Friday, August 24, 2007

Why Atheism Is Not A Religion


[Ayn Rand, atheist, preached the virtue of selfishness]

Not long ago I believed that atheism is a metaphysical philosophy, based on determinism and naturalism. I believed that it was basically a sort of religion in itself. I was even wondering if there might be some truth to it.

However, debating with atheists and doing research at the library and on the web has changed my mind.

First of all, atheists themselves emphatically assert that atheism is not a religion. Atheism just means not believing in any gods. The funny thing is, that when you ask for more details, atheists cannot define what they mean by “gods”. What is apparent is that atheists don’t seem to be bothered by the idea of an intelligent creator. They do seem to be bothered terribly specifically by the idea of a higher power who can monitor them, judge them and inevitably punish them, for example in an afterlife.

Secondly, atheists seem to be invariably highly selfish people. It is apparently impossible to find a well-documented case of an atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible. It is impossible to find a case of a government that officially promoted atheism, which demonstrated any great concern for the welfare of its citizens.

Thirdly, the 19th century foundations of atheism have been abolished by 20th century science. Determinism has been contradicted by quantum mechanics. Naturalism has been contradicted by the Big Bang. We now have proof of what Jews always believed: we do not live in a cosmic perpetual motion machine, an eternally existing universe which keeps ticking away forever according to predetermined natural laws. Atheists seem to have barely noticed this scientific upheaval. They apparently don’t depend on any evidence.

Fourthly, there would appear to be a linkage between pornography and atheism. Communities having a high level of pornography seem to have a high level of atheism. The expansion of the Internet has made pornography more widely available and at the same time atheism seems to be becoming more popular.

I think what is happening is the following.

Many people, especially young males leading secure lives in developed countries, feel no need for the comfort of religion. Furthermore, they are attracted to a very selfish, self-indulgent way of life, an attraction perhaps encouraged by viewing pornography. Therefore, in order to remove any feelings of guilt, they simply deny the existence of any divine judgment or afterlife.

Atheism is not a philosophy; it is a symptom of narcissism and hedonism. Calling atheism a religion is like calling alcoholism a religion. It’s a bad choice, a moral failing, perhaps a disease. Until the 18th century “atheist” was usually simply an insult meaning “debauched libertine”. This may be close to the truth.

A disproportionate number of atheists pursue a career in science. Having decided that the supernatural does not exist, some bright, young atheists choose to devote their lives to intensively studying nature. This adds a great deal of prestige to atheism. Although atheists cannot even explain, let alone prove, their point of view, they can appeal to authority when challenged – claiming that many scientists are atheists so it must be true.

The criticisms, which atheists aim at religious people, seem to indicate their denial of reality. An atheist will claim that religion causes hatred and violence, however, has he ever bothered to compare the quiet streets and loving homes of an Orthodox Jewish community with the brutal violence going on in secular neighborhoods next door? An atheist will claim that religious people deny science, however is he aware that many religious people, this author included, are not young earth creationists and find continuous confirmation of religion in science? These are clearly just excuses atheists use to justify their own addictions.

155 comments:

Agkyra said...

I agree with you, Jacob, that atheism is not a religion, but it is much like a religion in many ways.

I'm interested in your claim that "A disproportionate number of atheists pursue a career in science." I wonder if that's true. I know atheists like to talk about science, but in talking with them, it usually becomes clear to me that they have barely a glimmer of insight into what science is, how scientists work, or the philosophy that underlies science. I would guess that committed atheists don't comprise a larger part of the scientific community than they do of the general population. I wonder if there are any statistics we could consult.

Keebo said...

I agree with this gentlemen:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f7a_1184871139

avrum68 said...

Agkyra...

But your background - graduate degrees in theology - only prove what atheists have been saying all along. That is, that clergy, with no background in science, use science, often incorrectly, to prove theological issues. When science proves them wrong, they become apologetic and come up with fanciful midrash to explain the contradiction.

jewish philosopher said...

Agkyra, apparently the number of atheists among eminent scientists is very high, about 70% compared to about 9% in the general population. Seemingly in the US a scientist is about seven or eight times as likely to be an atheist as is the average waitress, lawyer or cab driver.

My assumption is that this is not because science has found proof that there is no god. If they have, no one has told me. Rather, I would assume that someone who believes that this world and this life is all that exists will be more fascinated by the study of nature than his neighbor who has a strong religious faith.

jewish philosopher said...

Keebo, thanks for informing me about the site, it looks good. And everything this guys says about "faith" [by which I think he means modern day evangelical Protestantism] applies perfectly to atheism: irrational, delusional and highly dangerous.

To follow his logic, when God tells me Himself He does not exist, I will believe Him. Until then, I don't want to hear anything from anyone else. I am "up to here" with Science.

jewish philosopher said...

Avrum, when science, such as the anthropic principle, proves atheists wrong, they become apologetic and come up with fanciful speculation such as multiverses to explain the contradiction.

Ananda Eliya said...

What is science? Evidence based on facts (based on the context), so you guys have scientific minds as well, hihihi. Anyway for this one i do not have ready biblography ( so not very scientific..), but i remember having read in a well known german journal (SPIEGEL) that there is quite a number of scientists that associate with unknown to God, let's say someone who studies physics suddenly realises that things are so perfect, many not expainable that there has to be a higer reason behind this. I am completely not fed up with science (scientist myself), the more i learn, the more i see how great the Creator is and how little we know....

Agkyra said...

Avrum, the only fanciful midrash here is your leap from my background to some kind of proof about "what atheists have been saying all along."

And, for the record, I am not clergy. I'm an academic theologian.

badrabbi said...

It is amazing how you guys always seem to dance around a subject without really dealing with it. You say maybe atheism is a religion, maybe it is not. Then you debate and mentally mechinate over it as if it is such a great point.

What part of atheism do you not understand? We say that to the best of our knowledge/experience, we see no substantial evidence that an entity or a group of entities have created us. This is what atheists say. Why don't you guys stop wasting time arguing over irrelavant stuff as to whether you want to brand us a religion, and discuss the idea itself?

Agkyra, what is "an academic theologian"? I am not ready to call the term an oxymoron - I will await your answer.

Agkyra said...

What I mean by it is that I'm not a cleric. I'm a theologian who works in a university setting, not an ecclesial setting such as a church or a seminary. Of course, you can be ordained and work in an academic setting, but as it happens, I'm not.

Do I understand correctly that Rabbinic ordination is performed under the auspices of an educational institution? That's not the case in Christianity, where ordination is a function of the church (and for the purpose of service to the church), and doesn't have any necessary connection to the educational attainments of the ordinand.

avrum68 said...

"Agkyra, what is "an academic theologian"? I am not ready to call the term an oxymoron - I will await your answer."

What's an:

"academic sociologist"
"academic psychologist"
"academic art historian"

Badrabbi...do all atheists have to employ a condescending tone when making a point? Is it a cultural mannerism of sorts?

avrum68 said...

"Avrum, the only fanciful midrash here is your leap from my background to some kind of proof about"

My point is that, your statement:

"I know atheists like to talk about science, but in talking with them, it usually becomes clear to me that they have barely a glimmer of insight into what science is"

besides being incorrect, would have had more impact if you were a scientist yourself. As a theologian, you truly don't have the academic background or social networks to make this claim...a claim many religious folks like to throw around.

On the other hand, folks like Harris and Dawkins would do best to actually DO some religious stuff before waxing philosophical about why it's all a big lie and doesn't really work anyway.

Cameron said...

JP: Not long ago I believed that atheism is a metaphysical philosophy, based on determinism and naturalism.

CH: I've mentioned this previously, but atheism is merely a philosophical position that is consistent with determinism and naturalism, but not dependent on it.


JP: I believed that it was basically a sort of religion in itself.

CH: And after months of arguing with you about this, it finally seems to have sunk in - atheism is not a religion.

JP: I was even wondering if there might be some truth to it.

CH: And there is!

JP: However, debating with atheists and doing research at the library and on the web has changed my mind.

First of all, atheists themselves emphatically assert that atheism is not a religion.

CH: Emphatically

JP: Atheism just means not believing in any gods. The funny thing is, that when you ask for more details, atheists cannot define what they mean by “gods”.

CH: If you say to me 'I believe in the God Yagroth the Sranchammer' and I reply 'uh..., well, I don't', who is most responsible for supplying the defintion of 'Yagroth the Sranchammer? Clearly, the responsiblity for delineating what 'Yagroth the Sranchammer' is/means falls on the believer NOT the un-believer.

Still unclear? Ok, when the Catholics arrived in South America and tried to convert the Indians (often at the point of a bayonet), the natives had no conception of monotheistic gods (they were animists), so who is responsible for providing a definition of the god they don't believe in? The natives? Or the Catholic missionaries? If you wish to believe in Santa Claus, be my guest. But don't blame me as the Santa-atheist for not fielding an adequate definition of his jolly-elf-ness.

JP: What is apparent is that atheists don’t seem to be bothered by the idea of an intelligent creator.

CH: Absolutely we are bothered by the idea of an 'intelligent creator'. 'Intelligence' is a quality only found in creatures that possess physical forms, and more specifically, an organ known as a 'brain'. Without a brain, no intelligence. So was their an 'intelligent' creator of the universe? No. Until we have the universe, we don't have physical forms, and hence no brains, and hence no intelligence to create the universe.

JP: They do seem to be bothered terribly specifically by the idea of a higher power who can monitor them, judge them and inevitably punish them, for example in an afterlife.

CH: Mostly because we find the notions to be somewhere between patently ridiculous and totally absurd.

JP: Secondly, atheists seem to be invariably highly selfish people.

CH: Not like the Jews who have a reputation for generosity the world over.

JP: It is apparently impossible to find a well-documented case of an atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible.

CH: What about Me! Though I wish I could be less sexually responsible, I can point out that I have fewer marriages than you do Jacob, and all my children were conceived responsibly. I wish I had time to be less sober than I am, but fatherhood takes its toll on ones extracurricular activities. Kind? Honest? My wife and friends think so.

JP: It is impossible to find a case of a government that officially promoted atheism, which demonstrated any great concern for the welfare of its citizens.

CH: This one is a little trickier. I'm not a fan of governments 'promoting' atheism anymore than I am of governments promoting a particular religion. I prefer they simply butt out. Of those nations that take this third option (a secular neutrality) there are many solid examples of decency beginning with Canada, and most of Europe.

JP: Thirdly, the 19th century foundations of atheism have been abolished by 20th century science.

CH: You are always good for at least one belly laugh a post Jacob.

JP: Determinism has been contradicted by quantum mechanics.

CH: As I mentioned in previous posts, Determinism is not a pillar of atheism. Nor does quantum mechanics refute determinism.

JP: Naturalism has been contradicted by the Big Bang.

CH: We wouldn't even believe in the big bang if not for naturalism! It was the observation of red-shifted galaxies everywhere that lead to the theory of a universe that expanded from a singularity in the distant past. Until astronomers made these observations the universe was considered by all (but especially the religious) to be eternal, permanent and unchanging. It was naturalism that upset that apple cart and replaced it with a universe that had something like a beginning, as well as a very likely ending (continued expansion until everything burns out and goes cold - signalling the end of everything).

JP: We now have proof of what Jews always believed: we do not live in a cosmic perpetual motion machine, an eternally existing universe which keeps ticking away forever according to predetermined natural laws. Atheists seen to have barely noticed this scientific upheaval.

CH: Perhaps because we aren't wed to any specific origin theory. We go where the facts take us.

JP: They apparently don’t depend on any evidence.

CH: Actually we do. It's magic books we don't need.

JP: Fourthly, there would appear to be a linkage between pornography and atheism.

CH: Guilty as charged.

JP: Communities having a high level of pornography seem to have a high level of atheism.

CH: You say this like you think it's a bad thing! Recent studies showed that as cable porn arrives in a community the incidences of rape drop. But even without a redeemable sociological aspect, Porn is good.

JP: The expansion of the Internet has made pornography more widely available and at the same time atheism seems to be becoming more popular.

I think what is happening is the following.

Many people, especially young males leading secure lives in developed countries, feel no need for the comfort of religion.

CH: Amen brother.

JP: Furthermore, they are attracted to a very selfish, self-indulgent way of life, an attraction perhaps encouraged by viewing pornography.

CH: We seek the same things in our lives that religious people do with one exception. We want to meet nice girls, marry them, settle down, have a family and raise them safely away from corrupting influences like pedophiles and churches. It's only that last part that differentiates us. Oh, and we get to keep our foreskin and enjoy a variety of sex acts without feeling guilty.

JP: Therefore, in order to remove any feelings of guilt, they simply deny the existence of any divine judgment or afterlife.

CH: Guilt is an emotion that comes from hurting someone - intentionally or otherwise. The afterlife has nothing to do with it. We feel bad because we know we have wronged someone, not because we fear we are going to be judged.

JP: Atheism is not a philosophy; it is a symptom of narcissism and hedonism.

