A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I've mentioned before that Deuteronomy is a collection of sermons from Moses to the Israelites.

Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 is a reminder to the Israelites that if they forget Yahweh for what He has helped them achieve, then He will chastize them.

As the closing sentences say, "And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God."

Chapter 9 is a sort of pep rally to the Israelites just prior to invading other lands. Moses warns the Israelites of "nations greater then their's" and of even MORE giants! But they shouldn't fear, because they have Yahweh on their side, and the Ark of the Covenant, and they shall surely prevail.

Moses justifies their invasion. I paraphrase this, but I encourage you to the chapter for yourself. "It's not for our own pride or for our own benefit, but because these nations are an affront to Yahweh, and it is only through their destruction that Yahweh can deliver on his Holy promise of delivering them to their land of milk and honey."

Moses reminded the people about how they have strayed. "While I was up on the Mount for 40 days and 40 nights, eating only bread and water, and Yahweh was writing His commandments, you were down here worshipping an idol of Ba'al, and corrupting yourselves! Yahweh wanted to destroy you then, but I interceded and convinced Him not to do so."

In Chapter 10 Moses continues his historical narrative, basically reminiscing on the how the ark of the covenant was created. He sort of takes the credit for building the ark. But if we look back in Exodus 37:1, it's a man named Bezaleel. Moses also seems to get it wrong about the death of Aaron and where he was buried. In Deuteronomy, Aaron was buried in a place called Mosera; but in Numbers Aaron was buried on Mount Hor.

Moses closes chapter 10 with a series of problematic statements. He says that the only requirement he asks of the Israelites is that they fear Yahweh, to keep His commandments, and to remember that the heavens and the earth belong to Him. We should be kind to strangers, praise Yahweh because he is above all other gods, and we should swear by His name.

There's so many technicalities on that little bit. Depending on where you read in the Bible, the Earth belongs to either God, humans, or the devil. Being kind to strangers isn't necessarily a Judeo-Christian trait if you've read the Bible. And of course, we're not supposed to swear by the name of this particular god.

We see here in these chapters that Yahweh can be reasoned with, if we stroke His ego. Wait. Isn't that the key to all Abrahamic religions? Isn't that what Jews, Christians, and Muslims say that the whole purpose of life is? It's to worship. It's to stroke the ego of Yahweh, or Allah. Worship is that, and it is also a surrender to God. Right?

I remember when I was a Christian. The words I spoke were meant to stroke the ego of God, but the experience in so doing was a surrender. There's nothing wrong with the surrender, per se. It's the context of how we do it that is problematic. The surrender is an experience that can be had by all humans. Surrendering of course, leaves us in a vulnerable state. The words that we say in this condition, be it "Praise Jesus", "Hare Krishna", "Om nama shivaya" or "Allahu Ackbar" are utterly separate from the experience itself. It is only afterward that we internalize the meaning of these words. We somehow attribute their implications to the spiritual experience itself. If you don't believe me, try it yourself.

So, in the words of Moses, "Don't be so stiff-necked and proper. Rather, circumcise the foreskin of your heart." (Deuteronomy 10:16) :)


Anonymous said...

Andrew, I see that you have a degree in philosophy as well an an interest in Christian theology. Are you interested in a discussion? Or is your blog just a way to let off steam?

I like the realistic way you approach the Bible. Of course, you realize that there is a great deal more here than meets the eye on the surface. Jewish scholars derive surprising information out of these ordinary passages. I wish I understood everthing myself, but I don't. I believe one would have to know Hebrew very well to get into the deapth of these passages.

Andrew said:
"Wait. Isn't that the key to all Abrahamic religions? Isn't that what Jews, Christians, and Muslims say that the whole purpose of life is? It's to worship. It's to stroke the ego of Yahweh, or Allah. Worship is that, and it is also a surrender to God. Right?"

Andrew, I suppose that may be how some superficial people approach their God, but I doubt most people view things in that way Incidentally, in the past, I have had extensive theological discussions with Muslims, and I have a significant understanding of Christian theology. I don't think it is possible to generalize between "Abrahamic" religions like you are attempting to do.

I will check back here to see if you are interested in a response.


Andrew P. said...

Sure, I'm down for a discussion!

Andrew P. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew P. said...

Okay, I'll start (a few days later).

I wouldn't say what I'm writing here is 'Christian theology', exactly. While I might reference the time when I was Christian, I'm writing about Jewish theology at the moment.

I am fairly knowledgeable of almost all religions, so I do understand the differences in the three main Abrahamic religions. None the less, these 3 religions are all related through Judaism.

My justification for generalizing spirituality is that the actual spiritual experiences that are had by humans are the same. People just misattribute it.

Anonymous said...

I tried to send you an e-mail, but got it back.

I'll past what I had in the e-mail into this post:

You said, "it can be summed up real quick. Follow these commandments that I give you; and you will be blessed. Don't follow them; your life is going to suck."

I agree that your summary is a reasonable interpretation of the passsage. What I don't get is why you have a problem with it?

What "facade" are you referring to? When I read the word, "facade," I think of something which is deceptive, but I don't find any deception in the chapter. What do you mean?

Why shouldn't God use the "politics of fear"? Fear is a good way to motiviate people. It is impossible to operate a country without penalties for those who break the law. In our society, we call the fear enforcers "police" and "judges". Without these individuals, who rule by fear, we would have no society.

I'm also curious about your implication that the phrase, "If you're not with us; you're against us," is a problem. What is wrong with that phrase?


Andrew P. said...

I just summarized using modern language. My issue isn't really with the quote as it is with religion. That's why I've taken up reading the Bible a second, more thorough, time.

Where did I write 'facade' again? I can't find it. Are you referring to a different post?

The politics of fear is what we'd expect from a petty dictator. And cops and judges, that's usually more of an annoyance then anything. I don't feel fear when I'm pulled over, for example, nor do I feel coerced to act a certain way in society.

But that's probably because I'm a nice guy.