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|Intertestamental Works- The Apocrypha|
|The Book Of Maccabees|
|Empires seem long-lived to those who must endure their exploitation and tyranny, but in the larger scheme of history, they are pretty fleeting. (So, sober up the twins, George, Jr., your empire's on its way out, despite all the dick-waving, oops, I mean flag-waving).
The Persian empire, whose policy was to leave their colonies to their own customs and governance as long as they coughed up tribute and resources, yielded eventually to Alexander's conquest of vast areas and the Hellenization of the Mideast.
I'm not sure whether it was a policy of assimilation required of vassal peoples or whether Hellenistic culture was just so damned attractive with its nude calisthenics, classical art and architecture, and philosophical enquiry that people just naturally gravitated to it. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
|But as superstitious Jewish conservatives struggled to maintain the status quo of strict control over every minute detail of their compatriots' behavior, they complained bitterly of both "evil" Jewish turncoats to the cause of Hellenization, and external pressures to conform to "heathen" ways. They sniffed and sputtered indignantly at the construction of gymnasiums where young men exercised naked, yet young Jewish men flocked to them. Clearly, large numbers of Jews supported the opportunity to loosen the stranglehold of control and allow reforms which would bring ancient Judah kicking and screaming into the new Hellenistic age. But these folks were all written off as "certain wicked men" in the Jewish Apocryphal accounts of these episodes.
To be fair, some attempts were apparently made to obliterate Jewish identity, such as compelling Jews to participate in Bacchanalia and outlawing their religious practice. But often these extremes were in exasperated response to tight-assed Jewish leaders repeatedly fomenting rebellion to assert the old ruling orthodoxy and resist any pesky, encroaching enlightenment.
Think about it- if you had to choose between Bacchanalia or Passover, which would you prefer? Dancing in the streets, imbibing good wine and reveling in a toga and an ivy garland, or listening to your father deliver a lengthy lecture on morality as prelude to a long, somber, ritual meal of dust-dry crackers and syrupy wine? That's like choosing between Xmas, a good, Pagan-inspired, month-long party and orgy of food and presents in a setting of fairy lights, or Ramadan, a month-long fast from sun-up to sundown to cleanse yourself of your sinful ways. Kind of a no-brainer to most. As was the choice for the Hellenizing Jews.
|So, this is actually the crux of the matter, and there's a very interesting parallel to what's going on with fundamentalism today. (Fundamentalists have always caused problems!) The Jews who were appalled by the nude gymnasiums and other so-called profanities of Hellenistic culture could have just gone on with their traditional ways and ignored the innovations. But they weren't content merely with self determination. They wanted to control the thoughts, beliefs and behaviors of every single Jew. It was a political issue, not a spiritual, religious, or even ethnic one. They were prepared to fight for no less than forcible theocracy.
It's exactly the same as fundamentalists in America today. Nobody cares if they want to believe in their moronic fairy tales, get worked up into a frenzy and speak gibberish to each other, handle or charm snakes, or any other idiocy they can think up. Just leave the rest of us alone! And for the love of Krishna, don't imagine you're intelligent enough to make rules for the rest of us normal people! (Read my lips, Bush dynasty.)
But religionists are never content to worship in private. They have to promiscuously proclaim their fantasies to the rest of us, and even try to force them on us politically. They're not content to be ashamed of nudity, for some reason they need the rest of us to subscribe to this foolishness also. They can't just ignore it if they hear a combination of phonemes that they've arbitrarily deemed profane, they insist on rules against anyone saying them. They can't merely abstain from sexual acts that they find distasteful, they want to make everyone else refrain, too, even if other people really like those activities.
They make no provision for personal differences at all and would have us all exactly the same and in their own image. They don't worship God- they play God. They must be such fearful, insecure, little creatures to require such extremes of self-justification.
And they're always a small, weird minority who shrewdly manage to make themselves look like the majority by claiming a monopoly on goodness, kindness, and morality. People want to be nice, so they buy into it. That's why I never buy candy bars from waifs raising money for their youth group- I don't want to propogate the myth that benevolence springs from religious endeavor. Some of the meanest people I've ever known were devout religionists. And the best people I've ever known were Atheists.
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