Neil Parille

My Review of Creating Christ (Valliant's Book)

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I reviewed the book on Amazon.  For some reason I can't insert a link.  Anyway it's one star review.  Check out my comments.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R21N3705LBJS5C/ref=cm_cr_othr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01LRP3EDG

 

Edited by Neil Parille
Because

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31 minutes ago, Neil Parille said:

The full text review:

Quote

Customer Review

By Neil Parille on July 2, 2017
James Valliant and Casey Fahy have written this book following a theme that has become somewhat common lately: the court of the Flavian Emperors created the Gospels as propaganda to pacify rebellious Jews and encourage the populace to obey the Roman state. Unlike, say Joseph Atwill, our authors contend that Paul was a real person (although they are uncertain about Jesus) and consider several of his letters authentic and written pre-AD 66. Paul, who preached a pro-Roman and more universalistic religion, clashed with James, who was a more traditional Jew. At some later point (probably after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70) the Gospels were written and made their way into the nascent Christian movement.

I don't find this thesis persuasive, but the reader can decide for himself. If there was a nascent Christian movement centered around Paul and James which did not have the Gospels, how were the Gospels introduced into the church without any trace in the historical memory? And why were they accepted by early Christians?

Some problems with the thesis:

1. For example, Paul's associate Epaphroditus is highly unlikely (as our authors claim) to be the same person as the Roman secretary of the same name or the person to whom Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews is dedicated - the proposed transmission belt for which Roman court ideas of Jesus were inserted into the nascent Christian movement). You'd have to assume Paul was complicit in some Roman attempt to create a different Jesus, which is inconsistent with his letters. It was a common enough name anyway.

2. The Romans were very conservative religiously. The idea of Romans creating a new religion is just bizarre. Remember Cicero saying we are great because we are most pious? You could get arrested for holding a meeting of more than a handful of people they were so paranoid about rebellion. The Romans attributed the success of their nation to the scrupulous nature of their religious observances.

3.The whole Q, Synoptics, John, etc problem is much more consistent with a bottom up religion than a top down. What's more likely - Joseph Smith created Mormonism or the LDS created Joseph Smith? As Twain said, "the Iliad wasn't written by Homer but by some guy they called Homer."

4. If Paul was a conduit between the Roman court and the Christian movement, then why did the Romans kill him? Kind of defeats the purpose. And Paul was killed under Nero, not the Flavians and his authentic writings date prior to the Flavians. I find it unlikely that the Flavians would have any interest in continuing a scheme of Nero.

Here's the problem with the the Flavian thesis: Either: (1) Jesus didn't exist and the Romans created a religion out of whole cloth which people for some reason believed; or (2) Jesus lived and his followers (or their followers) wrote down things they recalled him saying and doing (accurately or not).

And Valliant and Fahey have a bigger problem because they agree that Paul lived and wrote of Jesus (and knows some historical facts).* And James also was real (and probably others such as Peter). So their followers accepted Gospels that they knew probably had little connection to a real Jesus? This is implausible to say the least.

I have a few additional comments:

1. Although the authors breathlessly tell us that they have a combined 60 years of studying the New Testament, they show almost no familiarity with conservative, mainstream or even liberal New Testament scholarship. And they often misrepresent the findings of scholarship when they advance what they purport to be the consensus. There are quite a few scholars who date the Gospels to prior to the fall of Jerusalem and even many critical scholars who contend for a pre-66 date for Mark's Gospel. Our authors tell us that “most” academics reject to the historical accuracy of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and refer to leftists such as Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar. Of course neither Ehrman or any of the members of the Jesus Seminar represent mainstream New Testament scholarship. Perhaps our authors should familiarize themselves with such book as The Historical Reliability of the New Testament by Blomberg or the recent collections by Keener and Licona which evaluate the accuracy of the Gospels in light of the writing of its time.

2. When discussing Paul they rely (in part) on the book Operation Messiah by Voskuilen and Sheldon. Yeah, me neither. Many solid books have been written lately about Paul that could have been referenced such as by N.T. Wright, James Dunn, Michael Bird and Stanley Porter. Although perhaps appearing too late for our authors, Porter's When Paul Met Jesus: How An Idea Got Lost In History presents the evidence (now largely forgotten) that Paul did know Jesus.

