Discussion in 'Christianity' started by exile, Jan 27, 2013.
The passover lamb substituted the firstborn human sacrifice. Jesus died on the passover. Jesus was called "the lamb of God."
That's part of the point I'm discussing in reference to the original post - human sacrifice was banned by the Jews, but was still used, either commonly, or in a very limited way, by most cultures.
(The Romans used it in times of extreme national emergency - it comes up when Hannibal threatens the city but I can't think offhand of any other specific examples.)
As for different rules - well, to an outsider like myself, I see a splinter group within Judaism under James, which is then hijacked by Paul into some strange Greek hybrid. That's why the original Gospel of Mark finished at the crucifixion, with no resurrection - because the faith was still evolving in the first few centuries into the form we have now, with texts being provided for and edited to support the prevailing ideas (cf Marcion). It's easy to forget that we have standardisation in terms of Christian theology and texts now - but definitely did not within the first four centuries.[/QUOTE]
God does not demand harmful sacrifices. Gods sacrafice would be imparting knowledge and information to someone and transforming the carnal mind to the divine mind. The cross was an ancient Egyptian symbol for the union of body soul and spirit. The Romans did the opposite meaning of that sacred symbol. If you do research on chakras there are places in the hands and feet that are for this union action. The Romans placed the nails in those points to prevent the union of his body soul and spirit. You can see this pattern in history. Look at hitler. The swastika is actually a sacred hindu symbol and hitler took that symbol which has a good hindu meaning and did the opposite. Of course there is no roman empire and no nazi germany. Any empire that does that will never stand. Jesus died on the cross but rose on the third day showing that god has more stregnth than any evil action. Look at moses and aaron. The staffs they had were called ashera poles and were healing staffs. Pharoeh was doing things opposite of gods actions. Even in the movie they show moses snake devouring pharoehs two snakes. You have to know the difference between evil and good. GOD is good and all his actions combat evil ones devouring them. Make sense?
My name is Jane.
[post=275589]The human sacrifice was prevalent among the Jews. Yahweh instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but ultimately stops him. This could mark the end of the human sacrifice among the Jews, but then I thought to myself: That's exactly what Jesus was, a ritual sacrifice.[/post]
Isaac is sinless.
Jesus is sinless.
Yahweh tells Abraham, "You owe me this debt." Abraham is about to pay up, with the blood of his son, when Yahweh forgives the debt.
Yahweh tells the Jewish people, "You are each deeply indebted to me due to your sins." Jesus says, "Father, I will pay off their debts, for them." "The price of sin is death," Yahweh reminds Jesus. "I will pay their debt," Jesus says.
The sensitive Catholic thinker, Gary Wills in his book Why Priests?, suggests that early Christians may have perceived Jesus as a human sacrifice. Likening his death to the Jewish animal sacrifices at the Jerusalem temple. But on a higher plane.
One ancient Semitic ritual the Israelites may have practiced, is to ritually heap all the sins of the people onto one flawless goat, leading this goat out into the wilderness, and abandoning the goat to its fate. A ritual of atonement.
In the Western Hemisphere, the Mayan and Aztec and Mississippi Valley civilizations all practiced ritual sacrifice. The heart of a pure young human victim was cut from their chest and blood from the still beating heart was sprinkled over seed corn. This was a fertility ritual. Asking the gods for a good crop.
This fertility ritual may once have been practiced in Mesopotamia and thereabouts. If so, it was abandoned early.
But Semitic peoples in the region did practice human sacrifice for a reason other than fertility. If their walled city was threatened by an invading army, the king would take his first-born son to the highest point in the city and sacrifice the son's life, beseeching the patron deity of their city to not abandon them. To save the community from massacre. With a promise, henceforth that everyone will be more obedient to the patron deity and less sinful. The king offering one precious life, in exchange for the life of everyone else in the city. A sacrificial atonement.
One Semitic Canaanite people, the Phoenicians of Lebanon, stopped this practice in prehistory. But the Phoenicians had many colonies in the Mediterranean. And sometimes colonies continue older traditions. Their colony in Carthage, for instance, shows convincing archeological evidence of such human sacrifice, on a regular and large scale, down into historical times.
The Israelites were also a Semitic people who spoke a Canaanite language and practiced Canaanite customs. They too likely practiced human sacrifice back in prehistory. As an atonement for "disobedience," for communal sin.
But this ended because the Biblical prophets and some kings railed against certain ritual practices which take place "in high places." Human sacrifice is the thing they were likely railing against.
