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This post is basically 'you're not doing it correctly, do it my way'
April 8, 2012 9:04 PM   Subscribe

This post is basically 'you're not doing it correctly, do it my way'

The post is designed to inflame people's feelings at a time when many are celebrating the holiday. It is not written to educate. It is designed to push a personal, specific, religious point of view on how to celebrate Passover.

Are FPPs by individuals on their views on proper Christmas tree decoration, Thanksgiving prayers, and wedding vows now worthy of the front page?

I'm not terribly religious, but the post is poorly timed, set to cause conflict, and nothing close to 'the best of the web'. I'm not offended, but I do feel posting it this weekend is in poor taste any way you slice it.

Assuming best intentions, I don't think dmd is trolling and is earnestly passionate about this. But, IMHO, 'you're not doing it correctly' posts don't belong on the front page.
posted by Argyle to Etiquette/Policy at 9:04 PM (250 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

This is an eloquent and passionate defense of purposeful ignorance.
posted by andoatnp at 9:12 PM on April 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


You might want to take note of this very thoughtful explanation of the general mod position on this post from jessamyn. It's in the thread you're linking to. Apparently the moderators have thought long and hard about this one already.
posted by koeselitz at 9:17 PM on April 8, 2012


(Apologies if you'd already seen that; I just thought it should be noted.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:17 PM on April 8, 2012


I'm glad this discussion can be conducted over here.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:18 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The subject, framing, and timing of the post don't bother me, but I do worry that the thought process was "I have a great Haggadah with an interesting take on the Exodus" ==> "I want to share my Haggadah's take on the Exodus" ==> "This post will allow me to share my Haggadah" ==> link, link, post, comment.

While it's a nice Haggadah and an interesting topic, that isn't what the front page is for, as I understand it. OTOH, there's no way to tell what the thought process actually was, so it's up to the mods to decide if the post was made in good faith, and/or if the links are worthy of an FPP.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:18 PM on April 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


symbioid was right.

If my Hebrew school lessons had been set to Metallica riffs, I would have paid a lot more attention.
posted by Trurl at 9:19 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a Passover-celebrating Jew and I didn't read this as trolling. I would roll my eyes if someone in my family read from dmd's Haggadah at Seder, but we always do it with a lot of different Haggadot and a certain amount of eye-rolling is par for the course. Next year I am planning to introduce the story of the son who didn't even know how to Ask MetaFilter.
posted by escabeche at 9:19 PM on April 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


NEXT YEAR IN IRL

DAYENU
posted by elizardbits at 9:29 PM on April 8, 2012 [21 favorites]


i really enjoyed the post and and made me think about a number of things i'd never considered before. i was honestly surprised when the allegations of trolling popped up because i personally felt the post was respectful of the place the story holds for the jewish people who don't see it as 100% factual.

and, it makes perfect sense that it would be posted around passover. to me, it'd be like posting in december about the star charts and analysis that questions december 25th as the actual day of christ's birth. of course that's when the topic comes up because that's when everyone is thinking about it. you're less likely to see a march madness post during the nfl preseason. all that just makes sense to me.
posted by nadawi at 9:30 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Best of the web" needs to die.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:33 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am a passover-celebrating Jew. I had always assumed that the story of passover was largely true. I only recently learned that historians generally feel this is not the case. At the Seders I went to, the sense I got was that very few people knew this. (And, as mentioned in the main post- the Seders I go to are attended by well-educated, inquisitive people).

I think a post explaining that the exodus story is historically inaccurate is in no way trolling. I think it's really useful and interesting information (had I not encountered it a couple of weeks ago, I would have been fascinated to encounter it today). I don't think it's in any way disrespecful: I think many Seders are about discussion of the Seder, and about how to make it more valuable, more relevant, more contemporary in its values. Information that is news to many people about the historical accuracy of the story seems entirely in the spirit of the holiday.

Some people may disagree, some may be offended, but I'd in no way see this as trolling. (I'd even disagree, respectfully, with Jessamyn's suggestion that the timing was ungreat: I think passover is a great time to think about passover. I'd be a lot less interested in this post in September...)

I agree that the inclusion of the personal haggadah is not the strongest part of the post: Maybe it would have been better later, in a comment, as opposed to in the main post. But there's enough there to still feel very valuable and interesting to me...
posted by ManInSuit at 9:34 PM on April 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


I do think the inclusion of the first comment kind of pushed the entire post into GYOB territory and was surprised to see it stand, but the mods seem to have discussed this at length. The conversation in the comments hasn't been too terrible. It's obvious some people did, indeed, take the post to mean "some of you aren't doing it properly", and it shows in what they've written.
posted by hippybear at 9:35 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm Jew-ish, celebrated Passover this weekend.I've long had general suspicions that the Exodus is not a historically accurate story but have never done the footwork to look into it. A few times this weekend, my in-belief agnostic husband and I (also agnostic, though we were both raised Jewish) discussed the concept of celebrating holiday traditions without belief. This kind of shone an interesting lens on the discussion. ManInSuit's explanation of how this is kind of politically messed up struck a chord. I'm glad to be able to think about this further.

Also, doesn't the Passover story kind of talk about this?
What does the wicked son say? "What does this drudgery mean to you?" To you and not to him. Since he excludes himself from the community, he has denied a basic principle of Judaism. You should blunt his teeth by saying to him: "It is for the sake of this that Hashem did for me when I left Egypt. For me and not for him. If he was there he would not have been redeemed."
It's cold comfort, though. Because I think it's one of the uglier attitudes in religion--don't question, or you'll face the wrath of the higher power because you're setting yourself off from the community by your lack of faith. I don't know. I have thoughts.

I don't think this was trolling. I think it was a good, interesting post.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The timing of the post made me raise my eyebrows, and the extreme personal ness of it. But it was very informative on several levels for me, and most of the discussion was excellent.
So, it's ok by me.
Thank you for asking.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:41 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, personally I don't think it was an ideal post but I also don't think it was terrible, and knowing dmd a little bit I don't think there's really any trollin' angle here. We talked about it over email and decided to go ahead and run with it since the thread seemed to be developing okay. I think skipping the initial comment about his family's Haggadah would have been the smarter move because it'd avoid that weird ambiguity, but I didn't personally read it as at all some sort of chiding or show-offy thing, just "and here's my personal experience".

My limited personal perspective on the actual subject, having grown up part-time Jewish with a reform, Zinn-reading Jewish dad, is definitely informed more by a tendency toward critical analysis of traditions and source texts and the ideas captured in the old stories than in any particular enshrinement of that stuff as a hardcore historical record, so that may be part of where I'm coming from on it as far as the degree to which other people had a different take. Pretty much my whole exposure to the Jewish tradition has involved a lot of respectful and thoughtful skepticism about the source material—the why being more important than the what, that sort of thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:41 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I made some charoset tonight with Spanish port instead of Manischewitz, so you know I'm not really keeping my bona fides polished.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:43 PM on April 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


(just curious - is there a clear line between "post likely to cause a lot of controversy" and "trolling"? I can see the argument that this is a post likely to cause some controversy. But is that in itself a bad thing? I ask out of genuine curiosity, as someone pretty new to MeTA).
posted by ManInSuit at 9:44 PM on April 8, 2012


I am personally only just getting to know my Jewish heritage, so I was very, very glad to see this kind of article on the FP because it added yet another layer to my ongoing study of what it means to be Jewish/Hebrew. Judaism allows for different perspectives. Not all differences of opinion need to result in someone yelling "TROLL IN THE DUNGEON" or whatever. Yeah, the first comment was kind of like, "Aaaaand HERE IS DEFINITIVE PROOF FROM MY VERY OWN HAGGADAH" but it still offered a really nice sentiment and one that still holds the Passover story in high regard. Metaphors don't make a concept any less valuable.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:48 PM on April 8, 2012


It's obviously not trolling. It's just a bit too "here's what I believe, and you should believe it too, and here is why" for my tastes.

Trolling is stirring up shit for the entertainment of the troll, who delights in watching people lose their heads and get riled up and ranty and full of GRAR about something. This post wasn't framed in a trolly way and doesn't seem to be something which the poster is sitting and watching for the lulz.
posted by hippybear at 9:49 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

BLESSED
are the moderators, blessed are they, blessed are they who gave the FAQ to the users, blessed are they. Regarding four users speaketh the FAQ: one Wise, and one Wicked, and one Simple, and one who knoweth not to use AskMe.
What doth the Wise User say? How do I sign up for a MetaFilter account? And you shall instruct him in the use of Paypal, he needs to be a member for at least a week to make an Ask MetaFilter post.

What doth the Wicked User say? Have you seen this great SEO site?! And because he hath self-linked he rejects the T&C. And thou shalt disable his account and say Because of these things Matt Haughey did for me. Me and not for him, if the spammer had been there Matt would not have gotten out of bed.

What doth the Simple User say? Shall I DTMFA? And because we are all special snowflakes you shall listen to the particular details and respond appropriately.

And the one who doth not know how to use AskMe you shall send MeMail, saying, MetaTalk is for questions about the site; AskMe is for personal questions. You have to wait for a week before you post another question to AskMe.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:54 PM on April 8, 2012 [44 favorites]


Thought it was a little troll-ish but not over the top. Mostly that it was "straw-man"ish although such straw men DO exist who have not questioned the history of Exodus. I expect such religious founding stories to have a "Rashomon" kind of truth, as in, something may have happened that had some resemblance to the received stories when looked at through a certain vantage, leaving out other important aspects that were not on the agenda of the story-teller.
posted by Schmucko at 9:54 PM on April 8, 2012


Incidentally, I did almost exactly the same thing a couple of years ago for Chanukkah about the made up parts of the holiday, "The True Story of Chanukkah".

1) During the time of the holiday seemed like the absolute best time to do that post. I don't understand people saying that a post about passover should be done in December or whatever.

2) In my post, no one seemed to be remotely concerned that some misconceptions about a holiday were being pointed out, unlike with this passover post.

3) There was a great discussion about what it means to celebrate a holiday that is based on a historical account that might not be accurate.
posted by andoatnp at 9:56 PM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ok, i'll admit it. That thread made me want to punch a bunch of people.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:56 PM on April 8, 2012


Why is this night different than any other night?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:02 PM on April 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


That thread was the first time it ever occurred to me to question the basic historical accuracy of Exodus. It just- I don't know. It never occurred to me. Passover has always been presented to me as "This is how it went down" and (as it turns out) I never questioned that at all.

I have been thinking about this off and on all day, and wondering what other unexamined notions I'm walking around with. Weird.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:07 PM on April 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Cuz we all went out for Easter Punch earlier?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:07 PM on April 8, 2012


I was shocked that the post was allowed to stand. I have much love for dmd's other FPPs, but this was someone with some proselytizing to do, who found some shitty throwaway links to support it, and picked the fightyest possible time to post it. The best of the web was nowhere to be found in that post, the fights and the drive-by shallow religion hating were inevitable, and the whole weak mess was a sad excuse for a comment in search of a post.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well said, Blasdelb.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:21 PM on April 8, 2012


Why is this night different than any other night?

For those of us from a Christian tradition, today is the day when zombies walk the earth.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:23 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes. Jews also watch The Walking Dead on Sundays.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:30 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


This post is basically 'you're not doing it correctly, do it my way'

Ooooh, meta.
posted by pompomtom at 10:38 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are FPPs by individuals on their views on proper Christmas tree decoration, Thanksgiving prayers, and wedding vows now worthy of the front page?

Why not, if they were to include interesting links?
posted by normy at 10:52 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The content of the post was fine, but the framing was crap. Editorializing at best, trollish at worst.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:04 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


elizardbits is now my new favorite mefite.

Now, does anyone want to buy a goat? A little baby goat?
posted by Ghidorah at 11:19 PM on April 8, 2012


Yes. Jews also watch The Walking Dead on Sundays.

Hey, do you guys think the premise could use some refreshing for season three? I only ask because I know the Muslims and the Hindus are on board and if we could also get the Buddhists we could, you know, form an ongoing culture of peace and understanding based on that fact.

I'm just throwing that out there.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:24 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the post was interesting, as I mentioned in my comment. Timing made perfect sense to me, as someone who observes the holiday and led two seders. Thanks, mods, for letting the post stand.

I was, though, kind of annoyed that it seemed most links were from Secular Humanist perspectives, and didn't seem all that respectful of other (more traditional) branches of Judaism...and I'm Reconstructionist so I'm not even all that traditional myself. I appreciated zarq's comment providing a little context regarding other movements. Makes me wonder what the Reconstructionist movement's take is on this (to the extent that Recons even have a party line).

Ghidorah, I'll offer you one and a half zuzim for that goat.
posted by quinoa at 11:27 PM on April 8, 2012


Successful troll is subtly successful.
posted by falameufilho at 11:30 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll offer you one and a half zuzim for that goat.

Sorry, two zuzim, or horrible, horrible things will befall us all.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:37 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The timing was perfectly appropriate — this is the time of year people are thinking about this story.

I found the framing kinda tendentious and the links interesting.

If you follow a monotheist religion, you've put "you're not doing it correctly" at the heart of your theology.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:19 AM on April 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


You know, I was just thinking last night about France's policy of not letting Muslim students wear whatever sexist bullshit head covering Islam requires girls to wear in French public schools. I didn't think it was the best policy decision, but I applauded France for taking on Islam and throwing their tendency to say "THIS IS WHAT WE BELIEVE! BELIEVE IT TOO OR PERISH, HEATHENS" right back in their fascist faces. Sure it's a bit immature but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. It's like when your little cousin/sibling is being a dick, and you act just like them to make them realize how rotten their behavior is.

So I feel like this FPP was absolutely brilliant, and it being historically accurate is just the icing on the cake. I love it when people's superstitions get crushed, especially when they try to force those same superstitions on the rest of us.

I guess a lot of people would call me a "militant atheist". Go ahead. I didn't start this war.

On preview, what benito said.
posted by MattMangels at 12:25 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought it was a nice post, but (1) I'm not Jewish, and (2) this has been a subject of conversation around me for the past week. I've been curious for different takes on it, and the discussion has been generally good.

I've only been to one Seder, 5 or 6 years ago, and it was with my friends in NY. It was attended largely by Gentiles like myself, but run by Jews, and it was framed (because we are all huge geeks) via Battlestar Galactica.

So what we ended up with was a Seder that was as much about teaching the majority of attendees about the very process and ceremonies of a Seder as it was about the story, and the story was presented through something which we all knew well, but also knew as fictional.

And you know what? It was beautiful, and fun, and educational, and was a very fitting celebration of Jewish history and tradition, for our group, unhindered by any question of the factual history being discussed. That was, really, the last thing on anyone's minds.

Don't know how much of a point I really have there, but that for me this post made me more fascinated with Jewish history, not more dismissive. And I think the inclusion of the family Haggadah served to show that dmd was not being a troll, so much as showing how one may reconcile these facts with tradition and still have the tradition be meaningful. I was a fan of it, myself.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:58 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I realize that there are plenty of Islams, and [insert other major religion members here] who aren't just not radicalized but thoughtful, intelligent, and bighearted people to boot. I was generalizing, painting with quite a broad strike, you could say. But perhaps because it happened at an impressionable age (15) for me, the Mohammed head cartoon controversy was a wake-up call for me, and has greatly contributed to my cynical and highly suspicious stance all religions. Well, that and being raised Catholic but that's a whole other rant. I felt like I needed to explain myself in that comment a little more, not trying to start a derail. Or be a troll.
posted by MattMangels at 12:59 AM on April 9, 2012


And obviously I meant to Muslims instead of "Islams" in that last comment. God, now I sound really ignorant.
posted by MattMangels at 1:00 AM on April 9, 2012


I love it when people's superstitions get crushed, especially when they try to force those same superstitions on the rest of us.

To be fair though, I've never had any jews come knock on my door to tell me the good news about Moses.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:22 AM on April 9, 2012 [18 favorites]


Even those guys in the Mitzvah van in NY -- they take one look at my goyisch face and immediately give me a wide birth.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:26 AM on April 9, 2012


a wide birth
Leave the dilation of your cervix out of this, Pete.
posted by Abiezer at 1:44 AM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Too focused on my Yiddish spelling -- is it goyishe or goyisch -- to pay attention to English sailor words.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:59 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household, and have also always assumed that there was some historical basis for the whole affair. I appreciate having things like these brought to my attention, so I can edit my mental knowledge appropriately.

I think it's important to remember that just because you take your religion seriously, it doesn't mean that other people are going to. Religious tolerance also means tolerating the people who don't believe in your religion.

If this post had mentioned greek mythology instead, would it have garnered the same controversy? Doubtful.
posted by Estraven at 2:00 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


God, now I sound really ignorant.

Hmmm. Your "painting with a broad strike" is someone else's "ignorant bigotry". Suffice it to say, I don't think this thread is really the place for your islamaphobic and ignorant rants about religions in general, and indeed if dmd's intention was anything like your "Suck It Haters!" rationalisation above I'm sure the post would - and rightly so - have been shitcanned immediately.

Thankfully most members of the site are able to bring a little more charity and nuance to their thoughts about religion.

It's like when your little cousin/sibling is being a dick, and you act just like them to make them realize how rotten their behavior is.

I initially thought you were being sarcastic when you wrote that whole passage and particularly this, but obvs not. If this is the level of discourse you bring to interactions with religious people and organisations, well... You better pray whoever your talking to is more generous and open-minded then you are.
posted by smoke at 3:09 AM on April 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I love it when people's superstitions get crushed, especially when they try to force those same superstitions on the rest of us.

I sympathize with your point of view, but you are sorely mistaken if you think anyone's superstitions have been crushed. You wouldn't believe how hard it is for us to change the way we think about the world, and among all the ways to convince a person to change their worldview, a direct hostile attack is the method least likely to succeed and most likely to backfire.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:27 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Question everything. Especially your prejudices. If something seems designed to provoke a reaction in you, examine those reactions.

"Best of the web" needs to die.

Yes, by all means, let's put an end to MetaFilter. Or, at the very least, let it become the exact same schlock that's on the rest of the internet, "curing" it of its unique identity.
posted by Eideteker at 3:35 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Killing the thread because of the first comment would go against what has been a fairly explicit policy for years; that is, if you're going to share something personal or editorialize, do so in the comments. This has often been the recommendation of the mods. It also seems that if you're going to attempt to base moderation on people's suspected motives, you're going to get it wrong more often than not. Better to judge the post on its own merits rather than speculation.
posted by knave at 3:56 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


It might not have been trollish, but some comments certainly tried to make it so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I truly believe that constantly examining and challenging one's beliefs (spiritual and non) is important.

