Jewish Self-Identity; an excerpt from “Covenant Nation”

In his description of the sense of Jewish self-identity that preceded Christianity, Boyarin has forgotten a key element in that sense of self-identity. The Jewish people did not just see themselves merely as a community; they saw themselves as a community that stands in a special relationship with God. Obviously, some Jews took this relationship more seriously than did others, but being a Jew meant being tied up with God. This central feature of Jewish self-identity was shared by every man woman and child who saw themselves as part of the larger Jewish community.

A prerequisite for sharing a relationship with somebody is an ability to identify that somebody. If it is a group of people that share a relationship with somebody, as in the situation of Israel sharing a collective relationship with God, then the nation will need to be able to identify God on a national level. This would require a uniform definition of God that is shared by the nation. This definition would have to be clear and simple. If the Jewish people are going to relate to God as a nation, each Jew needs to be confident that whichever group of Jews he or she stands with, they worship the same God. It is not enough that they call God by the same name because you don’t have a relationship with a name and you don’t worship a name. We need to find the common Jewish understanding of the One that they were having a relationship with.

This understanding of God shared by the Jewish people will not be a theological formula or creed, because you don’t have a relationship with a mathematical equation. It needs to be something concrete that everyone could relate to on the level of the heart.

So what was it? How did the Jewish people perceive God in the pre-Christian world? How did the Jewish people understand the One that they were tied to in covenantal relationship?

If we search the Jewish Bible for an answer to this question, we will not find a creed or a mathematical formula. The Bible opens with the words: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”. The God of Israel is above and beyond heaven and earth and all that exists in heaven and earth are His creations. The Jewish concept of God shapes the Jew’s view, not only of God Himself, but also of all existence. God is the One Creator and every detail of existence is viewed as His subject. The One that the Jewish people related to was the One that is outside of the confines of heaven and earth and the Jew saw heaven and earth and of all their inhabitants as subjects of this One God. The Jew stood apart from all of the pagan nations that surrounded Israel because they all found themselves in a relationship with some feature of finite existence; be it the sun, the moon, or any other force of nature. The Jew saw all of these as fellow subjects of the One who created them all.

This is the concept of God that is shared by all Jews from the time of the exodus onward. It is this Being who is identified by the fact that He is outside of existence as we know it that Israel shares her covenantal relationship with.

Yes, there were many teachings floating around, and there still are many teachings floating around that address questions such as; how does an infinite God appear to the prophets? How does an infinite God interact with a finite world? But whatever answers are given to these questions, they do not affect the basic relationship with God. God always remains outside of the existence that we see and comprehend.

Pointing to any inhabitant of heaven and earth, be it a human, an angel, a star or an animal and encouraging a devotional relationship with that entity is the most serious violation of Israel’s relationship with the God who is above and beyond heaven and earth.

This then was the constant. When a Jew joined his or her fellow Jews in worship, they may not have been confident that their fellow Jews subscribed to the same teachings that explain how God appeared to the prophets. But of this they were sure; that their fellow Jews were NOT worshiping an inhabitant of heaven or earth but that their hearts were directed to the One who stands outside of the confines of heaven and earth.

When the Church encouraged devotion to Jesus as a deity (regardless of when this devotion surfaced in Church history), the Church was encouraging a different relationship than the relationship of Israel with her God. The Church was pointing to an inhabitant of this earth and demanding that human hearts direct their devotion towards that entity. The Churchmen may have used the Jewish teachings that explain God’s interaction with this world to justify the relationship that they were encouraging, but they were encouraging a different relationship. The fact that the Logos theology of the Church is similar to some of the Jewish teachings on God does not make Christianity Jewish. The teachings may be similar, but the relationships that they are encouraging are diametrically opposed to each other. In Judaism these teachings are used to explain a relationship with an entity that stands outside of the confines of nature, while in Christianity these same teachings are being used to justify a relationship with an entity that is inside the confines of nature.

Whenever it was that the Church introduced the idea that the hearts of human-kind ought to relate to Jesus as their supreme master they had crossed the line and moved out of the range of Jewish self-identity – according to every understanding of Jewish self-identity that ever existed.

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815 Responses to Jewish Self-Identity; an excerpt from “Covenant Nation”

  1. tildeb says:

    What a nonsensical post.

    How can anyone have a concrete ‘relationship’ with anything outside of existence? Come on.

    Simply put, you can’t. That’s not an opinion. that a fact.

    Such a relationship has to be by definition fully abstract, fully imaginary, because by definition it cannot be concrete (meaning “existing in a material or physical form; real or solid; not abstract.”). And remember, the exodus – unsurprisingly to anyone who thinks evidence matters – was fully imaginary, too! But its purpose was not to describe a history as far too many Jews and Christians incorrectly believe (out of religious necessity) but a literary means to try to create a single people out of disparate tribes… with a shared creation story… emphasis on story. There is no real ‘relationship’ with such an external agency any more than there is an ongoing ‘relationship’ each of us has with our hypothetical alien ancestors. Without compelling historical evidence, it’s imaginary.

    By assuming an historical account with an imaginary agency used as literary device, you are forced to speak the kind of meaningless gibberish we find in this post and find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to accept a fundamental category mistake as the foundation for your religious beliefs. These beliefs about a tribal relationship – a concrete covenant – with an abstraction doesn’t make rational sense because they are nonsensical to begin with.

    • Alan says:

      tildeb,
      Your relationship with your own mind is just as or even more “nonsensical”.

    • tildeb For the purpose of this post God doesn’t have to be real – The point of this post is that the people who called themselves Jews and accepted the Bible identified themselves as a community that stands in a relationship with a being that stands outside of nature and its laws. Perhaps its all in their imagination – but that is how they identified themselves and every historical record that we have of the Jewish people at the time under discussion (after they accepted the Bible) confirms this portrait of their sense of self-identity. This post wasn’t written to counter atheistic arguments but to counter the Christian argument that Jews had a different (than the one described here) sense of self-identity – in the period of the Babylonian exile. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • tildeb says:

        Well, that’s not quite true, is it? The purpose of the post was to explain the unity of a people under the auspice of a special relationship with this very real creator. So examining this special relationship and finding the other side of the relationship to be not just (admittedly) abstract when presented as if historical (“outside of existence” yet at the same time “concrete”… a linguistic impossibility) means it is essential to understand why the relationship itself must be entirely imaginary. This key point is absolutely relevant to the thesis of this unity because your version makes the relationship obligatory and ordained from above while the fact of the matter is that it is entirely voluntary and permitted only by agreement from below… from those who choose to believe the special relationship to be real and not imaginary.

        It is upon this special status – and not by voluntary self identity to unify into a people – that rests the Jewish faith generally and the demand for adherence to what is taught to children to be a very real covenant in the form of Jewish laws specifically. It is exactly this idea of a real divine agency – and not an abstract creation – that supposedly makes Judaism special. And it is believed to be special because it is supposedly real and divine. That supposition is itself a chronic source of great perniciousness and divisiveness between real people in real life when used to justify all kinds of very real discriminatory behaviours towards other very real people… people who are not quite so special because, hey, they don’t believe they have a special relationship with our creator god!

        Imagine that.

        • Dina says:

          Tilly, mistreating people goes against the laws of Judaism, so anyone who engages in the behavior you described above is doing so for his own personal reasons. Discrimination and its ensuing ill treatment has more to do with the human condition that to anything else. People may use their scripture as an excuse just as people used science in the past as an excuse for racism.

          You are honest. Come on, you have to admit that religious people do not have in any way, shape, or form a monopoly on incivility.

          • tildeb says:

            Don’t presume pernicious only refers to the mistreatment of people; I use the term to show net effect has a cost greater than any attributed benefit. And it starts by teaching children of an ‘inherited’ identity that depends on a very great deal of trust without compelling evidence and that this imposed commitment is a family virtue… but only in regards to this particular religion but not that one. This is the very seed needed to teach children to discriminate on such a basis… a lesson that when acted upon I claim is pernicious, that really is fundamentally divisive, that really does play out in endless generations promoting and enhancing and justifying the core concept that differences are to be more meaningful and important to identity that what is shared, what is common, what is essential.

          • Dina says:

            If people are not mistreated, then who cares what they believe? I don’t care if the person in line at the supermarket checks his horoscope daily and collects roadkill that he keeps in his freezer as long as he doesn’t cut the line.

            Who cares if people believe that their worldview is the only correct one (such as atheists, for example), as long as they treat those with a different worldview kindly and respectfully? Atheists don’t have a better track record in this regard.

            I’m remembering some atheists who descended on this blog a year or so ago. They were rude, offensive, sneering, condescending, and supremely arrogant. I didn’t think you could get worse than some of the Christians who come here arrogantly telling us off without bothering to hear us out. But these guys took the cake.

            Non religious ideologies have been actually more damaging than religious ones (think of the number of people who died in the 20th century alone as a result of communism, more than the number of people who died as the result of Christianity and Islam combined throughout their history).

            There is such a thing as good religion and bad religion. Good religion teaches their children that no matter what you believe, all humans are created in God’s image and must be treated with dignity and respect. Bad religion teaches their children to discriminate on the basis of what you described above.

            The bottom line, is, Tilly, you would have a lot more credibility if the people on your side were as nice as you are. But my experience with them is that they are not any nicer than anyone else, and some are a whole lot meaner.

          • tildeb says:

            Nice? Me? That will be news to many!

            Dina, atheists don’t have a shared worldview. I’m really not sure why you have such difficulty understanding this fact – just go talk with a bunch of atheists and you’ll quickly find out the only common thread between them is that they don’t believe in any gods and so treat the models of how reality seems to work fairly typically – but continue to believe otherwise. Might that be because of how you empower certain beliefs you maintain (and don’t really question) when it comes to thinking about your piety v non-piety over and above what reality tells you is the case? Something to consider, anyway. You may also want to consider a little mental exercise made famous by Loftus called the Outsider’s Test for Faith.*

            * (From the HalQ at Patheos)

            “So the way you refute your own religion in three easy steps is this: first, think of your religious beliefs, and think of what you would think of them if you hadn’t been brought up with them. Second, some argument or other about how your religion is special is going to come to mind, and what you do then is ask yourself if you would find a similar argument convincing if it were presented in defense of some other religion. Third, move on to the next argument you think up, and repeat the process, and just keep repeating the process until you run out of arguments.”

          • Alan says:

            “Nice? Me? That will be news to many!”

            Why don’t you want to be nice? Don’t you think it’s important to be nice?

            “over and above what reality tells you is the case?”
            Reality tells me there is a Creator. It’s much more irrational to me not to believe in a Creator than to believe in one.

            “Something to consider, anyway. You may also want to consider a little mental exercise made famous by Loftus called the Outsider’s Test for Faith.*”
            I did the test and I passed the test.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Tilly,

            I’m responding to your comment https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2017/04/27/jewish-self-identity-an-excerpt-from-covenant-nation/#comment-35469.

            I do think you’re nicer than most, although you can be condescending at times, because you don’t engage in ad hominem attacks. Most people find it hard to refrain from that when they argue with people they disagree with. Also, you’re polite. So my original point still stands :).

            I should have been more clear when I used the word “worldview” because I did not mean that atheists have a monolithic worldview (neither do theists); I should have said what I meant which is the aspect they share with other atheists and which forms the basis of their disagreement with religion. So now that I have clarified that, again, I stand by what I said.

          • tildeb says:

            Thanks, Dina. But what is shared by atheists is also shared with theists in every other area of reality: we (mostly, but not always) respect it and its arbitration of our beliefs about it. But outside of this commonality, atheists contain the full spectrum of differences except a shared theology!.

