Friday, January 04, 2013

Seven Year Anniversary

climbing a mountain toward the truth
It will soon be seven years since I began writing this blog.

Over the years of writing I think that my attitudes have changed significantly. Specifically, when I began blogging I still had some lingering doubts about whether atheism might be true. However as I spent more time writing and debating with atheists, both in the comments on this blog and in the comments on other blogs, it suddenly dawned on me, as Gertrude Stein once wrote, "There is no there there".

In other words, atheists simply have no good answers to a lot of very obvious questions.

For example, isn't evolution both impossibly improbable and contradicted by the fossil evidence? And isn't it unbelievable that Ezra could have invented Judaism, a feat which would require him to have had virtually superhuman power over others and which would have required many thousands of Jews and Samaritans to keep silent concerning any earlier traditions, characteristics which are clear signs of a false conspiracy theory?

Furthermore, I realized that atheists aren't in the least bothered by these questions and simply brush them aside, as would any irrational religious fundamentalist.

I became hardened in my belief that atheists were in fact motivated by addictions, not logic.

Finally, I became more aware of the horrible suffering directly caused by the atheist attitude toward the value of human life, or the lack of value, exemplified by the suffering continuing even today in North Korean concentration camps.

As the years have gone by, everything I have learned has caused me to become so much stronger in my appreciation for Judaism and conversly my distain for atheism.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congrats,

I suspect the effect has been just the opposite in your readers. Perhaps some could weigh in?

I myself was orthodox yet with many questions. Your blog, the comments, and the links led me to conclude that atheism was more likely to be true than Judaism. Judaism has no answers for actual natural history or the vastness of the universe at the levels of the very big and very small. Judaism has outdated views of the cosmos, medicine, and morality. Judaism has no good answer to modern biblical scholarship. Judaism is a major source (not the only source and not totally to blame, of course) of unrest and stability in the world.

I think it's morally impossible today to be anything other than a liberal, cultural jew.

Thank you for helping me and many other see this.

Dave said...

Interesting.

I have gone through the exact parallel process but in the opposite direction.
Although I haven't been reading your blog for 7 years, for the time that I have been reading this and other similar readings, I have become totally convinced that you guys have no answers, and that OJ, like all other religions and other ideologies, is a man made invention designed to control people.

natschuster said...

I find several things about atheist intriguing. They claim to be following the evidence. But when you present all the evidence for a Creator, they revert to dogma, and say that "G-d did it" just isn't allowed. They say that "G-d did it" isn't falsifiable, then they claim to falsify it. They claim to have a monopoly on logic, but make moral arguments when there is no basis in logic for their morality. They condemn bad things done by theists, but when we point out to them that the worst atrocities where committed by atheists they say it is okay because they weren't done in the name of atheism. That's a little scary.

Anonymous said...

I’m not going to get into the atheism question. I think it is one of those mysteries, and I think it will be a mystery forever.

I do think a lot about Judaism – and I do feel strongly that kiruv does bad things to Jews. At least as far as indoctrination goes.

Somehow latter day orthodoxy ripped a page out of the goyishe playbook on religion. And it has gotten to a very bad place, where people argue against evolution, an old earth, and for miracles, and actual revelation and a book actually from G-d.

We are arguing the wrong end, and it makes us nervous and insecure and argumentative and it all goes round and round.

But here is the headline about Jews that kiruv gets utterly wrong.

We found G-d. Whether he exists or not is not our problem! We use the Torah. Whether it is divine or not is beside the point. We have a story of national revelation. Whether it really happened or not is immaterial to our lives as Jews.

Congratulations on your seventh anniversary.

Tuvia

Dave said...

In continuation of my previous comment...

How do we deal with such a conundrum, of different intelligent people, seeing the facts laid bare, coming to opposite conclusions?

We would need a purely objective mediator or set of criteria for determining what is valid evidence. Even if such a mediator exists, it is not accesssible to us. So the next best thing would be a mutually agreed upon criterion or moderator, to determine the most pursuasive arguments.

