In the same newspaper that had Billy Graham’s question/answer column, there was a God Squad column. At one point, the Squad was Marc Gellman, the rabbi and Monsignor Tom Hartman. It seems that the monsignor has Parkinson’s Disease now and no longer participates. I’ve always found such a pairing to be innately odd. At the base of things, each religion says that the other is wrong and the followers will be damned. To Jews, Jesus is a false messiah; to Christians, Jews have missed the boat. Being friends with someone you are convinced deserves to be damned seems well, a little unfriendly. In this article, Gellman said that they didn’t talk much about Jesus but decided that they were “ethically” the same. More reason to know that religion does little to make people good and its just more nonsense used to create external validation for one’s very human opinions, good or bad.
But onto the column. Jainism (and here Jainism) is a religion based on asceticism and non-violence. To that end, they are vegetarians and some wear masks and sweep before their feet to not harm any bugs, etc. They also appear to accept violence done in self-defense. They are also to consider views and beliefs of others as other ways of seeing the “truth”. The column’s question is in regards to the Newtown murders. The Jain makes the argument that the Judeo-Christian religion teaches that violence is good, and quotes Genesis 9, where God says that he has given the entire world to humans, and everything will fear them. It also says that every critter can be eaten, but you should bleed out anything you eat, that capital punishment is peachy-keen with this god, and also has where Noah curses, not his son for “seeing him naked” which may mean sleeping with Mrs. Noah, but his grandson who had nothing to do with it. The Jain claims the right morality is his, that if one is taught that killing animals is okay, then “troubled, alienated, young adults” will think that killing children is okay too.
Now, it’s not hard to find the above reasoning rather specious. He is right that there is a lot of god-approved violence in the Judeo-Christian religions. But to say that since omnivores eat animals they are likely to kill children is rather silly. Violence can beget violence, but a slaughterhouse (ideally humane) has no evidence of causing mass murders. As has been noted before, theists love to play pretend that their religion and only their religion is the “right” or “moral” one.
And speaking of that tendency, we have Rabbi Gellman’s response. He is shocked, shocked that someone would criticize his religion, especially a Jain since they are, as stated above, taught to consider other beliefs as different ways of seeing the truth. Considering all religions are sure that they are the only right ones, even those who say “well you might have a part of it right (see Catholicism)”, it’s no surprise here at all. He asks “Do you really think the sick shooter set out on his rampage because he ate hamburgers?” I’m pretty sure that the Jain does, because that’s part of his belief system, just like Gellman’s religion claims that if one eats pork or wears mixed fabrics or works on a “Sabbath”, etc, this causes bad things to happen too.
Gellman also has to mention that Hitler was supposedly a vegetarian, so thus a “moral diet” isn’t, according to him. He again insists that the Jain is being a very bad boy in not obeying his religion’s anekantaveda and giving the claims of Judeo-Christians a pass. Gellman, using exclamation points, claims that “Eating a chicken may be morally wrong but it’s clearly not the same moral transgression as eating a person!”. As soon as anyone claims something is “clear” but offers not one scrap of evidence to support their claim, it appears pretty evident that this is not “clear” at all. Like claiming something is “obvious, It is simply an attempt to declare that one has the only “truth” and end the discussion.
Gellman then addresses the verses from Genesis. Here’s where we get into claims of Sophisticated Theologytm. He claims that the bible bit is conveying a “profound moral sophistication”. How, I’m not sure how since he proceeds to say how impressed he is that his god went from only allowing A&E to eat veggies and fruit in the “garden”, but after the magical flood, allowed humans to eat meat since humans were weak. Hmmmm, I wonder, who made humans weak? Why yes, it per the myth, it’s this god. Not to mention that the whole flood story is utter nonsense.
Then Gellman goes onto say that killing pests and infestations is moral since it’s needed for farming and thus to feed people. It is a “moral requirement”. In some forms of Jainism, farming is looked down upon due to the killing that must go on, but since farming is the only thing that can feed a sizeable group of humans, it is allowed (religion accommodating reality). Gellman’s next claims are what amaze me. Not that they surprise me, but that he is so oblivious about his religion. This killing of infestations leads directly to where he says “The killing of invaders who want to enslave people or commit genocide is a moral requirement for freedom and for life, even if it causes the death of enemy combatants.” Let’s see who were some of the invaders in the Bible? Yep, the Israelites. Who was committing genocide because they claimed their god approved of it? Yes, them again. Who enslaved people they conquered? Yep, the Israelites and pretty much everyone else. There were some anti-slavery thoughts around at that time, in ancient Greece around 4 BCE, but as we know, it had little impact, and evidently no divine support.
Gellman finishes by saying that Jains also use killing in self-defense, which they do indeed. Both religions suffer when encountering reality. Non-violence is inconvenient, when there is no god backing you up. Both religions seem to think it’s an ideal and both have come up with reason why they don’t “really” have to follow it. With both of them being sure that their religion is right, and with both of them showing how the other is flawed and not noticing their beam in their own eye (Luke 6:41 among other places, yes the bible does have some useful pithy sayings), we see again that religions are nothing more than a human-created concept, with no magical truths at all.