In Which I Return Triumphantly!

I’M BAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!!!

I somehow managed to write a thesis since the last time I posted. Today I submitted it and then drank a lot of champagne and then got on a plane and now I’m sitting by myself at JetBlue baggage claim 6 in JFK. Good times.

I MISSED YOU ALL! I am so excited to read more Bible and write more nonsense and then read all YOUR awesome comments, which is one of my favorite parts of this whole thing. Especially Eli’s. I don’t pick favorites, but if I did, I would pick Eli.

So, just so we’re all on the same page: posts will still be short for the next couple of weeks, because I am out of town right now, then have midterms, then I’ll be out of town again for spring break. But after spring break I will start doing longer posts in order to catch up. We should be back on track within a month or two!

OT: Exodus 20

Exodus 20

http://www.feelguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/MoralChimp.jpgOh, this is a fun one to restart with! It’s the Ten Commandments! Which is, as we all know, the foundation for all of human morality. Because, first of all, nobody ever thought of not killing each other before. The reluctance to kill, steal, or cheat definitely does not appear in many other species, or in especially advanced forms in non-human primates, indicating that it actually evolved before we did. Morality certainly does not predate the Bible, let alone humanity itself. Nope. Moreover, we all know that not killing each other is only the sixth most important rule.

So!

God tells the Jews that he’s their god, in case they haven’t figured that out at this point. He warns them not to have any others.

He also instrusts them not to worship any idols. He warns that “I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me” – but God is love and is more merciful than vengeful! remember that! – “But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (5-6). So, what if my grandfather was loyal, but my father was sinful? Does it even out for me? Actually, I bet there is a catch. Everybody is sinful because of Adam and Eve, so God never has to worry about being nice to a thousand generations of people because everybody fucks up at some point. So really we’re just being punished all the time for the last four generations of sin. Then again, by this logic, shouldn’t the sin of Adam and Eve only lasted three or four generations, instead of spoiling everything for everyone else who ever lived? Or is that an exception because their sin was extra big? It would be really helpful if God could provide me with some kind of flowchart to explain all of this. Right now I feel like I would be unequipped to understand the convolutions without passing the bar first.

So. Don’t use God’s name willy-nilly.

Rest on the seventh day of each week. God actually specifies here that you and everybody in your family has to rest, plus your servants, your animals, and “the immigrant who is living with you” (10). But I know that, for a long time, well-to-do European Jews kept Christian servants so that they could have their houses cleaned seven days a week. Isn’t that breaking the rule?

Then again, it’s a stupid rule. Or, rather, it’s stupidly interpreted. The idea of making time to rest, reflect, and play is a great one. The fervent refusal to touch a light switch for twenty-four hours is just silly – especially when you factor in all the absurd workarounds that Orthodox Jews have adopted. Like, in Israel, there are elevators that are programmed to stop on every floor automatically during Shabbat. That way, people can still ride the elevator without pressing the button. Because obviously the part of the elevator-riding process that God would object to, if any, is not the actual elevator-riding, but the button-pressing. This absurdity is maintained even when it means massively wasting precious environmental resources. Harvard Hillel leaves every light in the building on from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. And when all the paper towel dispensers in the Science Center bathrooms were replaced with waste-free electric hand dryers, Jewish students complained and got the tree-killing machines put back in. Really? You can’t just wipe your hands on your pants one day a week? And what are you doing in the Science Center on Saturday (or, god forbid, Friday night) anyway if the whole point is not to do any work?

Jesus Christ.

Next: be nice to your parents. Then we finally get to not killing people. Then, don’t sleep around, don’t take shit that isn’t yours, and don’t be a lying asshole. Cool. I’m on board with all that, mostly. Not sleeping around when you’re in a monogamous relationship is a good call. But if you guys want to do a swinging thing, why not? Do what makes you both/all happy. I’m not gonna judge. Unlike some people. God just doesn’t really want you to have fun, I think. Maybe he’s jealous because he has no friends because he smote them all.

