Birthday of the Sun

Birthday of the Sun

The fact that the most prominent holiday in the Christian yearly cycle is pagan in origin is relatively well known. Some Christian leaders argue for an abandonment of this pagan celebration while most observe this holiday and use the time as an opportunity to call attention to the message of Christianity.

Many churchmen justify the adoption of a pagan holiday with the argument that this was simply a historical circumstance. The expanding Church found that so many people were already celebrating this time, so instead of attempting to repress this celebration, the Church converted it from paganism to Christianity. The “conversion” of the holiday was achieved by artificially associating the Christian message with the observance of the holiday. This merger turned the commemoration of the birthday of the sun into a celebration that commemorates the birthday of the “son”.

Are these two celebrations really so different? If we look into the heart of the pagan celebration and worship we will see that no conversion was achieved. The Christian celebration is essentially just as idolatrous as the pagan celebration. The only change that was achieved was that the attention given to one idol is now turned to another.

The pagans chose their deities in the following manner. People would be inspired and overawed by various entities in the natural world. Be it the power and radiance of the sun, the mighty sound of thunder, the majestic beauty of a river or the magical appeal of the dark forces of the night. Instead of recognizing that these are but creations of the same Creator who granted us all the gift of existence the pagan would bend in submission towards the mysterious awe and majesty projected by these entities.

The heart of Christianity, in all of its manifestations, is the submission towards the aura projected by a certain human being. No one saw that this person create the world and no one saw this person standing as a second person in a triune godhead. These were theories developed by hearts that were already bent in submission to the aura associated with the personality of Jesus.

The worshippers of the sun and the worshippers of the “son” are both engaged in the same type of worship. They are both allowing themselves to be overwhelmed by the attributes inherent in a fellow citizen of this universe.

The witness of the Jew is that everything in this universe and all of the majesty, beauty, mystery, charisma and holiness that these entities may possess are all but gifts from the One Creator who stands above and beyond all of nature while at the same time sustaining and nurturing every detail of existence. It is to Him, and to Him alone, that our worship is due. Not only our own worship, but even those entities that overwhelm men with their majesty, beauty, holiness and mystery, they too, owe all worship to the One Creator.

The day will yet come when everyone and everything rejoices in the worship of the Creator (Psalm 98:7). May it happen soon and in our days.

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82 Responses to Birthday of the Sun

  1. tildeb says:

    The day will come? Ummm… I don’t think so because the direction of generational religious belief is getting smaller as a percentage of the general population. If Western Europe is any indication, there is a tipping point.

    As far as reality has shown us, there no such wee beastie as the Creator. Although you’re quick to declare the worshiping of other gods to your own as idolatrous, worshiping a fictitious human construct of a ‘Creator’ seems worthy of an entirely new class of defamatory term.

    I have no suggestions other than attaching a negative and somewhat irrational association to the term ‘creationist’.

    • tildeb I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss a prediction of One who predicted the return of the Jews to their homeland – If anything about history was any indication – that shouldn’t have happened.

      By the way I am still working on a response to your previous comments – I haven’t forgotten and I value your contribution to the discussion.

    • larryb says:

      Ah, who to believe again. Atheism as a belief system has peaked and its share of humanity is shrinking, demographic studies indicate. Win/Gallup’s 2012 global poll on religion and atheism put atheists at 13%, while its 2015 poll saw that category fall to 11%. Other figures suggest the changes have deep, broad roots

      • tildeb says:

        Non belief is a belief system the same way a non fish – say, a bicycle – is fish system… and makes as much sense.

        Because atheism is widely considered such a pejorative term thanks entirely to the vilification by religious folk who commonly mistake belief in some god with morality, a better indication of rising or falling percentages of people who do believe in some ‘creator’ god is self-identifying as religious. Is this trend rising or falling?

        Unquestionably, this percentage is falling and now below 2/3rds (whodathunkit a century ago?). What gives me hope is the falling percentages of young people – those under the age of 30 who claim religious affiliation here in the West and that number is approaching about half. And it’s important to stay focused on this idea of belief in a ‘creator’ god because we find a clear connection: you can sometimes find religion without creationism but you will never find creationism without religion. And this connection demonstrates the root source of antipathy with evolutionary theory… in all its disguises.

        • LarryB says:

          “Jean-Marc Leger, president of win/Gallup said: Religion continues to dominate our everyday lives and we see that the total number of people who consider themselves religious is actually relatively high with the trend of an increasingly religious youth globally, we can assume that the number of people who consider themselves religious will only continue to increase.”

      • Yedidiah says:

        Atheism can’t be called a belief “system”, since it is an absence of “belief in a god or gods”. It is a belief on or about only one claim (that of a god or of gods) or issue and atheists might have nothing else in common with each other, anymore more so than they would agree on other issues with theists ( like beliefs on immigration, or on political beliefs, or beliefs about ice cream, etc). But the fish or “non-fish” “system” vs. bicycle “beliefs” is irrelevant and a logical fallacy. There can be and are “creationism without religion” since creation does not require a god or gods. One could also say that a “intelligent being” called a god “evolved” just as a intelligent being as a human evolved.

        • Yedidiah says:

          But on the other hand, individuals can have a belief system based on atheism, since a person’s atheism can inform their beliefs on other issues (their so-called “world view”).

          • tildeb says:

            Atheism is a product of critical thinking and not a method. It’s therefore not a system of belief at all and so non belief in gods or a god has nothing whatsoever to do with any other beliefs one may or may not embrace… although it would be inconsistent if not hypocritical to adduce extremely low probability for some god and reject the creationist ideal but accept a similar superstitious belief ofPOOF!ed creationism of something else. Now, I’m sure some atheists do this because we’re just as capable of being irrational as any other people. Most of us I’ve encountered, however, try to avoid the inconsistency and hypocrisy.

          • larryB says:

            “Atheism is a product of critical thinking and not a method.”
            True, and not the only product of critical thinking, many critical thinkers actually believe in a god.

          • tildeb says:

            No. Belief in a god is not a product of critical thinking but an exemption from it (“the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”) Theology, as is well known, is a subject without an object. There is nothing there to ‘analyze’, no way means to form an ‘evaluation’ independent of the person willing to assume the claim about some god is true first. No one deduces any religious belief attached to various version of some god or gods from reality – no one wakes up in Nagasaki and stumbles across compelling evidence that when analyzed and evaluated leads the person to Mormonism; one must be introduced to religious beliefs them by another. That’s why no can define independent of their own assumptions and assertions what this term ‘god’ even means.

            So to claim that belief in ‘god’ can be accomplished by critical thinking is to make another empty claim that has no independent evidence in its support. I’m sure it makes you feel good, however.

          • larryB says:

            the point is that there are people who are critical thinkers that believe in god. not everyone agrees with you.

          • tildeb says:

            Yes, I agree with you. But the important point is that they must suspend their critical faculties to believe as much and grant it confidence not by evidence-adduced merit but by imposing faith that it is so.

            People are remarkable and can compartmentalize their methods of thinking. But don’t confuse the quality of the belief itself with the critical capability of person so compartmentalizing.

        • tildeb says:

          It is a belief on or about only one claim (that of a god or of gods)…

          No, it’s not. Reread your first statement: it describes no belief. An absence of the positive claim. You can’t just flip it around like that and declare that atheism is suddenly is a belief in a negative claim. This is a standard tactic of disinformation theists and faitheists like to commit and then impose their straw man creation on atheists.

