Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wearing the Frum "Costume"

Abandoning Eden used the word "costume" to describe how she was expected to dress at her parents' house (in this post) and I thought that was brilliant. For me, it's a simple matter of putting on a kippah but it still grates.

Have you noticed that Orthodox Jews think it's just basic respect to wear a kippah in their homes, but would never consider returning the favor by not wearing one in yours? Not that I'd ever ask someone to remove a kippah in my home, of course! We non-Orthodox don't need to engage in that sort of manipulation.

I've (implicitly) compromised with my parents as follows: if I'm going for a shabbat or yom tov meal, I will wear a kippah. If I'm going to frum relatives' home with them, I wear it. But if I go to my parents' house on a weeknight or something, no kippah. Everybody seems pretty okay with this situation (my parents are more tolerant than most Orthodox, luckily.) The only friction lately has been what happens if we go to a kosher restaurant together. Mostly, I've been sucking it up and wearing one so they don't have to stress about what the neighbors will think, but I hate doing it. Last time, I didn't bring one but my father brought one for me and I ended up putting it on.

But now there are two events coming up that I'm not sure about. One is an engagement party for me (and my fiancee, of course!) at their house, and the other is the wedding itself. (See How Orthodox Will My Wedding Be?)

I think I'm going to suck it up and wear it for the engagement party, which will have a lot of my parents' Orthodox friends, but it sucks to have to pretend to be frum, even just a little. I'll keep telling myself it's out of "respect," whatever that means. At the wedding, I'll wear it for the ceremony, which is Orthodox (again, out of "respect" for my parents) but I don't think I'm up to wearing it for the reception. And yet my parents' frum friends and family will be at the reception, too! My parents are going to warn everybody who needs warning that there will be mixed dancing (gasp!) and a band with a female singer (GASP!) so that should weed out the more sensitive folks already, but I'm still pretty sure my parents would want me to wear the kippah. But hey, it's my party, and I'm not wearing a damn costume.

Guess I need to have a talk with the folks.

106 comments:

Holy Hyrax said...

Hey

It's only a kippah.

Jewish Atheist said...

So why wear it?

jewish philosopher said...

“We non-Orthodox don't need to engage in that sort of manipulation.”

Why bother; wait till you are in power and then just close the synagogues and shoot the rabbis.

Anonymous said...

Because its important for your parents.

-Holy Hyax

Jewish Atheist said...

So if it's important to a baal teshuva's secular parents that he does NOT wear a kippah to the reception should he take it off?

David said...

As to the engagement party and the wedding, how it has or ought to be would depend to some extent on who is paying.

Of course, on the assumption that you are, it might still be a decent thing to do to make some concessions to your parents out of respect.

Anonymous said...

>So if it's important to a baal teshuva's secular parents that he does NOT wear a kippah to the reception should he take it off?

There is a difference. You are just nitpicking. For the chatan that IS wearing a kippah, its an integral part of him. They might as well ask him not to wear tzitzit or read the ktubah.

They realize you are not frum and that wearing one will not change anything since you don't go by frum rules, but, its for them merely a sign of respect for the occasion.

Jewish Atheist said...

For the chatan that IS wearing a kippah, its an integral part of him.

Exactly. So by wearing one "out of respect," I'm implying that it's an integral part of me... when in reality I spend hours and hours blogging as "Jewish Atheist."

Either a kippah means something or it doesn't. If it means "I'm an Orthodox Jew and I wear this as a constant reminder that God is above me," how can I wear it? Why does Orthodox integrity count but not atheistic integrity? Just because I don't believe that some all-powerful being is going to be mad that I'm wearing a kippah means I should just go along with it?

They realize you are not frum and that wearing one will not change anything since you don't go by frum rules, but, its for them merely a sign of respect for the occasion.

No it's not. It's merely a sign that they're uncomfortable with their frum friends and family seeing me without it.

Anonymous said...

>Exactly. So by wearing one "out of respect," I'm implying that it's an integral part of me... when in reality I spend hours and hours blogging as "Jewish Atheist."

Right, but since for you its all BS and wearing one will not ruin your world, BUT it will mean a whole lot to your parents, you should think of them.

>Why does Orthodox integrity count but not atheistic integrity?

Both count, but in life, as you will see when you get married, you can't always be a stickler for everything. And from reading your post, you have already worn kippot to them (so you are actually as much to blame for this as they are) and that integrity part did not play a role before because you realize ( I think) that it did not diminish your integrity but that you did a wonderful thing by respecting a simple wish of your parents.

>No it's not. It's merely a sign that they're uncomfortable with their frum friends and family seeing me without it.

Fine, so talk to them about that. But if nothing changes, a kippah every now and then won't hurt.

Jewish Atheist said...

Both count, but in life, as you will see when you get married, you can't always be a stickler for everything.

Unless you're Orthodox.

jewish philosopher said...

JA, frankly, I agree with you on this one. I am absolutely against atheists pretending to be Orthodox Jews. We must be aware of who and what you are.

BlackEyedP said...

I think that perhaps you are SO consumed by this matter that you won't even be able to be fully present at your own engagement party/wedding. It's you & your wifes special day and here you are seemingly only concerned about what your parents or their neighbors think. I say be true to yourself. If they love you for yourself, they will accept it. If you are not frum, don't wear it. It's sort of like lying, no?

jewish philosopher said...

"It's sort of like lying, no?"

Not sort of. Is.

Anonymous said...

>Unless you're Orthodox.

That comment is meaningless. OJ has more rules for a persons everyday life that don't have as much wiggle room. Secular's don't

Ezzie said...

Have you noticed that Orthodox Jews think it's just basic respect to wear a kippah in their homes, but would never consider returning the favor by not wearing one in yours?

How are those two equitable? It makes a difference to them, it doesn't to you.

Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, I've never thought that making people wear kippahs when they don't want to it a good thing. It grates, it annoys and it doesn't really accomplish what it's supposed to so why bother. Honesty is more important than wearing a costume.

Having said that, one must differentiate between the two sides in this issue. For one's frum family, there is an obligation for men to wear a head covering. For the atheist, however, there is no obligation either way. It's not like going into a church and refusing to remove a head convering in violation of their established rules. You don't have any rules for wearing or not wearing one, just a personal preference based on your beliefs. So to compare the two sides as if "Well, if they insist on wearing a kippah in my home" is totally wrong.

Anonymous said...

>It's you & your wifes special day and here you are seemingly only concerned about what your parents or their neighbors think.

Heh!

That is how ALL weddings are. Everyone one of us that have gotten married have given in a little to some demands. It is basically a final showing of respect to the parents that have taken care of you. Later on in life, while respect is still there, decisions about events (ie, birthdays, bar mitzvahs or whatever) will not be decided by your parents.

BlackEyedP said...

hmmm...I would have thought that this would be your FIRST act together as man and wife, not your final showing of respect to your parents. If you're not Orthodox, I do not understand how you could possibly have an OJ wedding. It just doesn't jive in my head. Personally, I think all of this will completely overshadow your wedding. It truly isn't supposed to be that way. Your parents have brainwashed you. Sorry. Im usually not so harsh on anyone around here (except maybe JA) but I have to agree with him on the lying thing.

BlackEyedP said...

sorry - meant to say "JP" in that last comment.

Holy Hyrax said...

>hmmm...I would have thought that this would be your FIRST act together as man and wife, not your final showing of respect to your parents.

It's both.

>If you're not Orthodox, I do not understand how you could possibly have an OJ wedding.

He's not having an OJ wedding.

>Personally, I think all of this will completely overshadow your wedding. It truly isn't supposed to be that way. Your parents have brainwashed you.

Dude, are you married? This is how all (or most) weddings are. There is a reason people advice on keeping engagement periods short. It's always hard. How is he brainwashed here?

Jewish Atheist said...

BEP:

It's sort of like lying, no?

Yes, that's exactly my concern. It makes me feel like a fraud.


