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Mar 16 2014

Another bad model

So Heidegger was even worse than everyone thought. They thought he was a little anti-Semitic, yes, but not…you know…all the way anti-Semitic.

This week’s publication of the “black notebooks” (a kind of philosophical diary that Heidegger asked to be held back until the end of his complete work), challenges this view. In France the revelations have been debated vigorously since passages were leaked to the media last December, with some Heidegger scholars even trying to stop the notebooks’ publication.

In Germany, one critic has argued that it would be “hard to defend” Heidegger’s thinking after the publication of the notebooks, while another has already called the revelations a “debacle” for modern continental philosophy – even though the complete notebooks were until now embargoed by the publisher.

So what did he say?

“World Judaism”, Heidegger writes in the notebooks, “is ungraspable everywhere and doesn’t need to get involved in military action while continuing to unfurl its influence, whereas we are left to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our people”.

In another passage, the philosopher writes that the Jewish people, with their “talent for calculation”, were so vehemently opposed to the Nazi’s racial theories because “they themselves have lived according to the race principle for longest”.

The notion of “world Judaism” was propagated in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious forgery purporting to reveal a Jewish plan for world domination. Adolf Hitler stated the conspiracy theory as fact in Mein Kampf, and Heidegger too appears to adopt some of its central tropes.

Did Heidegger have much to say about “World Gentilism”?

Other philosophers have argued that the new revelations do not amount to a “smoking gun” of antisemitism, and should not lead to a dismissal of Heidegger’s other writings even if they did. “Philosophy is about learning to be aware of problems in your own thinking where you might not have suspected them,” said the British philosopher Jonathan Rée about the black notebooks.

“The best of what Heidegger wrote – indeed the best of philosophy in general – is not an injunction to agree with a proffered opinion, but a plea to all of us to make our thinking more thoughtful.”

Ok, but a philosopher whose thinking is infected with something as stupid and vicious as anti-Semitism – especially anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany – isn’t going to be much help with making our thinking more thoughtful. Do you see what I mean? Because he’s not a good example of more thoughtful thinking. Anti-semitic thinking is not a good model for making our thinking more thoughtful.

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  1. 1
    Juan Stein

    I honestly did not realize Heidegger’s antisemitism was of a matter of dispute–although for me all the writings in the world are sort of moot compared to actually putting into place Nazi policy at Freiburg.

    That said I really do not see who this somehow makes his thinking stupid and thoughtless–even his antisemitic thought! I disagree strongly with the characterization of antisemitism as a whole as stupid and thoughtless (vicious, yes, I’ll agree with that). It is a ideology with clear material purpose and logic that has been thought out over centuries. I am constantly frustrated by the characterization of oppressive ideologies and systems as merely failures of rational thinking. Such things are not mistakes, they are rationalizations for systems that oppress some people for the benefit of others–it is important here, I think, to remember Lenin’s admonition to reformists that “every old institution, how ever barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is kept going by the forces of certain ruling classes”. Antisemitism is not wrong because it is fallacious, it is wrong because it is evil.

    In that sense I cannot see how this makes his thinking less thoughtful. Repugnant? Yes in places, and with some undercurrent through the whole; but it does not make it stupid. Are we also to think that (Jewish) philosophers like Hannah Arendt and Martin Buber whose work builds off of, criticizes or otherwise engages with Heidegger’s is built on shaky foundations?

    Certainly I understand the feelings of a fellow Jew who is uncomfortable engaging personally with Heidegger’s work (although this is not news to anyone who feels this way, I am sure of it). But the idea that his work cannot be thoughtful because he and it are antisemitic seems deeply wrongheaded to me.

  2. 2
    Al Dente

    I knew that Heidegger was a Nazi so I’m not surprised he was antisemitic.

  3. 3
    Shatterface

    I suspect this is a case where those who know a little about Heidegger know he’s anti-Semitic, those who know a little more have heard enough apologetics they can rationalise the anti-Semitism away, and those who know a lot know enough to dismiss the apologetics and recognise he was, indeed, anti-Semitic.

