Monday, June 21, 2010


The Pentateuch (or the Jewish "Torah") refers to the first five books of the bible which primarily tell the story of Moses - the exception of which being the first book, the book of Genesis, which deals with the creation myth, the great flood myth, and sets the foundation for the story of Abraham and his descendants - primarily his grandson Jacob (later renamed Israel) and his twelve sons becoming the "Twelve Tribes of Israel". All five books are also generally accredited to be authored by Moses according to most Abrahamic faiths, despite Moses' death and burial being described within the last chapter of the last book, Deuteronomy.

The book of Genesis is filled with a lot of outlandish and seemingly ridiculous claims (such as "light", "daytime", and "nighttime" being created prior to the creation of the sun; a talking snake that tricks the world's first woman into eating the "forbidden fruit"; the life spans of many people being over 800 to 900 years old; and a 500 year old man who manages to track down and stuff at least one pair of each "kind" of animal onto a wooden boat to survive for nine months while a global flood kills all life upon the earth); lots of stories that are presented as either "good" or "moral" despite being blatantly appalling (such as God committing mass genocide upon the earth with a global flood; a man described as "righteous" who offers up his two virgin daughters to an angry mob for them to be raped; the same "righteous" man allows his daughters to get him drunk after which he proceeds to have sex with them, impregnating them both; and God telling Abraham to commit human sacrifice with his son Isaac, with God stopping him just short of Abe plunging the knife into the boy's chest - just so he could "test" Abraham's loyalty). However, the overall theme of the book is to establish a lineage for the people of Israel for whom the authors intended to appear noble and righteous, which in contrast to modern standards of decency and morality, fails miserably.

The next important theme of the book of Genesis is establishing God's promise to Abraham to build his family into a "great nation", by "promising" him a piece of land that sadly enough people are still fighting over today. The piece of land that God "gives" to Abraham happens to already be occupied by other "heathen nations", so in turn this will justify the forcible taking of this land from people that God doesn't show favor towards. What this actually does is justify stereotyping as well as cultural and ethnic elitism, where ethnicity and a person's culture defines their worth. Despite that the authors attempt to address this very problem with the story of Abraham questioning God's plan to destroy the city of Sodom should there any righteous people found within the city, the problem is that within the real world there aren't such cases of absolutes which are rampant throughout the bible - every enemy nation of the Israelites is treated as if it were "100% wicked" just like we're supposed to believe that the inhabitants of the city of Sodom were. This doesn't even begin to cover other aspects of the problem such as the slaughter of infants, and as we will later see, even animals and livestock belonging to "heathen nations" are to be destroyed for being "defiled".

The book of Exodus introduces us to the character Moses. While briefly telling the story of his birth where he avoids a law of infanticide placed upon male Hebrew infants and how he is then raised by Egyptian royalty, the story then picks up in his adult life where he is appalled by the treatment of Hebrew slaves by the Egyptian people. Upon witnessing an Egyptian soldier strike a Hebrew slave, Moses murders the soldier, hides his body in the sand, and then flees Egypt fearing prosecution for his crime. While he's on the run God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush and tells him that he's been appointed to lead the Hebrew people out of their slavery in Egypt and into the "promised land". Arming Moses - as well as his brother Aaron, who's been chosen to speak for the Israelites - with a bunch of magic tricks, God guides them as they free the Hebrew people from their slavery in Egypt and then trek across the desert for the next forty years where most of the original generation die off - or are killed by the numerous plagues God thrusts upon them for mostly trivial things like whining about not having enough water to drink.

The underlying theme of the book of Exodus is to demoralize believers into believing that although they are God's chosen people, they are actually unworthy of being so; they are in fact stubborn, disobedient, and whiny and they need the church to lead them. It would be easy to develop an ego in conjunction with the cultural and ethnic elitism that the Pentateuch promotes, so therefore the solution is to crush the individual's self-worth. Beginning with Moses' brother Aaron - the head priest - constructing a golden calf for the Israelites to worship after Moses seemingly went missing atop Mount Sinai for forty days while chatting with God, we begin to see two issues emerge.

The first issue we see is that "holy men" aren't held to the same standards as others. Aaron breaks the second commandment while 3,000 other Israelites are slaughtered; Moses, breaks the eighth commandment ("thou shalt not kill (murder)") without any repercussions; both of Moses' siblings (Aaron and Miriam) complain about Moses breaking one of God's laws, yet God only punishes Miriam (who is stricken with leprosy), absolving Aaron, possibly either because he was a priest, male, or both.