Some linguists, Hebrew scholars, find linguistic inconsistencies going on in the sacrifice passage in Genesis 22:10-15, as if some much later re-writing has taken place. The suspicion being that an earlier version of the text might contain Abraham's uninterrupted blood sacrifice.
(Not of Isaac. But of Ishmael, Abraham's first-born. "Take your son, your only son, who you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." --Genesis 22:2.)
Yes, it is true, exile.
In Christian exegesis, Jesus is often likened to Isaac. "I will do as commanded, father." Filial piety taken to the extreme. The humble son, the willing and obedient sacrifice.
But don't assume I am supporting your blanket argument here.
Regarding "sacrifice," I would direct your attention to Gary Wills' proviso, above: "like a temple sacrifice" but "on a higher plane." This proviso changes everything.
Jesus' act of self-sacrifice signals the beginning of the end to all Pagan and Yahwist "burnt offering" style sacrifices in the Mediterranean and Near Eastern world. (The gradual end to "substitutionary" sacrifices: to animal sacrifices.)
Moreover, it points to a "new kingdom," a new human era, when people behave differently. When less-lethal forms of human self-sacrifice become the norm. But also, when self-sacrifice becomes voluntarily practiced by large numbers of people as part of their everyday morality. And not just by Christians. Jesus' humble act of atonement started the process of closing the gate on an old world and opening another gate onto today's modern way of life.
Hi, Jane. It is not actually about a debt. This has to do with inheritance. Should Abraham get to choose his heir? Should kings appoint their sons to be heirs? The message is "No, they should not." Why not? Because a good man may have an evil son.
The Bible stories are full of examples of this. A good example is Solomon, the wisest man on earth who has a son named Rehoboam who causes a national split. Another example is the first king, Saul who is replaced by the LORD with David the son of a shepherd. If you read the Chronicles or the books I & II Kings, most of the material is a list of kings whose sons who tended to be more evil than their fathers. Isaac Abraham's grandson had twelve sons, and his firstborn son slept with one of his own wives. All of his oldest sons proved to be faulty and lost their position in the family.
A large portion of the Bible stories go to lengths to show that a king's son isn't who the LORD wants to be the ruler. The LORD prefers to choose a ruler who has a good heart instead of someone who has the right genes. This lesson was quite novel for its time and flew in the face of contemporary wisdom, which held that the best man should breed frequently and rule all.
God never asks anyone to kill someone , its a gross misinterpretation of scripture. To give you an example. There was a picture of john the baptist with his head on a platter he was holding and then his head intact. It is symbolic to show you that the beheading in the holy bible really means to remove the carnal mind and change it to the divine mind, not to actually chop someones head off. You have to reason scripture this way. It is the HOLY scriptures not the unholy bible. So you cannot reason that god asked abraham to actually kill his son and take his life. It has to have a divine meaning similar to the example I gave of john the baptist.
[post=278779]The LORD prefers to choose a ruler who has a good heart instead of someone who has the right genes. This lesson was quite novel for its time and flew in the face of contemporary wisdom . . .[/post]
Yeah. Does seem fairly novel, doesn't it?
Anthropologists tell us that there has been historically two principal forms of inheritance around the Mediterranean. (Both of them patriarchal.)
1. All sons get equal shares of the father's property.
2. The eldest son gets the farm and the livestock and the land. The younger sons are given a small endowment and sent abroad to find their own good land.
1. "Equal shares" seems fair, right? But with birth of several boy-children each generation, the original plot of land gets carved up, smaller and smaller. At some point the deed of land to each male heir is so small that it cannot support one family. The once rich clan has been reduced to subsistence. To poverty.
2. That's why "eldest son inheritance" became the more popular. Send the younger children up the valley to more marginal land to start new fields. Or better, send them abroad to find new and really good land.
(Or send them out to take land away from somebody else. Younger sons often became mercenaries. Or merchants or priests.)
With a limited supply of good land, the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians made a virtue out of this necessity. They established colonies all over the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Creating for themselves, each a readymade trade network.
This latter was what Abraham was told to do. "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). Nothing novel in that. (The ancient world's version of "Manifest Destiny.")
But, you are correct, Dream. Against this backdrop, Abraham's second son, Isaac, received his father's inheritance. And due to some trickery, Isaac's second son, Jacob, in turn received his father's inheritance. And due to misdeeds, Jacob passed over his first three sons to bequeath his inheritance to Judah, his fourth.
(Or did Jacob actually give his blessing to Joseph, his favorite? This is a little unclear.)
In primitive hunter-gatherer groups, when the clan-leader died, they collectively chose the new leader. But they frequently chose the person who was the former clan-leader's favorite. The person he personally "blessed" for the job. Herder clans at the margins of civilization, in the Mediterranean basin, often continued this older tradition. The chieftain "giving the blessing" to the person who will succeed him.