          Look, given what we consider compelling reasons to do so, all of us believe all kinds of stuff. Theists and non theists alike. That’s how we function in the world. But in all honesty I suspect you’ve not for one nanosecond decided to believe in no Cinteotl. Why on earth would you think atheists are somehow qualitatively different in applying belief to some Christian god? There simply is no compelling reasons to do so as supplied by reality. This is why stuff like scripture and authority is central to these monothiestic and literal religious beliefs. Without this kind of suspension of typical and common critical metric, these faiths would shrivel and die because reality does not give us enough compelling reasons to alter our non belief to some version of likelihood or probability to be true. That’s it. That’s the whole ball game when it comes to non belief… an unwillingness to grant to these kinds of claims some level of undeserved and often incompatible belief that it might be the case. And that’s why you don’t subscribe to believing in the maize god: you have no good reasons to do so.

  2. Tsvi says:

    Well said Rabbi B. Though my experience is that the majority of worshipers form their attachments on the basis of Family (The womb shot them into a certain religion) emotion, and with some $$$$$. few as the Torah states are searches with all their heart.. Thanks again
    Tsvi

  3. Yehuda says:

    Tildeb,

    In theory what you wrote is correct. Atheism, certainly need not be a belief “system” as such. One can clearly come to the conclusion that there is no creator as an abstract matter independent of any other world view, much as they might conclude that Russel’s teapot does not exist or that the flying Spaghetti monster does not exist without having such nonbeliefs impact their thinking about much of anything else or their interactions with others.

    However, there is the theory, and then there is the practice.I suspect that most of the atheists you are describing are people who go about there lives in the quietly content in their lack of belief, feeling unthreatened by, and largely uninterested in, the goings on of the religious world much as I am uninterested in the goings on of those who debate whether or not Elvis was in fact sighted at the local 7-Eleven.

    Then there are the militants, like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al, people who write books to espouse their atheism, (people who participate on religious blogs to espouse their atheism?), people who lecture widely and repeatedly about their atheism, and who form organizations dedicated to atheism. For this group, their atheism very much informs a worldview, and to suggest otherwise is pretty silly.

    • tildeb says:

      One can clearly come to the conclusion that there is no creator as an abstract matter independent of any other world view…

      Because you mention Dawkins, I’m sure you are aware that on a likelihood scale from 1 – 7 where 1 is certain and 7 is rejection, he places himself as a 6. So the idea you have that atheists think there is no creator as if this was more of a binary decision, you continue to be inaccurate. The likelihood, the probability, of the creator claim being the case is simply so unlikely, so improbable, that to think and act otherwise – to make wiggle room for the theists and faitheists among us and pretend these beliefs are reasonable and rationale – is to be dishonest.

      You give your game away by calling people like Dawkins and Hitches and Harris as ‘militants’ because they speak publicly about non belief demonstrates the tremendous bias you effortlessly use. Have you even called the typical preacher, imam, or rabbi a ‘militant’ for speaking out about their religious beliefs? Would you typically call Mother Teresa a ‘militant’, for example? Of course not. You exercise the double standard and think nothing more of it… showing us why we need more speaker and writers like Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris to bring your irrational privilege granted to faith-based belief and those who speak publicly about into focus.

      Now that we’ve established you bias, let’s review why these criticisms matter. In Dawkins’ case, it’s because creationism has targeted his field of scientific study and spread lies and disinformation and falsehoods about evolution to the extent that more people believe in demons in the US than evolution. The scope and depth of ignorance that fuels such anti-scientific bias affects us all and perniciously: from the refusal to accept climate change by human activities to the failure to vaccinate children puts all of us and even the health of the planet at unnecessary risk under the guise of being pious. If that doesn’t require more direct, loud, and sustained criticism in the public, then meekly going along under the name of ‘tolerance and respect’ for he kind of apologetics being exercised by the religious will kill us all and take the planet along with it. If I have to bear the mantle of being called a ‘militant’ for speaking out against the pernicious effects of highly unlikely, highly improbable faith-based beliefs then so be it. But that means those who advocate for such beliefs to maintain privilege need to be identified in similar terms, such as gullible, ignorant and superstitious fools. I don’t use those terms to describe the religious and you should not abuse the term ‘militant’ to maintain a pernicious and hypocritical privilege for those who wish to wrap themselves in their piety and pretend this is a virtue.

        • tildeb says:

          Yes, it does. (It’s not even wrong; it’s misleading, distorted, and vilifying but this what many “I’m an atheist, but…” crowd of faitheists do… people like Frank de Waal who cannot make the connection between children dying from the legal protection offered only to religious ignorance of their parents.) But so what? Does this mean all of us have to go along with the lie Frank espouses? Do you have the intellectual fortitude and ethical courage to be honest with the words you use and write or is this just far too much to expect from a believer who should be privileged to espouse such vast distortions because it serves a religious master?

          Where is the ‘extreme, violent AND confrontational’ aspect (OED) of public speaking about the perniciousness of religious belief privileged in the public domain? It’s simply absent. The term is used solely and wholly as a derogatory one. But note that when contrasted directly with the tens of thousands of people who speak publicly about the benefits of religious belief, the term evaporates from being similarly applied. Lovely double standard. Look, if you’re going to call one side ‘militant’, then you had better call the other side doing the same thing (actually, do far, far, FAR, more of the ‘militating’ in this sense and a cost of more than a hundred billion dollars of lost PUBLIC tax revenue in the US per year) and in the same derogatory fashion or I will accurately accuse you of exercising not just hypocrisy and exercising a double standard but bigotry where you meekly go along with demeaning an entire group of people – non believers who dare to speak up and speak out against perniciousness of privileging religious belief in the public domain.

          New atheism is the exercise of speaking honestly about the promoted pernicious effects from privileging religious belief in the public domain from legitimate and necessary public criticism. That’s it. Taking on the contrary arguments put forth by believers who presume religious belief is a virtue and not a vice is what some of the more famous New Atheists do. And they have a found a widening audience for their works. That most of these New Atheists are also scientists is not a coincidence when their chosen scientific fields are negatively portrayed to protect bad religious ideas from reality’s arbitration of them and their work attacked for some imposed expectation to continue to privilege incompatible religious beliefs.

          So it helps the religious assure themselves that these outspoken critics are the real problem and not the incompatible beliefs about reality they hold. And it also helps the religious avoid their responsibility causing pernicious effects derived from exercising their religious beliefs to have some scientists who are non believers help them to do this… even if they have to misrepresent the motives of other scientists and clear thinkers to accomplish this task.

      • LarryB says:

        Here Dawkins uses the word militant himself.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Yehuda, do you blame Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, or others for being outspoken about their criticism of the belief in a deity, especially in light of this blog? This blog only exists because one group of theists is targeting another group of theists for conversion. Both of these groups of theists believe that their belief alone is correct in some unique way. If we added weapons and discriminatory laws in governments to this scenario, it would be just like the middle ages. I can’t call atheism “militant” when it is not they who blow up buildings, firebomb houses, shoot up clinics, etc.