CH: Sigh. Well, at least it's better than your previous claim that atheism is somehow a religion. Ah well. Hedonism is not something connected to atheism. Everyday there are stories of preachers and holy men of all sorts dallying outside of their marriages (or against their vows of chastity). Pleasure seeking is a natural part of human nature. We enjoy good food, good wine, good music, and good company like everyone else - all overtly hedonistic pursuits.

I wonder about the psychology of those who willfully deny themselves these things for no other reason than they are forbidden by the magic book.

As for the charge of narcissism, it is also not a function of atheism, and nor is it always unhealthy. Self-love and respect is essential for being a well-rounded human being. Both hedonism and narcissism lack virtue when carried to their extremes (say heroin addiction or uncontrolled plastic surgery), but otherwise have no connection to atheism.

JP: Calling atheism a religion is like calling alcoholism a religion. It’s a bad choice, a moral failing, perhaps a disease.

CH: Calling atheism a religion is to make a fundamental mistake about both atheism and religion. Religions are belief systems that have at their core some supernatural claims, entities, etc. Atheism, in contrast, is nothing like religion.

JP: Until the 18th century “atheist” was usually simply an insult meaning “debauched libertine”. This may be close to the truth.

CH: Atheists are smeared as libertines for the simple reason that the religious are incapable of understanding how anyone can have a moral sense outside of their own particular religion.

JP: A disproportionate number of atheists pursue a career in science. Having decided that the supernatural does not exist, some bright, young atheists choose to devote their lives to intensively studying nature.

CH: Once again you have the cart before the horse. Having studied nature and finding no teleology or signs of God, they graduate from superstition to atheism.

JP: Although atheists cannot even explain, let alone prove, their point of view, they can appeal to authority when challenged – claiming that many scientists are atheists so it must be true.

CH: Except that particular argument isn't one we typically make. We tend to point out that the concept of God is contradictory, shallow, inept or otherwise empty. The debate over the existence of supernatural beings isn't going to be decided by numbers (and if it was, the Jews will never, ever win).

JP: The criticisms, which atheists aim at religious people, seem to indicate their denial of reality.

CH: On the contrary, they reinforce the fact that we are the ones living in reality.

JP: An atheist will claim that religion causes hatred and violence, however, has he ever bothered to compare the quiet streets and loving homes of an Orthodox Jewish community with the brutal violence going on in secular neighborhoods next door?

CH: Yeah Israel sure seems like a peaceful country, one untouched by religious strife or violence.

That said, I don't much like the argument that religion makes people violent (despite what Hitchens contends), neither religion nor it's lack, has any real effect on our natural propensity as the top predator of the planet towards violence.

JP: An atheist will claim that religious people deny science, however is he aware that many religious people, this author included, are not young earth creationists and find continuous confirmation of religion in science?

CH: This coming from the guy who denies evolution? Please.

Agkyra said...

Avrum, I appreciate your point that a theologian might not appear to have the credentials to be able to speak intelligently about science. Certainly I wouldn't dare to speak about a technical matter of science--I simply don't have the knowledge or training. But, when we're talking about atheism and religion, those aren't questions that fall under the special provenance of science. Which means that scientists also don't get any special privileges when talking about them. We're all thinkers, so we all get to think and argue about our ideas. Rather than tell me I don't have the background to make a certain claim, why don't you tell me why I'm mistaken? (In other words, you've committed the genetic fallacy.) By the same token, I could ask what in your background qualifies you to evaluate my claim?

Further, I was talking about atheists, not scientists, and why should it surprise you that some atheists know less about science than I do? And how can you know that my statement is incorrect that the atheists I've interacted with know next to nothing about science? Also, even if it were the case that the atheists I spoke to were scientists, most working scientists don't have much knowledge about philosophy of science, metaphysics, or epistemology--the philosophical disciplines at the root of debates over atheism. Science curricula generally don't delve into such matters. In fact, because of the interaction between philosophy and theology, theologians are probably in a much better position to work with philosophical claims than scientists are (esp. theologians such as yours-truly who do have graduate training in philosophy).

Which brings me to one final point. With more education generally comes more experience working with (though not in) a variety of disciplines. It also tends to bring a level of involvement with the philosophical underpinnings common to many disciplines. So, even though I'm a theologian, it just might be the case that I have a better understanding of science, as a general field of study, than someone with a bachelor's degree in a particular science, and certainly more than someone with less education. I suspect that most of my atheist conversation partners have been at that level of education. Not to deny them their right to think for themselves, just to say, as I did before, I think they don't really understand the first thing about science, its assumptions, its methods, or its limits.

Perhaps I have misunderstood you, but my impression is that you think theologians can't speak about science, atheists can speak about science, and scientists can speak about atheism. I hope this comment doesn't come across with a negative tone. I'm just trying to challenge you, not be unfriendly.

jewish philosopher said...

So Cameron, if atheists are just regular good guys, not different than anyone else except they don't believe in magic, then why has there not been one single famous dead atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible? (I want someone dead because then his private papers are more available and also people are not afraid to talk; famous because then a few people will have bothered to write books about him.)

And also, why can't atheists really explain clearly what atheism is? "Atheism means I don't believe in gods, whatever they are, but I can't explain what they are because I don't believe in them, sorry." sounds a little fishy to me. What's up with that?

And the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Israel have a virtually zero crime rate. That's probably 5% of the population, based on their share of Israeli parliament seats.

Keebo said...

Cameron, my friend, you are OUTSTANDING!
Five Gold Stars.

Jacob, the reason you can't find a famous atheist who meets your criteria is because your criteria are so biased.

You've already decided that no one can measure up!

And, your disqualifiers are derived from your magic book's interpretations of "sin." You are judging people through the "distorted glass" of religion.

No human being is perfect, except those who have been elevated by myth. The rest of us is subject to criticism.

And, it is clearly a human tendency to create and embrace myth. Speaking of created myth . . .

Have you heard about the new book that publishes Mother Theresa's personal letters expressing doubt?

Quote: "I am told God lives in me -- and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul," she wrote in one of the letters." From CNN.com.

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/south/09/06/teresa.letters/

badrabbi said...

Cameron;

You are a brilliant man. I enjoy your posts to the extreme - I learn, laugh, apllaude!

What do you do for a living?

avrum68 said...

"Have you heard about the new book that publishes Mother Theresa's personal letters expressing doubt?"

Hey Keebo, for a fan of science, you really should be able to spot the DSM criteria for clinical depression. The good mother seems to, clinically, fit the bill perfectly.

I've said this before, Rav Steinzalts warned....never confuse theology with psychology.

avrum68 said...

And Jacob...with all due respect (though some of your interpretations of Torah and current events deserve more scorn than respect), if the goal of your blog is to "critique other ideologies, in particular atheism", you're falling short. It would appear you're out of your league when confronting your detractors head-on.

jewish philosopher said...

Avrum, don't fret about my league. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Keebo, "You've already decided that no one can measure up!"

How about George Washington?

"your disqualifiers are derived from your magic book's interpretations of 'sin.'"

Exactly my point. Without a god, everything is permitted, which is why some people are atheists.

By the way, the Big Bang contradicts naturalism because naturalism implies an eternally existing universe. If nature is all there is, what could have created nature? The idea of "multiverses" is merely an ad hoc apologetic.

badrabbi said...

Got to hand it to JP: while his posts seem to be lacking, the comment section is outstanding. Avrum, I enjoy your psychologic and common sense approach to arguments. Cameron - nuff said about the brilliant one. Keebo, always worth a good comment or two.

As for academic theologian being an oxymoron, Avrum, you are right, it was a cheap shot.

JP, I am reading your recommended book "and Rachael was His Wife". I am wondering if you had a reason for recommending this book to me, as it seems to confirm all the stuff I said abour Rabbi Akiva?

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, it's true. There must be something special about my blog which attracts the world's finest minds.

I think "And Rachael Was His Wife" makes it clear that Mrs. Rabbi Akiva was not abandoned or neglected by her husband but rather she enthusiastically supported his rabbinical career.

badrabbi said...

Ya but my beef is not with her. It is with the degenerate that leaves his two kids (plus another kid from a previous marriage) with his poor wife, at the height of blight and poverty, so that he can study. For 24 years!

In another story in the book, Akiva asks a simple question of his rabbi ("what is your secret for a long life") and the rabbi's bullies want to beat Akiva for the question! Akiva runs and climbs a tree to avoid being beaten. Is this the kind of teachers we have?

In another story, another rabbi (I forgot his name) abolishes the sacrifices of doves following a woman's giving birth. A rabbi abolishes something that the Torah specifically decrees as a necessity. Does a rabbi have such a power? What if he decreed that keeping the Shabath is no longer necessary?

Anyway JP, before you throw stones and accuse others of their moral lacking, look within your own community.

A said...

Mr Philosopher; I really enjoy your blog, and I thought the following link may be of an interest to you.
http://www.origins.org/articles/bohlin_evidenceforgod.html
By the way, I'm a Muslim.
Have a good day.

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, I think that in Jewish law (probably American law too) a wife can waive child support. She wanted him to study Torah rather than continue in his current profession of shepherding. What would you say to a wife who wants her brilliant husband to go to medical school instead of continuing in his present job as a janitor?

About the beating, the story is in Tractate Megillah 28a. Rabbi Akiva asked a rabbi a question and the rabbi's assistants mistook him for a trouble maker and chased him away. So what?

The rabbis may command people not to perform a commandment if they believe that doing so will lead to sin; for example we do not blow the ram's horn when Rosh haShanah occurs on the Sabbath.

A, thanks.

badrabbi said...

JP:

1. A brilliant husband, when confronted between going to medical school (abroad, and for 24 years!) and leaving his wife and children without a means to susbsist, should not got to medical school. These choices are made every day. A husband and father's first responsibility is to his wife and children. His ambitions come second. In any case, Akiva could have taken his wife and kids with him. He could have studied part time, supporting them at least partially. He did none of the above.

2. I quoted you the question he asked ("Master can you tell me the secret to long life"). What was so wrong about that question? Why was Akiva mistook for a trouble maker?

(As an aside, the answer the great rabbi gave to Akiva for the secret of long life was "I never accept gifts"! Brilliant! All geriatric research aught to come to a halt and consider this brilliant remedy against aging!)

3. LOL, the reason the rabbi abolished the sacrifice was not to prevent sin, but if you read the book, the reason was that the price for turtledoves had become too expensive! In other words, the rabbis felt that getting a large number of pigeons for sacrifices was too burdeonsome and ordered that it be stopped even though there is a direct commandement in the Torah.

badrabbi said...

"Bad, I think that in Jewish law (probably American law too) a wife can waive child support."

We call men who shirk their responsibility of supporting their children "deadbeat dads"

Keebo said...

avrum:

"Hey Keebo, for a fan of science, you really should be able to spot the DSM criteria for clinical depression. The good mother seems to, clinically, fit the bill perfectly."

So, she's depressed, so what?

The fact of one of the world's most recognized religious leaders revealing, in a personal letter, that she didn't necessarily buy into the whole load of crap, that is still highly significant.

If I came to the conclusion that my world-fame was based on bullshit, I'd be a little bummed-out, too!

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, I don’t think that we know exactly to what degree Rabbi Akiva’s children suffered as a result of his studies. Perhaps wealthy relatives helped. Perhaps there existed a charity fund to support the families of poor scholars. Perhaps Rochel had a successful profession of her own. I don’t think we know. To the best of my knowledge, no tragedy arose from his absence and his wife is well known to have been thrilled with his decision, which she helped to make. Different families have different priorities, Bad. Some people are happy to make sacrifices for spiritual goals. Why exactly does that bother you?

Speaking “dead beat dads”, could you perhaps be referring to the atheist Karl Marx, who denied paternity of his only son? Find one Orthodox rabbi who did that and I’ll delete this post.

About the question which Rabbi Akiva asked Rabbi Nechunyah HaGadol, perhaps this took place in the midst of a public lecture and the ushers mistook Rabbi Akiva for a heckler and ejected him. How exactly do you see from this that rabbis are nasty?

About the doves, I believed that the rabbis wanted to discourage sellers from overpricing the birds, which is a sin.

Keebo said...

Jacob:

"Keebo, "You've already decided that no one can measure up!"

"How about George Washington?"

I have no idea what you are saying here. You have evoked the name of a person who is steeped in mythos. Are you saying you like him, or you don't?

"your disqualifiers are derived from your magic book's interpretations of 'sin.'"

"Exactly my point. Without a god, everything is permitted, which is why some people are atheists."

But, to disqualify somebody because they drink, or because they sleep with more than one person, is so arbitrary. Those activities in no way define someone as a "bad" person. As I said before, Jesus Christ drank wine, and the Buddha had multiple sex partners. Plus, just those two activities will disqualify almost everyone.

Add the highly subjective ideas of kindness and honesty (yes, honesty can be viewed as subjective, as no one can be proved absolutely truthful), and you can argue against the "goodness" of whomever you choose.

Except, of course, those people you have decided are "holy." You win your own argument, before it is begun, by virtue of the way in which it is set forth.

avrum68 said...