          • tildeb Judaism at its core emphasizes the common godliness and goodness of man. The key concept of a chosen nation is not to be better but to be saddled with a responsibility – to respect human beings for their humanity, to stand for the truths: that human beings possess a Godly conscience – even evil ones, that the happiness of mankind lies in man recognizing the beauty and purpose inherent in justice and kindness and to bring mankind a hope for a future of peace and brotherhood..

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            I know. But all of this can be done with far better reasons than a religious injunction. This is why it is so very difficult to get religious people to be made aware of why their willingness to believe in gods or a god who bestows such terrific values is actually contrary to the very principles behind these virtues!

          • Alan says:

            “But all of this can be done with far better reasons than a religious injunction.”

            How can this be done. You made a big statement here. Please tell us how you think this can be done with far better reasons than a religious injunction?

            And about 2/3 of Jewish Israelis today are religious – either Orthodox or Masorti (traditional).

          • RT says:

            I also think that there was example of culture that tried and failed to remove religion. The outcome was actually worst in many cases. Obviously it’s a case-by-case basis and depends of the religion that you compare it with. But if you compare cultures who were denied religious freedom with cultures like America who has religious freedom, I’d rather America. Of course if you compare those countries with Muslims and some ancient-time Christian faith, you won’t see too much difference. Why? Because when you force people to believe or follow your worldview, you suppress others’ idea. Imagine you are right Tildeb and there is no god. Imagine that you found proof of the non-existence of god. Would that be a reason to pressure the whole world into your belief? Imagine all the people, like John Lennon said… Imagine that all agree with me, then we would have world peace and everything would be perfect, but life does not work like that…

          • tildeb says:

            LaPlace reportedly responded to Napoleon’s question asking where was god in his model of the solar system with what I think is an important distinction between what you presume I desire – no god – and what seems to be the case that I respect – that there are no good reason to believe there is: “We have no need for that hypothesis.” In a nutshell, that is what we find in regards to evidence for models that include claims about divine intervention. As our knowledge advances into areas where the god hypothesis once drew sustenance for belief, have you ever noticed that this creator god seems always to recede? Why is this? Why isn’t there compelling – even overwhelming – evidence for intervention? Why isn’t there massive evidence for a massive exodus, for example? There should be.

            Is the person pointing out this discrepancy really trying to ‘prove’ anything other pointing out good reason for skepticism?

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, you asked, “As our knowledge advances into areas where the god hypothesis once drew sustenance for belief, have you ever noticed that this creator god seems always to recede?”

            The answer is no. Rabbi Moshe Averick does a great job refuting this notion in his book Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism. I’m too scientifically illiterate to reproduce the argument here, but the book is worth a read.

          • tildeb says:

            Well, I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment about it specifically. But what I can point out is that the opportunity for evidence of a divine intervention should be plentiful and pertinent… yet this evidence that could be there, should be there, always seems to evade our best methods of inquiry.

            Now, I think there there are two majors reasons possible for this: either the intervention is so well hidden that none of us can ‘know’ anything about it using our very best tools of inquiry, or it’s a hypothesis that robustly favours a very high degree of unlikelihood to be true.

            Either way, it seems eminently reasonable to me to grant far less certainty about the interventionist claims than granted to a natural, unguided mechanism of how life changes over time and produces emergent properties for which there is a mountain of evidence. That’s why I am an agnostic atheist. Creationist claims simply don’t bear the burden of proof well, which is why it is a faith position. And, to return to my criticism of the post, I don;t think one can have a reciprocal, concrete relationship with a faith-based belief. I think such a relationship is, by all independent accounts, completely one-sided that claims a connection to an abstraction. And then to base an identity on this supposed ‘covenant’ between one’s self and one’s projected belief of an abstraction seems to me to be far too problematic to be beneficial, to be a greater cost than the benefit accrued. I would much prefer more cohesion with and between the autonomous units of human species based on simple reciprocity rather than importing various religious identities and pretending everyone really can get along just fine while upholding incompatible and contrary beliefs about the nature of reality and our place in it.

        • Dina says:

          Tilly, your statement that “That supposition is itself a chronic source of great perniciousness and divisiveness between real people in real life when used to justify all kinds of very real discriminatory behaviours towards other very real people” applies to atheists as well. Many atheists that I have met look down their noses at religious people and are unbelievably rude and unkind. I have also met gracious and lovely ones.

          I hope you will reconsider this.

        • tildeb The point of this particular article was to refute Dr. Boyarin’s theory that the Jewish people in the days of the Babylonian exile (and following that time period) had a different sense of self-identity than the one outlined in this article. Nothing that you wrote touches my point. You are presenting arguments which posit that the people whose world-view gives them this sense of self-identity are deluding themselves and are setting themselves up for discrimination against others. let me briefly address some of your arguments: 1 – You argue that it is impossible to have a “concrete” relationship with an entity that stands outside of nature and its laws. You see this as a contradiction in terms. Response – if you see events that happen in nature as an expression of the will of the entity that stands beyond nature – its no problem. 2 – You keep on insisting that we have no evidence for our belief – I repeatedly pointed out that we have testimony which is a form of evidence 3 – Your accusation about divisiveness is refuted by the historical record – Yes – Jews have been divisive and discriminatory – but as a community, our record is far better than what your theory would have us believe – certainly better than the atheistic communities of USSR, China and North Korea

          Once I am talking to you could you please explain how a relationship with a bunch of chemical reactions and electrical impulses (your view of the human soul – please correct me if I’m wrong) is more real than a relationship with a God who you can’t see? 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan says:

            “Once I am talking to you could you please explain how a relationship with a bunch of chemical reactions and electrical impulses (your view of the human soul – please correct me if I’m wrong) is more real than a relationship with a God who you can’t see?”

            This is exactly what I meant when I said to tildeb: “Your relationship with your own mind is just as or even more “nonsensical”.” I felt I had better clarify it just in case tildeb thought I meant to belittle him.

          • Alan says:

            I need to repost this because I didn’t get an email saying it was posted and I want to make sure tildeb sees it.

            “Once I am talking to you could you please explain how a relationship with a bunch of chemical reactions and electrical impulses (your view of the human soul – please correct me if I’m wrong) is more real than a relationship with a God who you can’t see?”

            This is exactly what I meant when I said to tildeb: “Your relationship with your own mind is just as or even more “nonsensical”.” I felt I had better clarify it just in case tildeb thought I meant to belittle him.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, I don’t get my own comments emailed back to me, so that can be why you didn’t see it. But another way you can check is by going to the website itself. Although that doesn’t always work! I have also double posted in the past.

          • Alan says:

            Thank you Dina.

          • tildeb says:

            1) another word game. You attribute historical ‘events’ – like a fictitious exodus – to be ‘evidence’ for the ‘will’ of this entity ‘outside of existence.’ What I am saying is that this ‘history’ comes from only from those who are willing to believe it and is not adduced from reality. The onus here is that I think your belief is not an equivalent substitute for our shared history. The Jewish identity is created by those who are willing to believe in it not because I think so but because there is no compelling evidence for this claimed historical intervention. Furthermore, believers seem to care not one whit that this history is based on what every avenue of available inquiry demonstrates to be a fiction. And that continued belief would be fine if and only if such belief were innocuous. That’s not the case. From this belief we get the insistence of an actual contract, a set of divinely inspired laws, between not just those who believe but an imposed demand for tolerance for these laws to be practiced by believers, and a concrete entity who demands as much from believers, a ‘concrete’ entity that fits the definition of an abstract idea outside of existence that really does intervene concretely in existence. That’s why this line of reasoning is broken and requires a word game to make it seem rational. It’s circular thinking at its finest impervious to honest and legitimate skepticism. And that separation is a way of thinking that is deeply pernicious.

            2) Testimony? No. You have third hand accounts. I know a guy who says he knew a guy who says he was there. Try that in court and see how it’s treated as evidence.

            3) Yes, very divisive. The entire Jewish identity is a separation from all others. It is the very definition of what constitutes tribal thinking. And there’s no such thing as a nationalistic ‘atheist community’ The closest we have on Earth is the United States because it is both secular and individuals who have reached the age of majority have political authority not because of tribal affiliation but because each is capable of reason and the legal right to exercise it.

            Now to the meat of your comment. It never fails to astound and disappoint me how flippantly those who are willing to be superstitious then claim the marvels of emergent properties from biology are an ‘only’ or a ‘just’ seen as ‘ a bunch of chemical reactions and electrical impulses’ as if this makes these properties lacking a necessary and reasonable element of Oogity Boogity. In this light, I’m sure you can appreciate how strange is the idea of a ‘relationship’ that in this existence requires two interacting in some way is seen as one that simply imagines interactions with the other. It hints at how a stalker of a celebrity justifies the one-sided emotional investment he or she makes on his her own, that receives no equivalent reciprocity, to be a ‘relationship’ that upon further examination exists only in the stalker’s mind. In the same way, religious believers who claim a relationship with the divine don’t seem able to understand it looks exactly the same. We can go along with someone who claims to speak with some divine agency and receive revelation in return and think it a relatively harmless example a touch of arrogance, perhaps… right up until the time we insert something like a hair dryer as the means (as Sam Harris quipped one day) to enable this communication. Then we suddenly see how the inclusion of the hair dryer doesn’t alter the claim at all but does starkly reveal the depth of irrationality being exercised.

          • Alan says:

            “2) Testimony? No. You have third hand accounts. I know a guy who says he knew a guy who says he was there. Try that in court and see how it’s treated as evidence.”

            The passing down of the tradition in Judaism is not like the game of telephone. In telephone game there are is no checking/correcting the message as it passes from one person to the next. But in the Jewish tradition the message that is passed on is checked by many people and they don’t just accept the message from the previous link but they check it out with the link before that (and the link before that too if they are still alive). This same method has been going on since Sinai. And each generation sees with it’s own eyes how the transmission of the tradition actually works and that it is the same system among all Jews all over the world who until recently have had very little or no contact with each other.

          • Alan says:

            Let’s say there was no death in the world, no tragedies – then based on just looking at nature and science, it would be much easier to believe than not to believe. There are more and more scientists today who say the same thing. And even with the tragedies in the world, I think it is still much more reasonable to believe in a Creator than not to believe just based on examining science and nature. My brother who is an irreligious Jew but a world-class geneticist previously as Columbia now at Duke who told me 20 years ago that it is impossible that DNA, RNA and genetics happened by chance.

          • tildeb says:

            Of course a DNA molecule couldn’t happen by chance in the sense your brother talks about it. But it could and does evolve in a very scaffolding kind of way elevating the ‘chance’ element ot very high degrees of probability. That understanding is called evolution and it’s a marvel of how fundamental, unguided, purposeless particles exposed to other fundamental, unguided, purposeless particles in a field of gravity over time can end up imagining, creating, capturing, and performing a Beethoven symphony. That’s what a bunch of chemical reactions and electrical impulses can do. I think it’s pretty impressive. I don’t see how including some divine agency responsible for some part of this does anything but reduce this astounding mechanism in action to superstitious nonsense.

          • Alan says:

            “I don’t see how including some divine agency responsible for some part of this does anything but reduce this astounding mechanism in action to superstitious nonsense.”

            Everything you wrote here is extremely irrational to me and to many great scientists alive today including my brother. My brother did not mean what you mean.

          • tildeb 1 The point I made to counter your point about the impossibility of a relationship with an entity that stands outside of nature was that if we attribute events in nature to that entity then the relationship is possible. The events in nature that I am talking about are not limited to historical events but include the air we breath and the earth we stand on as well as every other facet of nature that we see as expressions of God’s love for us.

