Archived Issue of the Separationist

You have loaded a back issue of The Separationist, the newsletter of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry.


ISSUE: February 2001

Edited by Dave Peterson


Contents:

NEXT MEETING: Sunday February 18th at 4:00 p.m.
Speaker: Katherine Prevost
"A Hungarian Jew Remembers World War II"

Katherine Prevost has been a member of the Secular Humanist of the Lowcountry for the past four years. She and her husband, Arthur, hosted the December potluck meeting at their home on James Island. Katherine emigrated to the United States from Europe in 1949. She and Arthur lived in New York until they moved to Charleston in 1995. They have been members of the Unitarian Church for the past 40 years.
Katherine was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1924. She was raised a secular Jew and was 15 years old when the war started in Europe. Hungary was allied with Germany during World War Two and life was repressive for the Hungarian Jews. Katherine will tell her story from the beginning of the war to her liberation from Dachau Concentration Camp.
After the meeting, all those interested are invited to meet for dinner and conversation with the speaker and her family at Vickery's, a near-by restaurant.

MR. PIKE GOES TO WASHINGTON...

By SHL member Steve Pike

Left Kiawah on impulse to drive to Washington for the protest of George W. Bush's usurpation of the presidency. Most of my friends had agreed on the offense but had required schedules, so it was up to me to register the disrespect we all had for the power grab by the republican party. Checked the net for sources of organized protest and teamed up with a group from Columbia who I only met over the phone and by e-mail. Plan was to go to my brother's place in Martinsburg WV and then take commuter train into the city the night before for naughty preparations. Got a call from the organizer here who asked if i was willing to be interviewed by Washington Post first by phone and later in person when i arrived. Hummmm, yep I'll do it. So this reporter calls and asked me if I'm any kind of professional protester. I say, "nope, not since college and 1970 in Washington". She is doing a piece on the everyman who is just fed up with all the republican bs and is now motivated to travel the thirteen hours to protest the inauguration. I smile. Interview goes into where i live, what i do and what my wife does. She takes interest that i attended a McCain rally here on Island and am very disappointed in his selling out. She asks me to call when i get there for a photo opt and continue the interview. Sure, i say.

Packed the miata and headed for the Shenandoah valley and my brother's place. Rain and fog the whole way. I get there and they are predicting ice and snow for the big day. No going down the night before. I wait until five am to check roads and weather forecasts. We have ice falling and some light snow. I check on taxis and trains to no avail. Decide to try to get to the highway and check on conditions. Miata is rear wheel drive and slip-slides the whole way out to interstate where i find the roads fairly clear and decide to chance it. Get to commuter train and it is quickly packed, with protesters. Many, many lively protesters. Into Dupont Circle and up the tunnel where songs and chants are filling the air. The circle is packed and one group is already marching toward the parade route. Thousands of people just as pissed or more so than i am. Young people, old people, families, children singing songs and carrying signs. Mostly say, "Hail to the thief" but some are clever; " Bush is illegitimate" or "My Bush could do a better job of being president"(by a now member). Cold, gray day but just rain so far in the city. Police far away at this point but that would change.

It was as you imagine. Friendly people outraged at the seizure of power. The marchers set off in groups towards different destinations and speeches with design to meet along the parade route. As we got closer to Pennsylvania Avenue the police presence increased. Finally on turning a corner the street was blocked by police in riot gear, shoulder to shoulder. They made it clear that we could not pass but needed to continue in a parallel route toward the capital and Pennsylvania Avenue. They were very effective at shuttling us along and keeping one group from joining with another.

In Chinatown the path was completely blocked. I attempted to talk with one of the officers who was clearly threatened at my proximity. He shook his head and menaced his baton. Around the corner and behind them the National Guard was being brought up with riot gear and three foot sticks. They held us in this boxed state for a half hour or so. Some minor conflicts arouse but everyone was patient. Suddenly some conflict elsewhere required that they pull out and our group proceeded to the check point.

