“I find it necessary to wash my hands after I have come into contact with religious people.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

True story:

A Jewish American young man, baby boomer generation, grows up and gets married in the New York area. His wife is a nice Jewish girl. They live on Long Island.  They apparently believed themselves unable to have children, because they adopted a child, sort of through a gray market, but they got a Caucasian child, a daughter, whom they proceeded to raise Jewish.

This might have worked out, except for two things: the daughter was headstrong, articulate, thoughtful, and rebellious, none of which was consonant with the second factor,  the father’s increasing orthodoxy and observance of traditional Judaism. Dad’s increasing rigidity about the Sabbath prohibited his daughter from having a normal teenage life, constantly confining her to quarters at times when kids want to congregate and have fun.

Three miracles, three obedient Jews!

Miraculously, the couple then had three daughters, whom they proceeded to raise — and who agreed to be raised — Jewish to the max. Two of them married rabbis. They teach in yeshivas and live in a closed, pious, Jewish world, in which the toilet paper is pre-torn on Friday night (not making that up), lest one of the 39 varieties of prohibited work be committed on the Sabbath (prescribed Torah penalty: death).

The adopted daughter was forever estranged from her family because of her father’s increasing orthodoxy. His wife, tragically, died a horrible death from cancer at age 58, and he quickly remarried and moved to Israel, leaving his daughters in a state of shock as they undertook the cruel task of disposing of their mother’s possessions and effects.

Trying to get with the program

Meanwhile, the adopted daughter had been having a very rough time of it, even though she got with the parents’ Jewish program to the extent possible, played along for as long as she could, all the while clashing with her (increasingly orthodox) father.

Dad actually left the congregation of which he was president, simply because of the issue of a female rabbi.

Now, in Israel, he lives a Jewish wet dream, immerses himself in Jew stuff day and night, celebrating every single holiday, standing on a rooftop at sunrise with thousands of other Jews to commemorate the day on which the Sun was supposedly created, the whole nine yards, surrounded with people just like himself, indoctrinated daily with the specialness of the Jewish people, the inferiority of everyone else.

Torah ABCs

I say, more power to him. Everybody has the freedom to live out his few days as he likes. I would just like to point out one hypocrisy. This man who immerses himself in Torah and the Torah lore, in midrash and spinning, in Biblical disputations and all manner of nonsense and cockamamie bullshit, this man does not know his Torah ABCs.

This is a man who relentlessly punished his daughter because she was different. Leviticus 19:15 – “judge your kinsman fairly.” That doesn’t apply to Judaism itself, apparently.  The man’s religion allowed no room for question, much less resistance.

This is a man who (I’m not making this up) incarcerated his unmanageable daughter  in a mental institution under false pretenses — told her they were going to a new school — then paid for it when the insurance wouldn’t — with her bat mitzvah money. You shall not steal (Leviticus 19:13).   You shall not bear false witness (Deuteronomy 5:11).

This is a wealthy man (owner of several properties in the New York area and Israel), with a six-figure pension (from his accounting firm employer, because he wasn’t allowed to invest in the stock market) — but he won’t offer any but the most meager and niggardly help to his non-conforming atheist daughter.

This is a man who has lavished houses, educations, and much more on the obedient Jewish siblings but won’t respect the commitment he made to his adopted daughter (Numbers 30:3 — honor your commitments).

Morality is optional

This is a pious Jewish prick. There are pious Christian pricks (child-molesting priests), pious Muslim pricks (hate-preaching imams), pious pricks in every faith, simply because religious observance does not insure, does not consistently motivate ethical behavior.  Oh, sure, they make a big deal out of morality – but if you’re pious, morality is OPTIONAL!

Thus it is possible for a man, a very intelligent professional man, to consider himself thoroughly Jewish, to immerse himself in all things Jewish, but not to heed the primitive morality of the Torah that he is supposed to revere.

If religion were unfailingly to deliver a better class of people, a more moral and humane individual, and if in fact it made for the gradual and palpable improvement in the human race and the human condition, then I might see some justification for all the fantasy and ritual.