            2 The argument for testimony is that this is not an individual but a community – when communities testify about events that are concrete and collectively experienced (such as a famine or a war that has a broad impact) they tend to tell the truth

            3 tribal thinking – yes – but this tribe thinks about and teaches the common goodness of mankind in general – and this tribe’s thinking played a critical role in the thinking that went behind the formation of the government of the United States

            – about the meat of my comment – I see what you are saying about the one-sided relationship of the celebrity stalker. The difference is that we see all of existence as an expression of God’s relationship with us – the air we breath, the earth we stand on, the wisdom that is inherent in our bodies etc. – just as we see the words, the facial expressions and body language of our friend as an expression of the human identity that is behind those movements.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  2. Dina says:

    Following.

  3. Concerned Reader says:

    Once I am talking to you could you please explain how a relationship with a bunch of chemical reactions and electrical impulses (your view of the human soul – please correct me if I’m wrong) is more real than a relationship with a God who you can’t see?”

    Alan, allow me to tak a crack at this. Faith, (as you know) is a very subjective experience. Different people feel differently about fundamentals of faith and religion, (as the history of religions show, it is easy to dusagree about faith.)

    Scientific method and understanding by contrast is based on the mediation on the consensus of people experiencing reality.

    No matter what you or I may believe to be true, we all share knowledge of certain phenomenon (like gravity) in common. Because it is knowledge mediated by the reality we share, it may in a sense be more “real” because its independent of our opinion.

    • Alan says:

      CR,
      I think I need to leave this conversation to others as I’m not able to fully understand everything Rabbi B and tildeb are talking about. I understand what you wrote here and it makes complete sense to me. The members of the nation of Israel also share knowledge of certain aspects of reality in common, things that are not just subjective faith but as you put it – “based on the mediation of the consensus of people experiencing reality”. Our nation has experienced the reality of the Divine over and over again on the national level ever since Sinai, all through the Tanach, the destruction of the first Temple, Book of Esther, the return to Israel and the rebuilding of the second Temple, it’s destruction, Hanukah, our exile all over the world, our return to the land of Israel, We have experienced the Divine together in all of these times and we can see with our own eyes and minds how it has always conformed to the rules of what will happen to the nation as written in the Pentateuch. This is really beyond my abilities to express in words but I bet that Rabbi B has written about it somewhere on this site. Maybe he can dig it up for us.

    • Concerned Reader In this case reality is on the side of religion. We all sense that we are more than a fluke of electrical impulses and when we relate to people we sense that we are relating to something more than a piece of meat. This has been the human experience mediated by reality since the beginning of recorded history. Yet atheists argue that this is but an illusion – there is nothing there beyond a particularly complicated calculator that evolved – its all flesh, bones and blood and nothing more. In any case – the argument that tildeb was making is that it is impossible to have a relationship with an entity that stands outside of nature – the human experience has shown differently – that one can have such a relationship – throughout history many people have had such relationships and continue to do so.

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • RT says:

        In and out of itself, this does not prove nor disprove atheism. The feeling that we have a soul and that we interact with other is shared with Tildeb as much as it is with us and it does not convince him of the existence of a god for that. If we would base ourselves on our feeling, than I would have to acknowledge that the holy spirit is true for the Christians who felt it.

        People have changed greatly after brain injuries, and that could actually be used by Tildeb to prove that our soul is only an illusion of our brain. We could be deceived and disappear when we die and just see the light go away, then time, color and everything would disappear and we would finish as nothing. All that we wished, all that we hoped and all that we cared for would disappear and in the end, if G-d is not true, that illusion of reality would be false. I know I care for others as much as Tildeb does for his love ones, and we all would like that this reality be more than a mare shadow. Can we really trust our brain as a proof? What happen when we fall asleep? Could it be the same when we die? It’s not that I deny G-d, but I feel that this argument is on thin air…

  4. Concerned Reader says:

    Yet atheists argue that this is but an illusion – there is nothing there beyond a particularly complicated calculator that evolved

    I think you are cutting people who lack faith in G-d a little short.

    Atheism first and foremost only deals with the question of whether there is sufficient cause to believe a G-d exists. Evolution, cosmology, purpose, these are seperate yet related questions.

    A person can be a commited atheist solely on the grounds of the implausibility of justifying human suffering.

    How can a rational person fault an atheist for denying G-d exists when confronted by horrors like cancer in children? How can anyone see design in that? I see cold randomness in that.

    Take the existence of this blog. Even if a person has faith in the creator, he may believe that he posseses a body. He may believe that G-d became Jesus. He may believe in Muhammad. IE theists may believe that absolute truth is real, but to an atheist it is 100% clear that each person’s knowledge of the divine is subjective.

    In other words, an atheist like Tildeb sees you make a grandiose truth claim, but notes that no two theists agree on the ultimate, even within the same faith.

    When speaking of consensus reality rabbi, I’m reffering to repeatable testable and useful predictions. Religion may aid people in issues of purpose, but it doesnt produce testable verifiable information. Even the Bible admits that a miraculous pull, purpose, or life change is not indicative of truth, (as idolaters experience those things too.)

    You bring up to Tildeb the standard of evidence of transmission of Torah, but here is the thing.

    Revelatory knowledge must of necessity be based on 1st hand experience and evidence, otherwise it is at best heresay.

    The next person in line is only believing testimony about someone else’s experience which they did not have 1st hand.

    This FYI is why the Kuzari doesnt impress atheists. Even if the revelation at Sinai is fact, it was only KNOWN as such to the generation that witnessed and directly participated. A chain loses strength with eah new link forged. Each new link gets further from the source, leaving each succeeding generation to rest more on faith and whispers than observable or knowable fact.

    I do not hold an atheist’s skeptisism against them, because, to be frank, the Torah itself taught that human spiritual experiences are notoriously unreliable.

    • LarryB says:

      CR
      I also do not hold atheists skepticism against them for the simple reason that it is just as easy to believe everything always existed as it is to believe in a God that always existed and created everything. In turn they should not hold my belief against me since they cannot prove everything always existed or that there was a Big Bang. You may have what you think today is fantastic evidence but tomorrow’s discovery of a cosmic DNA (so to speak) may prove you wrong. Just like the discovery that life indeed did start on its own wouldn’t help my belief in God one bit. Of course the scientific method of belief is more rigorous let’s say than religious, but when we talk of God we’re really talking about beginnings. The day to day stuff medicines, how everything works, studying the cosmos that is merely discovering that which already exist and can be manipulated to do XYZ.
      Unfortunately to me, it seems atheist want to destroy my belief in God and possibly even throw us in jail for child abuse when we teach such crazy things to children.

      • Dina says:

        Larry, atheists lose credibility when they charge religion with child abuse if only because the reality proves them wrong. Studies show that the children of religious couples have a slight (but very slight) edge over the children of atheists in their emotional health. If religion were child abuse, we should expect the children of atheists to be way emotionally healthier than the children of religious people.

        Since this is not even remotely the case, the charge of child abuse smacks of hysteria.

        • LarryB says:

          Dina
          Lol. Today’s atheism is not a lone group, for just one cause.

        • Dina In defense of atheists I would say that these type of studies “emotional health” are very subjective and are far from “hard science” – I would say however that it is unscientific to lump all religions together when making a study as to the benefits of one given religion. And to study the effects of all religions together is a nice scientific experiment but has no bearing on the discussion of the truth or lack thereof of one given religion. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Dina says:

            Rabbi B., my point wasn’t to support the studies (which are not, it is true, hard science) but to show that the claim of child abuse is hysterical and unfounded.

            I respect the process of truth seeking and if that leads someone to atheism or to a religion (whatever it is) then so be it.

        • tildeb says:

          It depends on how being raised with a religious identity and to what extent that identity is enforced is measured.

          I am a fan of the aggregate. This is why Judaism is ranked much higher in my mind than almost any other religious identity….. because the aggregate numbers are better in this comparison with other religions in areas that I think matters most to my own well-being (selfish as I am). I won’t go into detail here (suffice to say that knowledge acquisition impresses me and the Jews have historically punched way above their population weight in this regard). But this correlation does not hold with the religion itself but with the cultural identity which is more secular today than ever. And it is fast losing ground to parity with the Chinese identity in the last 25 years.

          In the aggregate, religious belief taught to children cannot help but try to impair their respect for reality. Fortunately, many children are resilient and can accommodate their parent’s religious imposition without making that impairment permanent. Many, however, cannot, and they incorporate certain values without their consent… things like patriarchy and misogyny and moral autonomy. These levels are very hard to measure but are de facto elements necessary to sustaining religious belief in many particulars. To complicate matters, when certain religious values are incorporated into social and cultural identities, I don’t know how you can isolate the religious variable. But I do know that in the aggregate religiosity has a robust correlation with all kinds of social dysfunction, which stands in such stark contrast to the claims of social and moral benefit.

          This is where people start delineating this particular strand of religion from that one to try to show this one is better or has less dysfunction than that one. But in the aggregate, entrusting confidence to faith-based beliefs is a contrary method to evidence-adduced beliefs. I think children undergo a real problem that is entirely unnecessary when they are forced to accept an identity based on the former and I think we see this played out any time you differentiate population identity based on any kind of faith claim (I’m thinking specifically of the Hutu and Tutsis of Rwanda… a distinction created instantly by a colonial caste interpretation of the local population). The same impetus can be found in non religious examples, too… such as the cultural revolution in China where former successful revolutionaries were found to be anti-revolutionaries by the next generation as a matter of national policy! What is pernicious is empowering the method of assuming faith alone is sufficient reason for certain beliefs. But to go after the weakness of relying on faith-based beliefs – such as the belief that Jews were and are to some populations still ‘subhuman’ – means necessarily criticizing religion itself. And nothing empowers faith-based respect more than religion in the aggregate. To teach children to not empower faith-based belief for this ubiquitous and pernicious effect means that the suggestion goes against the very fiber of the religious parent. It’s not a small problem and it has no easy solution.

          • tildeb I hope to get back to your comments after the Sabbath – for now I will just say – thank you for sharing your thoughts on this forum 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb I think that you are operating under a serious misconception. Many religions point to a logical argument (or a few logical arguments) as a rational basis for their religion. For example, many Christians argue that there is historical evidence for the resurrection of their idol and that this evidence is the basis for their world-view. Yes, some religions argue for a “leap of faith” but even these usually have some semi-rational explanation as to why it is honest and logical to take this leap of faith. People outside the particular society see holes in their logic but people inside the society, especially the children, don’t see those holes. In these societies, the children are growing up with an understanding that their world-view is based on honest rational thinking. What teaches a child to be dishonest and disengaged from reality is not religion – it is dishonesty. If the parents honestly believe what they hold to be true based on their understanding of reality, then the child is not being taught to deny reality even of the parents are wrong because as a child he/she cannot see that. The first thing a child notices about his/her parents view of reality is that other adults don’t share that world-view and here is where the critical part comes in. How do the parents explain that phenomena to the child? Do they dehumanize their opponents? Do they use ridicule and scorn to keep their children from thinking in a different direction? Do they attribute vile motives to those who disagree with them? If they do any of these – then even if their view of reality happens to be correct, their children will grow up with no appreciation for honesty and truth. The children will learn to dehumanize, mock and slander anyone who disagrees with them. But if the parents teach their kids that other people see things differently, they don’t have all the information we have but they are honest human beings, then even if the parent’s world-view is incorrect – their children will still grow up healthy and honest. And if they eventually perceive reality differently than their parents they will have to make a choice – to change world-views or to become dishonest, but they will be empowered by their parent’s honesty to make the right choice. We see this in areas that have nothing to do with religion. Take party affiliation. Most people think that they have a rational basis for their choice of political party. The question is how they deal in their minds and hearts with those who see things differently than themselves. Do they dehumanize them? Do they mock and slander them? If they do, then their children will likely grow up with very little respect for truth. But if they respect their opponents right to see things differently then the children will likely grow up with a respect for truth.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            What you describe as my misunderstanding, I think of as an educated observation: metaphysics is essential for theology. I think metaphysics is a broken method of thinking because it does not need to inform premises with reality and so the conclusions that then try to describe reality are in practice misrepresentations hiding behind logic. If metaphysics worked as advertised, we have little need for the scientific method because both would produce – and would have produced –
            knowledge. The fly in the ointment here is that metaphysics does not produce knowledge about the real world whereas in comparison the scientific method does.

