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October 14, 2002
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The fate of Israel’s 10 lost tribes, which, after being driven from ancient Palestine in the eighth century B.C. by Assyrian conquerors, disappeared into ethnic oblivion, ranks among history’s biggest mysteries. Some Israeli rabbis believe descendants of the lost tribes number more than 35 million around the world and could help offset the sharply increasing Palestinian population. The Bnei Menashe of India are part of the solution to Israel’s demographic problems.
posted by stbalbach (77 comments total)

 
Heres some more background links on the Ten Lost Tribes. The 10 lost tribes overview. Lost tribes from Africa to Afghanistan. The Lost Tribe Video (2 min).

The MSN article seems to be saying Israels cheap labour problem can be solved not through Arab workers but importing members of the Lost Tribes from such places as India. How much of this is real is hard to say, DNA evidence is still in the works but certainly going back to the 8th C BC to claim land rights for displaced Indians raises an eyebrow what are the limits of ancestor rights and what does this mean for other displaced tribes around the world in the future.
posted by stbalbach at 12:02 PM on October 14, 2002


Well, the Freemasons will sure have egg on their faces if the lost tribes don't turn up in Blighty (scroll down to bottom of page).
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:17 PM on October 14, 2002


wait a sec... why does the palestine people need their population 'offset'?
posted by jcterminal at 12:31 PM on October 14, 2002


I always thought Adama, Starbuck, Apollo, Sheba, Cassiopeia, and Boxey were from one of the lost tribes. But a little research suggests a Mormon connection for Battlestar Galactica, not Jewish.
posted by Nelson at 12:36 PM on October 14, 2002


It's all in the name of a 3000 year-old grudge. Gahd.

Eliminating religion would go a long way toward eliminating these asinine feuds.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:36 PM on October 14, 2002


There are about 2.5 million displaced Palestinians in Jordan another 2.5 million in the West Bank/Gaza Strip which is about 5 million plus a fair amount in Israel. There are about 6 million Israelis. The problem is, as the argument goes, the Palestinians are procreating at a rate much higher than Israel and eventually by sheer numbers Israel will be outmatched or overrun.
posted by stbalbach at 12:41 PM on October 14, 2002


BTW if this argument seems primitive, one only has to look at South Africa and Zimbabwae and Indonesia and any number of other examples to see what happens when the majority native population is ruled by a minority what the eventual outcome is. Israel needs to keep its population in check with the Palestinians if it hopes to remain a legitimate state.
posted by stbalbach at 12:46 PM on October 14, 2002


I always thought Adama, Starbuck, Apollo, Sheba, Cassiopeia, and Boxey were from one of the lost tribes. But a little research suggests a Mormon connection for Battlestar Galactica, not Jewish.

You can find a lot of other Mormon elements in the SF works of Orson Scott Card. One's worldview often shows in artistic endeavors. (I prefer his historical novels, though...)
posted by oissubke at 12:47 PM on October 14, 2002


Eliminating religion would go a long way toward eliminating these asinine feuds.

I'd rather eliminate simplistic utopian dreams like this one--they do as much damage.
posted by goethean at 12:50 PM on October 14, 2002


Eliminating religion would go a long way toward eliminating these asinine feuds.

Given the abysmal failures of state-sponsored atheism, I'm not sure why you would believe that a world free from religion would be any better.
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:51 PM on October 14, 2002


five fresh fish: a 3000 year old family feud?
posted by Lleyam at 12:54 PM on October 14, 2002


BTW if this argument seems primitive, one only has to look at South Africa and Zimbabwae and Indonesia and any number of other examples to see what happens when the majority native population is ruled by a minority what the eventual outcome is. Israel needs to keep its population in check with the Palestinians if it hopes to remain a legitimate state

Breed dammit breed. They're gaining on us!
posted by srboisvert at 1:00 PM on October 14, 2002


...one only has to look at South Africa and Zimbabwe and Indonesia...