Anon:

That comment is meaningless. OJ has more rules for a persons everyday life that don't have as much wiggle room. Secular's don't

Why can't our convictions be respected the same way your rules are? If I as a matter of personal integrity don't want to wear a kippah, why is that less important than your "rule" (custom?) of wearing a kippah?


Ezzie:

How are those two equitable? It makes a difference to them, it doesn't to you.

WTF? How can you read this post and say it makes no difference to me. Of course it makes a difference.


Garnel:

For the atheist, however, there is no obligation either way. It's not like going into a church and refusing to remove a head convering in violation of their established rules. You don't have any rules for wearing or not wearing one, just a personal preference based on your beliefs.

See my response to anon. Just because I don't attribute my "preferences" to a system of rules doesn't mean they're less important to me than your "obligations" are to you.

That's one of the most frustrating things about dealing with Orthodox people -- they say, oh these are our rules, so we can't compromise, but you -- your convictions are just arbitrary, so you should always give in and give us whatever we demand.

Holy Hyrax said...

> If I as a matter of personal integrity don't want to wear a kippah, why is that less important than your "rule" (custom?) of wearing a kippah?

Because it isn't. You have worn it before during shabbat. Where was your integrity then if it was so important?

>That's one of the most frustrating things about dealing with Orthodox people -- they say, oh these are our rules, so we can't compromise, but you -- your convictions are just arbitrary, so you should always give in and give us whatever we demand.

>Come on you are pretending to be frustrated. Our convictions may be arbitrary, but they are STILL governed by rules that don't have the wiggle room you have.

Should an OJ go into a church for a wedding as well? Clearly, since you do not believe in it, would have no problem either way of going in. And more than likely, you would partake in certain rituals if it came down to it (ie, hypothetically, if everyone stood for the priest, or prostrated themselves)

Holy Hyrax said...

Look, in the end, you do what you want. Things that are TRULY important to your integrity, you follow up on. This does not seem to be one that was so important to you in the past.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

I understand that OJs believe they are never allowed to break the rules, but that doesn't imply you should expect us to break our convictions just to make you feel comfortable. If anything you should be MORE understanding of our convictions.

Remember, this isn't about me asking my parents to break their rules -- I would never do that. It's about them wanting me to break mine. Yes, I've done so in the past, when I felt it was better or easier to just put on the kippah than to have a fight about it. Maybe JP's right and I should have done that. But I don't see why my being flexible implies that I *should* be flexible at times when I feel much more strongly about my convictions... such as at my own frickin' wedding.

Jewish Atheist said...

[Maybe JP's right and I should NOT have done that.]

Holy Hyrax said...

>but that doesn't imply you should expect us to break our convictions just to make you feel comfortable.

This is not about expectations. It's about simply weighing some things in your head. You clearly are not having an orthodox wedding. A kippah also has a cultural aspect to it. Dignitaries, out of respect (not their faith or lack of faith) propels them to wear a kippah at the kotel. You simply have to ask yourself if this is truly truly going to damper your wedding. Or, are you merely being contrarian and want to play on principle. Now, you can say, even an orthodox plays on principle. True. But like I said above, its about weighing things in your head and asking yourself is this a worth while time to play on those principles are simply give in this demand for your parents.

Jewish Atheist said...

Right, and that's exactly what this post is about. I've already given in on having an Orthodox rabbi and a halakhic wedding (while wearing a kippah) and now I'm thinking that I feel strongly enough about my principles to not wear one during the reception.

Holy Hyrax said...

This is for the reception???? (sorry I didn't pick up on that)

I did not realize that. Well that is something different then.

I would say its nice to do it for your parents, but I would understand you not wanting to wear it during the reception

Jewish Atheist said...

LOL. Well okay then! We have (sort of) reached agreement. There is hope for the blogosphere after all.

G said...

I'll keep telling myself it's out of "respect," whatever that means.

It means respect for your parents feelings and making them comfortable to the greatest extent you feel capable (that is a marker only you can make, obviously), regardless of the reasons...it IS NOT a two way street.
Your concern for them needs to be greater than the reverse.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Your concern for them needs to be greater than the reverse

Excellent comment G. Very true.

But reading his last comment, by basically making a halachic wedding, he has done more than what any other atheist would do for his parents.

BlackEyedP said...

"Dude, are you married? This is how all (or most) weddings are. There is a reason people advice on keeping engagement periods short. It's always hard. How is he brainwashed here?"

No, Im not married (and am female) but I am way past the age where I live my life to please my parents. I understand that this may be a source of regret later down the line and most certainly a distraction in the moment. How can he be fully comfortable and in the moment if he is worried about what he is wearing? And just brainwashed in the sense that his parents every wish should be fulfilled. Brainwashed into thinking this wedding isnt only about he and his wife, but having something to do with his parents. It does not. They are lucky to be in attendance, in my opinion.

Holy Hyrax said...

>They are lucky to be in attendance, in my opinion.

This is the most heartless thing anyone can say. If God willing, you become a parent one day, you will get the shock of your life if your child (or anyone) would say that to you. Only know what I am going through with my two girls can I finally realize and understand how great my parents are, how hard it was, and what I owe them.

BlackEyedP said...

I understand that was a very blunt comment but hey - Im an atheist. Just ask JP - Im an asshole and a serial killer to boot. That being said, I think one of the cruelest things in the world is when parents dont love their children unconditionally and cause great grief for them (especially during a time that should be joyous). Just because two people had sex, concieved me and pushed me out of my mothers body does not mean that they get to decide what I do in my adult life. I too have come to the realization all that my parents did for me (well, I should say mom, cause dads an asshole) but my mother ALSO came to the realization that she could not dictate to me what my adult values would be. Once she let go and stopped trying and just loved me for who I was, our relationship blossomed and is better today than ever. Oh and NO, my father will NOT be inattendance at my wedding. I dont think that's cruel.

Tigerboy said...

Jewish Atheist:

I am sincerely amazed at the double-jointed backbends you are able to accomplish in order to show "respect" to people who are quite comfortable disrespecting the person who you are.

As a gay man, I am quite familiar with the whole other-people's-expectations-for-me-to-hide-my-true-self crap. Quite familiar.

It's bullshit.

I now assume that you are much younger than I had thought. Either grow a pair, or stop pretending that you stand for truth.

These mental calculations about when you will, or will not, pretend to be orthodox are absurd.

Holy Hyrax said...

>I understand that was a very blunt comment but hey - Im an atheist.

You don't help your cause then.

>That being said, I think one of the cruelest things in the world is when parents dont love their children unconditionally and cause great grief for them (especially during a time that should be joyous)

I am sure they love him unconditionaly. But NONE of this has anything to do with love. Like I said EVERY wedding has these things going on. It is normal for parents demanding certain things. You are simply using this to get off topic to show how bad OJ is.

>Just because two people had sex, concieved me and pushed me out of my mothers body does not mean that they get to decide what I do in my adult life.

You are being extreme. They are not telling him what to do with his adult life. This is normal wedding behavior that spans all cultures. But the fact that they did have sex and pushed you out of your mother means that you need to show as much respect as you can, even going out of your way a bit sometimes. WHY? Because they not only had sex, and pushed you out of your mothers womb, but because they cared for you all these years. They worried for all your needs. They stayed up with you all night when you were in pain and always cared for you first.

>I too have come to the realization all that my parents did for me.

If that is true, you would not have made that comment. You have no idea of what JA's parents have done for him in the past. And unless his parents were beating him or junkies, I don't know how you can justify it.

>Once she let go and stopped trying and just loved me for who I was, our relationship blossomed and is better today than ever.

This is not about love. Stop taking this thread into a different direction

Holy Hyrax said...

>Either grow a pair, or stop pretending that you stand for truth.

HA!

Is truth in this instance the ONLY and greatest value?

BlackEyedP said...

Tigerboy - well said.
JA - do you mind me asking how old you are? I would say early twenties jusdging by how concerned youa re about your parents feelings on this matter.

BlackEyedP said...

