beliefs….and how they relate to doctrine and traditions in Christianity. I just really can’t think of many ways to respond. You have taken the opposite approach. I am not sure what you have accomplished….except perhaps you feel that you have done your part to bring you own brand of beliefs to the table.

    Interestingly enough, as Corinna has been mining for essential wisdom within religious confines, I have found myself falling farther and farther away from any belief in god…..whatever that means to any of you. That was really the only vestige of the theological left for me to consider. I have been startled that this is where I have now found myself……not what I expected, but I am feeling in good company with this decision, if not on the blog, at least in my everyday life. Fortunately, my Unitarian Universalist church does not require beliefs to match any theological doctrine. Instead we are a group who values the question almost as much as the answer….if we ever do reach an answer!

    I will continue to read and ponder and to comment when something comes along that stirs my need to respond!

    As we said in the 70’s….still say today: Peace!
    Merrill

    • Merrill, I truly hope you decide to stay and actively participate in the blog–it is about the journey, after all. Your voice is an important one to hear as well; your perspectives are unique, and just because they don’t exactly mesh with mine, or Walt’s, or Aaron’s, etc. doesn’t make them any less treasured. We can never learn if all we hear are voices in lock step with our own.

      • Tim, thanks. I am not going anywhere……just being more quiet, I think. And I never feel pressure to match opinions with any of you.This past Sunday I delivered the lay sermon/presentation at church——the topic was the blog and all of you! Ending with how the blog had impacted me. One of my main points was that we were able to maintain a conversation…no, really more than that….to enjoy our discussions, not in spite of the differences, but because of them!
        I don’t always say totally what I think because I wish to be fair and civil……and it is always easy to take shots at things we don’t agree with in the religious realm Like: Prove it!. And I know that it is hard to keep separate the ideas and feelings, I guess I would say. What feels like a rational critical remark to one person can be received as a painful salvo to another. But I do generally try to find something from my “unique” perspective to comment about! Thanks for validating that!

        I am finding it difficult to speak critically— about Judaism—–Not necessarily negatively, but with the critic’s eye? I don’t want to come off anti-Semitic, which I don’t believe I am—–but there is such a circle of politics surrounding this religion. And I don’t see that longevity and deeply- held traditions makes Judaism more inherently valuable in terms of beliefs, but there seems to be some veil of awe around some of what Corinna writes and how people respond. Perhaps it is just me and how I am reading the words and what is also between the lines. But it does color my responses….I am respectful but questioning value..

        And I am here for the duration!
        Merrill

        • Hi Merrill
          I am in the midst of packing and within a few hours I will off to Asia but I felt that your comment was due a response. Our world, our politics, our friendships and our relationships are largely subject to projections.

          If by accident your car broke down in :”known” high crime area, would your fear of the majority of those present constitute bigotry? I think not. For many reasons, I chose to participate in this blog. I am in the business, I have held highly visible positions. And I have found that many elemental and fundamental views that exist are so confused that many can hardly form a valid perspective about anyone else’s value systems, largely when many people hardly understand their own values. This is my general thought and not addressed to any particular person in this blog. (As you noted the spirit of the participants in this social experiment is one of the intriguing aspects of this forum)

          I have felt that it is important to respect other ideologies, and this does not hinder my right, opinion or sensibility if I find a behavior and an action based on what I perceive to be a warped or abused value.

          Over the last 20 years, I have personally made myself available and willing to answer any question that was respectfully posed to me. I have addressed countless church groups, universities, participated in talk radio and on occasion on TV. I have always felt that hatred and confusion are nurtured in a vacuum; therefore I make myself available to add oxygen.

          It is reasonable and fair to sort out your feelings. Questions can serve 2 masters., one is the pursuit of truth the other is art of rationalization. I suspect that some thin skinned Jewish people may resent and consider a critical question as Anti-Semitic, but I fail to see how anyone can overcome troubling questions without a respective dialog. So for my part, you are free to ask, as long as I am free to answer.

          I do not subscribe to disputations about faith as they are fruitless and demeaning. I do not subscribe to hyper technical challenges as faith is not a machine and it is not quantifiable, it is supra rational.

          Sadly, my pressured itinerary leaves me without adequate time to hear out your “unspoken” sentiments, but perhaps Corinna may be able to provide a forum when I return.

          Wishing you peace and tranquility.

          Aaron .

    • My wife Michelle and I think alike about stuff a lot–which I suppose should not be so unusual after 43 years together, and we’re best friends, so we share (talk) a lot. I owe much to her as a balance to my tendency for free, unbridled thinking, ie, she keeps me hovering around home plate! 🙂 We often say to each other, “Great minds run in the same gutter!” So, here I say that to Tim 🙂

      Merrill, that’s not always true–she often thinks very different from me, and I have come to (grudgingly) appreciate that un-sameness. So too, on this blog. You are a valued voice. I’ve said before, and will say again, that I have learned much from interacting with all of you–of which you are a big part. So, stay engaged with us, please, as long as you are comfortable.