      Religion has a very clear history of violence that can only be described as militant terrorism motivated by belief. Am I saying that there is no non religious violence? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that much religious blood that has been spilled was solely over the “Who was right?” question of religious beliefs, and that is disturbing.

      When a religious text (any religious text) teaches its adherents, “we know the truth, now please stay away from those other groups with whom we disagree, do not learn about them, and do not be influenced by them,” this leads directly to unnecessary conflict and pain, plain and simple.

      Just take a look at the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. A group of once Torah Observant misguided Jews believed their deceased rabbi was still Moshiach “somehow.” They then believed that his soul was on a very high level, that he wasn’t truly dead etc. They see in scripture itself that Moses went up, was away for awhile, and came back. Was he dead those 40 days? In heaven 40 days? Elijah is gonna do the same thing and come back. All the extra Christian doctrines ( like incarnation, hypostatic union, original sin, etc.) are just extra baggage evolving from one period into a later period under a different set of ciircumstances.

      The core of the Christian Messianic formula itself however has been replicated in some form in later Judaism. Yet, Christians and Jews (despite a clear as day shared root system) view each other as polar opposites and are full of animosity towards each other, due to belief. Its clearly disturbing. If the rule in the books wasn’t “Stay away from each other” maybe we could have had better understanding rather than scapegoating for centuries. If the rule had been to stand neutral in judgement, much animosity and bloodshed likely could have been prevented.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        I can’t blame atheists for saying how nuts this all is when it really is nuts.

      • LarryB says:

        “If we added weapons and discriminatory laws in governments to this scenario, it would be just like the middle ages. I can’t call atheism “militant” when it is not they who blow up buildings, firebomb houses, shoot up clinics, etc.”
        Blogs don’t use weapons to blow up the com box users. They are actually opening up dialogue just the opposite that you suggest.

      • larryB says:

        “Professor Richard Dawkins today dismissed his hard-earned reputation as a militant atheist – admitting that he is actually agnostic as he can’t prove God doesn’t exist.”
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2105834/Career-atheist-Richard-Dawkins-admits-fact-agnostic.html
        militant is not just the words of the religious……..

        • Concerned Reader says:

          He says he’s agnostic in the sense that Spinoza’s god is a good metaphor for the beauty of nature. Dawkins is not a theist in any sense, he just wants to be polite.

        • tildeb says:

          To anyone who has actually read Dawkins and Harris and Hitchens and Dennett, we know perfectly well that all self identify as agnostics when it comes to knowing that gods or a god do not exist. Yet all self identify as atheists when it comes to believing that gods or a god exist. The two terms agnostic and atheist are not exclusive but can be and are used in tandem all the time to describe states of knowledge and belief. The Daily Mail plays on the ignorance of its readership to think Dawkins has somehow altered his atheism by admitting he doesn’t know everything. He hasn’t. But even if he did, his state of belief has nothing to do with the reasons he has put forth to argue strongly against holding religious belief and its public exercise as a virtue.

      • Dina says:

        Con, there is no moral equivalence between Judaism and Christianity. You ignore history when you say that the reason for animosity between the two is a result of a “stay away from each other” mentality. Jews were always willing to have friendly relations with whatever host country they lived in and whoever their neighbors were. But their neighbors were not willing to accept them. The animosity that exists today is the result of centuries of hatred that translated into persecution directed one way.

        Today that animosity exists–to the extent that it exists at all–as a result of the continued disrespect Christians show Jews by trying to convert them (not the other way around). Jews are remarkably forgiving and largely accept the olive branch of support for Israel that many Christians in the US have extended.

        • Fred says:

          Dina, on websites that support Israel, Christians often post in the comments below an article about how much they love Israel and the Jewish people….that is, unless their mini proselytizing efforts are met with resistance. Then some of those same “lovers of Israel” will turn and berate, judge and condemn the Jew as a person who “rejected Messiah” and will burn in hell. Enjoy that support, but understand that many of those supporters will turn on a dime.

          • Dina says:

            I do understand that, Fred; my point was to show how forgiving the Jewish people are. Not more than seventy years ended one of the greatest atrocities against us, an event that would not have been possible without the willing participation of millions of Christians. Yet Jews are still willing to forgive be friends. We amaze me :).

        • Concerned reader says:

          I’m saying Dina that the unhampered belief in the absolute religious authority of certain books and the belief that the descriptions of other groups found in these books are somehow inerrant or inspired, can lead directly to a climate of dismissal of others that underlies and fuels both Christian anti-Judaism (in the Christian case) and the same types of phenomena found in all other religions, towards groups who are considered outsiders in various contexts. Such belief hampers a critical assessment of the truth in some cases.

          Would the Christians for example be so dismissive of Judaism and typecast the Jewish people as sinful if their sacred text didn’t give the impression through its blanket “inspired” statements that this was somehow acceptable? Would Christians be so quick to throw out and dismiss Judaism’s own halachic observances if they knew academically that the historical context of their own faith system included such a system of observance in its past?

          We know from an academic standpoint after all, that most of the ethical content (the list of proper prescribed behaviors and of prohibitions) found in the NT, not only have equivalents in Judaism, but are plagiarized from Judaism. There is not one ethical saying of the Nazarene that is unique to him. Later messianisms in Judaism have even started down the Christian path, (albeit in different less severe forms.) There are academically verifiable facts that there are very deep connections. That critical approach to the text and its history tells us what a faith driven inspirational perspective of scripture will never allow. When someone believes that a text is “inspired” they examine it much less critically then if they don’t, that’s my point.

          When a sacred text gives a list of behaviors or descriptions of some group (such as those rules constituting idolatry and idolaters) and then lays a blanket notion that “this behavior is bad, don’t learn about it,” you are then (from that point) placing your confidence strictly in a reader’s ability to interpret these dicta responsibly and reasonably, and expecting them to have discernment in judgement.

          That’s asking a lot of most people. We can impute any number of good or bad qualities to any group’s religious text as a religious group, but we cannot as individuals actually control how the text’s are interpreted by individuals in all circumstances. Something like accepting that a writing is “inspired” can be dangerous even if we don’t intend it to be.

          You say there is no moral equivalence between Judaism and Christianity, where did I say there was? you miss my point. All I was stating was that all the ingredients to make the Christian faith system can be found in Judaism in some form at some time. If that knowledge were more accessible, and not stuck behind the divine inspiration wall to be thrown out, things might be better.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Con,

            I was responding specifically to this statement of yours:

            “Yet, Christians and Jews (despite a clear as day shared root system) view each other as polar opposites and are full of animosity towards each other, due to belief” (my emphasis).

            This statement seemed to suggest that Jews are as full of animosity to Christians as Christians are to Jews for the simple reason that we’re taught to dismiss other beliefs. Thanks for clearing that up.

  4. Concerned Reader says:

    “Atheism is a product of critical thinking and not a method.”
    True, and not the only product of critical thinking, many critical thinkers actually believe in a god.

    Even the most educated theologian though believes in G-d for emotional reasons, or for some reason or ideal of conscience. Very rarely in the modern world do we find that G-d is required for a working knowledge of the world. The question “If it wasn’t G-d, then what was it?” is largely an emotional appeal.

