Disorganized post in which Daisy remembers that all religious fundamentalism is equally bad.

February 16, 2007 at 2:12 pm (feminism, frightening things, injustice, proclamations, sexism, stupidity) ()

I know I spend a lot of time saying mean things about Christians. That’s because, at this moment in history, there are a lot of very evil people who use Jesus to excuse their bigotry, in the US especially. Yesterday I had a really awful experience with some religious fundamentalists, and it reminded me that they’re all equally horrible, whether they’re talking about Jesus or HaShem. So, for some balance, let’s talk about why I am currently more or less disgusted with my local branch of Chabad.

Chasidic Jews are hardcore, in the way that all religious fundamentalists are. The men won’t touch women (other than their wives), they don’t use contraception. During their services, the women sit behind a veil. Sometimes I like to go study Torah with them, because even though we disagree about, well, probably everything, they care about religion in a way that Reform Jews often don’t. They believe what they’re saying, basically, and I like that, even though I believe almost none of it. They’re sincere. And even though they’re obviously and profoundly anti-feminist, I hadn’t gotten a misogynist vibe from them (unlike fundamentalist Christians, who generally seem really misogynist to me).

Anyway yesterday, we were reading this week’s portion, Mishpatim (about halfway though Exodus), the better part of which is laws and codes, most of which have to do with execution. “If a person shall strike his father or mother, he shall surely be killed.” That kind of thing.

And the young man who was leading the class (he’s not the rabbi, who is busy lately with the birth of his sixth child, but, as they might say, a “yeshiva boy“) starting talking, for no reason I can find, about the different kinds of execution Torah (more likely Talmud, I think) prescribes. The most common is hanging, following closely by stoning. In rare circumstances, death by sword is considered appropriate. In one very particular situation (and I can’t verify this at all), another kind of killing is required. Typically, if a woman commits adultery, the Bible orders that both the woman and her lover be stoned. If the woman is the daughter of a priest, however, the crime is somehow extra-bad, and, to put it in his words, she is “killed by heat.”

Please feel free to skip the next sentence if you don’t want to be traumatized.

They kill her by making her drink molten lead.

I started sort of convulsing when I heard this, and almost cried. When my dad picked me up, I was angry and upset, and couldn’t quite explain why for almost an hour. I felt myself sinking into real despair, into “spiritual anguish,” as I told a friend of mine. It occurred to me to kill myself, which is my standard reaction to this kind of thing. Because: why exist in a world that could contain that? Why stay on a planet I can never hope to fix?

Eventually, as usual, my agony started to feel more like anger. Rage is a much more productive place than sorrow. Sadness makes me paralyzed and silent. Fury makes me articulate. I never know why I’m upset until I’m screaming it at someone else. Here’s what it was:

The person who told me that ugly story presented it to me as part of “Jewish law.” And I know this person is someone who has committed himself to Judaism, body and soul. It’s not the same as someone like me saying it, as something simply historical or academic. He believes it. Every word.

So when he told me that, I don’t doubt that he condoned it, almost. I don’t doubt that he heard it as the holy word of G-d.

Meaning: he can feel at peace with a G-d who would want that. He has no trouble believing that G-d is more concerned with the male ego than with women’s suffering. He worships a creator who would tell us to do evil — real evil — and he does so without apparent complaint.

And this is what I have to say to that: fuck you. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. What kind of a monster do you have to be to be numb to a story like that? How deformed is your soul that you don’t know that that is absolutely wrong? How dare you accept that? How weak is your faith, that you think G-d could possibly want that from us, want that for anyone?

I wanted to shake him, hit him, demand to know how he could live his life with a G-d like that. How could anyone accept that? How could anyone not reject that sort of teaching, with horror and revulsion?

I don’t want miracles. I just want us to reach the lowest common denominator of decency.

Let’s not torture anybody. Let’s not let anybody be enslaved. Let’s feed hungry babies and give medicine to the sick.

I truly believe that if people would look inside themselves, they would find empathy. If people would take just a moment to wonder what they want, they would find that they want goodness. They would find that they want peace and justice. At least, I certainly hope they would. If not, I really don’t know why I stick around.

I’ve said this to Emily before: my guiding philosophy, in religion, in politics, in everything, is ludicrously simple. We should take care of babies. We should not commit atrocities. That’s it. That’s all I ask. I don’t think I will ever understand why our species finds that so goddamn hard.



  1. R-E-D said,

    I almost wish I’d listened to you and not read that line. It’s so horrible. I’m sorry you had to go through listening to that. I can relate to that feeling of wanting not to exist in a wicked world where it seems we can’t make a difference. I respect the humanist urge in your heart and I really believe that there are many more like you who just want to help the weak and the helpless and the downtrodden. So many people just waiting for a start. I will pray that you find a way to make a difference, and find a reason to LIVE and bring joy to lives.

  2. Daisy said,

    Hi, RED. Thank you so much.

  3. mommasteph said,

    It’s so hard to read these posts, Daisy. My heart breaks for you.

    I believe you’re right, that if we all look within ourselves, past the fear, if we could see clearly, we would find empathy. If it’s going to become our guiding worldview, you – your generation – is going to have to make it happen. I don’t know how.

    This probably won’t help – or maybe it would? – have you ever read The Hiding Place? What I took away from that book is the idea that the people who are doing the evil are objects of pity, because of what they are. I can’t always “practice” that idea, but sometimes it helps with my blood pressure.

  4. Daisy said,

    Thanks for the suggestion, Stephanie. I’ll pick it up next I’m at Borders. Who’s it by?

  5. mommasteph said,

    Corrie ten Boom.

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