Actually, I find OJ very interesting and i am not at all an OJ basher. I come to these blogs to learn more about it, not the opposite. Just because Im atheist, you automatically assume im some horrible thing. I just think it is time for him to stand up and be a man. He's getting maried to this woman, not his parents. I think wearing a yarmulke in his parents home is completely fine but at his own wedding? I would think any OJ person would not want an unbeliever to wear it ever. Doesnt make sense.

Holy Hyrax said...

>I just think it is time for him to stand up and be a man.

And that means what exactly? So giving into parents demand when weighed with its pros and cons automatically makes you less of a man?

>He's getting maried to this woman, not his parents.

Nobody thinks otherwise including his parents. But a wedding is the final act of a parent "giving the child away" so to speak and parents always get involved.

>I would think any OJ person would not want an unbeliever to wear it ever. Doesnt make sense.

They don't care either way. A kippah is not "holy" or something. Its purely a symbol. Symbol with mean, yes, but its not like a pair of tfillin

mOOm said...

I still don't understand why you are having an Orthodox wedding if you don't believe all that stuff (and you don't live in Israel where that's the only option). If I was in your position I would have a secular or maybe more liberal stream of Judaism wedding. But make sure the food is kosher and it's not on Shabbat so anyone can attend who wants to.

OTOH maybe if I had married a Jewish woman I would have done the Orthodox wedding to keep everyone happy and connect to the past. But you don't need a rabbi and could add anything else you want around the minimalist ceremony.

Ezzie said...

JA - Are you serious? You don't see a difference between a kippah having actual significance to them vs. you not wanting to wearing it because you hate Orthodox Judaism? Don't be stupid.

mOOm said...

Wearing a kippah at the ceremony but not at the reception would be totally normal for non-religious people in Israel...

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

JA - Are you serious? You don't see a difference between a kippah having actual significance to them vs. you not wanting to wearing it because you hate Orthodox Judaism? Don't be stupid.

It's not that I don't want to wear it because I "hate" Orthodox Judaism (I don't, btw, I just think it's false and sometimes causes immoral actions.) It's that I'm a freakin' atheist and wearing a kippah is basically lying.

You can't have it both ways. Either the kippah has "actual significance," in which case I shouldn't be wearing it, or it doesn't, in which case what does it matter?

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"It's that I'm a freakin' atheist and wearing a kippah is basically lying."

In the modern Jewish world there's little about donning a kippah at one's wedding that announces orthodoxy anymore than going bareheaded is an announcement of atheism. It's well known that many Jews wear kippot at weddings simply because they're Jewish, not because they hold any particular religious convictions.

Generally speaking I'm "pro-kippah" as a matter of Jewish identification and expression, but whether you wear one at the reception or not is so next to nothing on the scale of concern.

Tigerboy said...

What is a wedding?

The coming together of one's friends and family to bear witness to a public declaration of your commitment. The public witnessing of your promise, your vows to one another.

What you communicate should be sincere.

To make those vows, while surrounded by the trappings of a philosophy you have no faith in, it kind of cheapens the whole thing, doesn't it? If you aren't telling the unvarnished truth about your religious faith, who should believe any of the rest of it?

I find the idea of identifying one's self as an atheist, and then having a religious wedding, to be very hypocritical. I could never be false like that. Not for something this important. Anyone who would try to demand that of me would not be showing any concern or respect for me or my happiness.

Which is more admirable?

A. Making your parents happy by allowing them to dress your wedding in the trappings of Judaism. (Which makes them happy because it allows them to continue telling themselves that it's just a matter of time before you return to the faith)

Or

B. Being absolutely truthful as you are making a lifelong commitment to your beloved.

I wish great health and happiness to you, your bride, and your parents. Best of luck to all of you.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> Why can't our convictions be respected the same way your rules are?

I never said they couldn't. But you cannot ascribe the same importance to them as we do to our rules.

Our rules are external. We follow the Torah which was given to us by God. Like a commandment or not, we have to follow it.

Your convictions are internal. You just happen to not be comfortable wearing a kippah. In a few yeaers, you might have changed your mind and have a completely different view on the subject. As Groucho Marx once said, "these are my principles and if you don't like them, I have others."

Women who won't daven in a separate seating shul because they find it sexist, for example. It's just a personal choice. Orthodox people who won't daven in mixed seating shuls won't because, irregardless of their thoughts as to whether it's right or wrong, the external rules of the Torah must be obeyed.

> If I as a matter of personal integrity don't want to wear a kippah, why is that less important than your "rule" (custom?) of wearing a kippah?

Because it's a matter of your personal integrity. Your opinion. Your belief. Your flavour of the month. Nothing deeper.

Ezzie said...

It's not that I don't want to wear it because I "hate" Orthodox Judaism (I don't, btw, I just think it's false and sometimes causes immoral actions.) It's that I'm a freakin' atheist and wearing a kippah is basically lying.

You can't have it both ways. Either the kippah has "actual significance," in which case I shouldn't be wearing it, or it doesn't, in which case what does it matter?


Grr. My line should have said "you not wanting them to be wearing it", as the example in your post.

Jack said...

You have to pick and choose your battles. The wedding will come and go quickly. The question is whether you'll find yourself enmeshed in silly fights for years to come that stem from the wedding.

Shalom Bayit has real life practical applications. How you and your wife live in your home and raise your children is far more important than the wedding.

I am not saying to give on everything, but kippah during the ceremony and not at the reception sounds like a relatively fair compromise.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Now this might not apply to JA but I think it bears mentioning.

Has anyone else ever noticed how many so-called Jewish atheists who have strong "convictions" are careful not to push those convictions when confronted by other ethnic groups other than our own?

How many women who can't stand the thought of covering their hair after marriage would, if invited to visit a Muslim home or mosque, cover their hair deferentially on request?

How many men who refuse to wear a kippah would, if wearing a hat, doff it when entering a church out of respect for the occupants or if asked to when entering a Catholic home?

Yet these same men and women will often refuse to (un)cover their hair if a fellow Jew asks them, shouting out how they don't want religion imposed on them.

Just a thought.

Tigerboy said...

Garnel Ironheart:
" . . . you cannot ascribe the same importance to them as we do to our rules."

" . . . it's a matter of your personal integrity. Your opinion. Your belief. Your flavour of the month. Nothing deeper."

Breathtaking arrogance!

JA's convictions represent "flavour of the month." "Nothing deeper."

JA's religious convictions are totally dismissed, and at his own wedding! And, JA, you want to reach a compromise with this attitude?

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that concrete evidence for a supernatural being is TOTALLY nonexistent? Tell us again why your fantasies about a supernatural being are more important than the convictions of the bridegroom.

Breathtaking arrogance.

The Hedyot said...

> Should an OJ go into a church for a wedding as well? Clearly, since you do not believe in it, would have no problem either way of going in. And more than likely, you would partake in certain rituals if it came down to it

> Has anyone else ever noticed how many so-called Jewish atheists who have strong "convictions" are careful not to push those convictions when confronted by other ethnic groups other than our own?


The comments above and the other arguments like it which seem to think that showing respect when going to a church or the like should be comparable to this kind of situation are missing a very key difference in the scenarios. When you go to a church as a guest and bow down with the crowd, or when you behave respectfully when encountering another culture, no one thinks for a second that such actions indicate that you believe in the ideas which the actions represent, or that you identify with it in any way. It’s self-evident to all that when you go to someone else’s domain, there are certain things that it is proper to do out of respect, and that doesn’t mean that you now subscribe to the beliefs which you are being respectful to. However, when it’s your own place that others are coming to (or as in this case, your own event), then displaying those behaviors indicates something else entirely. It shows identification with what those practices stand for. And like JA keeps saying, it definitely indicates a lack of integrity.

The Hedyot said...