And, Dream . . . ?
I think you are wrong here. A "good heart" does not necessarily a "good king" make.
In the ancient world (including the world of the Israelites), choosing a clan's future leader was entirely about "genetics." The blessing was given to the kind of leader who had "the right stuff." The kind of leader who had the right temperament built into him. Remember, these people bred animals. They knew firsthand what good genes (what "good blood") looks like.
Even in ancient times the Cinderella story was a popular "type" in folk literature. The future king, David, you will remember, is not merely a lowly shepherd in the 1 Samuel 16 version of the story. He is the runt of the litter. He has to stay behind tending the herd (more likely cattle than sheep, during his historical era), while his three older brothers are entertaining the prophet-priest Samuel. David has to be sent for.
Whereupon Samuel "anoints" (christens) David as the future king.
(Due to a "good heart"? Maybe. But more, that David has the genetic "right stuff" to become a successful king. David does not have Saul's brawn. But he does have charisma. This is his blessing. People respond to him, emotionally. They unite behind him.)
The blessing, here, is said to come straight from God.
The patron god of a people, in the ancient world, always played two key roles for the community in his or her care.
a. Protect them from harm, from the terror of nature and from enemies.
b. Lead them down the road to prosperity, which included multiplying their population.
It was the "covenant" every ancient people had with their patron deity. A legal contract. A set of mutual IOUs.
(All the deity asked in return was for the population's praise and sacrifice.)
The clan's chieftain is the one individual of the community who is collectively deemed most "in touch" with the clan's patron god and with that god's wishes.
(Like Moses, the chieftain served the role of priest as much as that of secular leader.)
Through giving one's "blessing" to one's successor in the leadership role, the dying chieftain is performing an act not unlike "selective breeding."
This itself was not novel to the Israelites. Pretty standard, actually, with marginal peoples. What is novel is how deeply serious the Israelites took this practice of "blessing." How indebted they felt toward it.
They owed it to their ancestors who had prevailed, generation after generation. Who had refused to die out, despite living at the margins of several large and powerful civilizations.
They owed it to their future generations, who would fulfill the promise of this string of "blessings" stretching back deep into prehistory.
(This double-debt is a lingering form of "ancestor worship" projected into the future as "hope.")
Yahweh's promise to Abraham:
I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you,
and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you . . .
That is, this idea of a "blessing" was a contract with the clan's core genome.
A covenant with the god who protected them and who brought them the promise of prosperity . . .
i.e. the fulfilling of an ongoing obligation, spanning generations.
The "satisfaction" (the paying off) of a debt.
Nice reply, JaneQ.
You provided some information about chieftains in the fertile crescent and how they tend to pass a blessing that I did not know about. Could you give some additional information about who researched these things? I'd like to know, thanks!
Yes, the indebtedness to the blessing is strong, and in the story of Jacob and his brother Esau there is contention over it. The significance of Abram's name changing to Abraham factors in. Abraham is called 'Father of Many Nations', which is to say that all nations will inherit happiness from him someday. Millennia later Christology believers inherit the spirit of adoption, making them heirs to Abraham's blessing. By Apostle Paul the blessing is called the "Hope of Israel."
The faux sacrifice of Isaac is seen as a type of the sacrifice of Jesus as well as of the people of Israel who are seen as martyrs who forgo violent ways in order to bring peace to the earth. Abraham first gave up the ways of war; so he is the primary example. David, whom you mentioned, is an example of someone who fights not with his fists (though he is described that way in story) but with his words. He says "Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle." The war he refers to is the war of the spirit which Christians later participate in, which is a war in which peace is waged. This is the most unique and ingenious aspect of Abraham's blessing, because his descendants do not consider physical war to bring lasting peace. Instead peace is thought only to be obtainable through other means. In scriptures then it is peaceful methods that are attributed the most devastating effects, spoken of in figures as the terrible strength of Sampson and the mighty strength of David's armor bearers, etc. The blessing is itself a responsibility and place of honor that is worth contending for ( though some people do not see it that way and would rather not wage a war of peace ). The story of Abraham is actually very different from just a plain story of inheritance of lands.
I've been looking for more on "inheritance rights." Turns out that amongst Semitic peoples of the Middle East, inheritance rights are much more "flexible" than at other places around the Mediterranean.
(Check out Dale F. Eickelman's The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach (1989). It is apparently the go-to study for the current generation of anthropologists.)
I never found the word "blessing" in connection with inheritance rights.
