"King David was a nebbish" and "Unhappy meals"

Salon readers respond to Laura Miller's story about archaeologists' debunking the Bible and Maria Russo's review of "Fast Food Nation."

Published February 13, 2001 9:12PM (EST)

Read "King David was a nebbish"

In her review of Professor Finkelstein's book, Miller does exactly what she accuses the biblical literalists of doing: That is, leap to conclusions based on incomplete evidence. Just as archaeology has not proved the Bible stories, it is ludicrous to assert based on what we know that archaeology has demonstrated that the Bible is false.

First of all, arguments from lack of evidence are tenuous. Minimalists have argued that King David was a myth because there was never anything found with his name on it. Well, in recent years stuff bearing David's name has been found, although some minimalists refuse to concede the point. Second, interpretations about evidence that is unearthed get changed all the time, so any conclusions have to be couched in the realm of possibility, not certainty (unless, of course, you have a bias toward a certain idea). Third, as she points out, there has been voluminous archaeological evidence found over the years that confirms the names and dates of people in the Bible, if not their story. If the Old Testament writers were fabricating legends it is incomprehensible that they would be able to get so much right about the history of their world.

-- Paul Fiorilla

It's good that the entire range of beliefs regarding such material can be written and discussed openly, without fear of physical reprisal.

The subject is absolutely fascinating; however, it would be dishonest to take it out of the context of 2,000 years of anti-Jewish sentiment. After all, that and the current situation in Israel are what make the discussion so controversial and newsworthy.

Yes, many parts of the Hebrew Bible seem to have been written to bolster the society the writers believed in; the same can be said for many parts of the Christian Bible and the Koran.

-- Jeff Sherman

Laura Miller's article is a sore disappointment. It probes the depths of sensationalism using poorly drawn conclusions of the sort that I would expect from the National Enquirer. Case in point: Miller takes a step from a dating of the ruins of Meggiddo as post-Solomonic that she rightly states is considered wrong by 95 percent of scholars in the field, to claiming that the Davidic and Solomonic kingdoms were insignificant, to the transcription of the Hebrew Bible happening during King Josiah's reign based on another dubious theory that is generally contested. Miller also states that archaeological confirmation of the Old Testament only happened in the '50s and '60s whereas there are more books being published today upholding biblical timelines than those of the "iconoclastic" Finkelstein. She also fails to note evidence from other disciplines that also corroborates biblical history. The glaring example is the recent "60 Minutes" story on the use of genetics to determine that there is a clearly discernible Aaronic priesthood genetic path that accords with biblical timelines. I would hope that Salon could in the future attempt to rise from the sludge of shock journalism

-- Tim Ogden

It is refreshing to see the courage of the Israeli archaeologists. The American establishment has little such courage.

What we call Judaism is the derivative of the ancient Egyptian religion revived by Akenaton, around 1450 B.C. This was the second oldest religion in Egypt dating back to around 6000 B.C. and the founding of the Egyptian empire. The Temple at Memphis was founded by the followers of Set, the murderer of Osiris, in Egyptian "mythology."

There have been at least three "Exodes" of the followers of Set out of Egypt. The first after a rule of the followers of Set, called Hekshus, was ended, with the rise of the New Kingdom around 1700 B.C. This resulted in the founding of Jerusalem. The second was after the fall of Akenaton, the pharoah of "Joseph/Ay" and the rise of pharoah Horemheb.

The third exode was under Setnakht, the father of Ramses III, and was the basis of the "Moses" stories. This occurred around 1200 B.C.

Eurocentric history has ruled out the founding of Western religion in Africa/Egypt. Europe is too young to be the birthplace, so the Middle East of the "Jews" was the chosen place. The "Jews," as the precursors of Christianity, became honorary Europeans.

Egypt, to the Greeks, was the founder of religion and civilization. This became unacceptable to the West during the Age of Enlightenment, when the West was enslaving Africans, the founders of religion and civilization. The scientific Greeks were the students of the Egyptians. Alexandria, not Athens, was the center of ancient civilization. Alexandria was a center of Christianity and Judaism. The Bible has Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joseph and baby Jesus all living in Egypt.

When the truth comes out, "Judaism" will be seen as a branch of ancient African/Egyptian religion.

-- Wardell Lindsay

Read "Unhappy meals"

Surely, it is most difficult to discover why Americans eat what they eat. Perhaps money enters into the equation? Perhaps it is merely a matter of fat cells delivering a comeuppance to the national taste buds. Whatever, to debate the values of what someone uses for sustenance is a vicarious waste of energy (another stop through the "drive thru" for some more get-up-and-go?) and reality needs a big check-up. In retrospect, as one who has traversed the weight trampoline, I've become a bit comatose with the verbiage of the endomorphs. No more fast food, no more this and no more that ... GIVE IT UP!!