The second issue however is probably the most touted "sin" in the Pentateuch, as well as the first two of the "ten commandments", that a person is not to worship other gods, nor create a "religious idol". These commandments are reinforced more so than any of the other eight (including the commandment to observe the sabbath, which is also repeated many times throughout the Pentateuch) with the punishments being excessively violent and extreme - where in cases where an entire city worships other gods, God commands that every living breathing thing, including livestock, are to be killed and the city is to be burnt to the ground, never to be rebuilt. Why such an excessively violent response, and why is it so overstressed the importance of never seeking after other gods? The most likely explanation is that the supernatural events as depicted in the bible simply either did not happen as the bible depicts them, or that they were not widely witnessed as the bible suggests.

Think about it carefully. If the Israelites did in fact witness all of these spectacular "miracles", plagues, and had seen various masses of people die believing that they were smote by God's wrath, what real motivation would they have to worship "false gods" or idols, which apparently wouldn't display any such supernatural ability? Why was it such a rampant problem of people constantly worshiping "false gods" when there were all these "miraculous" supernatural events caused by God occurring all around them? The simplest explanation is obviously that they either did not witness anything supernatural, or that the story of the exodus was heavily embellished, if not completely fictitious, to begin with. If the Israelites didn't actually witness any supernatural occurrences, or "miracles", then it would put their god belief on a level playing field with any other - simply being a matter of faith, not reason.

When you're dealing with faith based beliefs rather than beliefs based upon evidence, reason, or even personal experience, it is then easy to see why there would be so much concern about the exposure to other faith based belief systems. Both religions would be on an equal footing in regards to what reasoning (or lack thereof) there was to believe. One of the key components to controlling the thoughts of others is to limit their information to the outside world. Even today groups like Amway, Alcoholics Anonymous, and various political groups discourage their members from exposure to any mainstream media that is critical toward the group.

Often times in conjunction with limiting the exposure to the outside world, another tactic of controlling the thoughts of others is to undermine the credibility of or to silence those outside of or those who oppose the group. In the book of Exodus, Moses gives blessings to those who showed no mercy toward their siblings, children, and neighbors by slaughtering them by the thousands, simply because they had worshiped Aaron's golden calf. Later on, after the Israelites sacrificed to other gods at Baal Peor, Moses ordered the leaders of the tribes who worshiped the other gods killed, and their corpses hung up "against the sun". In the same chapter, Moses orders the genocide of the Midianites for tempting the Israelites into worshiping other gods, and when the Israelites slaughter the Midianite men, Moses becomes enraged when he discovers that the women and children were captured and spared. He orders that they should all be killed - except for any girls who are still virgins, whom the soldiers may "keep for themselves".

Although there are several scattered narrative stories in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, overall the main objective of these last three books are to detail the various laws and commandments that the Israelites are to follow - and the deadly punishments that accompany them.

The most common punishment for breaking God's commandments is death by stoning - a brutal method of capital punishment where the condemned is repeatedly hit with stones until they die. Among the "sins" God deems worthy of such a brutal death:Moses attempts to justify these extreme, brutal, violent, and fatal punishments for these predominately non-violent offenses by insisting that such excessive punishments will instill fear into the Israelites, thereby discouraging them from committing such "crimes" in the first place. This is further compounded by some of the ridiculous methods of determining guilt for such "crimes" (such as bloody bedsheets being a "proof" of virginity; or defending your home against an intruder being considered a murder, determined by whether it occurred during the daytime or not).

Again, it begs the question as to why such a seemingly trivial "crime" of worshiping other gods requires such a violent and fatal punishment, and why was it apparently such a widespread concern during an age when God supposedly displayed his supernatural powers regularly.

If the supernatural events described in the Pentateuch didn't actually occur as described the answer becomes simple and obvious - since belief in a god couldn't be backed with reason or evidence, the next best course of action would be to coerce belief and obedience using fear, intimidation, violence, and brutal public execution. Once obedience is secured to a god who apparently only speaks through a select few people, and only "directly" to one person, it begins to make sense why "ordinary people" are also threatened with death for approaching the mountain where Moses apparently communicated with God and prevented from touching or entering the tabernacle to begin with, while those who are in the "inner circle" (the ruling priests and the tribe of Levi) become the sole beneficiaries of the various mandatory animal sacrifices and tithes (religious taxes) imposed upon the "ordinary people".

When the Pentateuch is read without the blinders of automatically believing in its veracity just "because it's the bible", it's quite easy to see that quite simply these books serve as a justification for the Israelites sense of elitism and entitlement over other cultures, and as a set of laws to prevent critical thought which would crumble the foundation of faith-based government. The Pentateuch basically says that their god told them that they're the best, that they're descended from a righteous lineage, and therefore they have every right to kill and slaughter any nation who stands in their way in their quest to conquer the land of Canaan - because their god said so.

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