3. The authors claim that much of the New Testament is pro-Roman propaganda, urging obedience to the Emperor and the Roman State. They seem totally unaware of recent scholarship (such as N.T. Wright) that sees on the contrary implicit criticism of growing Emperor worship, particularly in the East. I think some of this scholarship goes to far, but it's a useful corrective to our authors claims. (For a more balanced presentation see Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not, by McKnight and Modica.) Our authors attempt to downplay the persecution of Christians by Rome is not persuasive and even they have to acknowledge that the Empire's execution of Paul and Peter runs contrary to their thesis. Apparently early Christians didn't get the message because most early writing touching on war opposed Christians serving in the Roman army.

4. Many matters are presented as fact which are highly debatable. The authors contend that the Virgin Birth is of pagan origin. However, there are relatively few virgin births outside Christianity and they are quite different from what is described in the Gospels. For more information the reader might consult Raymond Brown's The Birth of the Messiah.
_______
*For a good discussion see Dunn's essay in The Historical Jesus: Five Views.
 
 
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Neil,

I skimmed through the preview on Amazon of this book and didn't find it compelling. I wanted to because I wanted to use this as a prompt to research (and maybe piss off Valliant due to our history :) ). But it's just too lame...

Without going into detail, it's clear Valliant cherry-picked some items of the past to prove a hair-brained idea and ignored the relevant rest. I luvs me some conspiracy theories at times, but the idea that the Jesus story was concocted as a secret conspiracy by the elites to control the masses and that it was so well done, it has endured to the present, makes me wonder why I even bothered looking.

I appreciate the scholarship you put into the rebuttal, and the part I read (then skimmed the rest) is very good, but I believe Valliant has a problem that, in your zeal, you haven't considered. His work is irrelevant to the culture. I mean that literally. It's irrelevant to Christians. It's irrelevant to atheists.

It's even irrelevant to Branden haters (the only fan base he has) since I doubt any of those folks will read the book. (I wager half or more of the 5-star gushy reviewers did not read it.) And if some of them do, I don't think they will understand it other than to think they now possess secret knowledge the rest of mankind for two millennia has been too stupid or gullible to see.

It's clear to me. Is it clear to you? Nobody is going to be influenced by this book for anything. Seriously. And I'm not saying this because Valliant and I don't get along. He's a crackpot. (Including his sidekick.) A crank. A plodding eccentric dogmatist with no charm, certainly not a Don Quixote wannabe charging at windmills. In the big picture, I honestly think he's going to go down the memory hole and not even become a footnote in history.

So your fine scholarship is like going on a modern-day tear against a proponent of phrenology. :)

It's your life, of course, but I suggest you aim your guns at something important. You do really good work and it's a shame to see it wasted on so little a target. Talk about using an elephant gun to kill a flea. :) 

 

A note on copy-paste

btw - In modern computer stuff, there is a lot of hidden code in texts you copy. If you paste it to a site that uses the same code, fine. Everything works out. If the site uses a different code, you get errors, glitches, etc., when you paste it in. So it's a good idea to learn how to strip formatting from text taken from highly coded sites like news sites, Amazon, etc., before pasting it elsewhere. Do that and you will get far better results.

Here's a suggestion. Go to Google (or any search engine) and type in the following:

strip formatting online

Go to almost any of the sites that come up (I use a different browser tab to open the site when I do this), paste in the text you want to paste here on OL and click whatever they tell you to in order to strip the formatting. (Some even do it automatically, so you don't have to click anything.) Most of the time you won't be able to see the difference between the original text and the format-stripped version, but it's there. Then select the stripped version and copy it, come on over here and paste it in. Voila... :) 

Or, even better, don't go anywhere. When you paste text here, instead of using Ctrl+V, use Ctrl+Shift+V. That strips formatting, too. (Dayaamm! Why didn't I say that first? :) ) That's on a Windows machine. I imagine using the Apple key for Ctrl works the same for Apple computers. I don't know about mobile, but if you need I can try to look it up.

Michael

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On 6/3/2018 at 12:39 PM, Neil Parille said:

I reviewed the book on Amazon.  For some reason I can't insert a link.  Anyway it's one star review.  Check out my comments.


https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R21N3705LBJS5C/ref=cm_cr_othr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01LRP3EDG

 

Neil, have you looked into the work of Richard Carrier?  I find it stimulating and valuable.  I wrote about it a little here:

Even if you end up disagreeing with him, I think you'll find the bible scholarship worth your time.

