Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Posts Tagged ‘morality

Scientists Discover Wrong Way To Eat A Reese’s

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pb cupsHershey, PA (AP) – Researchers studying the properties of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup have apparently concluded that, contrary to claims made in the 1990’s, more reliable, recent data demonstrate that one can in fact directly commit a moral offense by the manner in which he goes about consuming one such candy unit.

In an article to be published in the upcoming issue of the Food journal, an industry periodical, a team of food scientists and philosophers tested diverse scenarios and assigned them a moral score based on the number of fatalities, the amount of suffering inflicted, the extent or property theft or deprivation, and the scale of rights violations that took place as a direct, unequivocal result of eating a Reese’s. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Thag

October 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Community Has Kosher-Style Food, Moral-Style Behavoir

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The ark containing the Torah scrolls, the contents of which the congregation quotes and dismisses at will.

The synagogue’s emblem and a photo of the ark containing the Torah scrolls, the contents of which the congregation quotes or dismisses at will.

Snellville, Georgia (AP) – In this suburb of Atlanta, Temple Beth David’s Reform Jewish congregation offers a full range of religious-style services, bringing Jewish-style worship to Gwinnett County. Founded in 1981, Beth David adheres to most of the familiar tenet-style teachings of Reform Judaism, including a firm commitment to a tradition-style lifestyle.

“We’re all about our heritage,” said synagogue president Mickey Kroll in an interview-style encounter with a reporter over a lunch of lobster, a creature that Jewish heritage prohibits. “We make the eternal Jewish message relevant to modern society,” he continued, seemingly unaware of the ontological impossibility inherent in that sentence. Kroll explained that his congregation maintains a strong faith in God, except that God can’t be trusted to formulate a lasting moral system.

In a demonstration of Jewish-style practice, the Atlanta native ate the Biblically forbidden crustacean at a restaurant that also serves foods prepared with at least a nod toward, if not actual adherence to, Jewish dietary tradition, such as the meat of permitted animal species. Kroll ate without acknowledging, either before or after eating, the goodness, insight, and wisdom of a creator who made such delicacies and their appreciation possible.

In fact, says Ronald Bluming, the congregation’s Rabbi, belief in God is not even a prerequisite for Reform worship-style practice. “I’m actually an avowed atheist,” he notes. Bluming sees no contradiction in values between his vocation and his position of theological authority, as the absence of a Creator makes all values a human construct in any case. “There’s no such thing as absolute morality without a God as the source, definer and arbiter of that morality,” he explains, “so I don’t so much give my congregation moral guidance as I do moral-style guidance.”

According to Bluming, moral-style guidance resembles genuine moral guidance in that it purports to be based on the goal of increasing good in the world, but unlike the morality in an absolute system, the very definition of “good” remains wholly the product of the perceptions, whims, drives, prejudices, limitations, and zeitgeists of the people involved. Moral-style guidance denies that any immutable good is even a coherent concept, and posits that all we have available to us is our conscience.

Bluming’s predecessor, Richard Baroff, arrived at similar practical pastoral conclusions even without overt atheism. Baroff, who retired in 2001, strove to convey to his congregants that God is real but does not ultimately care what we do. This approach, common among Reform Jews – and large swaths of society at large – allows a person and community to shift with changing mores, and to avoid the pesky notion that there is any cosmic significance to human behavior.

The freedom inherent in this attitude means that the community and movement can find in their faith support for anything they find compelling, untroubled by other parts of the same sources they adduce that condemn that very practice. Thus, the members of Beth David often quote the portions of Leviticus that advocate love for others, while ignoring the inconvenient neighboring passages that bar adulterous, incestuous, or otherwise immoral sexual liaisons.

Similarly, Temple Beth David welcomes interfaith couples and condones intermarriage, consistent with the view that all religious-style paths are of equal worth and there is no place for the notion that a special, unique, exclusive, individual and national relationship has any relevance, which also serves to explain the aforementioned attitude toward adulterous liaisons.

Written by Thag

July 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Mazel Tov. Today You Are a Mockery

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Dear friends, family, and honored guests:

That’s how Rabbi Stein wanted me to begin this bar mitzva speech. Out of deference to him I kept the opening line, but the rest, well, you’ll understand in a minute.

Let’s face it: today is not about my becoming a man. I’m this little pipsqueak whose voice hasn’t even started to change. My parents’ friends routinely describe me as “cute,” and they don’t mean it in a Ricky Martin kind of way. I’m not even old enough for Ricky Martin to mean anything to me, for crying out loud. How can anyone expect someone who hasn’t even hit the pimply-faced stage to answer to manhood? It’s time to stop pretending that’s what this is about.