But when people cling to that fantasy and ritual and use it as a cover for immoral, inhumane behavior, then there is no excusing religion; there is only wishing for its disappearance and demise.


UPDATE: PJP (Pious Jewish Prick) is in the US so his new wife can have surgery.  For unexplained reasons he has a narrow window in which he can see his daughter and grandkids.  He's having stomach pains, so no one can know until the last moment whether they will both feel ok. 

This suspense is not necessary, but for the fact that the intervening day, during which no information can be relayed, is their damned Sabbath.  Once again his inflexibility inflicts inconvenience on others.  I mentioned above how for years it raised hell with his daughter's social life.

Sundown today is at 5:56, but for some reason he can't call till 8:00.  Gotta say prayers after Sabbath?  I think they have to be sure it's dark.  Gimme a break. 

Even worse, daughter and kids cannot even VISIT him on Sabbath, no work required on his part. They're willing to drive 2 1/2 hours each way.  I have no idea why no visitation.  Because the visitees are condoning driving?  

It would have been much better to see them on Saturday, so that the 7-year-old would not have been subjected to a tough travel day before school the next day.  But the fucking Sabbath is more imporant that a young kid's comfort, rest, and stamina.  Couldn't you, just once, bend the f'ing rules?   Who's gonna know? And more importantly...


Don't get me started on the the Jews' anal attchment to their Sabbath.  All manner of devices (e.g., non-dialing telephone; elevator that automatically stops at every floor), have been invented to fool God, who is supposed to have to put all the loopholes there so we can find them.  Oy, vey. If there's any other religion so tailored to the obsessive and compulsive, I'd like to know about it.

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Comment by Alan Perlman on March 13, 2013 at 11:05am

To Tom: Point taken, with thanks.  I can only guess at what Catholicism feels like from the inside.  This isn't the first time I've heard the word "survived" in connection with a Catholic upbringing.

To Cat: You're probably right, but Jewish identity is a complex question.  Once born from a Jewish womb, you're Jewish, no matter what you choose to make of it.  I've heard this from Jews of every stripe. And I have had numerous debates (some very short, one in a protracted hot tub session) with Judaism Lite folks who think you're not Jewish if you don't believe in God.  I once told one of these people, a Jewish academic colleague, that I was in Rabbi Wine's Humanistic congregation.  His response: "Oh, that crazy man."

"Religion," in everyday usage clearly implies a divine being.  Humanistic Jews call themselves a religion because they are concerned with the same issues, minus the deity. But this is a highly unfamiliar usage and a point of argument with believers. 

Comment by tom sarbeck on March 11, 2013 at 10:24pm

About Catholicism's preoccupation with enforcing its sexual prohibitions...

Having survived a Catholic school education, I would say Catholicism is preoccupied with devising/delineating/developing its sexual prohibitions.

Seeing the Church's problem with pedophilia, I would say Catholicism is not preoccupied with enforcing its sexual prohibitions. Unless you're a woman looking for reproductive care. (What do those bishops do when they're alone?)

According to one history of the Protestant Reformation, some denominations reverse Catholicism's preoccupations; they are more concerned with sexual behavior and less concerned with the rules.

Comment by Idaho Spud on March 11, 2013 at 1:37pm

"Get out of hell free card."  Love it.

Comment by Grinning Cat on March 11, 2013 at 11:33am

Alan, the Orthodox probably think of me, and of your family, as Jews (who are doing it wrong).

I agree with Judith Seid, who writes in God-Optional Judaism that Judaism isn't exactly "a" religion -- Jews are divided more than united by their vast range of beliefs (is humanistic Judaism a religion? there's quite a spectrum among the theists as well) -- nor is it exactly an ethnic group, as people can adopt in by choice. She characterizes it as, more than anything else, a big extended family, (ideally) committed to each other.

(btw, I've come to prefer the term "Jew by choice" over "converted Jew", because it doesn't suggest the questions of what kind of conversion and whether it was "proper".)