Additionally, I think the discussion here is somewhat disingenuous. I'm pretty sure all the Ortho's here know that wearing a kipa is not really a serious religious requirement, like tefillin. As someone who also personally deals with this situation in his life, I think the dirty little secret why this is so "important" to his (our) parents is simply because they don't want to be embarrassed that their son is so flagrantly displaying his disregard for their sacred heritage. And to put an even finer point on it, I think that it's not just that they are embarrassed because it's a public venue and it's happening in front of all their friends, etc. but it shames them even privately, to be reminded that this is who their son is, someone who has rejected what they believe is so holy. I suspect that much of the sympathy displayed here for the parents is partly due to a recognition of how difficult such an ordeal would be for any serious Orthodox person, and they can relate it to how they would feel if they had to deal with such a situation too.

Now, I will readily acknowledge how hard this must be for any Orthodox parent to deal with. It's truly an unpleasant thing to have to face, especially publicly. However, once we acknowledge that what's really at stake here is simply how uncomfortable someone is being made to feel, then the two sides of the issue might seem a bit more equitable.

For JA, this is also about being made to feel uncomfortable. You religious fellows might not seem to think it matters that much to us, but for many of us who left, it's a truly unpleasant thing to have to hide who you really are; to have to pretend to be someone you aren't; to be forced to sell out on what you believe is right. It's so unpleasant that many people are willing to pay the awful price of social ostracization, and losses in family relationships, even having to start a whole new life, etc. in order to free themselves of that pain. I'm not going to say it's exactly comparable to what the parents are going through (not that any emotional pain can really ever be quantified), but it is something that should not be lightly dismissed.

When I look closely at this debate, it doesn't seem to me to be about torah principles vs. atheist integrity. What JA's parents (and you guys) are saying to him is basically, "Your discomfort matters less than your parent's discomfort." And that attitude is what I personally find so insulting. It's just one more example of the frum world saying that we have to bend to meet their needs, but it's never vice versa. And why not? Because to their minds, we simply don't matter as much as they do.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> JA's religious convictions are totally dismissed, and at his own wedding

I believe that as an atheist he has no religious convictions.

Like the time Ronald Reagan caught Mikhail Gorbachev saying something like "God willing" and told him straight up: You cannot call yourself the atheist head of an atheist state and use that expression!

JA wants to get married? Mazel tov and have a happy, healthy life together. But don't tell me his discomfort about whether or not to wear a kippah is because of infringement on his religious convictions. He can't have it both ways.

As for the agrument:
> "Your discomfort matters less than your parent's discomfort."

Damn straight! Just like all those times they had to change his stinking diaper when he was an infant, not a comfortable experience, or worry where he was at night because he hadn't called in yet, or if he was sick if it was, chas v'shalom, serious. Yes, they had to put their discomfort secondary to his but now that he has a chance to show gratitude and return the favour? Why, that's an outrage! An outrage you say! Who would countenance such a thing such as a son putting aside his beliefs for his parents' comfort? Not in today's "enlightened" culture.

And finally,
>Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that concrete evidence for a supernatural being is TOTALLY nonexistent?

Only when you take a moment to acknowledge that concrete evidence for God being totally non-existent doesn't exist either. Until then you're just saying "I get to believe what I want but you don't because I think you're wrong."

Now who's arrogant?

Anonymous said...

And that attitude is what I personally find so insulting. It's just one more example of the frum world saying that we have to bend to meet their needs, but it's never vice versa. And why not? Because to their minds, we simply don't matter as much as they do.

Don't be such a drama queen. If you have been following the thread, you would realize an orthodox has a harder time compromising because their rules are more set. Nobody says personal integrity is not important, but you keep missing a crucial part. JA HAS in the past worn a kippa. If he in the past would have set a precedence that his integrity always comes first, than he should never have worn a kippa

Anonymous said...

>It’s self-evident to all that when you go to someone else’s domain, there are certain things that it is proper to do out of respect,

No, its not self evident. People don't know what you practice or believe. People generally will assume if you bow or do something else, you identify with it as well

The Hedyot said...

> Only when you take a moment to acknowledge that concrete evidence for God being totally non-existent don't exist either.

Just like there's no concrete evidence that the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist either.

The Hedyot said...

> Damn straight! Just like all those times they had to change his stinking diaper when he was an infant, not a comfortable experience, or worry where he was at night because he hadn't called in yet, or if he was sick if it was, chas v'shalom, serious. Yes, they had to put their discomfort secondary to his but now that he has a chance to show gratitude and return the favour?

First of all, children are not indebted to every single demand that their parents want them to do for the rest of their lives. Please try not to sound like such a stereotype. ("All these years...I fed you, took care of you... and this is the thanks I get...!")

Secondly, I'm actually not trying to say he definitely shouldn't put it on. It's a decision that he needs to weigh. What I'm protesting is the attitude that always assumes that the non-religious person should bend to the religious person because their principles are more important or because their suffering discomfort is somehow worse. Both sides have value and both sides hurt and it's not fair to just assume that any one side should take precedence over the other in every case.

> If you have been following the thread, you would realize an orthodox has a harder time compromising because their rules are more set.

And if you would take a closer look at many of the uncompromising "rules" in your society (like the one we are discussing), you'd realize that the demand for their compliance comes more from society than they do from god.

The Hedyot said...

> No, its not self evident...

I'm not saying it's self evident to a bystander who sees you as just another person in the crowd. I am saying that to anyone who would care to inquire as to why someone who doesn't believe in these things is doing them, it is self evident that it doesn't really mean anything other than a sign of respect.

Holy Hyrax said...

>you'd realize that the demand for their compliance comes more from society than they do from god.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaandddd this is relevant how?

jewish philosopher said...

Posing as something you aren't is fraudulant and hypocritical. I am vehemently against it.

Orthoprax said...

Tigerboy said, "I find the idea of identifying one's self as an atheist, and then having a religious wedding, to be very hypocritical. I could never be false like that."

Just for the record, you guys do realize that virtually every part of the Jewish wedding ceremony is just minhag, right? The whole shebang minus the "Harei at, etc" and the ring (or whatever) and two witnesses is on the same Halachic level as wearing a kippah. Fundamentally a Jewish wedding isn't a "religious" wedding, it's simply a marriage made in accordance with Jewish law.

It's hardly hypocritical to understand the weight of what Jewish law means even if you don't necessarily recognize its validity.

mOOm said...

Orthoprax: Well is going to go to the beit din to get a get if he wants to get a divorce? He's going to have to say the "kedat Moshe veYisrael" and that's the only wedding ceremony he gets to have. Unless he has two and just does this one for show. And I've certainly heard of people doing that in intercultural settings.

Tigerboy said...

Garnel Ironheart:
"I get to believe what I want but you don't because I think you're wrong. Now who's arrogant?"

I find it fascinating how you are able to put words in my mouth, and then get righteously indignant over them. I never said anything even remotely like:

"I get to believe what I want but you don't because I think you're wrong."

Never said anything close to that.

You may believe whatever tomfoolery you choose. But don't tell me that your beliefs are more important than anyone else's.

The answer to your question: "Now who's arrogant?"

Still you.

Orthoprax said...

Moom,

"Well is going to go to the beit din to get a get if he wants to get a divorce?"

I don't think it's good form to talk of divorce when discussing an upcoming wedding, but yes, if he gets married by Jewish law then the correct way to be divorced is to be divorced by Jewish law. Though Halachically he'd probably be obliged to divorce with a get even if he never went through any wedding ceremony since sexual relations with the intent of marriage is another method of becoming married by Halacha.

But besides that, why is going to a Jewish court any more onerous than going to a city court to acquire a divorce?

"He's going to have to say the "kedat Moshe veYisrael""

Yes - which means "according to the law of Moses and Israel," so?

"and that's the only wedding ceremony he gets to have."

And? Is this bad? He's Jewish and his wife is Jewish and so they get to be married by Jewish law. My point here is that although there are religious trappings surrounding much of the ceremony it is fundamentally just a matter of law.

Tigerboy said...

To be perfectly clear, I speak only about my own convictions; I make no claim to understand everything that motivates Jewish Atheist.

