Thursday, May 31, 2007
One of the major “proofs” of evolution is biogeography – the distribution of living things.
As far as I can tell, biogeography does not mean that animals are always most similar to other animals living near them and more different than animals that live far away. There are too many exceptions to this rule. Alligators, for example, occur only in Florida and eastern Asia. The opossum is a unique American marsupial. It also doesn’t mean that present day animals closely resemble extinct animals from the same area. The fauna of North America two millions years ago resembled today’s Africa.
What it seems to mean is that, if God created life, then similar habitats should have been created with similar plants and animals. There would be no need for all the variety that we find in the modern world. Deserts should all have one standard desert flora and fauna, forests should have a standard forest type of life, the Polar Regions should be the same and so on. In fact, this is far from the case.
I would like to question this premise, however.
According to Judaism, the highest level of serving God is the love of God, and that love may best be attained by studying nature. The wisdom and beauty of nature instills within us a love of God. If a painter painted a thousand masterpieces he is clearly greater than if he painted only ten. So also, the diversity of nature is designed to fill us a greater love of God. This is the correct explanation for biogeography.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:02 PM
Friday, May 25, 2007
[Joseph Stalin; atheist and former General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party]
Many atheists are annoyed and genuinely bewildered by my insistence that atheism is a full fledged metaphysical philosophy and is therefore just as much a religion as Judaism or Islam. Seemingly they actually are not thinking in terms of materialism and determinism. Rather, for the typical atheist, atheism means “I just don’t believe in God.”
It suddenly dawned on me this week what atheists actually mean by this.
When an atheist says “There is no God” he really means only one thing: that he regards himself to be the most important being in the universe. Therefore there can be no God. This is what I call (slightly tongue in cheek) “The Argument from Ego”.
As it is actually commonly practiced, atheism is indeed not a religion but rather may be classified as an aspect of narcissistic personality disorder.
This helps us to understand another odd phenomenon: that without exception famous atheists are not nice people. Lack of empathy and arrogance are symptoms of their illness.
In practical terms, if one is going to choose a spouse, partner or neighbor, atheism should be regarded as a red flag. NPD sufferers seldom seek treatment. This helps us to understand why voters usually reject atheistic politicians.
Let us hope that everyone soon has a complete recovery.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:50 PM
Monday, May 21, 2007
[the Western Wall; night of Shavuos]
The holiday of Shavuos, called by the rabbis the “time of the giving of the Torah”, is coming up tomorrow night, so I think this is an important question to answer.
Of course, God wrote it.
However what about the Documentary Hypothesis – the idea that the Torah was compiled from four earlier documents? Over the past 150 years, scholars have carefully analyzed the text of the Pentateuch and reached the conclusion that different sections are written in different styles, presumably by different authors, and the Pentateuch was then compiled from these documents. The alleged documents are basically known as Jawist or J, Elohist or E, Priestly or P and Deuteronomist or D.
Is there any way to reconcile the Documentary Hypothesis with the traditional belief in divine authorship? I think there obviously is.
First of all, the Talmud many times mentions God’s two character traits – the trait of mercy and the trait of justice. Mercy is represented by the name YHVH while justice is represented by Elohim (see Midrash Braishis Rabbah 73:3). I would suggest that the J document is the portion of the Torah more emphasizing mercy and the E document is the portion more leaning toward justice. The Talmud Tractate Megilah 31b states that Deuteronomy was written by Moses – meaning I would assume it was not dictated to Moses directly by God, but rather it is based on a vision which Moses saw and then interpreted. This is D. P is everything else, primarily the sacrificial laws.
P is God.
J is God writing as a merciful father.
E is God writing as a strictly just ruler.
D is Moses writing with divine inspiration.
This explains why there is no remnant of or reference to J, E, P and D in any pre-modern text anywhere. This also explains why the Samaritans have the same Pentateuch other Jews have. It is because these four documents were never separate. They have always been combined into the Torah.
With the beautiful holiday upon us, let us all renew our commitment as God's loyal followers, obeying all His words.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:40 PM
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I was thinking this morning: What would a person logically think about this world if he would wake up one day completely innocent, with no prejudices or preconceptions, unbiased by previous commitments and external influences? What conclusions would he reach? I imagine the answer would be something like this.
He would look at himself in the mirror. He would be overwhelmed by the functioning of all parts of his body – the eyes which provide vision, the ears which provide hearing, the hands which grasp and the feet which walk. He would breath in the fresh air, filling his lungs with life-giving gases. He would see the sun rising and bringing light and warmth to the earth. He would be naturally curious: Who created all this?
The obvious step would be to go to the library and ask the librarian: “Has the creator of the universe ever publicly revealed himself to mankind and told us who he is?”
The librarian would think for a moment and answer: “Yes. There was in fact one such incident documented as having taken place over three thousand years ago.” Then she would open a Bible and show him Exodus 20.
The next question would be: “Are there any people alive today who are descended from those people who received the revelation at Mt. Sinai and who still observe those commandments?”
The librarian would answer, “Yes; there are.” And hand him a telephone book yellow pages open to the page of Orthodox rabbis.