Therefore, tell the skinny, healthy, self-congratulatory crew that there are a large number of us who relate to all kinds of "to the left" issues but resent the fact that after a hard day at the barricades we are subjected to derisive commentary just because we want to sate our hunger with a hamburger.

-- Jerry Barber

One can hardly blame Eric Schlosser for writing a book about the fast food restaurants so pervasive in our culture, but it is unfair and condescending to so thoroughly underestimate the buying public, as both Schlosser and his reviewer seem to do.

Fast food companies aggressively and successfully market a product that is a poor substitute for genuinely nutritious, well-prepared food. But most people know this and still freely choose to eat it! I'm sure there are a few ignorant people out there who actually believe that McDonald's fries are healthy, but the vast majority of consumers, including parents, know that fast food can't make a healthy diet.

Russo makes a good point, though: Until healthy, tasty and convenient food competes effectively with unhealthy fast food, poor families who don't have the time or money to afford anything else will continue to consume an unhealthy amount of fast food.

-- Deborah Weber

I heard part of an interview with the author of "Fast Food Nation" on NPR last week. That was enough to cure me of eating fast food an average of 10 times a week (with one exception).

The reason: the minimum wage. The exception: In N Out.

I think it's immoral to keep the minimum wage as low as it is and I will not support it 10 times a week. I will not knowingly support it at all. If McDonald's is going to fight to keep the minimum wage down, then they won't have any of my money to help them (and I've been telling my friends and family why they should stay away too).

-- Maria de Jesus Gutierrez

Although I haven't yet read the subject matter myself, I tend to disagree with the author of the book review for "Fast Food Nation."

When discussing the subject of changing the eating habits of the poor, one wouldn't neccessarily start at attempting to "educate their palate." Russo was right when she stated that what she wrote may appear "snobbish." Worse, she herself explained the correlation of being rushed (i.e., stuck on some highway) to bad eating habits.

While Russo does take the time to complain about the book's lack of attention to changing the health of America through educating taste, she fails to understand for herself the correlation between being underpaid and overworked, and having to eat what is available to you.

The author of the book is dead on about attacking this elite industry through their wallets and by helping workers unionize. Changing these social norms will eventually have the neccessary effect on the poor. By increasing their income, more opportunities become available -- specifically more opportunities for spending time together as a family and having dinner at home.

Maybe Russo should spend time working in the conditions described in the book, then go home and cook some fresh pasta with pesto sauce and a light salad ... What a palate.

-- Andrew

Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" is only the latest in a long line of books -- including John Robbins' "Diet for a New America" and ex-cattle rancher Howard Lyman's "Mad Cowboy" -- that shows just how destructive the meat habit is to our individual health and to the environment at large. When are people going to realize that we aren't carnivores by nature, that factory-farmed beef, pork and chicken are full of filth and disease, and that there are plenty of great-tasting protein substitutes that don't involve the senseless slaughtering of sentient beings? Eating meat is nothing more than murder and cannibalism. Only a handful of creatures in nature are flesh-eaters. The fast-food industry is indeed responsible for the girth of a nation -- and for the loss of rain forests, the pollution of groundwater and the general weakening of a gullible populace who'll eat just about anything, ethics be damned. Schlosser should be thanked -- even if he hasn't fully joined the ranks of vegetarianism just yet.

-- D.G. Bowman

I find the common misconception that all fast food is unhealthy to be dangerous at best. One reason we as a nation are getting fatter may actually be due to our cognitive dissonance over eating healthy.

What I propose may frighten you, as the world of responsible dietary consumption is a scary one. In sum, fat is fine, meat is better and excess carbs such as bread, pasta, beans and rice are actually worse for you and sugar is terrible.

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that to reduce fat, one must stop eating fat. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main effect abstaining from fat has is to leave one hungry most of the time. This makes it difficult at best to control the cravings. Grabbing a box of "lo-fat" crackers to satisfy the munchies just packs on the pounds -- and how can you help yourself if you're hungry all of the time?

I speak from experience of going from a size 40 waist to size 32 in just over six months. How did I do it? By limiting myself to only 20 grams of carbohydrates per day and completely eliminating sugar and caffeine from my diet. It wasn't easy, but I got the results I wanted. My recent checkups at the doctor's office also indicate that I am doing well health-wise. (My advice: Don't start a diet without checking with your doctor and making regular follow-ups.)

Since I was forced to examine labels every time I went to the supermarket, I quickly realized just how much sugar, carbs and salt we Americans eat. This is what I believe contributes to the increase of American obesity. Did you know that McDonald's adds SUGAR to every sandwich? On the other hand, many fast food chains serve perfectly good bacon cheeseburgers -- just toss the bun and skip the fries and coke.

The "health food" industry has invested billions of dollars trying to convince you that your smoothie and salad, complete with "diet" dressing and croutons, is actually good for you, and the double-double cheeseburger is bad. How ironic that the opposite is true.

-- Bryan H.

By Salon Staff

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