  5. Yehuda says:

    Tildeb, (and to a lesser extent CR)

    For the sake of clarity, I’m willing to concede your point in my use of the term militant. Feel free to substitute any of the following words from an online synonym lookup I just did.

    outspoken, strident, vigorous, forceful, pugnacious, extreme, zealous, argumentative, disputatious,

    for the word for “militant”. The thrust of my post will remain and be put into sharper relief, while most of your response including especially your accusations of double standard disappear. (Yes, Mother Theresa and other religious leaders are all those things.) I for one never said anything to contrary. You seized upon the most aggressive connotation of the word “militant”‘ (from among a choice offered in contemporary rhetoric), and it was a distraction from my actual point.

    I am an ardent believer in freedom of speech and that includes atheists, christian missionaries, and countermissionaries. My entire point was to highlight that there is an outspoken flavor of atheism – which you have made clear you share – which is completely at odds with your prior insistence that atheism is not a “worldview”. That insistence itself was actually the imposition of a double standard upon where atheism sits relative to religion in an effort to grant atheism a moral high ground it does not deserve. Nothing in your response attempted to contradict that, so I am glad we can put aside that little bit of sanctimonious nonsense (yes, atheists can be sanctimonious) and call this discussion what it is, namely a debate between two outspoken, strident, vigorous, forceful, pugnacious, extreme, zealous, argumentative, disputatious,
    WORLDVIEWS.

    That, my friend, was the entirety of my point.

    Be well.

    Y.

    • tildeb says:

      Atheism means non belief in gods or a god. That’s it. This non belief does does channel one’s ‘worldview’ one iota away from the real world. Religious belief does. All the rest of your assumptions about atheism are not the case.

      Atheism is vilified by the religious all the time as are those who publicly declare themselves as atheists. In RESPONSE to this vilification, some outspoken people dare to differ and even are so crass as to explain why. You lump these reasons together and call it a ‘worldview’ not to be accurate, nor to be honest, but to create a false equivalency with other ‘worldviews’ like a religious one, and then try to claim that atheists arguing on good reasons why religious belief is pernicious when exercised and privileged in the public domain are unreasonably intolerant and militant and strident and aggressive and so on. This, as I said, is a rhetorical tactic used by theists and faithesists not to arrive at a mutual understanding of the issues raised but to smear the character, motivation, and intellectual integrity of those atheists who dare to speak out.

      You say That insistence itself (that atheism is not a ‘worldview’) was actually the imposition of a double standard upon where atheism sits relative to religion in an effort to grant atheism a moral high ground it does not deserve.

      Atheism does not cause a moral high ground in itself, but I think a very strong case can be made that because atheists have no fallback position other than themselves for the moral consequences of their actions (that by comparison the theist enjoys and uses when it comes to moral responsibility for their actions), the atheist is in effect an autonomous moral agent. The theist is not when he or she borrows a moral standard from some religious source and then willingly submits to it. The theist acts not – again, in comparison – as a morally autonomous agent like the atheist does but as an automaton of some set religious Divine Rules and Code of Conduct.

      So which person is better suited in practice to be a responsible moral agent?

      I think think the answer to that question is well supported in real world data: the lower the rates of religiosity, the lower the rates of all kinds of social dysfunction. The correlation is robust and crosses all other boundaries like race, ethnicity, gender, age, culture, and so on. Atheists seem to be far better functioning within the norms and expectations of societies than their religious counterparts and I think the reason for this is because atheists own their morality where the believer is forced to borrow theirs.

      • Yehuda says:

        tildeb,

        Had your post actually included anything that was directly responsive to anything I actually said rather than the nastiness you impute to me, I might be inclined to respond. Since it did not, I will not.

        However, you’ve opened some interesting doors which I suspect others might be inclined to take up. And I will leave to judicious readers of this exchange whether or not your atheism, in particular your assertion that:

        “…a very strong case can be made that because atheists have no fallback position other than themselves for the moral consequences of their actions (that by comparison the theist enjoys and uses when it comes to moral responsibility for their actions), the atheist is in effect an autonomous moral agent. The theist is not when he or she borrows a moral standard from some religious source and then willingly submits to it.”

        constitutes a worldview or not.

        Be well.

        Y.

    • Concerned reader says:

      The problem lies in choice of synonyms Yehuda. The use of the word militant carries a rhetorical purpose and connotation that a synonym like outspoken does not. lol be well.

      • Yehuda says:

        Thanks CR. Agreed. But Tildeb’s seizing on that word choice only, to the exclusion of what was clearly my real point was disingenuous. This exercise that atheists indulge in claiming they are vilified and that their free speech is stifled is a bunch of infantile whining. Have they ever watched Bill Maher? Atheists think THEY are vilified? I have a little experiment. Let a Jewish supporter of Israel and an atheist both print up a large placard stating their respective support for Israel and disbelief in god, and have both stand and hold them up in the middle of a typical college campus quad, and let’s find out who is vilified.

        • tildeb says:

          But Tildeb’s seizing on that word choice only, to the exclusion of what was clearly my real point was disingenuous.

          Oh, really?

          Your point was For this group, their atheism very much informs a worldview, and to suggest otherwise is pretty silly.

          Who constitute this group? Why, you name them: the ‘militant’ atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris!

          Your point was that the militancy of some atheists informs their worldview. This is your central point. You are incorrect because none of these people are, in fact, militants. They are doing what you should be doing: publicly criticizing the privileging of religious belief in the public domain. You’re not up to this necessary task. You’re not willing to do you civic duty. So why vilify those who are… by the use of such a derogatory term saved only for this one group of people – atheists and not equivalently used for those who actually do militate for religious privilege?

          You use the term in its derogatory sense as if to say the only atheists who do not have their worldviews so informed are the ones who are quiet, who just go along and say nothing critical of those all too willing to abuse secular law and undermine enlightenment values by trying through very real action to impose their belief in Oogity Boogity on others, by ACTUAL militancy… a militancy all of us who value personal autonomy and equality rights should be publicly criticizing.

          To then add insult to injury, you claim my accurate criticism of your selected characteristic that defines an atheist ‘worldview’, namely ‘militancy’, against those who you presumably think should just going along quietly with the exercise of religious privilege in the public domain was “disingenuous”, which I’ll remind you means “Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.” (OED)

          Oh I’m both candid and sincere and I do not pretend to know less about something than I really do. You’re charge is not just hollow but patently untrue. Hence, my critical commenting.

          Don’t you grow weary of intentionally maligning others in the service of protecting the illegitimate privilege of religious belief from necessary criticism ? Do you enjoy being shown to be duplicitous? You must, because you seem rather cavalier about seeking out that which is true when your malignant opinion of others will suffice.

          • Dina says:

            “…to impose their belief in Oogity Boogity on others, by ACTUAL militancy… a militancy all of us who value personal autonomy and equality rights should be publicly criticizing.”

            Tilde, I would like to see some examples, facts, statistics, etc., to support the above statement.

            Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            “They are doing what you should be doing: publicly criticizing the privileging of religious belief in the public domain.”

            Religious belief has no privilege in the public domain. This may have been true 50 years ago but is no longer true today. You need to fight today’s battles, not yesterday’s.

