Monday, January 25, 2010

The Aging Atheist


[Boaz Yakin]

I personally have a theory about the average human life. I believe that it can basically be divided into four segments corresponding approximately with the four season.

Birth to age 20 - Childhood, spring.
Age 20 to age 40 - Youth, summer.
Age 40 to age 60 - Middle age, fall.
Age 60 to age 80 - Old age, winter.

I have an impression that atheism is most attractive to the person in his youth. He can lead a life of debauchery, feel good, look good and suffer few consequences.

What happens however to the aging atheist - let's say once he hits forty? Can this be a crisis?

Boaz Yakin is a 43 year old movie director and writer. He is a secular American Jew whose parents are Israeli. He attended an Orthodox elementary school. I have the impression that his attitude to Judaism is hostile, based on the movie A Price Above Rubies which he wrote and directed. I would assume he is an atheist.

Recently he wrote and directed another movie, Death in Love. In the beginning of the movie (from about 2:00 to 4:30 marks) he has one of the main characters, played by Josh Lucas, deliver a little speech about how horrible it is to turn 40, about how ones appearance changes, how he sees a stranger in the mirror, how women no longer can give him pleasure and how living just seems pointless but he is too cowardly to take his own life. Slightly later (5:52 mark), Lucas' character continues to explain that as one ages he "loses everything and gains nothing except the knowledge that you have lost everything gained nothing".

I wonder if Mr Yakin is expressing some of his own feelings.

It's a shame. It really doesn't have to be this way.

35 comments:

Simon Gardner said...

"What happens however to the aging atheist - let's say once he hits forty?"

I can tell you personally, he gets even more exasperated at the sheer monumental idiocy of the religious and of religion. And it goes on getting more from then.

Anon2 said...

Rubies was an embarrasing movie.
Although it was fictional, this type of thing happens unfortunately.

jewish philosopher said...

"he gets even more exasperated at the sheer monumental idiocy of the religious"

Sounds like someone is a little jealous.

"this type of thing happens unfortunately"

What the movie doesn't show you is where is Sonia's relationship with Ramon is most likely to go (breakup within a year or two) and where does Sonia eventually end up (old lady with cats).

Anon2 said...

maybe

Shalmo said...

But JP not everyone who leaves OJ becomes an atheist.

Certainly as death approaches the average human thinks more about the metaphysical.

But the problem with your approach is you are assuming atheism is the only alternative ex-orthodox switch to.

Just recently I read on an ex-orthodox who is now well adjusted as a practicing pagan.

From my experience the vast majority of apostates adopt some level of deism. They just don't believe in Torah MiSinai.

And of course there are those who just shift downwards to either conservative, reform or humanistic congregations.

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism seems to be the most common destination for ex-Orthodox and I see it as being Orthodoxy's biggest competitor today, but there are exceptions.

Philo said...

JP,

How does Orthodoxy compete with Atheism? I mean that's like Coka-Cola competing with Microsoft, they are 2 bizarrely different ideas.

Actually, I would counter that most who leave Orthodoxy become secular, not atheist. I am basing this on my won experience, that most go "off" because of hedonistic intellectualism.

I never heard your view on skeptics like me, JP?

jewish philosopher said...

I don't hear too often (although it does happen) about Orthodox Jews today becoming Hindus or Episcopalians. It seems to usually be atheism. If I were writing a few hundred years ago, I might be writing about what's wrong with Catholicism; but for most Jews today that's not a big issue.

Israel has a fairly high percentage of atheists, especially for a non-Communist or former Communist country.

http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_atheist.html

Philo said...

Atheism and secularism are not the same thing.

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism is the religion based on the belief that the Biblical God does not exist and evolution created us. Secularism is the culture based on that belief.

Philo said...

I know secularists who don't know anything about evolution. And to correct you further---there were atheists well before Darwin. One of my heroes--David Hume, was a very noted atheist during the 18th century.

jewish philosopher said...

Atheists were a bizarre fringe regarded by society as criminals prior to Darwin. Scientists were all what would now be called creationists and intelligent design advocates before 1859.

"The Darwinian revolution was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, as had been the scientific revolutions in the physical sciences, but rather the replacement of a world view, in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle, by a new world view in which there was no room for supernatural forces." Ernst Mayr (1904 – 2005) Professor of Zoology at Harvard University Nature March 22, 1974 p.285

http://bevets.com/equotesm.htm

Philo said...

I don't think the world considered David Hume as part of a fringe group. Philosophers such as Baruch Spinoza (zecher tzadik lebracha :), Rene Descartes, John Locke, and even is "arch enemy" Jean Jacques Rousseau, had a lots of respect for him. Scientific philosophers such as Daniel Dennett and Noam Chomsky as well look up to him.

They were a small group, since they were threatened with the death penalty all over the world.

bob said...

