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Query to a Rabbi:

I am an atheist, formerly a relatively well-schooled Lutheran, who is investigating certain sections of your book, Exodus, portions of Isaiah, etc., because of a number of American asses who were of high rank in the military, who have declared "The Lord is a Warrior!" Exodus 15:3.

Even though I am an atheist, somehow I find that blasphemous and disrespectful of a deity. Meanwhile, the Book of Isaiah has its moments, chiding the people for slavishly following ritual rather than simple goodness of heart -- but Isaiah named one of his sons Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning, "Spoil quickly, plunder speedily." That sort of behavior simply cannot be endorsed.

I am of the opinion that the Old Testament should be banned, although there is a great deal of wisdom contained therein, especially in possibly Ecclesiastes, which opens with an existential statement, "Everything is meaningless".

I seek guidance on how to consider the Old Testament. Should I apply Swedenborgianism?

Thank you for your consideration.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 1:2

Points to those who can follow my twisted logic.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No - the Constitution including the Bill of Rights (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kevskos, Kingsmeg

    and the rest of the amendments should be replaced with
    a document that's more suitable for the present day.

  •  Reading the OT makes more atheists. (15+ / 0-)

    One of the leading causes of atheism is letting people actually read the whole OT, not just the limited extracts provided in sunday school.

  •  Just hold it up to the ridicule (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, hnichols

    that it so richly deserves.  As you have done.

    The fools who hold it "holy", however, should be shortened . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 12:31:19 PM PDT

  •  No. Everyone should read it. (5+ / 0-)

    At least to know how others get their religion and thus a little more on how their minds work.  Same with the New Testament, the Koran, Atlas Shrugged, etc.

    Plus the King James Version is beautiful - like reading Shakespeare.

    Are you kidding?

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 12:31:58 PM PDT

    •  Agreed on all but Atlas Shrugged: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bythesea, River Rover, terrybuck

      that's just sadistic to recommend people read it.  If people want to read Rand it's better to start with something like The Virtue of Selfishness, which is nonfiction and so has the virtue of not being bogged down by her usual weak spots (character, plotting, dialogue, prose).  Atlas Shrugged covers the same material less effectively, but in seven times the length.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 12:38:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, Atlas will help you... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pvasileff

        ...understand the whole philosophy much better.  How it's all connected.  The philosophy is throughout the whole book and in almost everything everybody says.  And it's a good story.

        The Virtue of Selfishness alone is too tersely written - I think it would confuse many, and is focused mainly on ethics with some politics.  But it is a great intro to her work.  

        Trust me - I was a die-hard Objectivist for 20 years.

        Then came 2008.

        Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

        by dov12348 on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 12:48:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I kind of think... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dov12348

          That if Ayn Rand had turned her "talents" to writing fiction instead of thinly veiled philosophy, she might be in the same category as HP Lovecraft is today.

          Terrible, terrible writer, but you can't help but love 'im anyway.

          When the scribbling devil is got into a man's head, he falls to writing and publishing, which gets him as much fame as money, and as much money as fame. ~ Cervantes

          by scribblingTiresias on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 07:12:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  In The Old Testament It Says That The (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pvasileff, wilderness voice

    world was created in 7 days.  Who was there when the world was created to write it down in the old testament?  My husband says it was Adam.  So Adam was writing, reading, and had full knowledge of what was going on?  This is hard to believe when the first recorded finding of pre-historic bones shows that humans could barely function.  The old testament was like just a bunch of made up tales to me.  I mean most of what went down none of the people who wrote the old testament witnessed anything they wrote about.  Almost all of it is based on heresay and gossip.  We now know that Jesus could have been married, and most of what was written after his death was more than likely glorified to make Jesus more than he was.  This is not to say he wasn't a good man which I am sure he was.  After all he was fighting for the poor and the oppressed.  Back then the poor were taxed and the rich were not.  Oh, much like it is now.  

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 12:40:44 PM PDT

    •  A lot of what is written was taken from other (0+ / 0-)

      cultures (Gilgamesh, etc.) and used to illustrate the power of God (and later - the wonderful person Jesus was).

      The only difference between cult leader Jesus bin Joseph and someone like Jim Jones or David Koresh is that Jesus managed to not kill off people who believe the stuff he spouted.

      The people remaining are the ones who passed the word around, who wrote the books, who started the churches and became a strong cult that overwhelmed everyone else.

