Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls Coming Online!

Google and the Israeli Antiquities Agency are working to make a free, online, searchable version of the Dead Sea Scrolls!

My comment on the article:

As an amateur scholar of Jewish theology and history, I think this is incredible!

Yes, there is potential for misinterpretation; that's hardly a condition new to any modern religion. More importantly, there's an opportunity for education.

Most people don't realize how many variations exist between the various versions of our holy books. I love how Bart Ehrman describes it in  Misquoting Jesus, saying, with my apologies for misquoting Ehrman, "There are more variations between versions of the New Testament than there are words in the New Testament".

When you look at the Old Testament things are a little more difficult, because I can go to Borders and see 20 different Bibles, each with minor differences, on the shelves, but the Torahs will be virtually identical. In Hebrew, at least. Having access to these scrolls will give us something to compare the modern Torah to, and learn more about where it comes from, what it means, and what it was "supposed" to be.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Burning Houses

Sigh. Just...sigh.

I was so angry about this earlier, and now when I sit down to write about it, all is quiet. Not that I'm less angry; my fiery passion on the matter has just burned down to warm ashes.
Firefighters in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because the homeowner hadn't paid a $75 fee.
Gene Cranick of Obion County and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat. 
The only thing worse than the story itself is the debate that has sprung up surrounding it. Not even the content of the debate so much as the fact people feel a need to discuss whether it was correct to let this family's house burn to the ground. Seriously. What. The. Fuck. "House on fire" is literally the example used in conversation to denote a situation so immediate and dangerous that you help right away no matter your beliefs or the cost.

I have to wonder how much of this is a deliberate political shot at FDR's famous speech justifying the Lend Lease Act. As the Great Satan of the Teabag movement, and Neocons in general, how wonderful it must be to have this example of people literally haggling over the price of a hose. There's at least a certain political integrity to it; we're opposed to helping those lazy, poor freeloaders when it comes to jobs, housing, feeding their children, providing medical care, or educating them, and we're damn sure going to be opposed to helping them when their house is burning down on top of them!

The family's four pets were killed - slain really. Yeah, sure; they're just animals, right? No reason to risk human lives to save animals. But they were someone's pets! As a pet owner, who has lost a pet within the past year, I know pets are really part of the family. There's a limit to the heroic efforts that should be undertaken to save a pet, absolutely! But that limit is surly higher than $75.

Every one of the firefighters in this department are guilty of criminal negligence, and probably much worse, as far as I'm concerned. They showed up to the neighbor's property to fight the fire there:
""They put water out on the fence line out here. They never said nothing to me. Never acknowledged. They stood out here and watched it burn," Cranick said.
A bunch of trained firemen with equipment stood and watched a house burn down; how is that not criminal? Ok, the law was on their side; they were not legally required, according to county laws, to put out the fire immediately in front of them. Fuck that; legal or not, it was an immoral act and - and this is something I think I've never said before in my life - they will be judged for it by a higher power.

Starting with their own consciences, I hope.

One particular Teabagger talk show host - who I will not dignify by naming and improving his SEO - kept harping on the economics of the issue; "If you put out fires for people that don't pay, then no one will pay!" Well, that's certainly very telling about you, sir, that you are willing to freeload off the government even when you can afford to pay. I don't believe it's universally true, even if it's "economically true". I would pay, and so would most of the people I've discussed this with. Why? Because we want quality service in the area.

And when our neighbor "sponges" off our payment by getting his house extinguished for free, what then?

Then I will feel happy my $75 was able to help him, and contribute more to help with repairs.

Oh, and you're no longer to identify as Christian. Or any other religion, for that matter. There is no holy book in the world, except possibly Atlas Shrugged, that would support this behavior. In fact, they're rather vocally against it. The Koran even teaches, "Do not sit down to dinner while your neighbor's house is on fire." Oddly applicable. That means, Mr. Teabagger, that you now lack the moral center of an Islamic terrorist. Congratulations.

Damn it. This blog was supposed to be about the joy of learning more about religion! I can't believe we have to discuss the morality on the level that any Kindergartner would easily get right.