Judaism Archives

Religious Rituals out of Thin Air

Apparently, that’s where the Norwegian government thinks they come from.

Now comes a suggestion from a Norwegian official called the “Ombudsman for Children in Norway” proposing that the ancient procedure be replaced by a “symbolic, nonsurgical ritual.” Apparently in Norway it is possible to create religiously meaningful rituals overnight, which is an insight into the understanding of religion in Norwegian public life. And Norway’s “Centre Party,” which is a member of the governing coalition, has just proposed that circumcision be outlawed entirely.

Something similar is happening in the US as well. Do governments not have enough to do, that they must bother Jews about a religious tradition handed down by God thousands of years ago?

Friday Link Wrap-up

[FYI, Part 2 of my "after-birth abortion" article will appear Monday, for both of you waiting for it. Smile ]

Obama: ‘Drill Drill Drill won’t work. And you can thank Me that it did.’

America’s per capita debt is worse than Greece. And Greece’s credit rating is in the basement.

BBC: We’ll Mock Jesus But Never Mohammed. (Because Christians won’t cut off their head or burn things.)

For all the talk about crude names called at Sandra Fluke, the war on conservative women goes merrily unreported. Meryl Yourish refers to this as the new Exception Clause.

No wonder liberals think their unconstitutional ideas are constitutional. They don’t understand the document’s intent.

Like all generalizations, it’s not true of every single case, but James Q. Wilson asks an interesting question: Why Don’t Jews Like the Christians Who Like Them?

Just as Jews were once expelled from Arab lands, Christians are now being forced from countries they have long inhabited.

And finally, the return of the political cartoon to Friday Link Wrap-ups.

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Friday Link Wrap-up

Post-war (i.e. WWII) marginal tax rates (the top individual tax bracket) have fluctuated from above 90% to below 30%, but W. Kurt Hauser noted that, in 1993, the total tax revenue, as a percentage of GDP, stayed virtually constant. Really. The data has been updated to 2007 and the observation holds. You can’t soak the rich. Raise their rates, and GDP goes down to match, in addition to the tax shelters that suddenly become very popular. Social engineers who want to use the tax code to implement what they want ought to be very disturbed, if they even know about this.

In terms of absolute dollars, federal revenues have tripled in the last 50 years (quadrupled if you consider the amount just before the recession). The problem is, federal spending has outpaced even that. Ed Morrissey has the charts to show that we don’t have a revenue problem.

Homeschooling is such a success that liberals at the NEA, in the Dept. of Education and in Congress are "troubled" and "concerned" by it, and of course consider it racist. Yes, really.

The pro-life cause continues to advance, recently in Ohio. And Americans United for Life has put out a scathing 181-page report on abuses and law-breaking at Planned Parenthood, and is taking it to Congress.

Global warming seems to have stopped. Well, Scientific American says, "Blame Asia!"

Obama, in prosecuting war, embraces his inner Dubya.

Just like the press (and the anti-war movement) has gone very quiet about wars, old and new, being prosecuted by this President, the NY Time even notices that the press has been ignoring the poor during this recession. And they’re part of the press to blame for it! What a difference a Democratic President makes!

Andres Oppenheimer says it best. "What Chavez has done in Venezuela over the last 12 years is nothing short of an economic miracle: Despite benefiting from the biggest oil boom in Venezuela’s history, he has somehow managed to turn the country into a shambles." Read the whole thing. It’s amazing to see truly how much money socialism can spend on people, only to make their lives worse.

Comparing and contrasting the economic stimulus under Clinton (that got rejected) to the economic stimulus under Obama (which passed) and which was actually better for unemployment.

If the debt ceiling is not raised by August, we would still have enough money coming in to not default on interest payments on the debt, and cover Social Security, Medicare, and "essential" defense. Don’t let Obama’s threat about withholding Grandma’s check scare you.

The ban on circumcision that will be on the San Francisco ballot in November is rife with anti-Semitism. That’s just about all you need to know about it, but here’s more.

And some more slipper slope for you. (Click for a larger image.)

Christian Seders

Duane Shank, a senior policy advisor for the Sojourners has this to say about bringing Christian meaning to the Jewish Seder supper.

This week I saw an article written last spring on Jews’ concerns over Christians celebrating Passover.  It seems that more Christian churches are using “Christianized” versions of the seder, reinterpreting the meal’s symbols to reflect Christian beliefs.  Said one rabbi, “They take our symbols, our holiday, our ritual and start investing them in Christian meaning.”

This is a concern that I share. Infusing the traditional text with Christian meaning is both dishonest and disrespectful.

Um, didn’t the writers of the Gospels infuse the traditional text of the Old Testament with Christian meaning?

For myself, I’ve participated in many Christian seders, and it is truly amazing to see how, in this celebration of the escape from Egypt by the Israelites, how much New Testament symbolism is actually in there. We see it in the Bible, of course, but also in the traditional remembrance of it that the Jews have written. Remarkable.

If you have had any experiences with Christian Seders you’d like to share, or if you feel they cheapen the actual Jewish tradition, let’s hear in the comments.

Shire Network News #159

Shire Network News #159 has been released. The feature interview is with Dr. Richard Cravatts, director of Boston University’s Program in Publishing at the Center for Professional Education, who is currently writing a book  entitled "Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel". Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

I did not have a segment this week.

High, on Mount Sinai

An Israeli researcher, Benny Shanon, claims that Moses was doing drugs on Mount Sinai when he heard God tell him the Ten Commandments.  We find the crux of the matter in paragraph 3.

