Why God's Mooning Moses Is Important to Our Religious Discussions

About two years ago, pepperlandgirl started a thread related to religion and homosexuality (gee – that’s a strange juxtaposition of topics! :smack: ) that was eventually hijacked by someone calling himself FriendofGod, a male equivalent to our present member His4Ever. In the course of innumerable switches of topic over three threads and over 15 pages worth of posts, many wise and/or witty remarks from a wide variety of people, and a lot of intelligent questions and answers, Gaudere (not yet on the SDMB staff) located a quotation from Exodus in which the text makes it appear that God mooned Moses:

I was amused by her comment but thought little more about it until reading in John Shelby Spong’s A New Christianity for a New World recently.

While I have for several days left that book seven miles from where I access the board, I thought that what Spong used this passage as a springboard for, is quite an interesting topic to begin a discussion on. This ties to Mars Horizon’s thread on what exactly an “extraordinary proof” might entail.

Essentially, Spong says that we as human beings never see God at work but only “where He has been” – the evidence of His work in the world about us.

This ties into my own observation that while the typical believer sees evidence of God in the perceptible world we all share, it takes belief to see that evidence as suggestive of Him. And also into the Gospel suggestion that Christians are supposed to be living lives that provide the seeker after truth with evidence that the God they proclaim lives within them.

There is nothing more obvious than that Wolf Blitzer does not regularly interview God for CNN, getting His take on world events, nor that Time or Newsweek do not regularly feature stories on miraculous events only understandable as God actively intervening to change the outcome of events.

Yet we who believe claim to see His hand at work in the world, and in particular in the lives of those around us. And we’re called to be “mirrors reflecting Him” so that others may see Him in us.


If God is just going to moon us, perhaps He shouldn’t have been traipsing around Jerusalem performing miracles right and left. That split personality of His will get Him in trouble someday. :wink:

One person looks at the world, and sees “just” the world, phsyical, present.

Another looks at the world, and sees in it the hand and influence of a being who is entirely separate and distinct from it.

Yet another looks at the world, and sees subtle fire, secret flame, sacredness ablaze and immanent throughout it.

And still others find that they can shift with increasing ease between all three of those views.

So, yup. Perceptions differ.

Er, where’s the debate here?

Polycarp, I think you touch on what is, for me, the general form of knowledge acquisition: induction. Since the rise of British Empiricism (that is, with Hume) induction has more or less taken a severe beating.

The problem of induction is this: we are never justified (it is said) in observing single events (particular sequences of sensation) and extrapolating that to a universal statement. It is not a trivial concern in any case. We may liken it to curve-fitting in this way: consider that we have a plot of events on a scatter chart and we want to induce a general law from them. Mathematically we create a curve (which could simply, of course, be a straight line) which best fits the data. The problem that faces us here is that we may create a curve which will fit all data 100%. But such a curve then doesn’t work well for prediction, as further evidence gathered then lies off the curve and the curve becomes useless.

So how do we judge that a curve fits the data correctly, then? It should be somewhat clear how this is a mathematical form of the problem of induction.

But as a point of fact, we humans do induce general statements from particular ones all the time. How else do we learn words, for example, but by being subjected to them in a limited number of cases and inducing their meaning from their use?

For me, as an atheist cum Discordian (and you thought homosexuality and religion was a strange mix), I’ve come to see such “proof in the pudding” of God in the same way I see all sorts of knowledge that we’ve acquired in a similar fashion. As such, I think I am going to have to give up my self-proclaimed atheism.

The question is simply not settled, and I don’t know that I believe anything one way or the other. Sometimes I marvel at reality and a voice whispers in my ear that something like this is just too interesting and marvelous to not have been created by a god-being. But other times I laugh at myself for having such thoughts.

Of course that kind of doubt (that something isn’t necessarily true) can really be applied to everything. But we still all think and say we know things anyway, do we not? And we don’t merely say it, we mean it.

Here I think you touch on something I find to be of fundamental importance: behavior.