"Blessing of the father" may or may not have been used in ancient times. But I am beginning to think that "blessing" was a literary flourish by the Jewish oral tradition. A folklore type. It would later generate full episodes where the key turn in a story would happen around this "type," this "father's blessing."
(Like the blood-brother rituals between white-man and Indian in old movie westerns. Such never really happened. But the ritualized act emotionally satisfies something within us, within the story's audience.)
"Father's blessing" became a literary conceit which the Jewish priests and scribes, who penned the Hebrew Bible, projected backwards in time upon their distant ancestors. A kind of nostalgia for their ancient (but highly romanticized) "nomadic" past.
The "Exodus from Egypt" and the "Conquest of Canaan" were Jewish literary sagas. Fictions, according to a growing number of historians and archeologists. Possibly competing oral epics, which were merged much later (either orally in more expansive bard-tales or maybe never merged until they were written down). Potent stories which eventually came to be believed as true history.
Exodus-Numbers and Joshua.
These national sagas were about a scattered patchwork of clans during the times of the monarchy. About giving these separate peoples, who had little in common outside of the Hebrew language, a single cultural identity. A sense of being "one people."
But anthropologists have found nuggets of useful information instead, here and there, in the books of Genesis and Judges and 1st Samuel. (2nd Samuel is, by and large, another literary saga.) Check out:
Niels Peter Lemche's Early Israel: Anthropological and Historical Studies on the Israelite Society Before the Monarchy (1985).
S. Bender's The Social Structure of Ancient Israel (1996).
Paula McNutt, Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel (1999).
McNutt's chapter 3 is a good, quick overview: "Iron Age 1A and B: the 'Tribal' Period."
(Iron Age 1A = 1200-1150 BCE, Iron Age 1B = 1150-1000 BCE. The time of the "Judges.")
Israelite clans existed at the economic fringes of the "Mediterranean system."
(The Mediterranean System was a mixed agricultural environment, consisting of:
1. highly productive grain farms in the valleys, with walled towns;
2. fruit trees and vineyards on the fertile hills, with unwalled villages; and
3. herding and/or patch farming or terrace farming in more marginal lands, in tent-style villages. Like in the hill-country of ancient Palestine).
The following description is relatively consistent for all similarly marginal Semitic peoples throughout the Middle East:
It is now widely accepted that the highland population of Iron Age 1 Palestine probably consists of nomads, semi-nomads, semisedentary peoples, and sedentary farmers and village residents, all types of societies that would in one way or another have engaged in symbiotic relationships with one another. Segmentation is a typical organizational principle . . .
In the classical segmented system an ancestor represents political unity in a group, and symbolizes its limits. Everyone "descended" from the ancestor is considered to be a member of the particular segment and is responsible, for example, with protecting it . . .
Conflict with other groups is understood in relation to collective honor . . .
High value is placed on the autonomy and honor of individuals . . .
Cultural notions of persuasion, mediation, honor, and negotiation, rather than use of force, are emphasized in conflict resolution and the maintenance of social order. Thus one becomes a man of honor in such societies by learning how to be persuasive . . .
They often point to an unspecified ahistorical past as a way of legitimizing present-day alignments . . .
"ritual alliances" . . . in which groups agreed to refrain from fighting and raiding one another . . . to aid one another when there were threats from third parties. Such alliances were generally based on exchange of herding rights.
In between times of threat, some sense of solidarity and unity and loose bonding are maintained through economic and religious ties (for example, trade and ritual). A sense of unity is further supported by myths of common descent, fictitious kinship links by means of mythical or assumed ancestry.
--Paula McNutt, Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel (1999), p78-84.
Ancient Israelites would have been, week in and week out, "clan" oriented. Not interest in the larger tribe, or even in the clan over the next hill, except when the situation required it (trade, weddings, seasonal festivals, outside threats).
And clans tend to be, by their nature . . . well, "clannish."
Big armies? Uniform religious practices? Vast movements of people?
Not till the monarchy arrived and began to impose its will.
One of the saddest stories in the Hebrew Bible is particularly telling:
Jacob makes arrangements for use of a neighboring clan's fields to graze his cattle.
Dinah, his daughter, shacks up with the neighboring chieftain's son, Shechem.
When the two fathers find out, they are understandably outraged.
But Shechem pledges his love. And Dinah says nothing to contradict him. Shechem and his father offer a bride-price dowry for marriage to Dinah.
It is customary in Jacob's clan for men to be circumcised.
If the two clans are to be linked by marriage, concessions to each other need to be made. The agreement is negotiated, the wedding set. Shechem agrees to be circumcised. Jacob, in exchange, agrees to follow certain practices sacred to Shechem's clan.
Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi are volatile young men, who spend their days hunting. They continue to feel that their clan has been dishonored. So they murder Shechem (and maybe Dinah too).
"How can you do this?" Jacob asks them. "I have to live with these people!"
--Genesis 34 (synopsis, sans melodramatic inflation).
Forensic study of primitive hunter-gatherers' skeletal remains, which archeologists have discovered, reveal that a majority of such people died violently (by animals or by other humans). Not true of ancient agriculturalists and herders. They sought (and usually achieved) a more peaceable lifestyle. Similarly not true of marginal peoples, of isolated clans, despite their clinging to many primitive ways.
Jacob's brother Esau was a hunter (and impulsive like his nephews Simeon and Levi). But Jacob received the "blessing" from their father Isaac. Not actually because Jacob was sneakier (which makes for a better story), but because he was reasonable and knew how to compromise. He would talk things out with people.
"One becomes a man of honor in such societies by learning how to be persuasive."
Perhaps it is this quality in clan chieftains, Dream, where the later (literary) idea of "blessing" actually originates from.
Hi again, Dream.
[post=279018]Wage a war of peace.[/post]
I like that!
(But isn't this a particularly "Christian" way of interpreting ancient Jewish scripture?)
Building monotheism was hard, exhausting work. Kind of like "waging war." This is what the priests and scribes who authored the "final cut" of the Hebrew Bible were up to, during the mid to late First Millennium BCE. But this was anything but a "war of peace."
Monotheism says, in essence:
You must change your inherited customs. You must behave as I behave.
But I, in turn, will not change my way of doing things. I will never do things as you do things.
There is no reciprocity in monotheism:
Your customs are superstition.
My customs are Law.
Genuine monotheism seems a pretty poor fit for our multicultural age, doesn't it?
Cultural pluralism however, when you come right down to it, appears like a throwback to the tolerant, peace-loving ("live and let live") ways which existed under polytheism.
But the war that monotheism did wage against polytheism (wage against local customs and local biases) is the struggle that created the modern world of science and universal human rights. Something that probably would never have evolved into existence naturally, without Hebraic (and Greek) monotheism.
Monotheism was a new kind of psychic-technology. It invented a new kind of individuality, which started a new ball rolling. This produced novel cultural processes which, in turn, began to trailblaze a path toward the scientific method and human tolerance. Things not glimpsed via the myopic spectacles which constituted the old psychic-technology (the desire for "peace and good order") which organized the polytheistic world.
This war started out as (and was identified with) one solitary group's local customs and local biases . . . perceived as the solitary set of sanctioned practices and sanctified beliefs.
But it became, over time, a war waged by science and humaneness. A war which, ultimately, reached beyond each and every local custom and local bias found on the planet, beyond even those of monotheism itself.
The war which placed genuine truth and genuine meaning within our reach.
Jane, thanks for your reply and provided sources! Its very cool stuff, isn't it? I have some things I'd like to say to you about monotheism and peace etc.
I don't think that waging peace is a Christian invention at all. It was through studying the laws or 'Torah' as they say which allowed me to see Christianity as originally peaceful in nature as it borrows peace from the Torah. The 'Scattered clans' as you call them were purposefully so, so they were not failing to conglomerate but succeeding in peaceful coexistence. Isn't that the goal of diplomacy today? I think they were culturally advanced.
The idea 'Monotheism' is.... Nobody can exactly describe it, and few groups agree with each other about what it means. That is one of its relevant useful properties. I realize that 'Christians' seem historically guilty of being unpeaceful, but the Torah is peaceful as are the apostles and the NT. What is un-peaceful are the governments and kings who constantly try to take anything they can find including religion to turn it into a power base. The beauty of 'Monotheism' as you call it is that kings are made equal to other men. Their right to be a king is taken away from them. Their claim to divinity is weakened and ruined. No one can compete with the ideal, the absolute, the higher than highest.
I'll pretend for a minute that monotheism is what Christianity is all about, and that monotheism is its goal. Why then is there a trinity? Seems to Muslims and many others like a very strange way to describe monotheism. Its devilishly hard to prove that Christianity is strictly monotheist. Give it a try some time.
So I'm to accept that all of that happened by a happy accident? No, I think it was the result of careful intentional hopeful planning. The scientific method was allowed to exist because the divine claim of kings and nobles (and priests too) was eroded, eroded by Torah, by the peaceful concepts within it which countless Christians found (Assissi for instance) and followed over the centuries despite the nagging of the kings and nobles that constantly attempted to seize control of 'The Church' which they foolishly presumed was an organization like their own that they could control. For 2000 years governments have struggled to corrupt, seize or in some way remove the impact of Torah from the world. A famous Christian once said "The Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers" which is so true. Its still true. God hath blessed the Scientific Method and protected it, which may seem ironic to you but really it isn't.