It’s also not about celebrating some milestone. You want a milestone? On Thursday I managed to restrain myself from running away and playing Grand Theft Auto when I was supposed to be preparing the reading in the synagogue. First time that’s ever happened. But don’t attribute that to any onset of maturity – attribute it to Dad threatening to ground me for a month and take away my iPhone if I didn’t buckle down and practice.

Alternatively, you might think this celebration has something to do with my ability to read a text in ancient Hebrew and recite a few benedictions, as if I didn’t simply get a recording and memorize it. A budding star, the ladies all cooed. A real ear for tune and rhythm and trope, the men declared. A real load of garbage, I say. A parrot could do the same. Would you celebrate a parrot with a lavish party, maybe force him to wear an ill-fitting suit and a tie too big for his neck? Wait, don’t answer that. I’m not sure I want to know.

So let’s give the honest answer to why we’re all here today. We’re all here because Mom and Dad want to show off, or at least make the social statement that they can throw a shindig like the next assimilated couple. Keeping up with the Schwartzes – no offense, Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz; I like you a lot – is the great temple-centered pastime. We bar mitzva boys are just pieces in this glorified board game our parents and grandparents feel compelled to play.

I asked Rabbi Stein how bar mitzvas were celebrated when he turned thirteen. He said they weren’t. You turned thirteen, you assumed some new responsibilities and went on with your life. If you were lucky, your parents could arrange a bit of herring and schnapps after services one morning. But hey, since the goyim always knew how to party, why couldn’t we Jews learn to do the same? After all, trying to blend in with the surrounding societies has worked so well over the last twenty centuries or so. They love us by now, right? Show the neighbors you can hire some dancing waitresses and they’ll forget all about your reputation as a Christ-killer, or a blood-in-the-matza murderer, or an imperialist Zionist, or whatever the epithet du jour happens to be this century.

It’s pretty convenient that you celebrate this occasion, or whatever it is, when your kid is as likely as not to be years away from facial hair of any significant quantity. He’s not really a teenager yet, so you can get him to cooperate with your hedonistic, consumerist bash without a major risk of adolescent rebellion upsetting your big plans. Mom? Dad? How’s that working out for you?

Honored guests, if you want this event to be about maturity, I suggest you so-called grown-ups exhibit some. I want to be proud of my heritage, but the only message I get from you is that my heritage is only important if it doesn’t interfere with a business opportunity, or trips to Aruba, or social climbing. Somehow I get the feeling that’s not the message in the ancient Hebrew text you all say I – and I quote every last one of you – “read so beautifully.” I shouldn’t even know the word “travesty” at my age. So how about “bitter irony.” Will that do?

Mazel tov. You’re now ready to become grown-ups.


Written by Thag

September 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Kant Be Wrong

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I’m considering raising my children to be inconsiderate, slothful ingrates. It’ll be so much easier for them to encounter the same values outside home as inside, and not face the confusion of inconsistent social standards.

This would obviously require owning a TV with antenna or cable, because there’s only so much rudeness that one set of parents can muster at a time; we’d have to outsource to accomplish our goal more efficiently. Fortunately, the experts on the lowest common denominator over at HBO, Fox and their ilk are more than willing to fill my kids’ brains and hearts with all the moral swill they can absorb.

But since the two TV units in our possession lack a connection to anything other than a VCR (purchased in 1999, and it still works!) or DVD player, and the number of objectionable titles we own is pitiful, the only course of action consistent with the values we aim to instill would involve stealing video cassettes or DVDs, or possibly illegally tapping into a neighbor’s cable or satellite stream. Granted, we could go down the dubious avenue of burning someone else’s movies to disks, but there’s enough moral equivocation about that that the kids might not get the wrong idea.

Since we would also try to inculcate laziness as a value, expending too much effort in obtaining access to media trash is out of the question. Which leaves us to find other ways of saturating the little dears in perversion.

Fortunately, a casual stroll down the street provides a good measure of bad influence: the well-mannered gentleman who so generously left his dog’s output at the entrance to the property next door apparently made a return visit, considering the fresh evidence that lies just to the left of the vintage material; litter festoons the street and many of the adjacent alleys and public gardens; cigarette butts lie where pedestrians and drivers alike have flicked them; drivers galore ignore traffic signals and signs, not to mention basic safety and consideration; car horns, instead of functioning as warning devices for safety purposes, have become vehicles of expression for messages such as, “The light turned green 0.000003 seconds ago! Hurry up!” and, “I have a horn. It is loud. Hear me toot. My horn speaks more elokwently than I can.”

The availability and convenience of myriad negative influences just outside our door provides reassurance that if we do decide to take the plunge – preferably when some old lady is passing by underneath – we need not expend very much effort at all in the process. I’d say wish me luck, but offering encouragement is not a value I want to encourage.

Written by Thag

October 31, 2010 at 8:34 pm