"So, she's depressed, so what?"

So perhaps it's easier (we call this projection) to blame God, mommy, daddy and the postman for our bad moods...that's what.

"that she didn't necessarily buy into the whole load of crap, that is still highly significant."

Speaking of personal issues....whooo, why are all your comments so full of bile?

jewish philosopher said...

Keebo, how about Darwin - he wasn't a bad guy, but also not quite an atheist. Virtue is not all that rare, however being an atheist I think is like being a child pornographer. There has to be something wrong with you.

Just out of curiosity, were any of the " righteous among the nations" atheists? I'm not aware of it.

Avrum, you have to realize that many atheists who read my blog are bound to become highly agitated. After all, I am spoiling their fun by proving that there is a God in this world, and they secretly know I'm right.

avrum68 said...

Hey Keebo, if we slightly alter the author to Francis Collins, you're quote would read:

"The fact of one of the world's most recognized science leaders revealing, in a book, that he buys into the God stuff, that is still highly significant"

Works both ways, huh? Actually, my way is much more revealing. Because Francis Collins has the same education, yet more lab experience, than you pal Dawkins. So it's up to the atheists to explain how one of their brightest can fall for such a load of crap?

avrum68 said...

"After all, I am spoiling their fun by proving that there is a God in this world"

Proving? Jacob, it takes a "leap of faith" to believe in God. Your posts and comments reveal more about your doubts than they do your beliefs.

"and they secretly know I'm right."

I agree with you. And this would explain their frothing at the mouth.

Keebo said...

avrum:
"So perhaps it's easier (we call this projection) to blame God, mommy, daddy and the postman for our bad moods...that's what."

She's not "blaming God", she's saying that she's praying to a great big silence. Claiming that that equals depression is your projection.

And, why does disagreement with you equal "bile?"
Correction, now I am "frothing at the mouth?"

Jacob:
You are intentionally missing the point.

"Virtue is not all that rare" in who's estimation of what qualifies as virtue? Yours? God's? No wonder Atheists don't make the cut.

Keebo said...

avrum:
I was merely pointing out that a woman who had built her life on faith, and attained world-wide fame for her faith, had doubts. I find that interesting and significant.

If you find significance in someone else's piety, I am certain you will feel free to mention it.

I find no "bile" or "frothing" in your observations.

avrum68 said...

"She's not "blaming God", she's saying that she's praying to a great big silence. Claiming that that equals depression is your projection."

I work in the field Keebo. My patients, when manifesting symptoms similar to Mother Theresa i.e. self-doubt, and unspeakable sadness nearly continuously, lose interest in their marital partner's, hobbies, and often, living. In other words, we don't take their loss of interest too seriously. We treat the depression, and more often than not, their interest returns.

"And, why does disagreement with you equal "bile?"

A sample of your posts:
"...buy into the whole load of crap"
"...derived from your magic book's"
"... that my world-fame was based on bullshit"

These aren't the words of a rational, reasoned gentleman. Rather, they're tinged with disgust and anger. I'm not buying your impartial disinterest Keebo. Something eating at you...I wonder what?

Keebo said...

avrum:
I never said I was "disinterested" in the topic. And, trust me, I am quite rational. Please don't put words in my mouth, and please don't try to diagnose from such a limited perspective.

The comments you refer to were directed at a man whose published work includes recommendations that gay men be given the death penalty, yet you feel that I am unreasonable?

My comments were to a man who compares me, as an atheist, to a child pornographer, yet you don't understand that I might be angered by that?

My reference to "the magic book" as "bullshit" is because that is my point of view. I am neither "frothing at the mouth", nor spewing "bile."

And, your predilection toward labels makes me question your objectivity as a therapist.

However, I will refrain from making blanket statements about you, regardless of however free you have felt making them about me.

jewish philosopher said...

To ask that an atheist not be a dangerous quack (like Freud), an alcoholic (like Christopher Hitchens), rejecting his son (like Marx) or having sex with dozens of random people while married to someone else (like Bertrand Russell), I don't think is raising the moral bar too high. Although apparently atheists do think so.

I personally can understand perfectly the doubts Mother Teresa had, I've been in that place too. To take a stand against the entire world is frightening. The solution for me has been to actually debate with atheists and realize how illogical they are. Whatever they are thinking with, it's not their brains.

avrum68 said...

"And, trust me, I am quite rational. Please don't put words in my mouth"

I don't have to do anything, your comments speak for themselves. Much too much emotion for any "rational" perspective. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it is what it is.

"The comments you refer to were directed at a man whose published work includes"

Both Jacob and yourself deserve each other. Both of you seem to exorcise your demons by projecting all your doubts about your positions on each other. It's so obvious, and perhaps this is why your protests are so full of emotion...both of you.

"And, your predilection toward labels makes me question your objectivity as a therapist. "

As for my professional training/experience, blogging is a lovely medium to call folks on their shit. From 9-5, in the consulting office, we're trained to exercise restraint and employ active listening, patiently waiting for moments to provide interpretation. At times, this can become very tedious.

avrum68 said...

"To ask that an atheist not be a dangerous quack (like Freud),"

Your too much Jacob. You throw around terms like "projection", "narcissism", "mental illness"...all creations of a "quack". So either "it takes one to know one" or you should refrain from using terminology from someone you have no respect for.

jewish philosopher said...

"Both Jacob and yourself deserve each other." That's what the Internet is all about Avrum, finding that special someone special.

Freud's quackery is not only my personal idea.

avrum68 said...

"Freud's quackery is not only my personal idea."

Jacob, I'm not denying that Freud, Jung, Kohut and the whole lot of 'em weren't eccentric, bad boys who rarely lived up to the ideals they preached. Though I stand in awe at their ability to understand the complexity of human suffering, and promote an awareness that there are forces, mostly unconscious, that dictate what we do and believe. And yes, Judaism has much to say about this as well (see any geneogram about Freud's family).

However, YOU have used Freudian concepts as ad hominem attacks on folks that you disagree with. I find this both intellectually dishonest and, as I've indicated in the past, your dismal understanding of basic psychoanalytic theory i.e. your continual misuse of narcissism and mental illness.

jewish philosopher said...

What should I say? Atheists are just marvelous human beings? Show me one.

avrum68 said...

Jacob, stop and read the last few posts. Do you see why people treat you more like a caricature than as a serious theologian or philosopher? You make claims, they're refuted, and then you retort with arguments not related to the current discussion.

jewish philosopher said...

Avrum, if anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, so I guess I'm wrong. What else can I say.

Did someone say narcissism?

avrum68 said...

"if anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, so I guess I'm wrong."

Huh?

Keebo said...

avrum:
I think it needs to be pointed out to you that it is impossible to detect "tone" and "inflection" from the written word on a computer screen.

You are assuming extemely strong emotion in my statements that is just not there.

I can refer to religion as a "load of crap" with the same even state of mind that I assume you had when you said you like to blog so you can "call folks on their shit."

Neither of us is "frothing."
Neither of us is irrational.

You need to stop trying to diagnose with such limited information. And, stop assuming that the statements you read on a blog are symptomatic of the lack of emotional control that you might witness in your patients.

Tone and inflection.
This information is not available to you on a blog.
This information is crucial to have, before making the type of judgements you are making.

badrabbi said...

"Bad, I don’t think that we know exactly to what degree Rabbi Akiva’s children suffered as a result of his studies... Perhaps Rochel had a successful profession of her own."

Jacob, it is funny; you told me to read a book because it would clear things up for me. From your comments above, it is clear that you yourself have not read this book. I suggest that you read it. In great detail, the book chronicles Rachel's suffering. The poor woman had to sell her clothing to make ends meet. She even shaved and sold her hair! At what point will you stop for a second and realize that you are engaged in apologizing for a long gone Rabbi who was less than kind to his family?
No one is perfect, and Rabbi Akiva certainly was not. This of course does not invalidate Judaism any more than Hitchin's proclivity for the drink invalidates atheism.

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, I don't know if you are quite grasping this, or if you've ever been married. However leaving your wife when she wants you to leave is not unkind.

badrabbi said...

"Speaking of “dead beat dads”, could you perhaps be referring to the atheist Karl Marx, who denied paternity of his only son? Find one Orthodox rabbi who did that and I’ll delete this post."

JP, for a second there, I took the bait and actually looked for a list of rabbis with bad behavior. I scanned the literature and very quickly found a somewhat lengthy list of rabbis who were accused or convicted of all sorts of shameless stuff. But then I realized that you are baiting me into the anti-Semitic territory. I will not engage you in this. Suffice to say that the list of rabbis who have committed highly illegal acts is not that short.

But what does that prove? That atheism is superior to orthodox Jewish philosophy? If we go down the road of your warped logic, then it would seem that the answer would be "yes". You spend an enormous amount of time pointing out over and over about this atheist was an alcoholic or that atheist had extramarital affairs as if this somehow makes theism a valid theory. Understand that whether Marx had an illegitimate son or whether so and so rabbi was convicted of molesting children is a side issue. We were, I thought, discussing the logic of the existence of gods. Let us stop the ad homonym attacks.

Avrum, I like your voice of reason in this blog. Keep your comments coming.

Cameron said...

JP: So Cameron, if atheists are just regular good guys, not different than anyone else except they don't believe in magic, then why has there not been one single famous dead atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible?

CH:

As a thought experiment, I don't think you can show me that a "famous dead 'X' who is kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible" exists. How about the Dalai Llama? Oh right, not dead yet.

More to the point, atheism is just the rejection of theology, not a moral philosophy in and of itself.

Even if we grant the false premise that atheists are less moral than than Orthodox Jews, this would be the fault not of their atheism, but whatever natural moral philosophy they adhered to (if any). Confucians will have different moral compasses and failings than; Zen Buddhists, Indian Jainists, the post-soviet post-Christians of Russia, or agnostic Canadians - all of whom fall into the category of 'atheist', but none of which have any real similarity in terms of moral philosophy.

JP: And also, why can't atheists really explain clearly what atheism is? "Atheism means I don't believe in gods, whatever they are, but I can't explain what they are because I don't believe in them, sorry." sounds a little fishy to me. What's up with that?

CH: Consider the following dialogue;

-CH: "Hey Jacob, do you believe that our Dark Lord Cthullu will soon rise from his secret city of R'Lyeh heralding a millenia of darkness and savagery? That only those devote who themselves to him now will be spared the insanity and slaughter to follow his arrival and be granted the release of an early death?"

-JP: "What gibberish are you on about Cameron? I don't believe any of that nonsense."

-CH: "Exactly."

JP: Virtue is not all that rare, however being an atheist I think is like being a child pornographer. There has to be something wrong with you.

CH: I thought you'd never come close to: "When they close the oven doors on you, don't come crying to me", but this is almost as repugnant.

avrum68 said...

"Avrum, I like your voice of reason in this blog. Keep your comments coming."

Thanks. Though, on this blog, it doesn't take much to appear, well, nuanced.

Keebo said...

"Avrum, could you please share with the group how it is that you came to be so wonderfully nuanced?"

The depth to which you are impressed with yourself is really staggering.

Your statement that in your job "we're trained to exercise restraint and employ active listening, patiently waiting for moments to provide interpretation. At times, this can become very tedious" is spectacularly pompous.

It's HARD when your brilliance is not the center of attention. I guess that's why they call it "work."

avrum68 said...

"Avrum, could you please share with the group how it is that you came to be so wonderfully nuanced?"

Compared to Jacob and yourself, it truly takes very little work.

"The depth to which you are impressed with yourself is really staggering."

Really now, I'm more of a neurotic Woody Allen-type than anything else.

"Your statement that in your job...is spectacularly pompous."

Actually, it's a very common, almost ho hum, reaction working with clients. I'm assuming you don't work in the field.

"It's HARD when your brilliance is not the center of attention."

Actually the idealized transference that occurs in almost every session creates a scenario whereby the therapist is treated as an omnipotent god who can do no wrong. So you see, you were close, but no cigar (though sometimes a cigar is anything but).

jewish philosopher said...

The point of this post is not to use an ad hominem argument to disprove atheism. Atheism cannot really be disproved - when one tries to pin down atheists about what exactly atheism is, they seem to suddenly get hit with a “blonde moment

If someone told me that they believe in Dark Lord Cthullu, why would I say "I don't"? I'd say "what's that".

The point is not that atheism is false because atheists are moral failures. The point is that atheism is in and of itself a moral failure.

Why is it so impossible to find historical figures who have lived up to my criteria? "Secular saints” are not so rare.

Keebo said...

Avrum:
My cat Tigerboy was just asking if you work "in the field". I told him that I was pretty sure that you did work "in the field", but that I would ask. You did mention that you worked "in the field", right?

TigerBoy said...

I am Keebo's cat Tigerboy, and I was just wondering if it would be OK if I expressed an opinion. You see, Keebo mentioned that you work "in the field", and I just thought I better clear it with you first, since you are "in the field" and all. Now, I don't want to be seen as irrational, and that CAN be an issue, being a cat and all, but I figured that if I got the green light from you, since you are "in the field", then it might be allowed.