My deeply held religious convictions are that religion is one of the most dangerous influences in our world. It represents a celebration of ignorance and has a powerful and insidious ability to divide people. Much like racism, religion is evil.

Garnel Ironheart claims that, as a atheist, I don't have any religious convictions. No respect for my deeply held beliefs! My beliefs are "flavor of the month." Only those who believe in that for which there is no evidence get to claim respect for their beliefs. Arrogance.

Garnel goes on to insist that there is no evidence that God *doesn't* exist. Much like Santa Claus. I think I'll demand that my children wear red furry hats at their wedding. We can dress the ushers as elves. Green curly-toed shoes and red candy-striped tights might be difficult to walk in, but I'll just insist that my beliefs must be respected.

Orthoprax says: "a Jewish wedding isn't a "religious" wedding, it's simply a marriage made in accordance with Jewish law." and "religious trappings surrounding much of the ceremony it is fundamentally just a matter of law."

Might as well claim that Judaism isn't about religion. It's not religion, just Jewish law. Oh, OK. Well, I feel that Jewish law propagates hate. Hatred of women and homosexuals.

The Bride and Groom at this wedding describe themselves as "agnostic" and "atheist", respectively. Anyone who insists on dressing this wedding in the trappings of Judaism is showing total disregard for their beliefs.

You would not catch me pretending to be religious in order to please my wedding guests. That is one of the ways in which religion festers for a new generation. Those are my convictions.

Orthoprax said...

Tigerboy,

"Might as well claim that Judaism isn't about religion."

No, that makes no sense. Judaism is many things and one of those things is indeed religion. Another one of those things is law.

"Well, I feel that Jewish law propagates hate. Hatred of women and homosexuals."

Do you feel like American law propagates hate as well? Will you refuse to follow American law because the country does not permit gay marriage?

Anonymous said...

Anyways

Congrats on the wedding.

I hope to be invited :P

-Holy Hyrax

Jewish Atheist said...

I hope to be invited :P

Only if you promise not to wear a kippah or hat. ;-)

Ezzie said...

What the heck? Why wasn't *I* invited!?!? How rude. :P

And you didn't answer my Q yet...!

Anonymous said...

When's the wedding anyways?

We expect pictures.

And don't forget to bring the laptop to the honeymoon as well.

Jewish Atheist said...

What Q?

mOOm said...

My point is that if you want to just say: "Oh this is just all law not religion at all" (which is the case really in Israel as you can't have a secular wedding there) then to me it doesn't seem like it is being taken seriously as a legal event. Though I guess if they do divorce and want another orthodox Jewish wedding then they will need to get a get.

Of course a lot of people in Israel do have a problem with being forced to go through with an orthodox wedding.

The bottom line is that those of you who are on the "inside" of Orthodoxy and have never been on the outside seem mostly incapable of understanding the perspective of non-orthodox people. The same is true often of people who have never been religious in understanding the religious.

And I don't understand what's not good form about talking about divorce when that is a large part of what the ketuba is focused on and they read that out at the wedding.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just elope? This really seems like a no win situation. Wearing it == a lie. But not wearing it isn't worth messing up your relationship with your parents. Don't listen to the people saying you must be young to care about your parent's reactions. It is actually the more mature response to consider whether an action is really worth the outcome.

Would they never forgive you if you eloped?

Tigerboy said...

Orthoprax:
"Do you feel like American law propagates hate as well? Will you refuse to follow American law because the country does not permit gay marriage?"

I do not feel that American law propagates hate. I believe American law is designed to promote fairness. Some American citizens certainly propagate hate. Sometimes a majority of American citizens propagate hate. But, I have far greater faith in laws set forth by a legislative body that was democratically elected by a diverse society. I have far greater faith in a self-evaluating, self-correcting form of government that values secularism and diverse opinions . . . then I have in a set of laws about whom should be stoned, under which circumstances, written by Bronze Age goat herders.

People generally make progress toward making things better, fairer. As long as they aren't brainwashed by demagoguery. Political demagoguery, religious demagoguery. Even political demagoguery tends to pass away. Unless religion props it up, keeps it in power.

Does America exemplify a secular ideal? Certainly not. But, I do believe in the American system. People want to be treated fairly. They want what is right for themselves, for their children, for their neighbors. It may take time, but some version of the right thing eventually prevails.

And, there is no doubt in my mind that gay marriage will eventually prevail. I don't know how long it will take for a majority of people to recognize that homosexuality is an inborn trait, like green eyes or black skin. Homosexuals have exactly the same inalienable right to marry the partner of their choice as anyone else.

Heterosexuals didn't invent marriage, and they don't own the right to define who may participate.

The church didn't invent marriage, and it does not own the right to define who may participate.

Government did not invent marriage, and it does not own the right to define who may participate.

Choosing one's own pair-bond is a HUMAN right that predates recorded history. And, the American system of governance is not designed to extend rights to some of her citizens, while denying those same rights to others. I'm talking about peers. Law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. It is just a matter of time before a majority of fair-minded people recognize this injustice, just as they have recognized other injustices perpetuated against other hated, maligned groups.

American law allows for such progress. Jewish law, not so much.

mOOm said...

"Heterosexuals didn't invent marriage"

What does that mean?

And they were Iron Age priests/scribes not Bronze Age goatherders :)

Orthoprax said...

Moom,

"My point is that if you want to just say: "Oh this is just all law not religion at all" (which is the case really in Israel as you can't have a secular wedding there) then to me it doesn't seem like it is being taken seriously as a legal event."

What kind of point is that? That's just your opinion. I don't think people getting married at city hall take that as a serious legal event. So what? It is what it is.

"The bottom line is that those of you who are on the "inside" of Orthodoxy and have never been on the outside seem mostly incapable of understanding the perspective of non-orthodox people. The same is true often of people who have never been religious in understanding the religious."

Well I've been both so I understand it all quite well. My point is that one can easily see through the external religiosity of the ceremony and understand what they're doing as simply a marriage act in accordance with Jewish law and tradition. That ought to be meaningful to a Jewish couple even if they don't necessarily live by Jewish law or tradition during their regular lives. Afterall, they are Jews!

"And I don't understand what's not good form about talking about divorce when that is a large part of what the ketuba is focused on and they read that out at the wedding."

Actually the ketubah never mentions divorce. It's clearly implied as the value of the ketubah is due to the wife if it's ever broken but that can just as well refer to the husband's death. Generally I try to refrain from talking about an upcoming wedding in the context of divorce.



Tiger,

"Heterosexuals didn't invent marriage, and they don't own the right to define who may participate."

My point was not to debate gay marriage, my point was about your selective dismissal of one legal code but not another when some of the same issues are found in parts of each.

"American law allows for such progress. Jewish law, not so much."

So that sounds like you'd support a progressive movement in Jewish law. That doesn't legitimize your earlier opinion to disregard it or for you to even suggest that Jewish law "propagates hate."

Tigerboy said...

Hey, if this progressive movement in Jewish law includes a total denunciation of the bloodbath that is the Torah, I'm all for it!

Tigerboy said...

When we base laws on the appeasement of a vapor cloud with anger management issues, I see a big problem, right from the start. Not everyone looks at the vapor cloud and sees the same thing.

Since we understand that, in order to quell their fears about death, people tend to tell themselves fantastical stories, how about if we build our legal code based upon things that we all know to be true? How about if we legislate on things that we have at least a morsel of real evidence?

Modern life is too complicated to include zoning laws for the imaginary places.

Orthoprax said...

Tiger,

"Hey, if this progressive movement in Jewish law includes a total denunciation of the bloodbath that is the Torah, I'm all for it!"

When was the last time a single person was executed by a Jewish court? Although you may not have moved past the Iron Age - all forms of Judaism already have.

"How about if we legislate on things that we have at least a morsel of real evidence?"

Sure. Can you please prove to me that all men are created equally? Can you please show any evidence whatsoever for any of the "rights" listed in the Constitution?

