Tuesday, June 24, 2008
[the flag of Sweden, with Nordic Cross]
When one discusses ethics and morality with atheists, one issue that often comes up is Sweden. Sweden is a country with a low rate of religious observance (few than 10% churchgoers) yet at the same time a low crime rate – about 1 murder per 100,000 people per year.
Based upon this we have clear proof that “you don’t need God to be good”.
Or do we?
Sweden was fully Christianized by 1150. The 1904 New International Encyclopedia noted that in Sweden religion was taught in State schools under prominent control of the clergy. Until 1950, it was illegal to live in Sweden and not be officially associated with any religion. Until 2000, Sweden had an official state church. It is safe to say that the grandparents of the average Swede were devout Lutherans and his earlier ancestors were Christians for 800 years. The Swedes have inherited a strong tradition of Lutheran ethics, including the prohibitions against murder and theft. Whether that will change as more time goes by, what Sweden will look like in another few generations, we will have to wait and see.
A better example of a society free from God would probably be North Korea. A minority of North Koreans converted to Christianity mainly between 1881 and 1948. Beyond that North Koreans have no experience with monotheism and Abrahamic religions. Since 1948, the North Korean government has been actively anti-religious. (This is NOT a specifically Communist concept. Richard Dawkins, a non-Communist atheist, has called the religious education of children "abuse", meaning, presumably that I belong in prison.)
North Korea is a paradise. All atheists should go there.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:19 PM
Monday, June 23, 2008
meet the neighbors
An article in today’s New York Times asks the question “Why is it that in an age of cheap long-distance rates, discount airlines and the Internet, when we can create community anywhere, we often don’t know the people who live next door?”
The article goes on to explain that today neighbors are estimated to socialize with each other approximately half as much as they did in the 1950’s. The article does not attempt to explain why this is.
Here’s an idea: People are scared of each other, and with good reason.
The article mentions in passing that a few years ago one of his neighbors shot his wife and then shot himself. Their two teenage children were at home. This is in a middle class suburban neighborhood. An estimated 45,513 “intimate partner” homicides occurred in the United States between 1981 and 1998. That’s an average of about 2,700 Americans each year being killed by a spouse or lover. Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, there have been 3,342 Americans killed there in combat. That’s about 660 per year. The war in American living rooms is killing Americans four times as quickly as the war in Iraq.
Sadistic joy killing is not at all uncommon either. (See this post.)
If you know that your neighbor may very possibly murder someone, it might be wise not to visit him too often. “Socializing” through anonymous Internet accounts may be the better way to go – with no names, addresses, phone numbers or photographs involved. At least not real photographs.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
In the 1950’s American minds had not yet been completely poisoned by Darwin’s monkey myth (also known as evolution). People believed that they were not merely apes who, logically, should behave like gorillas. They believed that God had created them, that they had a soul and that God would hold them accountable for their behavior.
There are, thank God, still places like this.
Take for example the neighborhood I live in. People believe in God and they believe that He commanded us to love each other. We celebrate the Sabbath and Jewish holidays together. We don’t gun each other down in family arguments. People are not perfect, but they are human and civilized.
It can be like that everywhere. I have a dream.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:59 AM
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Taylor Paschal-Placker age 13
Skyla Whitaker age 11
According to news reports, the above two young girls went for a brief walk on Sunday, June 8, 2008 near their homes in Oklahoma. They were soon afterwards found shot to death by an unknown killer.
Any normal human being would be outraged by this act of brutality; however from the point of view of an atheist, the killer should actually be congratulated for his success. He enjoyed the excitement of killing at will and most probably will never be caught and punished. [As of 11/11/2008, no arrests have been made.] From the atheistic point of view, the killer has no soul and there is no afterlife, so of course he will never be held accountable before any heavenly tribunal. Although no atheist would have the audacity to admit it, deep in his heart every atheist must be filled with admiration for a man like this.
It is hard to imagine a more evil and dangerous philosophy.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 6:20 PM
Sunday, June 15, 2008
[the land of milk and honey]
This Saturday morning Jews all over the world will read the account of the Twelve Spies (Numbers 13 and 14) in their synagogues.
The story is basically as follows: After leaving Egypt, receiving the Torah and building the Tabernacle, the Israelites are poised to enter the Land of Canaan. However, at the last moment, they mutiny and refuse to invade. It’s as if all 200,000 troops involved in the Normandy Landings refused to go at the last minute. God punishes the Israelites by forcing them to remain in the desert for forty years.
In my humble opinion, a story like this clearly validates the authenticity of the Torah narrative. Why would this story have been falsified? Why would the entire Jewish people have accepted it as fact? Why would some Jewish priest have sat in the Temple 2,700 years ago and fabricate this story from thin air? How would the Jewish people have reacted when presented with this never before heard story? “Oh, this is wonderful! Our ancestors were all cowards! That is so plausible!”
The correct explanation seems to be obvious: The Torah is true.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:11 PM
Sunday, June 08, 2008
[“Washington at Valley Forge”. Reproduction of painting by Edward P. Moran]
Some people would like to claim that the Revelation at Mount Sinai was comparable to a Greek myth, for example the Iliad by Homer, in which the gods are described as interacting with humans. The truth is, however, that even in ancient Greece, those accounts were considered to be fictional by better educated Greeks. The stories are obviously just the literary creations of ancient Greek poets.
Others might compare the Sinai revelation to the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection was, however, attested to only by the four authors of the gospels, who had every reason to lie and claim that their leader was not actually dead following his execution.
The revelation at Mount Sinai is more comparable, I believe, to the American Revolutionary War winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. [A personal footnote - very likely my mother's great-great-great-grandfather was at Valley Forge; a 17 year old private from New Jersey.] Valley Forge is part of American history, just as the Mount Sinai revelation is part of Jewish history. The only way that the Valley Forge encampment could have been fabricated would have been if the 12,000 soldiers in the American army would have all agreed to lie about what had happened to them. By the same token, the Sinai revelation could have been falsified only if all the Israelites at that time would have conspired together to fabricate that event. Just as Valley Forge is an historical fact unquestioned by any reasonable person, so should the Mount Sinai revelation be unquestioned by any reasonable person. Clearly, the only reason why it is questioned by some, is because some people do not wish to accept any limitations on their freedom, however there is no rational reason to do so.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:10 PM
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
The lighter side of philosophy.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:35 AM