Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nina Burleigh on Religion

For once the Huffington Post has not brought in a brand new blogger to criticize Israel, they instead found a new use for an old one. Nina Burleigh's background is on women's issues, and she has been writing for the Huffington Post since 2005. Her new article is about religion in the holy land, and although it is not as bad as what we are used to on the Huffington Post, she still makes some errors that I feel need correcting. Let's begin here:
" The second is a leaked document of Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's first-strike plan for Iran."
I can't really blame Ms. Burleigh for falling for Richard Silverstein's sloppy reporting, considering so many other news outlets did the same. But it's not a particularly good start for this article. Let's skip down for a bit before we get to the typical armchair moralizing that we find on the Huffington Post:
"Israel religious-nationalist politicians' sense of entitlement, inherent in plans for unilateral pre-emptive bombing, always provokes an "end of days" resignation among Americans. That passivity is just one end of a spectrum related to belief in the "history" contained in the Bible."
Yeah! How dare Israel defend itself! Don't you know how entitled it is not to let your enemies attack you first? You should listen to Ms. Burleigh more! But she doesn't really care about the politics, after all this is about religion. And part of this is that she intends to deny both the Jewish religion and Jewish history:
"Many of the Bible stories and characters in them -- Adam and Eve, Abraham, Noah, Moses, Solomon -- have no historical basis. The more archaeologists dig and the more historians search, the less certain they are of almost every aspect of the Bible, from Exodus to the conquest of the Promised Land to the existence of a grand ancient Israeli empire."
Now as I have mentioned before, I am an atheist and would be very happy if all religious people stopped being such and we were all motivated by rationality. That being said, I also care about the truth and that is what separates me from Ms. Burleigh.

Let's begin by noticing the classic rhetorical trick of "many of the Bible stories....have no historical basis." In this respect, "many" means absolutely nothing. Yeah, no kidding that Adam and Eve isn't true. However, to say that because Adam and Eve isn't true and therefore there must not have been Jewish kingdoms in the land of Palestine/Israel is an insult to logic. And I'd be curious for Ms. Burleigh to show me which archaeologists and historians are doubting Jewish history there. Because no legitimate ones do so.

I guess it helps if you merely set up a strawman: no one has ever described that the Jewish presence in the so-called "holy land" as "a grand ancient Israeli empire." And Ms. Burleigh would know that if she had done her research. There were two Jewish kingdoms but they weren't  "grand" and they certainly were not called "Israeli." So get it right, Ms. Burleigh.

Most of the rest of the article was bashing religious people, which brought a smile to my face, but then she pushes it just a little too far with this (emphasis mien):
"The archaeologists who dig at the site every summer sometimes overhear the Holy Land guides spinning their Bible yarns, and they laugh at them, but no one bothers to correct them. Archaeologists and historians unfortunately don't engage much with misguided popular notions. Those who have challenged the very commercially lucrative Biblical versions of history are promptly sued or otherwise cowed into silence."
Um, what? Could you possibly back this up in some way? Possibly provide some examples? Because in my experience religious people don't exactly need to sue historians who tell them what they don't want to hear, they just refuse to listen to what they have to say. Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, although not historians, seem to have gotten along okay.

Honestly this just seems like a weaksauce attempt to play the victim, as if we haven't gotten enough of that on the Huffington Post.

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