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Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It 
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 Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It
Please use this thread to discuss Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It.



Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It
Barker’s agenda in this book is to indict God against modern values. Unfortunately, there is far too much of the postmodern in his critique, especially regarding the core liberal value of tolerance. The first chapter is about jealousy. Barker thinks that jealousy is bad, and he mocks God for telling us that his name is Jealous.

It is quite frequent for people to be jealous about the affections of those they love, since a lack of emotion may indicate a lack of care. Obviously that goes over the top when jealousy turns into violence and aggression, but Barker’s postmodern assumption seems to be that total freedom from jealousy is a universal good and ethical ideal. He does not explain why this opinion has solid ethical grounds.

But in any case, the issue regarding the Old Testament theory of God as Jealous has to first be considered against its own times and context rather than in terms of how the Old Testament is used today. For the Torah-observant Jews in ancient time, the big problem was national security. Israel/Canaan/Palestine is tiny compared to Babylon, Egypt and Assyria. Those big adjacent empires swept through Israel, as Greece and Rome later also did. The Torah theory was that conformity to strict social rules was essential for national security and stability. Jealous Jehovah directly supported that agenda of social loyalty and trust, based on the theory that acceptance of multiculturalism would destroy social cohesion.

In a context where metal technology was constantly improving, since the iron age supplanted bronze about a millennium before Jesus, the big social shift was the steady evolution from small isolated bands and tribes towards massive unified empires. Small communities in the ancient world, when they were living unmolested in peace, could develop stable egalitarian values with gender equality. But when conquering soldiers came on the scene, such equality had to give way to the patriarchal hierarchy of kings and priests.

That security mentality is why the real ten commandments start off by commanding the obliteration of goddess worship with the destruction of shrines to the goddess Asherah. Goddess worship is suited for peaceful equal societies, not for warring conformist societies. To survive in a world of war, a jealous God who brooks no rivals is highly adaptive.

So I find it surprising that Richard Dawkins, in commissioning this book from Dan Barker, did not ask the basic evolutionary question of how these memes were adaptive in their context. Our modern industrial world is extremely different, as today we can afford to be compassionate due to the wealth that flows from technology and trade. It is unfair for Barker to indict ancient Israel for cruelty, since he does not really explore what the practical alternative to cruelty and conformity might be in a world where the weak are destroyed by the strong.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:43 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:42 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It
What does the word 'jealous' mean in this context? What other translations of the original are possible? The Old Testament does tend to attribute human emotions to the Almighty God imagery. The Bible, The Holy Bible as my spiritual mother used to insist.....is Jewish because the Jews wrote things down, albeit from their own cosmic consciousness...... Influencing three major and bolshy religions. God (Brahma) in Hindu based religious belief is much more inscrutable and difficult to understand but somehow more digestible.


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Fri Sep 09, 2016 11:20 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It
Penelope wrote:
What does the word 'jealous' mean in this context? What other translations of the original are possible? The Old Testament does tend to attribute human emotions to the Almighty God imagery. The Bible, The Holy Bible as my spiritual mother used to insist.....is Jewish because the Jews wrote things down, albeit from their own cosmic consciousness...... Influencing three major and bolshy religions.

Hello Penelope, wonderful to hear from you, and hoping all is well in Chester.
I think the concept of jealousy is fairly clear for Yahweh as creator of the universe, that He sees Jewish national security as requiring worship only of Him, and not of lesser deities who reflect natural forces rather than the entirety of creation. The point is that worship of sun, trees, shrines and so on loses the coordinating social power that comes through patriarchal authority and order, and so allowing diversity increases the risk of military defeat. Effeminate spirituality of peace and love and sensitivity has a depth of wisdom within a peaceful context, but in a world at war the harsh unity of belief in the single creator God revealed in the word of grace appears to deliver the basic values of security and stability. Harshness involves jealousy, in that a harsh God and his cultic acolytes will not brook any rivals and so will stamp out alternative religions. That is what Moses explains in the real ten commandments at Exodus 34 where the first commandment is directed squarely at jealousy about goddess worship: “destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves.”
Penelope wrote:
God (Brahma) in Hindu based religious belief is much more inscrutable and difficult to understand but somehow more digestible.
Yes, I think that is a really good point regarding objective analysis of divinity, in terms of the actual nature of an imagined God of the universe, Brahma is a deeper and more accurate depiction than Jehovah, since Jehovah is so corrupted by conflict, hierarch and war, due to the context of the fall from grace, driven by the rise of metal and agriculture and population and writing.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It
Mr. Tulip wrote:
Barker’s agenda in this book is to indict God against modern values.

In a book written by a God, one would expect to find eternal values, not ones that apply only to a particular age. So it is not necessarily a problem if modern values conflict with those written in ancient scripture.

As I recall my own religious upbringing, jealousy was considered a major fault (pride being the # 1 fault). Mr. Tulip brings up some good points that a certain amount of jealousy is probably necessary to maintain cohesion within a couple - if both have zero jealousy, the relationship could deteriorate into hanki-pankiness... Image

Beyond that, there are more neurotic jealousies. I worked with a woman whose husband insisted on monitoring all of her phone text messages, schedules, and online activity. She would become very nervous and would call him if she was going to be delayed by even 15 minutes in getting home. I once asked her why she didn't put a password on her phone to prevent that activity and she said her husband would probably beat her severely. I worked with another woman who was recently divorced and admitted if she came home 20 minutes late for any appointment, her ex-husband was so jealous he would actually sniff her crotch to make sure she had not been whoring around.

