I’d wanted to do this kind of post for a while, comparing different religions to each other and giving my opinions thereon. When applicable I’ll make references directly from ‘holy’ books themselves. Admittedly the focus will be on the Big 6 (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity & Islam) but I intend to mention others too, especially Yezidism and Bahá’ism.
Something to make clear: contrary to what I used to believe as a Muslim, the practices of a faith’s followers does define the religion as much as – or even more than – its scriptures. This means if one sect believes in self-segregation from non-believers while another believes in integration, I will treat both sects as equally true (albeit contradictory) representatives of their religion. Why? Because chances are they’ll both have justification or precedent from their scriptures. Also, everyone practises & believes in what they want regardless of if their scripture promotes it or not.
I’ll split this into a series of posts, starting with the oldest of the Big 6: JUDAISM.
- Founder/s: Moshe (known to us as Moses, though one source says his birth name was Tov!)
- Approximate age: 3800 years
- Place of origin: somewhere between Egypt, modern Palestine/ Israel & Jordan*
- Holy book/s: Torah (aka. Pentateuch or Tanakh), Midrash & Talmud
- Original language of holy book/s: Hebrew
- Demonym of adherents: Jews
- Approximate number of current global adherents: 14,000,000
- Place of worship name/s: synagogue, shul, beit k’nesset, temple
* I would argue Egypt because according to the Old Testament Moses received the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. However, as Moses & the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt and going through Palestine/ Israel & Jordan, it could be argued Judaism was founded somewhere along this route.
Though I claim no scholarly expertise on this faith, I have a copy of the Torah at home and I’ve studied some of Jewish history. I was going to add a point about what they call their deity, but as that’s so specific to followers’ native languages there was no point. For now I’ll treat Yahweh, El, El Shaddai and God as synonymous. Whether they are or aren’t, this link may help. Something to make clear: in this article I use the word goyim (plural of goy, meaning nation) to refer to gentiles/ non-Jews, whether it’s regarded as a term of offence or not.
One thing I like about the Torah is the clear chronology of its stories. You don’t have to work out or guess where & when something happened; it tells you straight up.
I also like how it, especially in Genesis, lists the lineages of different people ad nauseam (debates about accuracy notwithstanding). Even if it’s wrong, at least it gives the possibility of independent verification. Also, unlike the Qur’an it doesn’t assume the reader already knows who’s who. Through the lineages it explains the origins of Abram/ Abraham, Sarai/ Sarah, Jacob/Israel, etc.
I should also point out that in the story of the curse of Ham, Noah didn’t curse Ham at all. He cursed his son Canaan, to be a slave to his brothers and Japheth’s & Shem’s sons (Genesis 9:24-27). And there’s no mention of that curse being a visible mark (like being made ‘black’).
According to the Jewish sites I’ve accessed, Satan is NOT the cause of evil. Why do I like that? Because instead of some random spirit we can’t see/ hear/ feel, Judaism places the blame for evil on us! Evil is caused by yetzer hara, the natural capacity to do evil we all carry within us. A kind of personal weakness, so to speak. It is different things to different people; just seeing booze might make you wanna turn alkie, experience sexual abuse might make you a rapist, seeing a knife might trigger you to stab someone, etc. Where does Satan come in? Contrary to Christian and Muslim doctrine, he’s actually just a normal angel doing what God commanded him! His job is to strengthen our yetzer hara by exposing us to our personal triggers, but it’s our job to strengthen our yetzer hatov (good inclination). If we don’t, however, it’s not Satan’s fault we’re so weak-willed. Considering Christianity & Islam are offshoots of this, it’s rather amazing how preoccupied Christians & Muslims are with Satan – and scared of him.
One of the things I dislike are the sheer number of laws & punishments. Oh my God! If you find blood in your meat you must pour it on the ground like water (Deuteronomy 12:16 & 12:24), when you come to a nation you want to dispossess you must not even ask about the gods they worship (Deuteronomy 12:29-31) but kill anyone and everyone who dares to entice you to worship another god – even family members and other Jews (Deuteronomy 13, entire chapter). If you impale a man for a capital offence you must not leave his body on the stake overnight because God doesn’t like it (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
About circumcision, its sole function is to be a sign that Jews are sticking to God’s covenant (Genesis 17:9-14). All the stuff about reduced risk of STIs and whatever doesn’t enter into the equation. It’s just to mark them out as different from the rest of humanity (apart from ancient Egyptians and other Africans with close cultural ties, as they were already doing it). I suppose it’s a good thing that’s only enforced on males.
Talking about male circumcision, the way Jews (at least the Ultra-Orthodox ones) do it is downright paedophilic & semi-cannibalistic. They do metzitzah b’peh. In other words, the mohel (circumciser) sucks the blood out of the freshly mutilated penis! And this has been linked to increased risk of STI transmission, like herpes. Of course they dispute this.
As much as some may not like to offend for fear of sounding “antisemitic”, the Torah comes off as very supremacist, xenophobic and power-hungry. This could be due to revenge for being enslaved in Egypt or just belief in inherent superiority, but I’m inclined to think the latter:
- God has treasured them over everyone else (Deuteronomy 14:1-2).
- Permission is given to keep foreigners indebted to Jews, while other Jews in the same situation are to have their debts written off – after 7 years (Deuteronomy 15: 1-6).
- In wartime they can take all the enemies’ women and children for personal enjoyment and kill off all the men (Deuteronomy 20: 10-15).
- If you find among your war captives a woman you like, take her into your house, make her cut her hair & nails and strip for you (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). Then let her mourn her parents for a month – still in your house – then marry her. Deliberate Stockholm Syndrome methinks.
One thing I find both fascinating & hilarious is how material God is. In Genesis he walked in the garden of Eden, he regretted creating humans, he loves the smell of burnt animal flesh (Numbers 28:1-6), and at various points in history he was randomly there for people to stop on road and chat to.
He’s also pretty fickle. He was ready to destroy everyone in Sodom & Gomorrah, and contemplating keeping it secret from Abraham, but Abraham had to remind him that he’s not supposed to kill the innocent along with the guilty (Genesis 18:16-33)! Also, he regretted creating humanity because we were so evil, so he resolved to kill ALL living creatures (Genesis 6:5-7 & 6:11-17)! But then he realised Noah was alright so he told him to build the Ark, flooded the world, then REMEMBERED that Noah et al. were still alive and stopped the floods! What?!?
And he rested on the 7th day after creation. What kind of god needs to rest, ever? Makes one wonder if they were referring to an invisible omnipotent Meta-Force or just an ordinary man. And who were the “divine beings” that married human women (Genesis 6:1-4) and had nephilim kids with them (Numbers 13:31-33)? No explanation.
An ex-Jewish guy once told me that most Jews are secretly atheists. I have no idea how true that is, but from reading the Torah I almost hope so! Almost, because even if true it doesn’t stop them from acting on laws they don’t believe in. Many goyim who’ve had personal experience with Jews tend to find them standoffish, not just now but throughout history. It’s disgusting that modern Ashkenazim (‘white’ Jews of northwest European descent) in Palestine/ Israel are committing genocide against the Ethiopian Jews and other Africans – Google ‘israel racism ethiopia’ or something similar. Plus, Netanyahu is blaming Palestinians for the Holocaust – historical revisionism at its best!
For general interest, here’s the Torah in Hebrew with English translation: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0.htm
On to Part 2