            This matters.

            It matters because when we teach children to accept metaphysics as ‘another way of knowing’ we are not being honest with them. We are misrepresenting our metaphysical preferences to be accurate reflections of reality rather than what they really are: impositions on reality. This is a tremendous disservice because it’s deeply confusing.

            Now, in a perfect world, much of what you say could be true. What you are not taking into consideration is the neural effect on childhood development when teaching major components of misrepresentation about our shared reality (and respect for reality independent of our imported beliefs about it) to establish created identities… created by the parents and widely supported by social institutions used to uphold a model of the world based on an I and The Other(s) model.

            Religion is not the only institution to do this but it is a major one. You presume this misrepresentation (but believed to be an honest presentation) in the form of religious beliefs to be fairly trivial for an older and more developed brain and I sincerely wish it were; however, I think over time we will become much better aware of the long term neural effects – and I suspect pernicious – such teachings has on the developing brain. This matters because to overcome, say climate change denialism or anti-evolutionary teaching, will necessarily mean to l;earn how to respect reality more than our imported beliefs about it, which cannot help but undermine religious belief in whatever form it takes… because all require the same faith-based method (aided in no small measure by metaphysical arguments) to support conclusions contrary to what reality is telling us is the case, an understanding of reality independent of our beliefs that is worthy of higher levels of confidence than hypotheses that are not.

          • tildeb I can’t speak for other religions – but in Judaism we see concrete results from metaphysical action – such as the refining of the character of those who study Torah, the self-control learned from observance of the Sabbath or of other observances. These are obvious to those who live with these activities. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • tildeb says:

        LarryB, you say, “…it is just as easy to believe everything always existed as it is to believe in a God that always existed and created everything.”

        Umm…. no. And we’ve been over this. It’s not about belief. We inquire, we seek, we gather information, we reach diminishing returns where face an honest “I don’t know” where our ignorance outweighs what is known.

        You gather all this to mean ‘belief about existence’ and this is not true. What is true is that our knowledge of deep time is accumulating good reasons to grant certain models more confidence than others. We are winnowing down the models that meet contrary evidence and informing those models with greater confidence that seems to account for what we find.

        Modeling is not investing belief; it is preparing and presenting an explanation that seems to fit the evidence. If that evidence were to indicate otherwise, then the model loses confidence. We change our models. This is the self-correcting element of science over time. This is a GOOD THING and not a weakness. Religious belief has no such component. Obviously.

        So you present this method to be something akin to investing confidence in a faith-based assertion that is actually and necessarily divorced from being arbitrated by new evidence. If it were, you’d not think for one second Moses was real or the exodus occurred because reality does not inform these claims but offers evidence to the contrary. Rather than change the model, religious believers turn to word games and apologetics and a circling of the tribal wagons from the ‘attack’, from the ‘war on…’ from the ‘hate’ and the ‘anger’ coined to describe those who have reasonable and rational skepticism of superstitious beliefs.

        You want origins? Look to your biology. Look to astrophysics and geomorphology. Look to neuroscience. Look to archaeology. Look to linguistics. Look to astronomy. You want a superstitious substitute involving magic and miracles? Look to religion. But please note, these subjects are not synonymous with religious belief and granting no confidence to such religious belief claims about these other subjects is not an equivalent kind of belief.

        • tildeb I can understand that you consider our arguments “word-games,” I can also see why you consider our arguments “apologetics,” – I disagree with your assessment but I can easily see where you are coming from. But I can’t see why you believe that we see your arguments as an “attack” and as rooted in “hate” or “anger.” Did the writers or commenters on this blog say anything that gave you that impression?

          1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            No, all the commentators are quite polite and I take issue with none of the comments for tone or anything else so trivial (well, trivial to me, at any rate). it’s just a part of the typical faithiest responses – assigning a ‘worldview’ with sometimes dubious and equally assumed motivations – one encounters criticizing faith-based claims.

            And it’s not our discussion or the comments made that are word games; it’s altering the meaning of words in the post to achieve the preordained conclusion.

            For example, you claim this creator is outside of existence yet we can have a concrete relationship with it. You play a word game that is pure circular reasoning: the creator can be known because it created everything and so we can have a relationship with it by having a relationship with anything in this existence that it created How do we know it is real enough in this existence to create anything? Because we have a relationship with these things it created, silly! This is a word game.

          • Alan says:

            The first Existence is All. The first Being is the pieces, but the pieces are not the first Existence. All of the pieces have existence only from the first Existence. If all of the pieces ceased to exist, the Existence would still exist. If we could imagine that the Existence wouldn’t exist, then the pieces wouldn’t exist. One of the names for God in Judaism is HaMakom (The Place) because He is the place of the world but the world is not His place. He both infinitely transcends all of the pieces and yet is infinitely imminent “within” all of the pieces. In Judaism the word for world is Olam which comes from the word that means to hide, because the Existence hides “within” the world. The human mind/soul hides within the body. The body can wear many layers of clothing even a mask, even hide behind an avatar on a blog. But there can still be a relationship between one hiding mind/soul and another, and between the Hiding Existence and the pieces of Existence. Those who are hiding have ways to reveal themselves to each other.

          • tildeb says:

            This is the kind of language needed to rationalize why ‘up’ means ‘another kind of down’, why ‘white’ is really a different shade of ‘black’, why an intervening creator god is outside of existence yet ever present: it allows us to justify anything we wish to believe about anything we wish to believe in…. by transferring what we import to create the belief into seeming that we have adduced it from elsewhere independent of us! And then we have waved away the requirement to demonstrate this independent source… by using such language as to make our profound ‘revelation’ to be some very deep ‘mystery’. It reminds me obliquely of Douglas Adams’ puddle analogy.*

            * “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

          • Alan says:

            Tildeb,
            Did you ever speak to any PhD physicists about these things? Lots of them would not make fun of what I wrote. Even many mathematicians wouldn’t make fun of what I wrote.

            The infinite includes the finite but the finite is not the infinite. This is all I was saying in too many words last time. Do you disagree with this very simple statement?

          • tildeb In response to your accusation about a word-game. I did not present the argument you put in my mouth. I am not using the concept of the Creator who stands outside of creation yet created it to “prove” the reality of the Creator. I just used it to answer your question about having a relationship with Him – you argued that it is impossible to have a relationship with an entity that stands outside of creation and I pointed out that if you believe that creation is His handiwork you can have a relationship with Him (not with creation) because you know Him through His actions – much as you know a person’s psyche through their actions 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            To be honest, I really didn’t want to go here because it is pretty blunt but you’ve sort of forced my hand, so…

            Please indicate what exactly in ‘creation’ allows you to realize the nature of the creator with whom you then claim to be able to have a relationship?

          • Alan says:

            “To be honest, I really didn’t want to go here because it is pretty blunt but you’ve sort of forced my hand, so…

            Please indicate what exactly in ‘creation’ allows you to realize the nature of the creator with whom you then claim to be able to have a relationship?”

            tildeb, is this to Rabbi B or to someone else? It seems to be to Rabbi B but I’m not 100% sure.

          • tildeb says:

            It’s in response to yourphariseefriend, which came up in my email and to which I then responded. Where it shows up indented in the comment thread is up to the WP spirits (both benign and malignant as far as I can tell)!

          • tildeb I learn the “personality” of the Creator from creation in the same way I would learn the personality of an artist from his/her art, of a technician from his/her creations etc.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            I think that answer is a bit of a dodge because you can compare and contrast different artists and their styles. No such distinctions exist within reality between different creator gods so you’re simply attributing whatever you want to this ‘artist’ in order to pretend you ‘know’ something that you yourself import into this art.

          • Alan says:

            I know this is directed to Rabbi B, but I just want to put my 2 cents in, thank you Rabbi B,
            We learn about God’s personality –
            1. Through the Torah. The Torah is a part of the world.
            2. The Torah tells us (and there are also logical proofs) that all of existence is under the supervision of only one God. Therefore all of existence is an expression of one God. One Artist. Not 2 or more artists.

          • tildeb We “read” God’s art in human terms – in other words we use human activity as the dictionary to read nature

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

        • LarryB says:

          Titleb
          LarryB, you say, “…it is just as easy to believe everything always existed as it is to believe in a God that always existed and created everything.”
          This was merely a repeating of what previous atheist have said to me. I could as easily quoted “I’ll believe in God when he walks into the room”, which is what others have told me. Their/your belief in a god or not means nothing to me and Your approach to the subject is not the same as everyone else’s, so when you speak of “we” that can only be understood from a general sense. My experience is people don’t really put a lot of thought into it, although many probably do. I clearly do not approach the subject of God in a scientific way. But I also don’t approach science from a religious standpoint.

          • Eleazar says:

            OPe thing I notice about many antitheists/atheists, is that they put faith in things they have not seen, just as we do. They put trust in people like archaeologists, and do not always carry the same skepticism into their learning of those issues.Like any opther religio/politicval worldview, they have their own “trusted sources”, just as the Democrat gets his news from CNN and the Republican gets his from FNC.

            I am skeptical of archaeologists claims and findings, and for good reason: scientists have no corner on the honesty market. I followed several stories in archaeology from their first discoveries to their conclusions and found the conclusions often had the holes filled in with speculation presented as facts. And even if it is presented as theory at first, the scientific community” will eventually present it as canon, sometimes within months.

            1- Kennewick Man. I live in the PNW and followed that story from Day One. A skull was found in the Columbia River. Said skull was carbon dated several times and each time it was literally thousands of years different from the last test: from 3000-9000+. I remember each article as it was presented chronologically. The controversy was over whether this was an early Caucasian or Native American skull: since the local tribe was claiming ownership vs the “scientific community” who wanted ownership for the purpose of study.
            The scientists then put a clay model of soft tissue on the skull and determined it was a 8500 year old Caucasian man ( apparently who traveled the land bridge alone). It looked like Patrick Stewart. If you Google Kennewick Man to this day, you will see the Patrick Stewart model and statements such as “Carbon dating determined the Paleoamerican skull was over 8500 years old.” Yes, and carbon dating ALSO determined it was 3000. But let’s not discuss that because that would change the importance of the find. It was the American scientific community vs a Native American tribe. The scientific community always finds its “proof” where politics ( or grant money) is concerned.