I flagged the post because I thought it was a pretty clear example of the OP trying to use Metafilter as a pulpit from which they could tell the rest of us, "you're doing it wrong." The title alone, "Let my people know" pretty much gives that away. Judaism is not monolithic, and considering that this topic is not agreed upon by all the Jewish sects, why didn't the post talk about the controversy instead of present the topic as resolved and something we need to be informed about? For that matter, why assume that religious Jews are unaware of it? The post was framed with an agenda. Or at least, assumptions.

The topic is interesting. I'm glad the discussion went well. And I tried to insert a little context as gently as possible so as not to derail things.

But the framing wasn't great, in my humble opinion.
posted by zarq at 4:29 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


You can't really do good framing with paste. You need a decent wood glue.
posted by flabdablet at 4:36 AM on April 9, 2012


Mattmangels, Jews as a general rule do not proselytize. And on the rare occasions when they do, they pretty much only do so to other Jews.

I hesitate to speak for everyone, because Judaism is pretty diverse. But we're generally not interested in converts unless they're wholeheartedly willing.

Perhaps that may change someday. The religion is shrinking to intermarriage and attrition. But for now, we are generally not particularly interested in forcing our views on anyone.
posted by zarq at 4:46 AM on April 9, 2012


...except each other. :)
posted by zarq at 4:47 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The post is designed to inflame people's feelings at a time when many are celebrating the holiday. It is not written to educate. It is designed to push a personal, specific, religious point of view on how to celebrate Passover.

How dare someone who isn't a priest, rabbi, minister or religiously inspired busybody do that!!!
posted by DU at 5:01 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


My husband has been to one and only one Seder in which my batshit wackadoo "Jew For Jesus" father had a Haggadah that ended with a call to receive Christ. Moses wept.

As a result of this unfortunate experience, my husband was genuinely confused to find that not only do Jews not celebrate Easter - but do not acknowledge Jesus as a "prophet" in any way shape or form.

This story has no point. The end.
posted by sonika at 5:12 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Best of the web" needs to die.

The problem is that we can't do "worst of the web" properly unless we regain the ability to post inline images. So we can petition the mods to restore images, but until they do we're stuck with "best of the web" or at least "halfway-decent of the web."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:34 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you follow a monotheist religion, you've put "you're not doing it correctly" at the heart of your theology.

This is patently untrue when it comes to Judaism, which is, after all, the subject of the thread. But, by all means, don't let the facts get in the way of your opinions.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:36 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, by all means, let's put an end to MetaFilter. Or, at the very least, let it become the exact same schlock that's on the rest of the internet, "curing" it of its unique identity.

No, by all means let's put an end to a facile phrase that has no objectivity, is in no way officially endorsed, and as far as I've ever seen used mainly by people to shit on posts they personally do not like.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


DU, how much do you know about Judaism? Seriously. Because Rabbis aren't priests. They do not serve the same role. Nor do any but the most fundamentalist whack jobs try to force the Jewish religion on unwilling listeners. Judaism specifically embraces a very large level of skepticism, analysis and interpretation.

Which brings us back to the post in question. In Jewish terms, it's fine to raise the topic for discussion. More of a faux pas to demand, "you *must* believe this" or "your belief is wrong." Jews are supposed to decide such things for themselves, not be blind sheep.
posted by zarq at 5:39 AM on April 9, 2012


So, this Meta is basically "you're not doing it correctly, do it my way"?
posted by Decani at 5:46 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nor do any but the most fundamentalist whack jobs try to force the Jewish religion on unwilling listeners.

That depends on how you define "unwilling listeners". But I'm not calling out Judaism in particular. I'm calling out the concept that religions are allowed to tell people they are doing it wrong but not vice versa.
posted by DU at 5:58 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that after all this discussion, no one has pointed out that the criticisms of this post are contradictory. "This is so offensive to Jews right after their holy ritual — and besides, Jews already know about this and have no problem with it!"
posted by John Cohen at 5:58 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The thread is taking a trajectory, all too common in popular fora, from pseudo-scientific assertions to anti-Jewish rants. Disgraceful.
posted by No Robots at 6:00 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


no one has pointed out that the criticisms of this post are contradictory.

But those contradictions can be resolved thusly: "Even though Jews know about this, they also know that lots of people DON'T know that. So clearly, the only reason someone must have posted this was because someone was trying to be a spoilsporty 'ha-ha, y'all are worshipping something fake because you're dumb' troll."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 AM on April 9, 2012


To clarify - no, I know that that is NOT the only reason someone could have posted this. But I can also see how that is the thrust of some of the complaints.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:05 AM on April 9, 2012


Orthodox Jew here, and I did flag the post when I saw it last night, for a couple of reasons. The timing was incredibly insensitive (observant Jews in much of the world and all of the U.S. were still observing the holiday and thus unable to comment, making it by its very nature one-sided discussion). Secondly, since when does Metafilter accept Wikipedia and the Huffington Post (!) as proof points for controversial statements? (And as zarq noted above, including Rabbi Wolpe's views when they lie outside the mainstream of his own stream of Judaism is pretty poor proof as well).

Frankly, a lot of this could have been solved by asking him to repost at a later time (or an earlier one next year), and by including the word "probably" instead of the blanket statement that it didn't happen. Sorry to use the trope, but absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence, and that is especially true when it comes to ancient history. I think there are plenty of observant Jews who wouldn't argue with the statement that it probably didn't happen as written, especially not in the massive numbers suggested by the Talmud. But to insist that the center point of the entire holiday is entirely false based on "we still have no evidence" seems really trolly to me. No mention of the Habiru? None of Papyrus Anastasi V?

Finally, though, and I would argue most importantly, the haggadah quoted at arguably the center of the post (though left outside the FPP) isn't sourced at all. Why? Because dmd and or/his family wrote it themselves. How is this not a self post? This entire post looks to me like an attempt to promote his own viewpoint and publicize his own family's 'enlightenment,' backed up by poor links, and with terrible timing. It should not have been left to stand as written.
posted by Mchelly at 6:19 AM on April 9, 2012 [28 favorites]


I ... always assumed that there was some historical basis for the whole affair. I appreciate having things like these brought to my attention, so I can edit my mental knowledge appropriately.

With all due respect to the OP, the things he cited were really, really weak sources. The Wikipedia one is the best of the bunch; the other ones are either stupid ("You'd think that Egypt would have kept records of all those people living there wouldn't you?") or defeating straw men ("Did Jewish Slaves Build the Pyramids?") I've posted my view on the narrative in the FPP.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:19 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyway, it's abundantly clear just from the people who are not only reading but actually posting to this thread and the other that there are plenty of Jews, perhaps even a majority, who have not thought about these issues. Arguing that "Jews already know and are fine with this" at this point is disingenuous.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:22 AM on April 9, 2012


My husband has been to one and only one Seder in which my batshit wackadoo "Jew For Jesus" father had a Haggadah that ended with a call to receive Christ. Moses wept.

My wife, who is Christian, regularly attended the Seders of a family friend growing up. They used a McCarthy era Haggadah that heavily emphasized the natural patriotism of the Jews and ended with everyone singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

It sounds incredible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:29 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


the things he cited were really, really weak sources

That struck me as well.

The Rational Wiki link was particularly soft, although it had some reverse value for illustrating the thought processes of its contributors. I like how they dragged in an irrelevant aside about Velikovsky, I was half expecting the entry to start complaining about Jenny McCarthy or acupuncture.
posted by gimonca at 6:39 AM on April 9, 2012


The "you're not doing it correctly" angle to this controversy is in fact NOT reflected in the FPP in question, where there is no assumption of any correct behavior at all.
posted by Brian B. at 6:39 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


1) During the time of the holiday seemed like the absolute best time to do that post. I don't understand people saying that a post about passover should be done in December or whatever.

Nobody said it should be done in December. But on a night when some people are observing? Eh.

2) In my post, no one seemed to be remotely concerned that some misconceptions about a holiday were being pointed out, unlike with this passover post.

Possibly because in the Jewish religion Chanukah is a much less important holiday.
posted by inigo2 at 6:40 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: " My wife, who is Christian, regularly attended the Seders of a family friend growing up. They used a McCarthy era Haggadah that heavily emphasized the natural patriotism of the Jews and ended with everyone singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee.""

I vaguely remember that song listed in the back of the old red and yellow Haggadot at my grandfather's seders, along with Dayeinu and Chad Gadya. I could be wrong, though.

This may be of interest...
How is This Haggadah Different?
There are numerous versions of the Haggadah now in print, each bringing a new perspective to the holiday of Passover.
By Sharonne Cohen

The Passover Haggadah has, for centuries, been the text through which Jews have engaged in the retelling of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. Fulfilling the injunction to "Remember this day that you came forth from Egypt" (Exodus 13:3), and to recount this story to future generations ("Ve-higadeta le-vinkha"-- "And you shall tell thy son," Exodus 13:8), Jews across the globe read the Haggadah during the Passover seder as a way of recapturing the spirit of freedom held by the Israelites following Moses out of Egypt, and celebrating the eternal notion of redemption and liberation.

The Haggadah--a collected work of blessings, prayers, and excerpts from the Bible, Mishnah, and Midrash--was not written by one particular author, and was gradually supplemented by psalms and songs. The first printed version of the Haggadah was published in Guadalajara in 1482, ten years prior to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. By the 16th century, there were approximately 25 printed versions; 300 years later, there were more than 1,000. These Haggadot (plural of Haggadah) vary in geographical origin, denominational orientation, political and social focus, and historical emphasis.

...

The 1940s and 1950s marked the evolution of the traditional Haggadah into a text incorporating social and political realities, a process that still continues today. New Haggadot began appearing, outlining socialist, feminist, egalitarian, gay and lesbian, environmental, and other concerns. Kibbutz Haggadot (Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Artzi, Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuchad), produced by secular collective communities in Israel, tend to reflect the socialist--and often atheistic--views of kibbutz founders. They place more emphasis on nationalistic and seasonal elements revolving around spring, the harvest, the Exodus, peace, and the ingathering of the Jewish people in Israel. These Haggadot often abbreviate the original text, downplaying its religious message.

posted by zarq at 6:41 AM on April 9, 2012


Brian B.: "The "you're not doing it correctly" angle to this controversy is in fact NOT reflected in the FPP in question, where there is no assumption of any correct behavior at all."

Sure there is.

The title is "Let my people know." So people who believe otherwise are misinformed / ignorant.

From the OP's first comment: "Remember that what we do here tonight is metaphor, and keep in mind how you would feel if some other culture had a tradition of telling a story, presented as truth, about how they, as a culture, were oppressed by the Jews, and let this night be a lesson in the dangers of that kind of story."

I personally believe this is true. But telling others that their religious beliefs are wrong seems... gauche when they're not infringing on anyone else.
posted by zarq at 6:46 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are FPPs by individuals on their views on proper Christmas tree decoration, Thanksgiving prayers, and wedding vows now worthy of the front page?

I think we've had plenty of FPPs on those and similar topics which look to explore and/or reveal historical realities about how these things came apart. These are some of my favorite conversations, and I can recall many. And I think the time around which the holiday is being observed is a good time to post about a holiday.

As far as promoting a single view in a post, no, that's not so cool. It was a little weird that it ended up in the first comment and that did create an air of proselytization. But it's not as though the Haggadah in question is offered for sale on the internet somewhere, so ultimately it just becomes a personal data point. I like the variety of approaches to the Haggadah, but it might be a little leaden to have to instruct everyone at the table that the story you're about to relate is metaphor. I mean, when you hear a story like that, your response is either "I understand this use of metaphor as a sustaining tool to maintain a particular religious community, duh," or you are a person who believes in the literal truth of the events as related, in which case you are going to be offended by hearing it called 'metaphor.' It's not really a recipe for a good celebration.

One of my friends has a Seder which features the Grateful Dead Haggadah. That featured a couple of rewritten songs you had to sing, such as a version of "Truckin'" for the flight from Egypt. He said he found it "on the internet" but I'm not turning it up in search.

If you follow a monotheist religion, you've put "you're not doing it correctly" at the heart of your theology.

This is patently untrue when it comes to Judaism, which is, after all, the subject of the thread.


It's also not even true of many Christian denominations. Generalizations are so problematic.
posted by Miko at 6:48 AM on April 9, 2012


It's like when your little cousin/sibling is being a dick, and you act just like them to make them realize how rotten their behavior is.

Has anyone had sucess with this tactic? It always backfired for me, which is why I stopped using it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:55 AM on April 9, 2012


The title is "Let my people know." So people who believe otherwise are misinformed / ignorant.

To suggest that new knowledge is the new correct behavior is importing the old assumption of correct behavior onto a side that simply rejects a flawed belief. It's a psychological projection to feel religiously persecuted by a lack of history.
posted by Brian B. at 6:57 AM on April 9, 2012


The Real Story of Christmas was posted on December 17, Should Christ Be Kept Out of Christmas on December 3, the Pagan Christ on December 20. Not on the holiday, I grant you (though they all occur during Advent). But there usually are a lot of Christmas-themed posts on the holiday itself which I don't get to because of celebrations.
posted by Miko at 7:00 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thread is taking a trajectory, all too common in popular fora, from pseudo-scientific assertions to anti-Jewish rants.

Yeah, I was gutted that those bastards in the Mikvah Wagon just kept ignoring me. Who says Gentiles don't need a free menorah too?

No wonder you jews have a certain reputation if you know what I mean and I think that you do...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:07 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


is there a clear line between "post likely to cause a lot of controversy" and "trolling"?

Yeah, usually. Trolling as we usually use it on the site is basically doing something specifically to provoke a reaction without any real attention paid to the value of the content of your comment except as a stick to poke people with. Posting about something controversial if you just want people to look at it and discuss it is not necessarily trolling. However, this is why we basically don't want people to call out trolling in a thread, it totally derails threads and turns the discussion into one of intent instead of one of content.

And, as I said in the thread, I think dmd could have chosen better but I don't think he's trolling. I don't think the post was that great but I don't think he posted it to be shit-stirring. That said, it goes in the file and if we wind up looking sideways at a future post of his in some "Hey do you think this is trollish?" way, this post will be another data point in evaluating future posts. As we said, we evaluated it in one way and other people evaluated it in another. It attracted flags sort of slowly so there wasn't a clear "You have to delete this because everyone hates it!" mandate and this was the judgment call we made. And I'm a barely-celebrating-Passover-barely-Jew in case that sort of thing matters.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:13 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I made some charoset tonight with Spanish port instead of Manischewitz

I made mine with sparkling grape juice, to remind us of the fizzy mortar we used to build the Pyramids!
posted by escabeche at 7:14 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


If, due to timing alone, this post was not trolling, then one would have to ask if any post about a faith or a during that faith's holiday could ever be trolling. The bar has been set quite high. But hey, at least it wasnt something truly and deeply offensive like a double post. That would have been just plain wrong.

As Mchelly points out, this post is, in addition to anything else which might possibly be wrong about it, a self-link, and admittedly so. That same day, a post was removed because "it looks like you know the people involved." "looks". Yet this post?

So why do some subjects merit deletions, while others don't regardless of timing?

One might even as "What makes this subject different from all other subjects?"

Judaism is all about these sorts of slightly needling conversations at times, but that doesn't mean everyone else enjoys or agrees with that approach.

So a more authoritarian faith would have been treated with more respect, at least during it's holidays? Good to know.
posted by Stoatfarm at 7:14 AM on April 9, 2012


As Mchelly points out, this post is, in addition to anything else which might possibly be wrong about it, a self-link, and admittedly so. That same day, a post was removed because "it looks like you know the people involved." "looks". Yet this post?

That's a polite way of saying "we're not quite banning you yet for what looks an awful lot like a friend-link because maaaaaaybe this is a misunderstanding on your or our part". Normally that'd be a delete and a quick ban and good day. The details were a little tinged with grey in that case so we're just watching awfully hard for future weirdness.

But the self-link thing is a hugely bright-line prohibition here, much higher on a scale of starkness than generally any other guideline about posting. It doesn't compare to "is this bad timing" at all. It's a very specific, long-standing posting issue that has more to do with keeping the site spam and self-promotion free than it does with framing or subject matter.

As for your other examples, there's no straight continuum from "Jewish religious history" to "oped about obesity" to "Rick Santorum" that makes it workable to even try to capture those three posts with some general rule. I do not know what to tell you here but it's certainly not some anti-Jewish bias on the mod team that's at work there if that's what you're speculating.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:21 AM on April 9, 2012


That same day, a post was removed because "it looks like you know the people involved." "looks". Yet this post?

Yeah friendslinking or self-linking is a reason for instant deletion of a post. Sometimes we have to dig around with a post that looks sketchy or a poster that looks sketchy, especially a new poster, to figure out if there is a connection between them and the OP. In this case, it looked like there was. Looked. So the deletion, but we didn't ban the OP and added them to the watchlist and we will see what happens. "Look at these assholes" posts about the Republicans is pretty much an insta-delete around here too when framed like that. Ditto a "let's talk about obesity" post. But a post about a small aspect of the Passover tradition by someone who is Jewish and a longstanding member of the site pointing out a detail that many people seem to find interesting and that inspired pretty decent discussion until really late in the day? It was okay with us yeah.

For whatever reason, lots of people choose to make topical posts during holidays, religious or otherwise and we have had people in the past who made what I would consider to be trolling posts on Passover or Hannukah. This post is not that, to me. It clearly is to others. And it's tough when we have a serious split and some people feel one way and others feel strongly another way. All I can say is that we talked about this at length and continued to both watch the thread and reevaluate our decision and that's the side we came down on.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:23 AM on April 9, 2012


Judaism is not monolithic, and considering that this topic is not agreed upon by all the Jewish sects, why didn't the post talk about the controversy instead of present the topic as resolved and something we need to be informed about?

What controversy? Is their a consensus among historians and archaeologists that the Exodus didn't happen? If so, no controversy. Jewish sects can deal with the consensus however they want to (and sure that would be an interesting post too) but if want to know if something in the bible actually happened or not, you look to historians and archaeologists not religion.

The title is "Let my people know." So people who believe otherwise are misinformed / ignorant.

You seem to be really insistent on viewing this as stealth insult instead of a cute pun on "Let my people go." (Would dmd really be the first person to make that pun?) and to be ignoring the fact the several jewish people have posted in this thread and the other to say that they didn't know, so dmd did indeed "let his people know".
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:33 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


All these staffs in this thread about Passover should really get thrown down and turned into snakes.
posted by jeather at 7:34 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


So a more authoritarian faith would have been treated with more respect, at least during it's holidays? Good to know.

