The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CLXVIII (Sharing Religious Customs)

May 15, 2006 | 9 Comments

“Is it wrong to share in some beliefs of other religions?” asks a Catholic Squad reader who has recently adopted the Jewish custom of placing rocks atop a relative’s tombstone. The man also wants to know whether the custom has a “special meaning.” The Squad explains the practice (it’s a sign that the living remember the dead) but completely ignores the faith-sharing question.

It was bad question to begin with, for at least three reasons. First, the reader confuses participating in a rock-piling ritual with holding a “belief.” Second, the reader thinks he can hold a belief without first knowing what it means. Third, the reader suggests that the rightness of holding a belief shouldn’t depend upon its truth — but rather on whether it’s already part of the collection of ideas comprising one’s own religion, as opposed to something which must be borrowed from the collection of another set of dogmas.

Had the Squad decided to address the main question, its answer would have only added to the confusion. On the one hand, the Squad believes that all religions are just different paths up the same mountain, and that the “Abrahamaic faiths” share the same core principles. On the other hand, they’re dead set against raising children in an interfaith manner, because for some reason kids need to have a single spiritual “address.” Moreover, notwithstanding the serious internal contradictions that plague every religion, the Squad sees some special problem with Jews sharing a belief in Jesus — “[i]t’s like trying to be a duck and an onion at the same time.” Presumably a Catholic putting pebbles on a grave would face the same problem.

In any event, I have my own advice for those who are curious about the “deeper significance” of outwardly peculiar practices such as piling things on top of other things. If the people engaged in the activity seem to be much smarter than you and are using complicated machines in what looks to be a laboratory, the meaning will likely escape you. However, if the people are at about your intelligence level and it’s easy for you to imitate their behavior, there’s probably no meaning to it at all.

Comments

9 Responses to “God Squad Review CLXVIII (Sharing Religious Customs)”

  1. shlemazl
    May 15th, 2006 @ 7:36 pm

    Sorry to be off topic. I asked this question via e-mail link, but did not get a reply.

    My question is: Why do you have ADL under hate sites? They fight all racism not just anti-semitism. You’ll see it if you have a quick look at their website, which covers immigration issues and Darfur.

  2. bernarda
    May 16th, 2006 @ 5:16 am

    The ADL uses the fight against all racism as a front. Its pimary concern is Israel. It considers anti-zionism and opposition to Israel as anti-semitic. For instance, it launched a defamation campaign against London mayor Ken Livingstone for saying that Ariel Sharon is a war criminal and should be in jail with Milosevic.

    From the ADL site:

    “ADL’s activities regarding Israel and the Middle East promote the security and well-being of the Jewish state, enhance U.S.-Israel relations, and help advance the peace process between Israel and her Arab neighbors. ADL believes that the security of Israel depends not only on its own military and political strength and stability, but on good relations with the United States, on a friendly and inclusive international community and on the isolation of extremist states and organizations who deny Israel’s right to exist and pose a danger to Israeli and Jewish institutions worldwide.”

    “To promote these goals, ADL plays a key role as an interpreter of events in Israel for the American Government, the public and the Jewish community. ADL educates about the complexities of the peace process and Israel’s ongoing security needs. It combats efforts to delegitimize Israel by the Arab world, the international community and the media. ADL also tries to promote a unified American Jewish community policy in its support for Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship. ADL also seeks to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and incendiary anti-Israelism in the Arab media. ADL publications provide in-depth analysis on the peace process, anti-Semitism in the Arab media, internal Israeli politics, Islamic extremism and other timely issues.”

    About the ADL from the AJC site:

    “ADL has consistently seen its role as combating antisemitism, which, in the ADL view, can appear in new forms and guises. ADL thus focuses not only on monitoring discrimination against Jews, but also on anti-Israel activity, left- and right-wing radicalism, and violations of church-state separation, as well as interfaith work and Holocaust education. Unlike the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and other community-relations organizations, the ADL is not a membership organization, and therefore its staff is uniquely involved in policy formation.”

    “New forms and guises” means opposition to Israel. Note that the ADL is not a membership organization. It only represents the views of its staff. If you search “zionism” at the ADL site, you will find a series of false propaganda statements about it and its history.

    Also do a search at ADL on the names “Norman Finkelstein” and “Ken Livingstone”. You will find ADL head Abe Foxman defaming those to. If anyone promotes hate, it is Foxman against any whole disagree with. Foxman has often equated anti-zionism with anti-semitism. That false equation can only serve to promote anti-semitism. The ADL works tirelessly to censor criticism of Israel on college campuses.

    “Colleges and universities across the United States have experienced recent highly charged anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activity. Many rallies and events have gone beyond legitimate criticism of Israel and have been marked by hateful attacks against Jews and the Jewish state, crossing the line into blatant anti-Semitism.”

    But for the ADL all criticism of Israel is illegimate. Check the ADL site for its defamation of academics who oppose its zionist position. It is a clear campaign of intimidation. I call it using WMD, “word of mass destruction”, ie “anti-semitism. Do a google search on “ADL spying on campus” and look up the wikipedia article on the ADL.

    For a detailed history of the ADL, see Lenni Brenner’s article.

    http://www.fantompowa.net/Flame/brenner_adl.htm

    Brenner begins:

    “Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s National Director, is well and truly crazy, and for two reasons: 1) He libeled me and 2) he thinks he can get away with it.