Hmm, seems you're going to have to start appealing to a something philosophical and non-material. Naturally there are many people in the world who "know" these things are NOT true.

Tigerboy said...

I do not need to appeal to anything non-material to know right from wrong. You can do tests that show small children recognize right from wrong. I just read about a study where they demonstrated that dogs recognize unfair treatment.

Moral guidelines should be simple. "Treat others as you would wish to be treated" is an outstanding place to start. Human beings have no difficulty recognizing fair treatment when they see it. The American system of trial by jury is in place for this reason. Religion confuses them.

You want to talk death penalty? I find the death penalty abhorrent. And I don't need to pull my hair and cry to an empty sky in order to feel that way. Why is it that the biggest proponents of the death penalty, the loudest cries for retribution, always come from the most religious? "Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth . . . " Isn't that straight from your favorite book?

Even if people teach themselves to ignore the worst parts of that book, it's always there, lauded, taught to the next generation of children as the great clarion call of truth.

All men and women are NOT created equally, but they MUST be viewed that way under the law. Anyone who values democratically elected government can recognize that.

Society MUST recognize basic human rights, inalienable rights, because that is bedrock to having a functional society. Fairness makes the world go 'round.

Appealing to the non-material is what confuses people's ideas of right and wrong. The all-powerful being is too illusive. How about just one appearance on "Larry King"? That would help a lot.

Until then, let's govern our society with what we can all agree is true.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm just gonna ring in anonymously, b/c I don't want to badmouth my dad publicly, but the man was abusive to me and my siblings in my childhood.

During my twenties, he broke off all contact with me and kicked me out of the house because he couldn't deal with my depression, leading me to serious screw-ups including suicide attempts and other BAD STUFF (tm).

Over the years, he was a total creep to me in a hell of a lot of ways.

At my wedding, he decided that he had to present something that I didn't want. He didn't ask my permission, and it bugged the hell out of me, especially b/c it's something that might have theoretically offended some of my guests (contained female singing).

I swallowed it down and didn't say anything about it then or ever afterward. Why? Because the man's still my dad, and someone has to be the adult in the relationship. He clearly can't be, so I have to be.

My point: Be the grown-up.
Let the kippa fall off when the dancing starts and tuck it into your pocket, so it's not a big deal - just keep the fuss level to a minimum.

Tabby

Shtetl Fabulous said...

Just found your blog through the latest Haveil Havalim and I'm very intrigued. I have lots of Orthodox friends and distant cousins and it always feels strange to "tzinus up" for them. I intentionally buy some shirts that cover my collar bones and elbows for the sole purpose of wearing them ONLY in those environs.

I have been to several religious weddings and it has recently struck me that I have no idea how I will accommodate these guests when I get married (some day).

Good luck as you continue to grapple with these issues. Best advice I can offer is to remember that this is just one day of your life and that ultimately there are many others that are just as good a measure of the man you are.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Society MUST recognize basic human rights, inalienable rights, because that is bedrock to having a functional society. Fairness makes the world go 'round.

And the death penalty is somehow what????
Can you, based on objectivity alone, state why death penatly is abhorannt, against human rights or just be honest and say its just a subjective feeling/

Orthoprax said...

Tiger,

"I do not need to appeal to anything non-material to know right from wrong. You can do tests that show small children recognize right from wrong. I just read about a study where they demonstrated that dogs recognize unfair treatment."

You've just proven that your conscience is as reliable as a dog's rational thought. Well done!

"You want to talk death penalty? I find the death penalty abhorrent."

That's nice. Based on what? Your dog's sense of aesthetics?

"Even if people teach themselves to ignore the worst parts of that book, it's always there, lauded, taught to the next generation of children as the great clarion call of truth."

Uh huh. Same as the 3/5ths rule and slavery is forever branded in our lauded Constitution. Judaism simply works by a different method of ammendation.

"Society MUST recognize basic human rights, inalienable rights, because that is bedrock to having a functional society. Fairness makes the world go 'round."

Bullshit. And you know it. I know plenty of functional dictatorships. China is a powerhouse as a society.

"Until then, let's govern our society with what we can all agree is true."

No, I prefer to believe in inalienable rights even if nazis, dictators and communists think otherwise.

Morality requires a philosophical foundation. It doesn't have to be a theistic philosophy - but it does have to be something. Otherwise you get the classical ethics of men like Machiavelli and Nietzche, which may be quite different from the values you might encourage.

Tigerboy said...

Holy Hyrax:
"Can you, based on objectivity alone, state why death penatly is abhorannt, against human rights or just be honest and say its just a subjective feeling/"

We have traveled a bit far afield of the topic of the thread, but if you would like to know my opinion of the death penalty, I'm happy to share it.

When a person is put to death, I do not believe that it has to do with a civilized society properly apportioning out punishment. I see it as a civilized society sinking to the primitive level of the murderer. When we do this, there is a great cost, and I'm not talking about money.

When a person is accused of a crime, we, a civilized society, must be able to pass judgment on that person. In order to be able to pass judgment, we must have extremely "clean hands." We must be very measured, very thoughtful, very sober. We must be perceived, by our citizenry, to have weighed all the evidence, to have scrupulously guarded the rights of the accused, to have given him his full access to due process, to have allowed him to be judged by an impartial jury of his peers.

All of this can be misconstrued as overly solicitous to the comfort of the undeserving guilty man. It's not. There is a bigger picture. There is far more at stake than the rights of one murderer.

We are protecting the very thing that enables us to pass judgment in the first place. We are protecting the American people's reputation for fairness, our very reputation as a civilized society. When the state passes judgment, it speaks on behalf of all of us, on behalf of society. When the state scrupulously guards the rights of the accused, the outcome carries the moral weight of that civilized society.

Without these standards of due process, the outcome can be viewed as suspect, as tainted. Civilized society becomes less civilized. Its judgments carry less moral weight. Like the winner of a fraudulent election, the state loses, by degrees, the moral authority of the people.

We, as represented by the state, must be perceived to be above reproach, to maintain those very clean hands. Are we actually above reproach? Are we perfect? Of course not. But, we do the best we can.

When one says: "I will do the best I can" there is an implicit humility. There is an acknowledgment that perfection is not possible, but, in this imperfect set of circumstances, we will strive to get as close as we can. Implicit humility.

Humility garners great respect for the outcome.

Arrogance breeds mistrust.

We do not trade a slashed throat for a slashed throat. We do not kill the child of one who has killed a child. We do not sentence people to be raped. These are not civilized punishments, they are retribution. They sink below the standards we have established and judged to be civilized.

We sentence people to loss of liberty, to confinement in very uncomfortable places. They should not be barbaric places. However, they are places that neither you nor I would wish to go, and sometimes we sentence people to live in these places for the rest of their natural lives. Their freedom, something at the very core of their humanity, is forfeit. Life, as they know it, is forfeit.

Does this assuage the unending grief of the victim's family? No. Nothing can. Not even retribution.

But, forfeiture of liberty is what measured, sober, impartial members of our society use to impose punishment on wrongdoers. And these people have earned the right to impose those sentences. They earn the right by scrupulously guarding their own reputations for fairness. They have earned, and continue to earn, the trust of society. We grant them our moral authority. If they are not impartial, they will lose our moral authority.

What is unfair and uncivilized about the death penalty?

1. The death penalty does not have the feeling of impartial, measured judgment. It has the flavor of lashing out in anger, of retribution. It feels like bloodlust. It feels like a judgment driven by emotion, by grief.

2. We pass judgments, and we fully expect those judgments to be the final word. However, a feature of fairness dictates that, should compelling new evidence come to light, sentences can be adjusted, paroles can be considered. DNA evidence has exonerated inmates after years of confinement. You cannot fix the wrongful execution of an innocent man.

Imposing the death penalty suggests that we feel our judgments to be god-like in their perfection. It makes a statement to the American citizenry, to the world, that feels something like this:

"We're gonna nail this fucker, and we don't care if there is even a remote possibility that we might be mistaken."