Seems like these cases had radically difference outcomes. Which "eventual outcome" are you speaking of: the establishment of a democracy with a combination of majority rule and legalistic protection of minority rights, or establishment of a dictatorial regime that eventually crushes the rights of the minority? One of these possibilities is acceptable, while the other should be resisted.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:09 PM on October 14, 2002


Lost? Last I heard Jeremiah took King Zedekiah's daughters through the Caucuses (Caucasian) mountain range and settled Europe. To this day, their direct descendants are coronated over the Stone of Scone (Jacobs pillar).
posted by rogue at 1:14 PM on October 14, 2002


FYI, stbalbach, MSN is not the same thing as MSNBC.

There are at least three components to the 'Palestinian population bomb' (not my phrase) problem. The first, and most complicating in many ways, is the Arab Israeli minority, which is growing at rates similar to Arab populations, or about double the rate of the rest of Israel. In particular, the Muslim Arab Israelis are growing even faster than Christian Arab Israelis. The second part is the population of the West Bank, refugee areas in neighboring countries, and displaced persons residing legally in other countries from Egypt to Europe and the US. The Christian minority among Palestinians has dropped from around 12% after WWII to under 5%. The same pattern contributed to Lebanon's two civil wars, which were about political balances between Christian Maronites, Shi'a Muslim Druzes, and Sunni Arabs; the Maronites retained a roughly half share of power even as they had fewer children and declined as a share of the population. Finally, there is the growing Arab population in surrounding nations hostile to Israel.

The Bnei Menashe have been discussed by blogger Suman Palit here, with an earlier meditation on Jewish links with Hindu culture filling out some background. The Menashe Jews are from a largely Pentacostal Christian ethnic grouping, which is to say the least curious, and though a minority have taken this claim it doesn't seem impossible.

In any event, stbalbach, this is not a matter of claiming "land rights"; they are legally immigrating to Israel. Whether Israeli settlers are able to retain the rights to their lands is a separate political matter.
posted by dhartung at 1:15 PM on October 14, 2002


Given the abysmal failures of state-sponsored atheism, I'm not sure why you would believe that a world free from religion would be any better.

Assuming you're referring to Communist regimes like the Soviet Union and China, the "atheism" of these countries was and is a sham. They merely suppressed competing religions in favor of their own.

That they didn't call it a religion is neither here nor there: any dispassionate analysis of their use of terms like "The People" and "Revolutionary" reveals that they are in fact religious terms. In China, the official phrase "the will of the People" does not refer to any actual persons -- it is used deistically by the priestly caste (party apparatchiks) to refer to an unverifiable divine will revealed only to them and used as an instrument of control. Likewise the word "revolutionary" is a code equivalent to "holy". Communism as practiced by these countries is in no practical sense atheistic, it is monotheistic.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:20 PM on October 14, 2002


yeah, from battlestar galactica i always thought we, the people of earth, were the lost tribe!

except from Nelson's link: In the Mormon church, The Book of Mormon describes the journey of a "thirteenth tribe" There were twelve tribes of Israel and the prophet Lehi took a remnant of the tribe of Joseph (creating a "lost thirteenth tribe") and somehow travelled from the middle east to North America around 600 BC. They ended up splitting into two tribes, one of whom flourished and according to the book are the descendants of the American Indians.

so maybe the american indians should be repopulating israel, keke :D

also btw: Additionally, the name Kobol is made up of the rearranged letters making up the word Kolob, which is the star "nearest unto the throne of God," or the name of the planet where the Mormons' god, Elohim, is from."
posted by kliuless at 1:20 PM on October 14, 2002


I'd rather eliminate simplistic utopian dreams like this one--they do as much damage.

Please, do elaborate. I am most interested to hear and, hopefully, understand how religion has benefited humanity over the past few thousand years. In what ways has it advanced our tolerance for each other and contributed to greater peace?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:33 PM on October 14, 2002


It's all in the name of a 3000 year-old grudge. Gahd.