  4. 4
    Juan Stein

    @Al Dente

    What do you mean? Is being a Nazi somehow not sufficient cause to claim someone is antisemitic?

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Hmmmmmmmmmm

    I see what you mean, Juan, and I put that crudely (as I do, sometimes, for rhetorical reasons). But…I didn’t mean to say it was a failure of rational thinking (I’m always arguing against that view, actually), but I do think it’s defective thinking. Is that any better? “Defective” can include “morally” in my view. His thinking got him to a wrong place, so I wouldn’t want to use him as a model for being more thoughtful.

  6. 6
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Antisemitism is not wrong because it is fallacious, it is wrong because it is evil.

    Unless the Jews actually are secretly taking over the world in a conspiracy to destroy the Aryan race, I’m pretty sure it’s both.
    I mean, the Nazi brand of Antisemitism wasn’t just a value judgment: it contained a whole bunch of fact claims.

    However, I join you in not having realized that Heidegger’s antisemitism was up for debate. As Dead Philosophers In Heaven points out, he had a Hitlerstache and everything.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Wull the article said everybody knew he was antisemitic, but they didn’t know it was so at the roots of his philosophy.

  8. 8
    Shatterface

    I think he’d have been naturally drawn to anti-Semitism because it’s hyphenated.

  9. 9
    Blanche Quizno

    Let’s not fall into the trap sometimes described as the “Myth of the Consistent Skeptic.” Albert Einstein was an huge and outspoken admirer of the Soviet Union’s government system, holding onto his positive view even as negative information poured in:

    “Einstein held a wide range of beliefs beyond his contributions to science and outside his area of expertise. For example, in 1933, Einstein (we believe correctly) voiced his opinion about political liberty in Germany, “As long as I have any choice, I will only stay in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule. Political liberty implies liberty to express one’s political views orally and in writing, toleration, respect for any and every individual. These conditions do not obtain in Germany at the present time” (Einstein 1949, p. 81). Einstein openly criticized Nazism and the brutalities that occurred under that government.

    The important point, however, is that Einstein’s positive beliefs toward the Soviet Union did not change as substantial information came forth demonstrating that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state that did not tolerate political liberty. Einstein was never shy about judging capitalism or Nazism by their deeds and actions instead of their rhetoric. He did not apply this standard to the Soviet Union. A consistent skeptic would not use double standards to evaluate different forms of governments.

    If Einstein was a consistent skeptic, one would predict that, as the accumulating evidence came forth over the years, Einstein would modify his beliefs and become a leading critic of both Stalin and the Soviet Union for their violations of political liberty.” http://www.csicop.org/si/show/myth_of_consistent_skepticism_the_cautionary_case_of_albert_einstein/

    The point is that, since people are complex, complicated individuals, you’re rarely going to find a single person who is completely, unfailingly luminary in every characteristic bar none. So do we throw out the baby with the bathwater if we happen to find something icky?

    If so, then we’re going to have to OURSELVES be consistent across the board. Out with Heidegger. Out with Einstein. Out with Thomas Jefferson:

    “In his original draft of the Declaration, in soaring, damning, fiery prose, Jefferson denounced the slave trade as an “execrable commerce …this assemblage of horrors,” a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberties.” As historian John Chester Miller put it, “The inclusion of Jefferson’s strictures on slavery and the slave trade would have committed the United States to the abolition of slavery.

    But in the 1790s, Davis continues, “the most remarkable thing about Jefferson’s stand on slavery is his immense silence.” And later, Davis finds, Jefferson’s emancipation efforts “virtually ceased.”

    Somewhere in a short span of years during the 1780s and into the early 1790s, a transformation came over Jefferson.

    The Virginia abolitionist Moncure Conway, noting Jefferson’s enduring reputation as a would-be emancipator, remarked scornfully, “Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do.”