Keebo said...

Now, Tigerboy, you really shouldn't bother the great man. He's busy waiting for his next opportunity to interpret something, you know, "in the field". When you are "in the field", you can decide how people's heads work, without ever having to bother meeting them, or talking with them. It is really is quite amazing. Why just the other day, by virtue of his being "in the field", Avrum was able to tell us that Mother Theresa was clinically depressed. I am fairly certain that he never met her, or treated her, but from a single written quote he made his determination. It's so wonderful to have great geniuses in our midst!

TigerBoy said...

I was just sitting on the litterbox, and I suddenly thought of something. Since we are able to consult with Avrum, and he's "in the field", maybe he could diagnose everyone in the world! All they would have to do is write a few lines on a blog, and Avrum could make his interpretations. We are so lucky to have you, Avrum! You did say that you are "in the field", right?

avrum68 said...

Keebo...

Ya gotta titrate you meds pal.

jewish philosopher said...

Isn't anyone going to ridicule me? Why does Avrum have all the fun today?

Looks like time for a new post.

Cameron said...

JP: Atheism cannot really be disproved - when one tries to pin down atheists about what exactly atheism is, they seem to suddenly get hit with a “blonde moment”

CH: Do you even read my responses? I've never failed to point out that atheism is simply 'lack of theistic beliefs'. No blonde moments.

JP: If someone told me that they believe in Dark Lord Cthullu, why would I say "I don't"? I'd say "what's that".

CH: The point is that you don't believe it (making you an atheist with regards to Cthullu), regardless of whether you understand it, or even ever heard of it. Atheists are not responsible for understanding the nonsense you claim to believe, just as you are not responsible for understanding the threat Cthullu poses to your sanity.

JP: The point is not that atheism is false because atheists are moral failures. The point is that atheism is in and of itself a moral failure.

CH: The point is that atheism is not moral philosophy. There is an entire branch of philosophy called 'Ethics' (you may have heard of it) that deals with questions of morality and right-conduct.

Atheism contains no specific ethos. The Zen Buddhist and Canadian agnostic can have completely different morality and ethical systems, but both be atheists.

jewish philosopher said...

"Atheism contains no specific ethos."

Exactly my point. Leaving atheists to behave like animals if no police are watching them.

joshua said...

As a frum Jew who's been lurking here for a while I must make a comment. I don't see how this argument is productive whatsoever. To an atheist, those things which you call "morals," mainly the sanctity of marriage and relations (see Rashi and Ramban to the word kadosh and kedoshim tiyu), are man-made.

Outside the context of religion the way in which a man and woman interact with each other behind closed doors has no impact on the major fabric of society, that being protection of property, life, liberty, etc. You are calling atheists immoral based on logic which doesn't apply from an atheist point of view.

Just for a further example, many of the things we consider moral or immoral are mitzvos ben adam lamakom. Those commandments which are completely between man and Hashem. The performance or non-performance of such mitzvos has no bearing on the status of ben adam lachaverio, those commandments between man and his fellow. One could not put on tefillin or tzitzis or from a non-Jewish standpoint have relations with a man or multiple partners or what not but still give charity, not murder, not steal etc. and still be considered a "moral" person.

(Remember, the generation of the flood is noted for being wicked because of theft, chamas)

I once thought like you that someone who is an atheist must by definition be someone completely selfish, since after all, if there is no G-d, why should you not steal or kill if it's to your benefit with no threat of punishment? But yet when we look at the world who are the biggest environmentalists and those most concerned about the future of our planet? It seems like many of them happen to be atheists. I guess one could say, "well the only reason their concerned about the future is out of their own selfishness and innate drive to propagate their race," but yet many of these people are pursuing policy changes that require sacrifices from themselves that will bear no real benefits in their lifetime. Is this not an act of the ultimate selflessness, giving of yourself with no return on your investment? (Kivyachol, a mes mitzvah)

Much of this is conjecture and speculative, but at the end of the day Jacob, yourself and I as frum Jews believe in thirteen ikkarim, major principles. One of those is that Hashem knows the thoughts of all man, and only Hashem. It is not within our ability to grasp what drives a man to do what he does. When a muslim blows himself up in crowed intersection, to the muslim (and I mean no disrespect to those muslim's who detest such people) this is most likely the greatest act of selflessness possible. The sacrifice of one's own life for the supposed will of G-d. The gemmara teaches us that really, one must let a non-Jew drown if he is found to be drowning on Shabbos. Yes, for many reasons this is not the halacha today and with 99% certainty such a situation never occurred and never will, but is the spirit of this also not a supposed act of selflessness?

We all have our own prejudices about what is moral and what is not. Religion makes things easier for us because it makes it very black and white. Killing is wrong. Sex with your sister, not a good thing. Torturing animals and kidnapping, no-nos. Yes, I agree with you that atheism does make things a bit more gray in some regards. But at the end of the day remember the difference between mishpatim and chukim. The Talmud tells us mishpatim, (theft, murder, etc.) are things which are inherently logical to man and we would've established laws about regardless of the Torah. There is a concept of innate morality independent of religion and belief in a deity. In conclusion, I don't see how this discussion is beneficial to yiddishkeit based upon the fact that only Hashem knows man's true intentions, we have precedent that certain morals are innate separate from religion, there seems to be many atheists involved in causes which are the polar opposite of what a narcissist hedonist person would occupy himself with, there are many things which religions consider to be an act of selflessness which seems mind-boggling to others etc. etc. etc. and just to reiterate one point which I can't stress enough, Hashem is the Judge, not you and me. Who are we to play judgment on atheists of their intentions? Hashem had mercy on Ninveh, the capital of the Babylonian empire which would only a hundred years later lay waste to Jersualem and the Temple. The verse in Tanach tells us that Hashem does not desire the death of the sinner rather that he should do repentance and return to him. The gemmara tells us that the gates of mercy are open waiting for a man to repent until the very last moment his neshama leaves him. Leave the heavenly judgment on who is moral and not moral to Hashem and use your blog to tell us beautiful divrei Torah about the wonderful things Judaism instills in people, not the fire and brimstone of Gehennom (which also is a real chesed, see the maaseh of Raabi Meir and Rabbi Akiva and Acher). Only with this type of attitude will anyone see the true joy of religion or at least respect it.

And I promise on the final, final, note, my Rosh Yeshiva told me many years ago, what does it mean by that Torah is darchei noam, that it's ways are pleasant? Only that Torah which is pleasant is true Torah, hate-filled Torah, judgment's etc. etc., are not real Torah. There's a reason gedolim don't get involved in debates with atheist's and other religions, they try to avoid maklokes (disputes) at all costs.

jewish philosopher said...

With all due respect, I'm afraid I must disagree with you Joshua.

"the way in which a man and woman interact with each other behind closed doors has no impact on the major fabric of society"

It has a HUGE impact. Sex creates people. Creating people has a major impact on people. If people have random sex outside of marriage, who will be the fathers to these children? Will they be killed before birth? Or after birth? Abused? Neglected? Will they be properly educated or will they become criminals? This is besides the problem of sexually transmitted diseases.

"Only that Torah which is pleasant is true Torah"

Have you had a chance yet to read this week's parsha - famine and cannibalism being among the punishments for not fulfilling the entire Torah joyously?

"There's a reason gedolim don't get involved in debates with atheist's and other religions"

Have you read Rabbi Avigdor Miller, or heard his tapes?

avrum68 said...

"CH: Do you even read my responses? "

Actually, Cameron is asking a very, very good question. Jacob?

jewish philosopher said...

I try to pick out a few bits that make sense.

avrum68 said...

"There's a reason gedolim don't get involved in debates with atheist's and other religions, they try to avoid maklokes (disputes) at all costs."


Actually, that's an excellent point. Perhaps that's why I'm so impressed with Francis Collins. In two separate interviews (Time and CBC), he handled insults directed towards him with humor and deflection. He never took the bait, not once. But the tendency to do so can be so tempting, especially when you're insecure about your faith.

joshua said...

I would argue that ultimately Rabbi Avigdor Miller failed in this regard as his books, (of which I've read all of them) a great portion of them are verbatim copies of Creationist science, much of it being proven false decades ago. But even the other content such as his dealing with the issue of the Documentary Hypothesis (which just as a side note, the majority of scholars today no longer accept, though they still scoff at the notion of a G-d given Torah to Moses at Sinai and favor an earlier redactor or fewer authors) and Christianity, Islam and atheism when dealt with in a book form I believe is different than engaging them in active debate. That's just my opinion. You can put whatever you like into writing and allow the public to make it's own decisions without necessarily getting involved in dispute.

In all fairness to the sex behind closed doors, I was referring to the most part to sex between consenting partners with the use of a condom or some sort of contraceptive which would prevent kids being born into homes that don't have two committed parents. In addition I was also referencing sexual practices which would be considered forbidden by the Shulchan Aruch even between those married which have no impact on others. I'll leave it to the imagination for such things as it's definitely not my place to type about such a topic at length.

Finally in regards to the pleasant Torah pshat, I was referring mostly to maklokes and judging others and getting involved in debates which really shouldn't be ours. But it is interesting to note that many have the custom to read the Curses in an undertone. I have a bit of a brisker teretz but I feel like it would just drag us into a discussion which would be unproductive on all fronts.

Cameron said...

CH: Atheism contains no specific ethos.

JP: Exactly my point. Leaving atheists to behave like animals if no police are watching them.

CH: Having no belief in a monotheistic God doesn't translate into having no morality. Morals and ethics (and moral and ethical behaviours) existed well prior to the concept, and in every country, every race and every tribe.

Unlike belief in trans-dimensional invisible beings, all peoples throughout history have a sense of morality.

Including (and maybe especially) atheists.

jewish philosopher said...

Josh, Rabbi Miller did allow a question and answer period at the end of all his lectures. I'm not searching for atheists, Christians etc. and recruiting them to debate.

There are millions of people in the world today (this author included) whose parents used birth control - most of the time.

The Batei Din in previous times were not slow to condemn Jewish heretics. We still repeat Birkas haMinim three times daily.

Cameron, you just said "Atheism contains no specific ethos."

joshua said...

I believe Jacob what a more accurate and less judgmental statement would be, and one based on less speculation would be the following:

Atheism by definition is not a religion, a creed or nationality with separate rules, guidelines or morals. You cannot simply look at someone on the street by the way they do or do not behave and remark, "Oh there goes an atheist." You can't read todays news about the six people hostage in the bank robbery by Chicago and go, "immoral behavior that must be an atheist."

On the other hand I can look and see someone with a yarmulka or a headdress or someone who wears certain symbols, speaks a certain way etc. and be able to identify that person as a religious Jew or Muslim.

Scientists and Atheists don't walk around any differently than other people who would consider themselves non-observant theists.

However, atheism does provide a certain slippery slope where it is possible to defend any action that is beneficial for the self. Consider the following scenario: if you know you could steal X amount of dollars from someone with no reprecussion, why not?

I admit though that even this argument is flawed because from others standpoint religion provides for many behaviors which seem counter-intuitive, violent, and self serving as well. (This is a gross generalization from a purely academic point of view, please don't pick it apart)

But just because atheism does allow this moral ambiguity doesn't mean it necessitates it. I believe it's a terrible overstatement and argument from complete ignorance to assume that just because a person is atheist he would automatically choose to take that money any more so than a theist.

In conclusion, I think there's no basis to argue that religion or no religion would change the outcome in that scenario a particular way over the course of many trials. Some people are just naturally more "ethically" minded, more empathetic, more caring than others, theists and atheists alike.

If you want to say something cute in defense of Judaism and morals being G-d given, (which I do happen to believe strongly) you can always maintain that this natural drive to do good and be a moral person has it's source from Hashem in the G-d given neshama, something which atheists and theists both have, according to the Jewish belief.

joshua said...

On a side note, birchas minnim was created in response to Jewish heretics and was a response to the maklokes that those individuals started within the Jewish community.

Cameron said...

JP: Cameron, you just said "Atheism contains no specific ethos."

CH: Correct - but that doesn't mean an atheist doesn't have any moral ethos!

Just that atheism doesn't entail any specific moral code in particular.

jewish philosopher said...

Josh, my opinion of atheists seems to be a little more cynical than yours. Maybe I've had a different experience. You really have to make you're own blog.

The fact is that I'm not really interesting in arguing with anyone, however what should I do when people make critical comments? Delete them? Ignore them? Some bloggers do that, and then the skeptics just declare victory, assuming that Judaism has no answers.

Cameron, "atheism doesn't entail any specific moral code in particular". I've noticed.

joshua said...

Well I'm involved in a field of work with many different people from all backgrounds and creeds and the majority of them are all very kind people all concerned with the same things most of us are; the ability to provide for their families, bring up their kids in a safe loving environment and enjoy their life while respecting others. I think that we are usually confused by what I believe is known as counting the hits while ignoring the misses. Basically even though the majority of people may be generally kind hearted or at worst ambivalent a few bad apples from any sect naturally are reported louder and give a bad name to everyone else. Hence why a Chillul Hashem is the worst aveirah a Jew can commit.