    The saying is that one good turn deserves another. Since Foxman and the ADL have spread malicious nonsense about me, I will tell the exact truth about them, putting their dishonesty about my ideas within the context of the ADL’s unending history of rightwing stupidity and dishonor.”

  3. The Raving Atheist
    May 16th, 2006 @ 9:16 am

    Shlemazi,

    I responded to you three days ago by gmail but got the following response:

    PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 12): 554 delivery error: dd This user doesn’t have a yahoo.ca account (shlemazblog@yahoo.ca)

    In any event, my response was this:

    “They promote discrimination against the Jews for Jesus based on their theology . . . see here:

    http://ravingatheist.com/archives/2002/08/no_more_jesus_for_jews_contd.php

  4. HappyNat
    May 16th, 2006 @ 10:07 am

    I love the guy just putting rocks on the grave without any idea what it means. “I really miss her so lets throw some rocks on her grave. I hear the Jews do it and they never seem too upset by death.” These are the people who think the god squad gives sound advice.

  5. Mister Swill
    May 16th, 2006 @ 11:56 am

    About a year ago a couple of friends went with me to visit the grave of my former girlfriend. One of my friends was an atheist of Jewish descent. The other had vaguely defined paganistic beliefs (as far as I know). Friend #1 did the traditional Jewish thing and left a rock on top of the gravestone. Friend #2 said he really liked that tradition and did the same. If I remember correctly, there was a discussion of how leaving a rock at a grave was a sign that one had been there, and a rock is a more lasting token than something like a bouquet of flowers.

    To me, leaving a rock at a grave site makes no less logical sense than any other custom surrounding death: Headstones, embalming, fancy caskets, elaborate urns, visiting someone’s grave and talking to him or her. But these traditions survive not because of the sense they make, they survive — like so many human traditions — because of the ways they make us feel.

  6. tarkovsky
    May 16th, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

    The question of meaning is associated with culture. If I raise my hand, fold my fingers except my middle one, this might mean to me “hey I am happy to see you!” but it might well be misinterpreted by others of course. This gesture is quasi universal in meaning (on top of being offensive).

    So what about said bunch of rocks? I certainly don’t know what it means and the meaning is certainly not obvious in any way.

    So my point is: only jews will understand the symbolism outside of himself. So if the act of putting rocks on the grave does not offend anyone, go right ahead, be my guest.

    You started a new trend? Christians are starting to borrow on jewish metaphors? Hey, whatever. If the idea makes sense and it culturally sticks, cool. What about atheists sticking rocks on graves? Why not!

    Cultural elements are like patents: the first one that registers it, owns it.

  7. shlemazl
    May 16th, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

    RA,

    Thanks for your answer. I understand your point. I also understand ADL’s negative attitude to Jews for Jesus.

    1. The name itself is a misnoma. It’s a bit like “Democrats for Bush” or “Communists for business”.

    2. Jews for Jesus is based on deceipt. Admittingly the same applies to all religions. However JFJ go a step further when they specifically claim that you can be Jewish and Christian, which is simply incompatible with Judaism and is therefore a lie.

    3. Why did they JFJ pick on Jews? I never heard of “Muslims for Jesus” or “Buddists for Jesus”? OK, organziations may want to expand their membership. In the same manner other organizations may want to protect their membership. It’s fair play.

    4. Jews are particularly sensitive to conversion campains. Too many times over the centuries the choise for Jews has quite simple: convert or die. Some feel that those who are converting now are betraying the memory of their ancestors who risked their lives and possessions.

    5. Do you think that your claim that “ADL promotes discrimination against JFJ” could be a touch over the top?

    All in all, I strongly disagree that ADL is a “hate” organization in any shape or form; neither are they an exclusively religious organization.

    Sorry about a typo in my e-mail address.

  8. Rocketman
    May 17th, 2006 @ 8:01 am

    Ritual is a very human thing. While I am an atheist and do not beleive in mysticism–I do believe that human behaviour–human conscioousness has asopects to it that are fundamentally addressed by engaging in ritual.

    The power of religion–which seems so baffling to maqny atheists is that it strikes human beings on many levels. It isn’t as simple an equation as i beleive in god so I have my universe explained for me–

    Ritual is a cultural creation with significant psychological effects on the individual.

    On a religious level it serves to propagate the beleif structure that contains it. THis I have an objection to–it is the co-opting of an essential human ideal to serve the pruposes of the belief.

    On a social/cultural level it provides a basis for expected behaviour–before in and after the rituals completion.

    On a psychological level it is a set of recognized behaviours that have been tested and use symbolism to deal with a life crisis.

    Stones endure. Stones are solid, easy to place, easy to find-placing one on a grave is simply an enduring act of remembrance for the deceased. While we engage in reason as outr choice of dealing with the world–we still have that pattern recognistion that gives us that insight–that magical thinking that is key to our emotions and our deeper psyches. There is no way to stand at a grave and speak all of the meaning that a deceased person had for you. It would take a seperate lifetime in some instances. Perhaps a symbol is enough.

    Deceased individuals who still have an effect on the living after they have gone. If that simple thing provides comfort for the living–both as survivors of the death and as those who will eventually die–then why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

    Just because ritual is a tool of thesitic beleif does not mean it is useless for those who have none.

  9. Thorngod
    May 19th, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

    With this stone I acknowledge my kinship to thee, and to our mother, Earth. Soon, even as thou, I will be a stone forever.

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