    The critical turning point in Jefferson’s thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, “I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.” His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.

    In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses “should have been invested in negroes.” He advises that if the friend’s family had any cash left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in this country by the increase in their value.”

    The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like “Cattle in the market,” and this disgusted him.” – “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson”, Smithsonian Magazine, October 2012

    George Washington freed his slaves. Thomas Jefferson never did – even though Jefferson’s old friend, Polish nobleman and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kos­ciuszko, left him in his will the equivalent in today’s dollars of $280,000 to use in freeing his slaves. Jefferson had helped draft this will; he knew what was in it. As executor of that will, Jefferson had a legal responsibility to carry its terms out as specified, which meant using that money to free his slaves. Jefferson did not. He refused to accept the cash because he could make more money off his slaves. Jefferson never freed his slaves, many of which were his own children.

    Isn’t enslaving your own children far more heinous than believing and saying horrible stuff about an ethnic group that’s not your own?

  10. 10
    Enkidum

    I think there’s an awful lot one can get out of Heidegger – or at least I did, and I was perfectly aware of what a repulsive little shit he was (didn’t know these latest revelations, but, I mean, he was literally a card-carrying member of the Nazi party who made numerous excuses for Hitler and personally kicked the Jews out of his own university, so they’re hardly surprising). And yes, I think it’s important to realize that his philosophical system (a) can fairly easily be adapted into something as awful as Nazi sympathies, and (b) was created by someone who had something as awful as Nazi sympathies. But that doesn’t mean it was valueless. He is, for example, an important precursor to numerous intellectual “schools”, including a surprisingly-large contingent in AI and robotics. He had a lot of brilliant, genuinely deep, things to contribute. He was also an appalling human being who hated Jews. Sadly, there’s not really anything conflicting there.

    I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone use him as a model for how to think, but I would suggest that some of the things he thought are good models for things you should think.

  11. 11
    Blanche Quizno

    Let’s not forget that Henry Ford, of Ford automobile fame, was a *huge* fan of Hitler, sending him a $10,000 gift every year on Hitler’s birthday, if memory serves. So Ford Motor Co. has GOT TO GO!

    And let’s not forget that the late Senator Prescott Bush, former President George W. Bush’s grandpappy, father of former President George H. W. Bush, represented and did business with companies associated with the German businesses that financed Hitler’s political career. In fact, it was profits from these shady shenanigans that became the Bush family fortune, which facilitated their political dynasty, which is still a threat.

    Hmmm – you know, I kind of *like* this! Let’s do it! Seize all the Bush family assets (ill-gotten gains if ever there were any) and outlaw these hereditary traitors.

  12. 12
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    The point is that, since people are complex, complicated individuals, you’re rarely going to find a single person who is completely, unfailingly luminary in every characteristic bar none. So do we throw out the baby with the bathwater if we happen to find something icky?
    If so, then we’re going to have to OURSELVES be consistent across the board. Out with Heidegger. Out with Einstein. Out with Thomas Jefferson:

    The difference is that Einstein’s pro-Soviet views were not connected with what made him famous and admired. Jefferson- if your account is correct- discarded his principles for profit. Was Heidegger’s antisemitism connected with the views and their expression that people admire and value? Was he a philosopher who was antisemitic or was he an antisemitic philosopher?

  13. 13
    Blanche Quizno

    Just to be clear, I have no love for Heidegger – philosophy tends to make my brain runny. And I have no love for Nazis or Hitler or White Supremacists or any of that other despicable nonsense. I don’t have anything against Jewish people, unless they’re making illegal land grabs in Gaza, but that’s because of what they’re *doing*, not because of who they are. I have similar issues with all bullies who take others’ stuff by force, regardless of their identities.

    However, if what is on the table is the proposition that, because Heidegger was a complete jerk and had poisonous beliefs, we must wipe every trace of him from our memories and our records, to make it as if he never existed, the same way we did with the Nazi death camp records of their various vivisections and torture-porn “medical experiments, we need to think long and hard about that. We have a lot of people who contributed very valuable content to our culture, our knowledge, and our development as a society and as human beings.

