1. jmhoffer
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    jmhoffer Contributing Member

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    Good Is Good And Evil

    Discussion in 'Research' started by jmhoffer, Jul 6, 2013.

    I have searched and searched and searched, but I can't find the trope I'm using, so I think it doesn't exist.

    Contrary to popular opinion, Judaism doesn't see God as being perfectly good. It is well established in Jewish theology that God is the source of both good and evil. When prayed to we appeal to God's good side (merciful, compassionate, etc.), but He simultaneously has an evil side (vengeful, jealous, etc.).

    Perhaps this isn't a trope because it is so rare. I cannot find a single religion in the world that views deities in such a way and I don't think I've ever seen it used in fantasy.

    Can anyone correct me on any of these points? Is there a God Is Good And Evil trope that I can't find? Are there other religions that see God in this way? Is there a fantasy story that uses this?

    Edit: The title is a typo.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Interesting.

    The evil side of the Christian god is often excused and denied, but the original writers of Biblical text were telling stories of reward and punishment, not just reward. The trope is carrot and stick as much as it is good and evil, with the idea of a leader compelling followers to follow. Believe and get rewarded, don't believe and you'll be punished.

    Another aspect, however, is the revenge and jealousy bit.

    I'm going to have to ponder this now. :cool:
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Surfing for "reward and punishment themes in religion":

    Flaws in Theistic, Religious Morality: Religion, Theism aren't Needed for Values. The discussion is on the moral themes in religion. Obedience to authority and dependence on the god are big.

    I think if you look at the Judgement aspect it may be more productive than the good and evil aspect of the god itself.


    On the other hand, if you get away from the monotheistic religions, there are plenty of good and evil gods. Among other reasons, ancient people invented gods to explain and attempt to control the natural world. Sometimes the harvest was good, sometimes disaster struck. Good and evil gods make sense including gods who were both. Piss them off and you might get a flood, please them and you get a bumper crop.
     
  4. jmhoffer
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    jmhoffer Contributing Member

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    Don't forget that this isn't having two sides in the way we see people as having two sides. A person has flaws. God is both perfect and flawed simultaneously. He is both loving and hateful, colourblind and racist, jealous and trusting, prideful and meek.

    It is a unique dichotomy. Whereas other views of God or gods seem to be amplifications of the best and worst of humanity, the Jewish view of God is the only one (that I've seen) where the creator is made up of both sides of the coin.
     
  5. jmhoffer
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    jmhoffer Contributing Member

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    Just have to criticise the first link, as it has no basis in Jewish thought. This is turning into an education session.

    Obedience to Authority
    The author's problem here is that in Judaism, there is only one single thing that isn't open to being questioned; the existence of God. Whereas in most other religions the first thing you are taught is to obey without question, the very first thing I was taught was to question everything.

    Threats of Eternal Punishment
    There is no concept of eternal punishment in Judaism. The very idea is abhorrent. The only thing that comes close is a person that commits suicide while having sound judgement, such as a terminally ill person that gives up but isn't depressed. These people have their souls destroyed. This isn't viewed as punishment, though. It is simply fulfilling the wishes of the person that commits suicide; ending existence.

    Promises of Eternal Rewards
    Again, no such concept in Judaism. This one is harder to explain, though, so I'll use a story. A prophet is given a glimpse of the afterlife in a dream. On one side of him is a room labeled 'Hell'. Inside is a room with a dinner table covered in a cornucopia of food. The people sitting at the table, however, are all starving. Their elbows are locked, so they can't bend their arms to feed themselves. Across from the room labeled 'Hell' is a room labeled 'Heaven'. The room is identical, with a dinner table and a cornucopia of food. But here, the people are well fed and happy even though they, too, have their elbows locked. The prophet asks God why the people in one room are starving and the people in the other room are well fed. God explains that the people that are well fed feed each other, so the fact that their elbows are locked makes no difference.

