Friday, September 16, 2011

Gaddafi and God

[in big trouble]

These days, former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi isn't doing very well. His location is currently unknown and he is wanted for war crimes. Things aren't looking so good right now for the former tyrant and fashion icon.

There is an important message to learn from this: sooner or later, there is justice.

Gaddafi was an evil man who killed many innocent people. For many years he lived in great luxury, however ultimately justice caught up with him.

By the same token consider, Saddam Hussein, a brutal killer who finally met a bitter end. And of course recently Osama bin Laden. Jewish Communists, who persecuted rabbis without mercy in the early years of the Soviet Union, were themselves purged by Stalin a few years later. The same is true is many evil people - they may seem successful for a while, however then suddenly they're gone. Most bad people end up suffering greatly even in this world.

There are however some exceptions. I would suggest that Stalin and Mao, for example, were such monsters that no earthly punishment could begin to apply to them and their suffering was reserved only for the afterlife.

It's well known that many people in recent years who have converted from Orthodox Judaism to atheism have ended up having disastrous personal lives. I know of one man who grew up Orthodox in Brooklyn, dropped out about thirty years ago after being married with a daughter. He then married a Colombian woman, had children, had a good job however his sexual promiscuity caused him to lose his new family and career. I know of another woman who left her Orthodox husband for a non-Orthodox coworker. Today she is divorced, penniless and has three kids. I personally know of no apostates from Orthodoxy who seem to do too well personally and financially.

We must learn from this and use this to help us increase our belief in and fear of God.


ksil said...


i know tons of people that have left the orthodox jewsih cult and are living very productive lives. you should get out more! further, i know many orthodox jews who are secretly not orthodox - and are quite successfull and happy.

btw, thanks for the chiddush that "everyone dies, eventually" great one! you should put it in your sefer. oh, and in that book, make sure to list all of the innocent children and good people who lived lives full of suffering....while sadam and gaddafi, et al, all lived full lives. oh yea, its god. he did it. we dont understand his ways.

lol. nice fairy tale. enjoy that

jewish philosopher said...

Not everyone gets hanged or gets his head shot off.

It seems to be a little noticed fact that on the average orthodox Jews lead fairly quiet, healthy, happy lives in comparison to their enemies. Wicked people often end very miserably.

Now how about this: provide detailed identifying information for three people who were orthodox Jews, have left orthodoxy since 1960 and today have a job, a spouse and a child from that spouse. Surely the "off the derech" community should proudly advertise these inspiring success stories.

Michael said...

I don't dispute the claim that many evil people suffer in this world. Even if they do not suffer in some cataclysmic fashion, I think it is impossible for a truly evil person to experience genuine happiness; indifference to the suffering of others, and enjoyment of sensual pleasures maybe, but not real happiness.

However, I know of at least two current "apostates" that seem to be doing pretty well:

Of course, academic success does not always equate happiness, but they seem to be doing just fine by most yardsticks.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm not too clear about Sapolsky's orthodox background. He was born in 1957 to Russian immigrants. How many Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union were orthodox? Very few. And he then attended a non-Jewish high school. My suspicion is that he spent a few elementary school years in an orthodox school while his parents were secular.

Regarding Goldstein, I don't believe she has a child from her current spouse.

Michael said...

Regarding Sapolsky, here's a comment of his:

"I was raised in an Orthodox household, and I was raised devoutly religious up until around age 13 or so. In my adolescent years, one of the defining actions in my life was breaking away from all religious belief whatsoever. What does it say if, in all of history, there was even one religious person whose religiosity was due to some neurotransmitter hiccup, and in all of history there was even one person whose atheism was due to a different type of neurotransmitter hiccup?"

I don't know what "devout" means to an atheist. He at times will entertain the limitations of an empiricist-atheist approach to existence, although in the final analysis he regards himself as an atheist.

I came across a comment of his, that I can't reference, where he speculated that the initial break away may have had "something to do with my gonads." Of course he regards his reasons for continued atheism to be of greater substance than this now. Unfortunately I can't find that comment (perhaps from his Stanford commencement speech, found on've only looked at a couple of speeches of his, so you might find that comment there).

The transcript of the above quote is found at:

jewish philosopher said...

Again, it's a little weird.

