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July 28, 2006

Deuteronomy -- II

This -- the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible -- is compendium of intolerance. Various "abhorrent" practices are denounced: serving other gods, human sacrifices, worshiping idols, soothsaying, bowing down to the sun or the moon, intermarrying, crossdressing, inquiring about other gods, worshipping the Lord anywhere but in the temple in Jerusalem. Various "just" punishments are threatened : no rain for crops; a curse upon the issue of wombs; "consumption, fever and inflamation." One "just" punishment, in particular, is commanded: stoning to death.

However, nowhere to be found in Deuteronomy -- among these "abhorrent" practices, which are to receive these terrible punishments -- is failure to believe in the Lord. This God very, very much wants to be "obeyed," to have "His commandments and laws" followed. He does not seem concerned with whether His people think he exists.

Why? A standard answer is that this God, in essence, was secure enough in His existence so that He didn't need His nation to confirm it. Or that not believing in the existence of God (or gods) may simply have been inconceivable at the time. I'll add a third theory: that actual, outright disbelieve was too terrible to even mention.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at July 28, 2006 7:59 PM


But isn't that what all the theatrics and mysteries and rules and punishments meant to accomplish? to be sure that no one could *possibly* entertain the idea of god's non-existence? if Exodus was the book that demonstrated god-in-action and superior to all polytheistic gods, Deuteronomy seems to be about the hardening of religious discourse into institutionalized law... in other words, god's existence is now encoded in language, from which there is no escape.

Posted by: JM at July 28, 2006 9:46 PM

Exactly, and we let them do it to us by not creating our own vocabulary. I am an asuperstian not an atheist. We have to door out, we just are afraid to use it. Aspirtualist would be another way I would describe myself. Naturalist is the most logical but the least meaningful.

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 29, 2006 11:22 AM

Might regret opening this door: but I'm just a bit puzzled by your 'them/us' opposition above, JayS, and the continued practice of defining your position as the negation of what 'others' have already labeled as normative (theist, e.g.). If you truly want to create your own vocabulary (I'm having a deja vu moment in this conversation w/ you) then you need to figure out how to get out from under the binary oppositional structure. Doesn't matter what terms you use there if the framework of power relations remains intact, n'est pas? Ever had a chance to read Emmanuel Levinas? (recommend _Totality and Infinity_, but _Basic Philosophical Writings_ might be a better intro to his thinking about ethical relations, ontology, 'otherness')

Posted by: JM at July 29, 2006 2:01 PM

Ethical relations, ontology, 'otherness' and, of course, the vocabulary of opposition are all quite beyond the point.

The point is: Man created God and created "God's Laws" to control the 'aberrant behavior of the mob.' All in all it's been avery successful piece of social engineering.

The vast majority beileve in some form of active God (or at least profess that belief) -- those of us who do not really have very little need for paranoia or for all the trappings of a religion.

Posted by: whymrhymer at July 29, 2006 3:43 PM

What I do not read on the web is almost exclusively science and mostly cognitive stuff. I would probably read those books if they were in my bathroom and I had read all the stuff more natural to my tastes. I am interested in everything; I just do not have the time to explore everything.

Maybe I do not understand (still) your binary oppositional structure, but all words have that structure. Ying yang. The world is divided just by thinking. And perception is thinking.

"Them" are people who are superstitious. "Us" are those who think they aren't, or at least are minimalist about it; knock on wood! Ouch!

I agree, it does not seem optimal to define something in opposition to something else, but that is the nature of words, nest pasta? But we do not have to put theist in there.

Like I said, naturalist is the best word, but means something quite different to most--like a bird watcher or environmentalist. What word would you pick to describe someone who thinks everything is part of nature and nothing is outside of nature?

Hey, Mitch, wouldn't Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" qualify him as a sneaky purveyor of a godless reality? I doubt that there are but a handful of people who actually have listened to those lyrics. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

So, since we are all natural and everything we do and think and say and kill are natural, then them is us. But we have to make divisions, distinctions, to talk/communicate. So I am talkin' THEM are insane people and US are the sane people, God love us!:o} Or visa versa, I'm not really sure. Either way we are naturally on the bad end of the continuum. If we talked like this in public we would be chancing getting spit on or at least glared at.

I am a proud godless American hero. No, wait, hero is really full of religious overtones, so I am a godless American freedom fighter. Wait again; we lost my war, so I guess I am a proud godless American freedom failure--words! They are soooo binary. You must realize that I am a computer scientist and trained only to count to 1. Binary structure is my bread and butter. You wouldn't want me to starve for your philosophy would you?

You must realize by now, taking anything I say seriously is a mistake, even when I mean to be taken seriously. Seriously. Shut up! No, you shut up!
The barometric pressure has changed dramatically here in the last few days and the shrapnel in my head is picking up the voices again. Later you godless liberal.

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 29, 2006 4:23 PM

whymrhymer, you are right, but paranoia is a very natural mode for the godless among us. If one loves life it is quite natural to be paranoid of the deathists that fill the earth.

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 29, 2006 4:28 PM

'If you believe in things that you can't understand then you suffer........' yeahyeahyeah!

Posted by: JM at July 29, 2006 7:27 PM

Ah, Deuteronomy, the great compendium of punishment from a vengeful God. My favourite is Deut. 23:1 -- you can't get into heaven if you've had your penis cut off or been injured in the testicles. Wow. I truly wonder how Christianity and theism have managed to flourish over the centuries, and with the Bible as the central opus of belief. At the risk of oversimplification, I guess some people are so afraid of nothingness after death that they'll believe almost anything when they are alive.

Posted by: Wayne at July 31, 2006 11:02 AM

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