Israel, Black Lives Matter, Jewish Whiteness, and this Historical Moment’s Call for Justice

I don’t write about Jewishness much. For most Jews, I’m Jewish enough. But not for all, and I see their point. My adult atheism makes it easier for me to pass, or even just deny any Jewishness if I were the type of person to want to do so. My childhood distance from Judaism means that I don’t feel the pain of anti-semitic insults as acutely as many. I have no Holocaust stories in my family to feed the watchful eye that notices anti-semitism at all.

I am, in short, a Jew hardly harmed by anti-semitism.

It is largely for this reason that I struggle with taking positions on Israel. I don’t have to have Holocaust stories in my own family to remember the stories told to me by congregant’s parents. My time writing newsletter articles for my shul had me taking down the words of people whose parents had survived the concentration camps. I know the effect is real, and lasting. I’ve seen it impact friends and co-congregants. When they tell me how desperate they feel when it seems Israel is under attack, i hear the shift in timbre. I feel the anxious air between us.

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Whom do I root for?

ZOMG, there’s a youtube video titled “PragerU Dismantled by an Evolutionary Psychologist”. Key claim? Around 1 minute in, the author of the book “Alpha God” asserts: “Evolutionary psychology explains the biblical god better than Prager does.”

I’m too scared to watch. Someone tell me when it’s over so I can uncover my eyes:

The Atheists For Liberty and Enlightenment Values

PZ has a new post up about a group Atheists for Liberty which proudly announces its embrace of Enlightenment values. Turns out it is a creature of Peter Boghossian, someone whose work I’ve criticized harshly in the past right here on this blog and whose ethics, clearly, are lacking.

Let’s be clear. “Enlightenment values” suck. Sure, Enlightenment philosophers actually move epistemology forward quite a bit. They also provided hugely important arguments for more widespread literacy and education on diverse topics. They developed a contractarianism sufficiently complete to found a country from Hobbes’ proto-contractarianism where “consent of the governed” had more Machiavellian meanings almost entirely limiting it to the practical advice to rulers not to encourage the masses to take up torches and pitchforks because those torches and pitchforks, in addition to being official notice of revocation of consent, were also a bit dangerous to the ruling class.

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Congregation Chabad: The Blood of Our Children, Perhaps Our First Born

There is yet another mass shooting at a place of worship. The details aren’t out yet, but we know that at least four people have been shot at the Congregation Chabad northeast of San Diego during a regular shabbat service on a special shabbat: the 8th day of Passover. As four victims is often taking as the number that defines a mass shooting, whatever news comes next, we know this qualifies.

The good news, such as it is, is that local law enforcement apparently has the shooter in custody. The shooting is, for the moment, likely over. While not as extensive or as lethal as the recent attacks in Sri Lanka or New Zealand or Pittsburgh, it’s certain that this attack has commonalities with all of these, and has more direct connections at least with Pittsburgh (today is exactly 6 months after the Pittsburgh attack), but also likely with New Zealand.

I’ll be updating this as more comes in. The notes will not necessarily be cohesive in the sense of the larger post, but I hope to provide updated information as I get it, and I hope I can at least make sense within the updates.


As both of my readers know, I have a weird and idiosyncratic religious history, with a childhood more Christian, but an adulthood that was Jewish when it wasn’t either vaguely spiritual or, later, entirely non-religious. I have most of the general cultural knowledge of others raised Jewish, but rarely have the same level of emotional attachment to shared jewish traditions and customs. While there have been many atheist Jews over the centuries, the emotional distance I feel makes me even more uncomfortable with being taken for a representative of jewishness than other atheist jews. Nonetheless, the group affiliation is there. There are definitions of jew that include me, and I’m not prepared to give them up.

The weird thing is that this sometimes creates very complicated emotional consequences for me: The Chabadi would, I’m sure, quickly disavow any possibility I might be in the same category of jewishness as they. And I can’t say I feel some close kinship with Chabadim as fellow travelers on the same road. The congregation where I made my adult home was small and unaffiliated, but leaned much more toward Reconstructionist judaism than any other flavor. I’ve never even been to services at a Chabadi synagogue, though obviously some features of services would be readily familiar to me. I imagine going to a Chabadi service would be something like a Mormon going to a Catholic service, or a Unitarian Universalist going to a 7th Day Adventist service.