Why observe the Sabbath by refraining from mastery over nature? The most "rational" answer I have is to honor the story that "God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh."

Someone (I forget who) pointed out that we don't speak generic language, we don't have a generic culture, we have specific associations in addition to being part of humanity as a whole. Yet we shouldn't let a particular "in-group" make us lose sight of being part of the broad human family as well.

Comment by Grinning Cat on March 11, 2013 at 11:32am

Yeah, we're one species on one planet orbiting one of some 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of maybe 100 billion to a trillion galaxies in the universe... and the numbers are far too huge for our brains to intuit. Before we understood this, we humans created god characters who supposedly created the vast universe, yet are violently fixated on whether we light fires on one day out of every week, or on exactly what we do with our naughty fun bits.

Orthodox Judaism does manage to get a few things right about sex: it recognizes that (for a married couple) sex is a good and joyful source of pleasure and bonding, quite independent of "be fruitful and multiply", and especially encouraged during the Sabbath -- and a husband is obligated to satisfy his wife!

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 11, 2013 at 10:13am

To Cat: this -- "If PJP weren't religious, he would have made some other excuse" -- is something I hadn't thought of.  I'm still at a loss as to why receiving visitors is verboten. 

I think you and I came from roughly the same background.  I can't imagine what the Orthodox think of people like my family, who ignore 99% of all the commandments but consider themselves fully Jewish.  And what's the punishment?  Jews don't believe in hell.  In the Torah, God himself metes out punishment for disobedience -- usually death.

As for work, wait a minute - didn't God GIVE us mastery over nature?  So why punish us when we practice it?  Don't worry - I don't expect a rational answer to that. Or to any questioning of religious beliefs/practices.

To Tom...Seems to me that Catholicism is so preoccupied with enforcing its sexual prohibitions that meat on Fridays is a small offense indeed.  Something about venal vs. mortal sins, right?  In which category does child molestation fall?

Comment by Grinning Cat on March 11, 2013 at 1:51am

Alan, I missed your "UPDATE" above. Having grown up with liberal Judaism, and knowing a bit about Orthodox/traditional beliefs, I can say with confidence that observant Jews are not zapped by lightning, or damned for eternity, or turn into toads, or commit some grievous "sin", or anything else like that if family or friends with different beliefs visit them on the Sabbath!!!

If PJP weren't religious, he would have made some other excuse.

As for the Shabbat workarounds you mentioned -- which can also include unscrewing the refrigerator lightbulb during the Sabbath, and using timers and thermostats -- I see them as signs of [misguided] respect rather than one-upmanship. The teachings in question are not "Don't enjoy heat and cooked food, or air conditioning; don't use elevators or lights or telephones", but rather "Don't carry things or light fires; don't do 39 categories of constructive, creative 'melacha' that demonstrate mastery over nature." Electricity is considered "fire" that shouldn't be directly lit or extinguished. (Yes, that's crazy!)

Comment by tom sarbeck on March 11, 2013 at 1:50am

In the catechisms we used, I never saw a retroactive-application clause.

Morality being relative to the times, maybe today's catechisms have such clauses.

Whoops, gotta go; a lightning both just struck a few feet away.

Comment by Grinning Cat on March 11, 2013 at 12:59am

I've wondered what happened, in Catholic theology, to the people condemned to hell for having eaten meat on Fridays (not in Lent), before the Catholic Church (decided? learned? got a revelation?) that it wasn't a sin anymore. Did they all get "Get Out of Hell Free" cards?

Not that any of the imaginary afterlife Secret Magical Places™ make all that much sense anyway.

Comment by tom sarbeck on March 10, 2013 at 11:58pm

The Catholicism I knew was less obsessive/compulsive than this branch of Judaism, but one day in a sophomore year religion class in a Jesuit high school we spent the hour debating whether milk shakes were food or drink.

If food, the Lenten fasting rule would have prohibited having one.

If drink, the rule wouldn't apply.

I don't remember the result.

We were occasionally advised not to be too scrupulous.



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