There were several checkpoints set up for security. You had to go through a gauntlet of policemen who inspected bags and gave you permission to enter. A plus of this arrangement was that the check points for people sitting near the president elect was far more extensive and so the line of well heeled republicans standing in the cold rain was moving far more slowly than those for the protesters. Wet republicans are a soul lifting sight, hundreds of wet republicans with their wives, new hair dos sopping and stringy, and their fur coats looking more like wet dogs then elegant minks in almost enough of an epiphany to justify the gloomy purpose of the gathering.

Through the check point and to the lines. The lines are sparse and so gaining access to the front row is not difficult. There are plenty of Bush supporters, so uniformly trim and neat with long expensive coats and expensive looking women, but almost as many protesters in the area where i arrive. The christians are working the crowd. Buttons proclaiming "God Bless America" are offered along with a pamphlet on the gospel of john by a group of campus crusaders for christ from Penn State.

The Jews for jesus girls come by with a strange pamphlet likening Dubyah to another son, i.e. Jesus. They won't sell me their nifty Jews for Jesus back packs. The Texans are easy to spot––cowboy hats, boots––walking with a definite spring to the step, and their women with big hair, attempting to keep up, a few feet behind. It is clear that they have won.

All the roof tops have camera equipment and sharpshooters and a helicopter passes back and forth over head. The clouds are low and the rain creates a cold mist. Military personnel are spaced between the police so that an official is stationed every ten feet on both sides of the parade rout. The secret service, easy to spot because they are the only people in the whole city in trench coats and no umbrellas or hats, confer in a huddle in the middle of the street with the police dogs standing near. It is time to present the new president to his people.

I shuffle my posters to find one that says Bush is a thief and usurper. I stand near a group from NOW, a group of Wiccans and a small gay contingent of protesters. As the limos roll by we yell, louder then the Bushies, or at least it seems to me. I lean out with my poster and see Bush looking and waving. A brief eye contact a shift to my sign, back to my eyes and he is gone down the road. I am still yelling "fascist!!!!". I am the only one I heard yelling "fascist".

It is over quickly. The police act like people again on the way out. Helpful, willing to give directions to Legal Seafoods where I will have chowder and oysters. Snow is beginning to fall and will all but obliterate the highway by the time i am back in West Virginia. I finish the drive by following the taillights of the car in front of me until those too are no longer visible. The final three miles is by feel as much as sight. Entering into my brother's suburb, the miata looses its grip and does a 360. I wait until the spinning stops and slowly slip and slide back to his driveway. A strangely fitting end to the surreal events of the day.

There are more of us out there then they usually let on. There is more depth of age and gender than I had imagined before. They are and always will be better organized. They know they stole the election and it doesn't seem to matter. It was a postmodern election. Bush wins if they can convince enough people to believe that he won, in spite of the results. Reality, to the postmodern republican, is an option.

HUMANIST BOOK DISCUSSION...

By Sharon Fratepietro

On March 4, from 3-5 p.m., the Humanist Book Discussion group will talk about Atheists, Agnostics and Deists in America, by Peter Rinaldo. You can buy the book in the Staff Recommends section at Barnes & Noble on Sam Rittenberg Blvd. in West Ashley. The Humanist Book Discussion takes place on the first Sunday of every month at that same Barnes & Noble and everyone is welcome to participate or just listen.

LETTERS...

On Ashcroft

Dave,

It seems like an unusually cold winter (Global Warming) here in New Hampshire, so the heat brought by your SHL Ashcroft editorial was welcome.

I don't know whether he'd be a good AG or not. In the press it seems you get acid (a lot) or base and it's hard to know where neutral ( truth ) is.

There's evidence to suggest that the racial innuendoes are bogus-- his appointments as governor, his support for something like 26 of 28 Clinton minority ( or black ?) appointments to the judiciary.

The most I've seen of the infamous Bob Jones speech is a sentence at a time. Likewise the charges of his "lies" against Judge White have quoted only brief phrases. It is hard for me to believe that any technicality could have been sufficient for Judge White to reverse the Johnson sentence.

I am proud to say that I am a FORMER constituent of Vermont Senator Leahy. So you may rest assured(?) by his views. I can't. I did read one complete sentence from another Ashcroft speech "For me, may I say that it is against my religion to impose my religion." That's a good position.

If "conservative Christian" is a basis for disqualification then it seems to follow that " liberal atheist " would be also. And if we keep this up there won't be enough of us to go around.