And yet, weirdly, this almost-closeness interrupts my thoughts about this tragedy in a way that my clear distance from Sri Lankan communities or muslim communities in New Zealand does not. In those cases, I don’t feel any expectation to speak knowledgeably about Islam’s failings or Sri Lanka’s long and multi-faction history of violence. I can simply say that it doesn’t matter what the history is, the violence was unjustified and tragic. Yet in the case of the attack on Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha in Pittsburgh or (now) Congregation Chabad, I feel that I’m somehow supposed to speak about, and speak knowledgeably about, everything from the history of the Lubivitchers (of which I know little) to the distinctions between Reform and Reconstructionist judaisms (where I’m more knowledgeable but no expert) to my seemingly contradictory position that I’m not entirely opposed to Israel keeping occupied territory in the Golan while I thoroughly and utterly oppose the occupation of Gaza.

But I don’t have to explain those things, as much as my brain might pester me with sharp pokes. Because the same is true here as is true in other mass shootings: The violence is unjustified. This violence can never be justified. This violence must end.


Looking at the pictures of the police tape around the synagogue I was struck with the idea that this created a twisted mockery of an eruv.


Newer reports are putting the total shots fired around 10, and one report is listing a single person dead in addition to the four people wounded whose conditions were reported earlier.


And now reports are saying that rather than one murder in addition to the 4 injuries that were reported, there were a total of only 4 people hit, with 1 person killed and 3 injured. Although I’m no longer sure which is correct, I think this makes it very likely that the number of persons shot is unlikely to increase with new reports.

The one person killed is said to be an older woman.


In entirely not-shocking news, the shooter has been determined to be a young adult man. Who would have thought?

In slightly more shocking news, the mayor of Poway, the city where Congregation Chabad is located, has declared this a hate crime. It’s not at all surprising that it’s a hate crime (the only other plausible possibility given what we knew was domestic violence turned public), but it is somewhat surprising to me to hear the Mayor say that this early. It seems likely, then, that the shooter has been making statements about his anti-semitic motives to law enforcement, with the information then further communicated to the Mayor. This last is speculation of course, but I think it will prove true.


Trump has offered “thoughts and prayers”. Anti-semitic scumbags offering their selfish thoughts and bigoted prayers are worse than useless. I hope people take this opportunity to call Trump out again for his Nazi sympathies and general awfulness.


And… it has now been pointed out to me that I missed a story from earlier this week where a Christian guy, also in California,

deliberately drove into a group of pedestrians because he thought some of the people were Muslim

Also of note? He was on his way to a Christian bible study meeting at the time he chose to run these folks over. While the DA isn’t formally alleging any violation of hate crime provisions, prosecutors are still investigating and have not decided against those charges. For the moment, he’s been charged with eight counts of attempted murder.


A former Assistant Secretary of State (Joel Rubin) was on Fox News to discuss the rise of anti-semitism in relation to the Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha shooting 6 months ago and the Congregation Chabad shooting yesterday. After Rubin pointed out that there’s been substantial growth in public anti-semitism and mentioned the Charlottesville horror, he then made the point that Trump had “essentially said [the Charlottesville Nazis] were fair”. As soon as Trump was mentioned, Fox cut to commercial and came back from break pretending nothing unusual happened.

Ireland and Michael Nugent Win One – A Good One & A Big One.

So, the Irish constitutional provision authorizing the criminalization of blasphemy has now been repealed. This means that to the extent that the constitution of Ireland protects speech, it will now protect it just as extensively when that speech has religious content as it previously did when the content was other than religious. The Guardian notes that, while this is a win for all of Ireland (with 65% voting on the winning side and all Irish gaining in freedom), Michael Nugent and Atheist Ireland have been advocating for this for a long time:

“It means that we’ve got rid of a medieval crime from our constitution that should never have been there,” said Michael Nugent, chairperson of Atheist Ireland, which had campaigned for years to have blasphemy taken out of the constitution.

Nugent said the result was another important step towards realigning national laws with contemporary Irish life.

“The population has moved on, [people are] no longer controlled by the Catholic church, but a lot of the laws that were put in place are still there,” he added. “We have to chip away at them and get the state to catch up with the people.”

I know nothing about Irish politics, but this bit sounds good too:

Voters also returned president Michael Higgins to office, giving the 77-year-old poet and human rights campaigner another seven-year term by a comfortable margin.

65%+ voted a few months ago to repeal the Irish constitutional ban on abortion. 65% voted to repeal the Irish constitutional blasphemy exemption from free expression protections. And 55% voted to reelect a “human rights campaigner” to the office of the Irish presidency.

Of course, there is a snake in the grass, Ireland or no. The 2nd place finisher in the presidential election was Peter Casey who was polling dismally just days ago, but shot up to 20%+ by throwing hatred and demeaning stereotypes at Irish travelers, then defending his prejudice by insisting that it can’t be that bad, because it’s not racism, because the travelers don’t constitute a race.

