This week, there were a couple of fascinating columns from the usual theistic suspects, Rabbi Gellman and Billy Graham.
Billy has a column on the “ten” commandments. The querent asks why we should follow them now. Billy asks in return “which of them would you do away with if you could?” as a challenge, because how could anyone want to get rid of “you will not steal”? Of course, he forgets to mention the commandments that require that everyone worships his god and that says that everyone is damned by the sins of their parents. He asks if the querent would dare to want to get rid of the other commandments, the ones that “demand we put God first in our lives or even the one safeguarding the family by commanding sexual purity.” Oh yes, that one that says that homosexual should be killed. According to Billy, if we ignore any of these commandments we will end in chaos. So what does that mean when Billy ignores those commandments he doesn’t like? The one that says to pay your employees every day? The one that one isn’t to wear mixed fibers? Do you think Billy has never eaten a shrimp? Pork? A cheeseburger? Where is Billy trying to kill those who dare to work on Sundays? Where’s his beard? How many menstruating women has Billy chased out of church? How many divorced men and women has he tried to kill?
Yep, we don’t see Billy following those silly rules either, those ones that he says that we must follow or, you know, chaos. Thanks for leading the charge to chaos, Billy! Of course, this all nonsense, and the usual “do as I say, not as I do” from a hypocrite.
Then we have Rabbi Gellman who says something quite different, at least on the surface. The querent asks about the practice of creating a “eruv” by Orthodox Jews, an “enclosure” that observant Jews do not leave during the Sabbath. The eruv mentioned is a town, Westhampton Beach, NY. In the bible, in Exodus 16, it says “29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.” This is in reference of keeping the “Sabbath” holy and not working during it, one of those commandments that Billy mentioned. It is inconvenient to be stuck at home and to be forbidding to carry things, so the eruv gets bigger and bigger dependent on the needs of the believers.
The querent asks if this is “bending the rules” that this god gave. The rabbi gives quite an answer. You can read the entire thing here, but it can be summed up by one of the sentences “All religions alter supposedly unalterably laws to help people more easily find God in their lives.”
Now, I’ve always wondered about a god that is so interested in such ludicrous minutia. Why would an omnipotent, omniscient being care about what humans do with their genitalia. One idea I came up with is that if you can’t do something so simple, as follow a law like “don’t eat shrimp” why think you could do anything harder or more complicated? The rabbi does mention the obvious problems with his attitude. If this god really did give these laws, how can humans ignore them or change them? He excuses this because those laws were inconvenient for people so they needed to be changed because one just can’t have people unable to use strollers or lock their homes. This seems to assume that God didn’t think of such things and humans need to make sure that they are comfy. The rabbi says “It’s the natural consequence of living with laws and compassionately altering them when their intent was being thwarted by their implementation.” Which is the typical claim of a theist that they know the intent better than anyone else, including others of their religion.
Not so amazingly, Gellman defends the Christians who also change their god’s supposedly immutable laws, saying that it was perfectly fine for the Catholic Church to invent “annulments” to allow “In Catholicism, for example, the laws forbidding divorce and remarriage in the Church have caused many Catholics great pain because they feel excluded from being in communion with the Church they love.”
Funny how the rabbi doesn’t suggest that the Church should just ignore those bits about homosexuality to allow gays and lesbians to be in the church that they love.
As always, people make gods and make up what those gods really “want”. The rabbi and the pastor want to be the ones to tell everyone that it’s okay for them to say what their god wants.