Holy Crap!

In keeping with my theme of pointing out the oddities associated with religion, I submit to you the latest example of the consequences of following the rules a…little…too…closely.

You’ve heard the phrase “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” right? Since God or the gods have that whole perfection thing down, they don’t have to worry about all those messy things that make us humans, um, imperfect. So, the logic goes, if God/the gods are exemplars of perfection, to live your life in a physically clean manner means that you’re doing your best to transcend the realm of the body by focusing your mind on those “higher” thoughts that are closer to God. Many of our “root” civilizations have these basic mores embedded into their religious practices, so there’s nothing I’m saying that’s in any way novel or new. But let’s just take one example where a fanatical desire to “be clean” proves to have the opposite effect.

Meet The Essenes, the Jewish sect who created the Dead Sea Scrolls!

Alright, it seems that those who established this sect had, shall we say, a very strict form of cleanliness when they had to relieve themselves of their body’s waste. The irony is that in their overwhelming desire to “be clean,” they unwittingly contributed to the early demise of many of their members. Why? Well one can never be 100% sure about these things when it come to history, but one of their rules instructed them to essentially bury their waste in earth away from the settlement.

Okay, digging a hole and taking a crap in it is nothing new, and it doesn’t seem extra clean in any way. But what caused many in this sect to reach the grave early was the washing up process. They were instructed to wash themselves in something called a miqvot. This was a kind of tub where you would have to totally immerse yourself in before returning to the settlement. Any kind of human intestinal parasite would do quite well in the water in the miqvot, and those who took a bath in the tub were exposing themselves to parasites that would enter their body through their mouth, nose, and ears. Consequently, many of the ascetics who lived there and dedicated themselves to a kind of hygiene that was supposed to be “clean” like God where, in a way, doing the opposite. The upshot was if they were trying to get closer to God by denigrating the body in favor of a more spiritual/ascetic life, they sort of got their wish because most of the men died at 40.

Can I just say that I love my shower.

–PK

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