On one hand his parents were apparently raised in Soviet Russia where judaism was illegal and apparently they didn't mind his attending a secular high school.

On the other hand they were "devoutly orthodox"? Could be, I don't know.

jewish philosopher said...

Does he have orthodox siblings, or any siblings? A single child family would be very normal for secular Russians, not so much for devoutly orthodox Jews.

Michael said...

Don't know. In the first chapter of his "A Primate's Memoir" which I'm seeing on google books, he notes that his grandfathers died before birth, but that he had elder relatives who were prone to "collectivist, utopian rants," suggesting that there were strong communist leanings in parts of his social circle.

Later he describes having "escaped" the dietary restrictions of his childhood, thus exposing himself to pizza, Chinese food, and Indian food (they didn't have kosher pizza or Chinese back in the 70's?)

I don't know how many transplanted orthodox Jews were communist, but it seems like Judaism and soviet communism were like fire and water. I suspect that, whatever his family's religious leanings, there was a strong dose of secular communism in his upbringing.

I had a classmate in professional school, who was a transplanted Ukrainian Jew. He went to Chaim Berlin as a high schooler (no primary Jewish education), and his sister an orthodox seminary, although his parents were basically secular, and he was atheistic throughout high school. He became a kind-of, sort-of, Baal Teshuvah in college, but the dismissive, Eastern-block atheism left an indelible imprint on his personality. Wouldn't surprise me if this isn't a similar story with Sapolsky.

jewish philosopher said...

Bottom line is that he claims to have been raised strictly orthodox, however it seems quite possible (barring further evidence) that this is an exaggeration, possible designed to give his atheism greater legitimacy since he would have rejected monotheism only after having been immersed in it.

In any case, I am still unable to locate detailed identifying information for three people (or even one person) who were orthodox Jews, have left orthodoxy since 1960 and today have a job, a spouse and a child from that spouse. I think this makes one wonder about the mental health and stability of modern day drop outs. Ok, not everyone's going to have a great family and career, however surely someone should.

Jeff said...

Let's see if I understand this post correctly. Basically, you say the following:

Bad people end up suffering, except when they don't.

Good people have good lives, except when they don't.

And when people make major changes in their lives, it takes a toll on them.

Hmm. Not exactly earth shattering news.

And how exactly is that supposed to make me "believe and fear God"?

An "afterlife" claim that some people made up 2500 years ago and has never actually been witnessed?

jewish philosopher said...

Let's put it this way: as a general rule crime doesn't pay, even in this physical world.

As far as the afterlife goes, how exactly would someone in this life experience it since, by definition, it is after this life and death is not reversible?

jewish philosopher said...

Incidentally, grave goods indicate a belief in the afterlife going back many thousands of years.

Also, near death experiences provide some convincing, although perhaps not conclusive, evidence of the afterlife.

Ksil said...

I was raised in an orthodox community, went to elementary school and high school....all with frum kids.

At least, 10%-15% of the kids i grew up with are not orthodox. If u think i would disclose any name, much less the city i grew up in, your nuts

This is why you dont know anyone like i describe, u did not grow up in the cult, they chapped u later in life

Alex said...

"Things aren't looking so good right now for the former tyrant and fashion icon.

There is an important message to learn from this: sooner or later, there is justice. "

Yes, there's justice sooner or later, but we do not learn this _as a lesson_ from an anecdote.

jewish philosopher said...

"At least, 10%-15% of the kids i grew up with are not orthodox."

You lived in a bad community. This explains a lot.

"we do not learn this _as a lesson_ from an anecdote."

Specific examples can teach important lessons. Maybe Obama teaches us that in America even people from difficult backgrounds with no father can succeed. What's wrong with telling black kids that as a lesson from an anecdote?

Alex said...

The difference is that in your case, the black kid can know, and be inspired by the fact, that a black man "made it." In the case of bad folks like Qaddafi, we have no clue whatsoever that they received official justice for the things they did. We can know that they sometimes suffer, but we don't know that it is justice.

jewish philosopher said...

This post is based on the assumption that you already believe in God. When the wicked are so often, eventually, destroyed this phenomena reminds us of divine justice. It's an opportunity which should not be let go to waste.

Jeff said...

"This post is based on the assumption that you already believe in God."

Fair enough. But I'm trying to understand, rationally, even according to a believer, how you deal with this. I don't understand the psychology of it.