Your conservative Unitarian agnostic buddy.

Don Ross

LETTERS...

On Jesse Jackson

January 21, 2001

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

The revelation that Jesse Jackson fathered a child out of wedlock, front page, January 19th, seems to have elicited a number of different reactions, depending on the political partisanship of the person offering a comment. However, the one response that appears to be the most common is one of shock that a clergyman could do such a thing.

Underlying this sense of shock is a false assumption, but one that unfortunately thoroughly pervades our society and culture. It is the notion that religious people will always behave in a manner more "moral" than nonreligious people. It is an assumption that is unfair to the nonbeliever. When most Americans talk about religious belief as a trusted underpinning of morality, they usually mean Bible-based religion. However, the Bible contains within it commands to put gay men to death; to force rape victims to marry their attackers; to wipe out whole cities, including innocent children; and to stone incorrigible children to death.

Certainly, those of us who reject the Bible as mere mythology, are not any less "moral" than those who try to implement its outdated and primitive ideas in today's world. If extramarital affairs are wrong, their wrongful characteristics can be determined through an examination of human experience. If they are sometimes excusable, that can also be determined by contemplating the human condition and not by speculating about the views of some supernatural being with which no one of us has ever had direct contact. Either way, we don't need recourse to the supernatural in order to best determine how to conduct ourselves in a natural universe.

No one should rightfully expect more or less from Jesse Jackson, just because he is a minister. Those of us who choose not to treat a book of ancient fairy tales as if it held the ultimate truth can be just as moral as those who do.

Edward Tabash (ETabash@aol.com)

Chair, Center for Inquiry West

Council for Secular Humanism of Los Angeles

High Court Likely Will Be Forced to Decide Church-State Boundary...

by: David G. Savage L. A. Times staff writer

WASHINGTON –– President Bush's move to funnel more federal money to "faith-based organizations" will test the legal line separating church and state, constitutional experts said Monday.

For more than a century, the Supreme Court has said that church run hospitals can receive government aid because these facilities are providing medical care, not promoting religion.

The court has also allowed some public money to flow to religious schools if it is spent only for nonreligious purposes. Last year, for example, the court on a 6-3 vote upheld the use of federal funds to buy computers for parochial schools.

But the justices have drawn the line against using public money to teach religion or promote faith.

"Any use of public funds to promote religious doctrines [or] advance the religious message" violates the Constitution, wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who holds the decisive vote on the high court on the issue of public aid for religious institutions.

President Bush seems determined to test that limit.

He maintains that religious groups should be allowed to receive government aid because they are effective at helping people in need. He also says that they should not have to abandon their faith-based approach as a condition of getting funds.

"Problems like addiction and abandonment and gang violence and domestic violence, mental illness and homelessness: We are called upon by conscience to respond," Bush said as he signed the executive order creating the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

"Faith-based charities should be able to compete for funding on an equal basis and in a manner that does not cause them to sacrifice their mission," he said.

Most lawyers who specialize in church-state cases agree with Bush on the first point but are sharply split on the second.

Most say religious groups should not be barred from competing for public funds simply because they are part of a religious group. But liberals and conservatives disagree on whether public funds can subsidize a program whose teaching is explicitly religious.

In Texas, then-Gov. Bush enthusiastically endorsed the prison fellowship program founded by former Nixon aide Charles Colson. Inmates spend hours a day reading the Bible, singing and praying.

"The president believes the faith element is indispensable to the success of these programs. That's why they work, in his view," said Marc Stern, attorney for the American Jewish Congress in New York. "But if the government can fund a program whose content and purpose is to promote religion, it means nothing short of a constitutional revolution."

Stern said that his group will sue to stop the use of taxpayers' money in programs whose "actual operation involves religious teaching."

But Jay Alan Sekulow, counsel for the Christian Coalition, sees no problem with such programs so long as prisoners, drug addicts or welfare recipients are not required to participate.

"No one is compelling them to go there," he said. If addicts or prisoners choose a faith-based program, that is their choice, not the government's, he said.

The line separating church and state has been the focus of decades of dispute and debate.

The 1st Amendment says that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

After World War II, the Supreme Court focused on this provision anew. All nine justices adopted the view of Thomas Jefferson, who said in a letter that the amendment was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and state."