In completely unrelated news did anyone else see that they discovered remains of the Second Temple while doing construction on the temple mount? It's a shame they aren't allowed to do archeology there and other important locations that could reveal so much to us.

avrum68 said...

joshua...you're a breath of fresh air..

jewish philosopher said...

Avrum, don't breathe too deeply.

The Chofetz Chaim wrote in his Biur Halochah Section 1 (Laws of Rising in the Morning), paragraph beginning “and don’t be embarrassed etc.” that in a case where heretics are attempting to lead Jews away from Torah, and they cannot be stopped by peaceful means, it is obligatory to hate them, fight with them and upset their plans in any way possible.

Therefore, as a defender of the faith, I reserve the right to use my razor sharp logic to slash to pieces all enemies of the Torah, figuratively of course.

badrabbi said...

"I reserve the right to use my razor sharp logic to slash to pieces all enemies of the Torah"

Razor sharp logic? LOL, Cameron writes you something so simple, that atheism is a view point distinct from a code of ethics. He writes this to you over and over, trying again and again to have you understand this very simple point.

Again and again you fail to understand it. Razor sharp logic? Who are you kidding?

jewish philosopher said...

I understand perfectly. Atheism means you don't want anyone telling you what to do - nothing more or less.

avrum68 said...

"The Chofetz Chaim wrote in his Biur Halochah Section 1..."

We all pick and choose the areas of Torah that suit our financial, psychological and social agendas. Or as Mordechai Kaplan stated: "Every community CHOOSES their halacha".

You Jacob, being somewhat of tortured soul, choose ideas that suit your temperament. If you had the skill set of Rabbi Marouf, perhaps we'd be listening. Instead, it would appear most of us perceive your posts/comments to be operating out of a sense of cognitive dissonance over life choices that you've made, and narcissistic injury feeding itself by attempts at blog celebrity by being the most tyrannical Jewish blogger around. I've said it before, it's simply too obvious to take anything you say too seriously.

jewish philosopher said...

"We all pick and choose the areas of Torah"

Right, Supermarket Judaism. Just take the chips and the ice cream and leave the veggies. I'm choosing all of it because it's all from the same Source.

"the most tyrannical Jewish blogger around"

Thank you!

badrabbi said...

I noticed you changed the icon of this blog to Mrs. Rand. It is true that she was an atheist. It is also true that some of what she said leaves room for disagreement.

But she did not preach selfishness as much as capitalism.

You once told me to read the book "and rachael was his wife", and I happily complied. Do me a favor and read her "Atlas Shrugged" if you have not already done so. In it, you will understand her philosophy more or less. Then, perhaps, you would be a bit less apt to call her "selfish"

jewish philosopher said...

Even Rand's admirers seem to have harsh words for her personally. Why am I not surprised?

badrabbi said...

You seem shocked by the concept that it is possible to agree and disagree with people about different things. Free and open thinkers will not simply accept everything that comes out of the mouth of people even in their own camps.

You and your ilk will instead drink the coolaide of your dogma no matter what. I tried several times to make you understand the short comings of a man like Rabbi Akiva, short comings that even a blind man should see. Yet you refused to do so.

I admit that I followed Rand's writings for a while and liked her writing style. Yet I disagree with her on many issues. That does not make me or her a bad person. Can you understand disagreement without loss of credibility?

jewish philosopher said...

All that I've said about Rand is that she preached the virtue of selfishness and that even some admirers of hers consider her to be a very flawed person. What's the problem with that? And her philosophy seems to have gone well beyond capitalism.

I don't quite understand why you condemn Rabbi Akiva. He was a poor illiterate man who, at his wife's urging, left her to become a great scholar. This is one of history's greatest "rags to riches" stories. His children most likely greatly benefited as well from this transformation.

CrypticLife said...

Apparently, a picture of Miss Rand doesn't violate copyright, as the previous icon.

So, your justification for atheism not being a religion is:

1) atheists don't think it is
2) atheists are selfish
3) atheism has a faulty basis
4) atheism is linked to pornography

I don't really agree with all these premises, but more importantly they seem to have extremely little to do with whether a belief or belief system constitutes a religion. Clearly plenty of religions can be marked by selfish adherents, can have faulty bases, could be linked to pornography, and might have adherents deny religious status.

All this talk of whether atheists are kind, honest, sexually moral, or generous is completely beside the point of your thesis.

jewish philosopher said...

Since Miss Rand is dead and did not believe in an afterlife, I hope that using her photo will not offend her.

Actually, I'm right now leaning toward the idea that atheism is a religion: The belief that there exists no transcendent lawgiver and judge.

CrypticLife said...

Sounds like you've just defined your own idea of what a deity is, and then decided that the rejection of that makes something a religion. Sure, if you redefine religion to your liking, you can make atheism a religion, but I haven't seen your definition for "religion" yet. Do you have one, or are you just flying by the seat of your pants?

Can whether something is a religion or not be defined by a single belief? If something can be defined a religion simply based on the acceptance or rejection of a single proposition, then there is no such thing as irreligious, is there?

To your earlier question on dead atheists who are kind, honest, sober, and sexually modest, try this list:

Isaac Asimov
Par Lagerkvist
Paul Dirac
GH Hardy
Linus Pauling
Alan Turing
Claude Shannon
Subramanya Chandrasekhar
Claude Helvetius

I haven't done complete research (though I have checked things like number of marriages), so you might find some foibles in the above after you do your research. However, the mere fact that you will need to do research shows that you really shouldn't be making broadside pronouncements about atheists.

jewish philosopher said...

There is one biography in print of Chandra. Beyond that are any of these people's lives "well documented"?

CrypticLife said...

Isaac Asimov is one of the premier science fiction writers of the 20th century, with classics such as the Foundation series and I, Robot. There are at least four biographies on him.

Paul Dirac is recognized as one of the top physicists of all time, Linus Pauling is perhaps the greatest chemist of the 20th century, and Claude Shannon is regarded as the father of information theory. Their lives should be suitably well-documented.

Incidentally, do you intend to answer any of the questions in the first part of my comment? Are you really defining religion as "takes a position on whether there's a transcendent lawgiver/judge"?

I might add, "it is
considered to be a serious transgression subject to severe punishment and rebuke for a man to make a statement about someone else if it is, even by implication, derogatory although it is one hundred percent true and it is said only to his wife, in the privacy of his home, with the mentioned party 10,000 miles away and never having any way to hear or be affected by the remark."

According to this, to paint atheists with such a broad brush, would be a "terrible transgression". Something like "being an atheist I think is like being a child pornographer. There has to be something wrong with you." would fit, wouldn't it? Of course, you could disagree with the quote above, but you're the one who gave it.

jewish philosopher said...

At the present time, I cannot find in print any biographies of Isaac Asimov, Claude Shannon, Paul Dirac or Linus Pauling. I also by the way cannot find any documentation that Claude Shannon was an atheist.

There is one biography of Isaac Asimov, apparently out of print, which I did find reviewed. The review indicates that Asimov was unfaithful to his first wife, perhaps frequently. Also, he died of AIDS, although allegedly as the result of an infected blood transfusion.

In any case my question remains unanswered: Can anyone find an example of a single prominent atheistic leader who was kind, honest, and sober and had a stable family life?

I don’t believe there was one. Does that strike anyone else as odd?

As far as gossiping is concerned, this prohibition does not apply to atheists.

I think the word "God" actually means "transcendent lawgiver and judge". An atheist is someone who does not believe in Him. Could rejecting the idea of God be a symptom of or a cause of being out control in life in general?

CrypticLife said...

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/lpbio/lpbio2.html

Linus Pauling

CrypticLife said...

"As far as gossiping is concerned, this prohibition does not apply to atheists."

I'm not accusing atheists of hypocrisy. I'm accusing you of it.

"Could rejecting the idea of God be a symptom of or a cause of being out control in life in general?"

If you wanted to investigate this possibility seriously, why would you ask for prominent leaders? Why not statistics or examples of everyday individuals?

jewish philosopher said...

I'm looking for books about people, not just an article.

Why aren't I interested in everyday individuals? That's a good question. Could it be because I don't know what everyday individuals are doing in their private lives?

CrypticLife said...

Hager, Thomas, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling, Simon & Schuster (1995) ISBN 0-684-80909-5.
Hager, Tom, Linus Pauling and the Chemistry of Life, Oxford University Press (1998) ISBN 0-19-513972-0.
Mead, Clifford and Thomas Hager, Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker, Oregon State University Press (2001) ISBN 0-87071-489-9.
Marinacci, Barbara, and Ramesh Krishnamurthy, Linus Pauling on Peace, Rising Star Press (1998) ISBN 0-933670-03-6.
Goertzel, Ted and Ben Goertzel, Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics, Basic Books (1995) ISBN 0-465-00672-8
Serafini, Anthony, Linus Pauling: A Man and His Science, Paragon House (1989) ISBN 1-55778-440-X.

jewish philosopher said...

Regarding Dr. Pauling, I'm not so sure about his kindness and honesty:

“This is an excellent compendium of Pauling's life; detailing his major scientific contributions (smaller than is commonly supposed). It also deals with Pauling's shenanigans in destroying the careers of other scientists who disagreed with him. It is excellently written and thoroughly researched, though likely it will irritate the scientific community by exposing many of the sordid practices so common in "objective" science.”

sgaribov said...

"So Cameron, if atheists are just regular good guys, not different than anyone else except they don't believe in magic, then why has there not been one single famous dead atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible?"

Kurt Vonnegut was a secular humanist, that means he did not believe in god. He was an atheist. He was good and honest and responsible in every way. (Although this sexualy resposible thing you keep saying is so vauge it's almost absurd.)

Be careful what you say about this man in response, he is my favorite person who ever lived. I am biased but I am also correct in the aformentioned ideas.

jewish philosopher said...

The problem with suggesting that Vonnegut was a good atheist is two fold. First of all, did he ever clearly declare himself to be an atheist? I don't think so. Second of all, how do you know he was good? How much documentation is publicly available about his private life? I find very little.

Edvin said...

He was a declared atheist. You could always write his wife and find out for sure. Vonnegut's books are a good insight into his private life, his speeches are another. The fact that he was in the public eye is yet another.

“I am a humanist,” he wrote in a letter to the American Humanist Association’s members, “which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.”

He was the honorary president of the American Humanist Association for many years. This is itself means two things. 1. That he lived his life without a god and 2. That he believed in living his life in the most respectable way and succeeded in doing so, this is implied by his being chosen to act as the president.

sgaribov said...

The last comment was posted by me, the last person on my computer did not sign out. I am Sarina.

sgaribov said...

http://www.americanhumanist.org/press/KurtVonnegut.php

This site is full of examples of his atheism and of his goodness.

jewish philosopher said...

Wikipedia doesn't quite say Vonnegut was an atheist.

Also, who has published a good biography of him?

sgaribov said...

I'm not positive of why it doesn't say he was an atheist, maybe Vonnegut was concerend with being calld a secular humanist rather than an atheist because of the implied ethics. It is clear however that he did not believe in god and lived a godless life.

Wikipedia defines a secular humanist as foloows, "Secular humanism is a humanist philosophy that upholds reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects the supernatural and the spiritual as warrants of moral reflection and decision-making."

I don't know if a biography has even been written of him. The book "Conversations with Vonnegut" is a good reference though.

Just the fact that he talks about the kind of ethics he believes in is a good indicater that he followed them. An understanding of such concepts generally leads to their adherence.

I'm not really sure why you said there has never been a good and moral atheist. I am one. Your words are an insult to me and every other atheist who lives their lives in the best way possible.

I would venture to say atheists have an even greater capacity for good than theists, as we don't occupy our time with a higher power and can therefor commit ourselves to this earth and the people of it.

The more I think about t the more it angers me that you think you're better than me. And better in the greatest way because I believe that being good and seeking knowledge are the most important things in life.

jewish philosopher said...

"The more I think about t the more it angers me that you think you're better than me."

You will get over it.

sgaribov said...

So you stand by that? And your reply is "You will get over it"?

You present yourself as an intellectual and that is your reply?

That is interesting.

sgaribov said...

"And Swedes are Lutherans not atheists, you big fat Croatian cow!"- Jacob Stein in response to me in an e-mail where I pointed out that not North Korea but Sweden is the most atheist country in the worlds with 85% of the population being atheist. I was responding to his suggestion that I go live in North Korea.

I just thought everyone should know the way Mr. Stein speaks to people who have presented good arguments against the idea that atheist are immoral.

He is not only intolerant of athiests but also

1.People who disagree with him
2. Fat people
3. Croatians
4. Atheists
5. Cows!

P.S. I am neither big nor fat nor a cow.

Mr. Stein, I hope this is not the way your children grow up to treat people.

Psychodiva said...

