“God – It’s Andyboy. How Do You Deal With Claustrophobic Sinners?”

Confessional box, Holy Family Roman Catholic C...

Honestly, God, would you like to be stuck inside one of these? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think you need to open a Facebook page, or a Twitter account.

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO of Facebook, at...

Zuckerberg – maybe you could use his help,,,,,,,, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It may have escaped your attention, considering all the other things that are occupying your time, but we are living in the second decade of the 21st century. You need to catch up with the technology.

The reason that I am saying this is that, over the past couple of weeks, I have availed myself of the confessional service that you provide through some of your messengers.

In case they didn’t report back to you – I’m not sure that they ever do – I will tell you that I got into hot water over some remarks I made about the religious leaders of your Chosen People“, and, also, about the leaders of your not so chosen people ( the Muslims).  At least, I assume they are not so chosen, based upon their attitudes and actions. I must admit that, as a fully practicing Atheist, I have some difficulty in understanding if Jehovah and Allah are actually the same. Are they both you, or is it a family business, and you’re just related?

Anyway, that is not really the issue now.

The point is that, as I simply didn’t have the time to wait for the Day of Atonement to come round in 5 months or so, I thought I would try out the service offered by the competition. It seemed that “absolution on demand’ would be the easiest solution to my problem.

Being new to this game, I was not really prepared for the fact that it would involve me entering a dark, un-ventilated and somewhat smelly wooden box carrying the residual odours of the previous occupants. It seemed to me to be somewhat lacking in the sense of spiritual serenity I had anticipated. But then, I asked myself, “why should I expect 5 star luxury in a space reserved for sinners?”

Then it occurred to me, how do you deal with claustrophobic sinners?  

Is leaving the door open, or not drawing the curtain, sufficient? And what about privacy? Or is it that those suffering from this condition are just stuck with their sins forever, as if you didn’t give them enough of a problem anyway?

So I got to thinking, about applying some 21st century technology? Maybe you could create a Facebook page, or a Twitter account, or, even, an Internet Website.  And this would solve the problem, not only for those fearing confined spaces, but, also, for those who don’t want to leave the comfort of their home to deal with something about which they feel uncomfortable in any case.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

How about an APP for sinners?…….Image via CrunchBase

You could even create an i-Phone or Android Application! Absolution with a swipe of the finger! You could call it “an App for sinners”, and it could get you a lot more clients.

I assume that you would not be deterred by the fact that you would have to use the services created by Jews like Zuckerberg and Brinn. They are working with a primarily non-Jewish market already, so it shouldn’t put you off. By the way, now could be a good time to get connected to Facebook. If you’re quick, you may even be able to get a piece of he action. I’m sure you could pull a few strings, and your messengers on Earth could always use a few extra bucks.

So, give it thought, and let me know your conclusion. You can always find me at the URL above.

I will assume that if I don’t hear from you, it will be confirmation that you don’t actually exist.

Either that, or you simply prefer to stick with the traditional system, and to hell with claustrophobes.


Andyboy – Telling it as it is.

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“Forgive Me Father – For I Have Sinned!”

And this is my first ever confession!

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Looking for a better deal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, you will understand, I’m a bit new to the concept. From what I’ve seen in movies or on TV, the process is quite simple. I enter the confessional box and talk to you through a lattice screen. I tell you what a naughty boy I’ve been and after you’ve listened to all the juicy bits you tell me my punishment, and the slate is wiped clean.

Seems like a good system, and certainly an improvement on the original Jewish model. But then your lot had the benefit of hindsight. I guess it’s always easier to improve on an idea than create it from scratch. You understood that one of the most important aspects of marketing a new religion was that it must offer advantages over the old one.

You realised from the outset that the Jews idea of atoning for their sins once a year was never going to work in the more easygoing. laid back approach of Christianity. Just too many sins , and no-one could be expected to save them up for a whole twelve months! So you came up with the brilliant idea – absolution on demand!

As many sins as you can cram into a week, eliminated in a moment, and freedom to start on the next batch of naughtiness.

Which brings me to the reason why I’m here. You see, the next Jewish Day of Atonement isn’t for another 5 months, and I just can’t wait that long.

So, what is my sin? Well, I’ve been accused of being beastly to the Haredim. You know, those sects of Jews who wear strange clothes in the style of Polish noblemen of the 16th and 17th centuries. They also have some very strange customs and traditions which they claim must be followed to the letter if you want to honour God.