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Neil,

I'm just now finishing a marvelous book: The Devil's Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West by Michael Walsh.

I don't agree with everything Walsh says, but this is a terrific book about comparing the Judeo-Christian worldview to that of the Frankfurt school. (My disagreements are way beyond the scope here.) Since I have a classical music background, his interweaving classical music in his arguments made me feel at home. I loved it.

Importance-wise and worldview-wise, I believe this is right up your alley.

The Critical Theory intellectuals are some of the true villains in our culture--and literal dead bodies keep piling up because of them. They deserve to be taken apart bit by bit. This is something I believe you would do well.

Just a suggestion.

btw - I had mistakenly called Valliant a flea. When comparing his effect to the Frankfurt school's devastation in opposing the Judeo-Christian culture, he's much, much smaller. :) 

Ironically, Rand's opposition doesn't quite have a deadly effect on Judeo-Christian culture because--in spirit--I believe she was far more religious than her surface words convey. Her goal of portraying the perfect man was an attempt at transcendence, even as she put it on earth.

Michael

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23 hours ago, 9thdoctor said:

Neil, have you looked into the work of Richard Carrier?  I find it stimulating and valuable.  I wrote about it a little here:

Even if you end up disagreeing with him, I think you'll find the bible scholarship worth your time.

This is an unusual and excellent book.  It introduces Bayes Theorem (a theorem in probability theory) and Carrier shows how Bayesian Statistical Inference can be used to update hypotheses based on partial knowledge  to produce update hypotheses  on the basis of additional evidence.  Bayesian inference is the logic  of inductive reasoning.  In 2012  the Higgs Boson was revealed at CERN. Bayesian statistical inference was absolutely essential to identifying the experimental indicators which showed that the Higgs Boson exist.  Carrier in his book deals with methods of making probable  hypothesis on evidence of historical events.  Carrier uses Bayesian inference  to pretty well demolish the underlying assumptions on which Christianity is  based.  It is not an easy read, but it is probably one of the few books that teach Bayesian inference with very little mathematics.  That means someone who is not heavy in mathematics and formal probability theory can learn Bayesian Inference.

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5 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

 

Ironically, Rand's opposition doesn't quite have a deadly effect on Judeo-Christian culture because--in spirit--I believe she was far more religious than her surface words convey. Her goal of portraying the perfect man was an attempt at transcendence, even as she put it on earth.

Michael

Rand had a Jewish moral and ethical sense.  Which is no surprise, since she was brought up Jewish. In her mature years she was no longer observant of Jewish ritual and custom  but her grasp of ethics was Jewish down to the "sub-atomic level".  One of these days I will write an essay on just how thorough Jewish ideological and ethical conditioning is,  even for Jews (like myself)  become atheists in their mature years.  The ethical "take"  that Jewish cultural upbringing produces in virtually indelible.  Even today if someone asks me "what are you?"  I respond , Jewish,  without hesitation or embarrassment, because I am, and I am Jewish because of how I was brought up.  Jewish in the cultural, ethical and philosophical sense.  So it was with Rand  and the most of the first generation Objectivists.  Check out her earliest followers.  Most of them were brought of Jewish and later in life ceased to be observant. 

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That Rand was brought up Jewish is news, where did Kolker – or whatever his name is – get it?  The usual biographies say her father was not observant.  Her mother was, but they also say she wasn’t close to her mother.

“Rand had a Jewish moral and ethical sense.”  Poppycock.  ARI may have the attitude what’s-good-for-the-Jews and screw the Gentiles but Rand certainly did not.


ARIwatch.com

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Michael,

Thanks for your kind words.

Baal and 9th Doctor,

I'm not interested in the writings of a potty mouth like Carrier,

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2 hours ago, Neil Parille said:

Michael,

Thanks for your kind words.

Baal and 9th Doctor,

I'm not interested in the writings of a potty mouth like Carrier,

Heh.  I see you've encountered him before.  But his potty mouth is not evident between the covers of the books I'm recommending.  He makes the strongest case I know of.  And the methodology is interesting, independent of the subject matter. 

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14 hours ago, Mark said:

That Rand was brought up Jewish is news, where did Kolker – or whatever his name is – get it?  The usual biographies say her father was not observant.  Her mother was, but they also say she wasn’t close to her mother.

“Rand had a Jewish moral and ethical sense.”  Poppycock.  ARI may have the attitude what’s-good-for-the-Jews and screw the Gentiles but Rand certainly did not.


