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Ch. 2: Petty 
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 Ch. 2: Petty
Please use this thread to discuss Ch. 2: Petty.



Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
Petty
This chapter is devoted to showing how the Bible depicts God as inflicting arbitrary and disproportionate punishments. Clearly in terms of any normal modern view of fairness such capricious punishment is wrong. However, in the ancient world, themes of governance included ‘tremble and obey’, the ‘shock and awe’ method of establishing dominance and hierarchy, and Draco’s opinion that small crimes deserve death. This was a harsh and unforgiving world where punishment was a method to instil fear and loyalty. There is some modern reflection of this petty tyranny in the ‘broken windows’ theory of policing, that preventing small crime creates a culture where serious crime is less likely. That is debatable, but not simple.

Constantly through Barker’s protestations that we can ignore the context for such petty rules, he is wrong. The context is that the shift from a rule of revenge to a vision of restorative justice only began with the development of the messianic theory of Jesus Christ. So it is petty and pointless on Barker’s part to accuse Christianity of holding to an ethical framework that went out with Moses. It is reasonable to criticise Christians who ignore the ethics of Christ, but not to blame the ethics of Christ for Christian hypocrisy.

Barker thinks it is petty that Deuteronomy provides rules about defecation that are allegedly ordained by God. I have heard people cite this verse in Africa as a highly valuable way to teach illiterate people about good sanitary practice, so Barker looks to have egg on his face in this petty criticism of the Bible. The overall context of the Torah, deliberately ignored by Barker, is the steady growth of population, technology, wealth and conflict through the iron age. It is entirely reasonable that freedoms of former tribal times had to be restricted, and sanitation is a good example.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
Quote:
Robert wrote:

This chapter is devoted to showing how the Bible depicts God as inflicting arbitrary and disproportionate punishments. Clearly in terms of any normal modern view of fairness such capricious punishment is wrong. However, in the ancient world, themes of governance included ‘tremble and obey’, the ‘shock and awe’ method of establishing dominance and hierarchy, and Draco’s opinion that small crimes deserve death.


There are so many of these instances in the Bible. I am thinking about the man who put his hand up to steady the Ark of the Covanent when the children of Israel were carrying it over some rocky ground. God had told them they were not to touch it.....this poor man just followed his instincts, allegedly, and he was smited. Then, what about poor Judas? He was prophesied to betray Jesus....so what chance did he have, poor chap??

Sometimes, I wonder if these instances, which are so unjust, are placed in there just to check whether we are paying attention.....I mean, maybe it is saying, 'Look what happens if you blindly obey the instructions of a bully'.

As C S Lewis attests in 'Mere Christianity' the Gestapo must have known that what they were doing to the Jews was wrong....but they did it to protect their own. A mother who obeys her natural instinct and protects her son who might be a rapist or a serial killer......There is this balance which we must find.....when to obey 'the law of the land' and when to allow our own compassion to take over. Sod the Selfish gene, so to speak.


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Sat Sep 10, 2016 9:18 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
P wrote:
I am thinking about the man who put his hand up to steady the Ark of the Covanent when the children of Israel were carrying it over some rocky ground. God had told them they were not to touch it.....this poor man just followed his instincts, allegedly, and he was smited.


yeah that is a classic isn't it, i thought of it too!

taken at face value the story makes God look like a total bellend numpty :)

He's real hung up on people touching his stuff it seems :lol:

don't touch my stuff, i told you not to touch my stuff.... right you brought it on yourself, this is going to hurt you more than it is going to hurt me :P

Numbers 4:15
"When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they will not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.

1 Samuel 6:19
He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter.

1 Samuel 25:38
About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.

2 Samuel 6:8
David became angry because of the LORD'S outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.



Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:40 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
Penelope wrote:
the man who put his hand up to steady the Ark of the Covanent when the children of Israel were carrying it over some rocky ground. God had told them they were not to touch it.....this poor man just followed his instincts, allegedly, and he was smited.
This reminds me of something that happened to me when I was about ten years old, and with some friends was exploring a derelict bread factory. We found this enormous machine, and I touched it and got a mild electric shock. It could have been much worse, like the accidental death of Thomas Merton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Merton#Death . When we try to depict God as good there is a basic conflict with the possibly deeper idea that God is fate. We hope for a good fate, but are at the mercy of capricious forces.