Anyway, to wrap things up, God tells people not to want other people’s stuff. And women are obviously subsumed in the category of stuff. I’m down with the not taking other people’s stuff part, but how can you stop yourself from wanting it? You want what you want. It’s not really a conscious choice. Then again, probably nothing is, because the whole idea of free will is sketchy as hell. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Then God gets all showy and throws thunder and lightning and smoke around to impress everybody. Kind of like the Wizard of Oz. Everyone freaks out and promises to listen to Moses always. God reminds everyone not to make false idols, because that is one of his biggest worries. Because, remember, he is friendless and lonely and jealous.

God wraps up this chapter with one of my favorite sentences so far: “Don’t climb onto my altar using steps: then your genitals won’t be exposed by doing so” (26).

1) So, what are they supposed to use? A ramp?
2) Alternatively, someone could invent underwear. God, I’m looking at you again.
3) Then again, we could all stop flipping out over what people have between their legs. I’m still unclear on why this particular set of equipment is treated any differently from, say, your face, or your armpit, or your earlobe.

Highlights

Not killing people is a really great idea.

Lowlights

It would be even better if God practiced what he preached.

Gah, I had hoped to do a chapter of Matthew too, but my computer is about to die and there are no outlets in sight. In retrospect, I probably should not have run my battery down from listening to “Call Me Maybe” so many times. Oops.

Stay tuned for tomorrow! And thanks for all of your continued support of my harebrained scheme. Remember to subscribe to be notified whenever a new post goes up, and share this on Facebook/Twitter/Google+/MySpace/LiveJournal/Xanga/Friendster/bulletin boards you happen to walk past/small pieces of paper lying on the street/telegrams/any other communication medium you like to use. I love all your comments, so please keep them coming!

Especially Eli!

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2 Responses to In Which I Return Triumphantly!

  1. Eli says:

    Now I feel all loved. And like I should come up with the best comment ever.

    First, is “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” really a blanket condemnation of lying? I think the way I was taught about this is that it literally means “witness”, as in “don’t get up in court and condemn someone who doesn’t deserve it” as opposed to “don’t spread lies about people anywhere”. Although the latter is obviously a legitimate interpretation, and more ethically inclusive.

    Second: the tenth commandment really casts doubt on whether women are subject to any of the commandments, doesn’t it? I mean, it says nothing about coveting your neighbor’s husband (and lesbianism wasn’t even conceived of at the time), so women are basically just objects. So go ahead and kill people! Clearly these commandments are for men only.

    Third: There were a lot of Middle Eastern religions at the time where sex could be a devotional act and there were sex gods and phallic temples and sex IN the temples and what have you. For some reason, God is super not OK with that – to the point where if someone sees your genitals in a temple from beneath, CURSED TO THE FOURTH GENERATION. I don’t even know enough about the regional culture of the time to even speculate on where the hell this prudery comes from, but it just seems out of step with the ideas of the time. On a side note, there is a hideous, hideous, hideous synagogue in San Francisco that looks like a yellow trough sitting on an aluminum box, where apparently due to the architecture you can see up the skirts of the women across from you in the sanctuary. Doesn’t seem like God would approve.

    And fourth: given what we know about God so far – doesn’t it seem like the Orthodox might have a point? If they actually believe in a petty, mendacious, genocidal God who thinks that women and children are property and foreigners are subhuman, why wouldn’t it be the case that God wouldn’t mind them riding an elevator, but would mind them pressing the button? Orthodox Jews tend to justify their practices in what is – for a lapsed-Jewish atheist like myself – literally the most annoying way anyone can justify anything: “When God commands you, you don’t ask why; you just obey” (more or less what they say, including about homophobia and making women sit at the back of the bus and whatnot). Then my head explodes. It does seem, though, as though they could be just a LITTLE more updated in their definition of “work” without their faith totally collapsing. Just a little.

  2. Jenin says:

    Yay, you’re back! I’m so happy, since this blog is one of the few things I look forward to reading each day.

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