OK, I know that your people do a few strange things as well (not all of which get found out and reported) – but I don’t even want to go there. If you want a wafer to be holy and wine to represent blood, be my guest. But that’s only two things. The Haredim follow 613 mitzvot or commandments plus thousands of interpretations of how they should be carried out. From the moment of waking to the moment of sleeping, their lives operate within a framework of restrictions that are incomprehensible to normal human beings.

I wrote a few articles on my blog pointing out some of these strange actions, but I have been told that I was being unfair.

The Ten Commandments, In SVG

The first ten commandments - only another 603 to go! Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After all, if it is critical for them that their toilet block cleaner doesn’t emit colour so as not to desecrate the Sabbath, who am I to question? And if the knife being used to cut an onion was also used in the previous 24 hours to cut meat, then why should I care that this onion is no longer Kosher and cannot be used with certain foods.

They just need to pray (well, they DO do a lot of that), that their eyeglasses don’t break on the Sabbath, because that’s a real bummer. If the side falls off and you find the screw, anyway you can’t use it – it’s forbidden to turn anything on the Sabbath. If you find a piece if wire, you can use that, as long as you don’t try to wind it round the joint – winding is forbidden also. If it’s just that the lens popped out of the rim, you can put it back, as long as you don’t use any pressure – pressure is another no-no on the Sabbath.

I know that I don’t have time to list the other 600+ criteria, and, anyway, if I do that it just makes matters worse.

I guess that my real problem is, I don’t really feel repentant for drawing attention to a fraction of the absurdities which govern the lives of so many people.  I do feel sorry for the women and children who are trapped, and doomed to live in unremitting servitude – but, then, you don’t have too much first hand experience of either women or children, do you?

Do You?

So that’s it. Not really much of a confession for a first attempt, I suppose.

By the way, do you accept Atheists in this game?

And, what, exactly IS a “Hail Mary”?


Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

Oh No! Not Another Article on the Holocaust. Enough Already!

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

If that’s your reaction, it’s quite understandable.

I simply feel obliged not to ignore the subject on this, of all days. You see, in Israel this is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Last evening and today, there were ceremonies of remembrance taking place all over the country and, especially, in our capital, Jerusalem, where the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is located. A representative group from the dwindling numbers of survivors lit candles and made short speeches.

The politicians make whatever political capital they can out of the situation (after all, they ARE politicians). And when the sirens sound, the country comes to a completes standstill for two minutes. Traffic halts and people get out of their vehicles and stand with heads bowed. Thinking what? I don’t know, but I’m certain it depends on each person’s family history

Places of entertainment are closed, there is solemn or traditional music on every radio station, and the TV channels screen and re-screen almost every film that was ever made about the Holocaust in a never ending loop.

The Holocaust has truly been done to death – if you’ll forgive the pun!

But an entire industry has evolved from it. Millions have been spent in constructing museums and memorials. Thousands of people make a living out of the ongoing fascination with this unique historical event  Directly, by working in, or for, these establishments, or indirectly, through articles, books, films and plays having some connection to it.

Even Auschwitz is a sort of morbid tourist attraction.

Rows of bodies fill the yard of Lager Nordhaus...

Rows of bodies fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, I understand the argument that the world must not be allowed to forget this classic example of man’s inhumanity to man. But, given the way that Israel is now perceived by many people, I now sense a backlash; a growing reaction that tries to dismiss the Holocaust as an aberration, whilst, at the same time, accusing Israel of acting towards the Arabs in the same way that the Germans – and others –  acted towards the Jews.

To quote psychiatrist Zvi Rex: “Europe will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. Europe doesn’t want to live under the psychological burden of Auschwitz forever. The Jews are living reminders of the moral failure of Europe. This leads to the projection of guilt on Israel and the remaining European Jews”.

And what do our learned rabbis have to say about this seminal event in Jewish history?

Well, they say quite a lot, but nothing that makes sense to any rational individual. Their efforts to explain the inexplicable would be laughable if the subject matter were not so serious.

Listen, for example to the explanation of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, regarded by his followers as one of the leaders of Halachic thought and interpretation:

the “six million who were killed in the Holocaust were reincarnations of people who had sinned in a previous life”.

And this gem:

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - never lost for words - and WHAT words! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

during his talk in the “Yechva Da’at” Beith Midrash (study center) in Har Nof, Jerusalem, he addressed the subject of the Holocaust again. This time he provided an even more controversial explanation, one that is anchored in both his tradition and that of his listeners. He placed the blame for the Holocaust on secular Jews and assimilation. He explained that when the Jewish people observe the Torah and its commandments it cannot be touched. “So what happened during the Holocaust?” he asked. “There were entire communities that were completely destroyed, without Torah and without commandments. They mixed with the gentiles, learned their languages. They thought that if there were close them, it would be good. However, it became their stumbling block… Because of their many sins, the Holy One’s fury was brought down upon them. That was the cause of everything that happened to us, all of the tribulations that we brought upon us.” 

