Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Thought About Weird Beliefs

Once upon a time in my naiver days I listened to a Rabbi fulminate about how dumb Muslims were for believing that Mohammed road to heaven on a peacock-donkey something monstrosity. And I unfortunately found that amusing and laughed. I regret that laugh nowadays because I opened up my eyes eventually and realized that we Jews also look like a bunch of idiots to outside observers - talking about various miracles, talking donkeys, and other fun Rashi stories. The point is supernaturalism shouldn't really have degrees of weirdness - Mohammed going to heaven ain't any more weird than God freezing the sun in place for Yehoshua. Both are equally scientifically impossible.

At the end of the day it seems to boil down to "well my book says God froze the sun but nothing about Mohammed's celestial adventures so therefore my supernatural belief is true and yours is silly and laughable." The Muslims obviously invert the same exact argument.

So if you believe - at least have the intellectual honesty to laugh at all weird beliefs consistently (I guess with the knowledge that your belief in talking donkeys is inherently laughable but nevertheless true due to a Biblical revelation.) Or better yet don't laugh at all. 

I was thinking about all of this because of the booming lemon business around this time of year. As Mis-nagid once put it (paraphrase, can't find original quote) "Silly Indians having raindances! Don't they know you're supposed to bring rain with a palm frond and a lemon!" 
I wonder how the average Orthodox Jew would explain Lulav and Etrog to a non-Jew. "Um .. well you see.. it's not superstition or anything... it just .. um ... a way to ... um bring the rain in Israel. Plus the Torah says so!"
 The same Orthodox Jew would probably go two seconds later  and laugh at the dumb Christians eating Christ's body and blood as s/he munches on a sandwich which was prepared according to Ancient Near Eastern purity precepts.


tesyaa said...

This is one of my biggest complaints about OJ. Why do we expect non-Jews to search their beliefs for idiocy, while we are not honest enough to do the same?

But being able to say "the Torah says so" trumps all that. And how do we know the Torah says so? Because the Torah says so!

The fruit of a goodly tree and all that.

Zak said...

What for me remains a never-ending source of utter astonishment is the evident ability of frum jews to be in full command of their critical faculties when assessing the validity of competing faiths, while at the same time being totally blinded to the fact that every one of their arguments applies with equal -- sometimes greater -- force to the monumental hoax that is Orthodox belief.

As noted atheist Stephen Roberts once put it, "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will then understand why I dismiss yours."

Not_frum said...

Well I spent money on putting up sukkah for which I orignally paid $1200 15 years ago and a few more bucks on a lemon + stick and in about 2 hours I will off to another shabbat like day...holy shit there are six of these wasteful days within the next 10 days..what a fucking waste of my time. So why do I carry on this charade for over 50 years?
It's because I am part of a larger family+friends that are or at least act observant. We are a mutually supportive community. We shop at Ortho-stores, our kids play together, we get our new cars from Wheels 2 Lease. And now some of guys I grew up with have turned out to be child molesters, fraudsters and rabbis..not in that particular order GUT YUNTIF ALL. there is no such word at yun-tif

Tova said...

Wow! On the money, darling.

Every time I try explaining this to frum people, though, they either walk away or laugh at me.

anon said...

OJ has some APPARENT weird beliefs, but most are tied to ancient fertility cults and can be explained. Many of the OJ holidays relate to harvest, planting, sacrifice common in ancient fertility cults..
Lulav practice is derived from fertility cults of Egypt. Their preists waved the fronds over the fields and this increased yeilds, That is because it increased pollination, but they did not know why and thought it had to do with the ritual and gods. Jews just adopted the practice. Many jewish practices, festivals, customs are rooted in ancient fertility cults.

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