This is not judgment from a position of humility. This attitude does not garner confidence in, and respect for, the outcome. This is arrogance.

3. Generally, we assume that trials are fair. However, life is a big messy business. Shit happens. Witnesses make mistakes. People get railroaded. Advocates can be incompetent. Judges can be incompetent. Juries can be stupid, or racist. That's why we have a system of appeals.

By the time most death sentences are carried out, a lengthy appeals process has been exhausted. And that's good; It reassures us that no mistakes have been made. But, we all know that mistakes are made. Personally, I find the idea of an innocent man being put to death to be horrifying. More horrifying then OJ Simpson on the golf course. I hate the idea of a guilty man getting away with murder, but it doesn't upset me as much as an innocent man in the electric chair.

4. Is there a financial cost associated with providing the guilty man with room and board for the rest of his life? Yes. But, it is a cost that a civilized society should be willing to bear. It keeps our reputation for fair, proportional punishment intact. It makes the following statement:

"We don't slaughter people. We are not arrogant. We humbly assert our moral authority. We know right from wrong. We will not sink to the primitive level of murder. This man might have committed a horrifying, bloody act, but he will not force us to play the same nasty game. We will punish him, but we will handle this matter in a manner of our choosing, as civilized people do. We will not lash out, as this murderer has done. We preserve our moral high ground. He has lost his."

5. The death penalty is unfairly and unevenly applied. If you are poor, you are far more likely the get the death penalty than if you have money. If you are black, you are far more likely to get the death penalty than if you are white. If you live in Texas, you are far more likely to get the death penalty than if you live elsewhere.

In Harris County, which is where you will find Houston, they give the death penalty more often than 48 of America's states. In other words, if Harris County were a state, it would rank third in death penalty sentences. A single Texas county! Is this county just totally overrun with heinous murderers? Or, is Texas just way more eager and willing to sentence people to die for their crimes than other places?

Are you comfortable with this? I'm not. Does this represent impartiality?

If the death penalty is viewed as unfairly applied, which it clearly is, it sullies our reputation as impartial judges. How can ANY of our judgments be viewed as fair and impartial, if the MOST important penalty of all is applied in such an arbitrary, haphazard fashion?

These are just some of my reasons for finding the death penalty abhorrent. There are others.

None of my reasons for abhorring the death penalty has anything to do with religion.

Tigerboy said...

Orthoprax:
I was not equating my ability to tell right from wrong with that of a dog. I was saying that an ability to tell right from wrong is not just really basic human nature, it goes beyond that. It is really basic mammalian nature. Lengthy instructions about whom should be stoned, and why, are not really necessary for us to recognize these concepts.

I stand by my statement that: "Society MUST recognize basic human rights, inalienable rights, because that is bedrock to having a functional society. Fairness makes the world go 'round."

I should have added something about education, food, and an informed electorate. Obviously, many, many people live in very different circumstances from those we enjoy in the West.

When people understand that they are being treated unfairly, however, eventually, if they are able, they will rise up and change their circumstances. Sometimes this takes a long time. Sometimes people lack education. Sometimes people are more concerned with their starvation problems. Sometimes they are confused by the burden of the ignorance that is so gleefully celebrated by their religion. Sometimes they are blinded by political demagoguery. But, education, a full belly, and awareness of their mistreatment, generally, leads people to striving for a better deal. It's human nature.

Apparently, it's dog nature, too.

"China is a powerhouse as a society."

Historically, China has been an extremely insular society. Between the Steppes to their northwest, and the tallest mountain range in the world to their south, and the largest ocean in the world to their east, and the largest man-made structure in the world, the Great Wall, China has occupied a uniquely isolated place in the world. Also, China has undergone huge changes in its history, many in recent years. Once a totally closed, communist society, China is now trading in the free market.

Keeping a tight thumb on her uneducated, destitute, peasant population may have been easy, in the past. We'll see what happens as more of these people get access to the internet. China better clean up it's standards of doing business. The rest of the world may want the cheapest goods, but they will not buy poison. China is very interesting. We will see.

Certainly, in the West, blatantly unfair treatment has lead to riots in the streets. Perceived fairness is a necessary feature of the type of society in which you and I live.

"Morality requires a philosophical foundation. It doesn't have to be a theistic philosophy - but it does have to be something. Otherwise you get the classical ethics of men like Machiavelli and Nietzche, which may be quite different from the values you might encourage."

I'm confused as to why you think that I have no philosophy. I think I've been fairly forthcoming with many aspects of my philosophy.

I'm also confused about your reference to Machiavelli and Nietzsche. Are you saying that religion prevents such people as these? Both of these men were raised in very religious circumstances.

Orthoprax said...

Tiger,

"I was not equating my ability to tell right from wrong with that of a dog. I was saying that an ability to tell right from wrong is not just really basic human nature, it goes beyond that. It is really basic mammalian nature."

Except when it's not and lion will kill all the cubs that don't smell like him. You're being totally arbitrary.

"When people understand that they are being treated unfairly, however, eventually, if they are able, they will rise up and change their circumstances."

And those in power, also being treated unfairly, will often not give a damn and fight them to the death. Dictatorships actually work very well.

"Certainly, in the West, blatantly unfair treatment has lead to riots in the streets. Perceived fairness is a necessary feature of the type of society in which you and I live."

What are you pretending this means? You teach people a myth about fairness and they riot about it. You teach people a myth about witches and they'll riot about that too. You haven't even remotely proven that any of these ideas demonstrate something real.

"I'm confused as to why you think that I have no philosophy. I think I've been fairly forthcoming with many aspects of my philosophy."

No, you're playing a shell game. Pretending to use evidence for something the evidence doesn't demonstrate.

"I'm also confused about your reference to Machiavelli and Nietzsche. Are you saying that religion prevents such people as these?"

No, why would I care about that? I mention them as examples of places where ethics would go when only the 'evidence' is taken into account. Morality is based on values and the most logical thing is to value oneself above others. Once in power, why should I share it with the masses?

Even your animal sense of fairness is not bothered here. Animals and humans fight when they get the short end, but I bet they're bothered far less when they're unfairly given the long end.

How many people give back the change for a $20 when they only gave the cashier a $10?

Holy Hyrax said...

Tigerboy

That is a might right fancy speech you just gave. And you try to bolster your position by adding in "civilized society" as often as you can. But yet, and forgive me, nothing you said is in any way objective. You are simply using your subjective values on why it should not be allowed.

Personally, the only part I agree with you is probably #3. But that has nothing to do with whether a civilized society should put people to death. Maybe in the future the only people that will get death are if there are witnesses and actual surveilence evidence. Who knows. My personal feelings are the opposite. If a soceity KNOWS for sure that a man has committed a heinous crime, there is nothing noble by keeping such dirt alive.

>Does this assuage the unending grief of the victim's family

You cannot answer for that.

Tigerboy said...

You both asked me direct questions about my opinion, about my philosophy. So, I answered.

Sorry, if you felt it was lacking.

I feel that you are the ones playing a shell game. You are trying to justify a belief in something for which there is not a shred of evidence.

Good luck.

The world doesn't work like that anymore. People understand enough about how the world does work, the way in which the universe works, that they need evidence.

That trend will only continue.

Orthoprax said...

"I feel that you are the ones playing a shell game. You are trying to justify a belief in something for which there is not a shred of evidence."

LOL! Right back atcha, boy! The only people who can genuinely call themselves consistent evidence followers are the likes of nihilists and solipsists. Appealing to transcendent and inalienable rights is little different from appealing to a transcendent deity.

I know it bothers you Tigerboy, but you're quite obviously a very religious person!

Holy Hyrax said...

>I feel that you are the ones playing a shell game. You are trying to justify a belief in something for which there is not a shred of evidence.

What shell game. I was talking about death penatly and your opinion is accepted.

Tigerboy said...

Hyrax:
See how a little humility creates respect?

The death penalty is not humble.

