The Parable of the Severed Legs
AKA, ‘The Rhino's Vice’
Before I get into the story, I’d like to discuss the backstory. One of my favourite atheist YouTubers, Viced Rhino, posted this amusing anecdote about his daughter. Her response is priceless. What father could ask for more?
Went to cut a tree down from my dad's farm, he gave us a choice of 1 of 3 saws.— Viced Admiral Rhino in the War on Christmas (@VicedRhino) December 5, 2019
I said we should test them for sharpness by cutting an arm off each of my kids.
My daughter, being scientifically minded, pointed out confounding variables rather than be upset about losing an arm.
Anyway, a user with the handle @JyuniH suggested that it would make a good Bible story. Viced (possibly jokingly) asked me to give it a go, so I did (never tempt a fool, Mr Rhino). The following story is the result.
As Jesus was preaching, a Pharisee in the crowd approached him and said, ‘Rabbi, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus looked at the man and spoke this parable: ‘A rhino had brought his three calves to visit their grandfather on his farm.’
‘Wait a fucking minute!’ spat the Pharisee. ‘A rhino owning a farm? What kind of story is this?’
‘It’s a parable!’ fumed Jesus.
‘A pair of bulls? You said it was a rhino!’
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake!’ groaned Jesus. ‘Do you want to hear the story or not?’
‘Yes…’ replied the man sheepishly.
‘Then sit your arse down and shut the fuck up before I smite you!’
The Pharisee sat down nervously.
‘Now,’ resumed Jesus, ‘the rhino’s dad had asked him to chop down a tree to make firewood for the winter, and he offered him the choice of three saws.
‘“How can we work out which saw is the sharpest?” asked the rhino’s eldest male calf.
‘“Well, son,” began the rhino, “the best way to test any tool is by using it. There are three of you, and there are three saws, so how about if I saw off one of each of your legs using a different saw for each? Whichever saw cuts the cleanest is the one we’ll use for the tree.”
‘His son looked at him in horror. “You can’t do that, Dad!” he squealed. “Doesn’t the Torah say, ‘They shall not shave their heads, nor trim their beards, nor make any cuts in their flesh’?”
‘“Firstly,’ replied his father, ‘that only applies to priests. Secondly, it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God crippled than to have four feet and be thrown into Hell.”
‘And so, his son stepped forwards and allowed his father to slice off his leg.
‘The rhino turned to his second son and said, “Now it’s your turn.”
‘His son replied, ‘“But doesn’t the Torah say, ‘Anyone who injures their neighbour is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth’? Doesn’t that mean that we can chop your leg off in retribution?”
‘“The Torah also says, ‘Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.’ Besides, how will you use a saw with only three legs?”
‘And so, his younger son stepped forwards and allowed his leg to be hacked off.
‘Now, the rhino’s daughter, who had been listening to their conversation, piped up, “Father, my brothers’ legs are much tougher than mine; how is it a fair test when our limbs aren’t the same thickness? Surely, a thicker limb will be more difficult to sever!”
‘“Why the fuck didn’t you speak up sooner?” yelled her father. “You could have saved me from mutilating your brothers!”
‘“Well, he stole my doll,” she said pointing at the elder brother. Then she pointed at the younger brother and said, “and he ate the last slice of pizza!”
‘“Hmm,” sighed her father, “you have judged wisely.”
‘His daughter smiled brightly.
‘“Unfortunately,” he continued, “this is the Bible, and a girl expressing good judgement is tantamount to sorcery. So, I’m afraid we have to drown you in the lake.”’
The Pharisee stared at Jesus aghast and then finally asked, ‘But what is the meaning of this story and how does it relate to my question?’
Jesus asked in reply, ‘Was the rhino in the story steadfast in keeping the commandments?’
‘Erm… well technically…’
‘And didn’t he maim his two sons and drown his daughter?’
‘The moral of the story, my friend, is this: some of the Mosaic laws sound wise in principle, but a strict set of rules can’t reasonably be applied to every scenario. It’s much better to set yourself a moral objective, such as the well-being of your fellow humans, and extrapolate the best course of action in any given situation. So why ask which commandment is greatest, especially when the laws you have to choose from are pretty fucking heinous? The best turd out of a clump of turds is still a turd.’
The Pharisee pondered for a moment and then said, ‘You sound like you’re a rationalist who thinks for himself.’
Jesus smiled and nodded.
‘There’s a word for that around here…’ replied the Pharisee. Then he took a breath and screamed, ‘Heretic!’