Leaving Islam




Let's see if Judaism offers the bewildered mattresses on Squornshellous Zeta anything better.

In the holy books of Judaism, we find all kinds of stories about exclusionary command and control structures.  We have kings and generals doing what kings and generals do, some of it good, some of it evil.  However, as Robert A. Morey famously pointed out, Jews and Christians do not make the same claims for their holy books that Muslims make for theirs.  Muslims believe that the Quran is a perfect book, full of unambiguous truth, written in heaven by Allah himself with no earthly sources.  Jews and Christians know fully well that their books are compilations of stories from all around the middle east, brought together either because they contained important historical information, or interesting philosophical musings, or stories that taught interesting lessons, and so on.

The meaning of a story from these books is very much open for debate in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  The term "Rabinnical debate" is almost a pure redundancy! Meanings are not necessarily fixed and eternal.  For example, in the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua carried out military maneuvers.  This does not mean that the God of the Jews says that everything Joshua did is a model for future generations!  What do Joshua's acts mean for us today?   What lessons can we draw?  Discussion and debate is encouraged.

Judaism and classical Greek cultures are the basis of Western society not because they have told us what to think, but because they have taught us how to disagree and debate peacefully and productively.  The Western way is not a religion; it is a way of living with

The ethical heart of Judaism is easy to spot.  It is Mosaic Law, and most importantly the Ten Commandments. Let's review the Ten Commandments for a moment. There are a few different versions of these commandments, of course, but here is one of them.

1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Remember thou keep the Sabbath Day.
4. Honor thy Father and thy Mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.

Two of these Ten Commandments are purely cultic, about respecting the Sabbath and following only one God. Commandment number 2 is partly cultic, but it is in many respects a very interesting commandment.  One should not use the Lord's name in vain. This might apply to people who kill, rape, steal or bear false witness (think 'conspiracy theorists') in the name of God. One should not use God's name to justify atrocities. This is a violation of God.

The remaining seven commandments are completely universal.  Of course, the whole book is about how Jews are to organize their society, but these commandments are applicable anywhere.  Even the mattresses of Squornshellous Zeta (all of them curiously named 'Zem') would agree that in general, these commandments are a good idea.  Living according to these rules will actually help preserve their peace, so they can swim around blowing bubbles in the swamp without being troubled, even if they never convert to Judaism, or never even figure out what Judaism is (mattresses are not too bright, but anyone from any tradition can see the value of these ethical rules).

Judaism is a religion, and so of course there is orthodoxy, extreme pressure to conform in some circles, manipulation of people, social ostracism and all the rest.  But that is not all there is to it. There are some *universal* rules - rules that would apply to everybody, not just the ‘in-group’.

Thou shalt not kill.

This rule does not distinguish between Muslims and Kaffirs, or Jews and Gentiles.  It is because of rules like this that Jews can criticize their own traditions, criticize their own governments, criticize their own orthodoxy, assess stories in the Torah and judge the actions of historical figures, and hold up all human beings to the same moral standards.

Judaism is a religion, and it has a lot of the in-group/out-group dynamics that Islam has, but in Judaism these tribal tendencies are powerfully balanced by universal moral rules.

As Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas government in the Palestian Authority in the spring of 2006 said, a few days after the party took power.

"The culture that dominated the Palestinian street in past years is a culture that needs time in order to turn into a culture that keeps law and order and does not resort to using arms under any condition."

They are just starting the long, hard path towards civilization, where disputes are settled not by establishing dominance, but by adherence to the rule of law.  Hamas sees this is needed among its own people, but it remains steadfast in its commitment to wipe Israel off the face of the map. Nothing else will do.  No two-state solution, no compromise.  And if Hamas learned to compromise, this would be seen as weakness on the Arab street!  One can only dominate totally, or be dominated totally.  Prior treaties, rules and agreements are ignored.

However, elevate one of these street fighters to a position of responsibility, where he has to mediate between parties in a conflict, and suddenly the need for rule of law becomes obvious to him. He asks his followers to do exactly what the international community has demanded Hamas do – recognize your opponent’s right to exist, disarm, negotiate according to objective rules, and keep your agreements.

Judaism, whatever its flaws, began to journey along the long, hard road of ethical universalism and the rule of law thousands of years ago.

I wonder which ethical system the mattresses of Squornshellous Zeta (all of them curiously named 'Zem') would prefer?








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