I had never until very recently known the word for what might be called a “reverse anachronism”: the selective grafting of mores as indicated in ancient writings onto today’s standards of conduct. I am now aware that the practice I mention is known as “presentism,” and I extend an apology to all who read this with a smile at having learned this term before I glimpsed it at one website or another, possibly Religious Dispatches, possibly one of the links at Crooks and Liars, my two favorite sites.
For years I have argued that the only reason the ancient Semitic people (both Jews and Muslims) do not eat pork is that they were a nomadic people. Pork once was subject to trichinosis infestation until G. E. came along and inveted the refrigerator. (Please don’t tell me someone else invented it, let me have my fun.) Today, reform Jews (and probably quite a few Muslims – they’re all Semites, which is why the word anti-Semitic, as applied to Jews, is only half the tale) eat pork. Those who do not eat pork probably enjoy looking down their noses (no pun intended, now!) at those who do.
But that’s besides the point. The point is, as all us know, once science explains a phenomenon and invents a way of dealing with it, the ancient proscription makes absolutely no sense. Santayana would have a field day with these hidebound slaves to hoary, illogical notions such as claiming that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality whereas we now know that the Sodomites merely refused bed and breakfast, including a roll in the hay with the wife or daughters, to nomadic peoples after their long trek to the caravanserie. Yes, the sin of Sodom was its zenophobia.
The fact that so many atheists know this, while so many believers do not is a reflection of a known fact that non-believers have more familiarity with the Bible than most Judeo-Christian people. Familiarity breeds contempt. Perhaps if they read their books a bit more closely and asked questions about logic now and then while perusing the text, they might come to the only possible conclusion: the Bible is a crock of shit.
I struggled a long time trying to figure out why the late Aleister Crowley held Moses – Mosheh – in such high esteem. The son of super right wing Christians (his beer brewer dad was a Pilgrim Brother!), Alexander precociously told his parents they’d forgotten to warn him of a “third evil king” after their stern warnings about drinKing and smoking.” With a smile, young Alex said: “fucKing,” and grew up to be one of the most misunderstood geniuses of the last couple of millennia. In an analysis of atheism he said that they were a mixed lot, some being atheists for all the wrong reasons, others taking a philosophical position that was “just as valid as belief and a lot less likely to cause mischief.”
But all of Crowley’s heroes – the “Gnostic saints” of the collects to one of his brilliant rituals – were contrarians, apostates, bad popes, scoundrel artists and poets, &c.; in a word, libertines – amoral, not immoral. Crowley’s philosophy was inspired by Rabelais and by the Cairo Mystery School, whose slogan was: all is true, nothing is forbidden. (Rabelais’ order of monks in Gargantua and Pantagruel painted a slogan for a sign welcoming guests to the monastery: “Do As You Will.”) But many of Crowley’s collects praised charalatans like Unkle Al himself, from Mosheh to Simon Magus to himself, the Great Beast 666.
But given his indifference to the Bible and his Nietzschean philosophy (mixed with Theravada, tantric left hand Hinduism, and Taoism, especially), why would Crowley admire Moses?
The answer is probably very simple. He thought much of a man who could claim receipt of holy script and galvanize an entire tribe of people into not only believing in it but thinking the scribe himself, the person to whom the gospel was delivered, a very great prophet of a people. Plus, Mosheh was a magician. He caused Aaron’s rod to be transformed into a serpent, and when he had the tribe making its exodus, parted a sea to allow their escape and the inundation of the Pharaoh’s chariots. Could David Blaine do that? Criss Angel? David Kotkin?