Thursday, May 13, 2010

Naomi & Ruth

photo of wedding-themed luggage tag
It's wedding season again, and couples all over the U.S. will recite that inane quote from Ruth 1:16-17:

And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. (17) Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.

Ruth said this to her mother-in-law, another woman, not to her husband. After the death of both women's husbands, Ruth declares her intention to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, rather than be left behind when Naomi remarries. What other choice did Ruth have? Prostitution? Panhandling? In the end Ruth marries one of Naomi's relatives, has kids, and YIPPEE! God's plan is restored.

Family loyalty is supposedly mandated by the Commandment "Thou Shalt Obey they Mother and Father." There is no corollary commandment to parents to care for their children. Perhaps the Old Guy in the Sky assumed that even the most evil of parents would do this without being commanded to do it. The "moral" of this story is that once you've been given away to your husband's family, you belong to them forever. If you're going to use this at a wedding, it should probably be said by the bride while facing her future husband's family. It has nothing to do with a promise to him.

This of course derives from the comandment to honor thy father & mother. Naomi has become Ruth's mother by virtue of marriage. She gets married off to someone else in the family, which may have been due more to pity or obligation than to any love-matching. Again, nothing to do with modern marriage practices.

Ruth wasn't expressing loyalty or even love. She was expressing her obedience to an archaic notion that women are possessions. She was essential declaring that she was indeed Naomi's baggage and putting a tag on herself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is Logic the Opposite of Religion?

More about the debate ongoing in another blog. Occam's Razor is the current dispute, but what it comes down to in all these discussions is whether logic can be used to prove or disprove the existence of God or the Supernatural.

Because you can't literally prove a negative, merely deduce its likelihood, the theist automatically has the upper hand. The theist can come back with "just because you see no evidence for it doesn't mean it doesn't exist." When they resort to this it's tantamount to admitting that there is no proof that they could point to that would convince a skeptic (i.e., someone who is waiting for proof before deciding what to believe).

Now they're on the ropes. Having yielded ground on issues of the veracity of the Bible (some is myth, some is erroneously transmitted, some is inconvenient) and provability of the supernatural, there is only one place to turn: "It's a matter of faith."

I've boxed a few theists into that corner, and remarkably, they are smugly satisfied with it. In the end, they realize they believe merely because they want to believe.

Considering how inconvenient it is to be an atheist in American society, I'd kind of like to believe too. But believing in something that's not true just to fit in with society sticks in my craw. I have to wonder how many people make that ultimate choice between belonging to a big chunk of society and embracing reality at the risk of being despised, pitied, or worse.

As much as America admires the Lone Ranger and Rugged Individualist in theory, it doesn't have much use for them in theology.