    Origins in Ancient, Pre-Modern Cultures
    Slavery: Judaism had rules surrounding slavery, including mandatory release of your slaves after a certain period of time. Seven years was standard, but a slave could opt to stay on for fourteen years, in which case he would take all of his possessions gained in slavery with him. Judaism later banned slavery as the world changed. This comes from the 'question everything' concept.
    Women's equality: In Ancient Israel, women had rights nearly identical women's rights today, and women's rights in Judaism were more progressive than women's rights everywhere on Earth until the success of first-wave feminism. The only truly major difference in Ancient Israel was that the priesthood was entirely male. Women could gain inheritance, request divorce, own property, run businesses, etc.

    Dependence on Religious Scriptures
    Again, 'question everything' overturns this general idea. Yes, it still has to fit with the religious scriptures, but unlike Christian adherence to something that has been translated and altered, Jews are forced to look into nuances of the ancient language, other ways that something can be interpreted and metaphors and imagery.

    Focus on an Afterlife, Not This Life
    Again, not a Jewish concept. Judaism is completely about this life, with the next one barely mentioned.

    Absence of Intellectual Values
    Question everything.

    Absolutism
    This is an almost laughable one. Judaism is full of shades of grey, the only absolutist statement being 'God exists'.

    Religious Morality is not Superior to Godless Morality
    Because of Judaism's focus on this world rather than the next, this concept does not conflict with religious views.
     
  6. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    To answer your question, I personally do not know of any fantasy where the ultimate "Good" is also inherently evil. Sure, I know a lot of examples of ultimate good that isn't flawless, but having flaws doesn't make one evil. I have yet to see a character who is both loving and caring yet also malevolent and cruel. It sounds a bit like a psychopathic schizophrenic person to me, or God, as some people prefer to call it.

    Sorry for the sting in my words, I don't intent to derail the thread, unless you are going to proof what you profess to do and question everything.
     
  7. jmhoffer
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    jmhoffer Contributing Member

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    If you were talking about a person, yes, the individual would have a mental illness. We aren't talking about a person, though, which is the issue that so many people always run into here. Almost everyone seems to take God and then give Him human qualities. That is because it is what we know of and how we relate, but in reality, God isn't human. It's why we have such problems understanding how a 'being' (for lack of a better word) could simultaneously be capable of and have the characteristics of what humans see as opposites. This kind of a dichotomy can't exist in a human without severe mental illness. But, again, God isn't human.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    It comes down to interpretation. I'm guessing a lot of Christians would not agree with you.

    The biggest problem I see with your interpretation is leaving out the cultural influence on the perception and belief about one's god and/or religious tenets.

    Cultural influence is more pronounced currently in the Islamic religion. You have Muslims in SE Asia who believe Islam is a peaceful religion and some in the Arab world who think death to the infidels is a mandate. But if you look at cultural influence over time, all of the Abrahamic religions have been all over the interpret-what-God-wants map.

    Despite common belief, there is no one Christian God, there are many. So you may see a perfect and flawed god, others see only a perfect god, and I see the Biblical god as simply a reflection of the culture that existed at the time the texts were written, with fungible interpretations from there on out.

    It might look like a perfect and flawed god now in retrospect, at the time the texts were written those flaws may have been seen as normal characteristics of strength, or rational emotions of a powerful being rather than elements of evil.

    Take for example the, "I am a jealous god" wording in the text, it's been translated from language to language. 'Jealous' may not be the correct translation. A mandate for monotheism was, of course, the goal of said texts. Without cultural context, you cannot say for sure your romantic* view of good and evil was indeed the same view the authors had at the time they wrote the texts.




    (*Romantic as in: "5. Not based on fact; imaginary or fictitious: His memoirs were criticized as a romantic view of the past.)
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    Morality wasn't the point, sorry for the extra stuff in the link. I was trying to point out that the theme you claim, "a flawed or evil god", is not the same as "suffering due for those that don't obey".
     