      One of the benefits for me, Merrill, has been rather opposite from yours: I have come to a stronger faith in God precisely because I have discovered that I can comfortably trust him in the midst of the ambiguity that honesty allows. I am a strong Christian–but I do not have all my doctrinal ducks in a row, and I don’t have to defend systems that tradition upholds just because…

      I will say about the Sabbath: I see the Father’s wisdom in insisting on his people keeping it simply because he knows, as our designer, that minds and bodies need this as assuredly as we need required sleep. I absolutely love how Corinna wrote about it, and I have been reading it every day so far. We have witnessed countless younger men (and often women) push themselves beyond reasonable limit to become successful–I did that, and it sometimes meant almost a 24/7 commitment to do whatever we had to do–it’s totally unhealthy to life, but people still rationalize its necessity. For the Sabbath principle (as I call it), I simply say, “thank you, Father.” 🙂

    • Merrill said:
      It is not that some folks haven’t rationally thought through their beliefs, as Tim notes, but for the most part religious beliefs are not based in the rational realm (my opinion)……they arise from other places, and for most people, pushing at them is just going to make folks hold on tighter.

      Yup, thumbs up. You are absolutely correct, since very few people decide their religious beliefs based on pure logic or reason, but instead are driven by EMOTIONS, what they WANT to be true. Unfortunately, REALITY (what really IS) doesn’t give a rat’s ass about WHAT we WANT it to be; it just is what it is (as I often say, when the entire population of the Earth once believed the Earth was flat, it didn’t magically become FLAT to accommodate their wishes).

      As a committed rationalist, I have NO CHOICE BUT to put the evidence ahead of my conclusions, and let the facts lead them where they take me. It’s absolute foolishness to do anything other than that, but that doesn’t mean some people DON’T do it that way (it’s well-studied in the field of psychology, and the phenomenom is called self-deception, AKA delusion). I try to live my life as stone-cold sober as possible, as the beauty of the nature of reality is even far greater than any fantasy could EVER possibly be.

      Dave

  9. Getting back to the post’s subject, I saw an article not long ago on a new psychological syndrome some therapists have described as “connectivity withdrawal”. After being deprived of their cell phones, tablets, and other electronic communication devices, for just a few hours, some people experience greatly increased anxiety; they literally feel they are unable to “unplug”, that they can’t afford to miss anything. Regardless of your religious persuasion, I think that says something alarming about the direction our society is headed. How can we expect to find “that quiet whispering voice” through all the background noise?

    • Tim, after I left classroom teaching, I took a job working with individual students who have autism. In this job, I sit in classrooms like a fly on the wall that students and teacher forget for the most part. I watch students constantly staying “connected” whenever they can (some teachers have given up trying to enforce no cell phone usage). These kinds of habits bode ill for our future “adults.” 😦

      • Walt–our son will be going to UCLA come September, so we’ve been doing a lot of visiting there. Since you’re from the area, you probably know the dorms are on a slight rise called “The Hill”, just west of the main campus. There are signs all over discouraging bike and scooter riding on the main walk between the dorms and school. At first I thought it was because kids rode their bikes too fast down the hill. Now I’m starting to think its because most of the pedestrians have their noses buried in their cell phones, texting without paying attention to what’s around them, and are liable to get run down!

  10. Merrill—glad to hear you’re sticking around! I, too, have been treading lightly since the focus shifted to Judaism, primarily because I’m so ignorant of its core beliefs and practices. I’m grateful Rabbi Aaron and others are around to shed some light on the subject. I think it easier to discuss our various approaches to Christianity because it’s easier to be critical of something we know so intimately. Also, its too easy to overlay our Christian or Universalist views on Corrina’s discussion of Judaic practices. Nevertheless, I think we have something to add as the conversations develop. And I think all of us have tempered our comments at one time or another for the sake of civility. I don’t regard that as intellectually dishonest as long as we get our points across—it’s just good manners, which still count, even on the Internet!

    Walt—for some reason, your comment about working 24/7 reminds me of the golden calf from Exodus. In Moses’ absence, the Hebrews created a golden calf to worship. Has modern society replaced the calf with non-stop connectivity and work, as a new form of worship? Sabbath practices speak to our need to get our priorities in order, regardless of our beliefs.

  11. I think maybe we have. I know that I am becoming more and more unwilling to stay completely connected with the world because it has become difficult to find a day when I can completely rest. They are fewer and further between (and sadly, often do not fall on Sabbath’s), and I miss them. As a friend of mine said about not having an IPhone, “I can’t make my friends understand that I do NOT want it possible to reach me, 24/7.”

    Corinna’s discussion on the Sabbath has made me think of many things, and one of them is how I must learn to disconnect myself sometimes. And that the Sabbath is a perfect day for it. So far, I have not been perfect in attaining that Sabbath rest, but I am working on it.

    Meanwhile, I am glad to be here with my friends, even if I don’t post very often. I think a lot.

    I am also looking forward to more of Rabbi Aaron.

    Yours in Christ, and with affection for all of you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s