First, if you use the misfortune that befalls "evil" people to strengthen your faith, shouldn't the evil that befalls good people weaken it by the same reasoning? And if you write that off as just "not understanding" god's ways, you should say the same for evil people.

Second, do you really think that "fear" is a useful or effective emotion to promote/improve belief in god? If your blog is about promoting orthodox Judaism-- I have never heard of anybody (except in the bible or koran) who changed their beliefs because of fear. It simply doesn't work in modern times.

I often hear of Ovadia Yosef or some other rabbi commenting about this or that bad event resulting from violating shabbat or some other sin. It always sounds so ridiculous to the rational mind. Its such an obvious logical fallacy-- that one thing that followed another is caused by it.

jewish philosopher said...

Let's say you already believe that tobacco causes cancer.

Doesn't every smoker who dies of cancer remind you of that and strengthens your resolve to not smoke and doesn't the fear of cancer motivate you?

And does every person who does not smoke yet dies of cancer weaken your resolve to not smoke?

Jeff said...

Interesting argument, JP.

However, it so happens that I am professionally involved in public health. And, it is very well known fact that the fear of illness is actually a very POOR motivator, for both current smokers who won't stop, and as a deterrent for potential smokers. The majority of smokers begin before age 18, even though they very well know that people die from lung cancer.

What does make the difference? Public policy and culture of stigmatizing smokers, regulation, and taxes. Very often smokers stop because of the ill effects that they are already feeling. Or because they stink, or because its expensive.

Nobody in my family smokes. We know, like everybody else, that its dangerous. But probably the main reason is that we all think its disgusting. We threatened to fire our housekeeper when we caught her smoking in the house.

jewish philosopher said...

Burping and farting are disgusting too, however I don't smoke because I don't want to die.

Remember a few years ago, before the cancer hysteria sank in, smoking was considered to be elegant, sexy, manly, mature, etc anything but disgusting.

Jeff said...

I won't belabor the point. All I am saying is that attitudes change for a variety of reasons, not just fear. In countries where the smoking rate is low, like Holland or Canada, people don't have more "fear" then they do in Mexico or Arab countries. Its more about social acceptability. This seems to be true about health behaviors in general, like diet and exercise.

Jeff said...

The post brings up the interesting question about risk taking in general. For example, what goes through a person's head when he texts while driving? Or speeding? Most research I am aware of says that those scary commercials don't really help. People probably use a combination of mechanisms to allow them to take risks:

1. Denial-- I'm sure you have a lot to say about that
2. Rationalization-- putting risks in proportion in comparison to other risks
3. Cost/benefit-- how much do I gain from the behavior
4. Societal pressure and norms-- this is probably the strongest factor, since man is a highly social creature (on average).

Several years ago I did a bike tour in Slovenia and Austria. Interestingly, my American born friends and I were one of the few bikers wearing helmets. We thought this very strange, given the strong health awareness and socialism in these countries. Yet, for some reason, there wasn't the cultural norm to wear helmets.
In contrast, in the US, you don't send your 3 year old out on a tricycle without a helmet.

It seems to be a combination of education, social policy and legislation, that changes a particular behavior from legitimate to unacceptable.

jewish philosopher said...

Motivation is a very complex topic and it's almost impossible to know with certainty exactly why anyone does anything. Do students enroll in medical school because of altruism, greed, a desire for prestige, the impression made by television portrayals of glamourous physicians, all the above, none of the above? Who really knows? We can't read minds.

Fear seems to have a great influence on human behavior. Most people are highly motivated by a credible, immediate threat of pain or death. When the threat is more distant and vague, then response varies.

The Talmud Tamid 32a states:
איזהו חכם הרואה את הנולד

Who is wise? One who is aware of the consequences of his behavior.

Of course, different people possess very different levels of wisdom. 

Yesodei HaTorah said...

As I concede that I am unable to get you to address or understand my previous question, I will give you a shot at another, if you like.

At what point does a person become an anti-semite? If he hates all Jews that are not like him? If he hates all Jews who do not agree with him? If he hates everyone to the left of a certain position? Does it go by percentages?

jewish philosopher said...

Look in a dictionary. That's an English word which has no basis in the Bible or Talmud.

