Friday, 23 June 2017


I had thought that it was mostly the Church of England that was schisming over gayness. It turns out that Jews are too.

It all comes from Leviticus 18 and 20. "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."

Obviously, as this is from a Holy Book, it has to be interpreted. My interpretation is, "If two men have sex, they must be killed". Other people interpret this differently, as anything from "Not a problem" to "Gay sex forbidden, but no death penalty". I notice that hardly anyone (Daesh excepted) still holds to the death penalty part.

And the problem is, if you think that your Holy Book is the infallible word of God, then the words in it are important, and it's important to use the correct interpretation. Except that the Holy Book doesn't tell you the correct interpretation. So you have to argue about it. And there is, actually, no basis for argument except what you feel is right and proper, and if you're able to know what you think is right and proper, what's the Holy Book doing for you? Don't look at me for answers, I'm an atheist.

There isn't only one Jewish community, of course, just as there isn't just one kind of Christian. There's Ashkenazis (like me, origin in Russia/Poland) and there's Sephardis (like my sister's husband, origins Iraq/India/Spain). The main difference, as far as I can tell, is the cuisine. And I prefer Ashkenazi cuisine (as cooked by my wife's brother's wife), but my sister is also skilled in the Sephardi cuisine, and the Seder meal at her place is always a treat. Ladysolly, of course, can cook anything.

Perhaps a bigger divide is on frumness, how pious you are. There's the Liberal and Reform jews, who (I think) don't eat bacon but are otherwise indistinguishable from the Goyim. There's the Conservative synagogue, which my mother would have attended if she had ever attended synagogue, and where I was Barmitzvahed at an age before I felt confident enough to "just say no", and there's the Charedis.

The Charedis are the ones who "dress like jews". Go to Stamford Hill and you'll see them all over. Or Golders Green. Long black coats, white shirts, funny hats ... why do so many religious mark themselves out with funny hats? It isn't compulsory to dress like that, but it is traditional, and tradition is really important to those guys.


Rabbi Dweck, the senior rabbi of the UK Sephardi Charedis, gave a lecture on male homosexuality last April, and the resulting controversy has been raging ever since.

I'm not even going to try to summarise his position - if you're interested, Google is your friend. But it's very clear that there's at least two sides being taken, and the similarity to the C of E schism is striking.

So let me put in my own view here. The problem is, there is now a *lot* of people who understand perfectly well that gay sex is nobody's business except for the people doing it. And a lot of people who think, well, as long as no third party is getting hurt, why should we care what consenting adults do together?

Well, that's not the problem. The problem, is, of course, the Holy Book, which spells out unambiguously that this is an *abomination*, and in case that isn't crystal clear, it explains "they shall surely be put to death". Leviticus is, of course, the Old Testament, one of the five books of Moses and so revered by the Jews. And the Christians have a very ambivalent attitude towards the Old Testament; sometimes saying that it's part of God's infallible word, and sometimes saying that it's been replaced by the New Testament (they use the word "fulfilled" but they actually mean "replaced"). But, as in all things holy, you pick and choose the bits you like, and although some Christians go with the abomination bit, others prefer to ignore it. Just like they ignore the stuff about shellfish. Go figure.

So how do you reconcile what you brain is telling you, with what your Holy Book is telling you? You can't. So you're stuck with believing two mutually contradictory things, and that's called Cognitive Dissonance although personally I prefer the term  "Doublethink". And doublethink must be painful.

Thank god, I'm an atheist, so I don't have to struggle with this. My only problem is to find a sufficiently large bag of popcorn as I watch the fatuous frenzied fight.

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