Actually, I don't believe the feud is even 100 yet. For basically the entire time what is known as the Holy Land was under Muslim/Ottoman control, Jews were quite welcome there, and there was really very little conflict between the two communities. (I suppose it is possibly because the Jewish community in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the area were very small, so the majority didn't feel any real threat.)
posted by deadcowdan at 1:57 PM on October 14, 2002


A skeptical but honest question: Is there any historical evidence to support the "ten lost tribes" story besides a literal reading of the Bible?

And if true, what are the chances that such a tribe would remain ethnically distinct in their new environs across 100+ generations? The idea of "discovering" a group that emigrated 2800 years ago sounds farfetched.
posted by Daze at 2:10 PM on October 14, 2002


Additionally, the name Kobol is made up of the rearranged letters making up the word Kolob, which is the star "nearest unto the throne of God," or the name of the planet where the Mormons' god, Elohim, is from."

Which is, of course, rubbish.

Kolob is described in LDS scripture as being the star nearest to God the Father (Elohim). It's typically taken to be metaphor for Christ -- except, of course, by those who jump on the fact that astronomy was mentioned as a quick and easy way to portray Mormons as being a sci-fi cult.

"Look! They believe in stars! They must be a cult!"

Also, "the Mormons' God, Elohim" is the same God that Abraham and all those other fellows worshipped (and called by the very same name). Besides, it's not like we use that name in everyday conversation anyway. :-)

(Sorry for the Battlestar Galactica sidetrack, everyone!)
posted by oissubke at 2:11 PM on October 14, 2002


"In what ways has it advanced our tolerance for each other and contributed to greater peace?"

well, let's see.

we could begin with the crusades, continue on thru a tour of islamic and hindu massacres of the buddhists in india, stop briefly in the european pogroms and, after stopping off in america's bible belt to listen to pat robertson call the muslims evil, perhaps conclude our brief tour with a look into the notion of the jihad, or holy war. but then folks would be up in arms for our having skipped the various ongoing ethnic cleansings in africa, asia, the middle east and yugoslavia which are supported mostly by religious arguments.......so maybe it would be best to skip the tour and just look, generally at the way that religion is used more than any other contemporary force to divide the world into "us" and "them". spirit and god and community are one thing; but religion is primarily a divisive and hateful socio-political tool, it seems.
posted by alpha60 at 2:11 PM on October 14, 2002


I am most interested to hear and, hopefully, understand how religion has benefited humanity over the past few thousand years. In what ways has it advanced our tolerance for each other and contributed to greater peace?

I would say that it would be impossible to imagine the past without organized religion. From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Civil Rights movement, religion has played an integral role, for better or worse.

A future without organized religion? Now that's something to think about. Huge advances in science and education; then end of all war in countries without oil; the first generation of children in thousands of years with no constraint on thought; political debate shifting from whether or not gambling is moral to what is best for the people!

(Of course, I know that this like any other Utopian ideal is unattainable, but still nice to think about, no?)
posted by mikrophon at 2:15 PM on October 14, 2002


In what ways has it advanced our tolerance for each other and contributed to greater peace?

Well, prior to a couple of centuries ago, there really wasn't any such thing as secular education and rarely any completely secular authority. When responsibility for public health and education, for example, rested with the priestly caste, arguably much of what good was done, was done by religious authority. Rabbinical proscription of pork and shellfish, for example, probably saved a lot of lives. The traditional rationale for the proscription is not sound, but it still may not be coincidence it prevented things like trichinosis and the many forms of poisoning that can occur when eating shellfish in the absence of refrigeration or knowledge of the germ theory of disease.

That's a trivial example, but there are lots of ways that a uniform standard of moral guidance helps to protect a society from itself. However, that we have the choice of dropping the religious trappings now and just keeping moral guidance on a more rational basis makes this an awfully nice century to live in -- if you're lucky enough to live in a reasonably secular society.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:23 PM on October 14, 2002


National Geographic has an interesting timeline for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in this month's issue.