The Talmud uses words like "heretic" or "idolater" to refer to individuals who in many cases attacked believing Jews.

Eclipse said...

Comparing people who left Orthodoxy with Bin Laden, Gaddaffi, and Saddam Hussein is obscene. The latter three are responsible for thousands of murders and countless suffering. That in now way is similar to someone making a personal decision to live differntly from the way they grew up.

You also generalize in the way you define success. Not everyone wants to be married and/or have children. Some of us love being single. Some married couples don't want kids. Some people have kids they didn't want and are terrible people. You never consider that a person may have left Orthodoxy simply because it wasn't a good fit for them, and their goals in life and notions of success could be very different than yours.

jewish philosopher said...

"That in now way is similar to someone making a personal decision to live differntly from the way they grew up."

Denying God, who created people, is worse than killing people.

"You also generalize in the way you define success."

I'm using an easily verifiable, general indication of emotional maturity and stability.

Eclipse said...

Oops, meant to say, "Some people have kids they didn't want and are terrible PARENTS" not "terrible people."

There are other forms of spirituality and serving God besides Orthodox Judaism. Volunteering in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, taking in foster kids, visiting lonely people in nursing homes, providing social services to the needs are all ways of serving God by affirming the value of life. Environmental advocacy is serving God by protecting creation. There are other versions of Judaism and other forms of religion and spirituality that motivate people to do all of these things and in no way deny the existence of God.

Even if someone does deny God's existence, how can they possibly be worse than murderers if they never commit murder or any violent acts? Is Stephen Hawking worse than Osama Bin Laden in your view? How can a personal lack of belief possibly compare to the horror of September 11?

Your "easily verifiable general indication" has no scientific value specifically because of the overgeneralization. Many emotionally mature and stable people decide they do not want the responsibility of being parents or of being married. It is actually more responsible to know one's limits and not bring a child into the world knowing one cannot meet that child's needs. That's not to mention your inherent assumption that all people who are married with kids are happy. Many in fact are quite envious of the freedom singles have. Your indicator of success is therefore flawed based on your own personal biases.

jewish philosopher said...

Other religions are false, while orthodox judaism is true, as I explain here.

"Many emotionally mature and stable people decide they do not want the responsibility of being parents or of being married."


Eclipse said...

Who? Too many to count, including me and many of my best friends. Here are some examples of people who can be described as "emotionally mature and stable" who chose not to marry or have children:

Oprah Winfrey
Katharine Hepburn
Ralph Nader
Ed Koch
Mother Theresa
Gloria Steinem (married at 66, no kids)
Liza Minnelli (married 4 times, no kids)
Susan Boyle
Molly Ivins
Condoleeza Rice
Janet Reno
Janet Napolitano
David Souter

In history:

Nicholas Copernicus
George Washington
Annie Sullivan
Helen Keller
Queen Elizabeth I
Emily Dickinson
Florence Nightingale
James Buchanan, 5th US president
Isaac Newton
George Frederic Handel
Nikola Tesla

jewish philosopher said...

I count only these who lived in this century and never had a spouse or child:

Molly Ivins
Condoleeza Rice
Janet Reno
Janet Napolitano
David Souter
Ralph Nader

All are rumored to be gay, however that is speculative.

Oprah had a baby at age 14 which died. Also, exactly how stable and mature is she? Koch was probably gay. Boyle was until recently a poor, very obese woman. Tesla was mentally ill. Mother Teresa believed herself to be married to Jesus. We know little about the sexual orientation of people in earlier centuries and in some eras celibacy may have been commonplace. You may as well include Jesus himself on your list.

It would seem to be questionable if in the past century any heterosexual, emotionally mature and stable people have chosen to go through life never marrying or having a child. It certainly is a rarity.

Which brings us back to the question: where are the drop outs living the American dream, with the wife, two kids, a dog and picket fence, or some resemblance thereof? Why don't any exist?   

Eclipse said...

Oops, forgot Galileo Galilei.

"Rumored to be gay?" Rumors count for nothing. All speculation, nothing more. You're seeing what you want to see.

Why do you count only those who live in this century? And which is "this century"--the 20th or 21st?