If a muslim mefite made a post questioning the historicity of the Koran during Ramadan, I don't think it would be deleted, if that's what you're referring to.
posted by empath at 7:35 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The title is "Let my people know." So people who believe otherwise are misinformed / ignorant.

The title is a riff on the traditional "Let my people go." (I thought this was obvious, maybe it's not?) In this context, it has some unfortunate overtones but I suspect that is mostly inadvertent. I can totally understand and forgive the temptation to make a bad pun.

I didn't totally love the post - the framing was iffy, the source material a bit thin, and the timing was wince-inducing - but the thread, at least until I went to bed last night, was actually pretty sane and thoughtful, so I was on the side of letting it live a while. (And I am sort of tempted to put the .pdf of my family Haggadah up somewhere, just because.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:48 AM on April 9, 2012


cortex: "And I made some charoset tonight with Spanish port instead of Manischewitz, so you know I'm not really keeping my bona fides polished."

It's like you're begging us to start listing charoset recipes...
posted by Deathalicious at 7:49 AM on April 9, 2012


nooneyouknow: " What controversy?

Amongst Jews -- especially those who are more observant, the idea that Exodus and the events depicted in the Haggadah and the Torah didn't happen entirely is controversial. I suspect Conservative and Orthodox Jews are probably comfortable with the idea of many of their teachings being metaphoric and not literal. I (a Conservative Jew) certainly am. But the concept of Haggadah solely as metaphor was only recently championed in Conservative circles by Rabbi Wolpe and those who agree with him. As in, within the last decade to decade and a half.

It may or may not be a current, mainstream view in two sects of Judaism. But when Wolpe first spoke about it in the late 90's (and then again more publicly in 2001,) it was to the best of my knowledge the first time a Conservative rabbi had done so publicly. And he was met with a swift response in Orthodox and Conservative circles. Some condemned the idea. Others embraced it.

Is their a consensus among historians and archaeologists that the Exodus didn't happen?

Was the post about Judaism or historians and archaelogists, or all three?

If so, no controversy. Jewish sects can deal with the consensus however they want to (and sure that would be an interesting post too) but if want to know if something in the bible actually happened or not, you look to historians and archaeologists not religion. "

Perhaps then, the post should not have spoken specifically to Jewish beliefs and rituals, and whether they should be taken literally or as metaphor, but instead strictly towards the historic accuracy of the story told in the Haggadah.
posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


And let's be crystal clear -- this is not the time for wink-wink pretend antisemitic comments. Act like you like it here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:59 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


restless_nomad: " The title is a riff on the traditional "Let my people go." (I thought this was obvious, maybe it's not?)

I'm well aware.

In this context, it has some unfortunate overtones

Which is what I was referring to.

...but I suspect that is mostly inadvertent.

You don't think the post was an example of editorializing then? It didn't appear to be particularly objective to me.
posted by zarq at 7:59 AM on April 9, 2012


Not everyone is as multi-culturally aware as MeFites The assertion that most people already know this story is "metaphorical" is not likely. As I mentioned in the FPP, my husband's (Jewish) family do see much of the Biblical tales as true don't seem to have sought out exposure to other opinions. For example, they were quite shocked to hear the there's no religious taboo attached to menstruation by Christianity. Our conversation about whether or not the Exodus story was historical (and why one should commemorate a largely invented event) ended on them saying it didn't matter to them because it's traditional. Invoking tradition and respect for their beliefs totally shut down the discussion.

This point of view can be very frustrating to people for whom facts matter. They asked me if would be celebrating Easter and I told them that I could not in good conscience go through the motions of professing faith in an event that I don't think ever happened. Then again, I like dissecting sacred cows and I am probably closer to a militant atheist than it's cool to admit to.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:04 AM on April 9, 2012


there's no straight continuum from "Jewish religious history" to "oped about obesity" to "Rick Santorum" that makes it workable to even try to capture those three posts with some general rule

There wasn't before, but now there is. A precedent vs. blackletter law, if you will. Here are subjects that arent ok to post about, and here's one that's fine regardless of timing. And, in this precedent, fine regardless of possible or even admitted issues of blackletter law calling for strict penalties on self-linking. That latter makes this a major precedent indeed: that a post with possible offense to a subset of members of one faith is so valuable to keep that other issues are not important enough to take it down.

It's nice to know (in all honesty, it really is) that the mods discussed it, but in the end, outcomes and precedents matter.

Is the ruling narrow with respect to Judiasm? Only future rulings may tell. And except in cases like this where the mods reveal themselves, as opposed to SCOTUS, even the vote-count and ruling are not known, only the outcome.

Although neither privy to the discussion, nor able to vote except by flag, I respectfully dissent.
posted by Stoatfarm at 8:05 AM on April 9, 2012


Stoatfarm: "Here are subjects that arent ok to post about"

The mods will no doubt weigh in on this, but I'd like to note that we've had plenty of posts about obesity and Santorum here. The topics ain't off limits.
posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2012


strict penalties on self-linking

It seems like you may be misunderstanding "self-linking". It is a prohibition against linking to your own stuff on the web. dmd did not do that, but rather made a comment of a personal nature outside of the front-page post. There is a strong argument that he editorialized which is kind of a no-no, but it's not nearly as fatal as self-linking.
posted by Dano St at 8:13 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


And except in cases like this where the mods reveal themselves, as opposed to SCOTUS, even the vote-count and ruling are not known, only the outcome.

The vote count is that we all agreed the post should stay. This site is not the government, we decide cases on an ad hoc basis based on a variety of factors which we try to communicate clearly. And that's how it works and how it has always worked. In this case we communicated that in the thread as well as here. It's fine if people don't agree. This is how the site evolves.

That latter makes this a major precedent indeed: that a post with possible offense to a subset of members of one faith is so valuable to keep that other issues are not important enough to take it down.

With respect "this is offensive to a subset of people of faith" is not really a reason for deletion here. There are posts that offend people sometimes. It's not that the post was so valuable, it's that our general approach it to let a post stay unless there is a reason to delete it. And we watched the post closely yesterday and even made the not-really-normal-for-us decision to leave a note in the thread about that so people could come here if they wanted to talk about whether they thought dmd was trolling or not. We explained why we thought he wasn't trolling. We explained what we thought the good and bad things were about the post. Clearly there are other interpretations and so we're talking about that sort of thing here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:25 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know Jews who are effectively atheist who are more religiously observant than your average believing Conservative Jew.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:25 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


The topics ain't off limits

No, nor should they and Passover be. But in this case (possible troll during a holiday) we now know it's fine to be offensive, even deliberately so, at least in the case of Passover, if we take this to be a narrow ruling. My point remains, which would be worse: Passover is open season on criticism of the validity of Passover, or, more broadly, the same logic applied to any religious holiday?

not nearly as fatal as self-linking

One might even say "not fatal in the slightest".
posted by Stoatfarm at 8:27 AM on April 9, 2012


Yeah, to be clear:

1. dmd posting a link to his family Hagaddah would have been a huge problem; that's what self-linking refers to. What he did here was a little gauche and I think he should have skipped that or waited a few hours for the thread to develop, but that's about it. This is a really clearcut bit of mefi policy, the self-linking issue.

2. Trying to discuss what can and can't be posted on mefi as a general rule based on three individual posts is reductive to the point of being useless. This is not an issue of hard precedent; treating it as one does not make sense given how moderation on this site has actually worked for the last decade.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:29 AM on April 9, 2012


You don't think the post was an example of editorializing then? It didn't appear to be particularly objective to me.

It wasn't editorializing as we usually see it - where someone posts a link and then basically says "Here is how I feel about this link." It was a post with a bunch of links that covered one side of a potential argument. There's no mandate that posts must be objective, or "balanced," or anything. That's one of the reasons why the quote in the first comment was problematic, because it pushed the whole thing a little closer to "here is my axe, watch me grind it" rather than "here is a position on a topic."

Passover is open season on criticism of the validity of Passover

It is at my yearly seder, anyway.

More to the point, posts critical about a holiday are not broadly banned during any specific timeframe. Timing that feels deliberately inflammatory definitely is a point against a given post, but not necessarily enough to force a deletion. Depends on the post and the larger context. (Like nearly every other deletion reason we have.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:30 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


nooneyouknow: " You seem to be really insistent on viewing this as stealth insult instead of a cute pun on "Let my people go." (Would dmd really be the first person to make that pun?) and to be ignoring the fact the several jewish people have posted in this thread and the other to say that they didn't know, so dmd did indeed "let his people know"."

Metafilter is not supposed to be a personal soap box for any member. I'm not viewing it as "stealth" anything. And to be clear, no kind of insult whatsoever. I'm saying outright that the post and title was a form of editorializing, clinched for me by the OP's first comment.

For whatever it's worth, I happen to agree with his understanding. I believe that the Haggadah is not a literal document, but instead should be used as a metaphor about religious and physical oppression, among other things. I feel much the same way about the Torah.
posted by zarq at 8:31 AM on April 9, 2012


The timing was incredibly insensitive

I find that ridiculous; it's the most perfectly appropriate time for this discussion.

Secondly, since when does Metafilter accept Wikipedia and the Huffington Post (!) as proof points for controversial statements?

The post also included links to decently thoughtful articles at Beliefnet and Skeptoid, which folks here who haven't yet might want to take the time to read.
posted by mediareport at 8:32 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amongst Jews -- especially those who are more observant, the idea that Exodus and the events depicted in the Haggadah and the Torah didn't happen entirely is controversial.

Why is it controversial? Is controversial because they have some actual good historical or archaeological evidence or is it controversial because they just don't want to believe it didn't happen?

If the latter, I see why dmd didn't mention it. His post was from the pov of a jewish person who doesn't think Exodus happened. So why would he discuss the people who do, since he thinks they are wrong?

From my pov the objections to his post can be summarized as "Dmd told me that something I believe is wrong, I/other people don't want to believe it is wrong, so clearly he's trolling."

On preview:
Metafilter is not supposed to be a personal soap box for any member. I'm not viewing it as "stealth" anything. And to be clear, no kind of insult whatsoever. I'm saying outright that the post and title was a form of editorializing, clinched for me by the OP's first
comment.


I hate editorializing too. But I don't see it here.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:35 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


For anyone who has a serious interest in the historical question, you may want to take a look at Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition by James K. Hoffmeier:
Scholars of the Hebrew Bible have in the last decade begun to question the historical accuracy of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, as described in the book of Exodus. The reason for the rejection of the exodus tradition is said to be the lack of historical and archaeological evidence in Egypt. Those advancing these claims, however, are not specialists in the study of Egyptian history, culture, and archaeology. In this pioneering book, James Hoffmeier examines the most current Egyptological evidence and argues that it supports the biblical record concerning Israel in Egypt.
posted by No Robots at 8:37 AM on April 9, 2012

Passover is open season on criticism of the validity of Passover, or, more broadly, the same logic applied to any religious holiday?
That sounds just fine to me. What's the alternative? Serious question--what's the alternative? That there be defined periods during which it is OK to discuss the topic?

It's a fine post, controversial, sure, but a fine post that we adults are doing a fine job of handling. Anyone who considers it "incredibly offensive" (really? incredibly offensive?) shouldn't be on the internet. If your wish is that Metafilter not be a place for things like this, then you and I have very different ideas about what Metafilter should be.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


No Robots, I think The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, published a few years later, might be a nice counter to Hoffmeier. It has a chapter called "Did the Exodus Happen?" which discusses most of the questions raised in these threads; you can preview some of it at Google Books. But thanks for the pointer.
posted by mediareport at 8:49 AM on April 9, 2012


Why are people posting their comments from the FPP here?
posted by futz at 8:55 AM on April 9, 2012


It is at my yearly seder, anyway.

As at many/most I've ever attended as well. But there are issues of public vs private (even when openly invited - "let all who are hungry...") discourse. Someday, perhaps, seders will happen online and as maybe a series of Tweets or something. And that actually sounds like a cool idea, actually.

you and I have very different ideas about what Metafilter should be.

I'm asking which of 2 alternatives will in fact happen. Will we see posts like this about every religious holiday? Will that ever cross an as-yet unwritten line? Or is it this one holiday that is OK to diss? There is no single magical answer, but neither of these outcomes sounds like "what Metafilter should be". What will most likely happen is people will self-censor on some subjects out of decorum and politeness, but now it has been demonstrated that, for those who might otherwise be concerned about being impolite, that this subject and holiday is somehow different. Is that "what Metafilter should be"?

Both the Hoffman and Silberman books cited by No Robots and Mediareport sound worth reading, by the way, so thank you to you both!
posted by Stoatfarm at 8:55 AM on April 9, 2012


Mikvah Wagon

omg sobbing with lols
posted by elizardbits at 8:56 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


mediareport, one review of the work you cite states that the authors, "maintain that the Exodus was not a single dramatic event, as described in the second book of the Bible, but rather a series of occurrences over a long period of time." This is far from the blanket denial of all historicity that is asserted in the OP.
posted by No Robots at 8:56 AM on April 9, 2012


futz, I posted here first, then realized it should go in the blue. No Robots, the blue is where we should continue this. Sadly, I'm off to run errands, but I'll check back later.
posted by mediareport at 9:00 AM on April 9, 2012


I'm asking which of 2 alternatives will in fact happen.

It isn't actually an either/or. We will probably see this kind of posts during some holidays; we will probably delete some of them. (I believe we already do, actually - might be worth searching for.)

Because we don't operate by very many fixed rules, precedent-setting just isn't that dire of an issue. Circumstances differ, posts differ, and therefore moderation decisions are based on the facts on the ground, not hard and fast rules.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:04 AM on April 9, 2012


I'm asking which of 2 alternatives will in fact happen. Will we see posts like this about every religious holiday?

I hope so.

Will that ever cross an as-yet unwritten line? Or is it this one holiday that is OK to diss?


Questioning is not disrespect. As religion has quite an impact on how we live in this world, it ought to be open to inquiry.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:06 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Will we see posts like this about every religious holiday?

Wasn't it mentioned upthread that this already happens? I'm sure I've seen one or more posts about Mithra, for example.
posted by gaspode at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2012


*at Christmas time, I mean.
posted by gaspode at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2012


As the original post pointed out, it was a rabbi -- a leading Conservative rabbi, at that -- that brought this issue up to begin with. According to Wikipedia, it was at a Passover sermon. Jews argue about texts and interpretations all the time; it's integral to Torah study. Even the traditional Haggadah recounts the story of scholars arguing into the night about the meaning of a text. I just don't see the problem.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:13 AM on April 9, 2012


restless_nomad: "It wasn't editorializing as we usually see it - where someone posts a link and then basically says "Here is how I feel about this link." It was a post with a bunch of links that covered on side of a potential argument. There's no mandate that posts must be objective, or "balanced," or anything. That's why the quote in the first comment was problematic, because it pushed the whole thing a little closer to "here is my axe, watch me grind it" rather than "here is a position on a topic.""

Yeah, my impression was that the first comment in the post (from the OP) was clearly "Here is how I feel about this link." It felt to me like the poster was trying to impose his opinions on the rest of us.

That could be my own biases showing, too.

nooneyouknow: "Why is it controversial? Is controversial because they have some actual good historical or archaeological evidence or is it controversial because they just don't want to believe it didn't happen?

I don't know.

As far as I can remember, the arguments raised against it were less "we have clear evidence to the contrary" and more "I'm skeptical. History is very interpretive. You're going to have to do a lot better than this to convince me it didn't happen -- especially since we're talking about something that has been an agreed-upon narrative for many, many generations of Jews." Which is kinda what Joe in Australia said in the main thread. Is that denial?

Judaism is an unusual religion in that it's one part faith and superstition, one part historical record (supposedly) and another part law of the land. For the most part, the religion and its followers embrace science and scientific inquiry and historical accuracy, and (I think,) try to integrate that into their faiths. That's not all-encompassing though: there are Orthodox creationists. So, yeah, Jews can be defensive, denialist and closed-minded. But I don't know if that's what happened here or in the thread.

If the latter, I see why dmd didn't mention it. His post was from the pov of a jewish person who doesn't think Exodus happened. So why would he discuss the people who do, since he thinks they are wrong?

Well for one thing, he's not speaking for all of us -- even though Wolpe is widely-respected conservative rabbi. I'm pretty sure this isn't a mainstream idea ('Exodus didn't actually happen') amongst Jews, and for sure it's not mainstream to two entire sects of Judaism. I think it would have been a nice balance to say that Wolpe's views were controversial in Jewish circles and why, or even just that they aren't agreed upon by all Jews. I think it's good to question tightly-held assumptions. But, as restless_nomad says, balance isn't required of FPPs.

From my pov the objections to his post can be summarized as "Dmd told me that something I believe is wrong, I/other people don't want to believe it is wrong, so clearly he's trolling."

I don't think he's trolling. Never said he was.
posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fact, confounding all of the finger pointers in the thread about religious superstition and such, it's that argumentative streak that probably contributes to Jews being so disproportionately represented in the sciences (and on Metafilter too, it appears).
posted by Wordwoman at 9:15 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a former Orthodox Jew, I can assure you that belief in the Exodus more-or-less as described in the bible is near universal among Orthodox Jews. I grew up very liberal and very "Modern" as such things go and I never heard somebody even suggest that it might be made up until after I'd already become an atheist in my early 20s.

I wish I'd been exposed to a post like this in my teens. I'm fairly sure it would have eventually convinced me (after a period of reading up on the subject trying to convince myself that the Exodus really did happen) and I could have saved myself a couple of years wasting my time in yeshiva after high school.

I understand that I was atypical among religious people, which is what let me become an atheist in the first place, but I am proof that people can escape their carefully sheltered upbringings.

Metafilter should not be censored to protect erroneous beliefs out of "respect." Respect is presenting ideas without name-calling, it is not being complicit with a pattern of avoid information that conflicts with religious dogma.
posted by callmejay at 9:46 AM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm asking which of 2 alternatives will in fact happen. Will we see posts like this about every religious holiday? Will that ever cross an as-yet unwritten line? Or is it this one holiday that is OK to diss?

There have been tons of these kinds of posts about/around holidays, many of which were far more of a "diss" than this.
posted by vorfeed at 10:24 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


My Jewish family members are all atheists and pretty synagogue-averse (among family friends, even the regular shul-attendees are atheists!), but I have nonetheless been to many Seders over the years, and I have always been made to understand that the Exodus was a historical event. Everyone just assumed it was, and the recitations of the Haggadah reinforce the view. If it is "wicked" to question the personal relevance of Exodus to onesself, how much more wicked must it be to question whether Exodus even happened?