"No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion," wrote Justice Hugo Black, speaking for the court in 1947.

The doctrine of strict separation of church and state reached its high point in the 1960s and 1970s. The court banned official prayers in public schools and prohibited virtually all state aid to parochial schools.

But Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, a sharp critic of the separationist view, has succeeded in allowing more public aid for religion.

He and the other conservative justices maintain that "neutrality" is the key principle. Government cannot favor or disfavor religion but must be neutral, they say.

Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking for Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy, wrote last year that the government can offer aid to "a broad range of groups without regard to their religion," so long as the "principle of neutrality" is followed.

But the Rehnquist-Thomas view does not have majority support on the Supreme Court.

The more liberal justices have insisted that the rule is "no aid to religion."

And the swing vote is often O'Connor, who supports funding for religious institutions so long as they do not use the funds to teach religion.

Last year, O'Connor criticized her fellow conservatives in a separate opinion. Their open-ended neutrality rule would allow "the actual diversion of government aid to religious indoctrination," she said. This kind of subsidy for religion is "inconsistent with the establishment clause," she concluded.

ALEX'S ITEMS: A potpourri from the SHL webmaster, Alex Kasman

NOAH'S FLOOD?: Judging by all of the news stories and magazine articles about it, one could conclude that believers in the Judeo-Christian religions really like reading about evidence of the "truth" behind some of the myths in the Bible. The limited historical evidence for the existence of King David and optimistic articles openly ignoring the complete lack of evidence for anything relating to the Egyptian exodus of the Israelites have both received a great deal of attention lately. One such media event was the 1996 discovery by Dr. William Ryan and Dr. Walter Pitman (both marine geologists at Columbia University) that the Black Sea rose about 7,600 years ago, flooding a populated region.

Television newscasts and newspaper articles repeated the claims of Ryan and Pitman's book that this flood was the inspiration for the biblical story of Noah. However, at a recent meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, scientists "politely but firmly" objected to these claims. In particular, though nobody doubts the claim that the flood discovered by the geologists took place, historians and archaeologists see no reason to believe -- and in fact can cite reasons to doubt -- that this flood was in any way related to the famous myth of the flood.

For instance, in both the biblical story of Noah and its predecessor, the Babylonian myth of Gilgamesh, the flood was sudden and caused by rain. In contrast, the Black Sea flood was quite slow (the waters rose over the course of two years) and not caused by rain but by the draining of the Mediterranean sea into the Black Sea. For more information, see the New York Times article Experts Face Off on "Noah's Flood" (January 9, 2001).

Hi, my name is Alex Kasman and I have volunteered to be the webmaster for the SHL. I have no special qualifications (either as a webmaster or as an expert on matters of religion and skepticism). Nevertheless, through my own experiences as a professor, a mathematical physicist and an average person, I like to think that I have had some thoughts which would be of interest to visitors to this site. And so, with that disclaimer, let me begin with the first of my essays as SHL webmaster. (Please write to let me know whether you find this interesting or boring, useful or stupid, etc.) Thanks!

I would be very curious to see how the percentage of mathematicians who are skeptics, atheists and/or agnostics compares to the percentage in the general population. Though no official study of this nature has ever been conducted, to the best of my knowledge, my own experience leads me to suspect it would be a good deal higher. That is, although there are certainly many religious mathematicians, as well as mathematicians who unskeptically believe in anything from alternative medicine to flying saucers, I believe that there would be a much higher proportion of skeptics among mathematicians than in just about any other group.