Did you get that?

“The Holy One’s Fury”  because they spoke German or Polish and tried to integrate into their communities. Some God!

Rabbis have been leaning over backwards, tying themselves in knots,  jumping through hoops and any other suitable metaphor you can think of to try to explain what happened, and thus maintain their jobs as God’s messengers’

A few more attempts:

  • God is dead. If there were a God, He would surely have prevented the Holocaust. Since God did not prevent it, then God has for some reason turned away from the world, and left us to ourselves forever more. God is therefore no longer relevant to humanity.
  • Terrible events such as the Holocaust are the price we have to pay for having free will. In this view, God will not and cannot interfere with history, otherwise our free will would effectively cease to exist. The Holocaust only reflects poorly on humanity, not God. 
  • The Holocaust is a mystery beyond our comprehension. God has reason for what He does, but human understanding can’t begin to understand His reason.
  • God does exist, but God is not omnipotent. This view is similar to process theology. All of the above arguments are based on the assumption that God is omnipotent and, consequently, could have interfered to stop the Holocaust. What if this is not so? In this view, the Holocaust only reflects poorly on humanity, not on God. This is a view promoted by many liberal theologians, including Rabbi Harold Kushner.
  • God or any other supernatural deity might not exist. Some arguments are that there is a blind spot in the Human Eye; an all powerful being would not make this mistake.
  • Classical Rabbinical literature teaches that before something magnificent or great occurs, there must be a great tragedy. In this case, the Holocaust had to occur in order for the State of Israel to be founded. This theory supports the actual events, as many historians believe that without the Holocaust, Israel would never have existed

 The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said:

The main gate at the former Nazi death camp of...

The main gate at the former Nazi death camp of Birkenau.And God's explanation for this place is? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What greater conceit and what greater heartlessness, can there be than to give a ‘reason’ for the death and torture of millions of innocent men, women and children? Can we presume to assume that an explanation small enough to fit inside the finite bounds of human reason can explain a horror of such magnitude? We can only concede that there are things that lie beyond the finite ken of the human mind. It is not my task to justify God on this. Only God Himself can answer for what He allowed to happen

 It was the German people who epitomized culture, scientific advance and philosophic morality. And these very same people perpetrated the most vile atrocities known to human history! If nothing else, the Holocaust has taught us that a moral and civilized existence is possible only through the belief in and the acceptance of the Divine authority

Personally, I think that this statement from Professor Richard Rubenstein is that only way to view what happened . In a piece entitled “After Auschwitz” he said:

 the only intellectually honest response to the Holocaust is the rejection of God, and the recognition that all existence is ultimately meaningless. There is no divine plan or purpose, no God that reveals His will to mankind, and God does not care about the world. Man must assert and create his own value in life.”

I know that this might be hard to take on this special day – but nothing else comes even remotely close to explaining that bad things happen to good people – and that’s all there is to it!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!



Easter and Passover – From an Atheist Perspective

The God of the Jews is, indeed, a malevolent monster – 

If one takes the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt at its face value.

And yet, at the same time,  impotent, if one accepts the Christian story of Easter.

Since both of these stories are being remembered on this weekend, it is a good opportunity to look at them together.

The Israelites Leaving Egypt

The Israelites Leaving Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Firstly, what is it that the Jews are actually commemorating at Passover? They are celebrating the release of the Jews, or Israelites, from their conditions of slavery under the Egyptians. Of course, the emphasis is on the freedom itself, rather than how the freedom was obtained.

As the fable is told, the Jews called upon their God to make Pharaoh (the Egyptian leader) “an offer he couldn’t refuse.” And God responded by causing a series of calamities and disasters to fall upon the Egyptian people, in ever increasing degrees of severity.

The Plagues of Egypt (Hebrewמכות מצרים, Makot Mitzrayim), also called the Ten Plagues (Hebrewעשר: המכות, Eser Ha-Makot) or the Biblical Plagues, were ten calamities that, according to the biblical Book of Exodus, Israel’s God, Yahweh, inflicted upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release the ill-treated Israelites from slavery. Pharaoh capitulated after the tenth plague, triggering the Exodus of the Jewish people.(1)

It seems that the Egyptians were a resilient people, and managed to survive plagues 1 to 9 – but it was the tenth one that was the clincher.