            2- Longisquama Insignis- Another story out of the Great Pacific Northwest. This one by a couple of Oregon State University students ( now called “researchers”) who saw a fossil in a display at a local mall and determined “Hey, those aren’t scales, they’re feathers!”, which they reported to their professor ( don’t try to argue this because I was there from the beginning) A few pictures and Daily Oregonian articles later, Longisquamis Insignia as a flying creature was born, predating even the dinosaurs! The articles always showed two photos of the fossil: an overall pic and a close -up. Even an untrained eye could plainly see that the “close-up” pic was of a completely different fossil that did not include a body! The “featherlike” fossil has no skeletal structure attached to it, and could just as easily be plant fronds ( which some scientists believe). Moreover, the illustrations put together by the OSU students, er,scientists, included a tail. There was, and is, no evidence whatsoever of a tail ever found on a Longisquamis fossil, yet every illustration of the animal includes a tail, which is SPECULATED. The OSU students, er, scientists, even made the comment, “It would be great if we could find a tail fossil”. Yet, the following year my child brought home a book of dinosaurs from his school library and there was Longisquamis, flying through the air with its feathered wings and TAIL, complete with an explanation of the creature,its age, its habits and even its diet!

            Maybe Tildeb holds science to the same level of criticism as he holds religion. But if he doesn’t he is just one of millions atheists who don’t.

        • bible819 says:

          Tildeb,

          Are you good or evil?
          I believe all people are evil but can do good.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            Bible819 How can you believe all men are evil? Scripture teaches extremely clearly that himans have free will, can choose to do what is right, and have the ability to master their sinful urges.

          • bible819 says:

            Concerned Reader,
            Psalm 14:3
            The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. 3They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.

          • bible 819 This passage is talking about Israel’s enemies – those who are trying to destroy her. Besides, the book of Genesis clearly says that man is created in the image of God?

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Concerned Reader says:

            Bible, do you think it is a good idea to base doctrine off of 1 verse? There are verse after verse examples where G-d informs people of the ability they have to change, to be sure to know that G-d’s commandments are within your grasp to do them, not too hard so someone must do it for them.

            G-d tells Cain explicitly that if he would give his best in his service of G-d, that he could master his evil inclination.

            You have to remember that Malach Ha Mavet (the angel of death/the Satan,) works for G-d as his angel during the Exodus, and during Job’s temptation. G-d himself says “I form light, I create darkness ”

            That means that G-d is sovreign ruler over everything and in charge of everthing, nothing happens against his will, so no imagined rebellion has any reality, for all is in G-d’s hand.

            When the Church teaches original sin, it imputes (i believe unintentionally) extrene evil to G-d.

            The Torah tells us and shows us that G-d is in charge of creation, and in charge of the decrees of who gets tempted how, and when, and who dies, how and when, and G-d decides the standards according to which all are judged.

            We learn this from the Exodus and from the book of Job, from Ezekiel, Jonah, and Daniel.

            The Torah’s premise is that G-d is a just judge giving to each according to what he has done, never in a way he cant handle.

            Original sin falls apart when one realizes what Christianity is actually imputing to hashem in his creation.

            Christians believe that when G-d created man, he banished the serpent/Satan (who in Christian theology rebelled with 1/3 of the angels) to the garden, to await judgement.

            The analogy here would be a parent putting a loaded gun and a disgruntled employee next to a toddlers crib.

            The Child does not know of the danger of a gun.

            Satan/the serpent is the loaded gun next to the baby Adam/Eve.

            If the Christian view of the nature of sin is right, G-d becomes a lying monster because HE PUT THE GUN BY A BABY’S CRIB.

            After punishing his new creation, he told them they could master their evil inclination, (which is a lie if original sin is true.)

            The reason we know the Christian reading is wrong is because after Adam sinned, G-d offered him repentance, and not punishnent when he said, “where are you?” (Did G-d not know where Adam was?)

            Adam’s sin was on his own head because he compounded his wrongdoing by lying to G-d when he blamed Eve.

            He did not take responsibiliy for his sin, but blamed G-d by saying, “the woman YOU PUT HERE gave me the fruit and I ate it.”

          • bible819 says:

            yourphariseefriend,

            1st. “This passage is talking about Israel’s enemies – those who are trying to destroy her. ”
            This is why I disagree-

            Why did Israel destroy the people that lived in the promise land? They were Evil!

            Or maybe it was because they were the only 1s given The Law of God!!!!

            but still made (Golden Calf) No difference in flesh-

            Now, after the law was given, (Solomon became like the World)

            The World was evil. And Israel became Like the World.
            Isaiah:

            Now the LORD saw,
            And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.

            16And He saw that there was no man,
            And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
            Then His own arm brought salvation to Him,
            And His righteousness upheld Him.

            17He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
            And a helmet of salvation on His head;
            And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing
            And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.
            According to their deeds, so He will repay,
            Wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies;
            To the coastlands He will make recompense.

            19So they will fear the name of the LORD from the west
            And His glory from the rising of the sun,
            For He will come like a rushing stream
            Which the wind of the LORD drives.
            A Redeemer will come to Zion,
            And to those who turn from->>>>>> (transgression in Jacob),” declares the LORD.

            2.
            The Image of God, Yes.
            After the fall of man,
            scriptures says

            To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.
            but———-
            Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6The LORD was ((((((sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.))))))))

            See the repetition!!!!!

          • bible819 Genesis 9:6 was spoken after the fall – it is clear to all who read your words that you have no connection to the spirit of the Bible.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • bible819 says:

            yourphariseefriend,

            Respectfully disagree.

    • Concerned Reader & RT You ar attributing to my argument more than what I invested in it. I only used this argument (about having a sense of “person” beyond chemical reactions) as a response to tildeb’s argument that it is “impossible” to have a relationship with an entity that stands outside of nature – my point was that it is indeed possible because according to the atheist we all have relationships with “nothing” My point about common experience mediated by reality is that in some cases the common atheist position is the one that flies in the face of common experience mediated by reality as in the case of the identity of the human being. I did NOT use any of these arguments to posit the existence of God. Once the Kuzari argument is on the table – the point of the argument (from the Bible’s perspective) is that if this claim is a product of human behavior it should be repeated and it is not. In the past you (Concerned Reader) have argued that the line that the Bible draws between this claim and others is arbitrary – I respect your argument and I am satisfied to leave it to the judgment of each person

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

    • Alan says:

      CR,
      The passing down of the tradition in Judaism is not like the game of telephone. In telephone game there are is no checking/correcting the message as it passes from one person to the next. But in the Jewish tradition the message that is passed on is checked by many people and they don’t just accept the message from the previous link but they check it out with the link before that (and the link before that too if they are still alive). This same method has been going on since Sinai. And each generation sees with it’s own eyes how the transmission of the tradition actually works and that it is the same system among all Jews all over the world who until recently have had very little or no contact with each other.

  5. Concerned Reader says:

    Yes, Alan, but its a check and balance of a second hand reception, thats my point. Histirians never rely on just ine source if we can help it. Corroboration from multiple sources (that do not have a vested interest) is essential.

    Nobody (on the outside) wants to know the history of the American Revolution from just one side. To KNOW you need to have been there, or learn both sides.

    Hume said “revelation is of necessity a 1st person phenomenon.”

    If I am going to have certain knowledge that G-d appeared to the nation, I had to have been there personally to actually know it happened, and to know the details.

    If my parents tell me of an experience they had, they can tell me details, (although studies have been done that suggest oral transmission even of very recent events is difficult,) but if I tell a grandchild about my parent’s experience, I will lack fundamental information that only they could have given, because they were actually there, and I was not. It does not even matter if I transmit the story without change, as my parents would have invaluable context and elaboration.

    • Alan says:

      “Corroboration from multiple sources (that do not have a vested interest) is essential.”

      That’s exactly how the Oral tradition works.

    • Concerned Reader But if a community of grandparents tell their children – then the common denominator is all the more likely to be true Furthermore – you need to consider the fact that the self-identity of a Jew (loyal to the Bible) is almost as much as a part of nation as it is of an individual

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  6. Alan says:

    Tildeb wrote the following with regard to DNA, RNA and genetics:
    “…it’s a marvel of how fundamental, unguided, purposeless particles exposed to other fundamental, unguided, purposeless particles in a field of gravity over time can end up imagining, creating, capturing, and performing a Beethoven symphony. That’s what a bunch of chemical reactions and electrical impulses can do. I think it’s pretty impressive.”

    Let’s really think about what tildeb is saying – according to the atheist, everything that exists wasn’t started by an intelligent first existence; there is no origin to everything; everything can do no more than change form – it has never been anything more than something from something. There is no intelligent creativity behind the existence of matter and energy. Everything is formed from something else that is dead, soul-less and mindless. A person who believes this is forced to make the astounding claim that tildeb wrote above, that mindless and dead things can engage in “imagining, creating, capturing, and performing a Beethoven symphony”.

    According to the Torah, everything that exists was started by an intelligent first existence; there is an origin to everything; this origin is an intelligent first existence that created something from nothing (or we can say the “nothing” is the first existence itself). There is intelligent creativity behind everything. A person who believes this believes that matter and energy have no intelligence of their own, they are mindless and dead and cannot engage in “imagining, creating, capturing, and performing a Beethoven symphony” (and let me add – designing and building their own instruments to perform the symphony with) even after bouncing around forever.

    Given what human beings know about the world and about reality, is the Torah’s belief really less rational than the athiest’s belief? Or does it seem that the atheist is the one who needs more faith to believe what he believes?

    • LarryB says:

      Alan
      Shhhhh. Just enjoy the random acts of electrical impulses.
      http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bluejay-spreads-his-wings/

      • Alan says:

        Larry,
        I greatly appreciate your posting this link! To my mind, it takes a greater leap of faith to believe that dead matter and energy are doing this to this boy than to believe that a first intelligent existence is doing this to this boy.

        • Concerned Reader says:

          Guys, (larry and Alan,) let me ask you something. What makes us see a cloud shaped like various beautiful things in the sky?

          What makes it look to our eyes like flames dance when we watch fire burn?

          • LarryB says:

            CR
            Please hurry. I cannot respond to Alan until you do

          • LarryB says:

            CR
            Ok but first I don’t see beautiful things in the clouds. As for flames dancing, although I wouldn’t call t dancing, how’s this “Flames flicker when the air around them is disturbed. This happens when there is too little or too much airflow around the flame. Flames turn oxygen to carbon dioxide and heat the air around them. Both of these can cause a flame to flicker even when there is no discernible breeze.”

          • Alan says:

            “Guys, (larry and Alan,) let me ask you something. What makes us see a cloud shaped like various beautiful things in the sky?

            What makes it look to our eyes like flames dance when we watch fire burn?”

            CR,
            How I understand the origin of interesting forms in the clouds depends how unusual the form is. If I see, let’s say, a perfect giraffe, I will be shocked but I will consult some meteorologists to see if they have a reasonable explanation. Maybe it was a skywriter plane? Maybe it was a super fluke that had nothing to do with human intervention. But if I see that the clouds are formed into letters and they say “God Loves You”. Then I would have to be irrational and unreasonable to believe that it was written without the intervention of an intelligent mind.

            If I see the usual dancing flame on the wick of a regular wax candle sitting on my table in my house with the windows closed, I wouldn’t see any supernatural message in it. But if I noticed that the flame has split into a number of branches with plain air between each branch, it would be irrational and unreasonable to believe that this was a natural phenomenon.

        • tildeb says:

          Alan, I would have no problem with your assertion if you were able to link – in any way,
          shape, or fashion – the example of musical composition with a ‘first intelligent existence’. But it is important to understand why this example you offer is identical in method to asserting that it takes more faith to believe in material causes for rain than those who believe special dance moves causes it.

          • Alan says:

            “Alan, I would have no problem with your assertion if you were able to link – in any way,
            shape, or fashion – the example of musical composition with a ‘first intelligent existence’. But it is important to understand why this example you offer is identical in method to asserting that it takes more faith to believe in material causes for rain than those who believe special dance moves causes it.”