Advanced mathematics appeals to skeptics in a fundamental way: more than any other human endeavor, mathematics seems to have a real handle on proof and truth. The job of a mathematician involves discovering facts (about mathematics) that were previously unknown, and proving that they are true. If you cannot completely prove your claims in mathematics, the new results will not be accepted by the mathematical community, they will not be published in a journal, and -- to be blunt -- you won't be a mathematician for long. A valid proof of a mathematical theorem is most certainly a more rigorous and certain thing than what passes for proof in the other sciences. One of the most elementary examples of a fact which has been proved in this way is the claim that you cannot find two integers x and y so that the fraction x/y is the square-root of two. (This fact was proven quite long ago.) A famous more recent example is Andrew Wiles' proof that there are no integer solutions to the equation x^n+y^n=z^n for any integer n > 2. Because of these proofs, mathematicians know that the claims are true -- we know that it would be a waste of time to search for numbers satisfying these equations since they have been proven to not exist. (If you want to see examples of what mathematicians have proved THIS month, check out the e-print archive of current mathematical papers.) In contrast, something which seems true (such as the apparent fact that any even integer can be written as a sum of two prime numbers) is not given the status of a fact at all unless it has been proven (which the "fact" in the previous parenthetical remark has not...although it has been checked and has been found to be true for any even number that anyone has ever tried).

So, you can see that people who are skeptical, who find themselves doubting things unless they are familiar with good evidence, would feel at home in the world of professional mathematics. Perhaps then it is no coincidence that more than a handful of the members of the SHL are mathematicians, nor that the famous mathematician Descartes is remembered for his skeptical observation that the only thing one can really be certain of is one's own existence ("I think therefore I am.)

I had special cause to think about all of this last week when a colleague, a fellow mathematician but not anyone I would have ever described as a skeptic due to his strong religious convictions and unfailing faith in a just and loving god, came to my office to discuss a question of faith and mathematics. It seems that he, like myself, felt originally drawn to mathematics because of its certainty, its firm grasp on truth. However, my friend's confidence in mathematics was shattered by his discovery of some old results by Kurt Gödel.

You see, at the turn of the 20th century, the mathematical community was attempting to show that mathematics really was our best glimpse of ultimate truth. They were trying to show, using the same mathematical methods of proof which so effectively show that the square root of two is not a rational number, that mathematics is a tool which really allows one to figure out if a given statement is true or if it is false. Unfortunately, these dreams were shattered by Kurt Gödel's famous proof (using a new formal algebra that he invented for this very purpose) that there was no hope of doing this. I will refer the interested reader to other sources for the details of this interesting period in mathematical history (see, for instance, "Godel's Proof" by J.R. Newman). However, let me briefly paraphrase it here by saying that the best we can hope for is that mathematics is consistent (which is to say that there are no facts which are both true and false at the same time), but that there is no way it will allow us to necessarily figure out if a given statment is true or false. Moreover, we cannot even be certain that it is consistent -- at least not without resorting to things outside of mathematics.

So, having just heard of this recently, my colleague was a bit shaken. He had always believed that mathematics, the subject to which we both have devoted our professional lives, was beyond skepticism. He had always believed that the one thing we know for certain is that mathematics is "really true". Now, Gödel (posthumously) has taken this away from him. I think he came to me hoping that I would either be able to explain how we still have some guarantee of objective truth, despite Gödel...but I disappointed him.

In fact, as I told him, I would think that even if we did have a mathematical proof of the consistency of mathematics -- contrary to Gödel's theorem, I would still have to be skeptical of it! There may be good reasons to believe in mathematics (the proofs sure do look like valid proofs to us, and it has produced very useful results such as aerodynamic airplane wings, the theory of relativity, the ability to predict eclipses and the collision of a comet with a planet) but there is no way we can ever be completely certain that it is true. Suppose, for instance, that we all have a flaw in our brain that makes us think that 2+2 is 4 when it is really 3.99. Just because we all agree it is true and it seems to make sense doesn't really mean that it must be correct...you need to have faith that our brains are capable of really differentiating between truth and falsehood in this mathematical setting. In other words, though I consider myself to be a skeptic and an atheist, I fully admit that when I'm working on my mathematics, I am acting out of faith.

This is, I believe, a good model of what we should mean by "skeptic". As Descartes argued so long ago, if you really are willing to consider the question: "What can I be absolutely sure of?" the answer will be "All I know for sure is that I, myself, exist. Everything else could be my own delusion...but there must be a `me' there to have that delusion!" (Actually, Descartes also concluded that God must exist, which I obviously don't agree with, but you get the point...) However, I don't want to reserve the word skeptic for people who don't bother going to work because they can't be completely certain that they'll starve to death if they have no food. Those of us who live normal lives have to take some things for granted (such as the existence of the other people around us) and that involves some degree of faith. So, the moral I take away from this story is this: skepticism does not mean freedom from faith, but rather that you should consciously question your faiths, and make an effort to support (or even disprove) them with the best available evidence, even if not by an unquestionable mathematical proof.