However, I suspect that we could not even agree upon who or what these criteria would be, so that is not going to happen either...

So what remains? Our own feelings, biases, and sense of morality.

Just like you claim, falsely, that skeptics (or atheists) are motivated by addictions, I think that your ideology is perhaps motivated by your own fear of addictions. Perhaps you have your demons, I don't know. I can only tell you personally (and I know you have no way of verifying this but it doesn't matter) that I and many skeptic/atheist friends are perfectly well adjusted and functioning adults. To me its fascinating and revealing that you seem to have trouble believing this.

If you still want to get into my head and try to analyze all of my subconscious motivations for everything I do, well, have fun.

jewish philosopher said...

"Your blog, the comments, and the links led me to conclude that atheism was more likely to be true than Judaism."

Why?

"Judaism has no answers for actual natural history"

I do.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2008/09/how-i-understand-genesis.html

"Judaism has no good answer to modern biblical scholarship."

I do.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2008/12/documentary-hypothesis-critique.html

"Judaism is a major source (not the only source and not totally to blame, of course) of unrest and stability in the world."

How? Keeping kosher or wearing a yarmulke is causing global unrest?

"I have become totally convinced that you guys have no answers"

How?

"is a man made invention designed to control people."

Specifics please. Which man invented it to control who?

"actual revelation and a book actually from G-d."

So your theory is nothing created us and for no reason. Does that make sense or is it just a convenient excuse for living irresponsibly?

"To me its fascinating and revealing that you seem to have trouble believing this."

I have data to back this up. Prove me wrong.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2008/01/chandra-good-atheist.html

Dave said...

"How?"

So, in the interest of not trolling and harrassment I won't go back into the same endless loop. The new and interesting part of the discussion here is what motivates people to have opposite conclusions from the same facts.

What does this say about human nature, human intelligence and our decision making faculties? It's more more complicated than addictions.

Think about it for a moment, JP. If accepting Judaism is the outcome of proper reasoning, and human reasoning and decision making is so flawed, such that 99.99% of the earth's humans wrongly reject Judaism, how can you have any confidence at all in your own reasoning faculties? You're a human, too, aren't you?

So either way, you're likely to be wrong. If Judaism is, as I claim, not a matter of reasoning but of emotion and upbringing, that it is not in the realm of "right" or "wrong" logic. If it is in that realm, as you claim, than by you're own standard your on weak ground because human reasoning is so flawed.

jewish philosopher said...

"If accepting Judaism is the outcome of proper reasoning, and human reasoning and decision making is so flawed, such that 99.99% of the earth's humans wrongly reject Judaism, how can you have any confidence at all in your own reasoning faculties?"

Whatever beliefs you have concerning the origin of mankind, our purpose in the world and our fate after death, those beliefs are rejected by most other humans alive today. There is no global consensus on these issues  
nor has there ever been.

I don't think this means that the truth is unknown or unknowable, but rather it means that the truth is extremely inconvenient and denial is easier than acceptance.

Yuri said...

i have question: who is jew?

jewish philosopher said...

"Like commentaries on the Tanach"

I think I've made good case for the validity of the Torah.

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

"who is jew?"

Anyone born to a Jewish mother or who has converted to Judaism.

Yuri said...

But "in the Bible, the status of the offspring was determined patrilineally".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_is_a_Jew%3F#Tannaitic_Judaism

jewish philosopher said...

Actually that isn't true. The children of gentile women and Jewish men were considered to be gentiles in Biblical times.

Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of the LORD, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Ezra 10:3

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt35a10.htm#3

dave said...

"I don't think this means that the truth is unknown or unknowable..."

That is exactly what it implies, because without objective or accepted yardsticks for determining the truth of the various religious claims, it is unknowable. "Knowing" is a human endeavor.

Even the "soft sciences" have widely accepted standards. They may not be 100% reliable, but they are generally agreed upon guidelines for supporting or rejecting a theory or assertion.

No such standards exist for evaluating religious claims.

natschuster said...