Behavior is the window on the soul (I don’t mean that metaphysically, but I see no reason that it couldn’t be taken as such). We learn about people, how they think, what they feel, what they know, from the way they act. Short of telepathy it is really all we have.

What concerns me here is this: I think it can be said that our behavior is a mirror, to use this great metaphor, of our soul. And here we can also say: if my soul is one with God, or is a part of God, or is touched by or inspired by God, then that, too, will show.

And what else can be done here? The biggest hinderance to religion is just that: I can’t feel your belief in God. But, I will say unashamedly, because of that I’d also be a fool to say you don’t feel it. And I have never found a way that someone like me could be induced to have that feeling.

I don’t see your soul (mind, consciousness, feelings), I see the work you leave behind. How can I separate the work you do as you from the work you do as a mirror of God? (not a rhetorical question)

If you were hurt I would know it, not by access to your emotional states or feelings, but by the way you act. I do not know how I would know you were touched by God. The mirror, as it were, has some gossamer covering…

I don’t think that it is silly to point to the world and see the work of God.

I was once a Christian and once felt I was “in tune” with God. Although, as most everyone does, they begin to doubt what they believe in and doubt what they feel and who they are. As an atheist I feel my life has actually improved quite a bit in comparison to when I was a Christian. Here’s how I figure:

I think much of the feelings you receive through religion are very relative to how you have been raised to feel. For example, when I hear the ice cream man’s tune whistling down the street, I leap out of my chair and frantically try to find a dollar (it’s now $1.50 for anything good though… grr). When I was raised a Christian, it was ingrained in my brain that the feeling of waking up and being dragged to a building where people shook their fingers at us and then asked for 15% of our income was what religion is.

I’m not quite sure if this is exactly on line with your debate topic, but my conclusion is: I don’t think it’s possible to mirror the authentic God of your religion, rather you can only mirror what qualities of God you’ve been raised to feel and be aware of. My parents went to the exact same church their whole life, and I can assure their conception of God is quite a bit different.


You got ripped, The Hat’s Rabbit! Come to my church & we give ya a third off! G

Sure, I’ve got comments, Polycarp. Did God moon Moses or didn’t he, AFAUK? And your OP can make all of this out with that?


Joseph Campbell tells this story about a local god.

There were two farmers working in their individual rice fields. The local god came walking by on the dike between the two fields. He was wearing a hat that was white on one side and red on the other. When he was out of sight, he turned around and headed back in the direction of the two farmers. When he turned around, he also turned the hat around, so that the colors the farmers would see were the same as they saw before. He passed by them and kept going. That evening the two farmers were talking and one mentioned seeing the god with a red hat on and the other farmer said that he had a white hat on. They argued about this all evening. The local god and one of his buddies were talking and the buddy asked why he had confused the farmers. The local god smiled and said “That is part of my job”.

The message is that if God gave a true picture of what He looks like and in a way that could described to our companions then He wouldn’t be doing His job. The vision one of us gets is not the same as the vision that someone else gets. I guess you could say that getting the view of God’s hind parts is a very personal thing. :wink:

This has always been the most important Torah story for me.

The essence of the story, IMHO, is that (even for Moses!) God is beyond direct human comprehension. No living soul can directly percieve God. The best we can do is to come to know God indirectly, by the study of God’s wake, by the appreciation of that which God has left behind - the Torah, the universe, the amazing ways of all creation. Study those things and you come as close as you can to knowing God, the unknowable, who is what He is and will be that which He will be.

(Remember that this was a Torah story, not New Testament. The Hebrew perspective of “follow the Laws and you’ll develop a relationship with God” applies more that the Christian perspective of “know God and you will be guided to do the right things.” The Hebrew God was never directly seen nor directly traipsed and performed miracles right and left.)

That would explain the appeal of mooning today-that is, for guys.
You almost never see a woman do it.
My son, in fact, has done so(I have discouraged him).
Maybe God was wearing pants?


Don’t forget to also put the story in context. This is immediately after the Golden Calf incident. The people had sinned because they had no palpable God to hang onto. God had just killed a bunch of them and was talked out of killing them all only by Moses’ offering up himself. And now Moses is asking to see this God in some way similar to the way the people wanted to see God in an idol of gold.