ARIwatch.com

She's known to have attended a Russian Orthodox parochial school (or gymnasium as they called it).  Evidently a prestigious one, where Nikolai Lossky was an administrator. This was through the age of 12, after which the family fled to the Crimea in the wake of the October revolution.  I think it's safe to say she was exposed to Judaism and Christianity, and we can take her word that she became an atheist early (I forget, I think she said age 13).  Her ethical theory is about as original as they come.  Bob promises ("one day") to produce an essay making his case.  He hasn't made it yet.  We're waiting.

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1 hour ago, Neil Parille said:

Larry Hurtado and Richard Carrier have had some back and forth on Hurtado's blog.

I did a quick skim and yeah, both come across as non-collegial in their interactions with each other.  Putting it mildly.  Reminds me of some online O-land wars I've witnessed.  George Smith vs. Shayne Wissler.  George Smith vs. Dragonfly.  Lindsay Perigo and James Valliant trying to tag-team you. 

Oh well, that's the internet.

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On ‎6‎/‎6‎/‎2018 at 5:11 AM, BaalChatzaf said:

Rand had a Jewish moral and ethical sense.  Which is no surprise, since she was brought up Jewish. In her mature years she was no longer observant of Jewish ritual and custom  but her grasp of ethics was Jewish down to the "sub-atomic level".  One of these days I will write an essay on just how thorough Jewish ideological and ethical conditioning is,  even for Jews (like myself)  become atheists in their mature years.  The ethical "take"  that Jewish cultural upbringing produces in virtually indelible.  Even today if someone asks me "what are you?"  I respond , Jewish,  without hesitation or embarrassment, because I am, and I am Jewish because of how I was brought up.  Jewish in the cultural, ethical and philosophical sense.  So it was with Rand  and the most of the first generation Objectivists.  Check out her earliest followers.  Most of them were brought of Jewish and later in life ceased to be observant. 

What are your references?

---Brant

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1 hour ago, Brant Gaede said:

What are your references?

---Brant

check out Rand's biography.  She was raised in a Jewish family.  The first generation objs   Branden (Jewish), LP (Jewish), The former had of the Federal Reserve Greenspan (Jewish). etc.  Jewish means brought Jewish,  not necessarily observant at the time.  Here is an article in the Jerusalem Post which discusses some of the connections between Ayn Rand, Objectivism and Jewish intellectuals  --- https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/The-nexus

 

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1 hour ago, BaalChatzaf said:

check out Rand's biography.  She was raised in a Jewish family.  The first generation objs   Branden (Jewish), LP (Jewish)

Karl and Groucho, too. Hard to think of anyone in show business or publishing who isn't Jewish.

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11 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

check out Rand's biography.  She was raised in a Jewish family.  The first generation objs   Branden (Jewish), LP (Jewish), The former had of the Federal Reserve Greenspan (Jewish). etc.  Jewish means brought Jewish,  not necessarily observant at the time.  Here is an article in the Jerusalem Post which discusses some of the connections between Ayn Rand, Objectivism and Jewish intellectuals  --- https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/The-nexus

Decent Article, but nothing in it or elsewhere establishes Rand as ever being an observant Jew. Observant here implies a strong, conscious commitment. Now, she might have once been, but if so she got rid of the memory to create a myth about herself. Culturally she was Jewish, but only in the sense I am a WASP. In the same vein I am not a Catholic, being strictly Protestant. The commonality--a commonality--with Rand is the eschewing of religious worshiping. If you don't worship God you are not in any important sense "observant."

--Brant

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12 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Karl and Groucho, too. Hard to think of anyone in show business or publishing who isn't Jewish.

So true. America is the land of opportunity.

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1 hour ago, Brant Gaede said:

Decent Article, but nothing in it or elsewhere establishes Rand as ever being an observant Jew. Observant here implies a strong, conscious commitment. Now, she might have once been, but if so she got rid of the memory to create a myth about herself. Culturally she was Jewish, but only in the sense I am a WASP. In the same vein I am not a Catholic, being strictly Protestant. The commonality--a commonality--with Rand is the eschewing of religious worshiping. If you don't worship God you are not in any important sense "observant."

--Brant

I said she was brought up Jewish.  I never said she was observant.  Judaism is as much a culture as it is a religion.

