*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Isaac and Abraham

Came across a reminder today.  There are two ways to look at this story for an atheist: awe and ridicule.
You who build these altars now
To sacrifice these children,
You must not do it anymore.
A scheme is not a vision
And you never have been tempted
By a demon or a god.
You who stand above them now,
Your hatchets blunt and bloody,
You were not there before,
When I lay upon a mountain
And my father's hand was trembling
With the beauty of the word.
- Leonard Cohen, 'The Story of Isaac

It should be simple to call it barbarous, but yet, doesn't it speak to something fundamental in the psyche of 'religions of The Book' and their cultures?  I could have a discussion about this story with someone educated Jewish, Muslim or Christian  (I was educated Catholic), but not anyone else.  I once had a discussion with a Japanese lover about it (probably because the song was playing?) but she was horrified past any rational discussion... which is probably the correct reaction, really.  If nothing else the story stands as the metaphor for the Old Testament, and precursor to The Crucifixion*.  It still puzzles me.

*I am an atheist, but I still capitalize.


  1. "*I am an atheist, but I still capitalize."

    I play Devil's advocate at every turn and 1/2 of the time it is lost on whomever I'm speaking to.

    Makes for some spectacular utterances :)

    1. You know many Brits? You can get away with that with Brits, and you can expect it from them. We N.Americans? God aren't most of us insecure in our beliefs?

  2. Blind faith is amazing.

    I wouldn't go as far to say that I am an atheist as much as I am more of an agnostic atheist. I know people that have stories that make them believe. I am still going to wait, no sense in the blind leading the blind right?

    Also I ask too many questions. Some of my family members are JW. I ask questions because I want to know their view and stance on things. And I am just told they are because they are and you just have to have faith in God. Hmmm, nah.

    And the foreskin debate is quite interesting, it's elective because it is not a necessary procedure. Why would that ever be a good idea?! Aside from aesthetics I assume.

    1. Had my boy done, and I am not Jewish. Felt the most guilty ever seeing the little dressing over it. Still feel guilty...

      Fact is, it does reduce STDs in a population, and reduces the risk in an individual male, and thus in his partners, and their other partners, etc... It has never been shown to reduce pleasure for 'pitcher' or 'catcher', apart from aesthetic preference, I suppose. There are those who say it does, but they cannot bring a shred of proof to the table.

      Sure, I will drill it into the boy's head to wear a rubber, but did you always listen to your parents? My mother has three sons, all done. As she put it, as a nurse she'd seen too many old men with horrible symptoms.

      My boy was born in Toronto, and we had to make a special request to get it done, even though the hospital we were in used to be Jewish. Our second child was born in Japan, and we could not have had it done, so we thought, 'shit, how are we going to explain the difference to these boys?' Turns out she's a girl.

      Now female-circumcision? That's just fucking barbaric.

    2. In California it is an elective procedure that is an out of pocket expense.

  3. It's funny, Japanese people are usually respectful enough to not roll their eyes when you talk to them about most things, but when it comes to faith and religion, I see it quite often.

    1. It's because they're ignorant. And yes, I do mean that in both senses.

      I am an atheist, but once was a sincere Catholic. My best friend is a lapsed Reform Jew. Etc. I have little time for 'believers' of any type, and yet, the complete insincerity of religious practice in Japan (and much of the East) rubs me wrong. Even 'Pascal's Wager' is self-aware, wry and curious. Japanese practice is at best obligatory, and at worst scheming.