Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Meaningless Things

Very interesting. That journalist, AJ Jacobs, who lived "biblically" for a year. He should have called it a year of living Mosaically. In any case, it was all about behavior, his year. He misses it completely, in terms of the actual intent of such behavior. But still interesting. He sets out to follow all of the laws of the Old Testament -- says there are over 700; the rabbis count 613 commandments. There is a difference between laws and commandments, but it would be a subtle one.

He doesn't mention sacrifice, which is what I was actually most curious about. Laws, without sacrifice, are nothing. Or, if you will, they are modern Judaism. Sorry if that's rude, but there is that thing about all your righteousness is as filthy rags. Sacrifice is necessary, for all that the spirit behind it is mercy. Necessary that is from an OT perspective.

He wore sandals. Not actually a law. He didn't wear clothing of mixed fibers -- a law. I wonder if he understood the intent of that and similar rules. Of course not. The people who do such things, he says, don't know what it's about: "We don't know, it's just rituals, that give us meaning." Meaningless things give you meaning? They're all symbolic, you know. It has to do with being a people apart, in the world but not of it, being a model of purity, avoiding all forms of adultery. Isn't that obvious? I don't think he got it. It's the light, not the candle, that matters.

The Bible is both enlightened and brutal, he says. It has a primitive cognitive psychology, as in, smile and you will become happier. Yet, stone adulterers, or, cut off the hand of a woman who crushes a man's testicles. Allow me to explain these latter. It's not about spirituality, here. It's about a stable society. That is a spiritual truth in itself, but not the obvious point. He seems not to see the obvious point, of social control. More people can be spiritual in a stable society, you see. As for the repression of instinct and the harshness of punishment, well, uh, yes? That's what it takes. It's called reality. Governments are coercive. That's what the word "govern" means. He might as well say the Constitution is brutal. Maybe he does.

He associated with what he called Creationists, who are as intelligent as other people, but controlled by faith and filled with distorted ideas about reality. I am what he calls a Creationist. Identify my distortions, please. I don't mean repeat your beliefs to me. You see the problem. Evidence is not the same as opinions about evidence. A common fallacy, usually committed by bigots.

"I grew up with a scientific worldview." No. You, like other agnostics and atheists and humanists and secularists, grew up with a worldview centered around yourself and your emotions, disguised as rationality. A scientific worldview tests all things, and holds fast to that which is true. Meaningless things don't give meaning. But he is an Evolutionist, and believes otherwise. "Rituals are, by nature, irrational." He doesn't have a clue, yet has conclusions. Scientific worldview? "Rituals by themselves are not to be dismissed." Exactly wrong. Rituals by themselves are to be dismissed. It's the meaning that matters. Meaning lost, meaningless.

Compassion yes, judgment no? If we are to find any meaning in the Bible, we have to pick and choose? There is no arguing with this perspective, any more than you can argue with the jihadist. You can't argue with someone's axioms. They are accepted without need of proof. Parallel lines never meet. Period. Who says? Doesn't matter, there is no discussion about it. If homosexuality is wrong, it's wrong; if it's not wrong, it's not. What does common sense suggest? The fact that there is debate tells us that common sense is too malleable to matter. Alas, what it really boils down to is the reality or the permissibility of righteousness. Righteousness never even came into Jacobs' discussion. Unless it's when he mentioned brutality.

I've out-Bible-talked Jehovah's Witnesses. Have I mentioned that my IQ is 190?


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