I learned on the Internet that the historical fact of Exodus was actually quite dubious, and I was very surprised, mostly because the secular, liberal-minded Jews I had grown up around had never mentioned the possibility.

So let me just say that I am another occasional Passover-observer who thinks that this was a timely and interesting post.

If you think Passover should be a time when only religiously sanctioned accounts of history should be aired, I'd like to hear why. You don't own the calendar. Even among those of us who keep these holidays, there are some who are interested in learning the truth.
posted by grobstein at 10:42 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


More than anything, I guess I don't understand how this post can make reasonable people angry. Are people complaining because they themselves are offended? Why?
posted by grobstein at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I don't understand how this post can make reasonable people angry. Are people complaining because they themselves are offended? Why?

I think it's a matter of possible projection of motivation. Examining faith and questioning it s indeed healthy. But there are a handful of people whose "questioning of faith" is....loaded, for lack of a better word.

There are those who encourage others to examine and ask questions of one's faith because "it's just a good thing to do, so you don't believe unquestioningly, and whatever conclusion you come to is cool beans". But there are a handful of people who encourage others to "question" their faith "because then they'll finally wake up and see that it's fallacy and illogical and I'm just waking up the sheeple and OBVIOUSLY they'll see that if they just think about it and then they'll thank me, and if they disagree they're still stupidheads".

There are a couple of people who'd post something in the latter spirit. It wasn't clear to everyone here that the post was made in the former spirit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on April 9, 2012


Some of us are fed up with gross misuse of scholarship, particularly where it relates to important cultural phenomena.
posted by No Robots at 11:07 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've always hated the four sons/children midrash because it makes no sense. In the English, you'll see the first son ask [blah blah blah] what do these traditions mean to us? And the second son asks [blah blah blah] what do these traditions mean to you [all]? An we're supposed to recognize [based upon the answer], that the first son includes himself in the tradition and the second son sees himself as outside the tradition. BUT IN HEBREW-they both say "to you". The first (wise) son doesn't say "to us" so he's also viewing himself as outside. Sorry, haggadah midrash rant over.
posted by atomicstone at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


grobstein:

The issue that bother me was not so much the information, it's immediately presenting a personal haggadah.

Metafilter has always been strict on avoiding self-linking. To me, the post felt like the OP wanted the personal haggadah posted and used some googled up links to provide the opportunity to highlight a personal, specific, religious point of view on how to celebrate Passover. While technically not a self-link, if it looks like a duck and smells like a duck, it often is a duck.

Compounded with the "gauche" timing of posting it during the holiday, I felt the post was wrongly done from almost every angle.

Clearly, Metafilter has never shied away from discussing controversial issues. To me this kind of posts encourage the idea of getting around the self-linking policy by using the first comment as basically an extension of the initial post.

Again, I don't think dmd meant this post to come across as mean spirited, but unfortunately I'm not alone in thinking it did.
posted by Argyle at 11:12 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are a couple of people who'd post something in the latter spirit. It wasn't clear to everyone here that the post was made in the former spirit.

I see no reason why the "spirit" of a post should matter, if that spirit is not actually present in the content. Many a-religious and/or anti-religious mefites are quite capable of presenting links in a polite and reasonable manner, and if so, the mere fact that they don't like religion should not bar them from posting about it.

Besides, if we're going to ban "loaded" posts, there's a hell of a lot that should go before posts on Passover.
posted by vorfeed at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Argyle: " Metafilter has always been strict on avoiding self-linking. To me, the post felt like the OP wanted the personal haggadah posted and used some googled up links to provide the opportunity to highlight a personal, specific, religious point of view on how to celebrate Passover. While technically not a self-link, if it looks like a duck and smells like a duck, it often is a duck."

Yes. Well said. That's how I felt.
posted by zarq at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2012


The OP's personal haggadah is not a link. The rule is against self-linking, not against posting personally-written text in comments. Plenty of mefi posts start with a comment with the OP's personal take on the links -- it's editorial, sure, and maybe that's a problem, but the idea that it "looks like a duck and smells like a duck" with regards to self-linking is nuts.

I just googled it, and that post is the only place the haggadah text appears on the web, so the comment can't even be a subtle attempt to drive traffic to a blog. There's no connection between the comment and anything dmd has written elsewhere. It's not a self-link.
posted by vorfeed at 11:28 AM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


vorfeed: "The OP's personal haggadah is not a link. The rule is against self-linking, not against posting personally-written text in comments. Plenty of mefi posts start with a comment with the OP's personal take on the links -- it's editorial, sure, and maybe that's a problem, but the idea that it "looks like a duck and smells like a duck" with regards to self-linking is nuts."

Argyle: " To me, the post felt like the OP wanted the personal haggadah posted and used some googled up links to provide the opportunity to highlight a personal, specific, religious point of view on how to celebrate Passover."

The point is not that it was a link, but rather that it is promoting a specific religious viewpoint.
posted by zarq at 11:46 AM on April 9, 2012


then quit bringing up "self-linking", which is a completely different practice.
posted by batmonkey at 11:54 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


To me saying "This is my haggadah" is not really that different from saying "I'm Catholic and believe in transubstantiation." or "I think capitalism necessitates an oppressed underclass." or "This is the way we say grace before a meal." Stating your viewpoints in a non-fighty way isn't proselytizing.

As we said this has literally not come up before where someone has decided to post something of their personal religious faith tradition as a weird add-on to a post about that general topic. We thought it was weird and annoying but totally in keeping with the "everyone sort of gets to write their own haggadah" tradition that we've been personally aware of. I understand that there's difference of opinion on that but I'd like it to be recognized as just that--a difference of opinion--and not us basically saying "We're not considerate of religious topics" unless there's some other data besides the lack of deletion of this one post.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:00 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


batmonkey: "then quit bringing up "self-linking", which is a completely different practice."

FWIW, I didn't. Was simply trying to emphasize what I found relevant in Argyle's comment.
posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on April 9, 2012


Should commenters not write things that 'promote a specific religious viewpoint'?

Should the OP of a thread refrain from commenting further?

In the past, posts and comments have been separate, not only structure-wise, but in terms of editorialization, slant, viewpoint, etc. Posters are discouraged from creating 'slanted' FPPs, but commenters often make statements, or post links, or both together, that would not be a good FPP, and yet are good comments. For given values of good.

New User guide: If you have a unique perspective on a topic, by all means contribute. If you'd like to express an opposing viewpoint in a respectful way, by all means contribute.

The most valuable posts present new information, new perspectives, and new ideas that challenge each of us to consider not just what we believe, but why we believe it.

Posting Guidelines: A good post to MetaFilter is something that meets the following criteria: most people haven't seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others.

Make sure you're linking to something on the web.

Please keep comments focused on the topic at hand. Comments about the quality of a post are better left for MetaTalk.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:03 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


i gotcha, zarq...the unqualified support for Argyle's position muddied the waters a bit for me, is all.

so glad you posted that, the man of twists and turns!
"If you have a unique perspective on a topic, by all means contribute. If you'd like to express an opposing viewpoint in a respectful way, by all means contribute.

The most valuable posts present new information, new perspectives, and new ideas that challenge each of us to consider not just what we believe, but why we believe it.
"

...this is precisely what i think this post represents, the whole spirit of this (i took the inclusion of the personal haggadah to be a mark of respect meant to show there were no hard feelings, just love of one's faith & people) and why i considered it fantastic.

anyway. i feel over-invested in how people are responding for that reason, too, i think - it seemed like such a great and respectful post, i was surprised by the negative reactions. i'm not often naively astonished (anymore), but this definitely got me.
posted by batmonkey at 12:12 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: "Should commenters not write things that 'promote a specific religious viewpoint'?

Of course they can. But when placed immediately underneath and as the first comment of their own FPP, the comment position makes it seem like an extension of their post. Lots of us deliberately make posts that way, including me. It can give the impression that the OP has created a post to promote a specific religious viewpoint.

Should the OP of a thread refrain from commenting further?

No! Of course not!

In the past, posts and comments have been separate, not only structure-wise, but in terms of editorialization, slant, viewpoint, etc. Posters are discouraged from creating 'slanted' FPPs, but commenters often make statements, or post links, or both together, that would not be a good FPP, and yet are good comments. For given values of good.

Yep. If I posted an FPP, then made a non-objective first comment, it would be logical to expect people to think I might have had an agenda in posting, yes?

In any event, the thread (thankfully) went well. The conversation has been educational. All good.
posted by zarq at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2012


Should the OP of a thread refrain from commenting further?

And to be clear on the mod position on this, it's something a lot less binary than that: ideally, if the poster has some sort of personal perspective or editorial position on the subject, it's fine for them to comment about that within the flow of the thread as it actually develops but generally it's a good idea to give it some space before doing so. dmd's comment would have been totally unremarkable if it had been the fifteenth comment in the thread rather than the first, for example.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:36 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


cortex, that was my understanding, thank you for clarifying.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:39 PM on April 9, 2012


Yep. If I posted an FPP, then made a non-objective first comment, it would be logical to expect people to think I might have had an agenda in posting, yes?

Again, I don't see why "an agenda in posting" is necessarily a problem. Half the stuff on the front page is that way, up to and including in the FPP text itself; right now there are a number of political posts, news posts, and even literary posts with an obvious "agenda". You seem to be suggesting that religion is something posters shouldn't express a specific viewpoint on, but that's neither a de facto nor de jure offense on this site -- plenty of posts on or about religion have been biased in one way or another. This is easily dealt with on-site by expressing an alternative, whether in a comment or another post, so I don't think we need a rule that says "thou shalt present all sides of the issue".
posted by vorfeed at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think passover is a particularly good time for a good post related to passover, but a particularly bad time to make a bad post about passover. This was the latter variety.

I do also think that this is well into the grey area of the concept of self-linking. The only part of the FPP of any substance was that first comment, and it was indeed way to close to the OP.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:04 PM on April 9, 2012


vorfeed: "Again, I don't see why "an agenda in posting" is necessarily a problem."

It's not "necessarily a problem." But I felt in this particular case it was problematic. I explained that above, in multiple comments like this one.

vorfeed: "You seem to be suggesting that religion is something posters shouldn't express a specific viewpoint on"

Nope. I've been posting my own specific viewpoints about Judaism and Christianity in this and other threads extensively for years now. I'm not saying that people shouldn't freely express their views about religion here.

I don't think people should be soapboxing in FPPs though.

I objected to the way the post was framed -- it seemed to speak for a group as if Jews were all of the same mind when they are not. I think a valuable fact was left out of the post -- that Wolpe's view on the Haggadah was considered controversial by the Jewish mainstream when he first discussed it publicly, The idea that the Exodus as a whole is an invention is not embraced as gospel (if you'll pardon the pun) by many Jews. And yes, I think the post was editorializing, which is antithetical to my understanding of how we are supposed to post here. I do not object to the comment's viewpoint. Or it being expressed. I agree with it. But find its location in the thread problematic, and have explained why.
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think passover is a particularly good time for a good post related to passover, but a particularly bad time to make a bad post about passover. This was the latter variety.

I do also think that this is well into the grey area of the concept of self-linking. The only part of the FPP of any substance was that first comment, and it was indeed way to close to the OP.


How can you say there's no substance? The linked discussions of Exodus are not news, but Metafilter is not a news site, and the reaction to the post showed that many people were unaware of the historical consensus on Exodus.
posted by grobstein at 1:19 PM on April 9, 2012


I objected to the way the post was framed -- it seemed to speak for a group as if Jews were all of the same mind when they are not. I think a valuable fact was left out of the post -- that Wolpe's view on the Haggadah was considered controversial by the Jewish mainstream when he first discussed it publicly, The idea that the Exodus as a whole is an invention is not embraced as gospel (if you'll pardon the pun) by many Jews.

You've made this argument a few times and I don't understand it.

It seems like you're saying: even though the consensus among historians is that Exodus is not historical, and historians have failed for more than 100 years to find evidence for it, many Jews have the opposite view. Okay. But I don't see why the post has to give equal time.
posted by grobstein at 1:24 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


grobstein: " How can you say there's no substance? The linked discussions of Exodus are not news, but Metafilter is not a news site, and the reaction to the post showed that many people were unaware of the historical consensus on Exodus."

There post's content was either from sources which seem to have an agenda to promote, or were crowd-sourced. Blog entries. Skeptoid. Wolpe editorial. Wikipedia. Rational Wiki.

Of these, the two Wiki links seemed more objective than the others.

grobstein: " It seems like you're saying: even though the consensus among historians is that Exodus is not historical, and historians have failed for more than 100 years to find evidence for it,

Have they?

...many Jews have the opposite view. Okay. But I don't see why the post has to give equal time."

You're in luck. Neither did the mods.
posted by zarq at 1:42 PM on April 9, 2012


Nope. I've been posting my own specific viewpoints about Judaism and Christianity in this and other threads extensively for years now. I'm not saying that people shouldn't freely express their views about religion here. I don't think people should be soapboxing in FPPs though.

This is why I said "posters" and not "commenters": I meant to make a distinction between people who are just commenting and people who comment on their own threads. Sorry I didn't make that clear.

Like I said above, though, soapboxing in FPPs happens all the time, so I don't see how this post is out of the ordinary. Does this post really "try to impose his opinions on the rest of us" more than, say, this one does? Or this one?

This isn't wikipedia; the authors of FPPs are not obligated to scrub out their own perspective before posting.
posted by vorfeed at 1:42 PM on April 9, 2012


vorfeed: "This is why I said "posters" and not "commenters": I meant to make a distinction between people who are just commenting and people who comment on their own threads. Sorry I didn't make that clear.

Ack. My mistake. Apologies.

Like I said above, though, soapboxing in FPPs happens all the time, so I don't see how this post is out of the ordinary.

In posts, not comments, yes?

Jessamyn, last November: "You have probably read this in MeTa before but I'll say it again for the record, if your impetus for posting something is not "People might enjoy reading this" but rather "People should read this" you may be using MeFi as a soapbox and not for sharing neat stuff that you find on the web. People do this from time to time, but it's straying from MeFi's core mission and it's often the stepping stone to a not-so-great post."

My take: we're not supposed to use Mefi to push agendas, and the more egregious activist posts get deleted. Incidentally, they may also spawn metas.

Does this post really "try to impose his opinions on the rest of us" more than, say, this one does? Or this one?

I think the first one is probably equivalent.

Am not sure about the second. I'm less good at judging political bias, to be honest. But I bet there are other worse examples that have survived, too. (And I bet my own posting history would turn up a doozie or three!)

This isn't wikipedia; the authors of FPPs are not obligated to scrub out their own perspective before posting."

Not entirely, no.

But I think it makes for better posts and smoother-flowing threads. So I try to, especially on controversial topics.
posted by zarq at 2:12 PM on April 9, 2012


Half the stuff on the front page is that way, up to and including in the FPP text itself; right now there are a number of political posts, news posts, and even literary posts with an obvious "agenda".

This is not a good thing, or a justification for more of the same. All of these are in GYOFB territory.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:31 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not a good thing, or a justification for more of the same. All of these are in GYOFB territory.

It's not some newfangled practice, either.
posted by rtha at 2:38 PM on April 9, 2012


In posts, not comments, yes?

Nah, people post soapboxy comments to their own threads all the time. This comment and this one are examples off the top of my head. The only difference here is in the placement, which cortex already addressed.

As others have said, I think it's really hard to call dmd's post an activist post, much less a not-so-great post. It wasn't axe-grindy and it wasn't mean; all it did was talk about Passover without acknowledging a side of the story you would have liked to see. Personally, I think that's kind of baked-in to religious FPPs -- posts about Catholicism won't reflect a Protestant point of view, for example, and posts about liberal Christianity won't discuss the Bible as if it were literal fact. And that's OK. Not every perspective needs to be included in every FPP.

This is not a good thing, or a justification for more of the same.

Says you. To me posts like these are just part of what metafilter is, and they always have been. People post here because they're excited about things; if it weren't for GYOFB we'd be "discussing" nothing but cat videos and cooking (and sometimes not the latter -- that pressure cooker guy clearly had an agenda!)
posted by vorfeed at 3:01 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: "It wasn't axe-grindy and it wasn't mean; all it did was talk about Passover without acknowledging a side of the story you would have liked to see."

It told the story without a deeper context that I think would have been appropriate.

vorfeed: "Not every perspective needs to be included in every FPP."

It would likely have prevented this Meta.

vorfeed: "Says you. "

And me. GYOB posts are the worst of Metafilter. I'd like to see more of them be deleted.
posted by zarq at 3:16 PM on April 9, 2012


mediareport, one review of the work you cite states that the authors, "maintain that the Exodus was not a single dramatic event, as described in the second book of the Bible, but rather a series of occurrences over a long period of time." This is far from the blanket denial of all historicity that is asserted in the OP.

I'm not mediareport, but I did link to Amazon in the previous thread concerning that book. It might be important to get some context. The minimalist position that devalues the historicity of the Bible is described here, with the other extreme being here and here. (Note that Dever's views wholly dismiss any notion of biblical accuracy or fundamentalism, and yet he's their best friend in any debate). Finkelstein and Silberman are in the middle. This link may help to acquaint one with the controversy of their book, which is evenly moderate within the wider controversy itself. Quote:

If Finkelstein is ready to concede the existence of David and Solomon, albeit as kinks of a small, marginal entity, when it comes to the exodus from Egypt he is absolute in his opinion. "There is no evidence that the Israelites were in Egypt, not the slightest, not the least bit of evidence. There are no clues, either archaeological or historical, to prove that the Israelites built monuments in Egypt, even though the biblical description of the famine in the Land of Israel may be accurate. We know from archaeology that there was a migration of Canaanites to Egypt in the first half of the second millennium BCE, that these migrants built communities in the area of the Nile Delta, and that the Egyptians afterward expelled them from there. Perhaps that is the ancient memory, I don't know. What I can say is that the story, in the form we have it, serves a later situation. It spoke to the exiles in Babylon and to those who returned from the exile. What the story told them is that exile is not the end of the world, it's possible to return, the deserts can be crossed, the land can be reconquered. That gave them hope."

The stories of the patriarchs, Finkelstein says - adding that today most scholars accept this view - are folklore about forefathers that the authors of the Bible in the seventh century salvaged from the mists of history in order to reinforce their hold on the cultural heritage. Scientific searches for them have produced nothing.

