Biblical Rhetoric of Separatism and Universalism and Its Intolerant Consequences

Professor James W. Watts writes in 2020: “Studies of the distant past, however, have one big advantage over studies of contemporary cultures: history allows us to trace the effects of religious rhetoric and practices over centuries and millennia to reveal not only their influence, but also their unintended consequences.”

How do you trace the effects of religious rhetoric and practices in ancient times? For that matter, how do you do it in modern times? How do you distinguish this influence from other things? There’s never “religion” without reference to its source in a particular “culture” that in turn comes from a particular people in a particular environment dealing with particular challenges.

There was no “religion” in the ancient world. Jewish history, for example, has never had “religion” nor has Islam.

“The specific reactions I will describe here, separatism (or particularism) and universalism, have both generated intolerant violence, often within the same religious tradition.”

How do you know that separatism and universalism generated intolerant violence? Maybe that sprung from other factors?

“I believe that this history, that juxtaposes some of the deleterious effects of both separatism and universalism,
needs to be repeated to show how moral judgments on others’ religious practices can generate even worse abuses.”

There’s nothing that can’t have deleterious effects, including going for a walk and enjoying a thorough defecation.

“I offer this review as a cautionary tale of how opposite religious ideals embraced at the origins of two traditions can go unexpectedly and badly wrong.”

Wrong for whom? Wrong according to whom? James W. Watts?

“The first five books of the Bible, called the Torah or Pentateuch, and later the whole Hebrew Bible, also called the Tanak or Old Testament, were among the tools used by Judah’s priestly class to weld together ethnic identity and national aspirations into a religious identity as Jews.”

Jews don’t know of religion. This is so goyish.

“The influence of the Bible’s rhetoric of separation from the Canaanites and other peoples has been especially evident in the cultures of the American continents over the last five centuries…”

If there was no Bible, would there be any significant difference in European conquest of the Americas? How has this conquest been different from other conquests? It has not been to the defeated. The rhetoric that people use to justify their behavior is of rhetorical interest, but does not demonstrate real world influence.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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