The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CXXXIV

July 18, 2005 | 16 Comments

Is it okay for a Protestant to get a Jewish prayer shawl as a souvenir from Auschwitz? A Squad reader wants to pray to the piece of cloth as a way of saying “never forget,” but is afraid it would be as bad “as wearing a rosary as a necklace, or treating a Quran with disrespect.” The Squad agrees:

As you suspected, the appropriation of one religion’s religious objects by someone of another faith is more than just confusing; it’s a spiritual boundary violation.

Exposing yourself as a spiritual seeker to the teachings of other religions is fine, but when it is the objects of that religion one seeks to take out of their natural context and use in a personal and idiosyncratic way, a line has been crossed.

The talit, or prayer shawl, is a fulfillment of a biblical commandment to place fringes on the corners of a garment (Numbers 15:37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12). This commandment to wear fringes is the third part of the central affirmation of Judaism, called the Shema, whose first part, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One” is as close as Judaism comes to a central prayer.

The purpose of the fringes is so that Jews who wear the talit can see them and “remember to do all of God’s commandments.” Since it was precisely the decision not to observe these Jewish commandments that caused the split between Judaism and Christianity, and since the fringes are a central part of Jewish belief and worship, you might want to find a different object to commemorate your visit.

We must add, however, that flushing a Quran is to treat the toilet with disrepect.

Okay, so I made up that last line. But isn’t it “personal and idiosyncratic” to worship a Jewish man nailed to a cross? That seems at least as bad as praying to a Jewish shawl. If Christians today began pulling noisy Rabbis off the streets and worshipping them on crucifixes, you’d never hear the end of it from the ADL.

I think the key is determining who sets these “spiritual boundaries” the Squad is talking about. Presumably it’s God. If so, I don’t think the first boundary-crossers He’s going to be concerned with is the shawl-worshipping Protestants. He’ll start with whoever made mistake regarding the performance of “all of God’s commandments.” Either the Christians crossed a boundary in disregarding Jewish law, or the Jews are in trouble for following them instead of Christ. And whoever’s wrong is going to find themselves in a place much worse than Auschwitz.

In the Squad’s scenario, however, we have this odd polytheistic God who doesn’t care if you’re a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or a Buddhist, so long as you don’t violate spiritual boundaries by mixing and matching the faiths. Unfortunately, that scenario requires you to believe in an odd polytheistic God, which necessarily forces you to mix and match the faiths.


16 Responses to “God Squad Review CXXXIV”

  1. Choobus
    July 18th, 2005 @ 6:16 am

    Is it more disrespectful to flush the Koran down the toilet, or to spend four hours sand blasting the bowl following a serving of “Curry Hell” from the Rupali curry house in tyneside? (This is a curry that, if you can eat it all, it’s free. Nobody has ever had one for free).

  2. Vernichten
    July 18th, 2005 @ 7:56 am

    The thing they are telling the reader not to do, because it uses the religious objects that Jews worship, but it does so out of the appropriate context (surrounded by other adherents), is precisely what both Christians and Jews believe Jesus did. In fact, picking and choosing what to believe from the Jewish faith is why he was crucified, no? So the message is don’t do what Jesus did.
    Another thing that strikes me as funny is that they are basically saying “we all decided before you got here that this type of shawl has a specific spiritual meaning, therefore you are forbidden from using it for any other reason”. Apparently, the reader’s personal belief system is not as worthy of respect as the mutually incompatible belief systems of the squad.

    And Choobus, you realize that if you are not actually Indian, you are disprespecting the Indian culture by eating curry. That is, unless you are surrounded by other curry eaters who all believe as you do. You can learn about it, look at it, even put your fingers in it, but if you eat it you’re asking for trouble.

  3. Mookie
    July 18th, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

    I’m atheist, does that mean I can’t wipe my ass with pages from the Bible? There doesn’t seem to be any physical force stopping me from doing so.

    To be fair, I could try other religious texts, too. I’ll do a survey over the next few weeks and determine which faith has the most comfortable holy toilet paper. Then I’ll get the local atheist non-holy (wo)man to purify my toilet. The poor thing, having to swallow all that ridiculous shit…

  4. Viole
    July 18th, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

    To make that a scientific study, Mookie, you’d better go with the same publisher for all your holy books, and preferably the same version. And then, perhaps you ought to check out the amount of toilet paper per book, to see which has more sheets per dollar.

  5. Vernichten
    July 18th, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

    The Gideons’ have been leaving free toilet paper in hotels everywhere for years.