"Did these people ever exist? I don't know. They were primeval forbears, and the goal was to create a myth saying that Judah is the center of the world, of the Israelite way of life, against the background of the reality of the later kingdom."

posted by Brian B. at 3:47 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is no evidence that the Jesus was born from an Egg on a mountain top, not the slightest, not the least bit of evidence. There are no clues, either archaeological or historical, to prove that the Bunnites built Egg monuments, even though the biblical description of the famine in the Land of Israel may be accurate, yet we all remember getting Smarties eggs in some distant folk memory. Perhaps that is the ancient memory, I don't know. What I can say is that the story, in the form we have it, serves a later situation. What the story tells us is that one day we will get Green & Black eggs. That gave us hope, and so it came to pass, and I for one will not be returning them.
posted by biffa at 4:17 PM on April 9, 2012


I finally get to use this, after saving it for years:

Even those guys in the Mitzvah van in NY?

Yes, or as I call them, schlemiels on wheels.
posted by spitbull at 4:59 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am still wishing the Mikvah Wagon was real. Slosh, slosh, through the streets it goes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:03 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Haven't spotted a mikvah wagon, but PediSukkot are a thing.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:14 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


We were caulking hulls all day!
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:14 PM on April 9, 2012


OOpsers. Forgot the Easter Done Right link.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:47 PM on April 9, 2012


Gooby pls
posted by Brocktoon at 10:52 PM on April 9, 2012


Feedback from CNN's Easter story on the debate surrounding historicity of Jesus. Note those offended at running a story on the celebrated day, which is essentially arguing that CNN is "not doing it right" and should instead behave in a correct way and regard the holiday as adherents would, rather than objectively report on the history or controversy of it.
posted by Brian B. at 11:57 PM on April 9, 2012


Well, as soon as we all start worshipping the Christian Messiah, perhaps you'll have a relevant point. Until then, how about addressing the actual arguments being raised instead of making false equivalents?
posted by zarq at 5:17 AM on April 10, 2012


Brian B. - that's as may be, but this thread is about the posting culture at metafilter.com, not cnn.com.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:31 AM on April 10, 2012


I'm sorry. It's really fucking annoying to have my religion compared to Christianity. The two religions share a foundation, but are very different. And its followers' knee-jerk reaction is not what is happening in this thread. It's incredibly fucking annoying to have a nuanced discussion reduced to what someone *thinks* people are saying rather than what they are actually saying. The conversation here has progressed, I think, far beyond the original FPP. I apologize for being condescending. But it's damned frustrating to have to keep repeating the same points over and over.



.
posted by zarq at 5:33 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am still wishing the Mikvah Wagon was real.

I'm picturing it like one of those super-tacky limos with the hot tub on the end, except instead of being full of strippers it's full of frum housewives in sheytlen.
posted by elizardbits at 6:06 AM on April 10, 2012


Even those guys in the Mitzvah van in NY?

The Chabad Lubavitch Mitzvah Tank! One of my friends has a hilarious story about being bar mitzvah-ed by them in a sort of religious mugging incident.
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on April 10, 2012


If Finkelstein is ready to concede the existence of David and Solomon, albeit as kinks of a small, marginal entity, when it comes to the exodus from Egypt he is absolute in his opinion. "There is no evidence that the Israelites were in Egypt, not the slightest, not the least bit of evidence.

Thanks, Brian B. On my errands yesterday I swung by the library to get a copy of the book; they're sending it over from another branch. I remembered them being very clear about the Exodus story (years since I read it) and the above is exactly it.
posted by mediareport at 6:45 AM on April 10, 2012


> The Chabad Lubavitch Mitzvah Tank! One of my friends has a hilarious story about being bar mitzvah-ed by them in a sort of religious mugging incident.

I was accosted by them more than once as I walked the streets of NYC. Apparently hat + beard = Jew. (I didn't mind; I always gave them a cheery "Not today, thanks!")
posted by languagehat at 6:55 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, as soon as we all start worshipping the Christian Messiah, perhaps you'll have a relevant point. Until then, how about addressing the actual arguments being raised instead of making false equivalents?

I don't really see what the difference is, honestly. Obviously there are vast cultural difference between Muslims, Christians, Mormons and Jews, but if you're not a believer, it's kind of splitting hairs, really. You all have holy books that aren't particularly well supported by historical evidence. The only difference (in terms of epistemiology) is which particular holy books you decide to believe.

If you want to talk about historical evidence for the theologically meaningful parts of your belief, you're all basically in the same boat. There might be some relatively trivial facts that might correlate with historical events, but nothing that actually matters in terms of the faith (ie, all of the miraculous or legendary events that are evidence of the meddling of a god in world affairs) has any historical backing whatsoever.
posted by empath at 7:20 AM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


empath: " I don't really see what the difference is, honestly.

The difference is in how the religion is taught, and what we are encouraged to value via Jewish culture: whether we are forced to accept our faiths blindly or question at every turn. Whether we are taught that education, intelligence and scientific / historical accuracy are something to strive for or deny. All Jews don't embrace those values -- there are Orthodox Jews who certainly don't, but a great many others do and that is because of what we value.

There is a huge, documented Christian anti-intellectual movement in this country. By contrast, Jews are proportionally over-represented in many scientific fields including medicine, as well as other industries that require rigorous thought. Jewish anti-intellectuals are a fringe group, usually shunned by the majority. This is not a coincidence. As a group, we generally do not value stupidity, blind faith or denialists.

How much anti-science has been spewed by Christian leaders over the centuries? In particular, over the last 50 years, how many Christian efforts to force religion into the classroom, and the doctor's office, and other areas of the secular public sphere has this country seen over the last few decades? Tons. I'm pretty sure that Jewish equivalents, especially over the last 50 years, are comparatively few and far between -- again, fringe efforts.

So yes, I think there's a difference.

When faced with questions from Rabbi Wolpe and others about the historical accuracy of religious documents, Jews did not act as a single entity. If invested in the idea, rabbis from all sects discussed, debated (and hopefully examined their own personal biases) and drew their own conclusions. Some wrote books. Many Orthodox rabbis attacked the idea. But Torah/Mishnah criticism and historical analysis is already taught at Conservative seminaries like JTS. So the discussion came naturally to their Conservative rabbinic counterparts. And I can't speak for our largest sect, but the heads of the Reform movement are already on record as saying that the Torah and Haggadah aren't literally the word of G-d, and they don't seem to be particularly invested in the idea that they're historically accurate.

When similar questions are raised about the Bible, tell me, how do Christian leaders generally react? Do they also debate? Or do they do their best to shut it down? My personal belief is that it's pretty consistently the latter, except for fringe Christian groups. But if you'd like to provide examples, I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Obviously there are vast cultural difference between Muslims, Christians, Mormons and Jews, but if you're not a believer, it's kind of splitting hairs, really.

This isn't about religious foundation. Judaism is clearly more than just a bunch of rituals. In fact, the aforementioned largest Jewish religious sect, eschews ritual and hardline, literal observance.

Jews are hard to pigeonhole.

You all have holy books that aren't particularly well supported by historical evidence. The only difference (in terms of epistemiology) is which particular holy books you decide to believe.

If you want to talk about historical evidence for the theologically meaningful parts of your belief, you're all basically in the same boat.


Are we? I'm not entirely convinced of that. Someone who believes in Bible as metaphor is not the same as someone who believes in Biblical inerrancy and is in turn not the same as someone who is a Biblical Literalist. Most Reform Jews probably don't even believe the Torah was written by G-d, or Moses. Those who think that probably look at the Torah as the accumulated stories of generations of Jews. And it's not just the Reform. I'm Conservative and that's pretty much what I believe. I can't imagine that I'm the only one.

Torah as metaphor. Haggadah as metaphor. Neither of these positions claim historical accuracy.

There might be some relatively trivial facts that might correlate with historical events, but nothing that actually matters in terms of the faith (ie, all of the miraculous or legendary events that are evidence of the meddling of a god in world affairs) has any historical backing whatsoever."

So?

Speaking for myself, I don't turn to my religion for historical accuracy. I don't believe the Torah is supposed to be an historical document. I see its stories as metaphors. Lessons for self-introspection. To hopefully learn more about how to be a better person. I have never believed the Torah and Haggadah were anything other than a group of morality stories that were written down and over-analyzed by Jewish scholars. That's what I was taught by my parents -- and then came to my own conclusions about as a teenager and an adult.

Obviously I don't speak for every Jew. But that sort of distinction is important, I think.
posted by zarq at 8:30 AM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

But that sort of distinction is important, I think.
zarq, if there's anything for you to learn from this discussion, it's that many of us smart, educated, curious, open-minded people do not think that sort of distinction is important.

That you think it's important is clear, and interesting and significant. But we don't, and it doesn't matter how important it is to you that we do. It doesn't matter to me how deeply you feel that difference, how eloquently and passionately you make your case. To me, a non-believer, Judaism is a religion like any other, and is as open to criticism as any other.

You feel that it's important to distinguish yourself from other religions, from other Judeo-Christian religions, and from other Jews, even. You need to be aware that this appears to be, to me and to others, as empath and others have said, splitting hairs.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


MrMoonPie: "You need to be aware that this appears to be, to me and to others, as empath and others have said, splitting hairs."

Then I'm not really sure what more there is to say.

Thanks for explaining. Will keep it in mind for future Mefi discussions on the topic.
posted by zarq at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2012


When similar questions are raised about the Bible, tell me, how do Christian leaders generally react? Do they also debate? Or do they do their best to shut it down? My personal belief is that it's pretty consistently the latter, except for fringe Christian groups. But if you'd like to provide examples, I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Mainline protestants and Catholics have both done a LOT of serious research about the origins of the bible, and neither do anything to shut anybody down. Anglicans in particular are open minded about it.

You're tarring all Christians with the fundamentalist brush. There are a lot of non-fundamentalist Christians who are just as ambivalent about the historical truth of the bible as you are.

The point is that it doesn't matter. If it's all metaphor, than it doesn't matter what religion you are. Buddhist metaphors are just as useful as Jewish ones are. If you want to talk about who is right and who is wrong, all of them are on the same uneasy footing.
posted by empath at 9:02 AM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is a huge, documented Christian anti-intellectual movement in this country. By contrast, Jews are proportionally over-represented in many scientific fields including medicine, as well as other industries that require rigorous thought. Jewish anti-intellectuals are a fringe group, usually shunned by the majority. This is not a coincidence. As a group, we generally do not value stupidity, blind faith or denialists.

It's all too easy, due to their numbers and visibility, to assume that Christian anti-intellectuals are all Christians. It's just not accurate, though. There have always been Christian intellectuals, and there are Christians in just about every field of industry you can think of. They may not be loud about it and they may not be particularly visible to you, because they aren't acting in ways that are stereotypical based on this view, but they are there.

Growing up in a multifaith world, I developed a lot of respect for many the aspects and strains of Judaism that surrounded me, particularly the scholarly tradition and the questioning tradition you highlight. It is extremely valuable. But I think there are also some aspects of the activities and personas of contemporary Jews that are not attributable to the religious tenets and ideologies of Judaism directly, but to the historical events which shaped the development of these different forms of Judaism. In the early modern era, Jews around the world, living in communities as religious minorities, were persecuted as they tried to maintain traditional observances in the face of rising modernity and the power of the nation-state; reform efforts began there, as a means of staying Jewish in nations which established under Christian crowns without clinging to orthodoxy. Then the upheavals and pogroms of the 19th century and the Second World War and its aftermath caused many traditional believers - of many faiths - to absolutely recoil at the idea of religious dogma and certainty and to further lean away from strict prescriptive practice, even while feeling it a necessity not to sacrifice a basic religious identity and community affiliation. The spread of Jewish agnosticism along with the 20th century diaspora, added to the already strong trend of the modernist/Reformist project, created widespread interest in a Judaism that was less dogmatic and rigid, and invited more flexibility in observance and more devotion to philosophical realism. A transnational Jewish intellectual culture has developed, featuring many discrete movements and individual perspectives within it.

As a religious category often dominant in the Western world in those same decades, Christianity didn't face exactly the same sorts of serious challenges really until Darwinism followed by the crises of the twentieth century. Christian agnosticism as a trend is much more recent. And we are admittedly living in a time of bizarre anti-scientific and cultish revivalism among some newly developed Christian sects. But it's a mistake to conflate all Christianity with those people, and I think an equal mistake to assert that the group of religions we call Judaism is inherently superior to other major world categories of religion. The qualities that might make Jews visibly prominent in certain fields such as science are not always direct products of theological work itself, but of the historical conditions that change, inform, and shape theology. The same is true with other religions, though historical conditions, geographies, and theologies intersect differently in the case of each unique belief system. I think it's more revealing to look at the historical conditions and the intellectual movements than the theologies themselves.

In the end, though we may identify with one subset of one denomination of one world religious category or other, each of us can only be accountable for what we, personally, believe and do.
posted by Miko at 9:08 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


to assume that Christian anti-intellectuals are all Christians

That is potentially confusing; better to say "assume that all Christians are Christian anti-intellectuals."
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on April 10, 2012


empath: " You're tarring all Christians with the fundamentalist brush. There are a lot of non-fundamentalist Christians who are just as ambivalent about the historical truth of the bible as you are."

I asked you if Christian Leaders shut down debate. Not if the religion's followers do. I haven't seen much ambivalence about from the Pope, Bishops and Cardinals of the Catholic Church, nor the Baptist Synod. Am I wrong?

empath: " If you want to talk about who is right and who is wrong, all of them are on the same uneasy footing."

Not that it matters, but whether any other religion is "right" or "wrong" is entirely besides the point. Judaism is supposed to apply only to Jews. As much as I try not to speak for Judaism as a whole, it's a pretty fundamental aspect of our religion: We don't encourage conversions. We don't believe in proselytization. And we don't push our beliefs on non-Jews.

Considering what Mr. MoonPie said, I'm really not sure what the point is of this discussion anymore.

Miko: "It's all too easy, due to their numbers and visibility, to assume that Christian anti-intellectuals are all Christians. It's just not accurate, though."

Nor is this what I said or implied. I was very careful in the way I phrased that sentence, so as not to tar all Christians with a brush of anti-intellectual ignorance.
posted by zarq at 9:16 AM on April 10, 2012


I asked you if Christian Leaders shut down debate.

The answer: some do, some do not.
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2012


I haven't seen much ambivalence about from the Pope, Bishops and Cardinals of the Catholic Church, nor the Baptist Synod

Here is the official word from the Catholic Church on how the bible should be read.

A couple of pull quotes:
The inerrancy of Scripture excludes also any contradiction between the Bible and the certain tenets of science. It cannot be supposed that the inspired writers should agree with all the various hypotheses which scientists assume today and reject tomorrow; but the commentator will be required to harmonize the teaching of the Bible with the scientific results which rest on solid proof. This rule is clearly laid down by the Encyclical in the words of St. Augustine: "Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures, and whatever they assert in their treatises which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so" (De Gen. ad litt., I, xxi, xli). But the commentator must also be careful "not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known" (St. Aug., in Gen. op. imperf., ix, 30). The Encyclical appeals here again to the words of the great African Doctor (St. Aug., de Gen. ad litt., II, ix, xx): "[The Holy Ghost] who spoke by them [the inspired writers], did not intend to teach men these things [i.e., the essential nature of the things of the visible universe], things in no way profitable unto salvation." The pontiff continues: "Hence they . . . described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way, the sacred writers — as the Angelic Doctor reminds us (Summa Theologiæ I.70.1 ad 3um) — 'went by what visibly appeared', or put down what God, speaking to men, signified in a way men could understand and were accustomed to." In Genesis 1:16, e.g., the sun and the moon are called two great lights; in Joshua 10:12, the sun is commanded to stand still; in Eccl., i, 5, the sun returns to its place; in Job 26:11, the firmament appears solid and brazen; in other passages the heavens are upheld by columns, and God rides on the clouds of heaven.
Finally, the commentator must be prepared to deal with the seeming discrepancies between Biblical and profane history. The considerations to be kept in mind here are similar to those laid down in the preceding paragraph. First, not all statements found in profane sources can be regarded a priori as Gospel truth; some of them refer to subjects with which the writers were imperfectly acquainted, others proceed from party-feeling and national vanity, others again are based on imperfectly or only partially translated ancient documents. Secondly, the Bible does not ex professo teach profane history or chronology. These topics are treated only incidentally, in as far as they are connected with sacred subjects. Hence it would be wrong to regard Scripture as containing a complete course of history and chronology, or to consider the text of its historical portions above suspicion of corruption. Thirdly, we must keep in mind the words of St. Jerome (in Jer., xxviii, 10): "Many things in Sacred Scripture are related according to the opinion of the time in which they are said to have happened, and not according to objective truth"; and again (in Matthew 14:8): "According to the custom of Scripture, the historian relates the opinion concerning many things in accordance with the general belief at that time." Father Delattre maintains (Le Criterium à l'usage de la Nouvelle Exégèse Biblique, Liège, 1907) that according to St. Jerome the inspired writers report the public opinion prevalent at the time of the events related, not the public opinion prevalent when the narrative was written. This distinction is of greater practical importance than it, at first, seems to be. For Father Delattre only grants that the inspired historian may write according to sensible appearances, while his opponents contend that he may follow also the so-called historic appearances. Finally, the first two decisions of the Biblical Commission must be mentioned in this connection. Some Catholic writers had attempted to remove certain historical difficulties from the sacred text either by considering the respective passages as tacit or implied quotations from other authors, for which the inspired writers did not in any way vouch; or by denying that the sacred writers vouch, in any way, for the historical accuracy of the facts they narrate, since they use these apparent facts merely as pegs on which to hang some moral teaching. The Biblical Commission rejected these two methods by decrees issued respectively 13 Feb. and 23 June, 1905, adding, however, that either of them may be admitted in the case when, due regard being paid to the sense and judgment of the Church, it can be proved by solid argument that the sacred writer either really quoted the sayings or documents of another without speaking in his own name, or did not really intend to write history, but only to propose a parable, an allegory, or another non-historical literary concept.
You can read that how you like, but it's in no way fundamentalist, and leaves plenty of wiggle room for a non-literal reading of the bible.
posted by empath at 9:30 AM on April 10, 2012


..and when I make a small few edits to your list of things that characterize Jewish leaders' relationships to religious texts

When faced with questions...about the historical accuracy of religious documents, JewsChristians did not act as a single entity. If invested in the idea, rabbisleaders from all sects discussed, debated (and hopefully examined their own personal biases) and drew their own conclusions. Some wrote books. Many clergy members attacked the idea. But Torah/MishnahBible criticism and historical analysis is already taught at Conservative seminaries like JTSthe Chicago, Yale, or Harvard Divinity Schools. So the discussion came naturally to their Cconservative rabbinic counterparts. And I can't speak for our largest sect, but the heads of the Reform movementliberal Christian denominations are already on record as saying that the Torah and Haggadahtexts of the Bible aren't literally the word of G-d, and they don't seem to be particularly invested in the idea that they're historically accurate.

