First, what do you mean by "Jew"?
Do you mean a practitioner of the religion of Judaism? Then Whoopi Goldberg is one.
Do you mean an ethnic descendant from the one-time majority Semitic population of a small Eastern Mediterranean nation-state of antiquity?
Then Whoopi Goldberg is not.
This all may seem separate from the issue of anti-Zionism not being anti-Semitism. But it's really semi-separate and no more than that, and I'll hit on that at the bottom.
As friend Massimo Pigliucci would say: We have demarcation issues. One is separating a pracititioner of Judaism the religion from an ethnic Jew. Then, since "race" is not a scientific category in terms of a single standard of genetic demarcation of one group from another, "ethnicity" is definitely not. And, even to the degree we putatively, for argument's sake, try to talk about a particular ethnic group, we have other issues.
In that case, how Jewish are Jews? And, I'm going back far further than the Khazar hypothesis most notably promoted by Arthur Koestler and Raphael Patai, among others, which in any case only covered Ashkenazis.
I'm going back into the Torah to start. Even if half the nations listed in the Torah as living in Palestine promised to Abraham and Moses are fictitious, the other half aren't. Given the actualities of how Israel arose vs myth of the Torah and the Former Prophets in the Nivi'im, there is no pure Jewish bloodline. Because, of course, there was no "invasion" of some Semitic people who had been slaves in Egypt. Rather, Israel arose as an indigenous social-cultural development within Canaanite peoples. Probably a century or so after that, maybe two centuries, reading between the lines, there was an incursion of people from the land of Midian bringing the worship of their tribal god, Yahweh, with them.
Based on the trilateral consonantal root system of most Semitic languages, the name "Yahweh" derives MUCH more likely from the Old Midianite verb "to storm, blow or thunder," rather than the Hebrew verb "to be." In other words, Yahweh was an Old Midianite Zeus, ruling from a dormant but not dead volcano, Sinai; the Numbers version of the Exodus route puts Sinai in Midian (today's northwest Saudi Arabia) and NOT the Sinai Peninsula.
So, Israelites by alleged ethnicity or Israelites or Judahites by religion (religious scholarship doesn't use the word "Judaism" until the return from the Babylonian Exile and even then, many may speak of "proto-Judaism") weren't all "Israelite," in all likelihood. They intermarried with the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites and others that Yahweh allegedly told them to drive out of the country, more clearly explicated as "wipe out" later, in Joshua 9. (And, yes, that would be another call for a holocaust, just like the one against the Amalekites, though that one was more explicit, in 1 Samuel 15. (Zionists claiming both an ethical high ground and a need to have a Zionist-based nation of Israel after the Holocaust thus — if they are religious Jews — are undercut by their own history. If they're non-religious, whether Israeli citizens or not, the idea that is is driven by the Holocaust is undercut by Chaim Weizmann talking about expropriating Palestinian land and more already in 1919. More here. The key quote: "Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English." And, per the map at this Wiki page, Weizmann and fellow travelers wanted the alleged full promise of Biblical land by Yahweh. In other words, they wanted the arable portions of today's Jordan, too.)
I add in the number of post-Return Judahite males Ezra told to divorce. I presume that not all did and that many had kids.
Add in the Idumeans converted at Maccabean swordpoint. The house of Antipater and Herod weren't the only ethnic Idumeans intermarrying with ethnic Judahites. (Beyond that, the Maccabean wars were as much a civil war as a revolt against the Seleucids.)
None of this is to say that ancient Israel as a socio-cultural / "ethnic" group is any worse than any other group in history, on average. Nor was every portion of Israelite history unenlightened by standards of either then or today. It is to suggest that, on average, it's not necessarily better, though.
That said, we're now at about Khazar times. We know the Khazar Khan converted, and presumably along with his leading nobles, for political reasons, to balance between the Christians of the Byzantine Empire and the Muslims of the Abbasid Caliphate. That said, the khanate lasted long enough that surely a fair number of the Turkic Khazars also converted. There surely were other religious Jews of ethnically "Jewish" (per above) background in that area, too. We know the Crimea, which eventually became part of the khanate, had a large Jewish population. After all, the Crimean Karaites still exist. The genetics, per this note from Wiki, seem to rule out that Ashkenazi Jews are all Turkic, but allow for many of them being partly Turkic.