Polytheism is monotheism sometimes, depending upon how you see it. The point is we are all equal and under God. Does it really matter if you believe that God has different aspects? Not for practical purposes it doesn't. Perhaps some hermit in a cave might care about it.
A war which continues and which must continue, because new kings and new threats to peace are born every day.
Hi Jane — Interesting and useful insights, thanks.
I think that's the case with all the tribes of the region, be they mono-t, poly-t or whatever.
Polytheism throughout the ancient was usually a practice round a 'local god' (even where systems like the greek gods existed as a kind of cultural religious expression). So if we win, our god is better than your god, and if you win, then your god was better than ours.
There was no reciprocity in the ancient world, full stop.
'Multiculturalism' seems pretty much a sham to me.
England, especially London, has been multicultural for centuries, any significant trading port would be. Cultures like to continue the traditions that define them, which can lead to isolationism among expat communities, who live in a kind of ideal of what the 'home country' is like.
Multiculturalism in practice seems to mean the assimilation of foreign cultures into the wider home community, which requires the abandonment of those traditions that do not fit with the multi-cultural ideal. The implicit and often explicit perception is that 'our' multiuculturalism is the best thing on offer, but then, 'my way' of doing things always is ...
Multiculturalism invariably means anything goes as long as it does not conflict with my personal (cultural) ideals.
I think that's a very rose-tinted reading of history. When was antiquity ever 'tolerant' and 'peace loving'?
Christianity is Hebrew monotheism through the lens of philosophy, although where there is a dispute, the Hebrew tradition was adhered to. Platonism was recast in the 6th century to match the data of Revelation, and in so doing a number of inherent 'issues' regarding Platonism were resolved — always a sign of a successful theory.
Christian monotheism laid the foundations for what we conceive as 'the person' today.
Which world in particular?
It could mean that of course, people will always accept different cultures to a point, and that depends on how the cultures interact. And since a multicultural society could include a great number of cultures there is a lot of room for interpretation. Some people are also simply more hostile to change then others.
I on the other hand would invite any culture and this new community would decide as a whole what is acceptable in their society. If they decide to uphold ideals such as democracy and social equality then there are some cultures that couldn't practice their cultures freely in that community.
As long as multiple cultures are free to practice their customs I would call that a multicultural society, I would not need them to allow all possible customs to be practised.
I do not agree with the definition. Multiculturalism simply means several cultures can co-exist peaceably, equitably and cooperatively within a set of boundaries (be they a nation, a state, a city, or virtual boundaries with interaction). “Multiculturalism invariably means anything goes as long as it does not conflict with my personal (cultural) ideal” is by definition the opposite of multiculturalism.
It is an ideal. If one believes gender, racial, societal, political, and religious (therefore cultural) differences should be tolerated (using state or social pressure to reject hard edges—like thinking Islam should be able to proselytize, but Jews, Bahai’s, and Christians doing the same should be slain). The ideal would be something like an up-to date wielding of Plato’s Republic with JS Mill. It of course will always be changing as new cultural characteristics come about (new religions or new politics or new racial groups).
Ysrael is not so multicultural (large differences on the part of some arabs and some jews), India is not too bad (even with Salafists and the likes of sri rama sene), Sudan is much worse, as is China. In terms of cultural and not state multiculturalism, Southeast Asia does well as do most North American Native Nations (if one considers Hopi living amongst the Seminole a cultural clash, as I do).
I know, call me naïve, a classic “fuzzy-headed” liberal. I wear both on my sleeve.
Radar, was that a response to me or Thomas? Because I agree completely with you.
Thomas, I find his definition of "multiculturalism" fatally flawed, since it seems to define the exact opposite.
Like you, I have become rather enamored of the Hebrew Bible, of late.
But for rather different reasons, no doubt.
Particularly when I listen to the voices in the text, instead of the content.
Witty, sneaky, profane. Passionate. Sly. Sometimes hard as nails.
The content is interesting too. But only in a double-edged way:
1. the polytheism that is its actual source, and
2. the censoring of that polytheism which is an act of reaching toward this novel thing . . . monotheism.
Reading the stories and legalisms and prophesies, dialectically, makes it all make some real-world sense to me. Reading not what the authors of scripture are literally saying. But listening between the lines to what they are struggling with. The historical situation they find themselves in.
Not as artful nor as elegantly fatalistic as The Iliad or The Bhagavad Gita. Nor as sane. But far far richer, emotionally.