...it still works.
posted by Miko at 9:37 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just found a wonderful chart of the kind I've long wished for comparing tenets of eight major "meta-groups" in Christianity and citing the documents in which the tenet is recorded. It seems top-level and not fully complete but is a sight better than anything I've else I've run across in comparitive religion discussions:

Catholic: "The books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." (Catechism, 2nd ed.)

Orthodox: "God's inspiration is confined to the original languages and utterances, not the many translations." (GOAA) "While the Bible is treasured as a valuable written record of God's revelation, it does not contain wholly that revelation." (GOAA)

Lutheran: Inspired and inerrant. (LCMS)
Inspired but not inerrant. (ELCA)

Reformed/Presbyterian:
The Bible is inspired. "For some, that means the Bible is inerrant. For others, it means that even though the Bible is culturally conditioned and not necessarily factual or even always true, it breathes with the life of God." (PCUSA)

Anglican/Episcopalian: The OT and NT contain all things necessary for salvation. (CofE) Inspired and inerrant in original manuscripts, "and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine." (WC)

Baptist: "written by men and divinely inspired. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter." (SBC) "the final authority and trustworthy for faith and practice." (ABC) Inspired by God, written by humans (MB)
posted by Miko at 9:50 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting link. Thanks for posting it. I'm going to read the entire thing later, but for the moment, let's examine the whole section you quoted, shall we? I'll embolden the parts I think are worth noting:
Since God is the principal Author of Sacred Scripture, it can contain no error, no self-contradiction, nothing contrary to scientific or historical truth. The Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus" is most explicit in its statement of this prerogative of the Bible: "All the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can coexist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily, as it is impossible that God Himself, the Supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true." The Fathers agree with this teaching almost unanimously; we may refer the reader to St. Jerome (In Nah., I, iv), St. Irenæus (C. hær., II, xxviii), Clement of Alexandria (Stromata VII.16), St. Augustine (Reply to Faustus II.2; cf. "In Ps. cxviii", serm. xxxi, 5; "Ad Hier.", ep. lxxxii, 2, 22; "Ad Oros. c. Prisc.", xi), St. Gregory the Great (Præf. in Job, n. 2). The great African Doctor suggests a simple and radical remedy against apparent errors in the Bible: "Either my codex is wrong, or the translator has blundered, or I do not understand."

But inerrancy is not the prerogative of everything that happens to be found in the Bible; it is restricted to what the inspired writers state as their own, unless they quote the words of a speaker who is infallible in his utterances, the words of an Apostle, e.g., or of a Divinely authorized speaker, whether angel or man (cf. Luke 1:42, 67; 2:25; 2 Maccabees 7:21), or again words regarded as having Divine authority either by Scripture (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:19; Galatians 4:30) or by the Church (e.g., the Magnificat). Biblical words that do not fall under any of these classes carry merely the authority of the speaker, the weight of which must be studied from other sources. Here is the place to take notice of a decision issued by the Biblical Commission, 13 Feb., 1905, according to which certain Scriptural statements may be treated as quotations, though they appear on the surface to be the utterances of the inspired writer. But this can be done only when there is certain and independent proof that the inspired writer really quotes the words of another without intending to make them his own. Recent writers call such passages "tacit" or "implicit" citations.

The inerrancy of Scripture does not allow us to admit contradictions in its statements. This is understood of the genuine or primitive text of the Bible. Owing to textual corruptions, we must be prepared to meet contradictions in details of minor importance; in weightier matters such discrepancies have been avoided even in our present text. Discrepancies which may appear to obtain in matters of faith or morals should put the commentator on his guard that the same Biblical expressions are not everywhere taken in the same sense, that various passages may differ from each other as the complete statement of a doctrine differs from its incomplete expression, as a clear presentation differs from its obscure delineation. Thus "works" has one meaning in James, ii, 24, another in Rom., iii, 28; "brothers" denotes one kind of relationship in Matthew 12:46, quite a different kind in most other passages; John 14:28 and 10:30, Acts 8:12, and Matthew 28:19, are respectively opposed to each other as a clear statement is opposed to an obscure one, as an explicit one to a mere implication. In apparent Biblical discrepancies found in historical passages, the commentator must distinguish between statements made by the inspired writer and those merely quoted by him (cf. 1 Samuel 31:9, and 2 Samuel 1:6 sqq.), between a double account of the same fact and the narrative of two similar incidents, between chronologies which begin with different starting-points, finally between a compendious and a detailed report of an event. Lastly, apparent discrepancies which occur in prophetical passages necessitate an investigation, whether the respective texts emanate from the Prophets as Prophets (cf. 2 Samuel 7:3-17), whether they refer to the same or to similar subjects (the destruction of Jerusalem, e.g., and the end of the world), whether they consider their subject from the same point of view (e.g. the suffering and the glorious Messias), whether they use proper or figurative language. Thus the Prophet Nathan in his private capacity encourages David to build the Temple (2 Samuel 7:3), but as Prophet he foretells that Solomon will build the house of God (ibid., 13).

The inerrancy of Scripture excludes also any contradiction between the Bible and the certain tenets of science. It cannot be supposed that the inspired writers should agree with all the various hypotheses which scientists assume today and reject tomorrow; but the commentator will be required to harmonize the teaching of the Bible with the scientific results which rest on solid proof. This rule is clearly laid down by the Encyclical in the words of St. Augustine: "Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures, and whatever they assert in their treatises which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so" (De Gen. ad litt., I, xxi, xli). But the commentator must also be careful "not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known" (St. Aug., in Gen. op. imperf., ix, 30). The Encyclical appeals here again to the words of the great African Doctor (St. Aug., de Gen. ad litt., II, ix, xx): "[The Holy Ghost] who spoke by them [the inspired writers], did not intend to teach men these things [i.e., the essential nature of the things of the visible universe], things in no way profitable unto salvation." The pontiff continues: "Hence they . . . described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way, the sacred writers — as the Angelic Doctor reminds us (Summa Theologiæ I.70.1 ad 3um) — 'went by what visibly appeared', or put down what God, speaking to men, signified in a way men could understand and were accustomed to." In Genesis 1:16, e.g., the sun and the moon are called two great lights; in Joshua 10:12, the sun is commanded to stand still; in Eccl., i, 5, the sun returns to its place; in Job 26:11, the firmament appears solid and brazen; in other passages the heavens are upheld by columns, and God rides on the clouds of heaven.

Finally, the commentator must be prepared to deal with the seeming discrepancies between Biblical and profane history. The considerations to be kept in mind here are similar to those laid down in the preceding paragraph. First, not all statements found in profane sources can be regarded a priori as Gospel truth; some of them refer to subjects with which the writers were imperfectly acquainted, others proceed from party-feeling and national vanity, others again are based on imperfectly or only partially translated ancient documents. Secondly, the Bible does not ex professo teach profane history or chronology. These topics are treated only incidentally, in as far as they are connected with sacred subjects. Hence it would be wrong to regard Scripture as containing a complete course of history and chronology, or to consider the text of its historical portions above suspicion of corruption.. Thirdly, we must keep in mind the words of St. Jerome (in Jer., xxviii, 10): "Many things in Sacred Scripture are related according to the opinion of the time in which they are said to have happened, and not according to objective truth"; and again (in Matthew 14:8): "According to the custom of Scripture, the historian relates the opinion concerning many things in accordance with the general belief at that time." Father Delattre maintains (Le Criterium à l'usage de la Nouvelle Exégèse Biblique, Liège, 1907) that according to St. Jerome the inspired writers report the public opinion prevalent at the time of the events related, not the public opinion prevalent when the narrative was written. This distinction is of greater practical importance than it, at first, seems to be. For Father Delattre only grants that the inspired historian may write according to sensible appearances, while his opponents contend that he may follow also the so-called historic appearances. Finally, the first two decisions of the Biblical Commission must be mentioned in this connection. Some Catholic writers had attempted to remove certain historical difficulties from the sacred text either by considering the respective passages as tacit or implied quotations from other authors, for which the inspired writers did not in any way vouch; or by denying that the sacred writers vouch, in any way, for the historical accuracy of the facts they narrate, since they use these apparent facts merely as pegs on which to hang some moral teaching. The Biblical Commission rejected these two methods by decrees issued respectively 13 Feb. and 23 June, 1905, adding, however, that either of them may be admitted in the case when, due regard being paid to the sense and judgment of the Church, it can be proved by solid argument that the sacred writer either really quoted the sayings or documents of another without speaking in his own name, or did not really intend to write history, but only to propose a parable, an allegory, or another non-historical literary concept.
So basically, (and please correct me if I'm misreading things!) the Church says that the sections of the Bible which are the literal word of G-d or his divine representatives are just that -- the literal, inerrant Word that cannot be contradicted. And that the rest of the text is imperfect. However, in cases where the word of G-d and those who speak for him come into conflict with agreed-upon scientific knowledge, the Bible reigns supreme. And since they've restricted those areas of science which reveal "solid proof" they can pretty much say what they like, can't they? When we discuss scientific principles and theory, we're only speaking about hypotheses and tested, repeatable results. Which the text refers to as 'accepted by scientists today, rejected tomorrow.'

Therefore, if the accepted inerrant sections of the Bible contradict someone's interpretation of scientific results, then the Bible remains the authority. Seems rather convenient.

Am I wrong?

I agree this provides wiggle room and opens the scriptures to interpretation. I'm not sure it's exactly rigorous thinking, though.
posted by zarq at 9:52 AM on April 10, 2012


Miko: " ...it still works."

Yes, but is it true?
posted by zarq at 9:53 AM on April 10, 2012


To me, a non-believer, Judaism is a religion like any other, and is as open to criticism as any other.

Well, sure; but then it should be criticized as itself, and not as if it were a version of Christianity.
posted by jeather at 9:53 AM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Miko: "I just found a wonderful chart of the kind I've long wished for comparing tenets of eight major "meta-groups" in Christianity and citing the documents in which the tenet is recorded. It seems top-level and not fully complete but is a sight better than anything I've else I've run across in comparitive religion discussions: "

Oooh. That's really good. Thank you. Extremely helpful.
posted by zarq at 9:59 AM on April 10, 2012


Yes, but is it true?

Yes.
posted by Miko at 10:08 AM on April 10, 2012


I agree this provides wiggle room and opens the scriptures to interpretation. I'm not sure it's exactly rigorous thinking, though.

Of course it's not rigorous thinking, it's religious thinking. Remember, you are talking about a faith with billions of adherents over the past 2000 years, many of whom have thought deeply and skeptically about it, including founders of the church and saints, and many of whom that left and started their own churches when their interpretations didn't match the approved dogma. The Catholic church has founded universities all over the world, many of which teach and engage in biblical criticism.

So basically, (and please correct me if I'm misreading things!) the Church says that the sections of the Bible which are the literal word of G-d or his divine representatives are just that -- the literal, inerrant Word that cannot be contradicted. And that the rest of the text is imperfect. However, in cases where the word of G-d and those who speak for him come into conflict with agreed-upon scientific knowledge, the Bible reigns supreme.

Basically, that the bible is inerrant and literally true when it comes to theological and moral topics and somewhat less so on scientific and historical ones. The bible is not a scientific or historical textbook, according to the church, so if it contradicts other evidence, then one shouldn't just dismiss the evidence. I don't see how this position is very different from what you've described as your own.
posted by empath at 10:09 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, sure; but then it should be criticized as itself, and not as if it were a version of Christianity.

Can we criticize Christianity as if it were a version of Judaism?
posted by empath at 10:10 AM on April 10, 2012


...but then [Judaism] should be criticized as itself, and not as if it were a version of Christianity.

Judaism is for people who never got around to watching the sequel. (Moses II: The Mosesing)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:21 PM on April 10, 2012


Tell Me No Lies: " Judaism is for people who never got around to watching the sequel. (Moses II: The Mosesing)"

That explains so much....
posted by zarq at 2:37 PM on April 10, 2012


empath, okay.
posted by zarq at 2:38 PM on April 10, 2012


This whole discussion reminds of this old joke, still sorta funny:

Religions of the World
Taoism: Shit Happens
Hinduism: This shit happened before
Islam: If shit happens, take a Hostage
Buddism: If Shit happens, is it really shit?
7th Day Adventist: Shit happens on Saturday
Protestantism: Shit won’t happen if I work harder
Catholicism: If Shit Happens, I deserve it
Jehovah’s Witness: Knock, knock, “Shit happens”
Judaism: Why does shit always happen to me?
Hare Krishna: Shit Happens Rama Rama Ding Dong
Atheism: No shit
T.V. Evangelism: Send more shit
Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke this shit
posted by spitbull at 5:55 PM on April 10, 2012


Yes, what empath says. I can assure you that I was not raised in my Roman Catholic schooling to believe that Methusaleh literally lived for 969 years, or that the Earth was created in six 24-hour days. There was a lot of talk about the Bible in terms of "metaphors" and "the essential spiritual truth, which is not the same as secular history."
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:04 PM on April 10, 2012


"This whole discussion reminds of this old joke, still sorta funny:"

That is ... really terrible. Why would you post something so incorrect and hateful?
posted by Blasdelb at 7:37 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sure it was meant to lighten the mood, but nothing about it is good, and the Islam one I think is just the most pernicious kind of stereotype.
posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on April 10, 2012


Ick. I just skimmed it the first time, didn't notice the Islam thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:18 PM on April 10, 2012


Considering Mr. MoonPie's comment, I'm bowing out of further conversation on the topic. Hopefully I've responded to you adequately, empath. If not, and you have further points to discuss, feel free to memail me.
posted by zarq at 8:49 PM on April 10, 2012


... if there's anything for you to learn from this discussion, it's that many of us smart, educated, curious, open-minded people do not think that sort of distinction is important.

That you think it's important is clear, and interesting and significant. But we don't, and it doesn't matter how important it is to you that we do. It doesn't matter to me how deeply you feel that difference, how eloquently and passionately you make your case.


Right. The other people are all alike. And if they start running their mouth about something, we have to put them in their place. Good job, MrMoonPie!

This doesn't come across as "smart, educated, curious and open-minded". It comes across as ignorant, incurious, bigoted and arrogant. I don't think telling members of ethnic minorities on the site we don't give a shit about their cultural traditions, we don't care what they think or have to say about them, and that they should shut up, makes MetaFilter a better place. You do not speak for all MeFites when you say this.


And we had this response when somebody with a South Asian background tried to comment in a thread about atheism recently:

Dude, this is a post about atheism in AMERICA. Which in large part has surfaced recently to counter religion in AMERICA.

Yay, MetaFilter! Yay, diversity!
posted by nangar at 10:39 PM on April 10, 2012


Yay, MetaFilter! Yay, diversity!

Well but here's the problem.... There are things that offend people here sometimes. And trying to unpack that sort of thing and talk about them is what we do here. And if someone says "Hey this offends me" and someone else says "It doesn't offend me" that's a difference of opinion and we talk about it which is what happened here. We didn't see that comment in the atheism thread until right now.

zarq's last comment was half a day after MrMoonPie's and I think he was more referring to MMP's saying that he was "splitting hairs" not MrMoonPie's statement that people who are deeply offended by this sort of thing shouldn't be no the internet. At some level if the way you feel about a certain post or topic makes you uncomfortable or offended, then you can explain what's up to the community and the moderators but when you've reached a point of "well we're going to have to agree to disagree on this" that may be when you take further discussion about the finer points of that topic to email.

With a community of several thousand active users everyone's got to sort of know when to say when as far as discussing their own personal responses to a post or a comment. zarq made over 15% of the comments in this thread, this seems like a good point to step back and make sure that other people in the community can talk about this topic also.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:00 AM on April 11, 2012


Is there some sort of quota on comments? If zarq posts a lot of comments, does that mean other people are prevented from commenting? If so, this is the first I've ever heard of it.

Sorry; it just kind of bugs me when people's comments are tallied up and the numbers are used as a reason to discuss why they should stop talking. I guess it's different when mods do it; I guess it's part of your job. I don't know.
posted by koeselitz at 7:20 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not, at all, saying he should stop talking. He already did say he was stopping talking and I'm suggesting that is because he wisely decided that the narrow topic that he and empath were discussing might be better handled over MeMail.

The community spaces are for everyone. Some people participate a lot and some people participate less and some people just lurk. If the spaces are perceived as belonging "more" to certain people because they comment on every topic or discuss at length how the topic affects them and aren't particularly interactive with other users [not talking about zarq at this point and I have no quibble with him] then that becomes a community issue.

Of course there's no quota. We ask and sometimes remind people to be mindful that their own intense participation can sometimes inhibit other people from participating. This is a known conversational thing, not specific to MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:26 AM on April 11, 2012


jessamyn: "zarq's last comment was half a day after MrMoonPie's

Yes. But I also responded directly to him a scant four minutes after he commented.

and I think he was more referring to MMP's saying that he was "splitting hairs" not MrMoonPie's statement that people who are deeply offended by this sort of thing shouldn't be no the internet.

Yes. However, I was actually referring to his entire comment, not just the "splitting hairs" sentiment.

To clarify: I was told that "smart, educated, curious and open-minded people" -- a subset of Mefites to which I apparently do not belong -- disagree with me. And that my opinions on the topic are therefore invalid, no matter how I state them. Because Judaism is a religion, and therefore criticising it on the same level as all other religions is appropriate -- irrespective of any differences I might point out, because doing so is splitting hairs.

Which means participating in these discussions in the future is useless. If my comments are going to be dismissed no matter what I say, even if intended to correct the plethora of misconceptions about my religion that seem to crop up on Mefi on a regular basis, why bother?

Honestly, I would have just stopped after his comment and my response, but continued to engage empath and miko yesterday because I felt dropping out of the conversation abruptly would have been rude. And now I've brought that to a close and invited empath to take the discussion to memail if he chooses. I memailed Miko about it yesterday.

zarq made over 15% of the comments in this thread, this seems like a good point to step back and make sure that other people in the community can talk about this topic also."

Yes. But since you brought it up, I'd like to also note that most of my comments in this thread were responses to comments directed to me.
posted by zarq at 7:41 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most MeFites, whether believers or not, come from a Christian background and live in a society where Christianity is the dominant religion. We're told over and over in threads like this one that only Christianity and skepticism about Christian religious claims are worth discussing, that only Christian definitions of what it means to be religious are relevant to discussions of religion, and people from other cultural backgrounds, as well as people with some sort of knowledge or interest in other cultures or traditions, should shut up.

In this case, we're being told that differences between Christianity and Judaism are irrelevant, and only Christian and Christian-atheist perspectives matter, even when we're talking about a Jewish holiday.