      • Yehuda says:

        The atheist complaint is that there is a layer of political correctness that prevents them from espousing their atheism, which is of course, BS. They can and do speak of and promote their atheism in every imaginable forum. What they really are agitating for is a change in mindset that would make it as acceptable to publicly ridicule religious people as it is to publicly ridicule, say, people who believe the moon landings were faked. This is an important distinction. If the atheist feels stifled from expressing such ridicule, that’s the atheists problem, not society’s. Societies evolve standards of politeness and rudeness – reflecting their cultural norms. If an atheist is annoyed that American society still considers it rude to ridicule the 80% of its citizenry that don’t think belief in G-d is delusional, then the atheist has a choice of either abiding by the rules of polite discourse or showing they have some cojones and ignoring those rules as Bill Maher and an A list (no pun intended) of celebrities have including but by no means limited to, Angelina Jolie, (what’s she up to now, about $15 million per movie) Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Julliane More, Keira Knighlty, and Billy Joel (how many straight sold out concerts at the Garden is that now?) have. But spare us the sanctimonious whining.

        • tildeb says:

          The atheist complaint is that there is a layer of political correctness that prevents them from espousing their atheism, which is of course, BS.

          What they really are agitating for is a change in mindset that would make it as acceptable to publicly ridicule religious people as it is to publicly ridicule, say, people who believe the moon landings were faked.

          Oh, good grief, Yehuda, here you go again inserting your malignant opinion about others in place of what’s true. Not that you seem to care.

          Yes, atheists complain, but not because of a ‘layer of political correctness from espousing their atheism’. It’s not political correctness that stops me from criticizing your habit of maligning atheists and characterizing us poorly. I criticize your comments because they’re factually wrong and intentionally derogatory. I criticize privileging religious belief in the public domain because not doing so is pernicious and causes real harm to real people in real life. Not that yu seem to care about that.

          People like you are legion, and they come from all walks of life to vilify people like I am because we’re too loud, apparently, and our tone is supposedly unpleasant. It seems to me that many who share your ability to go along with whatever you decide to make up to ‘inform’ your poor opinion of atheists really don’t care to have reality pointed out to them or have it hold much if any influence arbitrating and altering this rather malignant opinions of atheists.

          Well, get over yourself, snowflake.

          You deserve ridicule and scorn for making up such false and demeaning motivations and placing them on a group of people you wish to malign because what you’re doing is transparently deceitful. It’s not a question of me wanting to ridicule you because you may be a believer; I ridicule your lack of intellectual integrity and honesty in your pursuit of maligning others… people doing what you should being doing: getting religious belief out of the public domain.

          There is a difference… not that you seem to want to understand this difference. You just want your soapbox to malign atheists and have the rest of us shut up and listen or for us atheists, be categorized as ‘militant’ like those other atheists who speak up and out over these kinds of false charges and imaginary character flaws.

          • Yehuda says:

            You know tildeb, I genuinely wonder what the nature of your reading comprehension deficiency is. I have repeatedly asserted your right to speak up atheism and even to ridicule religion. Show me one place where i didn’t? You continue to address me, or I should say lecture at me, as if I want you to shut up. I do not. And when I insist that I do not, your response is to say that I’m lying and being duplicitous and a host of otehr nasty figments of your imagination. That my friend is not discourse. It’s BS. I have been critical of only two things:

            1. You assertion that outspoken atheism is not a worldview. It is. It’s as simple as that.
            2. The atheist claim that they are stifled. They aren’t. it’s as simple as that.

            You’re last two points consisted of 1) a return to your umbrage about my use of the word militant, which I conceded to you previously but which you are apparently not finished lecturing about, and 2) Attributing to me a variety of motivations which I defy you to link to anything I actually said. You have variously called me duplicitous, making up false and demeaning motivations, being transparently deceitful. etc, etc.

            Your last rant was launched by nothing more than the following a quote from me which read as follows:

            “What they really are agitating for is a change in mindset that would make it as acceptable to publicly ridicule religious people as it is to publicly ridicule, say, people who believe the moon landings were faked.”

            I’m not sure what you find so offensive about that. Sam Harris has made this point many times. In addition, check this out Tilde.

            http://www.salon.com/2014/12/06/is_mocking_religion_enough_harris_dawkins_and_the_future_of_atheistsecular_politics/

            Here are some tid bits:

            “The bashing and attacks on religion, mainly Christianity (in its evangelical and Catholic forms), happened as much if not more than positive portrayals of secularism and were in sync with new atheist leader and scientist Richard Dawkins’s advice to “mock and ridicule” people’s beliefs. When one of the authors asked an official from the Secular Students Alliance, a group prominent in organizing the event, about whether the ridiculing of religion was productive, he answered, “This is what we do.”

            and this:

            “The rally, which was organized and sponsored by twenty atheist and secular humanist organizations, was widely reported to be a “coming-out party” for atheists to publicly declare their unbelief and demand a place for themselves at the table”

            and especially this:

            “Many participants in these groups still believe that they are in the forefront of secularism and progress. Humor is an important device for declaring the superiority of freethought and secularism over religious thought…As Herbert, a humanist lawyer at the march, noted, “Nothing should be off limits. Why should religion get a pass?… He also added that the “absurdities of religion have to be exposed. Why shouldn’t religion be held up for ridicule just because most people have [religious beliefs]? Why do we have to hush up just because more people believe than don’t believe?” ”

            You know what the answer to that last question is tilde? You don’t have to hush up. No one can deny you the right to speak.

            So again tildeb, this rather large rally held a couple of years back in fact shows that I am not factually incorrect .

            So for one last time, go ahead and organize a rally of a million atheists screaming at the top of their lungs that religion is for imbeciles. That’s your right. But if your going to hold rallies, write books, and exercise your right to do so on a religious blog, whose blogmaster continues to welcome you, then for the of of god stop whining.

          • Dina says:

            Good work, Yehuda.

            I don’t know what planet you live on, Tilde B. Religious beliefs are frequently ridiculed in the media and academia and rarely so atheist beliefs. You will find such ridicule in alternative media like this blog and conservative websites, not in mainstream media.

            Political correctness forbids wishing people Merry Christmas, for example, although 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas and so you have a 90% chance of getting it right when you greet people. This is just to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of the 10% who don’t celebrate Christmas and can’t handle the seasonal greeting. Talk about snowflakes.

            Yehuda grew up in a time when kids his age were calling him Christ killer. Jewish kids in those days stayed home behind locked doors for fear of getting beat up. Even today, 60% of hate crimes victims are Jews, not atheists (are atheists even on the list?). If you want to compare who is more vilified than whom, you have nothing on us Jews.

            Merry Christmas (just kidding!),
            Dina

          • tildeb says:

            Yeah, Y, you are wrong and I’ve explained why: atheists are atheists because they do not believe the evidence warrants belief in some gods or a god. For this, atheists are generally treated differently. Your proclamations about the nature of complaints by atheists to speak up and speak are factually wrong.

            Consider President Bush Sr., who said, “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.” Consider the laws that actually forbid atheists from holding public office. Consider military policy that mandates punishment for failure to meet devotional expectations. Consider that Americans hold more trust for convicted criminals than they do atheists. Consider the rampant discrimination in medicine and sports against atheists. Now step out into the wider world and find out that blasphemy is still a crime in almost every nation of the world, with dozens who consider it a capital offense. Now look at how entrenched religious privilege is even throughout most Western countries – from the special taxes paid to the Church in Europe to the special seats held in the British House of Lords to the more than 100 BILLION dollars of tax money waved aside in the US every year. The privilege runs deeply, as does the mistrust of those who do not share the assumption that is a good thing. Now look at the pernicious effects caused by these privileges and you just begin to appreciate the scope and extent of the bias. This is what motivates every atheist I know and have read to speak up and speak out. Your assertions are factually incorrect against this background.

