Sunday, January 16, 2011

Leviticus 11-15: Unclean!!!

So after a brief story, we're back into God handing out endless laws and rules. Now we get a big list of what's "clean" and "unclean!" Whatever that means. Of course there's no explanation. The only explanation we get for why we should care is this: "I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy."

Anyway, about food...any land animal that both chews the cud and has a divided hoof is clean. So, no pigs, no camels, etc.

Interestingly, the bible says that rabbits chew the cud. I'm pretty sure they don't. If you want to see how Christians rationalize this, click here. Basically, rabbits eat their own droppings to give their digestive tracts a second chance at getting the nutrients out. And if you assume "chew the cud" means "digest food twice" instead of specifically what you'd think it means, then yeah, fine. But then why was it translated that way?

For sea creatures, anything that has both fins and scales is clean. So, what, no dolphin? Aww!

For birds, there is a list of specific birds which are unclean, which interestingly includes bats, which are not birds. Of course this is rationalized too; apparently the original text said "winged animal," not "bird." Again, fine, but why did it get mistranslated again?

All insects are unclean, except for a few specific exceptions. The bible also says that insects have 4 legs; another glaring error, which is also rationalized. Apparently the back legs are not counted as legs. Who knew?

Also, everything that "moves along the ground" is unclean. This seems to mean things like lizards and snakes.

I guess unclean animals are only unclean when they are dead. Then anything or anyone that touches a dead unclean animal is themselves unclean until that evening.

Also, a woman is unclean after giving birth; 33 days if it's a boy, and 66 days if it's a girl. Uh, why? And why are you unclean for twice as long if it's a girl? Anyway, then she has to have the priest sacrifice a series of animals for her, then she can be clean again.

If you have a rash or boil, you have to go to the priest, who decides whether you're unclean or not. There's a whole chapter of "if it looks like this you're clean, if it looks like that you're unclean, if it looks like this you have to be isolated for this many days" blah blah blah. Funnily, there's a similar thing for moldy fabric. The priest gets to look at it and decide whether it's unclean or not.

If you happen to recover from your skin disease, you're still unclean, and must be "ceremonially cleansed" by the priest. First, you must wash your clothes (hey, that makes sense...) and shave off all your body hair. Then the priest must dip a live bird, wood and yarn into the blood of another bird (who makes this shit up?). Then 8 days later you have to sacrifice a bunch of other animals in really really tedious and stupid ways.

The priest gets to deal with moldy houses too. First, the priest decides whether it's a "defiling mold." Then the moldy bricks are removed. If the mold comes back, your entire house is declared unclean. Wow.

Women are unclean for 7 days a month because of their period. Any man that has sex with her during this time is also unclean for 7 days. Men are unclean until evening whenever they ejaculate. If a man ejaculates during sex, both people are unclean til evening. Hmm, in Genesis, God kills you for pulling out. Here, God talks so casually about ejaculating while not mid-coitus. I guess God changed his mind about that.

If someone has an "unusual discharge" they are unclean for as long as it lasts. Of course, when it stops you are still unclean until your ceremonial cleansing 8 days later! Which, of course, involves animal sacrifice with lots of tedious rules.

Well, that was kind of stupid and boring.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Leviticus 8-10: Tabernacle = fiery death trap

So now we have the ordination of the new priests, Aaron and his 4 sons. Lots of detail of course. Seriously, it seems that all I've read out of this damn book lately is endless repetition about the tabernacle, animal sacrifice, and stupid rules like "don't cook a baby goat in it's mother's milk." Of course, this is the perfect and inerrant word of God, so he must have had a good reason to go into excruciating repetitive detail about inconsequential shit like this, while remaining conspicuously silent on matters like "who was Cain's wife," or helpful science-y things like medicine and the germ theory of disease.

Anyway, the ordination of the priests. Basically they dressed them in the priestly garments, doused the tabernacle and the priests with anointing oil, and sacrificed a bull, 2 rams, and some bread (without yeast, obviously). And they had to stay in the entrance of the tent for 7 days, and if they left they would die!

Flash forward to 8 days later. The ministry of Aaron and his sons begins! Basically they spend their first day sacrificing a shit-ton of animals for everybody. Being a priest sounds like you're effectively a butcher, plus a bunch of stupid ceremony. While all this is going on, the "glory of the LORD" appeared to everybody. (Side note: what the hell is the "glory" of the lord?) And what marvelous things did he do while he was there? "Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar." God does love him some BBQ, I guess.

Then this happened:
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
I wonder if God found the aroma "pleasing." As usual, I don't get this. For all the plethora of rules we've heard out of God lately, there has been absolutely nothing about fire, authorized or otherwise. And the only thing it had to say about incense was that the recipe was holy and they should only use it for holy reasons; what's holier than burning it in God's presence? Well...I guess that's just what you get for trying to upstage God? I am so over trying to figure this shit out. God randomly and arbitrarily kills people, especially his chosen people. Great.

