Monday, January 26, 2009
[Participants in a recent Holocaust denial conference. Were they sincere?]
An interesting idea which occurred to me recently is that the very fact that people convert to Judaism would seem to confirm the truth of Judaism.
There is no good reason to convert to Judaism except that Judaism is the truth or because of marriage to a Jew. In my case, for example, marriage was obviously not a motive because I was only 16 years old. All the emotional benefits of religion, for example the comforting belief in an afterlife, can be found more easily in Christianity. I think that this may also help explain the fact that European Jews have on the average higher levels of intelligence than other ethnic groups - the most highly intelligent European gentiles converted. (I happen to be a member of Mensa, the national high IQ society.)
On the other hand, the reasons to convert from Judaism to atheism, although atheism is clearly false, are quite obvious. The main one would be the ability to indulge in sex outside marriage without guilt.
I think it's somewhat similar to the Holocaust. There would seem to be no good reason for gentile historians to believe in the Holocaust if it did not happen. On the other hand, there are clearly several reasons for gentile historians to deny the Holocaust although it did happen - anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and so on.
This also helps us to understand why the Jews are the eternal people. There will always be some honest people in the world and therefore there will always be Jews. Other ideologies, based on fantasy and imagination, constantly change, appear and disappear.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 5:15 AM
Sunday, January 18, 2009
[“Politics” by Korn]
The presidential inauguration which will take place in a few days will mean probably the most drastic change in Americans politics in many years. Mr. Obama, whom I voted for incidentally, campaigned with a slogan of “change”. It is hard to imagine an American leader much more different than his predecessor, President Bush.
This has caused me to think a little bit about some common political ideas.
Politicians are usually described as “liberal” or “conservative”. The Republican Party is conservative while the Democratic Party is liberal. What does that really mean?
Liberalism seems to mean one simple thing: Always favor the weak. A liberal believes in helping the poor, the oppressed, the blacks, the gays, the homeless, the handicapped, women, Hurricane Katrina survivors, Palestinians, a criminal on death row, endangered species, people in Africa, people with AIDS, basically anyone who can claim to be a victim. This seems to be based on a residual Judeo-Christian belief in the virtue of helping the poor. My impression is that most liberals are actually very cruel in their personal lives, cheating on spouses, dumping lovers, abandoning children and aborting fetuses and in order to soothe their guilty consciences, they will go to a demonstration to save the life of a prisoner awaiting execution or to save the whales. Liberals tend to be young, urban and secular although not necessarily. Communism was a liberal movement because it championed the poor. Liberals in the 1960’s favored Israel, because Israel was portrayed as being weak while the Arabs were strong. Today, liberals favor the Palestinians, who are portrayed as being weak compared to the Israelis.
Conservatism is little more complex. Conservatives support the strong, such as the wealthy, management instead of labor, the established church and monarchy, if there is one in their country. Conservatives also support tradition and prefer to see things done the way they always have been. Conservatives tend to be older, rural and more religiously observant. The Nazi party was conservative in the sense that it promoted obedience to authority and respect for strength. Darwinian evolution, which teaches that the dominance and survival of the strong and the destruction of the weak causes life to advance, can be used to support a deeply conservative political philosophy.
Political beliefs are similar to religious beliefs. Generally they are based on the opinions of teachers, parents and friends, on personal priorities and on emotions. They are usually not based on logic and facts. For many people, their political beliefs almost are a religion. Therefore political discussions often become angry and irrational.
Orthodox Jews cannot really be defined as necessarily conservative or liberal. Orthodox Jews in America will generally support liberal candidates because those candidates will usually support social programs for the poor which many Orthodox Jews benefit from. I think in presidential elections, Orthodox Jews will more often vote conservative because they want to see a foreign policy supportive of Israel.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 6:19 PM
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
[the skull of Heidelberg Man]
Evolution basically means that all life on earth developed from simple chemicals through a very gradual process of random chance and trial and error.
Originally, about four billion years ago, the earth was covered by an ocean of water containing certain basic chemicals. Somehow, these chemicals formed simple one-celled animals. Once simple life appeared through the random interaction of chemicals, it continued to change through random genetic mutations. Mutations which had greater survival value became more common and eventually new mutations appeared on top of them and this process continued indefinitely until eventually man appeared.