"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Essentially, this "research" started from a conclusion and worked its way back to the explanation.  It’s "very probable" because the researcher dismisses everything else out of hand.  No evidence, just inference based on his own presuppositions.

Oh, and there’s also a bit of projection going on there, too.

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest in 1991. "I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations," Shanon said.

He did drugs, so Moses must have.  There’s "research" for you.

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Ed Morrissey Interviews Dinesh D’Souza

One of the podcasts I listen to is Heading Right Radio with Ed Morrissey of “Captain’s Quarters”. He gets some great interviews, and last week (I’m behind in my podcast listening) he got Dinesh D’Souza and they talked about D’Souza’s book “What’s So Great About Christianity”. Fresh from his debate at King’s College with Christopher Hitchens, D’Souza covers a number of interesting topics from his book, including the truth about the Gallileo’s persecution, the limits of reason, why the recent increase in atheist apologetics, the supposed “war” between science and religion, thank-you letters to Portugese inquisitors, and other light topics. >grin<

Click here to listen to any of Captain Ed’s shows, and stick it in your podcatcher.

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Charity and the “Abrahamic” Religions

Maimon Schwarzschild put up a thought-provoking post last week about charity in the world. It starts thusly:

The New York Times ran a front-page story recently about an elderly man who starved to death in Japan, having been denied help by the welfare bureaucracy. The man kept a diary as he died: heartbreaking to read. The Japanese welfare bureaucracy seems to have been notably heartless, and not only in this case. There are other, similar cases of starvation in the past year or two in Japan, according to the Times.

There is this brief throwaway in the lengthy Times story:

With no religious tradition of charity, Japan has few soup kitchens or other places for the indigent. Those that exist — run frequently by Christian missionaries from South Korea or Japan’s tiny Christian population — cater mostly to the homeless.

Say what you will about the “Abrahamic” religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – can there be any doubt that they have brought an ethic of charity into a world that would otherwise be a crueler place?

The ancient, pagan world, for all its brilliance, was coldly cruel. The Hebrew Bible put enormous emphasis on charity, which was something radically new.

Some of the commenters have their own issues with Muslim charity (little at all, or only to other Muslims).

Maimon winds up with this thought to chew on.

If the Christian world is on its way to being post-Christian, will the tradition of Christian charity persist?

Or is the ethic of charity liable to go down with the faith that inspired it?

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Remains of The Second Jewish Temple Found?

Might be.

Remains of the Jewish second temple may have been found during work to lay pipes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, Israeli television reported Thursday.

Israeli television broadcast footage of a mechanical digger at the site which Israeli archaeologists visited on Thursday.

Gaby Barkai, an archaeologist from Bar Ilan University, urged the Israeli government to stop the pipework after the discovery of what he said is “a massive seven metre-long wall.”

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Shire Network News #98

Shire Network News #98 has been released. The feature interview is the second half of a conversation with Professor Deborah Lipstadt about the resurgence of anti-semitism worldwide, and why it’s not just Jews who should be afraid. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary segment.

Hi, this is Doug Payton with Shire Network News, asking you to “Consider This”.

This week, we take a run through headlines of the recent past, starting with this Associated Press headline, “Shuttle crew practice countdown”.


See, I knew I was astronaut material!

Next up, we have a story from the NY Times, discussing the progress in the war in the area of Ramadi in Anbar Province. You don’t hear much about Anbar these days, probably because it’s going so well there. Here’s a clip from that story.

Now, a pact between local tribal sheiks and American commanders has sent thousands of young Iraqis from Anbar Province into the fight against extremists linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The deal has all but ended the fighting in Ramadi and recast the city as a symbol of hope that the tide of the war may yet be reversed to favor the Americans and their Iraqi allies.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Oddly, the story appears to be invisible to the editorial writers who wrote these sentiments on the very same day.

“It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit. . . . Milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. . . . Whatever [President’s Bush’s] cause was, it is lost. . . . Keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse.”

It’s like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is writing. If these folks do indeed read their own newspaper, what does it say about the quality of reporting if even their own editorial writers don’t believe it?

Also from the terrorism front comes this headline atop an article from ABC New’s Investigative Team; “Exclusive: Terror Commander: New Attack Will Dwarf Failed Bomb Plot”. OK, maybe something big is indeed coming, but how big does it have to be to dwarf a “failed bomb plot”? Sounds like the Taliban are setting the bar rather low for the future.

CNN is reporting that the United States wants ex-Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, extradited to France. This sounds like some sort of prisoner rendition. Isn’t there a law against torture?

And finally we have an assurance from Senator John Kerry that our knowledge of history, of 165,000 dead in Vietnam and 2 million in Cambodia, was not as bad as we thought it was. (Click here for the video.) He responds to a caller to CSPAN who wants us to leave Iraq but is concerned that the aftermath in Iraq might mirror Vietnam.

Let me just say to the first part of your question with respect to boat people and killing, everybody predicted a massive bloodbath in Vietnam. There was not a massive bloodbath in Vietnam. There were reeducation camps, and they weren’t pretty and, you know, nobody, you know, likes that kind of outcome. But on the other hand, I’ve met lot of people today who were in those education camps, who are thriving in the Vietnam of today.

So there you have it. While reeducation camps aren’t pretty and generally distasteful, the fact that some survived it means that they couldn’t have been all that bad. One wonders if they were pretty, if a little more attention had been paid to the decor, they might have been just marvelous. Next week on CSPAN, Senator Kerry brings an Auschwitz survivor in to show how they’re thriving.

And those are the headlines from “Consider This”. Back to you, Brian.

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