""Judaism has no answers for actual natural history or the vastness of the universe at the levels of the very big and very small.""

Neither does science.

""Judaism has no good answer to modern biblical scholarship""

To the best of my knowledge the techniques of modern Biblical scholarship have never been shown to be actually valid or accurate. You people are suppose to be all about scientific methods and such. Judaism doesn't have to answer to something that has never actually been validated. And might I suggest reading "Who Really Wrote The Bible." That has lots of answers to modern Biblical scholarship.

""Judaism is a major source (not the only source and not totally to blame, of course) of unrest and stability in the world.""

Would you prefer atheists North Korea or China? And Judaism is also a sourceof a tremendous amount of Chesed, Tzedaka, etc. But being a atheist, that stuff isn't important to you.


Dave said...

A change probably occurred around the time of Ezra. Before that all biblical lineage was traced through the father, as attested by the plain meaning of every single passage in the Torah which delineates family lines.
Around the time of Ezra or later the change was made probably to accommodate social changes.

jewish philosopher said...

"No such standards exist for evaluating religious claims."

The claims which Judaism make can be evaluated the same way that any historical claims can be evaluated, such as the reality of the Apollo moon landings, the Holocaust, the Peloponnesian War or Aristotle.

"Before that all biblical lineage was traced through the father, as attested by the plain meaning of every single passage in the Torah which delineates family lines."

Not one of which however deals with the offspring of a mixed marriage which is the question is here.

Dave said...

Genesis 46:20
"In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On."

Where Ephraim and Menasheh little sheigetzes? What about Moses's sons Gershom and Eliezer? David's son Abshalom, born to Maacha?

And so on.

Dave said...

" can be evaluated the same way that any historical claims can be evaluated"

Really? Tell me about any professional historian who uses arguments like the "anti-conspiracy principle" and "structure of Jewish literature" to prove the correctness of a historical assertion, especially one that reports supernatural phenomena.

In contrast, REAL historians do use other disciplines, such as journalism, archaeology, physical evidence, etc, to verify historical claims. And by that standard, of course, all religions FAIL.

Or, maybe your standard is, "since ancient people wrote it, and tradition confirms it, it must be true". In that case, ALL religions are true.

ALL RELIGIONS MAKE THE SAME NON-VERIFIABLE (AND NOT FALSIFIABLE) TYPE OF CLAIMS. JUDAISM IS NO DIFFERENT.

Dave said...

Furthermore, the rabbinic "proofs" in the Talmud for matrilineal descent from the verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy were creative exegesis and completely contradict the plain meaning and historical context, as well as the overwhelming number of other biblical passages that imply patrilineal descent.

Having said that, the Ezra passage does imply a change. This would actually support the DH idea of the Ezra period being an early formative time for Judaism.

jewish philosopher said...

"Where Ephraim and Menasheh little sheigetzes?"

Before the Jews accepted the Torah, it didn't apply to them. Jacob married his sister in law Rachel, a union prohibited by the Torah.

"journalism, archaeology, physical evidence, etc, to verify historical claims"

Where is the journalism, archaeology, physical evidence, etc, to verify Aristotle and Peloponnesian War? The Exodus and the revelation at Sinai are based on as much or more evidence than anything we know about pre-modern history.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2009/07/is-history-bunk.html

"JUDAISM IS NO DIFFERENT."

It's completely different.

For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Deut. 4:32-33

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0504.htm#32

"well as the overwhelming number of other biblical passages that imply patrilineal descent. "

None of which involve a mixed marriage after the Torah was given.

Dave said...

"None of which involve a mixed marriage after the Torah was given."

David had his son Abshalom after the Torah was given...to a nice and well connected shiksa wife Maacha, the daughter of Talmai the king of Geshur

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt08b03.htm#3

Same with Shlomo and Naama the Ammonite who had Rehoboam, who became king.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+kings%2014:21-14:21&version=NIV

Nowhere in the text does it question whether they were considered "Jewish"!

Learn a little Bible, will you, JP?

jewish philosopher said...

Would they have been accepted as queens of Israel had they not converted to the Israelite religion?