I think it’s really that simple.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:43 AM
Thursday, May 10, 2007
As many are aware, there is a New Atheist movement going on today; a more radical, aggressive, proselytizing form of atheism. Atheists are trying to grab the initiative and finally knock out religion once and for all. (Good luck!)
I don’t know if I should be doing this, however I have a few suggestions for my opponents in the atheistic community.
First of all, instead of trying to argue about how ethical and nice atheists are, which is a hopeless cause after atheists killed about 100 million people in the last century, the New Atheists should admit that atheists are evil and embrace that fact. Try to be frank and open: “Yes, we’re selfish pleasure seekers and we’re proud of it.” Believe me, that will appeal to some people.
Second of all, atheism needs to have a simple but powerful symbol, like other religions have. I recommend the Jolly Roger, pictured above. It symbolizes swashbuckling piracy and also the embracing of death which atheism stands for. Remember, atheists believe in eternal death, not eternal life. It also was used as the symbol of certain SS units in the Second World War, which makes it even cooler. One of my atheist colleagues already uses a similar symbol.
Thirdly, the New Atheists need a catchy new name. I suggest “rake" in the sense of "an immoral or dissolute person; a libertine". I think it’s much better than Richard Dawkins idea “brights”. “Brights” sounds too intellectual, and it’s like a light bulb or something. “Rake” implies hedonist, pleasure seeker and is a little reminiscent of “punks”, or “niggas” which is now used positively by some black teenagers.
Anyway, this is just my two cents, for any atheists reading.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:48 PM
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
[Jewish boy praying]
I don’t believe that any culture or religion is as ancient or has been as stable as Judaism.
The name “Israel” is first found mentioned about 1210 BCE.
Israel Finkelstein, no friend of Orthodoxy, writes in his book “The Bible Unearthed” page 119 that from about 1150 BCE until 586 BCE, no pork was raised in the villages of the highlands of Palestine. (According to rabbinical tradition, the Israelite invasion of Palestine took place in 1273 BCE.) This is the earliest archeological evidence of Jewish observance.
Based upon the Mishnah, we know that a Jew living in Palestine 2,000 years ago could enter an Orthodox synagogue today and have virtually no difficulty joining in with the services. The phylacteries worn today and the Bible read from today are the same as some found in the Dead Sea caves.
Today the Orthodox Jewish population stands at about two million, and growing.
What’s truly incredible is that throughout this entire period, Jews have been constantly attacked and persecuted. The above-mentioned inscription from 1210 BCE tellingly reads “Israel is laid waste, its seed is not”. Jews have been hated since literally the first day of Jewish history and endless attempts have been made to annihilate the relatively small and helpless Jewish community. Why have these attempts always been unsuccessful? And, more surprisingly, why have the Jews bothered to be different?
In my humble opinion, the answer is quite simple.
There are an infinite possible number of false religions. There are 4,200 religions in the world today. Surely thousands more have existed in the past. More will exist in the future most probably. False religions come and go according to people’s preferences, whims and temperaments.
However, there can be only one true religion, and there will always be some honest people in the world who will embrace that religion in spite of all sacrifice. This is why Judaism is the eternal religion.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:53 AM
Sunday, May 06, 2007
[the Gay Flag]
In an earlier post, I made a comment that “Theoretically, it is of course quite possible that future catastrophic pandemics might develop along a similar pathway, God forbid, using the gay community as an incubator.”
Sadly, this seems to now be happening.
Gonorrhea has now been declared a “superbug” by the Centers for Disease Control. This would seem to be largely thanks to the gay community.
Happy dripping, everyone.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:36 AM
Thursday, May 03, 2007
[Christopher Hitchens – journalist and atheist spokesperson]
One thing which occurred to me lately: Can anyone find an example of a single prominent atheistic leader who was kind, honest, and sober and had a stable family life?
Not Karl Marx – he preached revolution and was an anti-Semite.
Not Friedrich Nietzsche – he never married and apparently died of syphilis.
Not Sigmund Freud – he was an academic fraud.
Not Bertrand Russell – he was married four times and sexually promiscuous.
Not Stalin or Mao – the most ruthless killers who ever lived.
Not Ayn Rand, who preached the "virtue" of selfishness and who was extremely arrogant in her personal life.
Not Madalyn Murray O'Hair – she embezzled outrageously.
Not John Lennon, who was a hard drug user and very cruel to his first wife and their child.
Even Carl Sagan, who was never really openly an atheist, seems to have had a very abrasive personality and was divorced twice.
My own father, an outspoken atheist, was a promiscuous drunk.
It's really remarkable when one thinks of it. Not only has there apparently never been an atheist saint. There has never been a prominent atheist whom the average person would want to have as a friend and neighbor.
Why is that?
Admittedly, many theists have been evil as well. However some have been truly great – for example the Vilna Gaon, the Chofetz Chaim, the Chazon Ish and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. But atheism never has leaders like that.
Personally, I would compare theism to health care. In health care, there are plenty of quacks, bogus fitness equipment and dangerous diets. On the other hand, there are some excellent programs as well. So someone who says, “Forget about a healthy lifestyle; all that stuff is nonsense” is not a shrewd skeptic; he’s a self-indulgent fool.
So perhaps, as Mr. Hitchens writes, God is not great – if you want to be a selfish creep and not feel guilty about it.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:28 PM