Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Seven Universal Laws

On my last trip to New York, we took a train to Times Square. As we were walking through the station towards 42nd Street, a group of 4 young men (Hasidic Jews) approached us and asked if we were Jewish. When I said no, one of the young men handed me a card and told me that on the card I would find the seven universal laws, and if I would just follow them, they would lead to true peace. Believing that now is as good a time as any to get started down the path of true peace, I decided to check them out and share what I discovered. "The Seven Universal Laws" are as follows:

Believe in G-d and renounce idolatry. (Wow...Simon Cowell is so screwed!)

Honor the Almighty by not blaspheming. (Well, how in the hell do you expect a godless heathen to follow a goddamn rule like that?!?)

Respect all human life and not commit murder. (Hmmmm....It might be tough, but I'll try.)

Refrain from immoral conduct; adultery, incest and homosexuality. (Adultery? Check. Incest? 1 million times check! Homosexuality? Check for me, but that "law" might be a bit difficult for whole sections of NYC. And why is "immoral" behavior confined to sexual behavior? I guess Yahweh must have a one-track mind.)

Respect the property of others by not stealing. (That's a given.)

Respect G-d's creatures and not partake of flesh from a living animal. (Well, animals squirm too much.)

Foster justice by supporting honest courts of law. (As opposed to the courts of law we have now??  i.e., corporations = individuals = freedom of speech = the right to spend billions to ensure that laws remain entirely corporate-friendly) those are the Seven Universal Laws. Please bear with me as I submit these "laws" to my own unofficial test of universality.

  • Believe in G-d and renounce idolatry.
    • FAIL! This law is only universal if one assumes that everyone who is not Jewish has a belief in some sort of deity and engages in idolatry. It completely leaves out the pantheists, agnostics, and atheists of the world.
  • Honor the Almighty by not blaspheming.
    • FAIL! What is blaspheming to one religious group is honoring by another...and those who don't believe in the existence of any "Almighty" blaspheme them all.
  • Respect all human life and do not commit murder.
    • PASS! First of all, not committing murder is rooted more in ethology than "law", but makes complete sense when you consider that wiping out the human species via murder would not be in the best interest of the human species. It is also my humble opinion that respecting all human life is another universal precept that transcends religion or religious belief...however, it is one that does not seem to EVER be followed by believers of any faith, as they continue to show disrespect to anyone who does not believe as they do, and even go so far as to commit that very act of murder, which is universally condemned.
  • Refrain from immoral conduct: adultery, incest, homosexuality.
    • FAIL! First of all, adultery is defined differently between different cultures, and even within the same religious groups. At one time, having multiple wives and/or conjugal relations with your slaves (for men only, of course) was not considered "adulterous" behavior within Judaism. As cultural norms changed, so too, did the definition of adultery. Incest has physiological repercussions that make that taboo unattractive enough to most but not all cultures...and homosexuality is a law of nature (check out the many other species that engage in homosexual behavior) that cannot be eliminated by instituting laws of man (or god) forbidding it.
  • Respect the property of others by not stealing.
    • PASS/FAIL?  This one is tricky because it assumes a material-based system and philosophy of life. What one considers stealing, another may simply see as taking one's turn using available resources. In that case, I suppose the intent to not maliciously take the property of others could be considered universal. Of course, if one were to exist in a cooperative state, this law becomes moot.
  • Respect G-d's creatures and not partake of the flesh of a living animal.
    • FAIL! Ok, while I am philosophically sympathetic to the viewpoint of those who are vegetarian or vegan, as far as grotesque human production of meat products is concerned, science does not support the argument that humans were meant to (and should) refrain from consuming meat products. One obvious example in favor of a more omnivore lifestyle includes the existence of "canine teeth" in humans, which like the four-legged animals whose teeth they resemble, were never intended to be used to eat tofu. Having said that, my personal belief is that there is a significant problem with mass-producing animal products and I think if people worldwide could manage to curb their consumption of meat by even 10% per year, perhaps we could get a little bit closer to the ideal of respecting our fellow creatures.
  • Foster justice by supporting honest courts of law.
    • PASS! In theory, it's difficult to imagine how anyone could argue against honesty and justice for those who seek it, even in the most localized or tribal courts.

Well, by my count, that makes just 2.5 out of the 7 laws that met my unscientific criteria for universality, and all of those were related to concepts that promote social cohesion and universal prosperity, thus eliminating any need to identify with Judaism, or any other religious belief system.

With regard to promoting "true peace", again, only 2.5 out of 7 stand a chance of accomplishing this. The others remain "true" only in the eyes of the believers themselves and if they accomplish true peace for them, I am all in favor, as long as it is not at the expense of others, like myself.

As for the 4 young men freezing their beards off in the 42nd Street subway station while attempting to hand cards out to tourists who mostly ignored them, I hope they find their own sense of peace....but more importantly, I hope they find a warm place to be when their mission is over.

Quote of the Day:

"If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane."

--Robert G. Ingersoll

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Unexpected Inconsiderations

Today I encountered one of those situations in which it was very uncomfortable to be a godless heathen.

It happened when I went out to lunch with several of my colleagues from work. While we were waiting for our meals to arrive, one of the very lovely ladies I was with suggested (nay, demanded) we bow our heads and say a blessing. Now, where I live, it is not uncommon to see people holding hands and praying in public restaurants. Therefore, this is not something I am unaccustomed to witnessing.
However, what got my panties in a bunch was the fact that everyone at the table just assumed that it would be alright with everyone else at the table. Never once did anyone appear to even consider the possibility that one or more of us might not be inclined to pray to a particular god, or (horror of horrors), might be an outright atheist.

So there I sat, head bowed, eyes involuntarily rolling at the servile platitudes being offered to "the" deity supposedly responsible for providing us with our lunch (which wasn't of the healthiest variety, I might add), feeling like a complete fraud. And why? Because I felt compelled to be considerate of the others' desire to thank an imaginary, invisible sky person for providing the overly-processed food we ordered.

Yet, without realizing it, these otherwise very kind women had been incredibly inconsiderate of my desire to NOT do so, and I can't help thinking about Mr. Ben Stein's rant about how Jews and Christians don't like being "pushed around." (See blog entry from 12/29/09) Once again, it seems rather ironic to me that a member of the vast majority would be complaining of discrimination and/or inconsideration at the hands of the overwhelming minority and I wonder just how offended my colleagues would have been had I refused to participate in their ritual due to my (ir)religious beliefs. Perhaps one of them would be blogging about me tonight. ;)

Quote of the Day:

"The dull pray; the geniuses are light mockers."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson