So a man I highly respect responded to my previous article about the Divine Code’s words about the authority of the king. One of these days, I may have to write a tribute to him. Even when I’ve disagreed with his stance, he’s never rejected me, always shown such patience, even though others have cast me aside, treated me badly or disagreements have ripped us apart.
Anyway, he commented with clarifying quotes from the Divine Code. As it’s on my mind, I’ll bring the relevant quotes and comments here and then give my thoughts on them.
Also, in topics 8 and 9 in the chapter you quoted from “The Divine Code,” which speak about the right of a king to sell a criminal “as a slave,” and to “enslave the inhabitants” of a land that was conquered in war, it should have mentioned the very limited condition in which that applies, which was explained in Part VII, topic 9:10. It only applies to “a king whose subjects willingly accept that his sovereignty gives him the legal right to kill people who rebel against him.” For example, see Joshua 1:18 – “[The Reubenites and the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh said to Joshua:] Every man that shall rebel against your words and will not listen to your commands in all that you order him shall be put to death. Only be strong and have courage.”
You can see these quotes in the comments section under my recent post.
So, let me begin breaking it down for myself.
Ah, a form of democracy, huh? Let me combine this with another part of the quote.
So, a government that the “majority” accepts owns everyone, regardless of consent. It’s like conquest of the individual. The “majority” and their king owns the minority.
Why do I keep placing “majority” in quotation marks? Because this really is a fickle number. It’s an idea that is hard to quantify. I remember the Brexit vote where just over 25% of the population of the UK were the “majority” who won over everyone else. It was slightly over half of the voting cattle, those who actually voted out of those who registered to vote, that were on the winning side. But that was the “majority.” That was the voice of “Britain,” whatever that’s supposed to be.
And you don’t want to know how many were the “majority” of the population of America that voted for the establishment of their constitution, the document that many Americans idolise as being the supreme law of their land, even though it gets ignored and “interpreted” out of existence, even though the document itself has no innate authority whatsoever. That’s an embarrassment in and of itself.
And it’s not as if someone is gonna do a poll of the populace to see if the majority accepts the gang that claims ownership. And it’s known that to go against the gang called government is death, kidnap or pain. Government is only a territorial monopoly on coercion and violence believed to be legitimate. So there is a significant chance that a person is going to acquiesce to its demands for simple self-preservation. So this is not volitional, free will acceptance but rather the sort of acquiescence that occurs when a hostage does the bidding of the kidnappers to stay alive.
So the standard for a valid “territorial owner,” majority acceptance, is pretty flimsy.
But, imagine, 70% of a people group accept a ruler, a government, all of them accepting that gang. But 30% don’t. Each individual in the 70% doesn’t have the right to own anyone else, to rule anyone else. Therefore the whole 70% does not have that right. The 70% say they want to be owned, to be bossed about by the gang, and somehow that acceptance covers the other 30%; the gang gets to boss everyone around, threatens everyone. And how? Magic … I mean it is supposed to be in a law God commanded all Gentiles that is supposed to lend itself to reason according to Rambam … supposedly.
You can argue that I changed the word “king” or “government” to “gang.” But without the authority, the presumed “right to own / rule,” what is a king except a bully, a government except a gang? And how does it get the authority? From people who have no such authority? Magic is needed. Or a clear command from God without reason. Both would be irrational.
But again, think about it! For the ruling class to rule, the majority must accept the claim of territorial ownership. But if truth and morality doesn’t depend on numbers, and large numbers of people can be misinformed or ignorant or even immoral, then that makes the nature of rulership questionable. Sodom? Nineveh? Egypt? There’s something questionable here.
Anyway, what I learn from the Divine Code is that a form of democracy, majority rule over the minority, is needed to turn bullies into government.
Hey, at least the Divine Code is plain and honest. It continues,
Amazingly again, this makes perfect sense. It may not be morally compelling but… Look, see!
So remember, a valid ruling class, as I ascertained from the previous part, is a gang a “majority” “accept” as territorial owners.
Now the Divine Code says that the law of the ruling class is legally binding on all. What is law? The opinion of the ruling class backed by the threat of violence. Essentially, it’s a threat. What does “legally” mean? It’s the adjective form of the word “legal,” which means having the force of law. Let me plug in the meaning of “law” into that definition. Legal means having the force of a threat from the ruling class. So what does the statement of the Divine Code mean in light of this? Here’s the reformulated statement.
“If an accepted territorial bully gives a “valid” threat for all the citizens of the country, they are bound to follow it because of the threat.”
And that would make sense in many areas of life. Unless you’re willing to take the risk in opposing a bully, an accepted one, and thus all of those that have accepted him and therefore will snitch or help the bully for the sake of self-preservation or devotion, then the safest thing to do is to just go along with it.
Some would say the next line limits the power of the ruling class.
Despotically? Who would judge? The majority? The individual who has been imposed upon by the majority and its accepted owner? The Jews?
I’m not exactly sure what is meant by “despotically” or “like a despot” here. Despot is one who has absolute power, one who rules in a cruel fashion, an oppressor, one who subjugates by force and possibly cruelty.
But the accepted territorial gang owns everything and everyone according to what it said before as I highlighted in my previous article. How is that not already absolute? Ah, it’s “limited” by their own dictates, the “law.” Riiiight.
I’m being cynical again, aren’t I?
So a territorially accepted bully takes your stuff … wait, no, according to the Divine Code it’s his stuff. Anyway, he takes it in the form of taxes and that’s not theft. But if he acts like he owns the place while he does it, taking stuff that the Divine Code says is his anyway, then it is theft? Huh? Maybe he was cruel and forceful … as most governments are when you don’t give them their stuff (according to the Divine Code, you have no stuff, it’s theirs). So now it’s theft???
Remember, in the eyes of the writer of the Divine Code, the land and its people are the property, the possession, of the ruling class. It can take a man and make him a slave of another man. When children are taken from parents, the children are not the ultimate or primary property of the parents, but rather of the rulers. So the rulers and their agents can do this because they are simply rearranging their property. And with enough force (and indoctrination), enough of the people “accept” this.
So the laws of kidnap and theft and murder only applies in a muted way to government in the worldview of the Divine Code, especially if they can make such acts “legal,” especially if they can get enough of the people to “accept” it. And the faith put in kings and governments, that’s not too hard.
Someone’s bound to say that this subject matter is obvious, that it’s easily understood and digested. Maybe that may be true for a statist, an authoritarian, one who thinks it’s ok for one man to tell another what to do, to force him to comply. It may be obvious for such a person, easy for that person. I’m not that person. I’ve backslidden and rejected the faith in the state, in the gang. It’s no longer obvious.
Another may say that it’s not for me to question or reject, that this is God’s law and that it’s only my lot to learn and obey. It’s in the Divine Code, the most authoritative book about the seven laws and so it must be what God demands. Again, I personally have reasons to doubt that everything in the Divine Code is God’s demands upon the Gentile.
This reminds me of what was written earlier.
The problem here is the concept of “the people of [a] country.” This statement isn’t factually accurate based on other parts of this quote. “The people” aren’t just one singular entity; it’s a bunch of different individuals. This thing called “the people” don’t really do anything per se. A set of individuals amongst that group do actions.
Now it could possibly be said that the “majority” of the people accepted this authority, but I personally don’t equate the majority of the individuals of a territory with the statement “the people of the country.” If the majority of the people made a choice, then it is limited to just that portion. It doesn’t magically become the whole thing.
It reminds me of the statement, “we, the people,” one of the most deceptive statements to be spoken or written. Only a portion of the people normally have anything to do with the statement, yet it is imposed on everyone. People are silenced for such a statement to be transmitted, and that makes it lack truth.
So “the people” appoint and accept nothing. A certain portion of them do and impose their decision forcefully upon the rest.
This has the same issues as expressed before with “majority” rule. I won’t repeat myself.
I dealt with this in my article about being repulsed by the idea that obedience to authority is part of the core seven laws. To summarise, who judges what is righteous or beneficial? If it is an objective source, then it’s not one readily available to Gentiles.
Also, in topics 8 and 9 in the chapter you quoted from “The Divine Code,” which speak about the right of a king to sell a criminal “as a slave,” and to “enslave the inhabitants” of a land that was conquered in war …
“criminal” … Can you already see my thinking? What is a criminal? One who broke the law. What is law? I won’t repeat myself. So the right of a bully to enslave someone who didn’t do as he was told … That’s it. Now this right is limited by what?
It only applies to “a king whose subjects willingly accept that his sovereignty gives him the legal right to kill people who rebel against him.”
Ah. Faith again. So if enough people say it’s ok for the king to do it, then it’s ok.
Numbers again, huh? The right amount of people?
I write this when the news is so thick with politics, when people are so soul-dependent on the system, so plugged in, when media shoves so much government-worshipping tripe down the proverbial throat that I almost choke on the sewage and scum-worthy bile. And I look hopelessly at the herds of sheep about me and imagine that the balance and weight of human moral wellbeing is so heavily loaded towards the side of self-destruction and part of me becomes cold and nihilistic. Even when I attempt to change focus and address my own life, it’s extremely difficult not to feel the same way.
I can’t think of a positive ending to that train of thought.
I mean, I have to think about this. Although I’ve focused on the words of the Divine Code, I already know that it’s not solely the view of Moshe Weiner. I have friends who think it’s fine for a person to get robbed by government as long as the victim gets some benefit in return for this act of coercion, fine for government to impose on one person’s ability to get tools for self-defense, to threaten them against owning certain items, or using the medicines they deem helpful. I remember being told that a city was now safe only because of government. One person even told me that people being coerced and restrained, not prisoners, not immoral people, but the everyday person, that it was a good thing; he was literally saying that it’s a good thing for many or most people in the world to be enslaved!!! Most of the people around me, in one way or another, treasure slavery and/or bullying, the government owning everyone.
I know it would be easier for me if I just fell in line, just agreed. But I don’t.
Back to the subject.
When these quotes and comments were put under my article, there was no need to respond because many of my points remained untouched. But I was tempted to express my thoughts in this manner. It helped me focus more on the weaknesses of democracy.
Oh well. Life goes on.
A friend of mine shared with me contents from the latest edition of the Divine Code, by rabbi Moshe Weiner. What he sent me was under the section about theft. It took me aback to read it. I read and reread it. My wife used to tell me that when I studied the Bible, I didn’t smile. I looked serious as if I didn’t enjoy it. I had to explain to her that, although it was one of the most fulfilling times in my life, I was so focused that it wasn’t a thing of immediate pleasure but of mental toiling. Although I had a similar serious look on my face when I read what the Divine Code taught, and which would easily be accepted as God’s law for Gentiles by readers, it wasn’t simply the mental toil.
Let me get to the point. I’m going to paste everything he shared with me, without interruption, and then I’ll dissect it and share what I get from it.
The king has a lot of authority in economic matters. The land which a valid king conquered in any type of war is fully considered to be his acquisition. Therefore everyone in the vanquished land must follow the laws of the king who conquered them, the same as if they had willingly accepted his kingship, even though they fell under his rule through conquest, and the king’s taxes that he applies to them are not considered theft. The laws of the king are only binding regarding a matter that is equally incumbent upon the whole population, such as a tax which falls on everyone equally or in which the percentage taken is based on defined ranges of income levels or property ownership. A government law is binding if it concerns a matter that has benefit for the king or is good for the country as a whole. If the king decreed that someone who violates a certain rule will have his property seized, and he enforces this, another person may buy such property from the king since it was taken lawfully. If a king gets angry at one of the citizens of his country for defying him or the like, meaning that his anger is justified based on the laws and conduct of kings, so he took the person’s field, house, or other possessions, this is not considered theft. Others are permitted have benefit from this property and to buy it, and the original owner can have no claim against them for this acquisition. It is the right of a king to take the possessions of a citizen who disobeys or defies him if the nation’s law allows this, and this is lawfully binding and not theft. One who evades taxes levied by the king is a thief, as he is stealing from the money of the government. All the land of the country is considered as if it belongs to the king and is subservient to him, so a tax evader is considered as having stolen an existent item that belongs to the king. A king may demolish private houses or take parts of private fields to build a needed wall or a road, and this is not considered theft, because it is the law of the government that this is done for the benefit of the country. If the king establishes a law that any citizen who does a certain crime will be sold as a slave, this law is legally binding. Any country conquered in war is the acquisition of the conquering king, and the king may do whatever he wishes with this land – to sell it to whomever he sees fit, or give it as a gift, and even to enslave the inhabitants, and this is not considered theft, since the conquest by the king is as a full acquisition. Any decree made by the king for a land he conquered is legally binding, and the inhabitants of that land are obligated to accept the decree, because they are essentially subservient to him. Any area in a country that is not private property, such as streets and highways, city squares, rivers, forests, deserts, lakes, and the like, is the property of the nation’s king or government, and he may do whatever he desires with it. The law of a nation is binding on its own citizens regarding control of its coastal waters, but not on citizens of another nation, unless the two nations have mutually accepted a law (a treaty) about this, e.g. an international standard definition. But if there is no treaty, one nation and its citizens are not obligated at their own risk by the coastal-water claims of the other nation. Any privilege over such property that the king assigns to a specific person or corporation, such as renting a forest to someone for cutting lumber, or a desert for excavating ore, or a river or lake to catch fish, and all similar privileges – whether the king rents them out, sells them completely or gives them as a gift – is considered to be under the full ownership and/or jurisdiction of this individual, and anyone who benefits from such places without the consent of the king’s assigned owner or renter is stealing. Any private property in an area which a king conquered remains in the jurisdiction of the private owners, so long as the king has not exercised his right to seize it for himself. No one other than the conquering king has permission to remove property from the ownership of the private individuals in the conquered area. If a king declares that the people in an area he conquered are his slaves, he acquires ownership of their private property.
My friend said it was taken from page 633-637 of the book. I would have read that a number of times myself.
Now what I found interesting was the fact that in volume 1 of the Divine Code, on page 566, also under the section about theft, it states that robbery is taking one of, some, or all of someone’s belongings by force against their will, and that theft is doing so secretly. This appears to also include taking their person in the case of kidnap. And after having stated this, the Divine Code relates that a person’s property can be taken by force or secretly by a king or government as long as it is done by “law,” which is nothing more than the written or recorded opinion of the rulers.
The phrase “comfort to a fool” comes to mind.
Anyway, piece by piece.
The land which a valid king conquered in any type of war is fully considered to be his acquisition. Therefore everyone in the vanquished land must follow the laws of the king who conquered them, the same as if they had willingly accepted his kingship, even though they fell under his rule through conquest …
First I have to say what I learn from the section. When the author refers to “the land … conquered,” he clarifies in the quote that he refers to both the land and the people. “Acquisition” refers to ownership, possession. So the land and the people become the property of this “valid king.” Let me guess! Would the definition of a valid king also be in the oral law which is outside the reach of the typical Gentile? I’m guessing so.
Was that cynical? I think so.
So this statement implies, necessarily I believe, that both conquering rulers and those that are unconquered own all the land and people. This means that whatever a non-kingly individual works for and acquires, he only has limited “ownership” of it as the rulers have a higher claim, owning everything in the territory.
“In any type of war” means there is no limiter to the type of war inflicted on a people. It could simply be invasion for supplies. It could be religious conquest, like many religions have done, like Islam and Christianity. It could be bloody, nasty and filled with the shedding of innocent blood, rape and pillaging. Once the land is conquered, everything, land and people, belongs to the invading rulers.
“Everyone … must follow the laws of the king who conquered them …”
All inhabitants of a land are simply those who are controlled by a master, the territorial ruler, therefore, it doesn’t matter who rules, everyone, must do as they’re told!
I checked the dictionary for three words to find the right one to =]fit my sentiments about this. I checked the words “tyrant,” “totalitarian,” and “authoritarian.” For me, “authoritarian” fits well and “tyranny” fits in some cases. The reason why tyranny fits sometimes is that the Divine Code said “in any type of war,” which includes unjust ones.
So, conclusions so far. Rulers own land and all people in the land.
… and the king’s taxes that he applies to them are not considered theft.
Taxes, taxes, what are taxes? Factually, in real life, when enough people in a territory believe that a person or group owns the territory and the people in it, and that presumed owner threatens people to give the owner money or property under threat of violence or death, that is tax. For all intents and purposes, it’s the same action as a robber but with a certain belief included. Faith-based robbery. Except that the Divine Code says the same elements of action plus a certain type of faith is not robbery. OK. I don’t have to contradict it, only understand it.
The laws of the king are only binding regarding a matter that is equally incumbent upon the whole population, such as a tax which falls on everyone equally or in which the percentage taken is based on defined ranges of income levels or property ownership.
“Binding” implies obligatory and compulsory. So the Divine Code teaches that what the rulers decree must be obeyed and that this is an obligation, a moral or even a divine obligation, for the Gentile.
The limitation here is that the dictate of the politicians, the rulers, must apply to everyone. So if everyone is “taxed” 85% of their labour, that is an obligation according to rabbi Weiner. But if only 90% of the population gets the tax, or a certain ethnic or religious group gets that tax, it’s not binding.
On so many levels, this seems arbitrary. But hey, this is one of the laws described in the Divine Code; who am I to argue, right?
A government law is binding if it concerns a matter that has benefit for the king or is good for the country as a whole.
“benefit for the king?” Who decides? “good for the country as a whole?” Same question. In a time where the unintended consequences are the rule not the exception, what does “good” mean? When it is known that government is not only inefficient but fairly bad at everything it touches, one has to wonder at the substance of such an idea.
It is the right of a king to take the possessions of a citizen who disobeys or defies him if the nation’s law allows this, and this is lawfully binding and not theft.
Again, think about this with me. I make or justly possess something. Is it mine? According to the Divine Code, only in a limited sense. Ultimately both my property and I belong to the king because he can take it and it is not theft, “theft” which the Divine Code defined as taking my property against my will. This can only work if the property isn’t mine but the king’s.
It just brings back the point that this is all just faith-based robbery which isn’t robbery.
Now one of the more telling parts of that lengthy quote.
One who evades taxes levied by the king is a thief, as he is stealing from the money of the government. All the land of the country is considered as if it belongs to the king and is subservient to him, so a tax evader is considered as having stolen an existent item that belongs to the king.
Just absorb that.
Now I know, I know. Many say taxes are necessary, that it is the price we pay for a civilised society. “civilised,” huh?
Anyway, this is one of the focal points of this whole passage. No citizen is truly free. No inhabitant of a territory is not a slave to the ruler. It all belongs to the ruling class. You, the property you may think is yours, even your children, none of that is yours. It belongs to the rulers!
Now according to the Talmud, breaking the law of theft brings a liability of death. The Divine Code says that a person that won’t give the government or king the money he worked for, that person is a thief. Therefore, that person can be put to death and has gone against God’s law! And it does make sense. The reasoning is consistent. If it is all the possession of the rulers, then what complaint can there be about injustice from the government? Whatever they take is theirs.
Again, I think of people who believe in fables such as the “right” not to be searched, that a man’s home is his castle. But, in the world of the Divine Code, the agent of the rulers is only searching that which the rulers own. The person who thinks he can own a gun, when an agent of the ruler takes it or the ruler says you can’t have it, it is all the possession of the rulers anyway so what’s the issue? There can be none. So you think you have a right to say whatever you want? But aren’t you the property of the ruling class? Sure you are. So go against what they dictate and get whatever they decree. It’s that simple.
“But, David, the law!”
But wait. Who makes the law? The rulers and their agents. Who interprets the laws? The rulers and their agents. Not only that, but what is human law but the opinion of another human? How high can you justifiably exalt such a thing? Tell me we’re standing on solid ground! I may laugh that idea to scorn.
Can you see why the term “authoritarian” fits so well?
A king may demolish private houses or take parts of private fields to build a needed wall or a road, and this is not considered theft, because it is the law of the government that this is done for the benefit of the country.
That’s quite a presumption, right? Look at the structure of that last bit, “because it is the law of the government that this is for the benefit of the country.” So it is the law of the government decrees that what the king did in seizing … whose houses and fields? His own! It’s all his. Anyway, the law of government makes his acts the benefit of the country. How do I know this act was for the benefit of the country? The ruling class said so.
All good, right?
What I also note here is an oddity for me. The text says the reason why it is not theft is because there is a perceived benefit. Did not the text already say that it is not theft because it all belongs to the ruler? Why add benefit? It could easily be understood from this that if I take something from someone against their will, but the victim gets some benefit, then it is not theft Or maybe this is just another way how the ruler is special having different rules that applies to him.
Any private property in an area which a king conquered remains in the jurisdiction of the private owners, so long as the king has not exercised his right to seize it for himself.
Well this must contradict what I’ve said before right? It says clearly that private owners retain jurisdiction of their private property. But – I think you can guess what I’m going to say next – the very next clause shows that such jurisdiction is limited by the king’s ultimate claim of ownership. As long as he hasn’t seized it, they can continue in their limited jurisdiction with the king still having the ultimate jurisdiction being able to seize it for himself should he feel like it.
“But the law, David!”
Yes, the “law.” I don’t have to repeat myself about the nature of human law, its source and who interprets it.
As I read through this text, I realise that for me to go through each part will end up in me repeating myself and I don’t want this post to be tedious.
I recently wrote an article stating why I believe obedience to authority can’t be one of the seven laws. But whether it be the law of justice or the laws regarding theft, it seems to be an idea, a teaching, relatively easy to find amongst teachers of the seven laws that the Gentile is the property of the king or government who claims to own / rule him. It reminds me of how the ancients used to view kings as gods. It reminds me how even judges are like gods in their courts; their word must be obeyed without question.
Someone could complain to me and say that these words of the Divine Code are lifted from Rambam or some other ancient rabbi, therefore I must yield, acquiesce, just accept that this is God’s law and just bow. But for a variety of reasons, I cannot yield or simply accept that these are God’s laws. Firstly, I don’t actually believe that this is God’s law for Gentiles. For me, the Divine Code is prone to including laws and principles that are not part of the seven laws and thus are not God’s commands for Gentiles. The brief way the Talmud expands upon the law of justice within the section that focuses on the seven laws mentions nothing about these “powers of the king” but rather focuses on adjudication and courts. When it speaks of the law of theft, it mentions nothing about the exemption of kings and governments to do, in action and effect, the same act as robbery. Observing what kings and governments do is not the same as God commanding it. I say that because sometimes it seems like this description of the power of a king is more like observations of what rulers do rather than what rulers are allowed to do. I have no reason to believe that people being owned by a king is part of God’s law. The Divine Code including these words, because of its willingness to expand beyond the seven whilst including these additions within the seven, doesn’t bring any authority, just the views of a rabbi who has no authority over Gentiles.
So no, I have no reason to bow. In fact, the exact opposite is the case; I have more reason to rebel and oppose governments that are immoral.
Anyway, to summarise what I’ve learnt from the Divine Code.
- Rulers own the land and inhabitants of a territory which they deem themselves to rule over.
- Individuals do not have ultimate ownership of what they make and buy; rulers own it all.
- This whole section seems arbitrary.
- Faith-based robbery (which isn’t robbery according to the Divine Code) is ok for a king or government.
- There is no such thing as “rights” for non-ruling individuals as they are owned by the rulers; there are only limited privileges which the owners grant their possessions, limited by however the owners interpret their established or recorded opinions.
I think that’s it.
Look at the source of this meme. It’s particularly ironic considering the subject matter of this post.
I had two children, 9 years old each, describe “the big bang” to me, individually, each at distinct times. Yes, I’m talking about the story about the origin of the universe some scientists made up to tie together some circumstantial evidence that exists today, that “big bang.”
As you may expect, these children didn’t speak with the reservation that a more mature person should describe such tentative and doubtful matters. They describe the story to me and the matters surrounding it as if they were reciting actual history, the true truth. A few questions uncovered the fact that they hardly understood what they were talking about, but that’s the process, isn’t it? That’s the sort of education you can expect from the one-size-fits-all “education” system from the state.
“Give us your children; give us your future! And do it or else we’ll hurt you!”
Ah, the “free” compulsory education that teaches you what to think before you learn how to think, one of the important pillars of indoctrination, to teach doctrines uncritically.
No government can ever give you freedom.
I believe that this is essentially true.
Whether it be God as king, some coming messiah figure, a democracy, whatever, no government can ever give a person freedom in the absolute sense. Why? Because freedom means no restriction, exemption from power or control of another. But what is government? A group of humans who attempt to apply control over all others within a territory they deem to be their own. They are opposite of one another. You cannot have government and have freedom.
It’s easy for a person to think that they can do whatever they want, but that’s only within the legal boundaries that the government mafia impose. Boundary means limits, again the opposite of freedom.
I cannot claim to accept the truth of God and the seven laws and then speak of absolute freedom. That would be a delusion; it would be idiotic.
My opposition to government does not come from a belief in freedom. It comes from my acceptance of morality.
I was given another inspiration by … you know what? I’ll say his “name.” I hope he doesn’t mind.
So I was given another inspiration by a commenter called “Donkey of Balaam.” I revisited a recent article about anarchism. He gave me the idea of revisiting another article from just over 5 years ago. Since my views are different to what they were then, it’ll be interesting to go through that argument and disagree with myself.
Now in that article, I state some things that I couldn’t agree with today. That article was about how atheists break and undermine the seven laws. Let’s see if or how it holds up to scrutiny.
So I claimed that the atheist broke the law of idolatry. Before I deal with that claim, let me state two aspects of the seven laws, namely the actual law of idolatry and what is contained in the actual law.
The law prohibits active divine service to an aspect of creation, worshipping it as if it were a god. So to give divine service to an idol according to its customary rites or service, or to worship it using certain forms of worship done in the Jewish temple, specifically: prostrating, ritual slaughter, incense burning, and libation, doing any of this makes one liable for the punishment for the act. Also, to state that “so and so is my god” or something to that effect makes one liable.
The other aspect is what the (maximal?) punishment is for breaking a law that is part of the actual 7 laws. According to the Talmud, Rambam and Ramban, the (maximal?) punishment for doing an act prohibited in the seven laws is the death penalty.
Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak says: Their prohibition is their death penalty. Since the only punishment mentioned in the Torah for transgressing a Noahide mitzva is execution, any descendant of Noah who transgresses is liable to be executed. (from the William-Davidson translation of the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 57a, from sefaria.org)
A non-Jew who violates one of the Seven Commandments is executed by means of the sword. (law 14, chapter 9, Laws of Kings and Wars, Mishneh Torah, translation from sefaria.org)
However, if they don’t do this (i.e., set up courts and judges), they are not put to death, for this is a positive commandment for them, and [the Sages] said only, “their admonition not to do a particular act is what leads to their death (i.e., the Torah’s warning that something is forbidden is sufficient to warrant the death penalty for Noahide laws)” (Sanhedrin 57a), … (pg 225, The Torah: with Ramban’s commentary translated, annotated, and elucidated, by Rabbi Yaakov Blinder, where Ramban comments on Genesis 34:13)
So in light of the actual law and its punishment, is atheism … Oh! I forgot something.
According to the Talmud, all the seven laws are prohibitions, or, in the Talmud’s clearer wording, they are laws to “sit down and not act.” You keep the law, you accord to it, by not acting. These are laws about behaviour not thought. (As usual, I’ll clarify that I’m not talking about some wider, rabbinically crafted ,”noahide code [of conduct].” I’m only talking about the core 7 laws. When I wrote the original article, I conflated the artificial “code” with the actual laws.) So there is no law to believe in, acknowledge or revere God for Gentiles.
Yes, I know I’m disagreeing with some experts.
So in light of all these things, the actual law and its punishment, does atheism break this law?
Does atheism include acts of divine service, rites and ceremonies used to acknowledge the lordship of some creation? The answer is “no!” As it is a statement of rejection of any god, it doesn’t include such rites in and of itself. So an atheist, in reference to his atheism, cannot break this law. The atheist, in reference to his atheism, wouldn’t likely do an act concerning idolatry that would be a capital offence. As there is no law upon Gentiles to act in any way towards God or even believe in him or acknowledge his truth – as the law of idolatry is a law commanding inaction and concerns actions, not beliefs or thoughts – then the atheist would accord with this law and be innocent.
So where did I go wrong with this law and how I applied it to atheists?
As I said before, to use rabbi Israel Chait’s terminology in his audio series on the seven laws at mesora.org, I conflated law with philosophy / ideal. You see, there is a difference between a law governing action and the philosophical principles it may contain or that can be learnt from it that can improve one’s thinking. One is primarily about the realm of a certain set of actions and the other is about the realm of ideas that can spread to a wider scope of actions not covered by the law.
So, as I wrote before, “philosophical idolatry” or “conceptual idolatry” is not part of the actual law prohibiting idolatry, but understanding the actual law and the philosophy of it can help one understand why such beliefs can and should be condemned as delusions. They cannot be condemned for breaking any law but they can for going against a wider morality.
So, to be blunt, atheism does not break the law against idolatry or any core law among the seven.
I had claimed that atheists break the law of “blasphemy” as I then called it. I said that blasphemy was deprecating (the truth of) God and thus atheists broke this law.
Once again, it’s important to state what the law actually states and compare it to just the stance of being someone who says God doesn’t exist.
The law of, properly said, cursing the name states that a Gentile is liable if he curses God using his name. To curse God means to verbally wish harm upon him. To do this using his name means a person would wish that God would harm himself by means of himself. For a Gentile, this covers the use of any title for God in the relevant Gentile language, when the title is known to apply to him.
For example, if there’s a fictional guy called John who is the only king and ruler of a land, such cursing would occur if a person said, “May John strike down John,” or, “May the king injure the ruler.”
Now that’s the actual law, part of the seven laws. (Before anyone goes on at me to say how unrealistic such a command would be, please look at my other article on this topic.)
So the law states what action is forbidden according to the seven. Good. Now, does a person’s atheism fall into this forbidden act? And the answer must be “no!” Why? Because simple atheism, denying the existence of any god, is not, in and of itself, the action of vocalising a wish for God to harm himself using his name. It’s that simple.
So the atheist, in reference to his atheism, does not break this law!
So where did I go wrong?
Once again, I did not go with what the law states. I took an understanding that was not part of the law, and used the word, “blasphemy,” to describe what the atheist worldview and premise does. But the English word, “blasphemy,” is much wider with regards to semantic scope than the law of cursing God’s name. I was using a vague understanding of insulting God and rhetorically asking what bigger insult there could be than to not just ignore his existence but to deny it. The problem is that this is not an act covered by the seven laws and the law against cursing God’s name!!! In addition, beliefs are not covered by the core 7 laws.
Once again, due to the teaching I had received from both a Christian past and the stance of some Jews teaching the seven laws, I had conflated law with philosophy / ideals. Now the law can teach philosophically that hatred against God and defiance against him should be condemned as wrong – and sure, denying his existence is such a stance – but this teaching is not law.
So again, I was wrong on that point.
Now I come to my third argument of how atheism or the atheist breaks or undermines the seven laws.
I claimed that the atheist undermines the law of Justice. I claimed that the law of Justice included three aspects, quotingthe Talmud, Sanhedrin, 56b, these aspects being: not to exchange God with anything else; not to curse God; and that the fear of God should be upon people. I said that commands necessitate a commander, that the atheists don’t keep the “Noahide Commandments” but just his own whims. I also said that removing God leaves the atheist morality on shaky ground, uncertain if it will be changed by a wind of internal or external change, lacking an objective standard.
So I can’t use the tactic or approach I’ve been using before because this point was not about breaking a law but rather undermining it. So, based on everything I’ve said in this article so far, an atheist, in specific reference to his denial of the existence of any gods, does not break any of the seven laws! So let me deal with claims regarding undermining the laws.
I quoted the Talmud to state that three things are part of the law of Justice. Let me quote what I said.
According to the Talmud, the following laws or principles are part of the law of Dinim:
With whom does the following statement of Rab Judah in the name of Rab agree: viz., [God said to Adam,] I am God, do not curse me; I am God, do not exchange me for another; I am God, let my fear be upon you?25 – This agrees with the last mentioned [who mentioned the law of Dinim].” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56b)
Now do you see what I (now) see? Well, I’ll just say what I see.
I claimed that the laws or principles in that quote were part of the law of Justice, those laws being not to exchange or curse God and that his fear should be upon people. The problem is clear: the text does not say these three laws are part of the law of Justice! That is a significant problem to my claim.
But the main question for me is whether this passage is actually one of or part of the seven laws. Here a rabbi is sharing his view that he derives three teachings or laws from words in the written Torah as is shared in the various editions of the Talmud. For example, the William Davidson Talmud from sefaria.org states the following.
The Gemara asks: In accordance with whose opinion is that which Rav Yehuda says that Rav says, in interpretation of the aforementioned verse: Since I am “God,” do not curse Me; since I am “God,” do not exchange Me with another god; since I am “God,” My fear shall be upon you? The Gemara answers: In accordance with whose opinion? It is in accordance with what some say, i.e., that the phrase “and the Lord God commanded the man” includes the prohibitions against cursing God’s name and idol worship, as well as the mitzva of establishing a system of law and justice, so that the fear of God will be upon the people. (https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.56b?lang=bi)
So this interpretation is what “some say.” Great. What does that mean to me? That there is actually a command to fear God? Or that there is a law concerning justice so that people fear God?
But it says later that the seven laws carry the death penalty in Sanhedrin 57a. And even later in 58b-59a, it says that the seven laws only carries prohibitions, laws that command inaction, except for justice that had an active and inactive element.
So is it an overt fact that Gentiles are commanded under the seven laws to fear God or else we face death for not doing so? Based on what I’ve read, I don’t believe so. So this makes the notion of atheists undermining the seven laws questionable at least.