    Are we going to decide that it is a given person’s character that determines whether we will look at what he produces, or are we going to look at what is produced and evaluate its value or lack thereof on its own content, rather than on the identity of who produced it?

  14. 14
    Shatterface

    The validity of relativity rests on its ability to accurately represent reality.

    E=mc2 doesn’t fail when you bring Stalin into the equation.

  15. 15
    Shatterface

    I don’t have anything against Jewish people, unless they’re making illegal land grabs in Gaza

    The ‘Jewish people’ aren’t making land grabs against anyone.

  16. 16
    Enkidum

    @Shatterface 15: well, he didn’t say the Jewish people, he said Jewish people. As in individual Jewish people. Point seems fair in that case.

  17. 17
    Shatterface

    I think it’s possible to distinguish a physicists work from their politics (say, Heisenberg or Von Braun), less so if they’re biologists (Lysenko) and practically impossible if they are psychologists. sociologists or philosophers.

  18. 18
    Enkidum

    @sc_googlemess

    “Was he a philosopher who was antisemitic or was he an antisemitic philosopher?”

    Well, a little of column A and a little of column B, honestly. But I think there’s enough of value in him that has nothing to do with pro-or-anti-semitism that he’s still worth paying attention to. At least in philosophy classes.

  19. 19
    Blanche Quizno

    To 12: sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d (no, I won’t be trying to say that three times fast any time soon!), the real question is whether his contribution is *ONLY* of use to antiSemites or if it leads otherwise neutral people to become antiSemites. I doubt anyone would say that either of these is true.

    People have to start somewhere; they typically start right where (and who) they are. Were Heidegger’s ideas – however intertwined with his personal antiSemitism – of value to people who are not antiSemitic and who will never become antiSemitic? If so, then I don’t think his basic bigotry is really a factor here.

    I’m sure that someone who is more knowledgeable of Heidegger’s philosophy can clarify whether the inexorable conclusion is “…so THAT’s why the Jews are evil and must be exterminated.” Or whether it isn’t.

  20. 20
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Are we going to decide that it is a given person’s character that determines whether we will look at what he produces, or are we going to look at what is produced and evaluate its value or lack thereof on its own content, rather than on the identity of who produced it?

    But is Heidegger’s philosophy determined by his character or is his character irrelevant to his philosophy?
    This isn’t a rhetorical question- I don’t think Hume’s character is directly relevant to his philosophy, so I think his racism is to his discredit as a man, not as a philosopher. I do think Rousseau’s character is directly connected to his philosophy so I distrust his philosophy because of aspects of his character. How do we deal with Heidegger?

  21. 21
    Blanche Quizno

    Shatterface, Israelis are, by definition, virtually all Jewish. That is my basic understanding. If that is a completely incorrect term to use in describing an Israeli citizen, please set me straight.

    It is ISRAELIS making land grabs in Gaza. This is a fact! If these Israelis happen to be Jewish, then they are Jewish people making land grabs just as much as they are Israeli people making land grabs.

    I don’t see a problem here.

  22. 22
    Blanche Quizno

    Well, *I*’m not going to be dealing with Heidegger, as I have no interest in philosophy or Heidegger, so the rest of you really smart and thoughtful people can just tell me what you decide. I’ll wait :)

  23. 23
    Enkidum

    sc_googlemess

    Yes, Rousseau’s character definitely matters to his philosophy, and Heidegger’s definitely does as well. It’s in many ways a fairly poisonous way of seeing the world, at least if you take it as a whole, and it’s not at all surprising to find out who he was after you’ve read his work (or vice versa). Makes it all more comprehensible, suddenly.

  24. 24
    Blanche Quizno

    @ 14: “The validity of relativity rests on its ability to accurately represent reality.