The plagues as they appear in the Bible are:

  1. Water, which turned to blood and killed all fish and other aquatic life (Exodus 7:14–25 )
  2. Frogs (Exodus 8:1–8:15 )
  3. Lice (Exodus 8:16–19 )
  4. Flies or wild animals (Exodus 8:20–30 )
  5. Disease on livestock (Exodus 9:1–7 )
  6. Unhealable boils (Exodus 9:8–12 )
  7. Hail and thunder (Exodus 9:13–35 )
  8. Locusts (Exodus 10:1–20 )
  9. Darkness (Exodus 10:21–29 )
  10. Death of the first-born of all Egyptian humans and animals.(Exodus 11 , Exodus 12 )

The Jews are supposed to have prevented this last disaster from affecting them by, on God’s instruction, killing an unblemished lamb, and smearing its blood on the doorposts  of their homes, before cooking and eating the unfortunate animal. (The “unblemished” aspect was deemed very important, so imperfect lambs were spared for God knows what). Then, as the “Angel of Death” passed over the homes (hence “Passover”) it would ignore the Jews and just visit God’s wrath on the Egyptian babies.

So, after God’s final offer, Pharaoh thought “enough of this shit” and couldn’t wait for the Jews to to leave and go and live anywhere but Egypt. And the Jews had to put up with this *NIMBY attitude for the better part of the next 3000 years!

Israel's Escape from Egypt, illustration from ...

Made a great movie!
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, there is much more to the story of this exodus of the Jews, with exciting special effects, such as the famous “parting of the Red Sea” after Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after his departing slaves. And, then there were various other phenomena that Hollywood has portrayed so graphically.  Actually, I think that God  had this possibility in mind all the time. He foresaw that this story could make  great cinema, and a lot of money for those Jewish movie moguls who understood its potential.

But the inconvenient truth is that, what the Jews are celebrating tonight is really a confirmation of  Richard Dawking’s description of the Jewish God:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

(Yes, I know I’ve quoted this before, but it bears repeating)

So, what are Christians commemorating at this time?

Of course, another fable, different from Passover, but no less bizarre, in its own way.

The Galitzin Triptych: Christ on the Cross

"Don't worry - I'll be back! " (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am referring to the supposed resurrection of a dead body back to full health. Not content with inventing a biological impossibility regarding the birth of Jesus, they now invented a further biological impossibility regarding his death – or the lack of it:

In the New Testament, after the Romans crucified Jesus, he was buried in a new tomb, but God raised him from the dead and he appeared to many people over a span of forty days before his ascension to Heaven, to sit at the Right Hand of God. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, the third day after Good Friday, the day of his crucifixion. Easter’s date corresponds roughly with Passover, the Jewish observance associated with the Exodus, that is fixed for the night of the Full moon near the time of the equinox.(2)

From this it would appear that the God of the New Testament did not have the same powers as his predecessor. It’s true that he has been able to make the gullible believe in his power to restore life, but he seems to have restricted that power to family members only. And has yet to explain why he permitted “his only son” to be crucified in such a cruel and terrible way.

All this “Jesus died to redeem mankind from its sins” and similar facile explanations doesn’t really explain God’s impotence in the first place.

So, as Jews sit at the “seder” table tonight, trying to digest the matzos and mountains of food, whilst thanking God for their deliverance, Christians will be preparing for their slog along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, with some Jesus lookalike dragging a large, heavy wooden cross, and wishing he’d never volunteered for the gig.

And we Atheists can observe all of this with a mixture of cynical disbelief, and, perhaps, a tinge of sadness, at the frailty of mankind in its quest to eagerly grasp at any straw in its search for  – what exactly?

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!


(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_of_Egypt

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection_of_Jesus

*NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard

“God – I Have A Problem With My Onion!”

“And I need some divine guidance from you!

Well, in reality, it will not be from you directly as I understand that this is not one of your most pressing problems of the moment. So I will just have to settle with the opinion of one of your professional representatives here on Earth – my local Rabbi. My difficulty is, how can I be certain that his interpretation of your divine will is the correct one?”

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - "anxious and trembling?"(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This hypothetical question to God is not as absurd as it appears, well, not if you belong to that select group the “Chosen of the Chosen People”, the ultra-Orthodox Jews usually referred to as “Haredim”. It is interesting that the word “Haredi” is variously translated as meaning “anxious and/or trembling”.

If you had to live your life worrying about whether or not you were complying with the hundreds, if not thousands, of rules relating to simply being alive, you would also be “anxious”. Most normal people would be gibbering nervous wrecks, and would be regarded as living in a way totally removed from reality, in a sort of parallel universe.

Well, come to think about it, that is exactly the situation in which the Haredim find themselves. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the situation is one that has been carefully created by their religious leaders over the centuries as a means of exercising control and domination.