Dave said...

"Would they have been accepted as queens of Israel had they not converted to the Israelite religion?"

The text says nothing about that, and just refers to them as Moabites, Ammonites, etc. Most likely people just accepted that the king could have a foreign wife. (Even though the Torah prohibited it, conversion or no conversion) I don't think "the people" had much of a choice, did they? Furthermore, since these intermarriages were instruments of foreign policy, it would hardly be a diplomatic act to take the daughter of a foreign king only to have her convert.

We don't even know what conversion was in those days. You just joined the nation and that was that.

Whatever it was, the kids went after Daddy, not Mommy.

ksil said...

nat,

"present all the evidence for a Creator,"

is that a joke?

jewish philosopher said...

Even todsy, I believe that if you marry the king of England you have to become Anglicsn. If you marry the king of Jordon you have to become Muslim. Presumably in ancient times it was the same. Remember the seperation of church and state is a modern concept.

Dave said...

You can assume what you want. However, if they really converted, what's the problem? Evidently for King Solomon it was a problem, and no distinction is made in the texts regarding whether his wives converted or not.

What does seem clear from the biblical stories, is that people were Hebrews either by being born to a Hebrew father, or by adopting the Hebrew God. There does not seem to be any "Mom" thing. I can't think of a single example in the Bible of a Jewish mother and a gentile father being considered Jewish. All lineages throughout the Bible, both before and after the Torah, trace and count the families via the fathers.

jewish philosopher said...

Solomon's problem was that they continued worshipping idols - in other words the conversion was only superficial.

"I can't think of a single example in the Bible of a Jewish mother and a gentile father being considered Jewish."

Here's one

And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. Leviticus 24:10

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0324.htm#10

He seems to have been living in Israelite community.

Dave said...

JP, you're only proving my point.

Read the passage in Hebrew, and the context of the verses that follow, and it is clear that this son of the Israelite women was not considered an Israelite!

This son fought with a man of Israel (implying that he himself wasn't), and cursed. Later it says that an Israelite or even a stranger gets punished for blasphemy. The whole point of the passage was to show that even a non-Israelite in the midst would get punished for blasphemy.

That there were non-Israelites among the Israelites in the camp is not news.

Dave said...

In orthodox Jewish day schools they whitewash passages like this. That is because verses like this and others, throw a monkey wrench in the rabbi's assertions that the Oral Law comes from the Torah. If an alert 14 year realized that the rabbis made stuff up, or borrowed it from surrounding cultures, the kid could-- god forbid-- become a heretic.

jewish philosopher said...

The blasphemer apparently was judged and punished as a member of the Israelite community. What was he doing with the Israelites in the wilderness if he was not regarded as one of them?

natschuster said...

ksil said...

""nat,

"present all the evidence for a Creator,"

is that a joke?""

You're proving my point.

Dave said...

The Torah and also the rabbinic literature refer to the Eruv Rav, foreigners who accompanied the Israelites. They are distinguished from the Israelites themselves.

In contrast to the above verse, in cases where a male Israelite marries a foreign women nobody even questions that the children became Israelites.

jewish philosopher said...

And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. Exodus 12:38

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0212.htm#38

It's pretty unclear who or what that mixed multitude was.

The wives of Israelite kings certainly converted to the Israelite religion, at least superficially.

Ezra 10:3 makes it clear that the offspring of foreign women were not accepted in the community.

Dave said...

" certainly converted to the Israelite religion"

Whevever you say certainly, it is not so certain...It isn't even clear if there was such a thing as "conversion"-- either you were part of the community or you weren't. A "ger" mentioned in the Torah is not a convert, but a foreigner, who is obligated only to certain commandments (like the prohibition of blasphemy...)

You're right that the Torah is unclear what eruv rav is, the rabbis have their opinions. In any case to Torah documents the presence of foreigners among the Israelites. (such as Yitro, etc)

jewish philosopher said...

The Samaritans apparently believe in patrilineal descent.