            Tildeb,
            Nobody on earth can prove what is the root cause of why this boy’s brain works the way it does. I am not using this boy to prove anything at all. I wouldn’t even use the boy on his own to prove a supernatural cause is more likely than a natural cause.

          • tildeb says:

            The root cause for emergent properties from biology (I can’t believe I have to keep saying this to theists of all stripes) is best found by looking at biology and listening to those with relevant expertise in neuroscience. ‘We have no need for any god hypothesis. Yet (again) there are many people who presume this knowledge seeking is fain – is fine and dandy, really… as long as one is respected for deciding to seek equivalent ‘answers’ from religion and its many spokesmen!

            Well, hang on a second.

            I can’t think of any other area where this might seem even faintly reasonable. No one thinks a complex mechanical problem is equivalently answered by seeking an opinion from ‘beyond’… especially through those who ‘study’, say, astrology. I mean, seriously. Neither should one expect others to go along with such an irrelevant diversion into astrology and find mechanical ‘expertise’ hidden in a complex ‘reading the constellations’ as if this reasonable to inquire into a mechanical issue any more than we should expect the ‘answers’ offered by the astrologers to be even faintly or even remotely relevant… not to mention absurd to assume and even expect equivalent knowledge value from them (due to ‘revelation from beyond, of course’) compared in any reasonable way to the expertise of the mechanic. One simply goes to a person with relevant mechanical expertise. One leaves the blood sacrifices and burnt offering and heartfelt praying to those who don’t really want to know about mechanical problems or have any real desire to fix them but wish to go through the motions of pretending they do.

            Harsh, I know, but I think fair.

            Yet when it comes to anything that draws into question this idea of a Creator of ‘creation’, all of a sudden the religious version of the astrologers is granted virtue and status and wisdom… not because of any demonstrated and applicable knowledge value about anything of real world practical expertise but out of a sense of piety for and obsequiousness to those supposedly mystical forces – even a pinnacle force like some creator god – outside of existence from which our pseudo-astrologers say they ordain their insight into all things real.

            Yes, seriously. People do this. They encounter musical ability and claim it represents some small expression of their religious Creator! That’s the answer. Godidit. They are quite willing to skip the entire field of biology, the increasingly wondrous world being revealed by neuroscience of the “random acts of electrical impulses”, this incredible process of emergent properties being slowly unraveled from its biological functioning and calling and dismissing what is being revealed as a physical and chemical operation under the heading “Fluke,” skipping all of this knowledge acquisition and going straight to their religious beliefs for an ‘answer’. The problem is that ‘Godidit’ is not an answer, is not an understanding, is not an equivalent state of belief about anything tyo do with biology or neuroscience; inserting any sense of ‘Godidit’ into examples and thinking this approach to be a contribution to seeking knowledge and understanding about anything. It’s not. At its root, religious belief about a Creator producing a ‘creation’ is nothing more than a hindrance to the acquisition of knowledge about the real world.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            I agree with everything you wrote, I really do! Except for “We have no need for any god hypothesis.” There are religious Jewish scientists, physicists, biologists, mathematicians, engineers, every field you can think of. We don’t throw away what you say is important.

          • Dina says:

            Religious Jews have a healthy respect for science.

          • tildeb says:

            Yes, there are many great scientists who are (and were) religious. I’m not suggesting otherwise. What I am suggesting is never to be satisfied with the pseudo-answer ‘Godidit” and never think the religious explanation has any merit beyond a Just So story.

          • Alan says:

            “What I am suggesting is never to be satisfied with the pseudo-answer ‘Godidit” and never think the religious explanation has any merit beyond a Just So story.”

            I don’t think we should be satisfied with that answer either as long as there is still a chance we can do something to fix the situation. A great rabbi, I think it was the Kotzker Rebbe (early/mid 1800’s), said that when a poor person comes to us for help we should be an atheist at that moment, meaning we should believe that nobody, not even in God, will help the poor person and that only we can help him. This story says a lot about Judaism in general.

          • tildeb In the mind of a religious Jew – the study of science is the study of what God did – getting to “know” God 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            If science were a bunch of products one could attribute to something than this could be considered earnest, but it’s a method, Science is a method. Using this method to discern what is, what seems to be the case, indicates no creator but a process of natural unguided mechanisms that produce properties we can know something about..

          • tildeb I know that science is a process that we use to learn about reality – that’s all it purports to be. But as Jews we see reality as an expression of a Creator – so to us the study of reality is the study of the handiwork of the Creator. Not that science “proves” the Creator. But just as when I turn a corner and come across something I haven’t seen before – the drawing of the Creator is extended in my mind and I have more to read – so it is when science comes up with another discovery and they share it with the public – I have more to read. And the more I see, the more beautiful and intricate, and the more science learns, the more beautiful and the more intricate. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

        • tildeb says:

          Also, why must you assume that ‘something’ is “doing this to the boy” other than the boy’s bicameral brain?

          When you assume the conclusion first and then refer to the conclusion as your major premise as you’ve done here, you’re not thinking well. This means you think you have drawn your assertion from what you incorrectly perceive to be evidence from reality rather than an imported belief from you which is then imposed on these kinds of examples raised.

          Is this the case?

          Well, first it’s really important to understand what evidence drawn from reality means – a demonstrable LINK between something selected from reality – in this case the composing youngster – with the proposed cause – something doing this to the youngster. And the way to test whether this is to remove the link to see if the effect really is due to the cause.

          Of course, ethics matter, too. So, if you remove the boys brain, well… I think we can predict with reasonable confidence that the musical composing would stop. If you removed this ‘something’ – let’s call it a god for convenience – then… you see the problem? Your cause is not connected to the example you raise any more than my Tay Sachs example is.

          As far as we know, patterned musical expressions like composing are as much an emergent property of cellular interactions expressed by trillions of neural connections that is entirely self contained. Interfere with, damage, or destroy the neural connectivity and you will interfere directly to various degrees of associated impairment with the composing. That linking IS evidence to favour the material and not some metaphysical cause.

          • Alan says:

            I don’t disagree. Like I wrote, I can’t use the boy alone to prove or show the likelihood of anything.

          • tildeb says:

            You’re right. But you did include it as if in contrast to ‘only’ the biology that produced it.

          • Alan says:

            “But you did include it as if in contrast to ‘only’ the biology that produced it.”

            I didn’t mean that. To me, they go together, no contrast.

          • tildeb says:

            I think I am not wrong to feel that a major dismissive argument used by theists is to suggest that complexity of emergent properties cannot be explained without a divine agency. I find many theists insert this assumption and then paint criticism of believing in a creator agency, a designing influence, as believing in ‘only’ biology, or ‘only’ materialism, or ‘only’ naturalism… as if the ‘only’ is somehow less than the marvels we behold. Within the ‘only’ I find more than enough reason to have awe and wonder, an honest desire to alter my ignorance into at least some patina of understanding, and use this to feed my endless curiosity. That’s the ‘only’ that is dismissed with a flick of the wrist by those who presume some creator interventionists divine agency is necessary to comport wonder with curiosity.

          • Alan says:

            I feel that some complex emergent properties can be explained naturally and that others cannot. You are very fortunate that you didn’t turn into a nihilist but instead you love life, are in awe of it, and believe that we should accustom ourselves to consistently go out of our way to make others happy and lessen their burdens.

          • tildeb says:

            Isn’t that what Genesis teaches us?

            After all, compassion means with (com) suffering (passion) and that’s what lies beyond the idyllic Garden: a world chalk full of suffering… a necessary ingredient we have to accept from a universe that is plainly indifferent to the welfare of anything it contains. To bring appreciation for life and love and still be willing to bear it all with wonder and awe into such a universe necessitates real life suffering in order to know of love and joy and sacrifice, mysteries in order to seek understanding, ignorance in order to seek knowledge, to eat the fruit of life means to accept and know about the suffering and its handmaidens of good and evil and all that they tempt us to divert us from living well, living fully, living wisely.

            To live means to know of these necessary states of being (to be alive) and I can appreciate just how long, just how forcefully, just how intimately Jews as much as any other historically discriminated people have had to come to learn this lesson! And isn’t that really how life teaches us? First it gives us the punishment and then leaves us alone with our suffering to try to figure out the lesson. And that’s the Genesis myth in a nutshell.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            Do you believe that essentially you and all of us are alone or at best disconnected with a chance of temporarily being indirectly connected? That’s the sense I’m getting.

          • tildeb says:

            A harder question than it looks and deserving a better answer than this (but time constraints…):
            When in harmony, one is never alone or disconnected.

          • Alan says:

            In harmony with whom or what?

          • tildeb says:

            Well, that’s just it: with one’s self. Because I am a musician (among other things), let me put it into a musical analogy.

            I play a note on my trumpet. I find the center that gives me full timbre, full tone, the full sound from this particular make and model of instrument with the mouthpiece I have imported and it’s quite glorious on its own. Decades of practice. The sound is rich and deep and beautiful. It stands on its own merit as a pure trumpet sound. I am not alone nor separate from the instrument to make this sound but a necessary part of producing it. I don’t have to produce it. But I find great meaning and purpose doing so as well as a kind of community when exported to forming local groups which then grants me deep access of relationship over much time into the lives of many others across generations regardless of any other partisan or social identities to which any of us might feel we belong. I’m just a cog in one musical sense of the term.

            So, another trumpet player sits down near me and plays the same note. The pitch is ever so slightly different but has most of the same characteristics. Each of us is autonomous, each is the necessary part of producing almost the same sound from our very similar instruments and mouthpieces.

            Now here’s the important part: I adjust ever so slightly and put my sound inside the other player’s sound. This is intentional. I make minute adjustments shaping and crafting my breath, my embouchure, my mouth, my pressure, all to change my sound to be fully contained within the other until the blend has no discernible edges or differences. Here’s the thing: a rather remarkable change happens to the sound.

            At this point of blending and balancing just so, the volume dramatically increases and very clear overtones – higher notes – can be heard from a unison sound. Those overtones are present in the original sound, both in mine and the other player’s. But they are hidden. Only by matching can the overtones emerge as unplayed new sounds with echos of the same full richness of timbre and tone of the source sounds. (There is a special stairwell built into the Manitoba Legislature to allow a single voice at the lowest level standing in just the right place to hear the augmented overtones each floor above. Pretty cool.)

            I do this with (relatively) new players when I teach to get them to experience what playing in tune means, what it feels like to be the autonomous source of a harmonized sound. I then show them the same effect in each of the overtones played just so. But it requires constant work to gain the necessary expertise… even from one simple note… to do this. It is an achievement that turns several players (who play for whatever reasons) into part of a whole unit of harmonized sound – one unit – that when carried into actual harmonies and progressions and blocks of chords in some piece of music produces additional shape and movement and body that doesn’t exist in any of the single sounds yet has the power to enrapture listeners. It is a musical experience that opens the door to achieving a sum greater than its parts…. each part necessary but absolutely dependent on each player struggling and striving to do their individual part. It’s really hard.

            In harmony with one’s self requires at the very least a recognition of this autonomy. This is the necessary ingredient upon which one can then build the most profound relationships… with anything or anyone if one is willing to do the work. And it’s demonstrable in so many ways depending on what the ‘anything’ or the ‘anyone’ might be. That’s what I mean about being ‘in harmony’. One is never alone or separate but a base unit.

            I hope that makes some sense.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,

            This is extremely beautiful and ,I believe, the truth. I am also a musician (drum set and percussion) but don’t really play seriously any more (for reasons other than religious) so I have experienced very well everything you wrote. Here is one quote from what you wrote: ”

            It is a musical experience that opens the door to achieving a sum greater than its parts…. each part necessary but absolutely dependent on each player struggling and striving to do their individual part. It’s really hard.”