Orthoprax:
I do not deny that I am awe-struck by the wonders of the natural world. The universe is mind-blowing in it's elegant beauty, and inspiring in its ability to create, as well as terrifying in it's ability to destroy.

There must exist an infinity of concepts that is far beyond my puny mind to comprehend. I'm fine with that. I only hope to be able to understand a bit more tomorrow then I do today.

The search for moral constants is a noble one. The search to understand concepts beyond the current reach of science is a noble one. I believe myself to have a mind which is open to try to understand that which it cannot.

However, claiming that we know there to be a complex creator personality, when we have no evidence of that, stands directly in the way of our shared endeavor to come to a clearer understanding of our true circumstances.

G said...

"Your discomfort matters less than your parent's discomfort."

correct, all religious stuff aside this is a truth...does it have limits? yes, it does - but it is still a truth.

Tigerboy said...

And, if you want a really good example of a dictatorship that has been hugely successful, look no further than the God of Abraham.

Orthoprax said...

Tigerboy,

"The search for moral constants is a noble one. The search to understand concepts beyond the current reach of science is a noble one. I believe myself to have a mind which is open to try to understand that which it cannot."

There you go, that sounds pretty reasonable.

"However, claiming that we know there to be a complex creator personality..."

Who claimed to know that? It may seem easy and expedient to pigeonhole people - and then antagonize them with hyperbolic rhetoric - but even those who have great respect for the Jewish tradition can also hold philosophical positions sympathetic to the same ideas you just sketched.

I don't know your background but it may be to your benefit to consider that religious philosophies have indeed advanced (albeit unevenly) since the Iron Age.

Holy Hyrax said...

>The death penalty is not humble.

The death penalty is not a sack of oranges onions either. Neither are relevant.

Tigerboy said...

Orthoprax:
". . . it may be to your benefit to consider that religious philosophies have indeed advanced (albeit unevenly) since the Iron Age."

You don't believe that people still take the Bible literally? Word for bloody word? Or, refer to it, literally, as the perfect word of God, as well as teach that to their children?

Please refer to the Westboro Baptist Church.
And plenty of other dangerous individuals.

Orthoprax said...

Tiger,

"You don't believe that people still take the Bible literally?"

What in my words would make you think that this is what I believe?

Tigerboy said...

Well, you are saying that religion has advanced beyond the whole stoning business, yet Mr. Jewish Philosopher has written that he believes that gay men should receive the death penalty.

So, maybe you should tell me, what do you mean by: "religious philosophies have indeed advanced (albeit unevenly) since the Iron Age."

Orthoprax said...

It's in the "unevenly" part where I put Mr. Jewish Philosopher.

But just because someone uses the God word - that doesn't mean they are a bloodthirsty fundamentalist.

Tigerboy said...

From where do you think that this fundamentalist mindset comes? Did Mr. Jewish Philosopher just make up these ideas for himself? Or, did he read it in a book?

From the Mr. Jewish Philosophers of this world, to the members of The Westboro Baptist Church, to the suicide bombers, where do these ideas originate?

The celebration of violent texts leads people to read them literally. They believe every violent, bloody word. They believe that sinners deserve retribution. They believe that they are acting on God's behalf.

Claiming knowledge of what's on the mind of a complex creator personality causes people to hate other people.

Even claims of knowledge of the existence of a complex creator personality has big problems. He/She MAY exist. But, not one of us knows for certain. Evidence is entirely lacking. To find nobility in such claims is an exaltation of self-delusion.

Let's explore how to treat one another morally, without making claims of knowledge that we do not have, without accusations of "sinner."

Orthoprax said...

Tiger,

"Let's explore how to treat one another morally, without making claims of knowledge that we do not have, without accusations of "sinner.""

I don't disagree, but I also don't see your point. Yes, these are people operating on philosophies that should have run their course before the Enlightenment.

Tigerboy said...

My point is that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between reading these primitive texts, and hatred of one's fellow man. There is a direct connection between reading about retribution, in a text celebrated as "truth", and hateful, even violent, behavior.

Your so-called "enlightenment" is really just a separating out of the "wheat from the chaff", a learning to ignore the worst, most hateful, most violent parts, but the texts are still celebrated as "truth."

Invariably, people learn hateful attitudes from these texts. They view women as inferior and unclean. They view sex as dirty. They view homosexuals as sinners. They view people with differing religious ideas as heretical, evil, inferior.

Why should we respect someone's view that there is something wrong with a woman singing at a wedding? There is something insidious and evil going on here, but it has nothing to do with the woman, or her song.

Even if nobody is stoning anybody, these texts teach people to hate others. Even if nobody is stoning anybody, these texts inform people's political ideals.

The United States is the most religious of the major western democracies. The United States is the only major western democracy to support the death penalty. Coincidence? It has been drilled into our heads that God loves horrifying punishments, that He deals in retribution. Americans support the death penalty, because we are more likely to read these primitive texts, because we are more likely to believe in the concepts of Heaven and Hell.

Teaching people that they cannot be noble, unless they make claims of knowledge about things no one could possibly know, about things for which there is no evidence, about places for which there is no evidence, celebrates delusion.

Christians teach small children that they must form a "personal relationship" with an invisible Jesus. "How, mommy? Where is Jesus?" If these children do not form a personal relationship with Jesus, they are taught that they will be dragged off by demons and thrown into a lake of fire.

Wonderful.

Wouldn't it be better to teach children things that they can see are true? Things like:

. "It is good to live, and to allow others to live."

. "Society functions much better, when everyone is treated fairly."

. "There is tremendous value in attempting to see a situation from another's point of view."

Enlightenment is the act of marginalizing these texts.

Islam may be a religion of peace, but the Quran is a laundry list of reasons people will be sent to Hell.

When we learn that these texts are the "perfect word of God", though enlightened people ignore big sections, doesn't that confuse people? I believe it does. I believe these texts cause great harm. I believe they insidiously teach people primitive lessons about who is deserving of punishment, lessons of retribution, lessons about whom God loves, whom God chooses, and whom God casts aside. I believe they teach lessons that divide and condemn.

Sometimes, they lead right to a huge smoking hole in the ground of lower Manhattan.

Orthoprax said...

Tiger,

"My point is that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between reading these primitive texts, and hatred of one's fellow man."

Wrong. There's a direct cause and effect between the ways people understand these texts and hating others. The people who are the most hateful tend to be the least literate.

So, as I said, this is just a matter of progressive philosophizing.

Tigerboy said...

"My point is that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between reading these primitive texts, and hatred of one's fellow man."

"Wrong. There's a direct cause and effect between the ways people understand these texts and hating others."

Fine. Either way, the texts are dangerous.

I am all for your so-called progressive philosophizing, if it includes far simpler moral guidelines.

This oft-quoted moral precept, also known as "The Golden Rule", is found in many ancient writings. There is some version of it in: The Talmud, The New Testament, The Quran, The Analects of Confucius and others. I am not saying we should throw out the baby with the bath water. But, the bath water has gotten pretty foul. These texts have so much talk of "sin" that they totally confuse and inflame their readers.

Claims of knowledge about that which motivates a complex creator personality is where the problem starts. Claims of knowledge of anything which is unknowable leads us into very dangerous territory. It divides us.

Isn't it more noble to say: "I don't know all the answers, but I know that I should treat each person as I would wish to be treated."

Isn't it more noble to say: "I seek truth. I seek a philosophy that includes a more moral treatment of my fellow man, but I do not know there to be a God. In fact, this very admission of the fact that I do not know there to be a God is demonstration of my desire to pursue truth."

There is no nobility in claiming to know that which one does not. Anyone who makes claims along the lines of: "God loves this", or "God hates that", or even "God is" . . . that person is distorting the truth.

For my own part, I find the idea of an omnipotent complexity, complexity existing in the void, complexity as explanation of first cause, to be highly illogical. And, an omnipotent creator personality is totally unnecessary to explain the very rational pursuits of morality, love, joy, beauty, or other transcendent states of mind.