Posts Tagged “jerusalem”

Popular Mechanics / The Real Face of JesusChristians love to assume their religion is founded on historical fact. Specifically, they’re absolutely certain their Jesus lived and walked the earth in the first decades of the 1st century CE. This assumption is so compelling that we count the years in terms of Jesus’ supposed lifetime … i.e. our Year 1 is, supposedly, the first year he was on earth.

The reality of it, though, is that it’s by no means certain at all that Jesus ever actually lived. Many people find this surprising, but Jesus’ historicity has been a subject of scholarly review and conjecture for over a century now. While devout believers in Christianity are certain Jesus lived, the rest of us, and scholars especially, aren’t as sure, because the historical record of his existence is vastly less clear and compelling than Christians claim.

Despite the lack of scholarly certainty, this month’s National Geographic cover story proudly trumpets that Jesus definitely lived (Archive.Is cached article). Their evidence? The discovery of a tomb:

Just yards from the tomb of Christ [at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem] are other rock-hewn tombs of the period, affirming that this church, destroyed and rebuilt twice, was indeed constructed over a Jewish burial ground.

Nat Geo has made a big deal about the recent discovery of one particular tomb near the Holy Sepulchre. The problem is, in historical and archaeological terms, this finding doesn’t really tell us anything, and it certainly doesn’t prove Jesus must have lived. The site of that church was “found” by the (Christian) Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. When she was there in the 4th century, it’s possible she knew tombs were nearby, and that may have been why she picked that location. So finding a tomb in the area doesn’t mean anything.

The problem here is that Nat Geo is accepted as an authoritative publication. Many Christians looking to promote Jesus’ historicity are sure to use this article as ostensible “proof” that he actually lived. Unfortunately for them, it’s not “proof” of anything, other than that Christians would like to think he existed and will go to ridiculous lengths in order to say they’ve “proven” it.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Popular Mechanics.

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Susan Silverman, center, a reform rabbi, sits on the ground and prays with her daughter, left, after being asked by Israeli police to remove their prayer shawls at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City February 11, 2013. (STRINGER, REUTERS / February 11, 2013)I’ve blogged a number of times about ultra-conservative Jews in Israel targeting women as sub-human. They appear to believe — as do a lot of conservative Muslims, and Christians — that women are to be neither seen nor heard, and are not to be treated as human beings.

What’s remarkable is that ultra-conservatives have commandeered the government of Israel to do their bidding in order to keep “the Weaker Sex” in its place. The Hartford Courant reports on some arrests of women who insolently dared to thwart ultra-conservative sensibilities (WebCite cached article):

Israeli police detained 10 women, including a rabbi from Bloomfield, at one of Judaism’s most sacred sites on Monday for wearing prayer shawls, which Orthodox tradition sees as solely for men, a spokesman said.

The incident at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City highlighted the divisions between the more liberal streams of Judaism and politically powerful Orthodox groups that traditionally limit the role of women in prayer.

The Western Wall is administered under strict Orthodox ritual law, which bars women from wearing prayer shawls or publicly reading from the holy scriptures.

Among those held was Debra Cantor, rabbi of B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, and Susan Silverman, a reform rabbi who is a sister of American comedian Sarah Silverman.

I’m curious as to precisely what awful thing the ultra-conservative Jews think will befall their country, if some people with two “X” chromosomes stand before the Western Wall. I really don’t get it. It’d be nice if someone could explain it to me — but somehow I doubt it will ever happen. Seriously, what is the problem with women wearing prayer shawls, and praying, on that spot? Anyone?

This just goes to show that it’s not just Christians or Muslims who think poorly of women and want to repress them. Most religions, in fact, don’t seem to want women around — in spite of the fact that they’re 50% of the population.

Photo credit: Reuters, via the Hartford Courant.

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Comments Comments Off on Ultra-Conservatives’ War On Women Continues In Israel

haredimI already blogged about some ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel who bullied a girl because they subjectively interpreted her attire to be “immodest.” They then reacted to criticism over their behavior by hurling a reductio ad Hitlerum at their critics. In spite of the outcry against that, they’ve continued their assault on women in Isreal, as the AP reports via the Boston Globe (locally-cached article):

A small group of ultra-Orthodox Jews has prevented some women from voting in local elections in Jerusalem. It’s the latest step by the extremely pious Jews to try to force their practices on others.

Israel’s Channel 2 TV video showed the men screaming at a few dozen women, demanding that they leave a voting station Wednesday. Then the men pushed them away.

The article makes one final point:

The vast majority of Israel’s Jews object to such measures.

If this is truly the case, one wonders why this stuff is even happening at all, not to mention accelerating in frequency and militancy. Hmm.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: vicki wolkins.

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Comments Comments Off on Ultra-Orthodox Jews Ramp Up Their War On Women

DSC_0032Former Alaska governor and darling of the Religious Right and the tea party (which are increasingly one and the same) traveled to Israel, presumably to increase her appeal to religious Americans (as if that were possible … she’s already incredibly popular among US religionists). The (NY) Daily News reports on her trip and some of the comments she made while there (WebCite cached article):

Israel got its first official glimpse of Sarah Palin.

The former Vice Presidential candidate arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday as part of her whirlwind trip that many think is meant to bolster her foreign policy credentials leading up to a possible 2012 presidential run.

She made a transparent attempt to pass herself off as Jewish:

Sporting what appears to be a necklace with the Jewish symbol of a Star of David, the Alaska resident visited the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray. …

“Israel is absolutely beautiful and it is overwhelming to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith and I am so grateful to be here,” the devout Christian told reporters.

Mrs Palin is not alone in viewing the Western Wall as the “cornerstone” of Christianity. The problem is, it’s not! It’s the cornerstone of Judaism, and only Judaism. It may be of some historical interest to Christians, but it is assuredly not the “cornerstone” of Christianity. That, I’m afraid, is none other than Jesus himself, as the Christian Bible itself states clearly:

He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. (Acts 4:11)

While Jesus and his first followers may have been Jewish, the religion they founded took a decidedly non-Jewish turn (if not an anti-Jewish one), and explicitly rejected the Jewish religious tradition, believing Mosaic Law to have been rendered obsolete by Jesus:

We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. … I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Galatians 2:15-16, 21)

The Temple, of which the Western Wall is presumed to have been a part, is perhaps the chief edifice and main symbol of Mosaic Law. Given this fact, there is no logical way any Christian could ever say that it’s the “cornerstone” of his or her faith.

In many other ways, Mrs Palin’s trip reflects what is known as Christian Zionism, a philosophy very common among evangelical Protestants (such as Mrs Palin). Christian Zionists adamantly support Israel … but not necessarily because they believe in that state or out of any love for Jews or Judaism. Most Christian Zionists are, rather, interested in creating an alliance with Jews against Muslims, and in agitating Israel into behaviors that — they think — will trigger Armageddon and thus bring on the Apocalypse. In other words, they’re motivated by self-interest and an obsession with “the End Times.”

While I’m not Jewish, and don’t know nearly as much about Judaism as perhaps I ought to, I find it distasteful to see Christians such as Mrs Palin essentially stealing Jewish tradition and using Judaism, Jews and Israel for their own mercenary purposes. It’s nearly as bad as the philosophy called British Israelism, which essentially defines Jews out of existence and grants their heritage to the British. (Yes, really. That movement, too, exists. For real. And it’s every bit as strange — and anti-Semitic — as I just made it sound.) This kind of wholesale intellectual and cultural theft really needs to end — the sooner, the better.

Photo credit: Mark Philpot.

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