            You “know” and intuit that there can be such a thing as a “sum greater than its parts”. Music lets you recognize this. The Infinite is greater than its finite creations (both natural and spiritual creations and concepts), He/She/It INCUDES the finite but at the same time is greater than all of them put together – He/She/It is “in” and “out”, “above” and “below” simultaneously.

            You are very fortunate to have been blessed with such a sensitive and elevated soul and mind. When a person lets the Infinite One become a part of one’s life, then even when one is not playing the trumpet, one can sense that one is in harmony with one’s own self, with one’s own family and friends, community, nation, world and the entire universe – not just when playing music. This harmony doesn’t go away no matter what one goes through in life. It’s Infinitely more precious than musical harmony, even though musical harmony is surely a wonderful means of bringing a person to the ultimate harmony.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, I am not a musician but a music lover, and what you so beautifully wrote here resonates with me. I used to play classical guitar in my youth. I took an ensemble class and it felt like what you describe.

            (I gave up guitar when I got too busy with other things, though I hope to take it up again when the kids are grown.)

          • Alan says:

            “In harmony with one’s self requires at the very least a recognition of this autonomy. This is the necessary ingredient upon which one can then build the most profound relationships… with anything or anyone if one is willing to do the work. And it’s demonstrable in so many ways depending on what the ‘anything’ or the ‘anyone’ might be. That’s what I mean about being ‘in harmony’. One is never alone or separate but a base unit.”

            tildeb,
            In the Torah, Numbers 27:15, Moses says shortly before he’s about to die: “And Moses spoke to Hashem saying, ‘Let Hashem, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation…”

            The Jewish sages (Talmudic times) explain “God of the spirits of all flesh” to mean that God has room and need for everyone’s individuality, the fact that everyone is different. In healthy normal Judaism one’s true self is not lost but enhanced and elevated, accepted and appreciated.

          • tildeb This musical analogy is profound and inspiring. The harmony we seek is harmony with our whole self and to the degree that we achieve harmony with our own being, to that same degree can we expect to harmonize with the people and with the world around us.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            Just so… or, as an art professor once said to me, “You can only get out of art what you yourself bring to it.” I find this insight rather applicable to a lot of life… including what I bring to others. Hence, the sometimes brutish honesty in my commenting and what I see as my brushes (Dina might might use the term ‘full immersion’ ) with poor tone. The intention is well meaning… and we know which destination that road can lead to!

          • RT says:

            “the study of science is the study of what God did – getting to “know” God”

            Yes, but in a way, we have to be careful not to arrive with our religious convictions and “prove” them just for the fact of proving our theory. Many scientific are religious and see their findings in a way that gets them closer to G-d. What bugs me sometime is the bias attitude of creationists. They shoot themselves in the foot by claiming it as science based, but ignore the very basis of science by providing the conclusion first before the findings. Evolution has flaws and maybe is wrong in many way, but the principles of science has been followed.

      • tildeb says:

        LarryB

        Shhh. Just enjoy the random acts of electrical impulses.
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024672/

        • LarryB says:

          titleb
          Thanks, I think, are you trying to tell me something?

        • Alan says:

          “Shhh. Just enjoy the random acts of electrical impulses.
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024672/

          Tildeb,
          What do you think Tay Sachs shows us?

          • tildeb says:

            It shows us the impulse to award to some god some beautiful example from reality is problematic. Unless you ‘award’ to some god the same responsibility for genetic mutations as you are for rare abilities, you are cherry picking on the one hand and waving away with the other. Neither is a productive way to back up any point you want to make about recognizing the utility of faith when , in fact, your example indicates why incorrectly identifying when faith is being used and when it is not misleads you.

          • Alan says:

            “It shows us the impulse to award to some god some beautiful example from reality is problematic. Unless you ‘award’ to some god the same responsibility for genetic mutations as you are for rare abilities, you are cherry picking on the one hand and waving away with the other. Neither is a productive way to back up any point you want to make about recognizing the utility of faith when , in fact, your example indicates why incorrectly identifying when faith is being used and when it is not misleads you.”

            I attribute to the First Existence, the Infinite One, good and bad, darkness and light.

          • tildeb says:

            I know. And I think you’re selling yourself short for doing so, for taking this shortcut to a non-answer answer and being satisfied with that. I much prefer the robust, “I don’t know” and use that recognized state of ignorance I have – that I OWN – to learn. That constant quest is what opens the doors to amazement and wonder and feelings of awe about this reality I have privileged to temporarily join, to have an understanding of just how precious and remarkable and beautiful things and life and people really are on this tiny little planet and why it’s so important for each of us to do what little we can to help make our stay here a net benefit rather than a cost. I bear this responsibility each and every day in all of my actions because I understand why I bear it. I have no need for importing some religious identity to try to accomplish by divine fiat what this understanding reveals for good reasons. And that difference is one of motivation, the first imposed from above, the latter accepted as part of being human, an essential part of being who I am by being what I am. This is the fertile ground for real, for honest, for personal meaning and purpose and community. This mature sense of ownership of one’s life, of respect for what is real, what the real costs are for living well are, for what real living looks like, is what can emerge once we accept responsibility for out lives and leave behind the Garden prepared for us. That place exists only in the mind; only in the past, only a fictional place where no real living because no real suffering exists. To live an authentic human life means leaving the Garden and accepting responsibility for this choice, to live a real life in the real world on its terms.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, you think only atheists live authentic, meaningful lives and are the only ones able to make life a net benefit rather than a cost? Only atheists are able to contribute positively to civilization?

            Surely you cannot mean that.

            What difference does it make where you get your beautiful ideals from, as long as you practice them and live them?

            There are religious people and atheists who are beautiful people (and I don’t mean physically). Why can’t you just let live and let live? I have posed this question to you before and I still can’t understand atheists’ need to proselytize (for lack of a better word).

          • tildeb says:

            Let’s say you have two children, both of whom are terrific kids, and you are proud. They both are well behaved, caring, respectful of you as a person and a parent. They work hard, play well, do their tasks, are kind and just really great to be around. take live their lives under your close observation,

            The first is motivated by fear of abandonment, fear of punishment, fear of disappointing you, fear of breaking the rules. The second is motivated by his feelings, by how behaving this way makes him feel about himself and others, how it feels to be kind and considerate and compassionate.

            Which one are you more worried about?

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            Is this just for Dina to respond to?

          • tildeb says:

            Again, on my feed it is directed to Dina, but the point remains: intention and motivation for beliefs as much as actions are what differentiates the same deed, the same action, the same result, from being closer to good or evil. ethical or unethical, wise or foolish.

          • Alan says:

            Judaism teaches that fear, love and awe go together; there’s a time for each and sometimes they are combined; and there are higher and lower levels of each. Jews really love Hashem and we really love the commandments.

          • Dina says:

            I wouldn’t know, would I?

            If someone is polite to me in line at the supermarket, all I care about is how they treat me. I don’t care if their motivation is that it feels good to do good or if their motivation is that they want to appear to be a nice person or if their motivation is whatever.

            The Jews who were saved by Christians in the Holocaust didn’t much care whether the Christians did it because they hated the Nazis or because they believed murder was wrong even if they hated Jews or if they were simply good people standing up to evil. They were just grateful to keep their lives.

            Also, your analogy implies that the religious person is motivated by negative feelings and the atheist is motivated by positive feelings, but that is an assumption on your part.

            By the way, if the only way to motivate my child to stop slacking off in school (grades) and at home (chores) is to take away privileges, and thus he is motivated to do good out of fear of punishment, then I would be a fool not to use that tool as a lesson to teach him to be responsible and to develop a good work ethic. Which, by the way, from experience, I can tell you that some kids need that to jump start themselves but eventually end up continuing to behave positively because they love the sense of accomplishment and mastery that comes along with being responsible and working hard.

            Finely, as you must surely know, most religious people do not do good because of fear, so my question still stands: why can’t you live and let live, as long as your liberty is not being threatened?

          • tildeb I am more worried about the first kid – and to take your analogy one step further – Judaism teaches us to be the second kid – the sense of justice, kindness and morality inside of you IS the breath of God in your nostrils according to Judaism 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            If you really put into action what you believe, you are on a very high level. But why do you say that people don’t think you’re nice? Doesn’t being nice go along with your philosophy of making life beautiful?

            Judaism agrees with everything you wrote (which is why humankind was kicked out of the Garden in the Genesis) except the only difference is that we believe God/Hashem/The First Existence/The Compassionate One has a place in tildeb’s extremely admirable plan and that it only enhances tildeb’s plan. My brother-in-law, the atheist economist, who I love very much, is very much like you. We don’t talk about religion and politics anymore (not for about 15 years already) and since then we have had a loving and close relationship. We really love the good in each other.

          • tildeb This comment of yours (about living here and now in the real world) is inspiring. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • LarryB says:

            Alan
            It would also deny that Hashem created everything. Back to help the sick again.

          • Alan says:

            I believe Hashem creates light and darkness, good and bad.

          • RT says:

            “Intention and motivation for beliefs as much as actions are what differentiates the same deed, the same action, the same result, from being closer to good or evil. ethical or unethical, wise or foolish.”

            I think I can agree with most of that. If someone does good only to avoid the wrath of his god, then the motive is wrong. If someone believes in a god only to avoid hell, then his motive are wrong and self center as well….

          • tildeb says:

            I think doing stuff for the right reasons produces right actions. Doing stuff for imported reasons does not produce autonomy and, with that, can be a means to avoid responsibility, to justifying actions using the ‘just following orders’ excuse. And we know where that can lead… yes, to trains running on time (at first)….

          • Alan says:

            Judaism doesn’t believe in moral relativism nor the other extreme. There are basic Divine moral rules we get from the Torah but we are also to question and push back at times because not every case is legislated in writing in Judaism. Abraham pushed back with God when God was about to destroy Sodom. Noah didn’t push back when God was about to destroy the world, but Abraham the first Jew did.

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, you say, “There are basic Divine moral rules we get from the Torah…” Without a moral barometer built into our biology, how could we even recognize these supposed moral ‘rules’?

            Only when you place morality where it can be demonstrated to belong – in our biology under the heading of ‘reciprocity’ – can you begin to evaluate whether or not proscribed rules are closer to this or that end of the moral spectrum. And that necessary evaluation puts in a position of judging this supposed god. And when we do that, we find all kinds of examples of a creator critter severely wanting for significant moral development (unless you prescribe to the divine command theory, which places your morality on exactly the same philosophical footing as Himmler’s… as demonstrated by his speech to the SS of Warsaw… how virtuous it is to submitting to the principle of just following ‘divine’ orders, you see… so it must be moral). 😉 You see the danger with this line of reasoning, right?

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            I’ll ask again, if you can’t accept that we are this way, what do you want to do about it, what do you want from us?

          • tildeb Teh goal is to do things for the right reasons (or I would say to cultivate and develop the right reasons in your heart) – but one of the ways of training a child is to have him/her do actions (e.g. say please, thank you etc.) and stop them from doing actions (e.g. hitting, mocking) for the only reasons they can understand in their childish state – and the action of doing good cultivates the kindness, gratitude, justice etc.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            YPF, you say, “…one of the ways of training a child is to have him/her do actions (e.g. say please, thank you etc.) and stop them from doing actions (e.g. hitting, mocking) for the only reasons they can understand in their childish state – and the action of doing good cultivates the kindness, gratitude, justice etc.”