"It is apparently impossible to find a well-documented case of an atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible."

very insulting- I have been married to the same man for 28 years so far, have two excellent children born within the marriage, I don't drink alcohol and am in an extrememly caring and responsible job where I treat young children and families who are going through difficulties - and I an am atheist and proud of it.

jewish philosopher said...

There were good Nazis too. Take Oskar Schindler.

RaspK said...

The funny thing is, that when you ask for more details, atheists cannot define what they mean by “gods”.

Of course not: we do not know what to say, because we would have to include at least 8 million deific being found in Japan, including their supposed progenitor, the sun goddess Amaterasu, and many scores of documented deities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. If you have a simple position as to what to call all of these that all of us humans can agree on, we'd be glad if you shared it with us.


What is apparent is that atheists don’t seem to be bothered by the idea of an intelligent creator. They do seem to be bothered terribly specifically by the idea of a higher power who can monitor them, judge them and inevitably punish them, for example in an afterlife.

Yes, we are bothered - in the sense that the above notions are illogical for a number of reasons that can easily be found online with minimal research and which made philosophers debate on the exact nature of God for centuries before some people actually had the courage to say they don't believe in God. Need I mention stoning, beheading, crucifixion, and a number of other niceties awaiting non-believers in this life at some point or another in history, even to this day? You yourself later assert that "atheist" was a derogatory term up until the 18th century (which is ubiquitus, as France was more tolerant to atheism since the French Revolution, which happened at the end of the 18th century in "AD" 1789).


Secondly, atheists seem to be invariably highly selfish people. It is apparently impossible to find a well-documented case of an atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible. It is impossible to find a case of a government that officially promoted atheism, which demonstrated any great concern for the welfare of its citizens.

You have no proof; the existence of even a single such person (and I can name quite a few acquaintances, not to mention Denmark) shows that your above argument is unfounded. Furthermore, it begs the question of what makes a Christian or Muslim or Hindu more moral in your opinion - surely not his faith, since your faith suggests that theirs is false!


We now have proof of what Jews always believed: we do not live in a cosmic perpetual motion machine, an eternally existing universe which keeps ticking away forever according to predetermined natural laws. Atheists seem to have barely noticed this scientific upheaval. They apparently don’t depend on any evidence.

Funny how that contradicts the stance many Christians have on the matter, again based on scientific findings. Surely the world cannot have always been and started existing at some point; therefore, before we even have that discussion, you two figure out which of you is correct on this matter - we'll be sitting on the corner until you do.


Fourthly, there would appear to be a linkage between pornography and atheism. Communities having a high level of pornography seem to have a high level of atheism. The expansion of the Internet has made pornography more widely available and at the same time atheism seems to be becoming more popular.

Yes, there is a ling: the more liberal a community is, the more likely it is to allow for both porn and atheism to exist in it. Note that the USA produce thousands of porn films, and they have, while a secular nation, the most numerous and fervent Christians both in terms of numbers and percentage - at least amongst the most advanced countries. Your latter argument follows the lines of: "X leads to Y, and B does happen, so Y and B are related!"


I think what is happening is the following.

Many people, especially young males leading secure lives in developed countries, feel no need for the comfort of religion. Furthermore, they are attracted to a very selfish, self-indulgent way of life, an attraction perhaps encouraged by viewing pornography. Therefore, in order to remove any feelings of guilt, they simply deny the existence of any divine judgment or afterlife.


Psychology proves you wrong: porn is not making people selfish sexual deviants; it's a relief for people who are sexually repressed and a sort of sexual entertainment for many. Studies show that many theists have developed a sort of addiction to pornography, which is in turn suggested by psychology to indicate an unhealthy condition in these people's lives: people with active sexual lives rarely are addicted to porn if they don't face a psychological problem.


Atheism is not a philosophy; it is a symptom of narcissism and hedonism. Calling atheism a religion is like calling alcoholism a religion. It’s a bad choice, a moral failing, perhaps a disease. Until the 18th century “atheist” was usually simply an insult meaning “debauched libertine”. This may be close to the truth.

Unfounded - please point out the basis to your argument.


The criticisms, which atheists aim at religious people, seem to indicate their denial of reality. An atheist will claim that religion causes hatred and violence, however, has he ever bothered to compare the quiet streets and loving homes of an Orthodox Jewish community with the brutal violence going on in secular neighborhoods next door?

Ah, but neither does my community kill each other - in fact, it is almost osteer. Most of my neighbours are, in fact, Eastern Orthodoc Christians, and there once was a Catholic, and there is a Muslim two squares away from. Disregarding the fact of seclusion imposed on people for being Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Greek, German, American, black, homosexual, or anything else, let me point out a problem with your assertion: where is the brutality you describe to be found in Scandinavia? And if you refer to the USA when you speak of "secular neighborhoods next door," most violence in the USA is committed by theists.

Mark J. Seydel said...

Hey Jake,

Bite me!

Sean said...

You know, I've always stuck up for Jews. I've always been quick to point out how brutally they were treated throughout Christian history. How Christians forced them to live in locked ghettos and how they were put to the sword for not converting. How they were accused of sacrificing Children and even blamed for the Bubonic Plague - leading to the slaughter of many Jews. It was claims, lies, and bigoted propaganda that led to those atrocities. To Christians throughout the centuries, Jews were evil - the killers of Christ, the cause of moral decline - sly, cunning, rapists and thieves. To the Christian Nazis, they were a vile race - despicable, immoral, satanic, parasitic, defilers of women, fornicators and again, the killers of Christ.

The comments made by Stein about atheists certainly prove that religion is a danger to society - it seems to breed bigots who make terrible claims about others - causing others to defend themselves, resulting in more resentment.

It really is such a shame that religion breeds bigots like Stein.

His comments are no different to the propaganda pushed by Christians throughout history. His comments are no different to the comments made by many Christian Nazis.

I wasn't really going to comment on any of his article, but I'll at least make the effort of showing his ignorance on the following claims he made:

"Secondly, atheists seem to be invariably highly selfish people."

With theism, there naturally comes a high degree of selfishness - from wanting immortality to the act of praying. Praying is about brown nosing with a god - something that will benefit "you". It's also about getting god to improve your life - again, it's about you. Praying for others is also about you - it makes you feel good. So theism, naturally comes with a high degree of selfishness. In fact, life in general comes with a degree of selfishness, regardless of what label we stick on our heads.

"It is apparently impossible to find a well-documented case of an atheist who was kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible. It is impossible to find a case of a government that officially promoted atheism, which demonstrated any great concern for the welfare of its citizens."

I won't put the above down to your dishonesty, I'll put it down to your ignorance. Apart from me being kind, honest, sober and sexually responsible (more so since becoming atheist - I do only have one life after all, so wish to take care of it for as long as possible), I'll point you to people like Charles Bradlaugh, Annie Besant, Francisco Ferrer, Bertrand Russell, Jeremy Bentham, Bob Geldof (founder of Live Aid - perhaps the most known charitable event in the world) - of course, they may not meet all of the above mentioned standards, but they certainly had/have other people's interests at heart.

There are many more decent atheists - and who knows - perhaps when Stein takes his head out of his version of Mein Jewish Kampf, he may find them.

jewish philosopher said...

Listen guys, please. You know as well as I do that atheists are simply debauched libertines and the only thing atheism has to offer anyone is promiscuity.

MikeTwo said...

Bagh... what foolish tripe.

Atheism is as much a religion as not collecting stamps is a hobby. And likewise, if you were to press a non-stamp collector for the details of all the stamps he doesn't collect, you'd sound equally stupid as you do in this article. Try to focus hard on this next statement: One of the main reasons I don't believe in god is because I haven't heard an adequate definition of it yet!!! (Jeepers Batman!)

What IS the supernatural, exactly? How does one experience it? Taste, sight, sound, touch -- they're all measurable. Even the transparent radio waves zipping past your head right now are measurable - detectable in some unambiguous way. But then, ON TOP of this observable universe, you expect me to believe this whole other kind of existence exists, where the most powerful being ever imaginable listens to you personally when you pray? (And you charge that atheists are narcissistic?!) Yeah right buddy.

I am an atheist scientist, but I assure you I was a scientist before I became an atheist. After 18 years of school trying to learn about the world, the first thing a science education teaches you is that you don't know anything with any sort of certainty. The second thing it teaches you is that this planet whose land we war over is one of a billion trillion similar rocks. There's nothing elegant about its placement. Ever hear of a Bessel J function -- it's a mathematical term that can be used in rotational kinematics -- there's nothing pretty to see there, trust me.

Finally, as for influential atheists, I'm sure someone has already mentioned Bill Gates, whose foundation has given more to the poor than you and everyone you love combined, times 100. This, in addition to fact that atheists are UNDER-represented in jails, leads me to think that atheism, for whatever flaws it may have, at least isn't routinely used as an excuse to kill people. When was the last time you heard of an atheist suicide bomber?

I could spend another 10 pages on why everything else you said is also wrong, but I'm getting tired of addressing what is nothing more than childish "pschologizing" and invoking of scientific terms you've never actually studied.

jewish philosopher said...

Actually, Bill Gates is an agnostic.

And about God being unbelievable, not only is the universe stranger than you imagine, it is stranger than you can imagine.

RaspK said...

Listen guys, please. You know as well as I do that atheists are simply debauched libertines and the only thing atheism has to offer anyone is promiscuity.

Fascinating; care to back this up according to the following terms? It would be interesting to call us all freed slaves who somehow have been seduced from duty, but I somehow doubt that is what you mean. And it would be good if you would be so kind to provide something more sound than a schoolyard retort the likes of: "Did not!"/"Did too!" Oh, and you have to prove that what you say applies to every single atheist (all ~130 million), otherwise we could file a charge for slander.



Debauchery

Wiktionary:
1. Indulgence in sensual pleasures; scandalous activities involving sex, alcohol, or drugs without inhibition.
2. (archaic) Seduction from duty.

Dictionary.com:
1. excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures; intemperance.
2. Archaic. seduction from duty, allegiance, or virtue.



Libertine

Wiktionary:
1. (historic) Someone who has been freed from slavery in Ancient Rome; a freedman.
2. One who is freethinking in religious matters.
3. Someone (especially a man) who takes no notice of moral laws, especially concerning their relations with the opposite sex; someone loose in morals, a pleasure-seeker.

Dictionary.com:
1. a person who is morally or sexually unrestrained, esp. a dissolute man; a profligate; rake.
2. a freethinker in religious matters.
3. a person freed from slavery in ancient Rome.

Tay said...

All the atheists I associate with would love to live in a world where all theists were like Joshua. He comes across as a kind, empathetic person who believes that so long as we do no harm to each other we should be allowed to choose our own destinies.

On the other side of that, all the atheists I know would very much hate to live in a world where all theists were like Jacob Stein. His comments come across as rude, contemptuous and wilfully ignorant.

One such example is his constant cry for evidence of an atheist leader who was not immoral. Firstly, there is no single moral structure among atheists, as atheism is no a belief system - it is a lack of a certain form of belief. Atheist morality differs from person to person, as does how they came about their morality.

Secondly, it would be difficult to find an atheist "leader," as atheists as a whole do not belong do an organised structure as do theists. There is no "church of atheism," no "parliament of the godless." Perhaps one can take his request as simply meaning "notable atheists in history." The problem there is that those remembered by history are usually those with a drive to do things vastly out of the ordinary, a trait often marked by a disproportionate passion or sense of self-worth. They cannot be taken as an example of the acts and beliefs of average people.

My morality is not a direct result of my lack of belief in the supernatural (which is different to a disbelief). My morality comes from the same source as my abandonment of theism, though: it is a result of examining both what I have experienced and the recordings of the experience of others, and determining what is and is not supported by the evidence at hand When new evidence is made available, the conclusions I have drawn are re-examined and where appropriate altered.

This rationalistic approach is what lead me to the abandonment of theist and the adoption of my moral stances.

Among my moral beliefs are:
* A person capable of being a fit parent should not abandon their children for selfish purposes
* A person should not harm other people unless the other person(s) are threatening imminent grievous bodily harm or death
* A person should not force another to engage in sexual activity against their will, by force or by unreasonable coercion.
* A person should take responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of their actions.

This is, of course, just a small slice of what I believe to be good and just. It is also what the majority of my friends, both atheist and theist, believe, yet one will find many examples among the notable persons of both theist and atheist persuasion whose actions contradict those almost universal moral stances. Finding few or no examples of morality among the famous and speaks more about the morality of the famous than those of their belief system.

MikeTwo said...

"Actually, Bill Gates is an agnostic."

Wow, and with one single statement you lose all your credibility as a philosopher. Huxley would turn over in his grave if he heard you using his term so incorrectly.

I'll pretend like you actually know what I'm talking about and use big words, but I'm sure this will fly right over you. Agnostic / non-agnostic is a question of epistemology. Atheism / Theism is a question of metaphysics. They're completely different.

If you misuse agnostic like that, you probably don't understand atheism either. Let me break it down for you in small words.