The fact that Casey got more than 20% should be an embarrassment as well as a check on the potentially pacifying exuberance that can easily come in the wake of successful campaigns for positive change.

So congratulations, Ireland, but please don’t get overconfident.

 

 

Hold My Beer: Kavanaugh Gets Support From A Catholic Bishop

Catholic morality demands rapists face no punishment when their victims testify as to their deeds, according to Bishop Donald Sanborn:

…what should we think about Judge Kavanaugh?

Moral theology — indeed the law of God — requires us to not think any evil of him beyond what is evident. If there is insufficient evidence to make a certain judgement of guilt, then we must hold him guiltless. If there is sufficient evidence to cause suspicion of guilt, then we may lawfully suspect him. To think evil of someone without sufficient evidence is a sin of rash judgement, and it is a mortal sin if the matter is serious. This matter is certainly serious.

In this case, however, it is Judge Kavanaugh’s word against Dr. Ford’s word. Moral law requires us, in that parity of contradictory testimony, to take the word of the superior, which in this case would be that of Judge Kavanaugh.

Emphasis mine.

It’s hard, penis, of course, to determine what makes Kavanaugh the “superior” penis of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, but I’m sure that Catholic penis theology probably has some opinions on that as well. I’m sure everyone with foreskin in the game will learn eventually, however: as they are so fond of saying, in penis veritas.

Well, now that the Catholic hierarchy has begun telling us that we must forget about Kavanaugh’s past sexual assaults and move him along to a new position, I’m sure the opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination will die any day now.

Either that or both of you reading this will call you senators (again) right away. I can’t guess which is more likely.

 

Religion, Trump, and Accountability: A Cautionary Tale

Stolen from a thief:

Jehovah & Satan are scratching their heads, giving puzzled looks to each other, attempting to determine who gets blamed for Trump. Of course, they have to rope in their friends when each denies taking any hand in Trump's creation.

Gods discuss who is responsible for Donald Trump.

 

Given their age, I think FSM should be remanded to juvenile court.

 

Full Script:

Jehovah & Satan are scratching their heads, giving puzzled looks to each other at this point.

Jehovah: You’re sure he’s not one of yours? Because I didn’t make him.

Satan: Please. Give me some credit. Even I have some standards.

Jehovah: Buddha? Brahma? [Both shrug their shoulders.] Gaia?

Gaia: [Glowers.]

Jehovah: Right, right. Sorry. Forgot about the “pussy grabbing” thing. … Cthulhu?

Cthulhu: What kind of monster do you take me for? [Sips tea.]

Satan: Well somebody cooked him up.

Flying Spaghetti Monster: …

Jehovah: Wait… There’s no way you could …

FSM: Look. It was my first time. I was a little drunk and someone asked for a “Tangerine Dream” so I thought …

Satan: [Facepalm.] Fucking newbies.

Enforcement of Church Law: A Good Thing For Once?

Fuck the witch hunts, and the inquisition, and the condemnation of scientific heresies, and the support for inherited, monarchic rule, and, well, just about everything. But maybe, just maybe there’s something good that might come out of Christian church law after 1700 years?

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fellow United Methodist, [faces charges under Methodist church law] over a zero tolerance U.S. immigration policy …

Specifically, the group accuses him of child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of The United Methodist Church.

All are categories listed in 2702.3 as chargeable offenses for a professing member of a local church.

Interesting. I wonder how this might affect the national conversation, given that so many US citizens are Christian.

 

 

 

A Terrible Argument Against The Resurrection

I find this completely bizarre.

Jason Thibodeau has a “new” argument against the resurrection over on The Secular Outpost. I say, “new” because even if the argument hasn’t gotten widespread attention before, I cannot possibly imagine that it has not been previously advanced by someone. JT isn’t vouching for this argument per se, but rather he wanted to “present it [there] and solicit the thoughts of the Secular Outpost community”.

What is this grand argument? I copy it verbatim:

(1) God is completely rational.

Thus,

(2) Any action that God performs is undertaken on the basis of some good reason.

(3) There is no good reason for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead.

Therefore,

(4) God did not resurrect Jesus from the dead.

Premise (1) follows from the fact that God is perfect and (2) is a consequence of (1). Therefore, the soundness of the argument depends on the truth of (3). We can defend (3) by considering possible reasons that God might have for resurrecting Jesus and rejecting them. It is probably impossible to consider all possible factors that might count in favor of God’s resurrecting Jesus. However, that need not undermine the argument. Suppose we are not certain that there is no good reason for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead. We can issue a challenge to any person who believes that God did resurrect Jesus. That challenge would be to provide the good reason for God to resurrect Jesus. In the absence of any such account of God’s reason, we ought to be skeptical that there is such a reason.

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