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." John Paul II (in his role as the red queen) to Alice

(This was passed on by Charlotte Poe of the Freethinkers of ventura County CA. I plead guilty to the title. Ed.)

One of the most bizarre and even cannibalistic rituals of the Roman Catholic Church involves the official "Mystery of the Transubstantiation" According to this belief, a wafer of bread and chalice of wine are, literally, transformed into the "blood and body of Jesus Christ." Catholic theologians must concoct ingenious explanations for why the bread does not suddenly look like a sliver of bloody flesh, and the Chablis doesn't turn into thick blood complete with clotting agents and DNA. The church is clear, however, that the sacrament of the Mass does not merely involve symbolic items; the wafer becomes, somehow, the flesh of the Christian messiah.

Which is a problem for a five year-old Boston youngster named Jenny Richardson. She suffers from celiac disease and thus cannot consume gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grains. According to the New York Times, Jenny's family has been told by the Archdiocese of Boston that she cannot substitute a communion wafer made from rice, since wheat has been part of the Mass and the Transubstantiation ritual for centuries

The family decided to switch rather than fight. They now attend a Methodist church, where doctrine holds the bread and wine to be merely symbolic of the blood and guts of Christ, not the actual biological items.

"This is not an arbitrary sort of thing," said a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese. "Bread is central to the Eucharist because of the imagery of the Scripture, because of the prayers of the Christian community going back thousands of years." The Vatican feels so strongly about the issue that in 1994 it handed down a rule declaring "Special hosts (which do not contain gluten) are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist."

Apparently, not all priests obey the rule, and the Times quoted the president of the American Celiac Society who is a practicing Catholic, who said that some priests quietly make a substitution for those with the disease. One might ask why Jesus, with his infinite powers, would not simply cure this five-year old so she could partake not only of His Mass, but an occasional Big Mac with fries at MacDonalds.

THREE RELIGIOUS TRUTHS...

1. Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

2. Protestants do not recognize the pope as the leader of the Christian faith.

3. Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or at Hooters.

DAY-TO-DAY FUN WITH HERMENEUTICS

Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you apply exegesis to the stop sign.

1. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (i.e., he knocks it over with his car), thus ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

2. Similarly, a Manrist sees a stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeoisie use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers on the east-west road.

3. A serious and educated Catholic believes that he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and their tradition. Observing that the interpretive community doesn't take it too seriously, he doesn't feel obligated to take it too seriously either.

4. An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever) doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop if the car in front of him does.

5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and then waits for it to tell him to go.

6. A preacher might look up "STOP" in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean either: (a). Something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing; or (b) a location where a train or bus lets off passengers.

The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

7. An Orthodox Jew does one of two things: (a). Take another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the halachah, or (b). Stop at the stop sign, say "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop," wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed.

Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage: R[abbi] Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R. Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.

R. ben Isaac says: Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says: "Be still, and know that I am God. R.Hezekiel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites,the Holy One, blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop at the stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus he was judged for his transgression at the stop sign. R. Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out: "Stop, father!" In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written: "Out of the mouth of babes." R. ben Jacob says: Where did the stop sign come from? Out of the sky, for it is written: "Forever, O Lord, your word is fixed in the heavens. R. ben Nathan says: When were stop signs created? On the fourth day, for it is written: "let them sense as signs." But R. Yehoshua says: ... (continues for three more pages...)

8. A Reform Jew sees the stop sign, and coasts up to

it while contemplating the question "Do I personally feel commanded to stop." During this internal process he edges into the intersection and is hit from behind by a car driven by a secular Jew who ignored the sign completely.

9. A scholar from the Jesus seminar concludes that

the passage "STOP" undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself, but belongs entirely to stage III of the Gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.

10. An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage "STOP". For example, "ST" contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas "OP" contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author for the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the "0" and the "P".

11. A feminist Jewish woman sees this as a sign from

the Shekhinah [feminine aspect of G-d) that translates roughly "enough already"....


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