It provides information regarding the relatively recent history of the current conflict - as mentioned by deadcowdan above.
posted by birgitte at 2:27 PM on October 14, 2002


A skeptical but honest question: Is there any historical evidence to support the "ten lost tribes" story besides a literal reading of the Bible?

A recent piece in Harper's on this very issue.
posted by Treeline at 2:58 PM on October 14, 2002


Rabbinical proscription of pork and shellfish, for example, probably saved a lot of lives.

Shya, right. Just like how a religious commandment was needed to prevent people from eating hemlock and bright red mushrooms.

there are lots of ways that a uniform standard of moral guidance helps to protect a society from itself

No doubt. And, not surprisingly, it's been done any number of times around the world in any number of tribes, without the need for organized, institutionalized, formalized religion.

Indeed, I daresay most of the world did just fine without having a "God" tell them what to do. Sure, everyone had a bunch of small-time gods to invoke against disease and disaster and for the hope of good crops and healthy births -- but most people, throughout most cultures and most time -- didn't have a god that told them how to behave toward others.

Religion does not equal moral guidance.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:13 PM on October 14, 2002


Indeed, I daresay most of the world did just fine without having a "God" tell them what to do.

Indeed? It's the first I've heard that most of the world in the last two millennia was atheistic!

I'd be fascinated to know more. My point was not to defend theocentric societies in this comparatively enlightened age (quite the reverse), but to point out that previously there weren't a lot of any other kind -- so it's very difficult to place blame for the evils that societies did or endured on their religion, since there were few if any counterexamples, and since these societies were not separable from their religion, its effect on them cannot be reliably distinguished from other influences. If I'm wrong, tell me where.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:22 PM on October 14, 2002


Arguing against the existence of religion is like arguing against the existence of adolescence.
posted by goethean at 3:24 PM on October 14, 2002


Rabbinical proscription of pork and shellfish, for example, probably saved a lot of lives.

Kashrut is not a health-oriented thing. It's accepted as a form of discipline; the premise is that controling what you eat is an important step in having control in other areas of life.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:27 PM on October 14, 2002


Arguing that religion is, by definitiion, is integral to Metafilter being populated by many simpletons.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:29 PM on October 14, 2002


That article and those rabbis are *insane*!!!!

Reminds me of the group of people who had a fixation with those of Nordic descent, ie, who had blond hair and blue eyes...remember those people? Remember how they hated those of a certain other ethnic grouping? Remember how millions of people died because of them, not even 70 years ago?

Ethnic fantasies are dangerous. Let's not indulge maniacs in yet more of them, please.
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:41 PM on October 14, 2002


Kashrut is not a health-oriented thing. It's accepted as a form of discipline; the premise is that controling what you eat is an important step in having control in other areas of life. (ParisParamus)

I've never thought about it like that before. The Mormon "Word of Wisdom" guidelines (no coffee, tea, tobacco, etc.) are generally considered to be for the sake of health rather than discipline, so that has probably skewed my interpretation of other dietary notions of a religious nature.

Shya, right. Just like how a religious commandment was needed to prevent people from eating hemlock and bright red mushrooms. (fffish)

Sometimes religious commandments succeed where others fail in trying to get people to quit doing stupid stuff that's bad for them.
posted by oissubke at 3:47 PM on October 14, 2002


Sorry for the Battlestar Galactica sidetrack, everyone!

oissubke, good heavens, why? It's certainly more fun than a sophomoric online debate about the value of religion or diving deeper into the sorrows of the land of Jerusalem. If we can't be frivolous then the terrorists have already won.

PS - my apologies if the Mormon/Battlestar Galactica link was seen as denigrating LDS. I just love how scifi remanufactures religion.
posted by Nelson at 3:50 PM on October 14, 2002


elohim adonai! /me lost my tribe :D
posted by kliuless at 3:54 PM on October 14, 2002


Wouldn't it just be easier to forcibly sterilise the Palestinians? It wouldn't be that much of a change from the existing policy.
posted by riviera at 4:02 PM on October 14, 2002


Indeed? It's the first I've heard that most of the world in the last two millennia was atheistic!

