Thursday, February 22, 2007

Of King Solomon and Rabbinic Child Molesters

“And it was in Shlomo’s old age and his wives turned his heart after foreign gods and his heart was not completely with the Lord his God like the heart of David his father.” (Kings I 11:4)

What does it mean when the T’nach talks about Shlomo worshipping idols? In the rabbinic tradition it is taken to mean that he allowed his wives to worship idols and he did nothing to stop it so it is therefore considered, in some sense, as if he himself worshipped idols. Shlomo was not just a wise but fallible old man, he was a monarch with absolute authority. With absolute authority comes absolute responsibility. Because Shlomo was in such a position of power it was perfectly justifiable for T’nach to place absolute blame upon him and view him as an idolater.
As any thinking person should have realized by now, the real issue at stake in the Yehuda Kolko case is not Yehuda Kolko. Kolko by himself is simply a child molester no more no less. This case is really about the Haredi rabbinate, otherwise known as the gedolim, who allowed Kolko to teach at Torah Temimah and work at summer camps for thirty years. This case raises some interesting questions about the concept of daat Torah. The Haredim of course view their gedolim as absolute infallible authorities and as such not subject to challenge by mere mortals such as you or me. This being the case then how does one understand the fact that these gedolim failed to catch Kolko? If one believes that the Haredi gedolim are simply wise but fallible old men then, in theory at least, it is possible to simply say they failed in this instance and that in the future better safe guards are needed. This sort of position is perfectly viable for someone in my situation. Just as I could care less what these people think about science and evolution so to I could care less what these people think are the best ways to protect children from child molesters. But for anyone who believes that the gedolim must be viewed as having absolute authority then the Kolko case raises some serious problems. If the gedolim have absolute authority then, as Shlomo was viewed as an idolater by T’nach, the gedolim themselves must be viewed as being child molesters. They allowed it to happen so therefore they must bear absolute blame for it. So when Kolko pulled down the pants of children and touched them it was not he who did it; it was every single one of the gedolim.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Multiculturalist Argument For God

“If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.” (C.S Lewis Mere Christianity pg. 43.)

This is one of the most devastating arguments I know of against either atheism or religious fundamentalism. Every single human society, up until modern times, has not only believed in the existence of some sort of supernatural being (or beings), that takes an interest in human affairs and has definite ideas about what humans should or should not do, but has built their civilization around this premise. It was not just that these societies had large amounts of religious people, religion was the society. If you are an atheist then you have to believe therefore that human civilization has been built around one giant lie. I do not see how you can accept such a view of humanity and still have the faith in human reason and human ability that modernity requires in order to justify itself. Similarly if you are a religious fundamentalist, someone who believes that his religious texts and doctrines are by definition the Truth and the standard by which everything else must be judged, then you must admit that the vast majority of humanity, those who do not share your beliefs, has walked completely in darkness. How can anyone trust such a God, who has lead humanity into darkness, to reveal any Truths?
One of the problems with how history gets taught, and I see this with the students I teach, is that, because we are not a civilization built around religion, we have rewritten the past in our own image and have downplayed the central role played by religion in past civilizations. All of my students, to one degree or another, believe that religion should be separated from government to such an extent that they do not understand how any reasonable person could have thought differently. Aided by the textbooks they have read, which have no desire to challenge their assumptions, unless they are religious ones, my students have not truly been forced to face the fact that every civilization they have studied has been built around religion and in most cases religions vastly different then theirs. This is true of my secular students and of my religious ones, who simply are unable to internalize the idea that there were Greek and Roman pagans, who honestly believed in the gods and who had the morals and piety to match that of any Christian.
It is not for nothing that recent trends in education have strengthened the hands of both atheists and fundamentalist.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Government is Licensed to Kill

A lot has been made about Israel’s inability to make its case in liberal circles. Israel gets caught up in the cycle of violence argument and cannot escape the moral equivalency that goes with it. One may wish to simply pass this off as anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism may play a role, but I think that there is more to it than that. As I see it, one of the major issues here is that the modern left does not see an inherent difference between the actions of governments and the actions of individual human beings.
While I believe in having a limited government, this government has an important role to play in society and in carrying out its mission it has the moral license to take actions beyond the normal scope of human beings. If someone were to shoot my friend or relative and I was to hunt that person down and kill him in cold blood then I would be engaging in vengeance and would be nothing more then a common murderer. If the government were to track down this same person and execute him they would be performing justice. Governments have the right to wage wars against other countries even though such actions are bound to cost innocent lives. The reason for this is that governments exist in order to protect the Lives, Liberties, and Properties of those who live under it and in order to protect these things governments have to have the ability to violate the rights of specific individuals. The government can force me to pay taxes I do not support and make me obey laws I do not support. The government can even draft me into the army, hand me a gun and send me up a hill into certain death. The justification for this is that it is only by having such a government that the rights of the populace as a whole can be maintained. Make no mistake about it, government is a Faustian bargain in which one barters away a large portion of one's freedoms.

Because of this, I have no moral objection to Israel bombing targets in civilian areas even though such actions cost innocent Palestinian lives. A Palestinian suicide bomber, on the other hand, is not acting on behalf of a government and for this reason, is simply a murderer. Most of those on the Left today do not see any moral difference. When an Israeli soldier kills a Palestinian he is a murderer and when a Palestinian kills an Israeli he is a murderer. This turns into a cycle of violence; Israel kills in order to avenge the murders of Israelis and Palestinians kill in order to avenge themselves upon Israel.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Full Frontal Potter

The media have been all over it, squeezing the story for every bit of shock value it is worth. Oh my God, Daniel Radcliffe, the boy who plays Harry Potter, goes completely naked in a theater production of Equus. Parents are horrified. What should they do with their children.
My thoughts on the matter.
What is Danial Radcliffe doing that is harmful to children? I say this is a wonderful opportunity for parents to talk to their children about making moral choices and how moral choices can be complicated. Here are some starter questions to get the ball rolling. Is Dan doing anything wrong by running around on stage naked, if so what? Does it change things considering the fact that he is doing art and not simply porn? Considering the nature of the acting profession, should actors be expected to live by the same sexual code as other people? I say we all owe Daniel a debt of gratitude. If his actions spark these kinds of conversations then it is worth every stitch of clothing not on his naked body.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Benzion Chinn and the Deathly Hollows

Its Official, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows is coming out July 21, 2007. I have already ordered myself a copy so to all the 3.14159... admirers of mine, if you wish to give me something for my birthday, you will have to think of something else.
I don't think Harry is going to die. If I were going to kill him here is how I would do it. (I thought of this idea back in 2000, when I was reading Goblet of Fire.) What Avada Kedavra does is suck the lifeforce out of the person, causing them to drop dead, and into the one who says the curse. When Voldemort used the spell on Harry, all those years ago, he killed Harry. Except that, because Harry was protected by his mother's sacrifice, the spell rebounded back on Voldemort, taking his lifeforce and placing it within Harry. Harry had died. The reason why he is still alive is that he possesses Voldemort's lifeforce, which is why he has Voldemort's abilities. Because Harry lives on Voldemort's lifeforce, his life depends on Voldemort's continued existence. By destroying Voldemort, Harry will, in essence be sacrificing himself to save his friends.