I do, in fact, object to this attitude. And I think to the extent efforts to get people who have different perspectives to shut up are successful, it makes MetaFilter a less interesting place.
posted by nangar at 8:48 AM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


jessamyn, is there a decent chance you would have deleted the "this is a post about atheism in AMERICA" comment if you'd seen it shortly after it was posted?
posted by nangar at 8:52 AM on April 11, 2012


I have no idea and no real way of answering that question several weeks later.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2012


jessamyn, is there a decent chance you would have deleted the "this is a post about atheism in AMERICA" comment if you'd seen it shortly after it was posted?

To be clear, the "this is a post about atheism in AMERICA" comment was a direct response, in a post about atheists marching in DC, to being told that "it would be nice if you weren't so provincial". Why do you think that should be deleted? Are people not allowed to point out that their "provincial" views on religion are, in fact, on topic?

Using terms like "Christian-atheist perspectives" isn't helpful, either -- that actually means something, and not what you think it does.
posted by vorfeed at 9:46 AM on April 11, 2012


If my comments are going to be dismissed no matter what I say, even if intended to correct the plethora of misconceptions about my religion that seem to crop up on Mefi on a regular basis, why bother?

You could probably start by not spreading misconceptions about Christianity while you're correcting misconceptions about your own religion. You'd be on surer footing, at least.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


When it comes to contentious Judaism-related conversations, I tend to let zarq speak for me whenever possible, because he is very good at encapsulating the issue at stake concisely, clearly, and without losing his temper, all of which I am not all that good at. If I had realized that the prevailing attitude Is that "this poster has X posts in this thread and should now step back and let other people talk," when no other people with the same mindset are coming forward, I would have tried to participate more. Can you just assign half of his comments to me in retrospect?

The issue here, as far as I see it, is this. While it is absolutely true that there are branches of Christianity that do not believe the entire bible must be taken literally, the prevailing notion seems to be that that is the case. Whereas in Judaism, the opposite is true - while there are branches that take everything literally, the prevailing opinion is that even when something is believed to be the word of G-d, it is still seen as open to multiple interpretations or outright metaphor. This may sound like splitting hairs, but the post that is up for debate is about Judaism, not Christianity, so using a Christian or pan-religious yardstick to measure how to interpret what is or is not offensive, is actually offensive in and of itself. Saying "it all comes down to an imaginary sky fairy, so who cares if the believers in the pink fairy version are offended if someone points out there is no sky fairy of any color at all?" is simply missing the point.

I may be the most observant Jew answering on this Meta, and even I was saying that I was offended in how the post was put together and when it was posted - NOT that it had no merit or should not be posted at all, just that it needed to be more nuanced. That taking one viewpoint and making it stand for the entire religion, backed up by poor sources and a quote from to what amounts to a personal opinion piece, is not something that should be framed as Here's what you [Jews] need to know about the Passover seders and the haggadah - and especially not on the actual holiday.

I wouldn't even characterize this debate as "don't offend the religious Jews". As others have mentioned, religious people of all faiths have plenty to be offended by here, particularly in religion and atheism -related threads, and most of us keep coming back. But I do think that when someone chooses to take on a controversial subject, balance and nuance are important in the framing of the post or else it's not significantly different from pot-stirring. Is that really so contentious an idea?
posted by Mchelly at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, because I think this should be spelled out: if you used the word "Christian-atheist" to describe anyone who did not identify as such in front of me, that'd be the end of the conversation.

This may come as a shock to you, but many atheists who "live in a society where Christianity is the dominant religion" were not raised as Christians, and therefore do not have a "Christian-atheist" perspective, just as Muslims raised as Muslims in America don't have Christian-Muslim perspectives. Even atheists who do "come from a Christian background" do not necessarily have a "Christian-atheist perspective", any more than Pagans or Buddhists who come from a Christian background have Christian-Pagan or Christian-Buddhist perspectives. The mere fact that someone grew up as a Christian or in a majority-Christian culture does not mean you get to paste the word Christian onto their perspective as an adult.

This is a bullshit thing to say, especially while lecturing others about diversity.
posted by vorfeed at 10:31 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that what nangar meant by "Christian-atheist perspectives"? I thought that was meant as a description of the perspectives with relation to the differences between Christians and Atheists. Like "black-white perspectives" or "Christian-Muslim perspectives." You (vorfeed) seem to be reading it as singular, and as equivalent to "African-American perspective," that is, the perspective of a person that is both an African and an American. But I'm skeptical that nangar was saying that any one person has a "Christian-atheist perspective;" isn't that why he used the plural?
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 AM on April 11, 2012


While it is absolutely true that there are branches of Christianity that do not believe the entire bible must be taken literally, the prevailing notion seems to be that that is the case

The Catholic church is about half the Christians in the world. They either neither literalist, nor fundamentalist. So, no, it is not the prevailing notion.
posted by empath at 10:52 AM on April 11, 2012


One Third of Americans believe the bible is literally true.
posted by empath at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2012

Here's what you [Jews] need to know about the Passover seders and the haggadah
Actually, it was "Here's what you we [Jews] need to know about the Passover seders and the haggadah."
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:09 AM on April 11, 2012


I guess I'm not done here after all. Would have preferred that you take this to memail, empath but since you've decided not to, I'll answer you here, then bow out again so as not to monopolize the thread.

empath: " You could probably start by not spreading misconceptions about Christianity while you're correcting misconceptions about your own religion. You'd be on surer footing, at least."

Yes. However, see this part of mchelly's comment:

"While it is absolutely true that there are branches of Christianity that do not believe the entire bible must be taken literally, the prevailing notion seems to be that that is the case. Whereas in Judaism, the opposite is true - while there are branches that take everything literally, the prevailing opinion is that even when something is believed to be the word of G-d, it is still seen as open to multiple interpretations or outright metaphor. "

Around 30% of Christians in this country are some flavor of evangelical. They are the ones who push a religious agenda into legislatures and school boards. Catholics pretty much founded the anti-abortion movement in this country which, when forced into legislation, pushes their religious beliefs on non-adherents. Catholics and conservative Christians have been a primary motivating force behind the pro-life movement's anti-abortion lobby since Roe vs. Wade. American Catholic clergy were a large part of the movement's initial push in the 70's, through the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Family Life Bureau.

empath, whether you like it or not, whether you choose to admit it or not, they are the prevailing face of Christianity in this country -- especially to non-Christians, because we're the ones who are adversely affected by their efforts to force their religion on us.

That's what I was referring to. That's what I believe mchelly was conveying.

Mchelly: "without losing his temper,"

Unfortunately... regrettably, I lose my temper here more frequently than I would like. Did so earlier in this thread. But, thank you. Very much.

vorfeed: "Actually, because I think this should be spelled out: if you used the word "Christian-atheist" to describe anyone who did not identify as such in front of me, that'd be the end of the conversation. "

Since I'm apparently still here, would you mind clarifying a small, hopefully reasonable point for me?

Would the term 'Jewish-atheist' be acceptable? I ask because I have plenty of friends who identify as Jewish Atheists, who remain close to their Jewish culture and heritage, but are secular Jews.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on April 11, 2012


Actually, it was "Here's what you we [Jews] need to know about the Passover seders and the haggadah."

Unless/until Metafilter relaunches itself as a site by and for Jews, I'll keep assuming that all FPPs are aimed at people of all religions (as well as none). That the poster may also have been Jewish is irrelevant. A rabbi can make a religious pronouncement on behalf of the religion (with the understanding that not everyone will accept that pronouncement or even his/her own credentials for making it). That's because being a rabbi is not considered a holy/sacred role - it's a knowledge set (like a PhD). A layperson does not have the same credentials and can only be considered to be speaking for him or herself. My apologies if DMD is actually a rabbi. If he/she is, I am willing to remove some of my objections to the post (though not all - the supporting links are still weak).

This is, of course, only my own opinion :)
posted by Mchelly at 11:21 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


empath, whether you like it or not, whether you choose to admit it or not, they are the prevailing face of Christianity in this country -- especially to non-Christians, because we're the ones who are adversely affected by their efforts to force their religion on us.

Look, as an atheist, I'm in the most disliked group in the country, so I know all about people trying to force religion on me. I don't even tell people I'm an atheist unless I'm in the mood for an argument. I get where you're coming from, but people being assholes over religion isn't unique to fundamentalists or Christians. They just happen to be the ones in the majority in the US.
posted by empath at 11:22 AM on April 11, 2012


vorfeed, I do know what the term "Christian atheist" means, and I agree that I shouldn't have used it here, since obviously I meant it in a different sense, and it could be misleading.

I do stand by what I said, though. Christianity has its own way of defining itself as a religion, and what it means to be religious. Most atheists in the US, whether or not they were raised Christian, are almost completely ignorant about other religions, and accept Christianity's assumption about what religion is and what being religious means as the definition of religion, and assume that Christian assumption and concepts apply to all religions.

This is relevant to this conversation, because Christians believe in the idea of "salvation by faith". This is a specifically Christian concept not shared by a lot of other religions. So, while questioning the historical background of an important ritual can be contentious, its not actually sinful not to believe it the way it would by for be a lot of Christians.

This also gets us conversations where religions that diverge to far from Christianity's definition of itself are denounced by atheists as not being real religions.
posted by nangar at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look, as an atheist, I'm in the most disliked group in the country,

Cite please.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2012


(and I don't even mean cite that you're in the most disliked group. A simple cite of a poll showing people dislike atheists would be good.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:30 AM on April 11, 2012


Cite please.

This study (warning, PDF) is from 2006.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:46 AM on April 11, 2012


The abstract of the study:
Despite the declining salience of divisions among religious groups, the boundary between believers and nonbelievers in America remains strong. This article examines the limits of Americans’ acceptance of atheists. Using new national survey data, it shows atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups. This distrust of atheists is driven by religious predictors, social location, and broader value orientations. It is rooted in moral and symbolic, rather than ethnic or material, grounds. We demonstrate that increasing acceptance of religious diversity does not extend to the nonreligious, and present a
theoretical framework for understanding the role of religious belief in providing a moral basis for cultural membership and solidarity in an otherwise highly diverse society.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:49 AM on April 11, 2012


To be clear, the "this is a post about atheism in AMERICA" comment was a direct response, in a post about atheists marching in DC, to being told that "it would be nice if you weren't so provincial".

The person that comment was responding to had taken issue with some of the rhetoric in the thread, and Hitchens. (He completely endorsed the march itself.)
This conception of religion is rooted in a very specific, very local notion of divinity. It is by no means universal, and while it may be the one with which you are most familiar and the one with the most local impact on your life, it would be nice if you weren't so provincial. It would have been nice if Hitchens wasn't either ...
He also pointed out that science and skepticism weren't exclusively European phenomena, and didn't appear out of nowhere in the European Enlightenment.

It would have been nice if the commenter had addressed his criticism of Hitchens, if he disagreed with it, rather than telling him he had no right to express an opinion because of his ethnic background.
posted by nangar at 12:37 PM on April 11, 2012


I admit I haven't read that Reason Rally thread as carefully as I could have, but I don't see anyone referencing Errant's ethnicity. Where do you see that?
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:25 PM on April 11, 2012


empath: "I get where you're coming from, but people being assholes over religion isn't unique to fundamentalists or Christians. They just happen to be the ones in the majority in the US."

I could be wrong about this, but think it's a deeper problem than "well, Christians happen to be the ones in the majority." I think that part of it is a protected status that certain Christian sects enjoy in this country. And I think that another part is a certain set of Christian (not strictly American) cultural values -- that also may not be held by all sects.

I said this earlier, but am going to repeat it to expand upon it a little: some of the largest Christian sects in this country are aggressively involved in pushing their beliefs on the rest of us: Catholics and abortion / women's reproductive rights. Catholics and a number of Protestant sects on gay marriage. Baptists and other sects on forcing creationism / so-called "intelligent" design into school curricula. Etc., etc.

This is not to say that all Christians or Christian sects do that. I want to make absolutely sure this is clear: Christianity and its followers are no more monolithic than Judaism or Jews are. But the Christian sects that do this stuff enjoy broad support from their followers, and do not seem to have non-fringe counterparts in other religious groups -- Jews, Muslims, etc. Instead, American Jews seem most interested in lobbying for Israel and protecting their own civil liberties. CAIR and other Muslim organizations also seem most interested in protecting their own civil liberties. Not imposing them on everyone else, just making sure their rights aren't taken away.

Perhaps that's part of being a minority -- your priorities are different. Perhaps if Jews (for example) were a majority religion in the US, we'd be seeing lobbying efforts on par with Christian ones. I don't know. But we're already over-represented in Congress and it hasn't happened yet. Seems unlikely to.

Also, you could totally be right about the majority thing, too -- Muslims in the UK have come out very strongly against gay marriage. To a far greater degree than they have here in the US. You're absolutely right as well that people being assholes over religion aren't unique to fundamentalists or Christians. But here and now, it's pretty easy to accurately identify which subsets of groups are an overriding problem.

Anyway, I am, for once and for all, bowing out of this conversation the way I said I would yesterday. Feel free to rebut/refute this comment as you see fit. I'm happy to let you to have the last word on the subject.
posted by zarq at 4:22 PM on April 11, 2012


Perhaps if Jews (for example) were a majority religion in the US, we'd be seeing lobbying efforts on par with Christian ones. I don't know.

It's not as if this is entirely theoretical, there are majority-Jewish polities you can actually look at to see what's happened. I'm not an expert on Israel by any means, but I do know one of my good friends had rocks thrown at him on the Sabbath when he drove near an orthodox neighborhood there. I don't think even your most conservative Christians in the US are throwing rocks at McDonalds on Sundays, even though you aren't supposed to work.
posted by empath at 6:39 PM on April 11, 2012


Perhaps that's part of being a minority -- your priorities are different. Perhaps if Jews (for example) were a majority religion in the US, we'd be seeing lobbying efforts on par with Christian ones.

I have absolutely zero doubt that that would be the case. Leadership dynamics and priority stting are entirely different for a majority than for a minority. Majorities set the agenda - you may say they do so within limits constrained by expressions of minority power, but they do still set the agenda, and others can only react and re-organize around the majority and attempt to oppose or redirect the agenda by peeling off and aligning with friendlier segments.

Christianity, taken broadly and lumping together its various forms, is the dominant belief system in this country. Not saying it should be, but it is; and because of the sheer numbers, many Christian groups that might be fringey in particular alienating ways can form coalitions on particular hot-button issues which cross many denominational diffrences (like abortion or gay marriage) and agree on advancing a particular political agenda that intersects with their religious projects - something the right has been very adept at using and manipulating. It doesn't take all Christians to do this, just enough to form a strong coalition. And it doesn't take only Christians, because some conservative support is nonreligious. But this problem would replicate itself no matter what religious group were dominant.

I don't know. But we're already over-represented in Congress and it hasn't happened yet. Seems unlikely to.

I don't think it has to do with proportional representation - I think it has to do with actual numerical dominance. I honestly would not expect things to be fairer, more equitable, or more peaceful in a nation dominated by Muslims or Jews or Hindus, just on the face of knowing the religious denomination in power - I mean, we can look around the world and easily see the varieties of governance these dominances produce. I am given no confidence that dominance from any religious majority produces superior governance.

What produces a fair and just civil society is not this or that religion, or this or that kind of dominance, but civic values that are agreed by all to transcend religious values in the public spere.

As long as that idea is contested or undermined we remain fucked, regardless of who is in the majority.
posted by Miko at 7:09 PM on April 11, 2012


Would the term 'Jewish-atheist' be acceptable? I ask because I have plenty of friends who identify as Jewish Atheists, who remain close to their Jewish culture and heritage, but are secular Jews.

Of course. This isn't about what people choose to call themselves. That's why I mentioned "identify as". Painting people who "come from an X background and live in a society where X is the dominant religion" as X-dash-what-they-actually-identify-as is another matter entirely... and, as petty little slurs go, is unimaginative to boot.

I do stand by what I said, though. Christianity has its own way of defining itself as a religion, and what it means to be religious. Most atheists in the US, whether or not they were raised Christian, are almost completely ignorant about other religions, and accept Christianity's assumption about what religion is and what being religious means as the definition of religion, and assume that Christian assumption and concepts apply to all religions.

First of all, the first major poll on American religious knowledge showed that most Americans, period, are somewhat ignorant about religion, up to and including their own religion (this poll also showed that atheists and agnostics are actually the single most knowledgeable group in the country overall, and are particularly knowledgeable with regard to world religion... doesn't really jibe with being "almost completely ignorant", does it?) Likewise, I suspect that most people around the world have a rather shallow understanding of comparative religious belief, other than perhaps their own and the kinds they encounter every day. The fact that you developed this stereotype about American atheists -- as opposed to, you know, Americans, or people in general -- says much more about you than about American atheists.

Second, your entire line of argument is about as valid as "but most feminists are man-haters" and "but most [insert ethnic minority here] are reverse-racists". Even if your stereotype about The Kinds Of Nasty Arguments Those People Make were the literal, factual truth, all it would do is dismiss a minority group based on the perceived distastefulness of an argument which is being expressed by (some of) its members, without examining either the argument itself or the atmosphere of privilege that argument exists in. Except that you seem to be using that same atmosphere of overwhelming privilege as the reason why American atheists are supposedly bad, which strikes me as an even more advanced bit of blame-shifting jiu-jitsu.
posted by vorfeed at 7:41 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not an expert on Israel by any means, but I do know one of my good friends had rocks thrown at him on the Sabbath when he drove near an orthodox neighborhood there. I don't think even your most conservative Christians in the US are throwing rocks at McDonalds on Sundays, even though you aren't supposed to work.

I'm confused by what point you're trying to make here. The link is to an article about the Knesset potentially moving to make the law less religiously slanted. Public transportation hasn't run on the sabbath since Israel was founded, and now they may be finding a way to accommodate it. The law was actually designed to keep transit workers who didn't want to break the sabbath from being forced or coerced to work that shift. And rock throwing may be a despicable act of some fundamentalists, but it's also illegal and absolutely punished when the perpetrators are caught. Israel is a Jewish homeland, but it's not a theocracy.

Meanwhile, American Christians may not throw rocks at sabbath-breakers, but last I checked they were still well ahead of the game in killing abortion doctors, gay kids, and the occasional Muslim.