I fear that much of what you find appealing, Dream, in the Torah are just holdovers from polytheism. Its ritual practices, its laws.
Or worse, pre-polytheism . . . dating back to clan and tribal roots. Primitive customs elevated to the status of sacred rites and divine laws.
(You will find the same pattern, by the way, in the Quran.)
As a handbook to help you live your life, you have to take it all with a grain of salt. It was built for (and by) a tribal people who wanted to become respectable temple-polytheists overnight.
And woke up one morning with something highly original.
But without a clue as to what was genuinely innovative versus what was same-old-same-old in their collection of literary documents.
Beautiful, beautiful stuff.
It took centuries (till well after Christianity began), but the Rabbis finally got it. Saw the beauty. Embraced it.
I hope that that is the beauty that you are seeing too, Dream.
Because the Hebrew Bible is a literary trainwreck, rotgut if you try to drink it down straight.
Monotheism was a new kind of psychic-technology. It invented a new kind of individuality, which started a new ball rolling.
Christian monotheism laid the foundations for what we conceive as 'the person' today.
Thanks for re-stating in plain English what I meant, stripped of my poststructuralist jargon.
Monotheism (in its Christian manifestation) invented the modern sense of what it means to be a "person."
Not Confucianism. Not Taoism. Not Hinduism. Not Buddhism. And by-and-large not Greek philosophy, not Judaism, not Islam.
It is a controversial argument to make, I know. But it fits the facts.
You and I have probably come to the same conclusion, Thomas, by different routes.
The genesis of a new kind of person.
To those of you (out there) who don't agree with this conclusion, I cannot speak for Thomas. But I personally would explain the process this way:
1. Primitive people's sense of self is entirely determined by the band of hunter-gatherers they run with. Their family and their clan. And to lesser and lesser degrees, their tribal and their racial group. It is a matter of survival. They wear the clan colors, they speak the clan jargon, they tell the clan tales. They serve the clan values. This is their self. Personal identity = clan honor = "who I am is 'not one of them outsiders'."
2. Ancient agriculturalists, by contrast, need to interact with each other. It is a matter of economics. "Your clan specializes in grain. Mine specializes in animal products. Let's do a deal." These city-dwelling agriculturalists invent a "public world" and a "public sense of self." A place where such commercial transactions can take place. The "public sphere" = a place of "peace and good order" = a place where business between differing clans can get done. Laws are instituted so that no "blood feuds" get in the way of business. However, the private (non-economic) world for individuals is still that old "primitive" (hunter-gatherer) place. The self-contained life of the family and the clan. But there is a schism here. Private life now also involves outsiders, other members of the agrarian citystate. Non-economic interactions start to take place between persons of the same class in society. Rich person with other rich persons, slave with other slaves, merchant with other merchants, soldier with other soldiers, scribe with other scribes. These associations transcend clans, often transcend ethic affiliation. One's personal sense of self is schizoid between family-clan type associations (on the one hand) and social-class type associations (on the other). But, either way, one's identity is still strongly tied to a distinct "group." In China, literate gentlemen hung out with other literate gentlemen. In India, ascetics hung with other ascetics. Even in Roman times, this did not change within the most advanced philosophies (Stoicism and Epicureanism). Self was ultimately a product either of the clan or of the public world.
3. Only Neo-Platonism begins to tilt toward something novel. But this tilt is not fully realized till St. Augustine gets hold of it. And the "inner life" as we know it is born. But the necessary ingredients are already present in St. Paul. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28). Associations in early Christianity are not defined by clan or class. Yes, early Christians form a "group." But (for a generation or two) it strips away both "clan" and "class" as the basis for one's private life (even strips away "gender"). Once Christianity becomes the established religion of the Roman Empire, however, the reversion to the older clan or class (or gender) basis for interpersonal-association kicks in. But the earlier, novel form of association which Christianity invented does not die out. And keeps reemerging, day in and day out, through the coming centuries. Individuals start increasingly to be defined not by their clan or their social class, but entirely in isolation from these concerns. Defined instead by the quality of their "inner life," their piety or "soul," and its moral effect upon other individuals around them no matter who those individuals are. But this, overridingly, has to do with the self as a solitary, spiritual self-creation. A new way of being a "person." All primitive associations and public associations become secondary. This is despite the fact that the "powerful" and the "rich" are still envied. Instead, the persons most admired become (increasingly) the saint, the scholar, the scientist, the artist, the pioneer . . . eventually working its way down to the average-Jane or average-Joe on the street.
A new kind of person.
Even should Christian monotheism fade into the dust of history, the day after tomorrow, Christianity's legacy to humanity would still be immeasurable . . . for this one fact alone.