Just as the story of the binding of Issac showed that the rules had now changed, that unlike religions before it, this God does not want human sacrifice, especially not of our own, this story clarifies that this God concept is different from those before. This is a complex God. This a God beyond us and our perceptual/cognitive capacities. Grow up and worship this God without the need for percieving some palpable form, some body, cow or man, without the need for direct “proof”. See this God in the Glory of what is. Such a concept was new for its time. It sets the basis for the New Covenant. (40 more days up on the mountain - biblically, 40 is always a sign of a fresh start, of a rebirth of sorts.) It is the basis for all of the Law that follows from it.

Unless it’s his own son.

Actually there are plenty of stories of human sacrifice with this biblical god not caring one iota. But another thread for that.


Ah, remember this is the god of Torah, not of the New Testament. Smiting right and left, destroying the enemies, killing those in the way, but I’ll need to be educated where this God recieved humans as a sacrifice to “Him” and to His glory. (I’m no Biblical scolar … it may be there, but it would be a … revelation … to me.)

DSeid: “I’ll need to be educated where this God recieved humans as a sacrifice to “Him” and to His glory.”

There are other instances, but the story of Jephtha’s daughter (Judges 11) comes instantly to mind.

Sampiro: time prevents me from writing a more detailed reply, but where in that episode is there any indication that G-d accepted Jephthah’s offering?

Not to be glib, but where does it state that He didn’t? Certainly he had two months in which to state that it was unnecessary, a 60 day period during which I’m guessing Jephthah aged 40 years. While I seriously doubt that it actually happened (it’s too “Midas meets Abraham”), I think it’s reasonable to assume that if God had sent a “no barbecued virgins required” message it would have made the text.
Regarding Isaac, what in your opinion is the significance of the fact that God himself orders the sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-2), but it is an angel (i.e. a subordinate) who actually stops the murder (Genesis 22:11)? (Jim Jones used to cite this chapter while calling for his Kool Aid loyalty tests, incidentally.)

And of course the God of the New Testament is a better God than the one in the Torah. Are they different Gods or is it the same God that matured? Personally, my take is that man matured in his perception of God, while God has always been unchanging.

You know, Christina Rossetti had the most beautiful poem on this theme.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

Can I get a witness?!! :cool:

Love your inspired turn of phrase.

There is a further reach of mystic gnosis reported by many sages . . . direct witnessing of God with what is called “the eye of the heart.” This is more than observing the traces in creation, but it takes more than a philosopher or theologian to experience it, it takes a mystic. The famous Sufi, al-Hallaj, had a poem that began

I saw my Lord with the eye of my heart
I asked, “Who are You?” and He said, “You”

When Aquinas had his beatific vision, he realized that all his lifelong theology and philosophy hadn’t even begun to approach it—he said that in comparison to his mystical realization, all his great mental achievements had been like “straw.”

Interesting story, that. Didn’t know of it. My Sonico Chumash spins it as follows in its commentary: according to David Kimchi (a 12th centuary scholar), the original text implies that it shall be offered as a burnt offering if appropriate OR dedicated to the Lord’s service. “Accordingly, Jephtheth did not offer up his daughter as burnt-offering, but segregated her in a specially built house where she spent her life in solitude.” Yeah. Sounds like spin control to me. Still, what was the point of that story? That God wants human sacrifice or to explain a tradition of “maiden mourning” and to serve as a warning of being careful as to what you promise?


I didn’t know that God was ever immature (speculations as to Christ’s puberty aside.)

God concepts are different. The God concept presented in the stories of Torah (and Haftarah, of which Judges is part of) is different than the God concept presented in the New Testament. And different than that the God concepts that preceded it. Better/worse? More mature? We all have our own thoughts and they are besides the point. Leave it at different. And, if the point of the “mooning story” is as I believe, and valid, all are incomplete.

(Heck, some say that Torah alone contains multiple distinctly different God concepts threaded together into one document.)