            As for Dawkins’ comments at the Reason Rally, he was talking about the literal belief in transubstantiation. Such beliefs that are incompatible with reality as we understand it to be cannot be addressed using reason and evidence because these are insufficient. They do not pertain to insane beliefs (specifically exempted, I should add, from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V IF THEY ARE RELIGIOUS). Dawkins advocated that the correct response was to publicly scorn and ridicule such obviously ridiculous beliefs.

            But note that on this blog I am not doing that. I’m not complaining that I have no audience, that I’m being stifled. That’s another made-up reason you think motivates me (ironic that you think this comes from me comprehending your words).

            I am taking the opportunity to teach others why speaking up and out about atheism is justified, why granting and empowering faith-based belief does not enable people to seek what’s true but causes pernicious effect. You yourself afforded me an opportunity to demonstrate how easily some people fall into mischaracterizing atheists and misrepresenting their motivations to speak up and speak out. I used your words to demonstrate how people load their terminology to denigrate atheists and then use a double standard to try to justify it. You are a walking case example.

          • Dina says:

            Tilde, you seem to be the kind of guy who prefers facts and science to opinion and beliefs. This post of yours, however, is short on facts and long on opinion. It’s just an angry rant. Surely you can do better?

          • Yehuda says:

            BTW, among the unsubtantiated accusations you’ve been hurling at me, you called me “snowflake”. I’m wasn’t familiar with that particular pejorative, so I did a little googling. here are some of the possible defintions I found:

            1. a derogatory term for a white person
            2.very unique white girl that no one else can duplicate because she is one of a kind.

            Those were the more polite ones. I’m not sure which if any you had in mind, but I assure you I’m not the second one. Perhaps someone could enlighten me. When I’m called names I like to know what I’ve been called.

          • Dina says:

            I can enlighten you, Yehuda. A snowflake is someone’s precious, unique child (just like each snowflake is unique) who is so insulated and protected by his overindulgent and oversolicitous parents that he is as fragile as, well, a snowflake.

          • Dina says:

            Snowflakes can’t handle the real world and have very thin skins.

          • tildeb says:

            Oh, these days the term ‘snowflake’ refers to a person who is sensitive to melting at a slight increase in temperature.

          • Yehuda says:

            Tildeb,

            You continue to speechify rather than address my actual words.

            You didn’t begin to address the the quotes I provided from the reason rally especially the one calling for general ridicule of religion, not just the Dawkins quote. And your caveat for the Dawkins quote is irrelevant. The bottom line is that it is a call for ridicule.

            You continue to claim that I am attributing motives to what makes atheists speak up. I have done nothing of the sort. Dare show me where I have. Again, I claim only that

            1. Many atheists do speak up
            2. Atheists, at least on the American scene have every freedom to do so, as they should
            3. Many outspoken atheists would also like there to be more ridicule of religion. The quotes from the Reason Rally make that incontrovertible
            4. That for many outspoken atheists their atheism strongly informs what I think most people would consider a “worldview”. Your comments about everything from morality to tax policy have done nothing but validate that notion, and the balance of your comments about anything else have done nothing to refute my first three points.

            I have not claimed that number 3 is the sole or even primary motivation for atheists who speak up. Dare show where I said anything different.

            I pointed out that Americans continue to enrich the coffers of openly atheist entertainers (as they should if they enjoy their work) you’ve said nothing about that. None of these celebrities fear that their atheism will kill their careers.

            I have repeated my own belief in anyone’s right to speak to which you tell me about that you are not complaining that you are being stifled. Well here is what you accused me of a couple of posts back.

            “You just want your soapbox to malign atheists and have the rest of us shut up and listen…”

            I’ve repeated several times in succinct terms what my points are and what they aren’t. As I sometimes do on this blog when I’m content that an exchange has been put down in sufficient clarity to see which of two people is making an attempt to address the other’s points and which is speechifying, I am content that we’ve reached that point here is as well.

            As always, be well.

          • Yehuda says:

            Well in any event I’m not sure what i did to earn the appellation. Tildeb, your sometimes heated tone (or what I sometimes perceive as your heated tone) doesn’t make me shrink. I just find it annoying when these discourses meander around and become about strawmen rather than about what people actually say. And I’m sorry to say, Tildeb, but like it or not, you’ve been doing that consistently in your exchange with me, to the point of once using “people like you” as if you have the slighthest clue what kind of a person I am. You’ve thoroughly profiled me, based on a few hundred words.

            In any event let me introduce a definitional convention that I think may help shed some light on one the points , we’re batting around. I will conceded that atheism is not a worldview. Yep you heard me.

            However, while some atheists are anti-religion, some are not. Most anti-religionists, though are atheists. And almost all outspoken atheists are anti-religionists.

            Anti-religionism is a worldview.

          • Yehuda says:

            Sorry, I guess I’m not done,

            Tildeb, you said earlier…”Now step out into the wider world and find out that blasphemy is still a crime in almost every nation of the world, with dozens who consider it a capital offense.”

            I recognize that Wikipedia is not that final world , but here is what it has to say on this.

            “As of 2012, 33 countries had some form of anti-blasphemy laws in their legal code. Of these, 21 were Muslim-majority nations – Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, the UAE and the Western Sahara. The other twelve nations with anti-blasphemy laws in 2012 were Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands (abolished in 2014), Nigeria, Poland and Singapore. Blasphemy was treated as a capital crime (death penalty) in many Muslim nations.

            Even if the Wiki stats are even half right, you’d still be far “almost every nation in the world” and even if every one of the 21 muslim countries in questions had a death penalty you’d be three short of the minimum of two necessary to pluralize “dozens”

            You’re entitled to your own opinions not your own facts. From someone as scientifically oriented as you, I might have expected better.

            I’ll leave to others to research things like

            “.. Americans hold more trust for convicted criminals than they do atheists”

            and this

            “The rampant discrimination in medicine and sports against atheists.”

          • tildeb says:

            You’re right. I overstated the blasphemy laws when what I meant was the global prevalence of laws that concern freedom of and from religion. I recalled reading this awhile ago. My bad.

            I have also specifically mentioned the DSM V for medical exemptions on religious grounds from otherwise identified pathologies. There are dozens of states in the US that expressly alter the legal responsibilities for those who abuse and even kill children on religious grounds. It’s blatant and pernicious privilege.

            I remember reading a paper out of UBC about the trust rankings that had criminals and every other stigmatized groups ahead of atheists… atheists who were at the bottom. The point is that mistrust of atheists for being atheists is not helped but promoted when people like you assign derogatory terms like ‘militant’ to describe atheists who speak out but not all those entrenched and often institutional spokespeople – from media to the highest political and religious offices – who cause this mistrust by falsely equating atheism with all kinds of similar pejorative terms… and without a shred of non-bigoted evidence to back them up to justify the sweeping discrimination.

