Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fast of ’Ester and miscellany

Jewish date:  13 ’Adhar 5772 (Parashath Ki Thissa’).

Today’s holidays:  Fast of ’Ester (Judaism), Feast Day of Perpetua and Felicity (Roman Catholicism), Bahá’í Month of Fasting (Bahá’í Faith), Feast Day of St. Barbara Eden.


Current holiday alert:  The Purim season is upon us.  Today is the Fast of ’Ester, which commemorates the fasting by ’Ester and the rest of the Jewish people preceding her approaching the Persian king ’Aḥashwerosh to save them from the machinations of the evil Haman.  Tomorrow is Purim and the day after that Purim Shushan, which celebrate the victory of the Jews over their enemies.  The story is recounted in the Book of Esther.

I have decided to take advantage of the fast day to note a few items from the news recently.

1) “Doctors 'should have the right to kill unwanted or disabled babies at birth as they are not a real person' claims Oxford academic”:  This is an example of why I did not go into bioethics, considering it a field of non-problems.  As I noted in my review of Atlas Shrugged, morality is a matter of opinion.  The bioethicist in question is of the opinion that newborn babies do not qualify as people and thus killing handicapped or unwanted babies is not murder.  While she is entitled to her opinion, her arguments are doomed to fall on deaf ears unless she can either justify them to others in terms of their own moral systems or convince others that hers is right.  The reported reactions strongly suggest she has failed horribly.

2) “The Middle East’s real apartheid”:  A piece on the hypocrisy of how the term “apartheid” is used by anti-Semites, noting the severe discrimination in Arab/Muslim countries.

3) “Witnessing 'child witch' exorcism in the DR Congo”:  This is an illustration of why beliefs need to have some basis in reality.  The results of believing that children are possessed can be disastrously cruel.

4) “Atheist group targets Muslims, Jews with ‘myth’ billboards in Arabic and Hebrew”:  Yes, the militant atheist PR machine is at it again.  And now they’re putting up billboards in and around New York City proclaiming to Jews and Muslims in Hebrew and Arabic about their gods “You know it’s a myth… and you have a choice.”  This itself is a mistake, as not everyone knows that YHWH and ’Allāh are myths, and those who believe in these gods are quite likely to wonder the people running these ads are thinking.  (A billboard is not a good medium to make even a half-decent argument for practically anything.)  The article gives some idea what the atheist PR machine is thinking:

Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said the signs are intended to reach atheists in the Muslim and Jewish enclaves who may feel isolated because they are surrounded by believers.
“Those communities are designed to keep atheists in the ranks,” he says. “If there are atheists in those communities, we are reaching out to them. We are letting them know that we see them, we acknowledge them and they don't have to live that way if they don’t want to.”

I get the impression that Mr. Silverman is living in a fantasy world.  In the United States, nonbelievers can—and do—leave their belief communities.  No one is stopping atheists from leaving the Jewish and Muslim communities.  No one is even stopping them from expressing atheistic beliefs or remaining in their communities if they do so.  And if the American Atheists are trying to reach nonbelievers who have trouble getting out, they should be advertising in more isolated places, such as Kiryas Joel and New Square.

Peace, and have an easy fast and a happy Purim.