Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why I Choose Judaism

First of all Judaism makes more sense than atheism.

Second of all, Orthodox Jews are on the average happier than atheists. (The sadness of atheists is understandable. Atheism means that after all the pain and disappointments of the typical life, one loses everything forever at death. Judaism, on the contrary, teaches that death is merely the beginning of eternal paradise.)

Thirdly, Orthodox Jews are on the average nicer people than atheists.

It's an obvious choice, except for one thing - Orthodox Judaism is much harder than atheism. It requires a high level of sacrifice and self discipline. It may be in fact the world's most burdensome religion.

On the other hand, atheism requires nothing. (This is famously explained by Fyodor Dostoyevsky who in The Brothers Karamazov Chapter VI wrote "Ivan Fyodorovitch added in parenthesis that the whole natural law lies in that faith, and that if you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful, even cannibalism. That's not all. He ended by asserting that for every individual, like ourselves, who does not believe in God or immortality, the moral law of nature must immediately be changed into the exact contrary of the former religious law, and that egoism, even to crime, must become not only lawful but even recognized as the inevitable, the most rational, even honorable outcome of his position." This is often paraphrased as "If God does not exist, everything is permitted.")

We know that given unlimited access to food, most adults will not control their eating even though they know that excessive food is making them ugly and will probably make them eventually very sick. We also know that few adults bother to exercise even 30 minutes a day although they know that it will make them look and feel better. We know that about one in five Americans smoke even though it makes them smell badly and will probably make them very sick.

Therefore, considering human nature, how much chance does Judaism have compared to atheism, when atheism is so much easier? Laziness, lust, peer pressure, etc are much more important decision making factors for most people than any long term benefits - unless you are highly disciplined and very honest.

In that case: Welcome!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In the Beginning

[a rock with bugs - no God needed?]

According to today's New York Times, scientists are still thrashing around trying to figure out how life started without having to involve God.

The rapid appearance of complex life in some accounts — “like Athena springing from the head of Zeus,” in the words of Dr. McKay — has rekindled interest recently in a theory fancied by Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of the double helix, that life originated elsewhere and floated here through space.

But whatever you do, just don't mention the "G" word. Belief in God would mean that the clergy would be more important than scientists, something taken for granted before Darwin published Origin of Species (150 years ago, all universities were extremely Christian, if not primarily theological seminaries), and that must be avoided at all cost.

Why Risk Hell?

[“Fire is one-sixtieth part of Gehinnom” Talmud Berakoth 57b]

I think it’s obvious that it is worthwhile to be an observant Jew even if one is not certain that Judaism is true – provided one condition is met: one is convinced that Judaism is more likely to be true than any other religion.

The reason is as follows. Let’s say someone would give you a hamburger but then explain to you that there is a 1% chance that there is fatal dose of cyanide in the sandwich. Would you eat it? I definitely wouldn’t. Therefore how can someone eat pork if there is even a 1% chance of burning in hell if he eats it?

The only logical reason I can imagine for ignoring Judaism would be a situation where someone believes that another religion which threatens damnation makes more sense, and therefore he is embracing that instead, however actually no other religion comes close to having the logical basis Judaism does.

Alternatively, one could argue that although there is some chance that Judaism is true, however the cost of being a Jew is too great to make being observant worthwhile. This is surely untrue, since actually Judaism does so much to enhance the lives of those who observe it.

What amazes me are the skeptics who seem to view religious discussions as some sort of court case where they are the accused and I, the Jew, am the prosecutor. I must “convict” them. I must bring evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that Orthodox Judaism is true before they can be “condemned” to a life of observance. So long as they can raise some doubt, they are free. This is just delusional nonsense. The truth is precisely the opposite. They must bring evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that Orthodox Judaism is false before they can be “freed” from a life of observance.

[Incidentally, I have heard of “Pascal’s Wager” , however I believe that my argument avoids all the major objections to it.]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Rational Approach To The Divine Origin Of Judaism

An interesting lecture by Lawrence Kelemen.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Lame Duck - Why Atheism Fails

[Would he approve of atheism?]

The primary problem I have with atheism is that atheism consistently fails the duck test:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The universe seems to have been created from nothing. This implies that universe is the creation of a transcendent supreme being.

Additionally, the universe appears to be fine tuned to make life possible. This implies that the creator designed the universe having in mind to make it habitable.

Atheists will claim that actually our universe is one bubble in a multiverse. Therefore, the entire multiverse actually has existed eternally (which by the way violates the laws of thermodynamics) and by sheer chance one multiverse turned out to be fine tuned for life.

Even the simplest living things are complex beyond human comprehension. A complex and purposeful machine, such as a pump, is obviously the work of an intelligent designer. Therefore surely the human heart, for example, is clearly the work of a supremely intelligent being.

Atheists will insist that regardless of how unlikely it may seem, life originated by chance. It then continued to develop through random chance variation and natural selection.

The fossils indicate sudden changes not gradual trial and error evolution.

Atheists insist that evolution did happen, however the fossils clearly demonstrating that gradual trial and error process are always lost.

It would seem to be clear from Jewish history that the Torah was revealed before millions of people and was not merely the work of one charlatan.

Atheists generally suggest that Ezra wrote the Torah.

We see ourselves as inhabiting our bodies but we don't identify ourselves by it. This feeling begins with the smallest children and is universal culturally. Also, we all feel the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes. Therefore, we hold people responsible for their behavior and either reward or punish them accordingly. These perceptions imply the existence of an incorporeal essence.

Atheists insist that these feelings are merely illusions.

So in other words, again and again, atheists insist that something appears to be one thing but is actually something else entirely different. It looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but it's really a goldfish wearing a duck costume. This is implausible. I don't think that we are constantly deceiving ourselves; I think atheism just doesn't make sense.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Is Science Evil?

Science is the study of creation. Religion is our knowledge of the Creator. Therefore there is no conflict between science and religion. They are two entirely separate fields of knowledge, like let’s say plumbing and medicine.

There is only one generally accepted scientific theory, which I believe Judaism has a conflict with, and that is the concept of universal descent from a common ancestor. Judaism teaches that each kind was created separately. Scientists assume that since fossils show that different, more primitive forms of life have existed in the past, we must be descended from them. I have a different interpretation.

The only problem arises when scientists become carried away with their own importance and claim that nature is all there is. This is not science, but rather scientism. Let’s say a plumber would claim that medicine is bogus and all illnesses can be treated using wrenches and pipes - this is the absurdity of scientism. According to scientism, there is not and never will be a convincing explanation for the origin of the universe or the origin of life. There can also be no free will. We are all in reality robots, which is absurd.

Scientists have done a great deal of good. They have put man on the moon. They have also killed a few astronauts. But to say they know everything is like saying your plumber, since he did such a great job on the kitchen sink, knows everything so let’s use him for brain surgery too. Any sane person can see that science is not the whole story.