And outside of some explicit statement of that kind, I’m only left to my conclusions. And I know that atheists uproot the objective nature of the law by rejecting God and that would place their morality in a hazardous position. Even if they stay good and consistent for their own reasons, not going against God’s law or the righteous courts, he’s still in a precarious position.
I did say in that previous post that the atheist doesn’t keep the seven laws because there is no command without a commander. I’m not so sure the logic holds anymore. Why not? Because the written and oral tradition show that humans are obligated to have a morality and be responsible for one regardless of whether they accept God or not. The fact is that God’s standards are objective, so he is commander regardless of an atheist’s subjective renunciation of his existence. Therefore his commands have an objective existence and obligation.
Added to this, Rambam teaches that people can perform the laws for their own reasons other than God commanding them.
Anyone who accepts upon himself and carefully observes the Seven Commandments is of the Righteous of the Nations of the World and has a portion in the World to Come. This is as long as he accepts and performs them because (he truly believes that) it was the Holy One, Blessed Be He, Who commanded them in the Torah, and that is was through Moses our Teacher we were informed that the Sons of Noah had already been commanded to observe them. But if he observes them because he convinced himself logically i.e., by his own intellect and conscience, but he does not agree that they were commanded by G-d., then he is not considered a Resident Convert and is not of the Righteous of the Nations of the World, but merely one of their wise. (https://www.sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah%2C_Kings_and_Wars.8.11?with=all&lang=bi, emphasis mine)
This version incorporates commentary in its text, but its conclusions are the same as mine. The seven laws can be observed by a person who just convinces themselves that each one agrees with his inclinations, whilst rejecting God.
I’ve been in a number of disputes where the person opposing my stance claims that a person must knowingly accept the seven in order to really keep them. I’ve yet to hear firm evidence to back this up. Since God has set the objective standard for all Gentiles, as the Talmud clearly states and as the Jewish Bible shows, then a Gentile can abide by the law by being innocent of breaking it, avoiding the prohibited acts.
All this is to say that my previous view that since a command needs a commander, atheists don’t keep the seven laws, only whim, I see now as incorrect.
So this whole part about an atheist, simply by means of his atheism, undermining the law of Justice is, at best, questionable, but definitely not conclusive to me any longer.
So there you have it. I just refuted myself. What fun! Whatever could I write about next?
I say a bit more in the audio version.
So, you see, you may read my blog posts. You may see me quoting rabbis or their books. I try to find facts, as clear a statement as possible to get as defined a picture as possible to help me negotiate life in a correct manner, a moral manner.
But I recently caught myself in a conversation trying to give evidence for a certain stance I had.
Now stick a pin right there. I’ll get back to that.
So I’m not a Jew. I realise that. I’m not fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish or Aramaic. Those are foreign languages to me. I’m not involved in the Jewish oral Torah, the ongoing centuries-old, millenia-old discussion of the Jews about the revelation and law God gave to them. I’m not one of those Gentiles who craves to be part of their nation to one extent or another. I’m from another tree and branch entirely.
And I’m happy to stay that way.
Is that the problem?
Anyway, going back to what I was talking about … So I’m in this discussion about the seven laws, and I catch myself trying to prove things from the Talmud, from Rambam, from other Jewish sources … Jewish sources. I’m a non-Jew – nationality, British; ethnicity, Caribbean – and I’m trying to prove stuff from Jewish sources.
Does that sound right to you? Does that sound right to me?
I’m not of that world. I’m in someone else’s property, someone else’s conversation. I’m taking bits here and there, trying to make a solid point. But am I even on a solid foundation?
When the guy, whoever he was, collated the Talmud, was he intending to communicate with a British Caribbean? Or with a fellow Jew? When Rambam wrote his Mishneh Torah, was it written for a universal audience or his own people? How would I even know when there are different opinions amongst his own people?
But they’re communicating God’s message, right? The God of all creation. That’s universal, objective, something applying to everyone. So there is something there for me too, right?
But how can I be arguing using parts of their discussion? I talk about disputing with rabbis, but that is their heritage, their discussion, their tradition. Who am I?
But then again, I’m the stranger, the foreigner. How can any one of them come to me and tell me how I should live and expect me to just accept it knowing that there is disagreement in their ranks?
And I’m not a trusting person.
But I’m already convinced that God spoke to them at Sinai.
What was funny too is that I was discussing with another Gentile, another stranger. Odd.
Anyway, what does all this mean? Not sure.
Does it make sense that I learn like a Jew to understand things … No, that idea made no sense to me before and it makes less sense now. Why cut myself even more from the people around me? That reminds of a saying, “don’t be over-righteous, why destroy yourself?” I know, I know, it may not exactly fit but I did say it reminds me of it, not that it exactly fits my situation.
Hmmm … so where’s all this going? Don’t know yet. I just think that sometimes, when it comes to understanding God’s revelation relevant to me, I’m a stranger in a strange land, with little real security. What would I expect wandering in another man’s garden?