    E=mc2 doesn’t fail when you bring Stalin into the equation.”

    I would say the value of philosophy likewise rests on its ability to accurately represent reality as well. Let’s take a look at a summary of some Heidegger (no, I’m NOT going to wade through his own writings):

    “Crudely stated, for thinkers like St Paul, St Augustine, Luther and Kierkegaard, it is through the relation to God that the self finds itself. For Heidegger, the question of God’s existence or non-existence has no philosophical relevance. The self can only become what it truly is through the confrontation with death, by making a meaning out of our finitude. If our being is finite, then what it means to be human consists in grasping this finitude, in “becoming who one is” in words of Nietzsche’s that Heidegger liked to cite. We will show how this insight into finitude is deepened in later entries in relation to Heidegger’s concepts of conscience and what he calls “ecstatic temporality”.” <– That doesn't fail when you bring "antiSemite" into the equation, either.

    The fact that Heidegger dared to do philosophy without God, leaving God out of the picture, is crucial to the secular citizen and especially in a century where nonbelief is the only belief category that's growing worldwide.

  25. 25
    Blanche Quizno

    @ 20: ” I do think Rousseau’s character is directly connected to his philosophy so I distrust his philosophy because of aspects of his character. How do we deal with Heidegger?”

    In all cases, we look at the content in question without looking at who wrote it. Utlimately, a work stands or falls on its content, not who’s writing it. That’s why nobodies can become hugely successful authors (JK Rowling, I’m looking at YOU) and anonymous students can produce deeply provocative research results.

    It is wrong to go in biased against content you have never seen just because whoever wrote it happened to be a dick – that’s bigotry. Even a dick can have a good idea from time to time – we’ve certainly seen THAT happen. If you wish to see whether something has independent value, it is wise to set the author aside and simply engage the material, as it stands, on its own merits or lack thereof.

    This whole “Oh, I don’t like him, so I won’t like whatever he wrote” attitude is just astonishing to me.

  26. 26
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    That doesn’t fail when you bring “antiSemite” into the equation, either.

    …except that any “equation” that includes “God” in christian and postchristian philosophy almost inevitably includes judaism and jews .

  27. 27
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    @25
    I obviously didn’t express myself plainly enough above. I read some of Rousseau’s work and learned more about his character later and was not surprised by what I learned. I read Hume’s philosophical work and was astonished when I later learned he was a racist as it seemed so contradictory to the principles of his philosophy. [Not when you consider that Hume maintained that reason was the slave of the passions, perhaps, but that is also separate or separable from his philosophical views] The complication is that Rousseau’s philosophical writings are “who is writing it” in a way that I don’t think Hume’s are. Other philosophers present the same problem- Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein- we can’t separate what they say from who says it.

  28. 28
    Blanche Quizno

    Truth be told, I’m not terribly fond of Rousseau myself… He was a very difficult man.

  29. 29
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    “Was he a philosopher who was antisemitic or was he an antisemitic philosopher?”

    Well, a little of column A and a little of column B, honestly.

    A lot of column B, according to Emmanuel Faye’s Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy.* (The letter in response by Gregory Fried is also well worth reading, and available free online.)

    *And not just anti-Semitic, but Nazi in every sense of the term, as indicated by the title.

  30. 30
    Holms

    Other philosophers have argued that the new revelations do not amount to a “smoking gun” of antisemitism, and should not lead to a dismissal of Heidegger’s other writings even if they did.

    I fail to see how prejudice against jews can be considered as being anything other than antisemitism.

    Antisemitism is not wrong because it is fallacious, it is wrong because it is evil.

    Firstly, yes anti-semitism is morally wrong, but it is also logically wrong, in that conclusions about Jews are being reached on the basis of no evidence, or worse yet, evidence that is known to be fabricated as in the case of the Protocols. A conclusion reached by way of argument or premise that is not valid is itself not valid.

