Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) wrote,
Paul Crowley

Imagine you're a young Midianite woman.

Christian, Islamic, and Jewish religious tradition reveres the character of Moses as described in the Old Testament. It's easy to forget what an incredibly evil character he is. Here's an excerpt from a discussion on the subject; since it's between people of Jewish background it discusses specifically Jewish tradition, but it applies to all three.

The Torah condemns nonmarital sex. Repeatedly, explicitly, and harshly. It does not condemn slavery. Nonmarital sex is an inevitable constant across all cultures, times, and places. It is so much more inevitable than slavery. This seems to suggest a somewhat different attitude toward slavery than toward nonmarital sex.

[...] The Torah explicitly permits Jews to buy non-Jewish slaves and never free them (Leviticus 25:45-46), but pass them and their children on to your children, forever. It instructs the Jewish people to, when conquering a culturally powerful enemy city, kill the men, women, and male children, but allow the soldiers to keep the virginal girls as slaves. Such a genocide is depicted in Numbers 31, for example. How do you think that kind of slavery went?

Imagine you're a young Midianite woman. Your father dies defending your city, and then it falls to the invaders a day later. Jewish soldiers come to your house. Your old, weak grandfather grabs a sword and bars the door, but you plead with him to surrender, and the soldiers watch as you tug the sword out of his hands and lead him inside to a chair. One of them laughs, walks inside, and runs him through. Your mother wails and he turns to her, sighs dutifully, squares off, and cuts her head off cleanly in a single stroke. You've barely had time to register what just happened, when he pulls your baby brother out of his crib. Some part of you manages to mobilize yourself and you find yourself charging towards him, screaming. By the time you reach him, he's already bashed your brother's brains out and dropped the body. You get in one wild punch before he backhands you to the ground. He could kill you in an instant but instead he stares at you appraisingly.

[...] What do you suppose she would say, if she saw you praying today? Chanting some of the same prayers, thanking the same God in the same language, as the man who slaughtered her family thanked God for delivering her into his hands. Attending synagogue and saying "amen" as they read aloud the story, recorded for all eternity, of her torment and her people's genocide.

At this point you are already preparing your response, where you explain that the genocide was pragmatically necessary. "They had to kill those people, or the next generation would have killed them. God commanded it because He knew it had to be done. Enslaving the girls was the most merciful practical option." I beg you not to say this. This is the worst modern consequence of the Talmudic tradition: an intellectual, explaining how mass killings and brutal slavery are sometimes justified. Every time you defend genocide, you hasten the day when it will happen again. I ask again: What could you possibly say to any of those sixteen thousand Midianite women and girls, if they asked you why you were commemorating the atrocities committed against them, and adopting the perpetrator's heritage as your own?

The next time you kiss a Torah, I expect you to picture that Midianite slave. She's watching you kiss it. She knows what's written there. She sees you as reaffirming, in that moment, your allegiance to the worst parts of human civilization. What do you need to do to get right with her?

--HonoreDB, Less Wrong

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