Did I say atheistic? No. What I did say is that their god did not tell them how to behave. Romans, Zulu, Maori, and Phillipine jungle tribe didn't have a god telling them not to fuck their neighbour's wife.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on October 14, 2002


but remember riviera, Israel is a democracy and wouldn't want to appear as the bad guy (unlike the US which had no problem sterilizing some of its citizens).
posted by Stynxno at 4:14 PM on October 14, 2002


Did I say atheistic? No. What I did say is that their god did not tell them how to behave. Romans, Zulu, Maori, and Phillipine jungle tribe didn't have a god telling them not to fuck their neighbour's wife.

Assuming that's true, they are superior how, exactly? You entirely miss my point: if they commit barbaric acts, they do it by your argument without the excuse of supposed divine will. Cultures centered on a moralizing theology invent a divine will to justify their acts. Is it still religion's fault? Or perhaps is it the cultures' fault, with religion merely brought into it because it's part of their social fabric, which is my whole point?
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:32 PM on October 14, 2002


A skeptical but honest question: Is there any historical evidence to support the "ten lost tribes" story besides a literal reading of the Bible?

[Here is] A recent piece in Harper's on this very issue.


I read the piece. It was dogma masquerading as journalism.
posted by gd779 at 5:05 PM on October 14, 2002


Communism as practiced by these countries is in no practical sense atheistic, it is monotheistic.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. This kind of semantic hand-waving sounds like hair-splitting at best, and a disengenous rationalization at worst. In either case, I'm not buying it.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:08 PM on October 14, 2002


I read the piece. It was dogma masquerading as journalism.

It certainly has a point of view, but then all journalism does, no?
What's your specific criticism of the article?
posted by Treeline at 5:13 PM on October 14, 2002


If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. This kind of semantic hand-waving sounds like hair-splitting at best, and a disengenous rationalization at worst. In either case, I'm not buying it.

You seem be imagining that I said the reverse of what I actually did say. Do you even know what monotheism is? Criminey. It hardly "semantic hand-waving" or "hair-splitting" to argue that a thing is THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what it claims to be. Sheesh.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:19 PM on October 14, 2002


i was all ready for you to say "jesus" instead of "criminey," keke :D thank GOD!
posted by kliuless at 5:48 PM on October 14, 2002


Religion doesn't kill - people kill. People merely use religion to rationalize their basically evil behavior. People are murderous, greedy, deceitful, undisciplined jackasses no matter who they "worship." This is merely human nature. It does little good to hate religion, or to seek to banish it, since this will not change human nature. atheists seem so intent upon pointing out the errors of religion that they create an orthodoxy even more rigid than the one they oppose. Sigh.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:00 PM on October 14, 2002


atheists seem so intent upon pointing out the errors of religion that they create an orthodoxy even more rigid than the one they oppose

Atheists are people who don't subscribe to a religion, period. Any other characterization is at best an overgeneralization and smacks of prejudice. Not all atheists seek to suppress anyone else's religion, though of course given a chance many will argue with you and try to get you to see their point of view -- which they are certainly entitled to do.

If atheists are rigorously and universally opposed to anything, it is theocracy, not religion. An atheist doesn't by definition care if you practice your religion, only that you not use official sanction to impose it on him.

Obviously I don't speak for all atheists, but if an atheist tries to actively work against someone's religion, they are intolerant -- and is a separate characteristic of that person not implicit in atheism itself.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:10 PM on October 14, 2002


Actually, I don't believe the feud is even 100 yet. For basically the entire time what is known as the Holy Land was under Muslim/Ottoman control, Jews were quite welcome there, and there was really very little conflict between the two communities. (I suppose it is possibly because the Jewish community in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the area were very small, so the majority didn't feel any real threat.)

What do you mean by "the entire time"? The Muslim Arabs conquered Palestine only in the 7th century of the common era - and most of the population of that area at that time was either Jewish or Greek (other ethnic groups were present, but they weren't as numerous). In either case, both the Jews (who're native to the area and were stripped of many civil rights in their own land by the Roman authorities) and the Greeks lived there for millennia (centuries in the Greek case) before the Muslim Arabs came in.