Fundamentalist sociopaths exist in every religion, unfortunately. But there's still a difference between a bunch of yahoos and the Taliban. But for the Religious Right, which has made it part of their platform that the US is a Christian Nation, and should be passing laws accordingly, that separation seems to be eroding rapidly.
posted by Mchelly at 7:59 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I share some of your concern, Mchelly, yet we are still quite a long way from the Taliban. That's a bit of hyperbole. And you can find hate crimes in societies led by all major religions. I say this not to excuse the crimes but to note that no major religious group can claim to be entirely without sin here.
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on April 11, 2012


I'm confused by what point you're trying to make here. The link is to an article about the Knesset potentially moving to make the law less religiously slanted.

Which tells you what about the law as it is now?

That when Jews established a Jewish state, they implemened laws based on the Jewish religion. The fact that they are trying to make them less religious now means that they are currently religious.

Zarq was saying that there is something inherently different about Christianity that causes them to enforce their religious codes on others. A quick look at israel can tell you that it's not the case. And that's not even getting into the bad crazy of the settlements.

Religion is religion, and all of them have the same problems to different degrees.
posted by empath at 8:45 PM on April 11, 2012


The inherent difference is that Christianity (in general, and centuries of history backs this up regardless that yes there are adherents who do not agree) believes it is justified to make laws that non-Christians must obey regardless of what their own faiths teach. That is why they have no problem passing laws protecting "unborn souls" from abortion even when the mother's life is in danger, despite the fact that my religion says that if I were in that situation I would be religiously required to have that abortion and that the unborn don't have souls. Judaism believes the Torah laws aimed at Jews are only aimed at Jews, and non-Jews are under no obligation to obey them. So Israel isn't making laws that say you can't work on the Jewish sabbath. You can work, sell non-kosher food, drive, take a taxi, run your own bus service, all of it.

Shutting down mass transit is an accommodation for the religious that causes an inconvenience for non-Jews (and maybe even a hardship, but in a country where a large number of people hitchhike I'm not sure that's even apt), but that is not the same as passing a law that makes it illegal for non-Jews (or even Jews) to travel on the Jewish sabbath. Most cities shut down their transit systems some hours of the night or week. It's a pain in the butt when you're the one who wants to use it, but I think calling it religious intolerance is pushing it.
posted by Mchelly at 10:27 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This study (warning, PDF) is from 2006.

I'll be darned. Well cited.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:49 PM on April 11, 2012


I do stand by what I said, though. Christianity has its own way of defining itself as a religion, and what it means to be religious. Most atheists in the US, whether or not they were raised Christian, are almost completely ignorant about other religions, and accept Christianity's assumption about what religion is and what being religious means as the definition of religion, and assume that Christian assumption and concepts apply to all religions.

I feel obliged to counter your (unevidenced) statements about what American atheists know with my first-person anecdote. I was brought up in Canada by American parents without regular exposure to any religion. My atheism is part of my overall disbelief in the supernatural - I'm basically a physicalist. I'm made of meat, my "self" is an emergent property of the organization and chemistry of my meat, and when my meat dies, my self is irretrievably gone. The universe is made of matter and energy (some of which may be beyond our senses, but which are not immune to sensing, detecting, measuring), and it behaves according to rational laws (some of which might be beyond our current understanding but which are not unknowable).

I don't accept dualism, souls, spirits, immeasurable life-forces, insensible auras, afterlives, reincarnation, luck, magic, psychic powers, invisible beings (transparent yes, invisible no), omniscience, omnipotence, or eternality - and Christianity is the very least of it. I grant I don't know all religions, but I have yet to encounter the religion that doesn't require something supernatural (souls, mostly).
posted by gingerest at 11:06 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The inherent difference is that Christianity (in general, and centuries of history backs this up regardless that yes there are adherents who do not agree) believes it is justified to make laws that non-Christians must obey regardless of what their own faiths teach.

First, I don't know of any religious faith with the power of government that doesn't do this. Have you travelled in the Arab World? I know exactly which countries I want and don't want to be a woman in. And here are some examples from Israel, in which secular citizens complain about the religious structures imposed on them by written and de facto law.

Second, "Christianity" doesn't necessarily believe it is justified to make law others must obey; some Christians believe that, though. Let's break it down a little in the case of abortion, which you bring up.

Though I personally deplore this, the challenges by right-wing Christians to abortion are not only religiously based. This is the inherent problem with the perennial discussion and the reason it ends up in courts of law and legislatures. They claim (often spuriously, but the claim itself is legitimate) to be challenging abortion based on a concern with civil law regarding the beginning of life. They raise the question "at what point does state interest in a fetus outweigh the mother's freedom to end a pregnancy?" Once that question is posed, the only remaining question is where you set the slider along the continuum.

And it is a legitimate question which is open for debate, as the only tests prior to birth about the point of life's beginning are epistemological ones. There is no empirical, scientific point before which we can all agree there is no individual life and after which we can agree there is. The outermost point on that continuum is birth, at which we finally all agree we have a legal independent person. But before that, we don't agree. Your religion posits one idea of when that happens, theirs posits another, mine perhaps a third.

Therefore it's a civil judgment call as to whether and when we determine there is a legal life to be protected, and the state, claiming material interest in the question, has currently empowered itself to make that judgment. The original Roe v. Wade compromise, in fact, rests on this idea of state interest in the outcome of a pregnancy, with state interest increasing by trimester (admittedly arbitrary but at least a progressive structure). That has now morphed into state interest ramping up at the age of viability, also a debatable construct.

So though some anti-abortion Christians are motivated by their religious conviction that an individual life begins at the moment of conception, in the public sphere they express this conviction by applying legal constructs of personhood and murder to the scenario. Those are legitimate things for the law to concern itself with, and it is possible to consider these questions from a secular perspective, which means that these Christians can both make religious and civil arguments against abortion, and it's up to all of us who disagree to deal with the question as a civil argument - something we who are pro-abortion-rights are not actually that great at doing.

These kinds of conservative Christians right now have done a lot to advance their religious agenda through civil law. It doesn't follow that US law actually empowers Christians specifically to set the foundations of law. It allows them to use the democratic process to advance their agenda, and with great skill and coordination and strength of numbers, that is exactly what they are doing. The same strategies are available to those who think otherwise and want to argue for a legal perspective that takes into account religious pluralism as well as scientific and state views. The best opposition to this, as you indicate, is insistence on civil argument with pluralistic foundations. But what we have, seen from the government point of view, is a civil argument over law which intersects with varying religious perspectives, not a religious argument.

Personally, I don't think the state belongs in this question at all. Unfortunately for an argument that says a Jewish perspective would be more permissive, the only nation which does not regulate abortion by law at all is not Israel, where most requests for an abortion require the woman to appear before a committee to plead her case and many are denied; it's Canada.
posted by Miko at 7:47 AM on April 12, 2012


Though I personally deplore this, the challenges by right-wing Christians to abortion are not only religiously based.

In fact, there's a great deal of evidence that opposing abortion was a political decision made by certain denominations which either had formerly been fine with abortion. What I mean by that is that the decision wasn't religiously or theologically motivated, but was a pure political power play.
posted by empath at 8:04 AM on April 12, 2012


... and here are some examples from Israel, in which secular citizens complain about the religious structures imposed on them by written and de facto law.

Nope again. That editorial mentions how inconvenient it is for secular Jews that Jewish owned businesses are either choosing or being asked by their religious leaders not to sell beer and other leavened goods on Passover. It is not the written law on the books in Israel. There is no de facto law stopping those Jews from opening their own stores that sell leavened goods or from buying them from non-Jewish owned businesses. Arab Israelis are not seeing leavened goods disappearing from their shelves. Yes, in some majority-religious-Jewish communities they will be hard to find, just as I would be hard-pressed to find a store selling phylacteries in Zion, Utah. But that is simply not the same thing as making laws to impose your religious practices onto others, which you rightly pointed out is the case in some Middle Eastern theocracies. If the abortion debate doesn't work for you as a proof point (despite the fact that no one believed life began at conception prior to whichever nineteenth century pope first thought it up), then how about the U.S. blue laws? In many counties here even non-Christians can't open their stores on Sundays. That is a religious law defined by one religion but imposed by the government on people of all faiths (and it's not what you are describing in Israel).

I don't honestly have a dog in this particular fight when it comes to the topic at hand (what sort of Mefi posts about religious observance are fair game) - I wasn't involved in the thread when it took this turn and would not have brought it up if I had been. But last I checked the discussion wasn't whether Christianity was somehow unique in imposing its religious views on others, which yes, of course, any look at the papers will show happens across the religious spectrum (and which I am not defending in Israel, only trying to explicate the difference between popular coercion and state law). It was whether it was appropriate to use a Christian approach to defining biblical truth in a discussion about a Jewish text. And how the underlying differences between Christianity and Judaism make the answer an emphatic no.
posted by Mchelly at 9:24 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


vorfeed, I'm familiar with the poll you cited. It does indicate that religious minorities in the US, including atheists, are more knowledgeable about regions than Christians, that is, they know about their own tradition and the dominant religion, Christianity. Christians tend to just know about their own religion. The thing is I didn't claim that American atheists are more ignorant about minority religions than Christians, I claimed that they're generally ignorant of religions besides Christianity.

This is a side effect of living in a culture where there is single dominant religion. I don't think that American atheists are less knowledgeable about religions other than Christianity, or the differences between religions, than Americans in general.

Second, your entire line of argument is about as valid as "but most feminists are man-haters" ...

This is not an argument against atheism. My own views are actually very similar to gingerest's. From saying that most American atheists know little about religions other than Christianity, and that the differences between religions are relevant when we're discussing religions, it does not follow that the God, or gods, of Christianity or any other religion exist, or that the beliefs of Christianity or any other religion are true.

I am not arguing that atheists are bad people. I am arguing that it's a bad thing when we tell people who are not part of the dominant ethnic culture on MetaFilter, whether they're believers of some sort or not, that their concerns, perspectives and opinions are irrelevant because they're not part of of the dominant culture and that they should shut up. It's particularly galling when we tell members of a minority culture that they have nothing meaningful to say when we're actually discussing their culture.

This is by no means limited to threads about religion on MeFi. It's a bad thing regardless of whether the people doing it are religious believers or atheists, and regardless of what types of threads it occurs in.
posted by nangar at 10:06 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am arguing that it's a bad thing when we tell people who are not part of the dominant ethnic culture on MetaFilter, whether they're believers of some sort or not, that their concerns, perspectives and opinions are irrelevant because they're not part of of the dominant culture and that they should shut up.
No one has done that, or anything like that. This is a classic straw-man argument--you've misrepresented your opposition's arguments in terms that are easy to refute. You can't get away with that on Metafilter.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:31 AM on April 12, 2012


Then refute them.
posted by nangar at 10:34 AM on April 12, 2012


MrMoonPie: "No one has done that, or anything like that. "

That is very similar to one of the sentiments I took from your comment. You didn't tell me to shut up. But you did say that my take on the differences between my minority religion and Christianity are essentially valueless to "many of us smart, educated, curious, open-minded people" no matter how I might express them.

If that is not what you intended to say, please clarify.
posted by zarq at 10:45 AM on April 12, 2012


I said your take on the differences between your minority religion and Christianity is clear, and interesting and significant. I also said your take on the differences between your minority religion and Christianity is essentially unconvincing to many of us smart, educated, curious, open-minded people no matter how you might express it.

I said that you aren't convincing anyone that Judaism is essentially different from other religions, and that your failure is due neither to to your eloquence and evidence, nor to your audience's stupidity, ignorance, and close-mindedness.

You, clearly, do not believe me.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:02 AM on April 12, 2012


MrMoonPie: " You, clearly, do not believe me."

No, I clearly did not understand you. That was really, really not what I took from your comment.

Thank you for clarifying.
posted by zarq at 11:03 AM on April 12, 2012


There is no de facto law stopping those Jews from opening their own stores

...That is what de facto means. It means that though it may not be written law, it's the reality.

In no other country are there streets without buses and tracks without trains on the Sabbath. No other airline but El Al sits idle one day a week. Cold platters on the Sabbath in hospitals and hotels are also something not seen elsewhere. Roads on pillars because of ancient burial sites - a kind of pagan ritual to those on the outside looking in - and the separation in certain buses of men and women are also unknown in democratic countries. Religion has never been separate from the state here; hand in hand they oversee our way of life.

That's nothing other than de facto religious law. Which I would say is about the same thing you are complaining about in the US, but, it seems to me, even more religiously influenced and even more powerful in Israel. And what about things like the abortion situation - requiring committee review - or this note that only clergy are empowered to end marriages in Israel, and what about that interfaith marriages are not allowed for Jews? If that's not religious law, I don't know what religious law looks like.

then how about the U.S. blue laws? In many counties here even non-Christians can't open their stores on Sundays.

These laws probably do mostly have their origin in religion and in statutes dating back often well more than a century. But today, where blue laws remain on the books, the motivation is primarily economic. For instance, not long ago there was a push for Connecticut to allow liquor sales on Sundays. Who opposed it? Liquor stores. Their reasoning was that overall sales were not likely to increase, as drinkers drink X amount of booze regardless of when they buy it, yet their business costs would indeed increase as they had to open and staff the store on a 7th day. In other communities it comes down to a quality of life issue, in which residents like having one day during which commercial traffic is reduced. It's also a bulwark for local merchants against big box stores (which won't build unless they can get 7 days of business). Business hours are regulated by law in just about all communities, and whether stores have to close by 9 every evening, can open Sundays, can't open Sundays, etc., is a matter, also, of civil law - not of a religious authority established in state power dictating it. If a group of citizens wants to challenge and change the blue laws, they can try to do so, and they do so through civil courts or civil legislation, not by appealing to a religious authority.
posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on April 12, 2012


Yes, MrMoonPie, I did read your comment as meaning something like 'nobody cares what Jews think here'. I apologize. Thanks for replying. (I still disagree with you, though. I do think differences between Christianity and Judaism are relevant to this conversation.)
posted by nangar at 2:13 PM on April 12, 2012


But last I checked the discussion wasn't whether Christianity was somehow unique in imposing its religious views on others...It was whether it was appropriate to use a Christian approach to defining biblical truth in a discussion about a Jewish text. And how the underlying differences between Christianity and Judaism make the answer an emphatic no.

I don't agree that that was what the argument was about. I think that's a stance you personally took in an argument about holiday posts on MetaFilter and whether critical posts are appropriate and, if so, when. Unfortunately, you also brought in an erroneous comparison with Christianity which then made it hard not to talk about Christianity. But I certainly haven't been interested in "defining Biblical truth" for anyone, and wouldn't attempt to - my only mention of the Bible was to support my statement to zarq that Christians differ on the nature of religious texts.

I've reread your comments and I'm not sure where you talk about this "Christian approach." if anything, I'm approaching from the 'civil-society' point of view; or as stoat put it, in order to determine if a post critical of a particular holiday is offensive, "one would have to ask if any post about a faith or a during that faith's holiday" could be offensive. In other words, we look for a general principle, and not a religiously specific approach. is there something special about the time of holiday observance that makes critical posts about that holiday unacceptable?

MetaFilter as a body seems not to hold that value as a general shared value, at least so far, regardless of religious alignment or absence thereof. So I'm not sure you can equate the overall sensibility with a "Christian approach" - what many people are looking for is a general approach which treats all religious-holiday posts which don't otherwise break the guidelines with an equivalent degree of acceptability, while you seem to be arguing for a religiously specific approach ("No posts about Passover on or around Passover, the rest of you do what you want"). Maybe I'm wrong about that but that is the reading I'm getting from your comments.
posted by Miko at 2:27 PM on April 12, 2012


Business hours are regulated by law in just about all communities, and whether stores have to close by 9 every evening, can open Sundays, can't open Sundays, etc., is a matter, also, of civil law - not of a religious authority established in state power dictating it. If a group of citizens wants to challenge and change the blue laws, they can try to do so, and they do so through civil courts or civil legislation, not by appealing to a religious authority.

But it just so happens that in North America and Europe, if there's a day they can't open, it's the Christian Sabbath, or Christmas, or Easter -- not the holidays for any other religion. Even in the so-called secular countries.
posted by jeather at 3:51 PM on April 12, 2012


I'm not Jewish (culturally, I mean; we've already covered my religious beliefs) and I'm no expert on Judaism. But given the many different ways that Christianity and Islam express themselves in the nations they dominate (Protestant v. Catholic v. Orthodox countries; Iran pre- and post-1979), I think it's unfair to generalise about how Judaism necessarily expresses itself legislatively based on lone Israel. There are Orthodox organizations that reject the whole concept of Israel (or any homeland) because their interpretation of the Torah is that diaspora is essential to the Covenant. Reform Judaism had an anti-Zionist branch from the start. So I don't think the way Israel imposes religious strictures on its citizenship (or the way its religious strictures affect its foreign policy) is necessarily representative of Judaism.

There's a small but powerful branch of US Christianity called Reconstructionism, which literally seeks to convert the entire world to Christianity under government by Biblical law. No matter what you think about Israel, there's no equivalent in Judaism.
posted by gingerest at 4:33 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But it just so happens that in North America and Europe, if there's a day they can't open, it's the Christian Sabbath, or Christmas, or Easter -- not the holidays for any other religion. Even in the so-called secular countries.

Well, yes, I don't contest that basic note, even though it's not always true in places where Christians are the minority. I absolutely acknowledge that the blue laws date back to times when Christianity was even more dominant than today and was absolutely the default religion for almost the entire populace. It's not as though there was never and is never a religious dimension to the decision to close one day a week and the choice of day. But today, the link between church attendance/Sabbath observance and business closure is pretty much broken, and we continue through mostly force of habit and the economic tensions I mentioned. This is all rapidly fading away anyhow.

So I don't think the way Israel imposes religious strictures on its citizenship (or the way its religious strictures affect its foreign policy) is necessarily representative of Judaism.

I really don't think it is representative of all of Judaism either and don't meant to imply that. But for the sake if the argument that Judaism produces better ideas about government, it makes sense to look at it, since it's one - happens to be the only - nation dominated by Jewish people, or even which has a population that is more than 10% Jewish. So in the context of this argument, it's simply that it its existence and its policies in themselves refute any idea of the inherent superiority of any single religion's relationship to governance as compared with nations of other religions.

No matter what you think about Israel, there's no equivalent in Judaism.

There have definitely been theocratic Jewish movements and strains of thought, going back a very long way into the ancient world, -- the word "theocracy" was coined by a first-century Jewish historian to explain Jewish governance to non-Jews - and there are things like the Noahides which say that to achieve the equivalent of universal salvation, non-Jews have to accept and live by a particular code.

All of this is pretty academic. Ultimately I'm arguing against sectioning off a special treatment or consideration for any belief group (including mine) on or around any holiday(s) (including mine) on MeFi, barring of course evidence of the intent to troll or otherwise broken guidelines.
posted by Miko at 6:51 PM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


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