            So although I may get some of the details wrong – and thank you for correcting me – my point of unwarranted and widespread discrimination remains fixed and valid. You make it sound as if atheists are complaining because they want to hear the sound of their voice and wish to merely mock and ridicule the religious. Those motivations are imaginary.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, please support the following statement with facts and statistics:

            “There are dozens of states in the US that expressly alter the legal responsibilities for those who abuse and even kill children on religious grounds.”

            An astonishing statement in light of the fact that the more highly educated and wealthy who also tend to be less religious are more likely to refuse to vaccinate their kids from deadly and preventable diseases.

            What pathologies are medically exempted on religious grounds?

            Finally, your memory of one paper that you remember reading about trust rankings is not credible evidence. Especially if that paper was skewed, as is often the case. Someone who wants to prove that atheists are hated and mistrusted goes and writes a paper with selective evidence or some kind of ridiculous method of collecting data. Happens all the time. When the study is replicated and peer-reviewed several times, that’s when I start to take it seriously.

            You wrote that the distrust of atheists is promoted “from media to the highest political and religious offices – who cause this mistrust by falsely equating atheism with all kinds of similar pejorative terms.” I called you out on this and you haven’t responded this. Mainstream media is highly sympathetic to secular liberals and atheists and quite derisive to any expression of religious belief. The only place you’ll find ridicule–and that is not the same as mistrust–is in alternative media like conservative websites.

            I talk to religious people all the time and I do not know a single one who would trust a convicted criminal over a law-abiding atheist. You’re spouting rabid nonsense.

            For a man of science who claims to be interested in just the facts, ma’am, you seem more concerned with your personal agenda than with actual, verifiable facts.

          • Yehuda says:

            And with your last response I am now done.

  6. tildeb says:

    Sorry for not closing the italics tag at the end of that quoted paragraph. My bad.

  7. Yehuda says:

    To be more clear and succinct. You’re arguing that your atheism may well place you in a position morally superior to the theist. There is perhaps nothing more central to the core of our humanity than our sense of morality Do you really believe you can make that claim and also claim that your atheism is not worldview? If you do, then we must agree to disagree.

    • tildeb says:

      Yes, in a sense, and for very good reasons (which may explain the strong correlation between non believers and significantly lower rates of all kinds of common societal dysfunction). The atheist recognizes that he or she is an autonomous moral agent and is therefore responsible for justifying in moral terms his or her actions.

      The theist, in contrast, borrows a set of rules and conditions to be moral and tries to live ‘up’ to them – failing always, of course. The believer who submits to this way of thinking about morality is not autonomous but a moral automaton and therefore is not responsible for his or her actions if it falls within the rules and code of conduct. That’s how one can justify the slaughter of the Canaanites, for example…just following the orders of the Dear Leader, you see. Nothing immoral about it according to the submission method of moral capitulation under Divine Command Theory. The SS would approve of this thinking.

  8. Yehuda says:

    In fact, Tildeb, I would like to present what I consider a good test of whether your atheism is or is not a worldview. Suppose you were at lunch with a friend when the friend’s acquaintance happened upon the two of you. Your friend introduced you to this third party and it became quickly evident in quick conversation (or perhaps you noticed a piece of religious jewelry), that this person was deeply religious. Would you or would you not have a gut negative reaction about this new person as likely being a person whose judgment and critical thinking is clouded by their religious proclivities?

    Now suppose by contrast this new acquaintance was wearing the Atheist “A” pin. What woudl your inner reaction be?

    If your reactions to posts in this exchange are any indication, I already know the answers.

    • tildeb says:

      It’s funny you raised that hypothetical because I know exactly how I’d feel. And I know how I would feel because the hypothetical becomes actual all the time.

      Many of my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances are non believers, believers, and devout believers. They cross all boundaries of gender, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, age, (degrees of sane and insane) and definitely religious! That is why I know that one’s beliefs are like a piece of clothing that one dons and not reflective in any way of the character of the person who currently espouse one or more of them. These beliefs, however, do and can play a significant role for consideration and in the justifications for behaviours and actions taken. It here where comparative morality and professional ethics come into play and worthy of commentary and criticism which I will undertake with all of them. They know this. It’s a value-added contribution I make!

      If any of them try to use belief or non belief as a justification for the morality of or ethical considerations for one of their actions or behaviours, they know perfectly well that I will call them on it. Non belief has never been used to the best of my knowledge as a motivating justification. What does happen, I have found, is that non believers tend to use what they consider very good reasons whereas the religious tend to fall back upon some kind of moral dogma and know their ground is shakier than the non believer’s.

  9. Fred says:

    Tldeb, I recently heard a woman speak of her upbringing in a secular Jewish home. They were not in any way religious and in fact were of a similar mind to yourself. It happened one day when this young lady was about 15 that she and her family made a trip to Israel. An observant friend of hers asked if she could take a written prayer to the Kotel and stuff it in one of the cracks for her. She did as she was asked. After stuffing the prayer into the crack in the wall, the air became heavy around her and she felt “enveloped” by a seemingly conscious presence beyond description, but that she did not want to leave. Time stood still for her, as it turned out, for nearly an hour. Finally, this “presence” lifted and abated. From that moment on, her life ( and worldview) was changed and she has spent the rest of her life ( she is in her 50s now) trying to understand this “presence” and find ways to enter back into it.

    You, like her, are only one experience away from throwing your atheism to the wind. That is why I can only smile when an atheist claims that it is religious people who are “in the dark” and “ignorant”.
    G-d bless you!

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Fred, as a religious person affiliated with Judaism you would have to ignore that woman’s religious experience as the motivating factor in accepting any notion of G-d if you are to be consistent with Judaism. That faith experience was just a purported miracle experience. If it is acceptable that a person can come to a faith in Judaism because of an “overwhelming sense of a conscious presence,” that faith experience is in no way different than any other religious experience experienced by others from the other religions.

      Those kind of faith experiences are entirely subjective. As an example, During my baptism (as a Christian) I too felt the overwhelming sense of a conscious presence, a feeling of love, of being purified, and I haven’t ever felt like that since. As has been pointed out to me before though, according to Judaism, this experience lead me into idol worship. Dr. Brown had an experience of “ceasing a drug addiction,” that’s no small potatoes, but it doesn’t prove the faith claim is true or comes from G-d, right?

    • LarryB says:

      Fred
      People claim a lot of things that are not true. People claim to be religious when they really are atheist and people claim to be atheist when they really are not, maybe they just haven’t given it much thought. I have never met a person that convinced me they were an atheist. To me they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. But I admit that what my life would be like would be different than anyone else’s.

  10. Fred says:

    CR, I hear that quite often ( especially here) and it is BS. Judaism was founded on miracles and on communication with G-d. Mysticism is as much Judaism as rational deduction is. And my answer will be the same as it always is: Miracles do not make one correct in his interpretation of faith or facts, but it proves there is something beyond; whether it is a test or it is a true miracle. Judaism has become “afraid” of miracle claims because of the very statement you make : that ANY religion can say the same thing. To blow off miracles is not of Torah, even though miracles do not proclaim any truth other than something special occured. As for the lady I wrote about, she was a committed atheist, born and raised. Not the same as a religious experience being had by a religious person that only affirms his own beliefs ( like people whose NDEs affirm their own faith to the letter), so your experience to hers cannot be compared. Just because one person makes a claim does not make the other claims false, just as one religion being wrong does not make all religions wrong. Give me a little credit here.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      When I had that experience I was too young to be considered a member of any religion, and I didn’t know enough about the concept of divinity to be categorized. I didn’t think about G-d that much as a kid, (as most children don’t.) The experience is very similar to that of the woman you mention. If you think its “BS” that miracles don’t count as proof, I’m curious what rabbi B has to say?