[Incidentally atheists may protest that evolution refers only to changes in living things, while the creation of life is called “abiogensis”. However actually atheists do not believe that God created the first life. They see life as arising naturally from chemicals. Other than as part of an effort to confuse religious believers, there is no reason to distinguish between pre-life and post-life evolution. Also atheists will protest that evolution is not random because it involves natural selection. However bear in mind that natural selection is merely a filter that removes any living thing that does not meet certain criteria as defined by the earth’s environment. Natural selection does not design anything; according to atheists, random chance must do that.]
Since Darwin suggested evolution in 1859, one of the most fascinating questions has been – exactly what is our ancestry? If we are not descended from Adam who was created by God, but rather we are descended from water and chemicals, what exactly were all the intermediary steps? There surely must have been quite a few. The human body contains about 100 trillion cells. Each cell is so complex that scientists are not close to creating one artificially. The number of random trial and error steps from chemicals to man must have been almost infinite. The search for the “Missing Link” is perhaps the main objective of paleontology, the paleontologists’ Holy Grail.
As any genealogist knows, ancestry must be traced beginning from you and working step-by-step back in time. So I was excited to see the January, 2009 issue of Scientific American magazine which includes on page 60 an article called “The Human Pedigree” by Kate Wong. Based on the chart in the article there is only one extinct species that has a well-supported relationship to man – Homo heidelbergensis, or Heidelberg Man. Heidelberg Man lived in Europe about a half million years ago. He was basically identical to modern man except for a more ape like face - he had large brow ridges and a low forehead. His brain case also was more elongated from front to back than in modern man.
So this is the total success that evolutionists have had in tracing the human family tree. They have found one extinct species, which was basically almost human, and earlier than that the trail goes dead. We can only speculate. (This is one of the reasons why evolutionists get upset when people claim that evolution means we are descended from monkeys. The truth is they have no idea what we are descended from.)
The standard atheistic explanation is “Yes, all those trillions upon trillions of intermediary steps between chemicals and man were really there, however the evidence has been lost.” This sounds a little bit like a prosecutor telling the jury “Yes, there were witnesses, there were finger prints and there was a murder weapon, but we just can’t find them.” Good luck with that.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:21 PM
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
[without discipline, nothing is possible]
I think that we all recognize that self-discipline is something crucial for a successful life. The question is, however, how to obtain it.
A recent article in the New York Times points out that religious people are on the average more disciplined than secular people.
I have also noticed that people who suffer from severe addiction disorders, such as alcohol and drugs, are seldom if ever able to recover unless they seriously embrace monotheism. The Twelve Steps meetings have basically reinvented church while rehab centers have reinvented the monastery. Among Orthodox Jews, addiction disorders are very rare. I am aware of only two Sabbath observant residential rehabilitation facilities in the United States - Chabad Residential Treatment Center For Men in Los Angeles, California and Yatzkan Center in Brooklyn, NY for addicted teenage boys age 14-17. Both these centers seem to be very small and serve non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox. When I called, Chabad told me that they have 35 beds and accept non-Jewish patients as well. Over 1.46 million drivers were arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 139 licensed drivers in the United States. I am not aware of any Orthodox Jew ever having been arrested for driving while intoxicated, although proportionally it should be about 1,000 annually.
I personally have found that Judaism is a hugely effective tool for maintaining self-control – for doing in practice what I know mentally is the best thing. For example, making vows can be very powerful. Each week I can read a list of vows along the lines of:
The following fast days will be obligatory only if I definitely and knowingly require myself to observe them, and I am aware that I am required to observe them an hour after having fulfilled the conditions needed to require the fast.
I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly unblock any webpage from ContentProtect software I will be required to fast 1 day during this month of --------- or next month of -----------.
Conversely, I believe that people who leave Orthodoxy generally have a very low level of self control and self discipline. Yossi, the main subject of Hella Winston’s book Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, is 25 years old. He is divorced, has no children, no job, no secular education, he drinks heavily and he lives with his grandmother. I have so far yet to come across someone who has left Orthodoxy in recent years and afterwards achieved the “American Dream” of a good job, a house, a car and a stable family life.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:09 PM