Bill gates is at least a "strong" agnostic who has said publicly that he seen no evidence that humans have a soul, and he seems to be doing pretty well. As a matter of fact he just pledged another 10 billion dollars to help fight disease. Not too bad for someone who is pretty much an athiest.

jewish philosopher said...

Philo, here is an editorial from the New York Times 4/18/1853 which seems to take it for granted that atheism is evil. The only question is whether the Episcopal Church should be made America's national religion.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9B0CE4DD1331E13BBC4052DFB2668388649FDE

Here is a New York Times review of Origin of Species 3/28/1860 which implies that all scientists until then had been creationists.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E01E0DC133DE73ABC4051DFB566838B679FDE&scp=1&sq=darwin&st=p

Prior to 1859, "atheist" was basically an insult, like "psychopath" would be today for example.

Bob, I would not question Mr Gates' brilliance as a businessman and software developer and I would not denigrate his philanthropy.

Having said that, one must bear in mind that Gates has more money than it is physically possible for him to spend on his own comfort and enjoyment. Therefore, it would make perfect sense for him to donate a portion of his fortune to helping the poor, something which will bring him universal praise. He still has about $50 billion left.

Secondly, Gates is known to be personally pretty nasty and rude.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates#Management_style

I would not hold him up as a paragon of virtue by any means. He's just a very intelligent and lucky man.

Anonymous said...

I do believe that it was Bill's wife Melinda, who influenced him to start doanting to charities. She is a Roman Catholic. Before he married her, he wasn't all that generous. And he has never been faithful to her. Even at the very beginning of his marriage, he has been going away for weekends with an old girlfriend.

Philo said...

Well I don't think ALL scientists were creationists. The deeply religious one's were, the others just accepted they didn't know how life came to be. Once the theory (not to be mixed up with hypothesis!) became strong, which was about the time J.B.S. Haldane become active, it is safe to say 90% of the scientific community accepted evolution, the rate is now 97%, and I would presume the other 3% are not creationists.

I can't really comment on Atheists' morals. I am not an Atheist, so I would not know.

Philo said...

But I hope you understand no one is an atheist in terms of they are absolutely sure there is no God, just as you are not 100%, absolutely sure there is one.

jewish philosopher said...

There were atheists before Darwin, however Origin of Species made atheism respectable and popular.

Anon2 said...

There is no doubt that Darwin's evolutionary theory was an earthquake for the religious community of the Western world, for it gave a credible alternative to the creation story.

In reality, it presented just another new set of natural laws, like Newtonian mechanics, that described the physical world, while saying nothing about the presence or absence of god.

I think you should distinguish between the dichotomies of theism/atheism vs creationism/evolution. While Darwin most certainly contradicts the biblical creation story, it neither comfirms nor denies a supreme power, any more than the laws of gravity do.

I wonder if Eastern religions like Buddhism or Hinduism have the same problem with evolution, given that they are not encumbered with a biblical creation story.

Personally, I believe in a Einsteinian concept of god-- a sort of universal intelligence of nature, that makes the physical world the way it is. What evolution and other sciences contradict is a personal god described by the bible.

jewish philosopher said...

"it presented just another new set of natural laws"

Not that I know of.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_laws_in_science#Overview

"What evolution and other sciences contradict is a personal god described by the bible."

Which other sciences?

I think the publication of Origin, like the publication of the Koran or the Book of Mormon, simply represents the establishment of a new religion.

Anon2 said...

"Not that I know of."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution#Mechanisms


"Which other sciences?"

Every science that produces laws of nature that occur automatically without any intervention-- gravity, chemical reactions, whatever. Also quantum mechanics that adds randomness to the equation. Chance and natural laws governing a physical phenomenon makes impossible the personal concept of god who cares about and controls individual lives.

In a lottery somebody has to win. If its me, I'm just a lucky bastard. If I'm hit by a car I'm an unluck one. Thats all. If somebody shoots me in the brainstem, I'll die.

Religion, from Miriam Webster Dictionary:

"a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

Evolution and science in general cannot be considered a religion because it posits no purpose or ultimate cause. It only describes how things happen. It certainly implies no superhuman agency and no rituals. The fact that people "believe" in it doesnt make it a religion.

jewish philosopher said...

The link you site mentions no new natural law, merely (clearly false) speculation about how worms could spontaneously morph into people.

"Every science that produces laws of nature that occur automatically without any intervention"

Every natural law proves the existence of a supreme legislator - further proof of God.

"a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

That pretty well describes atheism. Evolution is the superhuman agency. Rituals might include promiscuity and substance abuse.

Anon2 said...

"Every natural law proves the existence of a supreme legislator - further proof of God."

I have no problem with you calling nature God. But how does natural law prove the Yahweh of the Torah, the angry, personal and jealous god?

"The link you site mentions no new natural law,"

Sure it does. Natural selection, genetic drift, sexual selection, all of these are quantitative, can be modelled mathematically, and are rigorous science.

"about how worms could spontaneously morph into people."