But those are relatively minor examples compared to the psychotic jealousy of some men who suspect their wives are actually cheating on them or women who leave them. They enact the truth "If I can't have her no one can!" followed by a murder / suicide. :coco:

Dan Barker is not arguing against the amount of jealousy one might expect in a normal relationship. As we find in Chapter 1, he is railing against the neurotic and psychotic tendencies of a god who actually calls Himself by the name "Jealous."
Quote:
It is unfair for Barker to indict ancient Israel for cruelty, since he does not really explore what the practical alternative to cruelty and conformity might be in a world where the weak are destroyed by the strong.

Since the weak are always destroyed by the strong, cruelty and conformity are required. Are these eternal human values or just biblical ones?


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But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21: 23 - 25


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Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:26 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It
LanDroid wrote:
Mr. Tulip wrote:
Barker’s agenda in this book is to indict God against modern values.

In a book written by a God, one would expect to find eternal values, not ones that apply only to a particular age.
Hi Landroid, I find this a frustrating comment, not to criticise you, but just to note that a core idea of Christianity is that the New Testament describes a new covenant between God and humanity, with the core fact about this new covenant that the Mosaic law of eye for an eye (revenge as law) had been replaced by the law of forgiveness in Christ as explained in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Old Testament reflects the perceptions of God in its time, and as these perceptions changed, with the new security vision of Jesus, whose underlying message was the subversion of Rome by the least as first in the Kingdom of God, so too the vision of God shifted from Jealous to Grace.
LanDroid wrote:
So it is not necessarily a problem if modern values conflict with those written in ancient scripture.
You may care to expand on that statement. It is a real problem that modern values conflict with the Bible, since traditional Christianity claims to accept the Bible as the basis of its values. Picking apart which modern value are good and which conflicting Biblical values are good is a very difficult problem. For example I think faith is good, but that clashes with dominant modern secular values.
LanDroid wrote:
As I recall my own religious upbringing, jealousy was considered a major fault (pride being the # 1 fault). Mr. Tulip brings up some good points that a certain amount of jealousy is probably necessary to maintain cohesion within a couple - if both have zero jealousy, the relationship could deteriorate into hanki-pankiness... Image
Jehovah is jealous about hanky panky with sun gods, female gods, and assorted local nature spirits, according to the Bible. The question we should ask is if this jealousy makes ethical sense in its context. I think it does.

If the Jews had not developed a theory of extreme jealousy on the part of the creator of the universe against worship of lesser deities, including the provocative idea that the creator was real and caring and intentional while the lesser beings were imaginary myths, they would have had no basis for their exceptionalism as the chosen race. The entire history of the world would have lost the concept of Judeo-Christian civilization.

Expanding on what I said above in my previous comment, divine jealousy is essentially a military security doctrine, with the core purpose of ensuring a regimented social conformity in the face of existential threats.
LanDroid wrote:
Dan Barker is not arguing against the amount of jealousy one might expect in a normal relationship. As we find in Chapter 1, he is railing against the neurotic and psychotic tendencies of a god who actually calls Himself by the name "Jealous."
The theory behind the Torah doctrine of God was that unless the Jews focussed on the creator of the universe as the sole object of veneration, they would inevitably lose their cultural identity and national security.

Fertility Gods and nature spirits just did not cut it as explaining why Israel was promised by God to the Jews, an idea that they had to enforce in order to exist. You can call that psychotic if you like, but even North Korea is rational in terms of promoting its own interests.

I should mention that this talk of such loaded words as ‘psychotic’, and my mention of the chosen race theory, opens the danger for this analysis of the Bible to conceal some unconscious prejudice. I am basically philo-Semitic, and I think it is important to psychoanalyse and deconstruct all such language against fundamental principles.
LanDroid wrote:
Quote:
It is unfair for Barker to indict ancient Israel for cruelty, since he does not really explore what the practical alternative to cruelty and conformity might be in a world where the weak are destroyed by the strong.

Since the weak are always destroyed by the strong, cruelty and conformity are required. Are these eternal human values or just biblical ones?
That doctrine of political realism goes back to Thucydides and the famous Melian Dialogue in the Peloponnesian War where the Athenians tell the Melians that the strong take what they want and the weak concede what they must.

The problem with that value system is that it produces a view that the strong are evil and irredeemable, which leads to organisation among the weak.

I did not say the weak are “always” destroyed. We should place destruction in the scientific framework of evolution, where seemingly weak organisms such as bacteria are often much more adaptive than strong organisms like elephants.

The situation facing the Jews looking at existential threats from the four empires, Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome was that the Jews were weak, and had to find some adaptive basis for security. God was their answer.

As this Jewish ethical system of a jealous God was applied, it was weighed in the balance and found wanting. First the prophets such as Amos argued that the traditional Jewish ritual of sacrifice of animals was of no moral worth, and then Jesus presented a complete reversal of the revenge mentality, arguing that the meek will inherit the earth, leading to a theory of justice focused on reconciliation, forgiveness, restoration, love and grace. Even though those who applied this transformative moral theory would be crucified, the redeeming power of the idea would eventually prove victorious when Christ comes in glory, according to the Christian hypothesis.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: Jealous and Proud of It
As they say in software, what you see as a feature - the evolution of man's perception of god and changing morals - I see as a bug. To me if information is divine it should be eternal. We really should just stick with the Old Testament for now - Dan Barker doesn't get to the New Testament until Chapter 28. And even then I think he's going to show the evolution you admire and I decry is not as good as one might expect for a 2nd chance from the divine.

Psychotic jealousy is just one of the proper characteristics to accurately describe this Deity. You think this was required to retain the Jewish identity, but others have maintained power without such beliefs: Genghis Khan might be one example. Also as to psychosis, Read 1 Samuel 15 and hopefully agree that war crimes are not required to maintain power and order.


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When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah 1:15

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21: 23 - 25


Sat Sep 17, 2016 5:04 pm
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