Theism means "I DO believe that god DOES exist." Atheism is the opposite, but there are two ways to negate this statement:
1) I DO NOT believe that god DOES exist.
2) I DO believe that god DOES NOT exist.

Most theists, especially the stupid ones like yourself, consider atheism to only be the #2 definition, whereas most atheists actually fall under #1. But this conflicts with your idea that atheism leads to moral depravity (cause there are a LOT of people who fall under #1), so you rape Huxley's term and use it to describe people who are unsure or unexposed to god's existence, as if they're not real atheists.

If I ask you if the Chinese Gate Gods exist, and you say "What the heck are those?" -- that's an atheistic response.

So once again, you're wrong. Go read some Huxley and try again.

jewish philosopher said...

Tay, I'm just curious, but aren't you just parroting whatever values most people in your society believe in? And couldn't it be that you are just doing this because it's the most comfortable thing to do? So isn't you're only real value making yourself comfortable?

Also, why is everyone suddenly commenting on a six month old post?

Tay said...

There are aspects of my moral stance that not only confilct with that of the society I live in, but also make me personally unconfortable.

For example, I am disgusted at the thought of coprophilia and coprophagy. The thought of playing in feces for any purpose, much less sexual ones, is utterly disgusting to me. However, my morality prevents me from prohibiting others from engaging in what is an obviously unsettling but otherwise relatively harmless pastime. The same goes for many other activities, such as the use of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, genital piercing, circumcision for religious purposes (though I am circumcised)...

There are many practices I would be extremely uncomfortable with, but rationally cannot hold any moral objection to.

There are also actions I am not comfortable with that I engage in because evidence indicates they have a positive influence. I have never been one for displays of physical affection as they make me uncomfortable, but seeing evidence that they promote a positive attitude in others leads to to push past my discomfort in order to make a more positive environment for the society in which I live.

Some of my actions within the framework of my morality are governed by comfort (for example: giving only 10% of my income to good causes instead of 80%), but my morality is most definitely not defined by comfort.

If your past reactions to posts are any indication you will likely see this as evidence of my immorality and dismiss my stance, as it may be too uncomfortable for you to fathom.

jewish philosopher said...

Tay, let’s take this for example. Darwin was a racist.

Some people react to that by saying “Well, of course, so were all 19th century Europeans. Today he would surely not be.” Maybe. But the point is that secular people’s values are determined by society, because that is the easiest and most comfortable thing to do – just go along with the crowd. Are you certain you are different? Everyone has their own particular tastes, but I don’t see you going radically against anything which most people in your community believe. And there is no reason why you should.

Alastair said...

You should stick to computer programming as opposed to making philosophical commentary. Your arguments have so many holes, one would think they're a slice of Swiss cheese.

'Atheism just means not believing in any gods. The funny thing is, that when you ask for more details, atheists cannot define what they mean by “gods”.'

You got it in one. I don't believe in a god or gods. More details? I mean a ruler and creator of the universe, a higher power, a divine being.

Tay said...

Tay, let’s take this for example. Darwin was a racist. Some people react to that by saying “Well, of course, so were all 19th century Europeans. Today he would surely not be.” Maybe.

More likely than not, seeing as he held very different views from the society in which he lived. Some terms he used may seem racist by contemporary standards, but definitely not by the standards of the day. He did hold views very much in conflict with the vast majority of the society in which he lived. He believed that people of other races deserved equal status under the law He spoke out against slavery, saying it would be "a proud thing for England is she is the first  European nation which utterly abolished it!"

But the point is that secular people’s values are determined by society, because that is the easiest and most comfortable thing to do – just go along with the crowd. Are you certain you are different? Everyone has their own particular tastes, but I don’t see you going radically against anything which most people in your community believe. And there is no reason why you should.

Much of my personal taste is shaped by the society in which I have grown, this is true. Much of my morality is similar to that of my society, but not because of comfort. I have examined the evidence at hand and determined what is true and just, rejecting what is not. There are also many ethical stances I hold which conflict which that of my society. There are views I hold that not even my closest friends or family agree with. For example, there is the case of this couple in Scotland. Not a single person I know holds the view that they should be allowed to remain a couple, including engaging in the sexual side of their relationship. My view is that so long as their relationship does not result in offspring, which are likely to be deformed or otherwise disabled, they should be allowed to continue as a couple. There is no reason to make their relationship illegal beyond personal disgust, which should not form the basis of any law.

Views like this, and the fact that I am not ashamed to express them, have made my life uncomfortable at many times. I hold these views not because of comfort, not because I was taught to, but because I have examined the available evidence and reached conclusions suggested by that evidence, rather than any preconceived notion.

jewish philosopher said...

Alastair, if you read some of my recent posts I am leaning toward what you are saying. Atheism means rejecting the idea of a supernatural judge and lawgiver.

Tay, my impression is that 90% of time atheists tend to profess agreement with whatever morality is fashionable in their time and place. Take for example the feminist leader Betty Friedan. When lesbianism was unacceptable, she also rejected it but embraced it when it became more fashionable.

MikeTwo said...

"Atheism means rejecting the idea of a supernatural judge and lawgiver."

Your definition is not only skewed, but inaccurate. This implies that I could still be an atheist while believing in a supernatural god who doesn't judge, such as the beliefs of a Deist. That's obviously incorrect, and therefore your definition is obviously incorrect. (Unless you want to consider almost all the Founding Fathers, who were Deists, to be atheists! Hah!)

It's also incorrect because it only covers active rejection, and not ignorance or apathy. If you've never been taught a concept before, you don't have the ability to accept or reject it. ("Do you accept that Yahweh exists?" presupposes that the definition of Yahweh has already been made. To illustrate this, try the same thing with a nonsense word: "Do you believe that gorcheks exist?" You would need a definition of gorcheks to be able to answer.)

These are not hard concepts, JP. How old are you?

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism means "no god". God seems to mean a transcendent, non-physical law giver and judge. If you have a different definition let's hear it.

"How old are you?"

Old enough to read people's profiles.

MikeTwo said...

Very well.

Theism means "I DO believe that a god DOES exist." Atheism is the opposite, but there are two ways to negate the statement:
1) I DO NOT believe that a god DOES exist.
2) I DO believe that a god DOES NOT exist.

These are the two types of atheism. (weak and strong, implicit and explicit... there are many terms used). Most dictionaries follow this:

From Dictionary.com (numbers added in brackets to show relationship to above)
"atheist: a person who denies[2] or disbelieves[1] the existence of a supreme being or beings."

From Webster
"atheism: a: a disbelief in the existence of deity[1] b: the doctrine that there is no deity[2]"

Etc... I could find more if I had to.

All it comes down to is the difference between someone saying "I'm not convinced" vs "I'm certain you're wrong." Both are atheists, but a lot of people like yourself focus on the latter, whereas most nonbelievers are actually in the former.

RaspK said...

Apart from the fact you did not answered even a single one of my arguments, let me come back to you with another issue a little above.


Suppose that we have two siblings that somehow have been separated in their lives; they meet at some point without knowing how they are related (not impossible - has happened some times in history already), feel an attraction (studies show that siblings that have been separated at a very young age tend to feel sexually attracted to each other), and get together. But, out of some travesty or simple fortune, either or both of them are not fertile and they never conceive. However, they love each other very much, and decide to raise a child they adopt.

If that is not some of the most ironic but beautiful possibilities in the universe, I don't know what it may be.


Some of you may feel averted at the idea of reading a sort Japanese graphic novel, but Koi Kaze (恋風; "Love's Zephyr") is a story about a man in his mid to end 20s and his sister (which moves to her father's house due to the high school she applied for) falling in love without realising it, from the first moment before their father tells them who they are and throughout the girl's three years in high school, in fear and anguish of their feelings, in ignorance of how each other feels, in opposition to what they feel, for they are awkward about it. It's a masterpiece, and it's important to see how these people deal with it if we want to argue on the matter.

By the way, 恋風 is a concept of a love bond shared between two people.

RaspK said...

Argh... some obvious typos:

"did not answered" - have not answered

"not some of the most" - not one of the most

"which moves" - who moves


Sorry for these mistakes. I am simply trying to show how a taboo has a foundation only in good reason (i.e. increased probability of hereditary diseases). If the subjects don't conceive a child, there is nothing explicitly wrong with them being a couple.

mjr256 said...

Wow, you're a bloody moron! With every sentence, you dig yourself deeper into total nonsense. Ayn Rand hardly represents the epitome of atheism, so that's a strawman argument right away. It's also character assassination as Ayn Rand, like Madeline O'Hare is specific cited because she's known for being unpopular. You managed to avoid mentioning more respected atheists like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Christopher Reeve, Lance Armstrong, Bill Gates, Watson & Crick, Marie Curie, Susan B. Anthony, John Lennon, Katherine Hepburn, Jodie Foster, Brad Pitt, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Lewis Black, Penn and Teller, Mother Teresa, much of the scientific community, much of the medical community, much of the comedian community, much of the artist community, much of the philosophy community, much of the psychology community, much of the magician community, etc.

1. All of the major atheist activists today constantly "define what they mean by 'gods'" so I'm calling bullshit on your claim that they never do. We're not bothered by the notion of "an intelligent creator"; we await evidence for one and have rendered such a being wholly unnecessary and unlikely with science. So the real question is, why do YOU have such a big problem with Zeus, Thor, Attis, and the millions of other equally preposterous gods?

2. "Atheists seem to be invariably highly selfish people." --Ahem, see list of atheists provided above. I'd say you have a lot of work to do to prove you're morally superior to the above atheists. Better start now. "It is impossible to find a case of a government that officially promoted atheism, which demonstrated any great concern for the welfare of its citizens."
Top 10 least religious countries in the world:
1. Sweden (up to 85% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)
2. Vietnam
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Japan
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. France
9. South Korea
10. Estonia (up to 49% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)

Now, can anyone sing the praises of the MOST Religious nations?

3. And 21st Century science has demolished this shitty argument. And don't cite "quantum mechanics" in an argument when you don't know the first thing about it. You clearly understand none of the science you're citing in this argument and your science professors should be ashamed of themselves.

4.Sorry, no link between atheism & porn. Complete bullshit here again. I'm going to have to demand you name your sources for this ludicrous claim. You don't seem to understand the difference between correlation & causality. Please go back to school. And please tell me where there are communities with high levels of atheism as you alone seem to possess this knowledge.

jewish philosopher said...

By atheist, I mean people who call themselves atheists. This disqualifies most of your examples.

And of course I have proof that my religion is the true one. Read this blog.

mjr256 said...

So your entire hateful diatribe rests on semantics. Wow, you've just topped yourself in the idiocy department. A. This is an argument over ideas, not labels, and many of those listed above were just as passionately vocal as any of the modern "New Atheist" authors and most of which were not the paragons of selfishness you accused them of being. And could have easily named more great minds: Galileo, Bertrand Russell, Mark Marx, Frederick Nietzsche, Socrates, much of the abolitionist movement and the civil rights movement. The Feminist Movement was pretty much all us. Percy Shelley actually was kicked out of Oxford University for writing an essay called "The Moral Necessity of Atheism." So that should at the very least put him in your rigid semantic argument of atheists who must use the term. Percy Shelley was selfish? And no, you like everyone else in human history have failed to provide evidence for your claims.

jewish philosopher said...

There's plenty of evidence. Just click on some of the links on this post to begin with.

MikeTwo said...

I can almost hear JP's internal monologue: "Oh no, he has a point I can't argue anymore because even with my restricted definition he's found atheists that prove me wrong. Quick! Ignore the contradiction! Jump to another topic!"


The links at the top of the post are overwhelmingly wikipedia articles, which both shows your respect for actual research and shows that you have no idea what "evidence of god" means.

Here's a hypothetical I'm curios to know -- what would be convincing evidence AGAINST god that, if atheists managed to produce, would have you change your mind about the whole thing?

jewish philosopher said...

In my post about the proof of Judaism I have potential falsifications.

mjr256 said...