God kills so many people over such small things... I think my continued existence is the best evidence that this particular god does not exist. If he did, he'd kill me for this blog, among other things.

Of course, I have to wonder... these guys have still got anointing oil all over them, and they are playing with open flame. I wonder if they didn't just burn up cause they were covered in oil, and it turned into a story of God's wrath. Hmm.

Actually, all the priests still have anointing oil on them, and there's anointing oil all over the tent, and they have been doing burnt offerings all day...and the alter is inside the tent. What a bunch of idiots. Of course, God supposedly told them to set it all up that way. Is God really that stupid? Or did God just want to create a fiery death trap for his priests?

Anyway, then Moses says something totally unhelpful to Aaron about how in killing his sons God is furthering his own holiness, or something (I'm finding this whole thing rather confusing). Poor Aaron.

Moses makes the dead guys' cousins drag them outside of the camp, where they apparently just leave them to rot (nothing more is said about it, anyway).

Then Moses tells Aaron and his 2 remaining sons that they are not allowed to mourn, or they would die. Also, they are not allowed to leave the tent (again), or they'll die. Then God comes along and tells them they can't drink alcohol in the tent, or they'll die. What, you thought God might say something more along the lines of "sorry I burned your sons to death?" Lulz.

Also, what's with all the threatening the priests with death? Seemingly, if they priests do anything, they die. That's the impression I'm getting so far, anyway.

Then Moses finds out that part of one of the sacrifices from earlier in the day that was supposed to be eaten was actually burned. He asks Aaron, "What the hell?" And Aaron is like, "Seriously, I've had a terrible day." And Aaron was not burned to death by God for fucking up the sacrifice, for some reason. That is so...inconsistent. I don't get it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Leviticus 1-7: Everything you never needed to know about animal sacrifice

So this is Leviticus, the book with the reputation for being one of the most boring. Well, Exodus had 13 chapters on tabernacle building instructions, how bad could this be?

It seems to be a direct continuation of Exodus. As far as I can tell, the Israelites are still at Mt. Sinai listening to God lay down the law, much the same as the past 20 or so chapters.

Now it seems God has moved onto detailed instructions for how to sacrifice animals to himself. I'm not going to go into all the details, because frankly they are horribly tedious and (IMO) totally worthless knowledge.

In general, there are burnt offerings, grain offerings, fellowship offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. There is no mention of why there are so many kinds of sacrifice, or which one you are supposed to do in which scenario (except if you sin, you are supposed to do a sin and/or guilt offering). I guess it must be self-evident, if you happened to live in the middle east ~5000 years ago. But I sure don't get it.

Well, regardless of what all these different offerings are for, there are very detailed instructions for how to do them. And these are the tedious details I wasn't going to go into.

Generally, you are to have an animal "without defect." Male or female, depending on which offering you are doing. Then, depending on the offering you're doing, who sinned (for sin and guilt offerings) and what type of animal you have, it must be slaughtered in a certain way in a certain place, you have to splash blood in certain places and/or on certain people (seriously, as far as I can tell, there is blood everywhere), certain parts of the animal are supposed to be burned, washed, waved in the air, eaten by the priests, cut to pieces, ripped in half, thrown on the ground next to the alter, taken outside the camp and burned, or any combination of these.

Fun fact #1: generally, when a bird is sacrificed, the priest must rip it's head off with his bare hands.

Fun fact #2: it says repeatedly that God finds the smell of burnt animal flesh "pleasing."

Fun fact #3: the flesh of certain offerings is "holy," and whatever touches it will also be holy, but only males of the priest's family are allowed to eat it. That's convenient.

Fun fact #4: "This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood." OK then.

This is all just generally tedious and grisly. What I want to know is, who came up with this shit, and why did anyone ever care? Actually, I want to know why God would care. The possible reasons given for all this are:
  1. So people can be forgiven by God for their sins. Of course, that just raises another question... why does God almighty need an animal to die in order to forgive people? Couldn't he just do it?
  2. To give thanks to God. Just cause they wanna, in other words. OK, fine.
  3. Possibly, to appease God so he won't be mad at you. I don't think it ever came right out and said this, but it kind of hinted that God would be upset if you didn't sacrifice something to him every now and then. Again, why does God care (actually, see #4)??
  4. Possibly the most important... God finds the smell of burning animals "pleasing." Of course, that just makes me wonder why God doesn't just burn animals himself, or just make everything smell like that all the time. He could do it, being omnipotent. But no, he wants you to do it for him. Why? Who the fuck knows.
So, here's what I've learned about God today... he has a fetish for dead, burning animals and blood splattered all over the place, and for some stupid reason he demands that people make this happen for him, rather than simply doing it himself.

