Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday Sermonette: Don't eat blood. DON'T EAT BLOOD. DON'T EAT BLOOD!

In this chapter and ones to follow it becomes more explicit that Leviticus and the Torah generally are not really intended as representations of history, but rather as a polemic on behalf of a doctrinal orthodoxy. This was a project of King Josiah of Judah, who is thought to have reigned from about 640 to 609 BC, and in whose reign the second temple was built. Prior to his reign, it appears that the Israelites were religiously eclectic. They did not exclusively worship Yahweh, and that the worship of Yahweh took various forms. (There is actually no documentation of Josiah's existence outside of 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings, but most scholars believe he really existed.) As we shall see in these later books a priest named Hilkiah found the "book of law" that had been given to Moses in the ruins of the first temple, as it was being renovated. It was once thought that this referred to the book of Deuteronomy but scholars now believe that it refers to an early version of the Torah which was in fact invented by Josiah's priests, as I have been saying all along. It is disputed when the Torah took its final form; it may have been several centuries later, although it was of course based on earlier sources. We'll have more to say about this later.

For Leviticus 17 I find the New International Version to be the most understandable translation. Here goes.

17 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox,[a] a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord—that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people. This is so the Israelites will bring to the Lord the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the Lord, at the entrance to the tent of meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. The priest is to splash the blood against the altar of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols[b] to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’
Note the awkward attempt to maintain the fiction that this was presented while the people were camping out in the desert. "Goat idols" is translated in other versions as satyrs or devils. In any case the point is that this command transfers from the tent of the meeting to the second temple.
“Say to them: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the Lord must be cut off from the people of Israel.
10 “‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.[c] 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”
13 “‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”
The prohibition against eating blood has been presented before. Here it gets it strongest and lengthiest emphasis. Blood is not commonly eaten in North America, although blood sausage and puddings and other preparations are part of some European peasant cuisines. The rationale given for this prohibition isn't very coherent -- what does it matter if  "the life of every creature is its blood" since you have just killed it. (There is of course residual blood in meat which is a major reason why it was difficult to create a convincing plant based meat substitute, so Jews have always eaten blood.) 
15 “‘Anyone, whether native-born or foreigner, who eats anything found dead or torn by wild animals must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be ceremonially unclean till evening; then they will be clean. 16 But if they do not wash their clothes and bathe themselves, they will be held responsible.’”
So it's okay to eat carrion, as long as you take a bath. Whatev.


  1. Leviticus 17:3 The Hebrew word can refer to either male or female.
  2. Leviticus 17:7 Or the demons
  3. Leviticus 17:11 Or atonement by the life in the blood

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Things fall apart

With the country coming apart at the seams, the necessity for wise presidential leadership that can facilitate the establishment of national purpose and unite people in conquering our grave challenges has never been greater. Instead we have a psychopath pouring gasoline on the fires of division, inciting violence, libeling his critics, denying consensual reality, and placing only himself and his unquenchable need for adulation at the center of the universe.

That 40% of the people tell pollsters they approve of his performance is proof of our deeply flawed political culture. It is futile to tell these people that he is a psychopathic white supremacist buffoon because they already know that. That is what they like about him. Authoritarian white nationalism is the soul of the Republican Party. You can't have a cult of personality without someone who wants to be its God at the center.

I obviously wasn't happy about Joe Biden being the Democratic nominee but he knows how to provide leadership at this terrifying moment.

And I'll let Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have the last word, or rather two words.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

This is important

It's a summary in Science magazine (yeah, I know, science is a liberal hoax) of what we know about the transmissibility of Covid-19. Here's what is essential to know.

Doctors originally thought that transmission by fomites -- virus on surfaces that people might touch, such as door handles -- was the most important route. But they now believe it's inhaled droplets and aerosols. The terms designate different sizes. Droplets are more than 5 microns, aerosols are smaller. They're both invisible however. Droplets fall out of the air relatively quickly and they can contaminate surfaces, so it's still very important to wash your hands ASAP after every time you are out in public, and not touch your face until you do. You can also use hand sanitizer, but 20 seconds of a good rubbing with ordinary soap and hot water is actually more effective. Soapy water destroys the virus very quickly by dissolving its lipid container.

Aerosols can hang in the air for a long time -- like 12 hours. And they are exhaled by people with no symptoms. Oh yeah -- they readily spread more than 6 feet. So what can you do? Wear a mask over your mouth and nose. That's it. Having everybody do that whenever they go out in public has been key to knocking down the epidemic in those countries that have been successful. Masks greatly reduce the volume of droplets and aerosols that infected people spew into the air. Which of these people would you rather be talking with?

Now, there are a few more things to know. Yes, it's better to be outside. The aerosol concentration will dilute rapidly in the breeze, and UV from the sun also destroys the virus. It's better to keep your distance but six feet away is no guarantee. Less time in close proximity with others is better. So stay out of crowded indoor environments. Don't be like those fools in Wisconsin who all headed to the bar as soon as the psychopathic Republicans on the state Supreme Court said it was their God-given right.

Off Wisconsin

One of the most appalling outcomes of this godawful mess is that not wearing a mask has become a statement of political identity. You are literally killing people as a statement of belief in your orange God.