History of that region does not begin with the Muslim Arabs.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 6:14 PM on October 14, 2002


Not all atheists seek to suppress anyone else's religion, though of course given a chance many will argue with you and try to get you to see their point of view -- which they are certainly entitled to do.

AKA proselytizing.
posted by goethean at 6:36 PM on October 14, 2002


AKA proselytizing.

Perhaps. But such proseletysing is not inherent to atheism -- if it seems that way it's only because you don't notice a non-vocal atheist.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:56 PM on October 14, 2002


I thought Loren Green was Jewish. Or maybe that was Michael Landon. Never mind.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:12 PM on October 14, 2002


We don't notice non-vocal $RELIGION-ists either, because they are the sort of people who respect (or don't care about) each others' differences. They get along just fine. Problems are always caused by proselytes.

But on the other hand, problems are usually solved by proselytes, too. This is the way cultural evolution happens. Point of clarification: evolution = changed behavior in response to changed circumstances. This can be 'bad' or 'good'. There is no 'ascent to utopia', and utopia never lasts.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:24 PM on October 14, 2002


History of that region does not begin with the Muslim Arabs.

However, history of Muslim/Jew relations in that region does begin with the Muslim Arabs...
posted by mr_roboto at 7:46 PM on October 14, 2002


A typical religious person is someone who doesn't believe in any religion but one. A typical atheist is the same -- minus that one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:46 PM on October 14, 2002


five fresh fish: It's all in the name of a 3000 year-old grudge. Gahd.

Blasphemy! It is "Gawd". I now declare holy war on you and all your people.

Could you please demark your people somehow so I can more easily tell who I hate for being infidels?

k thx
posted by Ynoxas at 9:20 PM on October 14, 2002


Three thousand years ago, there were no Muslims. Muhammad died in 632 CE, a mere 1370 years ago. See a timeline of Jerusalem's history if you need reacquaintance with the basics. The first real violence between Arabs and Jews was in 1920, as the Ottoman Empire collapsed and local rule was promised, and the demographics of Jewish immigration posed a threat.

A realistic age on the "grudge" is around 82 years. It is a modern conflict, and it has its roots in the modern era. Zionism might not have been born without the French Dreyfus affair and, um, some other stuff that happened in Europe starting a century ago.
posted by dhartung at 11:13 PM on October 14, 2002


$RELIGION-ists
aeschenkarnos, you have no idea how long I spent trying to figure out what this "editorializion" meant before I realized it was a simple typo. Metafilter: forcing me to read far too much into things.

Thanks for the more concrete temporal frame, dhartung. Makes things much clearer.
posted by hippugeek at 1:04 AM on October 15, 2002


"This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these: 'that all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.'"

Most Ashkenazi (eastern European) Jews appear to be descended from a Turkic tribe called the Khazars that converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages and never lived in Palestine, ever. Perhaps someday the Sephardis will expel the Ashkenazis from Israel and put them in filthy, squalid refugee camps.

Israel must become a pluralistic democracy.
posted by xowie at 5:53 AM on October 15, 2002


I really love the whole "return Jews to their ancestral homeland" argument.

But I think we need to take this logic a step further and relocate all of humankind to Africa, whence we all came. Then all of the world's problems will be solved.
posted by rbellon at 6:25 AM on October 15, 2002


From xowie's link:

In summary, I argue in this essay that Eastern European Jews descend both from Khazarian Jews AND from Israelite Jews.
posted by goethean at 6:36 AM on October 15, 2002


Goethean - The "both-and" is undisputable. People do quarrel over the percentages, though, as funny as that sounds. If your identity rests on your blood, then assuring yourself that you're only 10% godless pagan turk, not 51%, is a BIG deal. I for one welcome my new turkic overlords ancestors. The book I read on the subject was "The Thirteenth Tribe" by Arthur Koestler. I recommend it, though Kevin Alan Brook from Khazaria.com says his scholarship is out of date.

posted by BinGregory al-Khazar
posted by BinGregory at 7:02 AM on October 15, 2002


The first real violence between Arabs and Jews was in 1920

I'm sure Moses would be thrilled to know that.

