07 March 2009

Holy book - not just an instrument, after all

Warning: personal disjointed rambling, of necessity offensive to all religious people.

נכתב ביום חול, פורסם מראש בים חול
No one, myself included, could learn anything useful from my personal cursory study of The Book with an immediate bout of amnesia as a follow-up . Some bits and pieces of interest still remain, obviously, this is why this post on Norm's place caused me a second take. Another reason was that Yaacov Lozowick also posted on the same subject. Talk about coincidences...

The post on Norm's is not by himself - it is by Matthew Kramer, Professor of Legal and Political Philosophy, Churchill College, Cambridge, but it is (almost) just as good. And here, probably, comes the real reason for my post here: self-gratification. Because of this passage:
One's awareness of those shortcomings can temper one's criticism of other religions. Consider, for example, the current propensity of Muslim extremists in various parts of the world to engage in murderous mayhem. On the one hand, the claim that their evil acts of carnage have nothing to do with Islam is simplistic at best. Anyone who has perused the Koran with intellectual honesty will be aware of the hideous passages on which the Islamist fanatics can and do seize in order to 'justify' their terrorism. On the other hand, the perception of a basic divide between the Koran and the Bible in this respect is likewise simplistic. The Bible teems with as many ghastly passages as the Koran. It lends itself to being cited in support of iniquities just as readily as does the Koran. Hence, given that there are no grounds for thinking that the sacred texts of Christianity and Judaism are indissolubly linked to terrorism, there are no grounds for any corresponding accusation against the sacred texts of Islam. An acquaintance with the Bible enables one to recognize this point clearly.
Bingo, as my Yank friends will say. I have always believed that any holy book in the hands of a skillful murderous demagogue could serve as an excellent tool for stoking many kinds of hate, many forms of mayhem and for stocking a veritable supermarket of bigotry.

But this is not the only use for a holy book, of course. In other hands, in other times it could be a used for a totally opposite purpose, I am more than sure. It is just that this versatility of the holy books makes them more dangerous than any WMD, in my humble opinion. Much more accessible to the knaves, tyrants and murderers, too.

What else? Critically taken, the Bible provides a lot of surprisingly precise historical information, while the opposite could be said at the same time - blind belief in everything written in The Book causes another kind of blindness.

And it will be a grave omission to forget the beauty of many passages and the poetry. Says Matthew Kramer:
Much of the Bible's poetry (in Job, quite a few of the Psalms, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and so forth) is among the finest produced in any language.
I suggest that a person who never used a passage or two from the Song of Songs to woo a girl cannot be called a real man. In this regard a funny soundbite on the Song of Songs from Bartleby:
This poem describes the joy and ecstasy of love. It has been understood both as a picture of God's love for Israel and of Christ's love for the Church.
Yeah, sure, you can say it again. Saying it again wouldn't make any difference. I don't remember the precise details of the circumstances when I've used the Song quotes on the ladies, focused as I was on other issues at the moment, but I can bet anything that the love for Israel didn't play a significant part in the proceedings. Even if the mount Gilead or tower of David were mentioned...

And, of course, no Russian speaker can remain indifferent to this:
In Deuteronomy 8:3 and in Matthew's and Luke's gospels (with Christ's response to the first temptation), we encounter the aphorism 'Man does not live by bread alone'. In the present day, that maxim is almost universally taken to mean that bread is necessary but not sufficient for human flourishing. In its original Biblical context, by contrast, the maxim means that bread is sufficient but not necessary for human flourishing. (In Deuteronomy, bread was unnecessary because God sent manna instead; in the gospels, bread was unnecessary because Christ was able to survive on purely spiritual sustenance.)
"Не хлебом единым ссыт человек". Indeed...

So, all in all - yes, The Book is not just an instrument for unscrupulous, it is much much more.

Oh, almost forgot - learned another word thanks to Professor Kramer: "rebarbative". Useful. Take heed, some of you out there.


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