 

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Jewish! You are what you eat.

Saint Peter

From: Olivia CC: objectivism <objectivism Subject: Re: OWL: Is vegetarianism kosher? Date: Sun, 07 Dec 2003 18:52:32 -0600. Michelle F. Cohen [12/7] cited 'evidence' that vegetarianism is not in line with Judaism and its tenets, offering the word of God and 'proof' from the Torah. Am I the only one who finds it bizarre that an *atheist* is offering up God and the Torah as a reason we should abuse & kill animals? I find it disturbing that Michelle often spouts information, then never replies to obvious counterarguments, but nonetheless remain hopeful that maybe she will respond to what I've included below. But, hey, if she wants to bring God and the Torah into the mix, read what I found online below. Michelle, I look forward to your response on this one. Olivia

Judaism, Animals, and Vegetarianism (from www.jewishveg) Judaism requires humane treatment of animals. The Jewish concept of tsa'ar ba'alei chaim, the obligation not to cause pain to animals, is one of the most beautiful elements of Jewish thought. Jewish tradition is filled with compassion for animals, and strongly opposes the infliction of suffering on another living creature. Let's take a look at what Judaism says about our proper treatment of animals. Many stories from Jewish tradition reflect our concern for animals. In one beautiful story from Midrash:

 

    While our teacher Moses was tending the sheep of Jethro in the

    wilderness a lamb ran away from him. He ran after her until she

    reached Hasuah. Upon reaching Hasuah she came upon a pool of water

    [whereupon] the lamb stopped to drink. When Moses reached her he

    said, "I did not know that you were running because [you were]

    thirsty. You must be tired." He placed her on his shoulder and began

    to walk. The Holy One, blessed be He, said, "You are compassionate

    in leading flocks belonging to mortals; I swear you will similarly

    shepherd my flock, Israel." (Exodus Rabbah 2:2)

Judaism is clear in mandating concern for animals. The Bible tells us explicitly, "The righteous man regardeth the life of his animal."(1) In Exodus, G-d insists that "If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee laying under its burden, thou shalt surely not pass by him; thou shalt surely unload it with him."(2) The Code of Jewish Law states, "It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve pain of any creature, even if it is ownerless of belongs to a non-Jew."(3) The Talmud explains that the obligation to relieve an animal from pain or danger supercedes rabbinic ordinances related to the Sabbath.

Indeed, the welfare of animals is so important that the fifth commandment mentions them specifically, and they too must be allowed to rest on the Sabbath.(4) The great Torah commentator Rashi explained that this means animals must be free to roam on the Sabbath day, and graze, and enjoy the beauties of nature.

The Talmud futher insists that "A person should not eat or drink before first providing for his animals."(5) Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch tells us it is so important that our animals not go hungry while we eat, that a person is legally authorized to interrupt the performance of a rabbinic commandment in order to interrupt the performance of a rabbinic commandment in order to make sure this has been done.

In Deuteronomy, the Torah instructs us not to take the mother bird and its young together.(6) Maimonides explains this injunction is meant to prevent causing the mother pain at seeing its young taken away. The Torah further commands us, "ye shall not kill [an animal] and its young both in one day," of which Maimonides says is "in order that people should be restrained and prevented from killing the two together in such a manner that the young is slain in the sight of its mother, for the pain of animals under such circumstances is very great. There is no difference in this case between the pain of people and the pain of other living beings, since the love and the tenderness of the mother for her young ones is not produced by reasoning but by feeling, and this faculty exists not only in people but in most living things."(7)

The rabbis further demonstrated their concern for animals by so strongly disapproving of sport hunting, that the Talmud prohibits even association with hunters.(8)

The laws of kosher slaughter also reflect a deep reverence for the welfare of animals. According to Jewish law, the shochet (slaughterer) must be a pious and learned man, the animal must be perfectly healthy, the knife must be perfectly smooth with no imperfections that may cause momentary pain at the point of death, and the animal must be killed with one quick cut severing the major arteries to the brain. Thus, Judaism requires that if an animal is to be killed, even its moment of death must be as quick and painless as possible.

