Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Are There So Few Jews?


[The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people--for ye were the fewest of all peoples--  Deuteronomy 7:7]

If the truth of Judaism is so blindingly obvious, and I'm convinced it is, then one may wonder: why are so few people Orthodox Jews? Out of a human population of about 7 billion, merely about 2 million are Orthodox Jews. (Interestingly, this number has been more or less constant throughout history.)

I think the first answer is that people dislike sacrificing even when they know that doing so will be good for them in the long run. For example only about 3 percent of Americans make serious efforts to have a healthy lifestyle. Judaism requires more effort than being health conscious and the rewards are more abstract.

Secondly,Judaism discourages converts. We certainly don't make all sorts of proselytizing campaigns and holy wars. We are a little like the United States Marine Corp. We want a few really committed people, not a mass movement of half baked individuals who can't handle discipline.

Thirdly, a large segment of humanity, perhaps the majority of mankind does accept Judaism - to some degree, in the forms of Christianity and Islam. All of these people agree that God created the world and that He gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai, however they have distorted Judaism to accommodate their own pre-existing cultures and biases.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

What does Judaism say about necrophilia?

Islam condones it. According to Daily Mail, Egypt is decriminalizing necrophilia on Islamic basis.

My strictly personal opinion: Those Islamic b@$74#|)s do not respect women when they are alive and even less when they are dead.

jewish philosopher said...

No, it doesn't.

ksil said...

folks in the far east had never heard of judaism until recently (relatively speaking)

god decided to reveal himself to a tiny little nomadic group of arabs 2,000 years ago - and ignored all those people on the other side of the globe! he such a jokester!

jewish philosopher said...

No one else was as worthy of divine revelation as were the Israelites.

This also by the way explains why prophesy even among Jews ended about 2,300 years ago. If people don't want to listen, God doesn't talk.

ksil said...

"No one else was as worthy..." and i wonder why so many orthodox jews are racist...silly me!

"prophesy even among Jews ended about 2,300 years ago"

yeah, right...uh huh....is that what the rabbi told you?

lol

jewish philosopher said...

Actually, in Hebrew there is no word for race and the Talmud makes no racial distinctions.

On the other hand Darwin, the founder of your religion, was a proud racist.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2006/06/evolution-pseudoscience-of-genocide.html

lol

natschuster said...

ksil:

I understand that it was our mission to be a "light unto the nations" and a "nation of priests" by teaching the nations of the world about G-d. We didn't do an adequate job spreading the word. That's our fault, not G-d's.

ah-pee-chorus said...

Its nice to see that at least 16% of the world population sees the truth.

jewish philosopher said...

Estimates for atheism alone (as a primary religious preference) range from 200 to 240 million, about 3% of the mankind or about half of Buddhism.

These come primarily from China and former Soviet Union nations (especially Russia).

http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html#Nonreligious

These aren't the greatest places to live either, Russia being 0.755 and China being 0.687 on the Human Development Index in 2011 compared to 0.910 for the US.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index#Complete_list_of_countries

Dave said...

The problem is that theology will provide an answer no matter what the facts. If the world were filled with billions of Jews, that would have been "proof" of the truth of Judaism or supremacy of the Jewish god. If the Jews are almost exterminated, that is "proof", too. Some people say that Israel is a miracle. You say the holocaust is a proof of god.

Since there is no criterion whereby one can objectively judge or test the truth of religious screed, all of this discussion is theological mental masturbation.

Dave said...

I am digressing slightly, philosophically.

The reasons you give for the small number of orthodox Jews are perhaps the correct proximate, concrete ones.

However, fundamental answer becomes clearer when you understand that religions, like philosophy or politics, are not really about absolute truth or reality, but are more like MODELS of reality. There are some underlying, unknowable aspects to our existence, and these diciplines give useful represenations for understanding it. This is very similar to certain scientific or mathematical models-- they don't necessarily represent absolute truth, but rather an understandable and useful approximation of reality.

I think that Kabbalah is the perfect example of this. I don't think that people who study it and take it seriously think that it is literally true. There are no actual "shells". It is seen more as a conceptual representation of the unknown and unknowable.

So, like philosophy or politics, in religion there are different opinions regarding the most useful or accurate model of reality. Nobody would say that conservatism or liberalism are "blindingly obvious" and expect one to completely vanquish the other.

So there have been and will always be different religions, all of which claim to have the "truth". but fail to prove it to anybody but their own followers.

jewish philosopher said...

"Since there is no criterion whereby one can objectively judge or test the truth of religious screed"

I use the the same criteria I use to make any other decision: facts and logic. If you have a refutation to my arguments, I'm anxious to hear it.

"However, fundamental answer becomes clearer when you understand that religions, like philosophy or politics, are not really about absolute truth or reality"

Sure they are. You're going to heaven or hell or you're not.

"So, like philosophy or politics, in religion there are different opinions regarding the most useful or accurate model of reality."

Also true in science and medicine. Here's a list of dozens of weight loss diets.

http://www.everydiet.org/diets.htm

"So there have been and will always be different religions, all of which claim to have the "truth". but fail to prove it to anybody but their own followers."

As is true in science and medicine as well regarding many issues.

I'm afraid I disagree with your basic premise. I don't view religion as being fundimentally different than any other part of life and I don't think that controversy means that the truth is unknowable. The Holocaust is controversial, ask Iranian President Ahmadinejad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_denial#Iranian_President_Ahmadinejad

however I still regard the truth as being blindingly obvious.

Dave said...

" You're going to heaven or hell or you're not."