That's a good populist simplification, but I don't know what evolution you're talking about. The evolution that I'm familiar with talks about how apes branched off to Neandertals which turned into homo sapiens. Yes, worms and people share a common ancestor, namely single celled organisms, but worms certainly didn't morph into people. Your previous post about your conversation with Dr Theobold is more accurate.

"Evolution is the superhuman agency"

No its not, its a mechanism like gravity.

jewish philosopher said...

"But how does natural law prove the Yahweh of the Torah, the angry, personal and jealous god?"

Creation requires a creator, laws require a legislator, design requires a designer. All science supports the existence of God. As far as more details go, we have to turn to prophesy - Torah from Sinai.

"Natural selection, genetic drift, sexual selection, all of these are quantitative, can be modelled mathematically, and are rigorous science."

Rearranging letters at random until they spell something might eventually work, for a few words and after a long time, but that's not a "law of nature". There are 18 laws of nature.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_laws_in_science#Overview

"That's a good populist simplification, but I don't know what evolution you're talking about."

It's part of the pseudoscience known as evolution.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990322062150.htm

"No its not, its a mechanism like gravity."

It's the atheist god.

Philo said...

Science is not a religion. I will go as far as to agree that most people take science by faith, because the scientists who are smarter than them "take it". What about for the people who actually went to the museum and observed the evidence, like me?

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism is a religion and evolution is a pseudoscience.

Anonymous said...

A number of people have told me that they have faith that science will answer the big questions of origins someday. That sounds more like religion than science to me.

And many of the arguements for evolution are actually theological. Questions like "why would G-d create something imperfect?" are theological, not scientific.

Abe said...

>>>Atheism is a religion and evolution is a pseudoscience.

You could have fooled me. Last time I attended my local atheist temple during a black sabbath, we only engaged in some debaucherous self-indulgance with our neighbors wives, climaxing in a sacrifice of a kidnapped chareidi virgin to Charlie Manson. We know that we will never attain chareidi nirvana, but we'll sure have fun trying.

Abe said...

>>>A number of people have told me that they have faith that science will answer the big questions of origins someday. That sounds more like religion than science to me.

While, I may have faith that science might triumph with an answer for everything, I could be wrong. However, you attest infallibilty in your faith in god. I attest no such manifesto and therefore have no reason to inject irrationality over my life with ancient biblical edicts and meaningless rituals.

Anon2 said...

"Atheism is a religion and evolution is a pseudoscience."

By your criteria religion is not religion.

Rather than using an accepted definition of religion, you use the term to disparagingly describe some caricaturized system of beliefs based on illogical and immoral principles for which you reject the evidence.

Since you consider atheism to be like this, it is a religion. On the other hand, since orthodox Judaism, in your view, is based on objective evidence and unbiased assessment of the nature of the world, it is not a religion. In fact, it is science! Perhaps it should be called a Jewish Scientology.

If you wish to twist the meaning of words, go ahead, but be honest about it.

"A number of people have told me that they have faith that science will answer the big questions of origins someday. That sounds more like religion than science to me."

Anon--You, too, twist the meaning of words. I believe that my wife loves me-- is that "belief" a religion? Just read the MW definition of religion, please.

jewish philosopher said...

Some atheists are Satanists

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/08/atheism-and-satanism.html

Atheism is a belief system defining spirituality, the afterlife, man’s origin and morality and therefore I believe it is a religion.

Anon2 said...

"Atheism is a belief system defining spirituality, the afterlife, man’s origin and morality and therefore I believe it is a religion."

That's really nonsense. By your standard neurobiology, philosophy, psychology and anthropology are also religions.

Besides atheism doesn't "define" or dictate any specifics of those things you mention. It simply rejects god. I could believe that man got here from another planet or evolved from aliens. I could be a humanist, a utilitarian or a psychopath like Hitler. I could believe in a soul or not. I can believe in ESP. I can also believe that nothing really exists and all of our reality is just a dream. All of this has nothing to do with believing in god.

If you use the word "religion" you should stick to an accepted definition. But I know that you use it to try to put atheism and Darwinism on equal footing with religions (other than Judaism of course).

"Some atheists are Satanists"

That's silly.

Anonymous said...

Abe and Anon:

People have told me that they can be perfectly happy atheists because they have faith that science will answer the big questions someday. They are making a theological descision based on their faith in science. That sound like religious faith in science to me. And they use the word "faith" not "belief."

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism is the denial of the Biblical God and the belief that evolution made us.

Atheism is a belief system defining spirituality - there is none.

the afterlife - there is none.

man’s origin - Darwinian evolution.

and morality - everything is permitted.

Atheists may argue that since they do not believe in a personal god and do not pray, atheism is not a religion, however the same is true of some Buddhists and Scientologists.

"I know that you use it to try to put atheism and Darwinism on equal footing with religions"

just more false and dangerous

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Darwin_to_Hitler

"That's silly."

Not according to some Satanists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaVeyan_Satanism