      I reject your reality and substitute my own - Adam Savage

      by woolibaar on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 05:32:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There should never be a word or idea (7+ / 0-)

    Banned from public discourse.

    http://jasonluthor.jelabeaux.com/

    by DAISHI on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 12:43:24 PM PDT

  •  We don't ban books (8+ / 0-)

    even books we don't agree with. This includes the old testament.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 12:47:04 PM PDT

  •  Yeah, we should ban books (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dougymi

    I guess this whole "Democracy" thing was a dumb idea.

    •  democracy is as dumb as 50% + 1 of voters (0+ / 0-)

      Especially if those voters are systematically misinformed.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 01:35:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The purpose of democracy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JamesGG

        is not to produce a "better" society. It's to give people a government that is on their side because it represents them and is accountable to them. If the government is deciding what people are allowed to read and say, that purpose is defeated. Without freedom of thought, no other freedoms matter.

        •  but if the people are made stupid (0+ / 0-)

          Then how could a government that represents them possibly be on their side?  Conversely, if you agree with the dictator, is it a bad thing that he's a dictator?

          At some point the process has to yield to the desired outcome ... unless you're of the opinion that the means justify the end, and the desired outcome is declared after the fact to be whatever the preferred process produces.

          Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

          by Visceral on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 02:01:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who decides what the desired outcome is? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            buddabelly

            And to answer your question, yes. If you agree with a dictator it is still a bad thing that he or she is a dictator.

            The constitution says that one of the fundamental purposes of the government is to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." Without freedom of thought and expression, there is no liberty, and thus no blessings of liberty.

      •  The US is not a democracy. By design (0+ / 0-)
    •  why stop with banning? (0+ / 0-)

      Let's burn 'em.

      geez... who'd ever have thought someone would advocate banning any book here of all places?

      A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

      by dougymi on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 05:18:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No, but it should be held up (0+ / 0-)

    for ridicule and contempt.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 01:32:25 PM PDT

  •  how about an abridged version? (0+ / 0-)

    Edit out everything science knows not to be true and edit out the Bronze Age values abhorrent to anyone with a conscience.  Create an OT version of the "Jefferson Bible".

    If there are gems to be found, you find them by pulverizing and discarding the rock around them.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 01:33:50 PM PDT

    •  No, the Old Testament is an account of the history (4+ / 0-)

      of the Jewish people in ancient times, as seen and understood by people in the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
         It is absurd to expect the activities of ancient tribes to be consonant with morality as we understand it today.
         The purpose of war was to steal. The result of victory was plunder and rape. In holy war, the point was massacre of the enemy.
         Each tribe or coalition of tribes had its god or gods and the tribe's god was assumed to be fighting for the tribe. A god of peace and love would have been worthless and would have made no sense.
         That modern humanistic Judaism and charitable Christianity evolved from the Old Testament teachings is a fortunate accident of history.
        People should read the Old Testament just as we read the other ancient writings.

  •  I despair! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cali Scribe, dougymi, grover, Kingsmeg

    My question was never serious. And, it would be impossible to ban the OT. Too damned many copies floating around. And, imagine the stupendous conspiracy theories -- theories which already abound in the minds of fools.

    •  I apologize (0+ / 0-)

      on behalf of all of us who took your question literally.

      The books of the Old Testament are separate books written by different people across many years. Different people who see the same ideas and truths react to them differently, interpret them differently, and communicate them differently. It is not surprising that you would see great wisdom in Ecclesiastes and find other parts of the OT troubling.

      •  I guess that I should have (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dougymi

        added that it was a rhetorical question to provoke discussion.

        •  to be honest, if I didn't recognize your name (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SusiesPurl

          I'd have thought this kind of post a false flag attack from a wingnut blog.  Even now, I would not be surprised to see it show up on one of them as an example of what they would call liberal hypocrisy.

          Gotta watch that.  We've seen it before.

          A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

          by dougymi on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 05:30:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  No, you didn't need to. (0+ / 0-)

          It was well written and had sufficient information to those who read carefully and  understood the clues (and frankly weren't simply responding to the title).

          The absurdity of the issue raised by the atheist is brilliant:

          somehow I find that blasphemous and disrespectful of a deity
          .

          Yes, I often worry about things disrespecting things I know don't exist. I always worry that sparkly confetti blasphemes Tinkerbell and her fairy dust!