      • Concerned Reader says:

        If that kind of “miracle” has sufficient thrust to your mind to serve as the defining experience for such a person to accept G-d’s existence, then the experience is qualitatively no different than the one I had as a Christian, and no different than the ones atheists have had. Look at Anthony Flew and C.S. Lewis? People from all walks of life embrace all sorts of views because of some miraculous experiences.

  11. Fred says:

    I have no problem accepting that G-d works in the lives of people from all walks and worldviews, CR. It is when we say, “God did this for me BECAUSE I have the truth about my beliefs” that the problem comes in. I have no doubt that God works miracles for atheists or Christians. We do not know His greater purposes concerning each individual, CR. Miracles do not count as proof of knowing the truth about a specific subject, but they DO count as special events that serve to remind us there is so much beyond our knowledge we have not even tapped into and cannot control. But no, no atheist I know of has ever embraced atheism based on experiencing a supernatural event.

    And no doubt Rav B knows about Kabbalah and the miracles the Nation of Israel witnessed, as well as those given to non-believers and pagans. Will Rav B doubt the dreams given by God to the pagan Pharaoh about the famine? Will he doubt the miracles witnessed by Nebuchadnezzar? I don’t think so. But certainly he is welcome to respond. 🙂

  12. Fred says:

    In the three “special” miracles I have received, they all have some things in common:
    1- None have confirmed my own beliefs at that time. On the contrary, they contradicted my current understanding at the time.
    2- None were in any way expected or brought on by anything I did to even hope for or “conjure” said miracle. All three were completely unexpected.
    3- None directed me in any way to or confirmed my current belief system at that time. In fact, one of them pointed me away from trinitarian Christianity and toward strict monotheism ( in 2000) and one directed me specifically to Judaism (in 2008). The other simply kept me alive (in 1986), but strangely it did not change my life in any way, as I could never wrap my mind around it and just “let it go” for over 25 years.
    4- There was no other explanation possible other than supernatural intervention.

    The only one of the three that involved a physical suspension of natural law as we know it was witnessed by two eyewitnesses, who were as nonreligious as I was at the time.

    Now, in addition to “the three”, I have had “experiences” that *could be* explained by various circumstances, my imagination, reading a miracle into a mere coincidence, etc. However, I would not be so bold as to doubt God could have been involved in those as well, but they are not the same as “the three”, in that they are naturally, mentally, circumstantially or coincidentally explainable.

    I know that sharing this invites ridicule, but that is the price of sharing something of an unusual or controversial nature.

  13. Fred says:

    Oops, I kind of repeated one and three. My mistake.

  14. Concerned Reader says:

    would you mind detailing your experiences?

    • Fred says:

      At this point, and forum, I would rather not. Sharing the story of a personal supernatural event can be hazardous to the reputation. 🙂 I only share these experiences with very few people very close to me, and of course I have shared them with a couple of rabbis.( I did once write publicly about one of these experiences, but the other two I do not mention very often). In the end it would come down to whether you believed my description of the events. And that would be the case regardless of the specifics. Those who do not want to accept them would just say I am making it all up or suffering a delusion of some kind. Or maybe they would accept them because they have no doubt such things happen. In other words, they would judge my story based on either their knowledge of my character or a preconceived bias concerning the nature of the story. As such, those few friends, relatives and rabbis I have shared them with tend to believe the stories based on their knowledge of my character and personality; something that a stranger would not know (or care about, frankly).

      So really, probably nothing good would come of sharing these experiences to strangers and skeptics on this blog.

      • LarryB says:

        Fred
        I agree you should keep it to yourself. My wife had an event, and it came true and held true to our amazement all these 28 years, you should be selective. She shared it with a few people, at my encouragement, and the results were mixed. I no longer encourage her to share it.

        • Fred says:

          Agreed. There is a part of me that wants the world to know. But that is tempered by the fact that the response would more times then not be centered on what they believe coming in. They either have no reason to believe and so they don’t or they have no reason not to so they do. Glass half full/half empty thing.

          My original point is that for the people these experiences happen to, they are often changed forever. Hence my comment that every atheist is only one experience away from tossing atheism to the wind.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Fred and Con,

            I’m going to wade into your argument about miracles. I tend to agree with Con here although there is some merit to what Fred is saying. Miracles and personal spiritual experiences can be real and I have no doubt that some have experienced truly miraculous events in their lives. However, miracles prove absolutely nothing. They prove diddly squat. In fact, the Torah warns us about false prophets who can perform miracles. There is as much of a chance that a spiritual experience can lead you right as it can you lead you wrong and thus it is dangerous to base your belief on that.

            It is also wrong to compare an intangible, personal spiritual experience to the miracles of the Exodus which impacted two cultures and two peoples on a vast national scale in a physical, visible, and tangible way. There was no need to rely on others’ testimony or take anyone’s word for it.

            It is also wrong to assume that every atheist is one experience away from theism. Many people go through life without every encountering the kind of experiences that Fred has talked about, and that is not how God expects us to discover the truth. It would be unfair and also contradicts our belief in free will–that only some people are lucky enough to be chosen by God to have a spiritual experience that brings them to belief in Him or in a particular religious system.

            Furthermore–and I know that this has never, ever been Fred’s intent so this is not directed at Fred–people who point to their spiritual experiences tend to come across as smug, superior, and sanctimonious, which is very off-putting and achieves the very opposite of what they are hoping to accomplish.

            For these reasons, therefore, while people may witness miracles in their personal lives, they ought to keep it to themselves or share it only with very close family and friends.

  15. Concerned Reader says:

    None have confirmed my own beliefs at that time.

    The thing is though Fred, Miracles (of whatever sort) lead one to conclusions of ultimate truth eventually. Nobody on this blog believes (for instance) that Judaism just happens to be the path they are on, they believe its true in an absolute sense, and they believe that because of whatever experiences they have had.

    As an example, I had many reasons to believe in Jesus as the messiah based on knowledge and experiences even though I couldn’t understand all the details. I outlined those points in the starting points article. The thing that caught me off guard (showed my hypocrisy) was the halachic content in the Christian Bible. Try as the Christians might, they can’t get away from Jesus’ Judaism. He was Torah observant. They may believe all the mysticism they want, but when push comes to shove Christians are upset at Jews mainly just for living J’s lifestyle and refusing to abandon it in favor of die hard belief in him specifically. That knowledge is what put me on even footing with Judaism, even while I was Christian.

  16. Mozer G. says:

    Reblogged this on Blogging Theology and commented:
    Written by my dear friend and rabbi, Please check out his blog… a fountain of wisdom and clarity…

  17. CP says:

    “The day will yet come when everyone and everything rejoices in the worship of the Creator (Psalm 98:7). May it happen soon and in our days.”

    And if it were to happen soon and in our days?; the Creator comes to His created through the agency of Messiah, will you treat him as you’ve treated Yeshua?

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