  31. 31
    alqpr

    @Shatterface: *The* ‘Jewish people’ aren’t making land grabs against anyone, but *some* jewish people may be. There was no definite article in the original so you should not criticize it as if there was one.

  32. 32
    alqpr

    memo to self: must reload page before commenting!

  33. 33
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Shatterface, Israelis are, by definition, virtually all Jewish.

    76% of Israelis are Jewish. ‘Virtually all’ seems like a bit of a stretch.

    It is ISRAELIS making land grabs in Gaza.

    Your information appears to be about nine years out of date.

  34. 34
    Celegans

    I disagree strongly with the characterization of antisemitism as a whole as stupid and thoughtless (vicious, yes, I’ll agree with that). It is a ideology with clear material purpose and logic that has been thought out over centuries.

    I would be intrigued to know which antisemitic theories you think are intelligent and cogent. What is the ‘logic’ of antisemitism? It depends on assuming that Jews are not humans in the usual sense of the world but are infected with a bacillus like nature that poisons everything they come in contact with. Oh, and they are united in a global conspiracy to control the world and eat the babies of Christians. Not stupid? I think you have the bar set too high.

  35. 35
    Blanche Quizno

    I’ll withdraw my comment about Israelis making land grabs in Gaza. Regardless of the up-to-dateness or lack thereof of the comment, it was simply providing an example where I would criticize Jewish people, to illustrate that such criticism would be based on their *doing* bad stuff rather than on any value judgment of their inherent badness as people (which is where the antiSemitism lies). I wasn’t trying to update everyone on the state of Palestinian affairs. It was just an example.

    What of the lovely book titled “On The Jews And Their Lies”? That was written by no other than Christian reformer Martin Luther, the Father of Protestantism. 65,000 words condemning the Jews for existing. No one can deny that the entire New Testament is thoroughly antiSemitic. Jews have been persecuted for centuries as “Christ killers” on the basis of the contents of the New Testament. In fact, modern antiSemitic views are typically validated by references to the Christian scriptures.

    That’s the macdaddy of all antiSemitism right there – and it STILL inspires antiSemitism today. WAY more than Heidegger possibly could. Worse than any other source that has ever existed – one can go so far as to infer that it is this source of antiSemitic content that has inspired the antiSemitic content in all others. What now?

  36. 36
    Celegans

    No one can deny that the entire New Testament is thoroughly antiSemitic. Jews have been persecuted for centuries as “Christ killers” on the basis of the contents of the New Testament.

    Actually I don’t think that the NT is antisemitic. It predates by 800 years or so the historical emergence of antisemitism. Most of it was written by Jews, of course, and, although this is disputed, it seems likely many or most of them would ave considered Christianity a Jeisih sect.

    In fact, modern antiSemitic views are typically validated by references to the Christian scriptures.

    Again, not really. Anthony Julius’s history of antisemitism in Britain (the birthplace of antisemitism) is very good on all this, but antisemitism is nearly always justified by reference to much later writings and myths.

  37. 37
    Blanche Quizno

    I’m sorry, Celegans, but it is widely acknowledged that the Christian scriptures are antiSemitic. You really cannot make anything approaching a strong point to the contrary:

    “The history of anti-Semitism in the Christian church is a long, sad story. Ironically, this faith which began as a sect within Judaism has been responsible for many more atrocities against the Jewish people than any of their other enemies.

    For centuries, Christian Europe reviled Jewish believers as Christ-killers, and Jews were accused of ludicrous crimes like “host nailing” (stealing consecrated communion wafers and driving nails through them, to crucify Jesus anew) or draining the blood of Christian children to bake in matzoh. Throughout the Middle Ages, thousands of Jews were tried and executed, or simply murdered by mobs, after wild accusations such as these incited Christian communities to frenzy. One of the most notable Christian anti-Semites was Martin Luther, who wrote a book titled On the Jews and Their Lies which argued that Judaism should be outlawed, synagogues should be burned down and Jews should be enslaved for forced labor.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2009/07/new-testament-anti-semitism/