          And the atheist suggesting he might employ Swendenborg's techniques?  Ironic perfection! (Or maybe perfect irony?)  

          I liked your diary, Karen.

          Everything is meaningless, except of course it's not.

          © grover


          So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

          by grover on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 06:25:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Don't ban books. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dougymi

    Just put them min the correct sections in the library.

    "Fiction", for example.
    "Philosophy" for another.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 02:49:36 PM PDT

  •  If read in the spirit of the times (3+ / 0-)

    it was communicated, it's actually not that bad a book -- there's some wonderful poetry in the Psalms, erotic imagery in Song of Songs, and the battle scenes are probably tamer than Game of Thrones. It's when people forget that the book was written by people with no knowledge of science or medicine or physics where it gets dicey.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 02:52:18 PM PDT

  •  so I had to look up... (0+ / 0-)

    swedenborgianism but it didn't help. I don't get it.

  •  wot's a buk ? (0+ / 0-)

    just copy and paste from the internet

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 04:10:16 PM PDT

  •  I have a better idea! Lets burn them all instead. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dougymi

    Idiot.

    I'll tell you what justice is. Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning.

    by BFSkinner on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 04:58:41 PM PDT

  •  Kant says (0+ / 0-)

    Read the Old Testament, and Swedenborg too.

    Nietzsche says God's dead, so whatever.

    Kierkegaard says read the Bible. Then leap.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 06:08:04 PM PDT

  •  I disagree with your term, tone, and point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SusiesPurl, Mark Lippman

    I am not in any way made angry by your Diary, it's just I disagree on several bases.  

    First of all, some of us do consider the term "Old Testament" to be pejorative - it's the Christian term for the Hebrew bible, and carries overtone of "this is the old discarded thing" that has been replaced by something new and better.

    Secondly, the snarky tone of your Diary seems to indicate that you are really pissed off at some religious people. If so, be pissed off at them rather than a set of historical writings.  I've written here and elsewhere how you can find problematic passages in the scripture of most religions, and you can also you can find in history that some people have incorporated religious teachings in their rationale/advocacy for evil actions. Unfortunately, the same thing goes for atheism or most any other belief system - sometimes there will be evil people who use/corrupt whatever belief system is around to justify their evil actions.

    Finally, the fact that there is good and bad in the Jewish scriptures is no more remarkable than the fact that there was good and bad in the original US Constitution.  We can choose to focus only on the provisions institutionalizing slavery, but at the same time there were remarkable innovations regarding government without a monarchy that had profoundly positive effects on world history. Similarly, if you look to the comparative standards for the ancient world, there are revolutionary ideas incorporated in the Hebrew scriptures (for example, look at Genesis 18:16-33 where it shows Abraham arguing tenatiously with G-d that this almighty figure is also required to live up to ethical standards - as some of the oldest material in the Hebrew scriptures, that's a pretty profound concept for its time, and was one element legitimizing the subsequent evolution of Jewish thought).  Even the later books, while also containing some problematic material, present some interesting contrasts with contemporary Hellenistic and Roman approaches to law and government.  

    Only a subset of Jews (or Christians) believe the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) to be literally true; many more (for example, conservative, reform and reconstructionist Jews) grapple with the lessons from this scripture without believing that it is literally true, or that all of the teachings are ethically appropriate. But that does not preclude many of us from also treating these works as Holy within our tradition.  

    You, of course, have the right to snark about these works - but I just wanted you to know that not all of us agree with your term, tone and point.

  •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

    All books that are over 100 years old, especially religious ones, should be removed from the planet. We are smart enough and wise enough without them.

    •  You're quite the busy little troll, aren't you? (0+ / 0-)

      Hoping to get some of them libruls to agree with your nonsense so you can go back to your real home and crow about it. It works for some people for a while, not many. Those who are good at it are less obvious than you. To the back of the class you go.

  •  The Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible (0+ / 0-)

    The Old Testament is not simply the Christian name for the Hebrew Bible. The two differ from one another in important ways. This not only includes the order of the books that make up the respective Bibles, but also some of the content. Some books in the Old Testament are not included in the Hebrew Bible, and some of the texts which are included in both Bibles under the same name, are actually different (the Book of Daniel, for example.)
     

    •  The term 'Bible' (0+ / 0-)

      is not accepted by all adherents to the various canons sometimes referenced by that term.  Old/New Testament are likewise not universally accepted terms.