Indeed, there are so many commandments mandating humane treatment for animals that the rabbis explicitly declared consideration for animals a biblical law. As the Talmud states, "Great importance is attached to the humane treatment of animals, so much so that it is declared to be as fundamental as human righteousness."(9) As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote, "Here you are faced with G-d's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even though no fault of yours."(10) Tsa'ar ba'alei chaim is such an important idea in Judaism, that chief rabbi of England J.H Hertz said, "It is one of the glories of Judaism that, thousands of years before anyone else, it so fully recognized our duties to (animals)." It is absolutely clear that concern for the welfare of animals is an obligation for Jews.

For more on this subject, read Judaism and Animal Rights by Richard Schwartz

The way animals are treated on farms today violates Jewish teachings.

Judaism is unequivocal in requiring us to treat animals humanely. How do these important Jewish teachings on compassion for animals apply to what we eat?

If you're like most people, you imagine a farm the way storybooks portray them, with chickens scratching around in the dirt, pigs rolling together in the mud, and cows peacefully grazing out at pasture, the animals living a happy, idyllic life until coming to a quick and painless death at the hands of the slaughterer. This picture is far from reality. These kinds of farms, the norm back in Biblical and Talmudic times, have virtually disappeared in modern America. The mass production techniques which drove our industrial revolution now dominate our farms as well, and today large agribusiness conglomerates have nearly obliterated the traditional family farms that once dotted our landscape. Over 90% of animals on U.S. farms today are raised using intensive rearing methods, on modern "factory farms." Listen to what happens on these factory farms, and consider how the way animals are raised for food today fits in with our Jewish tradition of compassion for animals.

Chickens, for instance, are raised in absolutely atrocious conditions. Those raised for meat live their short lives entirely indoors, never seeing grass or sun or sky, crowded so tightly that each chicken, with a wingspan of 2½ feet, has on average a mere 6/10 of a square foot in which to live its life. Their droppings are not cleaned, so they spend their entire lives in their own filth. As a result of the ammonia, dust, and disease in the air, farmers complain of sore eyes, coughing, and even chronic bronchitis, and have been warned to avoid entering these areas. If that's true for the farmers, what must it be like for the chickens, who must live their entire lives breathing this air? They all develop respiratory problems as a result, and the ammonia burning their eyes sometimes leads to blindness. Farmers use hormonal and genetic manipulation to make the chickens grow seven times faster than normal, which puts such stress on their bodies that 90% of the chickens suffer leg deformaties, and some just flip over in convulsions and die. Though their normal lifespan is 15-20 years, they are slaughtered at just 7 weeks of age, because if allowed to grow longer, mortality rates surge due to heart attacks, infections, and other diseases. Under these conditions of extreme stress and frustration, the chickens will actually peck each other to death, a behavior virtually unheard of under normal conditions where chickens can establish a natural "pecking order." Farmers deal with this loss to profitability not by alleviating the conditions which lead to such behavior, but by cutting their beaks with a hot knife. This is not a painless procedure like trimming nails, since the birds have sensitive nerves in their beaks, and indeed for some chickens this creates so much pain that they cannot eat and starve to death.

Chickens raised for their eggs have it even worse. After hatching, since male chicks are useless to the egg industry, they are simply thrown into plastic bags where they suffocate under one another, or are thrown alive into grinders to be fed to their sisters. The females are raised in wire cages stacked one on top of the other, so excrement drops from one cage onto the birds below. The birds are generally packed 4-7 birds to a cage the size of a folded newspaper. They cannot stand or perch comfortably on the unnatural slanted wire floor. The result is severe discomfort and serious leg deformities, and their nails can get caught in the wiring leaving them completely immobile. It is typical for one hen to be consistently trampled underfoot by the others. Hens also have a strong need to lay their eggs in privacy, an urge shown in studies to be as strong as the urge to eat after being starved for a day. Of course, privacy is completely impossible under these conditions. Other urges, like dust bathing and nesting, are also completely frustrated. In time, the rubbing of their bodies against the wires causes their feather to fall out and their skin to be rubbed bright red and raw. Indeed, it appears that the birds are driven literally insane by their treatment, as indicated by their hysterical noisiness among naturally rather quiet animals. Conditions are so bad for these layers, 20-25% of them die before slaughter at less than 2 years of age. By the time they're killed, due to confinement and transport, 88% of then hens have broken bones. What's more, when the layers end their egg cycle, they are often "force-molted." This involves leaving them without food in complete darkness for sometimes up to 18 days, in order to shock their bodies into starting another cycle. The birds can lose more than 25% of their body weight in this process, and it is common for 5-10% to die. And egg-laying chickens, like the rest, end up in slaughter.