  6. hermesten
    July 18th, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

    Christians are assualting “boundaries” of all types, and in force. If current trends continue, I may live long enough to see them rounding us up and herding us into concentration camps. Here’s what they’re telling people in church these days: “First we get the military, then we get the nation.” If this doesn’t scare you, you’re not paying attention.

    See the entire article at:

  7. GW
    July 18th, 2005 @ 4:55 pm

    Before you wipe with free gideon toilet paper, check out
    Hermesten, that is truly scary.

  8. Poons Goddy God
    July 18th, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

    Madonna’s jewish, right? I remember her playing with a cruxifix in a video blazing a trail for us all. I bet madonna will “ride” a prayer shawl in her next video.

  9. Viole
    July 18th, 2005 @ 7:39 pm

    Eden Prairie? Yikes. I’m not used to wingnuts quite so close to home. Just goes to show that these people are everywhere–not just in the deep south.

    I seriously can’t help but worry about the possibility of everyone else vrs. the christians. Because you know they won’t stop with America. They won’t stop until everyone in the entire world is tithing their leaders.

  10. cubic rooms
    July 18th, 2005 @ 9:37 pm

    How can any rational person possibly understand religious idiots and their sacred trinkets? They discuss this crap right out in the open as if the subject has merit. Reminds me of 18 month old smearing its shit on the wall and then getting all excited about it.

  11. Jahrta
    July 19th, 2005 @ 9:02 am


    It seems quite obvious to me which religious text best suits itself to fill the role of toilet paper, even without conducting a scientific study on the matter – the torah!

    think about it: not only does it come in a handy-dandy scroll form for easy dispensing, but it also has handles you can use like spokes – just a matter of retrofitting your tp holder to accept the thicker spokes.

    now as far as tearing off a piece is concerned, that one is a bit trickier, and depends upon the age of the sacred text. if it’s a really old one, dating from before 1920 or so, it might actually be comprised of sheepskin, in which case you’d either need scissors or one of those industrial paper cutters. other than that, the only way they could do it would be to implement a convenient perforation system :)

  12. dave in CA
    July 19th, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

    Madonna was raised Catholic, but converted to Judaism – specifaically Hollywood Kaballah.
    Traditional Kaballah is forbidden to women, because women are considered unclean or something.

  13. glenstonecottage
    July 20th, 2005 @ 9:41 am
  14. Rev_Holy_Fire
    July 21st, 2005 @ 7:22 pm

    Scared of the truth?

  15. KingDong
    July 22nd, 2005 @ 5:42 pm

    madonna can’t be jewish. Just think how muchg pork she’s had over the years….

  16. Percy
    August 1st, 2005 @ 5:34 pm

    “In fact, picking and choosing what to believe from the Jewish faith is why he was crucified, no?”

    Incorrect. Jesus was “officially” crucified because he taught that he was the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, and was the Son of God. This was considered blasphemy by the Pharisees, because the Torah doesn’t explicitly mention a “Son of God”. Thus, for anyone, even the prophecied Messiah, to say that they are the Son of God was considered heretical.

    The real reason he was crucified was because he didn’t follow the expectations of the Pharisees and the Sagisees. The popular belief at the time was that the Messiah would be someone who would lead the Jewish people against the Romans and conquer them, thus creating a Jewish Empire. To this end, there were many would-be Messiahs that that led revolts against the Romans, all of whom were crushed or exposed as frauds. Jesus differed from these in that he preached treating the Romans with good will and patience, rather than reckless hate and suicidal revolts. In doing this, however, he openly criticized Jewish political and religious leaders for their feelings towards the Romans, and made it clear that he would not side with them in the way they intended. For this he was crucified.

    “Another thing that strikes me as funny is that they are basically saying “we all decided before you got here that this type of shawl has a specific spiritual meaning, therefore you are forbidden from using it for any other reason”. Apparently, the reader’s personal belief system is not as worthy of respect as the mutually incompatible belief systems of the squad.”

    Actually, the person is talking about using the shawl in a religious manner. Since Christianity is the religion he practices, the advice he was given was in direct correlation to Christianity, not “personal faith”. I disagree, however, with the God Squad. I think bringing back a prayer shawl is perfectly fine, although I think that the writer should examine his reasons for using it. There are two be no material things between us and God – in Christian faith, you don’t need a prayer shawl to pray to God. It would be the equivalent of a Buddhist needing a magic crystal to meditate. The need for a prayer shawl has passed; it has been fulfilled. I would advise the writer to keep the prayer shawl, but be wary of any misconceptions that he needs it to pray to God, or that for some reason his prays will be augumented by it. Then again, I’m not the spiritual authority on this matter. His best tool in this situation is his Bible, and prayer.

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