So warning people to be careful of forces they do not understand is a bit like telling children to watch out for a hot stove. A stove is good since it cooks food, but mishandled or disregarded it can be deadly.

Proverbs 9:10 http://biblehub.com/proverbs/9-10.htm says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. It is shallow for Barker to suggest he would prefer God was only nice. Risk makes us tougher. I think it is equally shallow for Christians to define God as beyond the universe, since that fails to engage with how God is a metaphor for real natural forces.
Penelope wrote:
Then, what about poor Judas? He was prophesied to betray Jesus....so what chance did he have, poor chap??
The whole story of Jesus and Judas is an allegorical myth about the presence of the spirit of the golden age in the midst of the iron age. It is about the inevitability of betrayal and misunderstanding, and how the impact of betrayal can be as bad for the betrayer, in this case Judas, as for the betrayed, with Jesus getting flogged and having nails hammered through his hands and feet.
Penelope wrote:
Sometimes, I wonder if these instances, which are so unjust, are placed in there just to check whether we are paying attention.....I mean, maybe it is saying, 'Look what happens if you blindly obey the instructions of a bully'.
I don’t see it like that Penelope. In Australia, there is an old indigenous myth of the rainbow snake, who is unlike the Abrahamic God in having no sense of love or care or compassion for people, but like God in exercising total capricious power. I think we will gradually see the old Christian myths about God evolve to reflect some of the ecological ideas about how the planet that nurtures us could also spit us out.

I don’t get your point about bullying. The ark of the covenant was an object for extreme reverent veneration, as the central ritual symbol of a patriarchal cult. The story of the man dying for touching the ark is about instilling fear, which does relate to bullying but is about what happens when you disobey a warlord like Moses, suggesting that obedience is the path of greater safety and prosperity.


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Sat Sep 10, 2016 8:43 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
It occurs to me that what Barker and Dawkins are really on about in this book is the metaphysical agenda of science, to apply methodical doubt to all claims of traditional authority on principle. The problem with this methodical doubt is that it is great as a basis for building knowledge but terrible as a basis for building community.

Social coherence requires trust, belonging, direction and intuition, all of which are matters of faith, which Dawkins considers a vicious anathema. So he is really pursuing the metaphysical myth of the isolated rational individual as the unit of society.

There is a confusing ironical mix here between the left wing content of Dawkins’ critique of religion and politics, and the underlying right wing myth of the individual that informs his metaphysical values.

Pettiness is a good case in point, since petty decisions never seem to be rational. But it is petty that we stand up when a judge enters a court room. People who don’t stand are in contempt of court. This is a social ritual which reflects the background idea that standing is a mark of respect for the rule of law.

If we say that such petty rituals make no sense and should be abolished we are on a slippery slope towards a delinquent attitude towards the core institutions of society. Delinquency is all about the absence of an orderly paternal authority. Barker and Dawkins should be careful what they wish for.


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Sat Sep 10, 2016 9:23 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
Mr. Tulip wrote:
Constantly through Barker’s protestations that we can ignore the context for such petty rules, he is wrong. The context is that the shift from a rule of revenge to a vision of restorative justice only began with the development of the messianic theory of Jesus Christ. So it is petty and pointless on Barker’s part to accuse Christianity of holding to an ethical framework that went out with Moses.

The point is there is no possible context that would justify the extreme pettiness of most of the rules listed in this chapter. Well actually here is one context in bold, which if added to scripture might redeem Deuteronomy 22:12. Only a very small minded deity would require us to "make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear" while not banning rape, genocide, or slavery.

Also your point about what "went out with Moses" makes no sense - the chapter begins with the first four commandments which Moses brought down from the mountain, i.e. he introduced them... Again, we should stick to the Old Testament for now - the book doesn't discuss the New Testament until the final chapter.
Quote:
Pettiness is a good case in point, since petty decisions never seem to be rational. But it is petty that we stand up when a judge enters a court room. People who don’t stand are in contempt of court. This is a social ritual which reflects the background idea that standing is a mark of respect for the rule of law. If we say that such petty rituals make no sense and should be abolished we are on a slippery slope towards a delinquent attitude towards the core institutions of society. Delinquency is all about the absence of an orderly paternal authority. Barker and Dawkins should be careful what they wish for.

The authors are not saying all pettiness should be abolished. You seem to be confusing normal human pettiness with that of YahWeh, but there is no comparison. Take the demand to kill everyone picking up sticks on the wrong day of the week: YahWeh is psychotically petty.


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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


Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:24 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
LanDroid wrote:
there is no possible context that would justify the extreme pettiness of most of the rules listed in this chapter.
The context for the petty rules outlined by God in the Old Testament is the desire of the Jewish authorities to instil a popular attitude of fear and subservience in order to ensure total social obedience to a divinely ordained hierarchical military caste of kings and priests. Before the Bronze Age and then the Iron Age, which introduced steadily increasing levels of organised state violence, social authority had been relatively fluid. It had been possible to allow religious diversity, including goddesses and nature worship. But with the emergence of armies and broadscale imperial conquest, and with Israel a tiny area compared to the adjacent empires, drastic measures were needed for security.

Ensuring that Israel had an effective military defence involved several related approaches. Firstly, the use of soft power involved the effort to form military alliances based on a large and powerful friend who would grant Israel peaceful autonomy under a suzerain. If that did not work, then the Jews needed an army capable of convincing any invader that war was not worth it. This ancient geographical reality remains relevant today.

In ancient times, where kings needed to wrench rural peasants away from their land to serve in the army, a petty God was an invaluable device. If the standard social discourse hails the great power of the king as the representative of God on earth, then the idea that every small detail of the activities of the king and his religious and military support staff is divinely blessed and required can be very helpful, as can the idea that God will visit arbitrary extreme punishments on any miscreants. If God is tolerant of small differences, then the security objective of building a monolithic state apparatus is fatally subverted.

That is the context which justified the pettiness of God in the Old Testament in the times when the text were written. It does not in any way justify that we today should believe such a myth, but it does make it a rational response in its time.
LanDroid wrote:
your point about what "went out with Moses" makes no sense - the chapter begins with the first four commandments which Moses brought down from the mountain, i.e. he introduced them...
Jesus specifically countermanded the Mosaic law of eye for an eye in the Sermon on the Mount. So to blame Christianity today for still having a holy book with unsavoury details is a bit like blaming Barack Obama for the Three Fifths Compromise, even though that slaver demand from the US constitution is now totally obsolete. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Fifths_Compromise

Barker uses his attacks on the Old Testament to mount an expansive attack on all religion, ignoring the fact that religion can reform and evolve to develop new ethical principles that accord with emerging social values. That is why Christianity ostensibly shifted from revenge to forgiveness as the basis of its morality, despite the ongoing popular appeal of the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality. I think the underlying problem here is that fundamentalist Christians have never accepted the New Testament morality, but still insist on clinging to obsolete ideas from Moses such as the centrality of revenge.
LanDroid wrote:
Again, we should stick to the Old Testament for now - the book doesn't discuss the New Testament until the final chapter.
That is again like saying we can blame the USA for counting blacks as inferior, even though such rules were formally abolished after the Civil War. Barker does not engage with the relevance of these more difficult ideas from the Torah.
LanDroid wrote:
Take the demand to kill everyone picking up sticks on the wrong day of the week: YahWeh is psychotically petty.
The general point, as I understand the insistence on Sabbath observance, was that rigid conformity was seen as a essential test for loyalty and reliability. Tyrants always see a slippery slope in such matters – if people routinely get away with misdemeanours like vandalism then it creates a social climate where more serious crime becomes more likely. That is obviously not to justify tyranny, especially considering the blunt conflicting view of Jesus that the Sabbath is made for man not man for the Sabbath.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Petty
The Old Testament stands on its own. It existed for a very long time before the New Testament was assembled. The Old Testament is a historical document, still considered by Christians and Jews to be Holy Scripture. It is one of the texts that Jesus studied and taught from. For those reasons and others it is perfectly valid to study the Old Testament without considering how some parts were modified by the New Testament. Barker's book considers those conflicts in the final chapter.


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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 Oct 01, 2016 10:00 am
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