See, heaven and hell are also models, not literal truths. They give us a way to think about consciousness, death, and evil. I don't think that the rabbis took them as literal truths, either. The Rambam, in some of his language in the guide to the perplexed, alludes to this.

How can one prove literal heaven or hell anyway? Other than wishful thinking ("there MUST be a heaven and hell, because god is supposed to be just"), its not provable.

" I don't view religion as being fundimentally different than any other part of life and I don't think that controversy means that the truth is unknowable. "

Indeed, we skeptics see religion differently than you. I see it like emotion, philosophy, politics, pyschology, etc. No truths. Just opinions and group loyalties.

Let's say you love your wife. Does "love" exist, independently and objectively? Can I collect or measure it, or transfer it to a third party? No. Its is simply a description of a constellation of emotions and behaviors towards her. A model. it exists, but only in our heads as a concept.

Same with belief in religions.

jewish philosopher said...

"I don't think that the rabbis took them as literal truths, either. "

THE RAMBAM'S THIRTEEN PRINCIPLES OF JEWISH FAITH:

11. I believe with perfect faith that G-d rewards those who keep His commandments, and punishes those who transgress Him.

http://www.ou.org/torah/rambam.htm

Sounds literal.

"How can one prove literal heaven or hell anyway?"

I proved it.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/01/why-weshould-beorthodox.html

"Indeed, we skeptics see religion differently than you. I see it like emotion, philosophy, politics, pyschology, etc. No truths. Just opinions and group loyalties. "

Sure you do. In Western countries, atheists are generally addicted to alcohol, drugs or sex. Addicts see any warnings against their misbehavior as being just opinion, exaggeration, propaganda, puritanical nonsense, not truth.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any idea at all how wacko you sound?

Dave said...

"Sounds literal."

Read "Must a Jew Believe Anything" By Menachem Kellner, 2006, Appendix 1. "Mainmonides on reward and punishment"

A bit more learned than your fundie Christian dribble and totally contradicts you.

jewish philosopher said...

"Do you have any idea at all how wacko you sound?"

I know what a buzz kill I am.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2009/05/buzzkill.html

"A bit more learned"

Kellner is left wing modern orthodox and his confused ideas have gotten mixed reviews.

http://www.amazon.com/Must-Believe-Anything-Menachem-Kellner/dp/1874774498

Dave said...

Well, you should read it anyway because it's a lot more scholarly than your cherry picked quotes and Talmudic statements

jewish philosopher said...

Unfortunately, I just don't have time to read the writings of every crackpot. I try to cover the most famous ones.

Dave said...

" I try to cover the most famous ones."

You do not even quote contemporary heredi rabbis who support your key positions regarding heretics, homosexuality, slavery and hell. As you know Judaism is a living breathing religion and is not lived solely on what books written a thousand years ago say. (This is one of the problems with "artscroll Judaism")

So go ahead and give references to a living, leading heredi rabbi who advocates what you advocate.

jewish philosopher said...

It's difficult to quote books written in Hebrew which are not available online. I prefer to give sources, where possible, that people can just click on a link and verify.

Here are lists of prominent rabbis who I don't believe would have any problem with my positions, since they are based solidly on classic rabbinical sources.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moetzes_Gedolei_HaTorah#Current_members_belonging_to_Agudath_Israel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edah_HaChareidis#Rabbinical_court

Dave said...

1. You labeled my source as "left wing modern orthodox". I would label those organizations as "fanatic right wing heredi", particular the second one.

2. Nonetheless, I am not aware of either of these organizations espousing your policy views regarding homosexuals, heretics or slavery. They do publish magazines, and I have never heard of them advocating your methods. (I'm sure it would have made news in the Israeli media).

jewish philosopher said...

I think that an opinion poll would reveal that about 80% of the orthodox community would have no problem with my opinions. I try to avoid topics which are contraversial within orthodoxy.

Also, by the way, in my profile I refer to having been influenced by Rabbi Avigdor Miller obm and I provide links to his lectures and books. Someone wishing to confirm my opinions with another modern day rabbi could start there.

Ironmistress said...

Religiosity is bad for compassion.

Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than are non-believers and mildly religious people.

Religion is a good servant but a bad master.

Anonymous said...

Three Jews, four opinions.

jewish philosopher said...

"Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not," said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study. "The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns."

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-04-highly-religious-people-compassion-non-believers.html

So what? When you need help will you prefer one dollar based on emotional connection or one hundred dollars based on doctrine?

Dave said...

"So what? When you need help will you prefer one dollar based on emotional connection or one hundred dollars based on doctrine?"

Definitely the former, if the latter includes a bunch of bearded lunatics screaming Allah Akbar or calling for the death penalty for homosexuals.

Face it. religion is just a big Ponzi scheme. And a growing number of skeptics are willing to speak out and call the bluff.

jewish philosopher said...

How about taking $100 from a bunch of bearded lunatics screaming Allah Akbar or calling for the death penalty for homosexuals, or $1 dollar from atheists who have encouraged perverse sexual behavior so far resulting in the creation of 15 million African AIDS orphans?

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2011/12/crime-of-century-aids-orphans-thanks.html

Face it. atheism is just a big Ponzi scheme. And a growing number of monotheists are willing to speak out and call the bluff.

Anonymous said...

"No one else was as worthy of divine revelation as were the Israelites."

I thought the Talmud said he asked everyone else first and they all said no.

jewish philosopher said...

That's why they weren't worthy.

Anonymous said...

You are merely following. What you were taught JP...you were not there and should not be so smug in your response.

jewish philosopher said...

Were you there when Niel Armstrong landed on the moon? So how do you know it happened?