That said, the issue here is "who's an Ashkenazi"? A Rhinelander German and a Ukrainian in Odessa? A century ago, at least, both may have spoken Yiddish as their first language (well, maybe 200 years ago for unemancipated Rhinelanders) but that's about all they had in common. So, Jews from Odessa, Minsk or Vilnius may have a fair amount of Khazar background, and those from Baden or Köln not so much! So, defining an ethnic group in part by language is another demarcation issue. Ask Serbs and Croats about that one.
As I noted above, the hypothesis applies only the Ashkenazis anyway. Time to move further west within Europe.
Besides the known-by-group-name Marranos of Spanish history, many a goy may not know their whole family history. Some goys (ahem) have at least guesses in that area. Also, especially from medieval Spain and conversions, that "sangre azul" cuts both ways. It does among Rhineland German Jews too. (If you're wondering, especially per the claim that Judaism is not an "evangelizing religion" [which also ignores the examples above]), in Spain, such conversions to Judaism from both Muslims and Christians are documented. They likely happened in the Rhineland. And in the Polish-Baltic pale of Askhenazim.
What this really shows, just as much as does the "one drop of blood" nonsense about blacks in America, is that "races" don't exist. Certainly, in that sense, "ethnicities" as pure blood don't exist either.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Homo Deus, while decent, simply isn’t in the same league as the preceding Sapiens or the following 21 Questions book.
One reason is its niche, I think — futurism books will always be more open to second-guessing than historical interpretations of the past or analyses of the present.
But Hariri also makes some big errors in this book that he doesn’t in the other two.
The biggest is his entire chapter on religion and related issues. And, yes, I mean what I said — the whole chapter is problematic.
There are three “category error” type issues here, to wax philosophical.
One is claiming that ideologies are religions. No,. Marxism and Communism (and liberalism) are ideologies. And nothing more.
The second is trotting out the old “religion vs spirituality” trope. Can we put this tired cliché to rest?
The third is failure to wax philosophical, per my intro.
These are all compounded by, and contingent to, his poor definition of what religion is, but especially his failure to wax philosophical.
No, religion is NOT about things “superhuman.” Good philosophy in general, good philosophy of religion, and good psychology of evolutionary development from people like Scott Atran would all rectify that mistake.
Religion is about “matters metaphysical,” which is far different than “superhuman.” Alien life might be superhuman, but per the old Star Trek episode, many of us today, I would hope, would not worship it. For that matter, in straight power, the sun is “superhuman.”
No, religion is about “matters metaphysical,” as I define it. And, not just any matters metaphysical, but metaphysical matters of “ultimate concern.” I have to sound like a process theologian because atheist types of Buddhism are indeed religious, contra Robert Wright and other peddlers of bullshit.
But, it’s not just “about” metaphysical matters of ultimate concern. It’s about individuals, as individuals and as groups, conducting rituals and other actions to keep themselves “well aligned” with such metaphysical matters of ultimate concern.
This is why atheistic types of Buddhism are a religion and Confucianism is not.
With a proper definition of religion, one avoids calling ideologies religions. One also avoids trying to claim that “spirituality,” if it is metaphysical (some is, some isn’t) is automatically not religious. The third is bringing more critical thinking to this subject in general.
At this point, we’d lost a star right there. But, tentacles extending from the errors above were enough to drop this another star.
Philosophy is missing at a few other spots, too. That’s especially true on issues of free will, volition and consciousness. I agree with him that free will as traditionally conceived likely doesn’t exist. However, I HIGHLY disagree with him that this means determinism, or determinism plus randomness, is all that’s left.
First, we don’t act that way, and that should be taken into account more than he does. Second, per many modern philosophers, it’s possible that something kind of like free will, on a less than fully conscious level, does exist. Third, per the paragraph above, we need to say “mu” to the whole “free will vs. determinism” story.
And, I am sure Hariri knows what the word “mu” means and also knows what I am getting at in calling it a “story.”
And, there’s a bit too much techno-optimism.
I hate to bump two full stars, given that both other books are five-star, but … it’s what’s called for.
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