  10. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    When I look at the 613 commandments, it's clear a lot of them are specifically about religion, about worshipping and sacrificing and even thinking about God in the right way. A lot of them also deal with things that don't really harm anyone, like prohibitions against tattooing, crossdressing and of course not working on a particular day of the week.
     
  11. jmhoffer
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    This goes into a completely different subject matter and requires that one first determine whether or not one believes that God exists before you can actually have the conversation, so I'm not going to entertain this post.
     
  12. jmhoffer
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    This was covered as well. Judaism doesn't have a concept of suffering for not obeying.

    Edit: Not in the way most Westerners would think of it, that is.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Hinduism contains this concept as a running theme. The majority of the major deities have two "faces" or versions, and depending on the particular region of worship, many gods that are thought of as separate in one area are understood to be facets of a single god in other areas. Shiva is both destroyer and benefactor. His destruction clears the way for the New as he holds Apasmara Purusha, the personification of illusion and ignorance over whom he triumphs, under his feet. Kali, Shiva's consort, is portrayed as a vicious warrior goddess, but her other aspect is Parvati, the devine mother, beautiful and loving. This duality runs all through Hinduism and is a facet of the Hindu's understanding that all of these gods, in their thousands, are all merely facets of Brahman, the reality that holds the everything of everything, which must, by default, hold both good and evil.
     
  14. jmhoffer
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    The first ten commandments are not elevated above other commandments.

    This has little if anything to do with the concept of eternal punishment and I'm not sure what you're trying to point out or what you're asking.

    The Messianic Age is for everyone, though. It isn't like people who lied, cheated and stole in their life will be denied resurrection. Their soul will have been purified and they'll live in happiness, in an age of peace and prosperity.

    In fact, God doesn't advocate slavery. The placing of strict and severe rules on slavery served as a deterrent to it and it was illegal to enslave other Jews, including converts. The idea is that if you outright ban something, it's liable to happen anyway and under worse conditions (just look at illicit drugs and prostitution). But if you strictly regulate it, it will deter people from using it and simultaneously help prevent abuse (prescription drugs, for instance). This is why very few things are outright banned in Judaism.

    Whether or not the Tanakh is divinely inspired/written actually is questioned. Orthodox Jews concluded that it was divinely written, Conservatives that it was divinely inspired and Reform that it was neither divinely written nor inspired. The debate on this is massive and includes many, many works. I concluded a mix of Conservative and Orthodox teachings; that the Tanakh is divinely written but the Talmud is divinely inspired.

    Common misquote/mistranslation. The only case of stoning as punishment that I can remember (though I'll have to double check) is for daughters of the priesthood that become prostitutes.

    Quote me saying it contains mistakes. I said humans don't understand it. Considering the differences between Christianity and Judaism, that should be obvious.

    The commandments are primarily to separate the Hebrews/Jews from other people. Some are given reasons, some are about morality, some seem entirely arbitrary to humans.
     
  15. jmhoffer
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    Totally forgot about Hinduism. There's actually evidence that Jews and Hindus share some sort of ancient religious ancestry. Israeli Rabbis are studying the connections. Thanks for reminding me!
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    That depends on how you define suffering.

    Kareth
     
  17. jmhoffer
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    It does, which is why I added the edit. There is no agreement on what the spiritual punishment of kareth is for transgressions in life and they are not really dwelt upon. Regardless, this applies only to Jews and not other people. In most cases, the judgement is not for humans to make beyond the most heinous crimes.
     
  18. Makeshift
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    That's ultimately the biggest wrong in Judaism. The idea that God has a chosen people is in contradiction with a loving God. How is that different from racism?
     
  19. jmhoffer
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    This is a meaningless statement that doesn't have anything to do with the 'question everything' mantra of Jewish theology.

    This can mean any number of things and the Rabbis do not agree on what it means. It is possible that it means that despite being given a gift of eternal life, some people will choose to squander it and will be reviled for it.