"The patrilineal descent system precludes a Samaritan woman from marrying a Jew or gentile, as any subsequent offspring would be non-Samaritan."

They also did not accept converts until 1924, when Jewish women were permitted to convert to Samaritanism. 

http://www.anthrobase.com/Txt/I/Ireton_S_01.htm

Rabbinical Judaism has always had a different viewpoint on those issues. I personally don't think the Samaritans, which is the only other Torah observant community in the world, got it right.

In any case, for Orthodox Jews the question of "who is Jewish" is basically a question of "who is divinely obligated to observe Talmudic law". 

For an atheist, no one is Jewish in this sense since no one is divinely obligated to observe Talmudic law. And Jews aren't a race.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2010/07/are-jews-race.html

Dave said...

The question of "who is a Jew" is a complicated and fascinating one. Besides the paternal/maternal issue, there the question is are Jews a nation, a religion, a race, a people? It seems that during the biblical times it was a nation, and Judaism was its religion. If you threw your lot in with the Israelite people, and followed God, then that was that. Only later, after the dispersion, did it become more complicated, since the "nation" no longer had a land. You could no longer just join the "nation", you had to adopt the "religion". With modern Israel, it is changing again. In biblical times there was no distinction between "Israelite" and "Jew". Now there is.

jewish philosopher said...

"Jew" comes from the Hebrew "Yehudi" meaning literally a descendent of Judah the son of Jacob. Secularists probably don't believe that such a person ever lived.

"Race" seems to be a concept invented by modern Europeans

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_(human_classification)#Historical_origins_of_racial_classification

Scientifically it probably has no validity

http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm

The Talmud of course makes no reference to race.

The modern concept of "nation" is a sovereign geographic entity, with no connection to religion. Many nations may have one religion. One nation may include many religions.

I would describe Judaism as a religion which puts some emphasis on ancestry - for example if your mother was Jewish, you have no need to formally make a commitment to the religion yourself.

I don't see any reason why a secularist would want to call himself a Jew. Because the Talmud says he? The Hadith says we are all born Muslims.

http://www.islam101.com/dawah/newBorn.htm

I'm not going to start saying that I'm a Muslim because some book which I don't believe in says I am.

Dave said...

" Secularists probably don't believe that such a person ever lived."

Maybe, but there was definitely a state of Judea, whose inhabitants where Judeans (regardless of their tribal lineage) and that is what yehudi came from. Only appears towards the end of the biblical period:

http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%99%D7%94%D7%95%D7%93%D7%99%D7%9D#.D7.90.D7.98.D7.99.D7.9E.D7.95.D7.9C.D7.95.D7.92.D7.99.D7.94

Whether you like it or not, pragmatically, Jews are also an ethnic group.

jewish philosopher said...

The Romans called it Judea because the people living there called themselves Yehudiim, or Judahites.

What exactly is an "ethnic group". How is a guy in Seattle, WA who doesn't believe in G-d and never set foot in a synagogue, who wouldn't know a matzah ball if one hit him in the head a member of the same ethnic group as a guy in Jerusalem who wears a caftan and long side curls and speaks Yiddish?

Dave said...

I know you like to have your own definitions of things, including "religion" and "ethnic", even if they are not the accepted ones. However, language is also a human endeavor...

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

" people living there called themselves Yehudiim, or Judahites."

Because their country was called
ממלכת יהודה

It contained people from Binyamin as well as of course the Levites, and possibly small numbers from other tribes.

But they all called themselves Yehudim in the end.

But I forgot why we're having this argument :-) Oh yes, as part of "who is a Jew". Descendants of the nation-people of the ancient state of Judah, and anybody else who decides to join them.

jewish philosopher said...

"Ethnicity can, but does not have to, include common ancestry, appearance, cuisine, dressing style, heritage, history, language or dialect, religion, symbols, traditions, or other cultural factor. Ethnic identity is constantly reinforced through common characteristics which set the group apart from other groups."

Jews are so diverse, I don't see how any of this applies to them.

