This blog intends to provide some balance in the religious debate by providing a counterpoint to Billy Graham's religious advice. On his website http://www.billygraham.org/ he responds to readers' questions by quoting from the bible. I am attempting to respond to those same queries by resorting to reason and rationality.

I must acknowledge a debt here to Jeff Hope who started in this vein but who has unfortunately taken a hiatus. His blog is http://atheistsanswer.wordpress.com/. Jeff has inspired me to continue.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Don't Fence Me In

There has been an ongoing dispute about the construction of an eruv in the northern suburbs of Sydney Australia. "Eruv" has no direct translation in English, so "fence" is used. It is not a fence in the conventional sense, but merely a wire strung between poles, much as telephone cables are now. It delineates an area within which it is allowable for orthodox Jews to break rules pertaining to the Sabbath. On the Sabbath and holy days orthodox Jews (10% of the Jews in this area) are not allowed to do any work, which is a good way to ensure that they don't spend 7 days a week working and hence achieve some sort of work / life balance. However, "work" is defined as pushing anything including a stroller, so families with young children are unable to go out on these days. Check out this newspaper article:
Obviously the Jewish god has initiated this rule. However, what god do these people worship? Does he sit up there on his cloud and think "Look at those people pushing their kids to the park on the Sabbath! They must be evil and be punished!". Or does he think "Look at those people pushing their kids to the park on the Sabbath! What fine parents they are looking after their children. I must reward them!". Surely an omniscient god can see into their hearts and discern their intentions, or is he a pedantic tyrant who will trap them on a technicality.
Furthermore the Hebrew word "eruv" has no direct translation into English, and so perhaps the Hebrew word for "work" also has no direct translation into English. Perhaps something got lost in the translation? Is pushing a stroller really work? Is pushing a button (another pedantic rule) really classified as work? Did strollers and buttons exist when these rules were drawn up?
Let's step back and think for a moment.... There's this rule made up centuries ago translated from an ancient language which tries to control concepts which weren't even invented then, and a particular group has to erect a structure around everyone else's homes in order to break their own rule. Again I ponder: how can grown-ups think in such a woolly way?
If these Jews could erect their eruv without disruption to the rest of the community then it is probable that no one would mind. However, they cannot. It requires the construction of extra poles and wires around the neighbourhood. So everyone else has to lumbered with this eyesore to pander to the irrational beliefs of a minority.

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