Hi again, Thomas.
There is no reciprocity in monotheism . . .
There was no reciprocity in the ancient world, full stop.
I know it is hip to be cynical. But come on! Cynicism is not the same thing as realism.
Do some more reading. Look at the facts.
Primitive hunter-gatherer clans operated with a degree of selective reciprocity regarding other clans. For marriage and for some limited trade and for occasional alliances against hostile tribes.
But after the agricultural revolution, 10,000 years ago, the name of the game is "reciprocity."
Ancient temple polytheism invents "the public world."
Agrarian citystates quickly realize that cooperation between different clans, doing business or doing public works with each other, produces mutual prosperity. The reason ancient citystates need to create "law" codes is to facilitate economic interaction between disparate clans. To stop blood feuds before they start. To specifically encourage . . . not "conflict," but "reciprocity."
"Let's help each other become prosperous together, folks. Okay?"
Peace and good order.
Those who cannot be peaceful and orderly (who cannot be "businesslike") in their public transactions . . . are either kicked out of the citystate, or are stepped-on hard.
The violence of the citystate is singularly directed at sedition, at lack of reciprocity.
People not only trade consumer goods with each other. They also trade ideas, trade cultural and religious practices. No religious or cultural idea is banned. No gods are banned. It is an open marketplace. "Buy" what you want. "Believe" what you want.
Borrow practices from your neighbors. They will then be likely to borrow practices from you. While ancestral ways of doing things ("traditions") are strong, strong also is "borrowing." Reciprocity works. People who practice it become more prosperous. (And ancient peoples are not dumb. They get it!)
When citystates grow into empires, the key to prosperity is "keeping the trade routes open."
This involves a bit of "carrot and stick" regarding wilder, less prosperous fringe regions.
In Mesopotamia, Akkad keeps the trade routes open by military force ("stick"). Which works for awhile.
Ur III has better luck keeping the trade routes open through diplomacy ("carrot"). But that eventually fails, too. Just too many bandits at the fringes who want a free ride.
The success of Rome, two millennia later, comes from the fact that they effectively employ both carrot and stick to enforce the Pax Romana. To perpetuate the economic prosperity of the empire.
The Roman Empire is, per capita, the most prosperous place that has ever existed on planet Earth (until Europe at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution). And this is no accident. This broad-based prosperity is due to a careful negotiated and brutal enforced "reciprocity." (Economic and cultural tolerance. Live and let live.)
Peace and good order.
(With the exception of the Jewish insurrections and trouble at the frontiers, most of Rome's wars were internal squabbles and power-grabs within the Roman leadership. The Roman system worked. Peace produced general prosperity, open trade, free movements of peoples . . . produced reciprocity between disparate peoples.)
. . . the tolerant, peace-loving ("live and let live") ways which existed under polytheism.
I think that's a very rose-tinted reading of history. When was antiquity ever 'tolerant' and 'peace loving'?
Like most people today, Thomas, you tend to view ancient prehistory through post-Axial-Age spectacles . . . as a sequence of one military battle after another.
Admittedly, human development is an untidy process. We need to speak in "relative" not absolute terms.
Still, the agrarian world of temple polytheism is a world rarely focused on war. They are prosperous people trying to figure out how to stay prosperous and how to become even more prosperous. This is not merely their materialistic end-game. This is what their religion teaches them, as well. Prosperity is the meaning of their lives. I cannot even begin to conceive of how they could ever believe that "intolerance" and "war" would lead them toward this result.
There is nothing "rose-tinted" about the facts, Thomas.
The ancient world (from the mouth of the Yellow River to the Rock of Gibraltar) was ruled by one overriding concept:
the idea of "peace and good order."
If the ancient agrarian world had collectively decided on just one "god," this would have been it, full stop.
I am not certain that the creation of the Western notion of self is praiseworthy or of any ultimate value.
The goal of life is to live so as to get closer to the d!vine. A struggle to rise up from the muck and mire of mere physicality to the realm of pure spirit.
We supersede ego, then family, then clan, then tribe, then nation, then race to finally accept g!d.
Self only gets in the way. It is a created notion that has no concrete example in reality. Yes, it can lead us to insights via intellectual and emotional relationships with the world and the d!vine. The “no-self” of some forms of the Sanathana Dharma, Jainism, Buddhism, and Daoism sees, to me, a quicker way with fewer entanglements.
Furthermore, there has always been a strong resistance to the notion of self (in the Western sense) in Western philosophy and religion. Heraclitus thru Whitehead for the first, Bastami thru Rufus Jones.
Separate names with a comma.