    “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.”
    —Matthew 27:24-25

    “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
    —John 8:44

    The topic even gets its own Wikipedia page (not that that’s necessarily anything special):

    Douglas Hare noted that the Gospel of Matthew avoids sociological explanations for persecution:[12]
    “Only the theological cause, the obduracy of Israel is of interest to the author. Nor is the mystery of Israel’s sin probed, whether in terms of dualistic categories or in terms of predestinarianism. Israel’s sin is a fact of history which requires no explanation.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_and_the_New_Testament

    Hitler, in fact, frequently referred to Christianity as his basis for his policies against the Jews:

    “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” – Hitler (Mein Kampf)

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.” – Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922

    I realize there is a stigma on the Internet for any argument referencing Hitler (GODWIN!!), but the fact is, we’re talking whether the Christian scriptures were used as a basis for modern antiSemitism, and Hitler is the most obvious example that yes, this was indeed the case. In fact, I doubt you’ll be able to find a single white supremacist group that is not both devoutly Christian AND ardently antiSemitic – those two go hand in hand.

  38. 38
    Blanche Quizno

    @ 36: Celegans, if you read up on the history of Christmas, you’ll find these interesting details:

    “Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”

    As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in 1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.” http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

    falalalalalalalala

  39. 39
    Blanche Quizno

    “Actually I don’t think that the NT is antisemitic. It predates by 800 years or so the historical emergence of antisemitism.”

    I don’t think anyone could possibly deny that the Roman banishment of the Jews from Judaea in the wake of their defeat in the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-135 CE) could possibly be anything other than antiSemitism. That’s the basis for the Jewish Diaspora, after all.

    The Romans even renamed the province that had formerly been known as “Judaea” as “Syria Palaestina”.

    And THAT’s history.

  40. 40
    Crimson Clupeidae

    This is really just more fodder for the #UpForDebate hashtag, right?

  41. 41
    jesse

    Late to this, but some thoughts on the NT as anti-semitic:

    Understand that the NT was written by Jews who saw themselves as reformists. It isn’t until you get into the letters of Paul that you see the seeds of something different. It is Paul IIRC who finally rejects the application of Jewish law (such as dietary rules). In fact one can trace int he letters and gospels an ongoing debate and — if one reads between the lines, a rancorous one — between the largely Hellenized Jews represented by Paul and his ilk and the more “working class” (for lack of a better term) people represented in Luke and Matthew, to name two.

    Talking about the New Testament in and of itself as anti-Semitic seems a bit meaningless, since Christianity itself had only just been invented and the very idea of converting non-Jews to Christianity wasn’t a thing for a good century after Jesus supposedly existed.

    The Roman expulsion of Jews from Palestine wasn’t, I would argue, anti Semitic in the more modern (I use the term loosely) sense. It was a political decision that made perfect sense to Roman administrators just as the expulsion of Jews from their land under the Babylonians did several centuries earlier. The Romans were many things but racist wasn’t one of them — the Jewish revolt was a political and military problem for the Romans, not
    a religious or ethnic issue. It’s why the Romans were so flexible about who was in the Empire and in one sense that’s why Christianity was able to make the inroads it did. The Romans cared not at all who you worshipped, they cared about taxes and provision of military support. it was a strength and a real political blind spot. (With respect to Christianity, a HUGE blind spot).

    That said, that doesn’t mean the NT can’t be used as an inspiration and quote mined for all kinds of things to use against the Jewish people, as it was several centuries later and pretty continuously since oh, 700 AD or thereabouts. (I’d date what we might recognize as anti-Semitism to around then, with some wiggle room — basically when the Roman church starts to really consolidate power as a state institution and is clearly the only game in town). Calling the NT anti-Semitic in itself is a bit of a stretch to me. Calling church policy anti-Semitic is not.

  1. 42
    Guest post: The Myth of the Consistent Skeptic » Butterflies and Wheels

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