Though you failed to refute my list on non-selfish atheists or justify your semantic view of morality, I looked at your "The Truth of Judaism" article. 1. As I'm sure you already know, The Watchmaker analogy rests on the principle that complex things must be created by things of greater complexity. You've never seen a painting create a painter or a house make a construction worker. Therefore, the universe' creator would have to be many orders of magnitude more complex than its creation and thus according to "The Watchmaker Principle," must have a creator as well. Concordantly, we're left with an infinite reduction and the principle is self-refuting. You've postulated something far more complex than the thing you're trying to explain. Just saying a miracle occurred without further explanation answers nothing. Next, your knowledge of the evidence for Evolution is piss poor, ignoring the immensity of the fossil record and not surprisingly ignores the indisputable DNA evidence and issue of vestigial parts. Further, it goes without saying that Evolution "does not explain how the first life originated" as the Theory has nothing to do with the origins of life. That's Abiogenesis. This is like arguing that human aging from baby to adult is an impossibility because it doesn't explain, in and of itself, where the baby came from. And as for your "Potential falsification", you've falsified yourself with your magical "creator." My answer on the other hand would probably be far less complex quantum particles. Complex things have simple beginnings and gradually grow more complex over time. Ex. We began the computer age with room-sized primitive computers and through a trial and error process has arrived at a time when I can fit my iPod, which is many orders of magnitude more complex, in my pocket. That's artificial selection. Natural Selection works much the same way but without an intended outcome.
2. This is just an Ad Populum argument and is known as a logical fallacy. "This is because most people tell the truth most of the time." -oh boy, you'd be surprised. I recommend a few Psychology and Media classes. See: Urban Myth, how information spreads in Oral Cultures, or just play a game of telephone. How we know about history is we examine evidence. It's that little thing makes the difference between historical figures like Caesar, Aristotle, or Washington and mythological ones like Odysseus, Gilgamesh, or Jesus. Your principle error comes from your presupposition that false information can only spread through intentional deception; this couldn't be further from the truth.If this is proof of Old Testament miracles, then you must be prepared to accept every ancient mythological story at face value, UFO "adductees", psychics, witch doctors, voodoo priestesses, ghosts, and indeed every widely believed supernatural claim. But with this "believing is seeing" thinking, you must really be as much of a fan of Wikipedia as Stephen Colbert. So to respond to your possible refutation "that perhaps in remote antiquity most Jews were illiterate," --if that isn't one of the biggest understatements of the millennium. Yes, JP, there is no scholarly doubt on this point. Somewhere in the ballpark of 1% at the time were literate. And if you're unaware of the enormous historical or anthropological research, you really haven't looked as it's ubiquitous.
3.This point depends on the validity of The Watchmaker Principle, which I've already thoroughly refuted, I don't even need to go further. Your "creator" is hardly an "ordinary" claim but rather is an extraordinary one. Just declaring, "then a miracle happened" doesn't even answer the question. Natural Selection through adaptation, not God, is the simplest, most "ordinary" explanation and therefore satisfies the scientific precept of Occam's Razor. "we might expect that at some point in history he would reveal his identity and wishes to the human race in a public announcement." Why would we expect that? This is a presupposition and demands you show your work. Again, Evolution does not attempt to address origins of life, and therefore does not make the claim, "that simple life spontaneously transformed itself into complex life." It does nothing of the kind. I suggest you read about it and examine the fossil records and the DNA evidence. Don't forget about the DNA evidence.
4. Provide evidence that different "phases of the world" exist. Considered the most liberal estimates place human civilization at 10,000 years at the earliest, what is this 6000 year date supposed to be signifying anyway? That Adam was far from the first man?

mjr256 said...

Correction: Oops. I erred in my response to your third point. I misread your statement that Evolution says "that simple life spontaneously transformed itself into complex life" thinking you again suggested Evolution makes claims about origin of life as you had previously. But in this case, this particular statement would be accurate an accurate statement about Evolution's claims. Your understanding of the enormity of the evidence in its favor, however, is still greatly lacking.

jewish philosopher said...

God is by definition non-physical and exists outside time and space, therefore He has no creator.

Regarding the "little things" of history, we have that too. Read a few of my recent post about the genius of Judaism, the archealogical evidence, etc.

Basically, just read my blog a little more in general, because I'm not going to repeat for you dozens of posts.

mjr256 said...

"God is by definition non-physical and exists outside time and space, therefore He has no creator." This is the very definition of an unfalsifiable claim. It's positively critic-proof and exists in an evidence-free zone. Critic-proof claims belong in the category of pseudo-science, not science. I've already dismantled all of the amazing evidences you've provided in one post, all of which are old, long-ago refuted arguments. You haven't given me a compelling enough reason to continue to waste my time. I am somewhat familiar with the "evidences" for Biblical claims such as the bogus Noah's Ark finding and several of the other famous bogus Biblical artifacts. I remain unconvinced.

jewish philosopher said...

Potential falsification: Present one example of a machine which we have witnessed come into existence spontaneously, without any intelligent designer.

RaspK said...

First of all, we are not talking about a machine; secondly, there is nothing spontaneous about what we argue with against your statements; and, finally, that's not related to your God; so stop twisting things around.

What you present is the idea of something which is not bound by natural laws in any way, so it cannot be falsified; if it was possible, to falsify it, it would have to be bound to them, and then it would not be omnipotent, nor could we then assume that it would have created the things and conditions that would later bind it!

MikeTwo said...

JP, you might enjoy this. It addresses a bunch of your misconceptions, and it's really short. Most importantly, it's done in a British accent!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozbFerzjkz4

jewish philosopher said...

Pure nonsense.

The Watchmaker Analogy is falsified by finding a watch which had no maker. Where is it?

mjr256 said...

First, show me a watch made out of the same self-replicating particles are organic matter. Or show me a watch that's capable of making a watchmaker. I've already thoroughly debunked The Watchmaker Analogy. If you have a rebuttal, let's here it. Otherwise, it's a dead argument.

jewish philosopher said...

What would convince you God exists?

Pyricv said...

What would convince you God exists?

This is a facetious and pointless question.

You are asking what would convince you that something that does not exist does exist.

Every independent subject that I have studied since aged about 8 teaches me that religion is garbage. Even so I have spent hours of wasted time visiting most religious places of worship and creeds because I still allowed that I could be wrong because so many were themselves convinced.

However there comes a point after listening to people spout the same old rubbish time and again that it is all nonsense. Eventually dropping these shackles of superstition proves to be the most liberating experience ever.

Try it you will find it is so. Look critically at your religious texts and leaders.
Ask questions and look for real answers, not the ‘God put fossils there to trick us’ answers. Get real, please.

Religion may be a comfort but quivering under the blanket whilst the axe murderer climbs the stairs won't work. But turning on the light to find that it was all in your imagination will.

However not wanting to be just an atheist (although I am and always will be) I still wanted to make a difference in the world and so discovered Humanism. Not a religion but a life stance.

jewish philosopher said...

You see my point in asking "What would prove to you that God exists" is to demonstrate that far from being open minded, curious and tolerant, atheists are in fact closed minded dogmatists. They have decided that a god cannot exist because they just don't want a god to exist and that's the end of that.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Stein,

You wrote the following:

"It is impossible to find a case of a government that officially promoted atheism, which demonstrated any great concern for the welfare of its citizens."

I would have to agree and I believe you will find some great resources regarding this matter plus some other interesting material as well in this atheism article. For example, there is material that cites studies regarding atheists per capita charitable giving plus there is also other interesting sociological data as well.

Also, you might want to consider looking at the recommended book section of this article as it has some excellent works listed on the militant atheism of the Soviet Union.

Anonymous said...

I kept wanting to scream "WRONG!" through that post. That's just not how atheism works. For the record, I call myself an atheist, but my views on religion are probably not anything like you imagine when you use that word.

A lot of your arguments boil down to "atheism makes people evil". I have counterevidence, and previous commenters showed some, but it's not the point. The point is whether it's really truly true. If believing there is a dragon in your garage makes you an horrible person, this is independent of whether "There is a dragon in your garage" is true; it is true if and only if there actually is a dragon in your garage. You could say it's one of the core tenets of atheism: separate what is true and what you want to be true. You can't disprove "There is no god" by saying "People who say 'There is no god' are evil". Maybe some people try to believe there is no god just to stop the guilt, but if they can come up with really good arguments for why there is no god, maybe you should listen - the evidence doesn't care why someone brought it up, it just is.

At this point, remember one thing: wishful thinking doesn't work. You really can't making something more real by believing it very hard; belief require evidence to be true. There are strong arguments and evidence, but it'd take too long. This may not be connected to the argument, but as a general rule it's worth keeping that in mind when thinking.

We might not be able to give a precise definition of a god, but we sure know it when we see it. Try giving a precise definition of "chair" - it's almost guaranteed to fail in borderline cases. You still know what you can sit on. The characteristics you should look for to tell god from non-god are along these lines:
* Irreducible complexity. Gods, souls, spirits, and other religious elements are not made of simpler parts you can understand, you can't build your own god, you can't add or remove some part to make something divine stop being so or the other way around. Now, there might be "mundane" irreducibly complex elements in the universe, but it's almost certain you'll find irreducibly complex elements in religions.
* External source of morality. There is a book or some such that supposedly does not come from a human source and tells humans what is morally right and wrong. Atheist morality (yes, it does exist) comes from an internal source: feeling some actions are right or wrong, and acting on it; even though the source of those feelings may be amoral (evolution is, as are most non-human processes), you should do what is right.
* Superhuman powers or knowledge.
* Enforcing some code. For example, judging you after you die, punishing you for hubris or sin, rewarding good people.
* Inducing the emotion of religious faith. Apparently, it's built into humans. Now, there are other things that induce this emotion.
* Used as an explanation for anything you don't know the workings of. Ever heard the phrase "god of the gaps"? The difference between this and an actual explanation is that it doesn't allow you to predict anything.
* Afterlife. By no means a necessary component, but it's a useful clue.

Atheists are not "bothered" by what gods may or may not do. The thought process goes nothing like "I do not like the idea of a powerful watcher, so I do not want to believe in it". It's just that warm and fuzzy feelings are absolutely not used as criteria for judging beliefs, only raw cold impersonal evidence is. Rationalists enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling of someone watching over them as much as you do, but only if raw cold rational evidence tells them there actually is one. You're making a common mistake. You think "I feel righteous because I believe in god. Therefore, people who do not believe in god must not enjoy feeling righteous". It's just not how they do it.

You do not understand determinism, quantum mechanics, naturalism, the Big Bang, or the foundations of atheism.
A god could exist in a determinist universe - things have to be determined by something, namely other things, among which there could be a god.
I'm not sure what "naturalism" means, but I think it means "there are no irreducibly complex elements". This is indeed incompatible with the most common view of god, but if something reducible had most of the other characteristics associated with gods, it'd still be one.
Determinism is not falsified by quantum mechanics. It's perfectly preserved in the Many Worlds interpretation. If the Copenhagen interpretation or any "non-deterministic" interpretation is true, then the probability of each outcome is still determined.
I have no idea how you could think naturalism is falsified by the Big Bang, or by the universe not being eternal.
But most importantly, determinism and naturalism are not where atheism comes from! A very simplified picture would go like this:
Religious person: "This book tells us what happens when we die and what morality is."
Atheist: "Wow, those are strong claims. Beliefs require evidence. What supports those?"
R: "The author can suspend the laws of physics, like by making a bush be on fire without burning."
A: "That's huge evidence, and we should take it seriously. But wait, those are only asserted in the book itself, we'd need an external source to judge how trustworthy this account is. Besides, the book contains lots of false claims, like grasshoppers having four legs, rabbits chewing their cud, the Hebrews having been to Egypt (they weren't at the time) and fleeing to Canaan (which was ruled by Egypt at the time). The part about morality also looks strange; it claims it's OK to keep slaves, for example. So it doesn't look like I should trust the rest."
R: "Um... religion is indisprovable, it's in a separate magisterium."
A: "So you mean it can't have falsifiable consequences? First, that's not what you really believe: you do expect your prayers to have consequences. Second, if it's not testable, it's empty - it's like saying not 'Planets move according to this equation', but 'Invisble unicorns push planets around according to this equation'. You predict the same thing, but add additional complexity. A more complex theory is less likely to be true, for equal predictions. And a completely unfalsifiable theory? Then it litterally doesn't mean anything - you say you believe, but nothing would chage if you didn't."
R: "Okay, forget that. But believing in a god is nothing like believing in a spatial teapot I can never observe. God speaks to me in my heart. I can feel god, and this has positive consequences."
A: "Now there's some evidence! But it's strange a god with such knowledge never, say, tells you the 100th digit of pi, for reassurance. It's strange there does not seem to be a thereshold of horror above with a benevolent god with such power intervenes. Moreover, there seems to be evidence the god-feeling circuitry in your brain works perfectly in the absence of belief in god; I can feel the emotion of religious faith over other things, and it works just as well. And do not claim this brain circuitry comes from a god; evolution explains it."

I find it completely bizarre, and possibly a little offensive, that you explain atheism by "atheism is wishful thinking to avoid guilt" without even considering "atheists have evidence for atheism" as a competitive hypothesis.

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism really isn't true.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I was holding out some hope that you'd be able to defend yourself intelligently, Mr. Stein, but please believe me when I say this:

You've utterly lost this debate. Every word you write just makes you (and by extension, Judaism) look more and more foolish.

I really am sorry; I'm not trying to beat you down rhetorically. But, seriously... just stop.

Anonymous said...

I take the position that atheism is a religion. This essay has some excellent content on atheism as a religion: definition of atheism

seathanaich said...

"Secondly, atheists seem to be invariably highly selfish people."

So, what do you call people who say "Jews seem to be invariably highly selfish people."? Anti-semites? Nazis?

It's seems odd that I'd have to point out to a Jew that demonising people by writing them all off as "highly selfish" is an indefensible form of irrational bigotry.

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism promotes selfishness by it's very nature. There is no rational reason for an atheist to be generous.