Perhaps you meant to say Muslims and Jews? Although that's still wrong, considering the same timeline you posted contains "969 Fatimid conquest is soon followed by destruction of churches and synagogues." Just because the city was not under Jewish rule in no way implies there was no violence against Jews.

The only way your statement can have even a shred of truth is if you convert it to say "the modern era of violence between arabs and jews began in 1920".

Which is a completely different point than what you were trying to make.

Although I do agree there were no Muslims 3000 years ago. It's more accurate to say that the conflict between Jews and Arabs is 3000 years old.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:35 AM on October 15, 2002


No, the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs were essentially the same folks living in the same place 3000 years ago. Some were "Jews" whose state religion was the monotheism of the Jerusalem Temple. Some were the "pagan Baalist" who take up so much space in the Old Testament. They all spoke the same language. After losing a revolt to the Romans in 70 AD most of those who remained in Palestine became early Christians and later Muslims. A very small amount of Jews remained in Palestine - the majority wound up in the diaspora.

Most of my fellow co-religionists (I'm Jewish) get really angry when I point this out...
posted by zaelic at 9:00 AM on October 15, 2002


If you got rid of all organized religion, I think God would be more than a little annoyed.

Wasn't it L. Ron Hubbard that said a good way to get rich was to start your own religion? Interestingly enough he was a science fiction writer. Who if he was still alive would probably be gunning for John Travolta.
posted by konolia at 12:54 PM on October 15, 2002


Atheists are people who don't subscribe to a religion, period. Any other characterization is at best an overgeneralization and smacks of prejudice. This is what I mean by orthodox. Here I am accused of 'prejudice' against atheists. Atheism is the reaction against religion, not the non-subscription to a religion. In saying "there is no god," the speaker is working off his/her belief system. There is no way to logically prove or disprove the existence of God. Any argument either way is flawed by it's presumptions of knowledge. I read in the thread that people hold religion responsible for all sorts of destruction, but this argument is also flawed in that religion is nothing but a concept until it is applied by human agents, and it is those humans who are responsible for the perceived destruction. In order to view the world, it's people, and their religions somewhat objectively, I label myself agnostic.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:37 PM on October 15, 2002


I am apatheist. I don't give a shit if there's a god. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:52 PM on October 15, 2002


"We don't know and we don't care"
posted by homunculus at 8:48 PM on October 15, 2002


could it not be that the Palestinians are actually the lost tribes? They will surely be closer genetically than anyone else to the original hebrews. convert them en-masse and problem is solved.
posted by chaz at 9:51 PM on October 15, 2002


There is no way to logically prove or disprove the existence of God. Any argument either way is flawed by it's presumptions of knowledge.

In the same sense, any argument about whether or not an oncoming bus exists is flawed (that presumes knowledge, too). But still you move out of the way. This line of reasoning leads nowhere fast.

"[Said Cleanthes:] Whether your scepticism be as absolute and sincere as you pretend, we shall learn by and by, when the company breaks up: we shall then see, whether you go out at the door or the window; and whether you really doubt if your body has gravity, or can be injured by its fall; according to popular opinion, derived from our fallacious senses, and more fallacious experience. And this consideration, Demea, may, I think, fairly serve to abate our ill-will to this humourous sect of the sceptics. If they be thoroughly in earnest, they will not long trouble the world with their doubts, cavils, and disputes: if they be only in jest, they are, perhaps, bad railers; but can never be very dangerous, either to the state, to philosophy, or to religion."

-- David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1854. Page 132 of the Kemp Smith edition.
posted by gd779 at 10:14 PM on October 15, 2002


"could it not be that the Palestinians are actually the lost tribes? They will surely be closer genetically than anyone else to the original hebrews. convert them en-masse and problem is solved."