    People that want their existence to end. That's their choice.

    Thereby violating free will, something that God either can't or won't do.

    Reform Jews overwhelmingly do not follow the commandments. Those who do believe that they are important for the preservation of the Jews as a people.

    You talked about stoning, so this is widening the goal posts. Yes, Judaism has the death penalty. It is also well recorded that there were ways around the death penalty. The Sanhedrin (high court, for lack of a better translation) was the only court capable of sentencing the death penalty and it rarely did for fear of executing an innocent person.

    The Wikipedia list is inaccurate. It is claiming the death penalty for numerous violations that had a penalty from God, not man. This is due to translation problems. For instance, there is no death penalty for homosexuality, but the Hebrew doesn't translate to English well and due to this there is a common misconception that there is one.

    So the obvious yet hidden truth comes out; you don't believe in God and you want to attempt to convince me that God doesn't exist. That's not going to happen. Regardless, I will answer this.

    The Talmud is supposed to be the "Oral Law"; that is, oral traditions that explained the rules in the Torah. The problem is, depending on what you believe, the Oral Law was starting to be lost by the time the Talmud was written. The other problem is that oral traditions change over time. Over 1000+ years, the loss and regaining of the Torah, wars, exiles, etc., the oral traditions were either lost entirely or were significantly altered. The other part of this is that due to the fact that oral traditions change, it is commonly understood (outside of the Ultra Orthodox) that it means that our interpretations will change based on new knowledge that we gain in our exploration of history and science. Debate and change are built into Judaism and have been for thousands of years. Your question has been rendered irrelevant.

    You either haven't been reading or you are anti-Semitic. I'm thinking you lean towards the latter. God is both loving of all and discriminatory. However, you misunderstand what it means to be 'chosen' by God. A common prayer in Judaism is the request that God chooses someone else. Anti-Semitic hate crimes are the most common form of hate crime on Earth comparative to population. Jews bring economic prosperity to places they move to and are reviled for it. Industrial genocide was invented with the intent of wiping out the world's Jewish population.

    You seem to think that Jews like being chosen. Assuming we are chosen at all since, again, we have a translation problem. The words better translate as 'choosing people', not 'chosen people'. The Talmud states that God had to threaten to destroy the Hebrews in order to get Abraham's tribe to worship Him, after being rejected by the other tribes.

    Now, if you're quite done trying to hide your anti-Semitism behind faux intellectualism and are done with your Atheist proselytizing, I'd appreciate it if you;

    a) No longer post in this thread, as you have taken it FAR from the OP.
    b) No longer try to engage me in conversation at any point, as I have nothing to say to you anymore.
     
  20. Makeshift
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    I agree that talking about this will not go anywhere, but I think there is one point I should make clear: I'm not an anti-Semite. I'm not religious and when I see flaws in religions, I don't see reasons not to talk about them. I also critisize Christianity and Islam and anything else when there is a need to. It is nothing personal and it is not intended as an attack on Jewish people. I don't consider Judaism to be somehow worse than other religions or the Jewish people to be worse than others. I don't see the Jews as chosen either and that was my point. I asked how favouring(even if the favouring, as you seem to say, is also a negative thing) a certain group of people differs from racism(which clearly implies I consider racism and discrimination to be bad things). As far as my atheism goes, I don't attempt to convert people. Are you arguing that I should stay silent because of my atheism? When I disagree with someone, I argue with them. When someone disagrees with me, I'd rather they say it out loud and not be too afraid of hurting my feelings. Clearly I have hurt your feelings and I apologize for that. There's been some form of misunderstanding on both sides here. I have apparently misunderstood some aspects of Judaism and you mistake my criticism for anti-Semitism. As someone deeply opposed to racism, I don't fancy being labeled an anti-Semite.
     
  21. jmhoffer
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    I will think on this reply.
     
  22. Rimuel
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    Demon est Deus inversus.


    Research that.
     

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