The cows we eat are routinely branded, receiving third-degree burns; their horns are either torn out or gouged out; and they are castrated. All without anesthetic, of course. Most dairy cows are tied in place for their entire lives, unable even to walk around. To keep their milk flowing, they are impregnated every year, and their calves are taken away immediately so as not to waste any of the milk. This is causes great suffering to both mother and child, and a cow will often bellow for days after its baby. Except for the few added to the dairy line, these babies all become veal, to be raised in darkness and isolation in stalls too small to lie down in, fed iron-free diets to keep them anemic, and slaughtered at just six weeks of age. The dairy industry and the veal industry are the same industry. Giving birth constantly wears the cows' bodies down, so that these animals who normally live to 25 years are spent by the time they're six, and sent to slaughter like the rest.

All these animals endure transport to slaughter for up to days without any food or water, sweltering under the summer heat or freezing to death in the harsh winter. At the slaughterhouse, they are beaten with electric prods, including in their eyes and anuses, to get them to go up the chute as they smell the blood and hear the screams of the animals before them. They are hung in the air by their back legs, which bruises or breaks them. For non-kosher meat they are supposed to be stunned, but with a documented 25% failure to stun rate, they routinely have their limbs chopped off, their skin peeled off, and they are dropped into tanks of scalding water, all while fully alive and conscious. This is the horrific, bloody end to their life of misery. And all just because we like the taste of meat.

How does this fit in with the Jewish mandate not to cause pain to any animal? How does their lifelong confinement compare with Rashi's statement that they must be free to roam and enjoy the beauties of nature on the Sabbath day? How is their starvation through weather extremes during transport to slaughter consistent with the mandate that we must not ourselves eat before making sure our animals are provided for, even if this interrupts a rabbinic commandment? How does the dairy industry's practice of removing the calf from its mother just after birth, compare to Maimonides' words that "there is no difference in this case between the pain of people and the pain of other living beings"? How can we as Jews, who are not permitted even a small notch in the knife used for killing an animal lest it cause momentary pain, who are not permitted to take the young away in the mother bird's presence lest it cause her grief, who are not even allowed to associate with hunters, how can we inflict all this suffering on so many of G-d's creatures, about whom the Torah tells us "the L-rd is good to all, and his tender mercy is over all his creatures"? Where is the mercy here for these pitiful animals?

It is clear that the Torah envisages a peaceful, happy life for animals, and that if they are to be killed for food, they should end their happy lives quickly and painlessly. Today in America, however, we cannot eat animal products without directly participating in cruelty of unfathomable proportions. Each year, in the US alone, 9 billion warm blooded animals are slaughtered for food. Compare that to the human population of the entire earth of 6 billion, and there is no comprehending the amount of suffering involved. We cannot be compassionate, we cannot abhor cruelty, we cannot be true to the beautiful decency and caring for animals written into the Torah which G-d gave us, indeed, we cannot be good Jews, as long as we continue to pay for the torment of these abused souls.

Jews have known too well the bitter taste of cruelty and oppression, and Jews have remembered our tragic history when we have seen others suffering under the cold hand of persecution. Jews have taken leadership roles in the battles for worker’s rights, for civil rights, and even today Jews have worked to help the plight of the Kosovo refugees. Let us not forget the suffering we have experienced as a people when it comes our turn to choose whether others will be brutalized at our hands, every time we sit down to dinner. As Nobel prize winning Jewish author Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote, "...as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace... There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is." Let us, as Jews, who have helped change the world for the better so many times before, continue to spread the concept of tikkun olam, of repairing the world, to the countless animals who live, and die, in abject misery.

Millions of people are going vegetarian every year. Please consider becoming a vegetarian yourself, so that we as Jews can help create a more compassionate world.

NOTES (1) Proverbs 12:10 (2) Exodus 23:5 (4) Exodus 20:8-10, Deuteronomy 5:12-14 (5) from Deuteronomy 11:15 (6) Deuteronomy 22:6-7 (7) Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 3:48 (8) Avodah Zorah 18b (10) Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 416.

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3 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

I said she was brought up Jewish.  I never said she was observant.  Judaism is as much a culture as it is a religion.

 

Yes you did when you said she was "no longer observant."

--Brant

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9th Doctor,

I've read some writings by Mythers.  It's hard to take seriously.  There is more evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus than most people in the ancient world.

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