I think most anthropologists believe that the Jews who settled in the notheastern part of the Middle East (modern northwestern Iran, i.e. the part of the Assyrian empire to which the Israelite tribes were deported to) are the direct descendants of those 10 lost tribes.

As for the Palestinians - some of them are genetically identical to Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Ashkenazi Jews, while some are more similar to the indigenous peoples of the southern rim of the Middle East, like the Arabs of Hejaz. Also, many Palestinians have a substantial Turkic contribution to their genepool.

So, the population cluster most genetically similar to the original Hebrews would be the Jews themselves, Mizrahi Jews (those Jews who managed to stay in Palestine and the surrounding areas after the great rebellion in 135 CE) in particular.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 2:13 AM on October 16, 2002


I presume knowledge of the oncoming bus since I can see it coming; I know I am falling because I can observe the ground flying up, towards my descending body. Where do I go to see God? Pascal and his wager aren't good enough, since it derives knowledge only after knowledge is useless. God, if he exists, has kept his existence hidden - this breeds one of two basic reactions: skepticism, or faith. Both reactions are based upon a guess, a theory of the nature of the universe we occupy, both skepticism and faith generate an orthodoxy too rigid to examine a third possibility: humanity is damned, not by any god, but by our own lack of knowledge.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:35 PM on October 16, 2002


humanity is damned, not by any god, but by our own lack of knowledge.

I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean.
posted by gd779 at 8:11 PM on October 16, 2002


Maybe it's dogma masquerading as a comment.

Thanks for the Harpers piece Treeline. I hadn't seen it before.
posted by grahamwell at 2:42 AM on October 17, 2002


God! I'm a victim of my own hyperbole! I'm saying that there is no knowledge of god, only faith or skepticism. Both stand on questionable ground. Man is damned by our lack of knowledge; man receives grace from our lack of knowledge. Is it dogma to say "I don't know and there is no way to determine the answer?" Is agnostics that hard to grasp?
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:07 PM on October 18, 2002


Is agnosticism that hard to grasp.

I had no idea threads survived so long....
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:09 PM on October 18, 2002


Apologies, ellwoodwiles. My snark wasn't aimed at you. This (and the comment just below) should explain.

What's your take on people who claim to have direct knowledge of God? They have existed, some claim they can show you how. They may be delusional, but surely to assert as much is another kind of faith, "I don't know and you can't know either, whatever you may claim".
posted by grahamwell at 12:02 PM on October 19, 2002


Sorry, grahamwell, I'd not been reviewing the thread since I first read it and kinda jumped on that one. I also was thinking about my tone in this thread and how I'm being too defensive and obscuring my point (if I have one.) I think people who claim religious experience have faith in something they need, and it often does them well. I cannot find the link, but it has been shown that prayer can help patients recover from injuries. Is this God? Or is this the power of faith? I think it's faith. I've said that the nature of God produces two basic reactions, faith and skepticism. I've been arguing that both are flawed but maybe it makes more sense to say both are correct. I'm agnostic for my own reasons and didn't mean to push it as being 'more correct,' but just as valid as faith and skepticism.

That said, the reason I even started up talking in this thread was to defend religion from those who blame religion for the disaster that is human history. I wanted to point out that even atheism is a form of faith (even though it's a negation) and any system of faith could have terrible consequences if misapplied. You're actually right to point out that agnosticism is a point of faith as well, I personally feel it's more flexible of a belief system but it's a belief system all the same.

Ahh what would Chathulu do?
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:58 PM on October 19, 2002


I suspect most of us tussle inconclusively with this problem for all of our lives - except for those who write the whole subject off as a childish neurosis and tend to be the most dogmatic of all. They're missing something, but maddeningly, it's impossible to sensibly articulate what that is. It certainly isn't comfort.

For mainstream followers of the three Judaic faiths that Harpers article would appear to be, literally, dynamite. I was hoping that gd779 would explain the dismissive comment.
posted by grahamwell at 2:03 PM on October 19, 2002


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