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 08:40:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most Protestant denominations (0+ / 0-)

      have a canon which matches the Tanakh in excluding the Apocrypha, but retains the order and division of books from the Septuagint.  

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 08:56:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, we should keep Tanakh (0+ / 0-)

    and Old Testament both. The differences illustrate the lying Christological and anti-Semitic distortions of Scriptures that so many of them pretend to take literally.

    Leaving out the Christians, Tanakh shows the vast religious evolution of Jews over most of a thousand years from a bloodthirsty tribal culture to creating some of the highest spiritual teachings in the history of the world.

    The legendary and ahistorical accounts of the genocide in Canaan stand at one pole, along with the God who decides to kill off all humans except one family, whose patriarch is the only righteous human, as apparently shown when he becomes a drunk who gets pasted and lies around naked in his tent, and then blames his son for it.

    Then we get my favorites, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Ruth, and an amazing round of God's denunciations of the stiff-necked barbarity of Jews through various ages, side by side with triumphalist accounts of Jews overcoming and destroying their enemies in all of the surrounding territories and God continuing to command that so many of them be killed.

    Also, it is impossible to understand the cultural history of Europe, America, Israel, and countries extensively evangelized from there, without looking into what they were telling themselves, in Scripture, commentary, hymnals, and political discussions pro and con various beliefs, practices, and vile heresies such as Mammonism (in particular The Prosperity Gospel), Dominionism, and the Armageddonist and anti-Semitic versions of Christian Zionism.

    It's a lot of work, but you can find out all of this on the Net if you are willing to take the trouble. The Barna Group, an Evangelical polling firm, reports that 38% of young Evangelicals now fact-check sermons on their smart phones.

    The remedy for hate speech is more speech, not less.

    Is that what you were looking for?

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:17:20 PM PDT

  •  As an Atheist Jew I would reccomend the following: (0+ / 0-)

    In your example you bring the name of Isaiah, מהר שלל חש בז
    But you forgot to mention that Isaiah was ordered to call him that as an omen for the Impeding doom facing the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. If you want to show the immoral teachings of the OT, you can find better examples (god commanding a father to sacrifice his son comes to mind, but it is not ass simple at is sounds....)

    However, here is what you should do before ridiculing the OT for its moral failings:

    Read the OT in its original form, that is, in Hebrew.
    Funny thing with Hebrew is that it is a very concise language. It has about 20,000 distinct words (give or take) compared to more than 300,000 in the  English language.

    This means that many different things can use the same wording, and the meaning is usually inferred from the context.

    After you finish this task, start reading the Jewish biblical interpretations throughout the ages.
     I recommend Kassuoto as a starting point since he has a lot of references. Make sure not to skip Unkelos, Rashi, Rashbam, Ramban, Maharal, Sforno, Radak, Shadal, Sofer, Malbim, and Leibowitz. And these are just a few among the ones who are considered to be Authoritative.
    And then, start reading the Talmud......

    For example, in the book of Joshua, Rachav was described as "זונה", it usually means "harlot" or prostitute, but the root of the word is "זונ", which is also used for activities involving food.

    The sages of old were so horrified by the thought that people might think that this "righteous" woman was a prostitute, they interpreted it as she was a "food vendor".

    Of course, this is the great BS the Rabbis of old were so good with. For all we know, back in the day, prostitutes also sold food.
    The fact that the Hebrew language is so concise allows for many interpretation of the same verse, sometimes even contradictory!

    The problem with Christianity (and specifically Protestantism) is that they translated (badly) the bible into other languages (from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to whatever) and lost many nuances of the original language.

    Next, they decided that not only this is the unchangeable the word of god (which is also agreed upon by Judaism) they rejected any notion of metaphor and the work of the interpreters. Heck, if Gideon made the sun stand still,  it stood still goddammit!

    The Rambam (Maimonides, considered to be one of the greatest sages of all times)  said that every word of the old testament is true due to its godly origin. On the other hand, what we see in the world is also true (again, since the world was made by god and god does not creates untruths). So when there is an apparent contradiction between the word and the world, it is because we misinterpreted or misunderstood the word.  No wonder, after all he was a scientist.

    Queror Ergo Sum. -- Rene Descartes Shakshuka

    by The Revenge of Shakshuka on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:55:21 PM PDT

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