Or, the other option is that God, who is supposedly all-powerful, is incapable of forgiveness unless one of his beloved creations dies a horrible death and is then mutilated beyond all recognition by his devoted followers. I mean, if he is capable of forgiveness without all his blood and gore, why wouldn't he simply do it?

I'm not sure which is funnier.

Of course, the third option is that this is all bullshit, but I'm trying to be fair.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Exodus 32-40: Moses throws a tantrum

So, Moses is up on the mountain talking to God for 40 days, though I don't know why it had to take that long.

Meanwhile, the Israelites are getting restless. They get Aaron to make them the golden calf idol, and they sacrifice to it, and there's all sorts of "revelry."

God tells Moses to "leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” God is so predictable. But Moses convinces him that it's a bad idea. Wait, is it even possible to talk God out of something? Never mind.

So Moses goes down the mountain, back to the Israelites, with the covenant tablets. He sees the idol, and he sees them dancing, and flies into a rage (even though God already told him all about this, so I don't know why he's so surprised). He throws the tablets to the ground, breaking them. Then he ground up the idol to a powder and made everyone drink it. (I don't get this...why would you do that? Is it not good enough to destroy the idol...melt it down or something?)

Moses tells the Levites that God wants them to kill everyone. So they do that...they kill 3000 people. Of course, as far as the bible says, God never actually said that, Moses just made it up. God was going to just let it go! So that's just great.

Then Moses goes back up the mountain to talk to God some more. He asks God to forgive them, and God just says something about how anyone who sins will be "blotted out of his book." Err, what book? And he gives them a plague for good measure.

Then God tells them to go on to Canaan, but he won't be going with them, because they are "a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." lol. Like God has any business calling anybody "stiff-necked."

Moses asks to see Gods "glory." So God says he's going to walk in front of Moses and say his (God's) name. But, since no one can see God's face and live (when did that happen?), God will be kind enough to cover Moses's face with his hand until he's passes, then Moses gets to see his back. There is a plan to do this, but it never says whether it actually happened.

Then Moses goes back up the mountain to make new tablets. They are supposed to be exactly the same as the ones that are broken. But, here's what God told Moses to write on this set of tablets:
  • Do not make a treaty with the people already in Canaan; worship meee goddamnit!!!
  • Do not make idols
  • Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread
  • The first offspring of every womb belongs to me (I still don't know what this is about...God's been going on about this since the very beginning of Exodus, but I still don't get the point, or even what that means)
  • Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest
  • Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year
  • Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel.
  • Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast
  • Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God
  • Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk
So I know he said all this stuff before. But there's nothing about not killing, stealing, or any of the other stuff that makes sense on it's own. Nope. There's this, which is apparently the most important part. Seriously. And the bible actually calls these 10 things I've just listed "the 10 commandments." This is totally different than the 10 commandments that everyone knows (which the bible doesn't actually call "the 1o commandments"). That is just crazy.

I gotta say, the idea that the 10 commandments form a good basis of morality, or of US law, or anything else besides batshit-crazy-mumbo-jumbo, is completely ludicrous.

God also promises that he is going to go ahead of them and "drive out" all the people already in Canaan. And you people be damn sure to destroy all their temples and idols!!! For I am a ridiculously jealous and insecure god.

And Moses is up there for 40 days again, without food or water. Wow. That sounds horrible.

Actually, here's a great video summing up all this Mount Sinai stuff.

Lol. "They're the hos, I'm the pimp. And people needs to know who their pimp is." Yep, I could not have summarized Exodus any better than that.

Anyway, When Moses comes down from the mountain this time, he glows in the dark. Actually, he's "radiant" because he was talking to God. So after that, Moses took to wearing a veil, which he only removed to talk to God. I guess he didn't want to freak people out.

So then Moses goes about soliciting donations for the tabernacle, and getting people to build all that stuff. And it goes on for 6 chapters about how they made it, and how much stuff was used, and what the finished product was like. It is all extremely repetitive from before (like it wasn't boring enough to read one time. Seriously, this is a terrible book.)

Then God tells them that they are to set this up on the first day of the month. In all their travels, they set up the tabernacle on the first of the month, and then the "cloud of the lord" would descend on the tent, and they would wait (sometimes for days) for it to lift before they moved on.

I don't get the point of setting up a tent so God can visit, because I thought God wasn't going to be with them in their travels. Oh well.

I also don't get why they are hanging around at Mount Sinai to build all this stuff, when God clearly told them like 8 chapters ago that they have to get a move on to Canaan.

So I'm getting a clearer idea of why it took them 40 years to get to Canaan...not only do they have to haul all this stuff around, but every month they have to hang around for some indeterminate number of days waiting for God to clear off so they can keep going.

Anyway, this is the end of exodus. Pretty boring toward the end. If I had to sum up Exodus in just 2 sentences, it would have to be:
  • "They're the hos, I'm the pimp. And people needs to know who their pimp is."
  • No fucking yeast!