"Descendants of the nation-people of the ancient state of Judah"

Considering the mass conversions which took place in medieval Spain and Portugal, most people on the Iberian peninsula might count as Jews by that definition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marrano#Demographics

Abe said...

Wow ! Your seven year anniversary and you've been unemployed for last half of that measure.
Fired from a well paying job and expelled from nursing school.

Well, I suppose you can thank god for little things. At least your wife and kids haven't left you and your local shuls begrudgingly still will count you for a minyan.

jewish philosopher said...

Abe, you're actually bringing up a good point. I am prepared to give up my life for my beliefs. An atheist would never give up anything. In the long run, who do you think will win?

Dave said...

Extremists almost always win, in whatever sphere.
Its one of the injustices of the world. But that's how conflicts generally play out.
The more determined and uncompromising you are, the more likely you are to prevail over a moderate, compromising opponent.
But not always.

jewish philosopher said...

"Extremists almost always win, in whatever sphere."

I think Darwin called this "survival of the fittest". ;-)

ABE said...

jewish philosopher said...
Abe, you're actually bringing up a good point. I am prepared to give up my life for my beliefs. An atheist would never give up anything. In the long run, who do you think will win?
*********************

Well, to accomplish the latter, you first must give up your mind, a process that you deliciously have incrementally demonstrated during the 7 years leading up to your celebrated anniversarry.
In the long run, it doesn't matter because we'll both be dead. Whats troubling about that, is that I won't be around to observe the mock and scorn that an enlightened planet will cast on your superstitious beliefs. As long as I won't have to join you somewhere in eternity, all my sins against god will have been salutary,

jewish philosopher said...

And I'm sure that your belief that we are descended from worms will be eternally received as absolute truth.

Anonymous said...

"Jacob married his sister in law Rachel, a union prohibited by the Torah."

Except Jacob (like Abraham and Isaac) are supposed to have kept Torah. So who is wrong?

jewish philosopher said...

According to Nahmanides commentary to Genesis 26:5, the Patriarchs' obligation to follow the laws of the Torah applied only in Palestine.

Dave said...

" ...the Patriarchs' obligation to follow the laws of the Torah applied only in Palestine."

Even the brilliant Nahmanides could believe his own fairy tales. Just another example of rabbis making things up when the text doesn't go along with their theology.

Returning to the subject of being willing to sacrifice for beliefs... Daniel Dennette has discussed this problem with regards to armies. Basically soldiers have to be brainwashed with propaganda and lies in order to be motivated. He provides a thought experiment: Imagine we're facing a military threat from an evil enemy. We have on our side 2 armies, both equally trained and equipped. Army A consists of uneducated men who are convinced that God is on our side, and that the enemy is made up not of men but of subhuman filth that god wants destroyed. Army B consists of educated economists, who can continually calculate odds, and can question the correctness of our fight. Who would you want to fight for you?

In other words, we have to be hypocritical, and inculcate our young soldiers with BS, so they will be able to fight.

I think this is true of clergy as well. Among themselves, and in their heart of hearts, they know that there is a lot of bullshit in their religious claims. However, in order to not rock the boat and instill doubt in their faithful flock, they tow the company line.

The Rambam in guide to perplexed hints at this, when he discusses reward and punishment and the afterlife-- that they are useful beliefs (even if they may not be literally true) in order to motivate people to do good.

Dave said...

Dennette also discusses surveys that have been done among Christian clergy that show that there is a high percentage of closet skeptics.

jewish philosopher said...

"Even the brilliant Nahmanides could believe his own fairy tales"

I'm not sure how you see that, however I do know that atheists don't really believe that we are soulless meat machines who are descended from worms.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2011/07/two-proofs-that-atheists-are-lying.html

natschuster said...

Dave:

Are you saying that Rabbi Akiva brainwashed himself? What about Rabii Elchonon Wasserman, H"YD? How does that work?

And how does Evolution allow anyone to sacrifice for a belief or for another person? Evolution does not allow behavior that removes your genes form the gene pool. How can you explain self sacrifice in the light of evolution? I'm just asking.