Your definitions of "stable," "mature," and "successful" are very subjective. Oprah has given millions to the needy all over the world. Susan Boyle has an amazing voice, which she had before anyone gave her recognition. Do you think only external things count as "success?" Boyle sacrificed a lot to take care of her sick mother, who lived into her 90s. Tesla was a brilliant scientist. Mother Theresa helped numerous people living on the streets in some of the poorest countries in the world. Who cares what they believed? They could all beleive they're aliens from another planet; that doesn't negate the good these people did. It's not what you believe that counts; it's what you do.

Interestingly, Jesus was an Essene, part of a Jewish sect that practiced celibacy. There are still people and groups today who choose to be celibate. But you don't have to be celibate to not have kids because birth control is safe and easily available.

The US currently has the highest number of single, childless people it ever had in its history. We're also in a depression. A mature person doesn't bring a child into the world knowing he or she cannot support it.

I don't want the spouse, the two kids, the picket fence, etc. I want other things--to be a published writer and an actress. Not everyone has the same dream. Some people are living that "American dream" life and feel very trapped. Some choose it because of societal expectations. It's more mature to be true to oneself and make choices based on one's own motivation than to just follow the crowd.

jewish philosopher said...

Whatever. Bottom line: drop outs are losers.

Eclipse said...

Wrong. That's your bottom line. Success is living life on one's own terms. Maybe people dropped out because they didn't want the picket fence, spouse and kids suburban life to begin with.

Sorry, I was wrong about Galileo. He did have kids, two with his mistress and one with his wife.

jewish philosopher said...

"Success is living life on one's own terms."

In which case Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were successes too.

"Maybe people dropped out because they didn't want the picket fence, spouse and kids suburban life to begin with."

Like any egotists who are only interested in themselves.

Eclipse said...

Actually, it's more responsible and mature to not get married or have kids if you know you don't want or won't be able to handle the responsibility. There are way too many people who just go along with the crowd and have kids because it is "the thing to do." How many people try to live through their kids?

Living life on one's own terms doesn't mean it's okay to harm others. It just means we don't all have to have the same standards for success. An artist may want the freedom to do his/her art and may not give a damn about money. Such a person may live a life with very few material things but be much happier than if they had to work 9-5 in an office where they would feel trapped and miserable.

Also, I still want to know how, in your world, atheists like Stephen Hawking are worse than Bin Laden.

Anonymous said...

Eclipse, you're wasting your time arguing with this guy. He's got 3 obsessions: Darwin, evolution, and homosexuality. The majority of his posts are about the evils of these three things.

It's not selfish to choose to not have kids. It's actually good for the planet. Check this out: Overpopulation is a serious threat to all life on Earth.

jewish philosopher said...

How many unemployed, single, childless people have lately been elected to any federal office in the United States? Who's going to vote for a bum? And claiming "I'm happily living life on my own terms." wouldn't cut it.

Atheism is a far more dangerous religion than Islam, athough Islam is horrific. Just compare North Korea to Saudi Arabia.

jewish philosopher said...

"It's not selfish to choose to not have kids. It's actually good for the planet."

You can easily correct your parents' mistake by killing yourself.

Eclipse said...

Being an artist does not necessarily mean being unemployed. What I'm saying is, a person can decide to opt out of the rat race and consumer/materialist culture for many reasons, including the desire to live lightly on the Earth.

Are you advocating people vote against a candidate just because he or she is single without kids? FYI, I'd vote for Condoleeza Rice in a heartbeat, and so would many other people.

Since when are those in federal elected office beacons of morality or ethics? Congress IS the problem in this country right now. Most of Congress are bums, living off the taxpayers with benefits no one gets in any private sector job.

You may wish liberals would kill ourselves, but sorry, I'd rather run for public office. And if you think every one of the seven billion people on Earth should reproduce, how will you feed the 10-12 billion or more people we have in 20 years? Is it responsible to have more people than the Earth can support?

Neither Islam nor atheism are horrific. It's what believers do in the names of these beliefs that are good or evil.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm sorry, however I am not convinced that the apparently universal professional and social failure of people who drop out of the orthodox community is due to a deliberate decision to devote their lives to art or to prevent global famine. It's more likely due to various addiction disorders, depression and egocentrism which cause them to fail at anything constructive.

jewish philosopher said...

Check out The Unchosen (now on Kindle!)

The main subject is an alcoholic living with his still orthodox grandmother. No great artists or environmentalists that I recall.