It would be unfair to criticise the God created by man for the actions of those claiming to act in his/her name. As I have explained at length in a previous article, it was man who also created the necessary infrastructure to market the initial concept. (1)

So, I suppose you are wondering: “What on Earth has all this got to do with onions?”  Well, there is a direct connection; the onion is simply a representative symbol of what brings additional anxiety into the lives of those who are already anxious enough.

I can best illustrate this by relating a true story that describes events that occurred recently inside one of our Haredi communities. Firstly, I need to explain that within Haredi society it is the norm for each individual to have their own personal Rabbi. This Rabbi is more than simply a spiritual adviser. He is a combination of guru, mentor, Halachic interpreter and the absolute epitome of “he who must be obeyed.”

He may also be required (or volunteer) to carry out a close inspection of the woman’s knickers once a month to certify that her period is over and that the process of procreation can begin again. By all accounts it is certainly not “sex” as understood in the secular world. And I’m also not certain if the Rabbi regards this inspection as an obligation or a perk of the job.(2)

But I digress – so back to the mundane world of onions!

Español: Corte de una cebolla con un cuchillo.

This onion brings tears for the wrong reason.......

This story is about two longtime friends, lets call them Sarah and Rivka. One day, Rivka visits her friend and finds her eating some fish. She had brought with her a small salad, within which were some sliced onions. Sarah questioned her friend about the knife she used to cut the onions; she was particularly concerned that the knife had not been in contact with any meat product in the 25 hour period prior to being used.

According to the Halacha (Jewish religious law), onions or lemons are considered examples of items whose juices are so powerful that they absorb the molecules of anything that knife had been in contact with.(3) They decided to consult their respective Rabbis for their opinions. Now this is where the story takes an unexpected turn.

Their Rabbis were known in the community to be engaged in some kind of “power struggle” over which of them gave the most definitive rulings. The problem was that their different character, personality and worldview, inevitably resulted in contrasting opinions. Rabbi “R”, whilst still adhering to the basic tenets of the law, always searched for a reasonable or pragmatic way to resolve a question. Rabbi “G”, on the other hand, was a stickler for the absolute traditional interpretation, without any deviation or consideration for reality. He considered himself the leading authority and reveled in his strictness.

Consequently, when confronted with the conundrum of the status of the onion, his decision moved beyond this one specific onion, and entered a much wider realm. He counselled his supplicant thus: “If your friend is so careless in cutting onions as to not be aware of the dangers involved, you must assume that she is also careless in her general adherence to other religious strictures. I rule that you cannot trust her, and I forbid you to eat in her home ever again.”

And thus ended a beautiful and longstanding friendship. Two families torn apart by the ego of one Rabbi.

Those of you not sitting with your mouths open in disbelieving horror, will be wondering:  “how could this be possible? What was the real strength of their friendship? How could anyone allow a Rabbi’s rant to have such influence on their life?”

It is impossible for a rational individual to comprehend, but Haredim live in a framework of minutia that would drive normal people insane. Some might contend that one would need to be somewhat insane to choose to live in this way, with these degrees of unlimited constraints.

The truth is that this way of life is a perfect example of the power of brainwashing from the earliest possible age. It has very little to to with the love of a God, and everything to do with the desire of the Rabbis to control, dominate and manipulate the lives of gullible people in order to satisfy their own needs, desires and ambitions.

Somehow, this situation has evolved from the historical need of the Jews to maintain a form of lifestyle that ensured that they would not assimilate and become absorbed into the society in which they were living. What was, at one time, a relatively simple following of dietary restrictions on a basic level, together with the observance of religious traditions, has somehow mutated into this plethora of codes and laws.

Many argue that what may have been necessary in the diaspora, ceased to be relevant with the creation of the State of Israel, at least for those who moved here. Jews were no longer a minority seeking to preserve their unique character, but were now an independent and, hopefully, a proud people restored to their homeland. So what is there to prove and to protect against?

The Haredim are the perfect example of the validity of the oft repeated adage: “you can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew.”

Some of the more extreme sects are determined not to come to terms with the 21st century. And, so long as there are onions and knives and messianic Rabbis and their adherents, so will they remain locked in the time capsule of their ignorance.

I don’t know what you feel about this blind faith, and I know such blindness is not exclusive to Judaism.

But it sure frightens the hell out of me, however it manifests itself.

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!


(1) http://andyboy1.com/2012/03/03/and-on-the-seventh-day-god-rested/

(2) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106881/Orthodox-community-lashes-wife-Deborah-Feldman-explosive-memoir.html

(3) http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-kosher-cons-handbk.htm