            You presume the ‘childish state’ requires such ‘cultivation’ because its seems to me that you think it is absent or dormant and thus in need of ‘training’. I think that presumption is bizarre once one understands that our shared biology comes fully equipped for reciprocity and all the emergent properties that accompany it (compassion, empathy, sympathy, the desire to alleviate suffering, and so on). Sure, we understand that reciprocity encountering environment ‘cultivates’ how it is expressed and developed in the individual, so it matters how we as parents facilitate this process to achieve our parental goals. And we know enough to know that the punitive harshness and vindictiveness and pettiness of the Pentateuch gods is the very worst possible teaching method.

          • Alan says:

            “And we know enough to know that the punitive harshness and vindictiveness and pettiness of the Pentateuch gods is the very worst possible teaching method.”

            You recently admitted the excellent results of Jewish education through the generations. If you want I can find your post on this. You actually said we can achieve the same results through for better reasons. I asked you what these reasons are but you never answered.

          • tildeb says:

            I responded to this post highlighting and criticizing the idea of an identity based on a special relationship with a god that amounts to nothing more than a presumption. This notion of presumption carries over to the affect of how we teach of children. Our imported presumptions are often wrong (ie the exodus was real, children require practice to be kind and polite and so on).

            For example, punitive parenting does not achieve what we presume it does. It actually causes unnecessary harm. This raises the issue of how to do it differently, do it better, do it to achieve certain desired results. And this is where applied knowledge and not imported presumptions demonstrates we can achieve better results with better parenting methods informed by knowledge than use archaic and barbaric practices sanctified by some priestly caste in the name of some divine Overlord.

          • Alan says:

            On the one hand you say that Jews are and have been in general great parents and teachers of kids, on the other hand our education system couldn’t be worse.

          • tildeb says:

            No, I did not say any of that. I said Jews have punched far above their population weight in all kinds of academic areas. We see the same emphasis on educational attainment from many Asian and sub-Asian families, too. That doesn’t make the punitive method of parenting somehow ‘better’; it demonstrates that parental emphasis can and does have effect. But is there a cost? If so, in what ways? Could the attainment be done more broadly? Well, Finland certainly has a model worth investigating… if indeed academic achievement is going to be the standard.

          • Alan says:

            I apologize for not remembering correctly what you said. Here is what Rabbi B said about the great central teachings of Judaism and you agreed that Jewish life is founded on these things –

            Rabbi B-
            tildeb Judaism at its core emphasizes the common godliness and goodness of man. The key concept of a chosen nation is not to be better but to be saddled with a responsibility – to respect human beings for their humanity, to stand for the truths: that human beings possess a Godly conscience – even evil ones, that the happiness of mankind lies in man recognizing the beauty and purpose inherent in justice and kindness and to bring mankind a hope for a future of peace and brotherhood..

            You-
            I know. But all of this can be done with far better reasons than a religious injunction. This is why it is so very difficult to get religious people to be made aware of why their willingness to believe in gods or a god who bestows such terrific values is actually contrary to the very principles behind these virtues!


            But when I asked you how this can be done with far better reasons than being instructed by God you didn’t answer. Also, Jewish parents don’t use the plain text of the Scriptures as a parenting guidebook just as we don’t use the plain text of the Scriptures for how to keep any of the other commandments. Parenting has to be based on making sure the child knows we love them no matter what and positive reinforcement and encouragement works much better than yelling or punishing. Yelling and punishments don’t work very well especially in this generation and the greatest Jewish leaders agree.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, yelling doesn’t work, but the greatest Jewish leaders did not disagree that one who withholds the rod (figuratively speaking) hates his son. It’s impossible to raise children to be responsible and productive members of the household and good students without consequences for bad behavior. Just look around you. Parents have bought into the liberal mumbo jumbo that consequences don’t work–and kids today are an absolute nightmare. Many classrooms are pure chaos. Teen suicide, depression, cutting have skyrocketed since psychologists introduced these theories in the 1960s. This is progress?

          • Alan says:

            Dina,
            Oh, there definitely have to be consequences. I was just referring to hitting and yelling. But the positive regard and encouragement and love we give them and they pick up from us have to far outweigh the amount of consequences. But yes of course they have to see there are consequences, but not for every little thing. Sometimes we have to let things slide for the time being because we have bigger fish to fry with them (pick our battles).

          • Dina says:

            Alan, you wrote, ” But the positive regard and encouragement and love we give them and they pick up from us have to far outweigh the amount of consequences.”

            Not so. Our kids have to know that we love them unconditionally, and that’s enough. It isn’t good or healthy for kids to get so much attention and praise. This teaches them that they are the center of the universe and they can’t do a single thing without copious amounts of praise (I speak from bitter experience).

            The Torah teaches that the parents are the center of the family and the children are supposed to pay more attention to their parents than their parents pay to them–that is what kibbud horim (honoring your parents) is all about. Today society has taught the reverse: the children are the center of the family and the parents are their servants, paying them loads of slavish attention and organizing all their free time.

            Calm, authoritative (not authoritarian) leadership balanced with love is what kids need.

            When kids are left well enough alone and parents pay more attention to each other and their own pursuits, kids really start to develop. They develop imaginations and hobbies and all sorts of wonderful things come out of this.

            About picking battles, yes, we can’t and shouldn’t micromanage every little thing, but that also depends on what you mean by every little thing. Disrespect, defiance, slacking off with chores, fighting with siblings are not little things. Also, you can’t tackle every problem at once, but two or three at a time at most. (Usually other problems then begin to disappear.)

          • Alan says:

            I agree with everything you wrote. But what works for us with our difficult one is they have to know we have true positive regard for them and the number of positive interactions has to outnumber the negative interactions by at least 10 to 1 This is the ratio that works for us. So if they are getting a lot of “consequences” we have to look for ways to make even more positive interactions happen. Consequences ALONE do not work at all. And hitting (not hard of course) and yelling have no positive effects, only negative effects.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, I learned a similar concept in a parenting class I once took. I tried it out and ultimately rejected it. This places an undue burden of stress, guilt, and anxiety on parents. You don’t need to count up your interactions. Be civil, calm, and authoritative, but also loving. Don’t be nasty. Where did you get the ratio of 10 to 1, by the way? It sounds arbitrary to me. The teacher who gave the course I took recommended 4 to 1. Also arbitrary. And what is negative from a child’s point of view? Do you know that being told what to do is negative from a child’s point of view? Like, “Go brush your teeth and put on your pj’s” when the child wants to stay up reading his favorite book. So you would have to count that as one of your negative interactions, and then you would have to scramble to compensate with 10 positive interactions.

            So this can turn into a ridiculous exercise that is exhausting and ultimately counterproductive.

            By the way, I do not endorse yelling or hitting. That is a parent losing control, and kids know it. However, I am not completely opposed to spanking as a rare measure if done with absolute calm. For example, a child is just not getting it about not running into the street. A spanking might actually save his life. However, spanking becomes less effective the more it’s used (like yelling).

            I also think that assuming that something works or doesn’t work and that that is a measure of its effectiveness shows a basic misunderstanding of parenting. When you raise a child, you are obligated to teach him right from wrong. You are not obligated to force him to learn his lesson. That is completely out of your control, because children, like adults, are free agents. They have free will.

            Let us say that one day your child refuses to do his chores in a very defiant way (I will leave that to your imagination). Let us say that the next day your child says he’s been invited by his friend’s family to the zoo, they offered to pay his ticket, and please, please, please can he go? You say no, and he asks, why? You explain, “Yesterday you refused to do your chores, so now you can’t go to the zoo.”

            For most children, this would be a huge consequence that would make them think twice the next time. But there are some children who don’t learn lessons easily. There are some children who are determined to show the world that no one can be the boss of them. So when a child keeps doing the wrong thing, what’s a parent to do? The parent has to continue doing the right thing, and not worry so much about whether it “works” or not because there is no magical formula. Your child has the choice to do the right thing or the wrong knowing full well the ramifications. You have the choice to continue calmly teaching your child right from wrong. He may eventually learn the lesson as a child. He may have to grapple with it as an adult. Or he may never learn. That is out of your control.

          • Alan says:

            “This places an undue burden of stress, guilt, and anxiety on parents. You don’t need to count up your interactions.”

            Dina, I don’t literally keep count. By 10 to 1, I just meant ‘much more’. With our special kid, it needs to be much more than 4 to 1 for us to be able to have a positive influence over him, otherwise he will not be open to us. By “hitting” I meant pahtching (a little spank) not hitting. Once in a blue moon maybe a little pahtch that is not meant to hurt, just the tap itself is shocking enough to them because they no there is always no physical punishment. But even the pahtch causes nothing but negative outcomes with my special kid.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, you can’t formulate a parenting philosophy based on your one special child. I speak in generalities; what I have said holds true generally. There are always exceptions, and parents hopefully use their common sense and knowledge of their child in how to handle their child rearing.

          • Alan says:

            I agree. From what I know from speaking to the school psychologist and other parents, there are more exceptions like my child today, so I believe the technique we are using can help other parents save their kids too.

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, you say, “It’s impossible to raise children to be responsible and productive members of the household and good students without consequences for bad behavior.”

            The problem in your thinking here is to presume that withholding punitive measures (the rod) is the same as removing consequences for bad behaviour.

            All behaviour has consequences. My point is that importing punitive measures is not the best tool to amplify the kinds of consequences we want for teaching kids to become responsible and productive members of families and society (and being a good student) but, in fact one of the least effective measures. There are better – much better – tools to accomplish this.

            I know you will ask and so I will tell you now a personal story.
            During my final teaching practicum at one of the worst ranked schools according to standardized testing in my province, I asked the regular teachers of grades 4-6 if I could take their 10 ‘worst’ students for an hour a day during morning math class for eight weeks and do ‘remedial’ math with them. They pleaded with the principal to allow me to do so (gosh, I wonder why?) and she grudgingly agreed… if the students were willing. They were. They hated school.

            This motley crew tested in the bottom 2 percentile one Day 1 and included all kinds of medical diagnoses of learning and behavioural disabilities. These rambunctious students were prepared to make me regret my offer but the principal noticed that attendance was always 100% and no one was sent to the office for behavioural issues (a first). In fact, one of the teachers down the hall complained that the classroom I was using – a converted storage area – was far too loud and boisterous and full of laughing that disrupted his class’ reading time. The principal told me to tone it down. Couldn’t… medical reasons, donchaknow.

            After 8 weeks, the students all tested above the 90% percentile for their grades and two thirds in the 96% or above percentile without a single reprimand or trip to the office for two glorious months for the office staff. And this spilled out elsewhere, too, with significant improvements reported by their teachers in other subjects, by the teaching assistants (who had to hear stories of why today’s math class was so interesting and fun), by the playground supervisors who said other kids were starting to treat them differently because they turned out to be surprisingly ‘smart’ (high math grades are seen this way by kids…. I wonder why?), and of course the parents/guardians. In fact, for the first time the parent/teacher meetings (around week 6 of my experiment) were larger than usual and the principal was subjected to stories from these kids’ parents (and guardians) some of who had never even been inside the school about some massive shift in their child’s attitude about school and learning and coming home with test papers with their child’s name on it that almost always had 100% results circled at the top. In fact, some of these kids were now teaching their parents some math.

            How could this be? These kids required the rod, donchaknow.

            Some of the kids were actually doing math at home that wasn’t even homework because it was so much ‘fun’. Some parents apparently reported this dramatic change to the local Member of the Provincial Parliament who came to this rundown school to find out what was going on… because it had been identified as a ‘special’ school due to the very lowest of rankings. The new rankings –
            done several weeks after my little experiment – raised the school’s ranking by over 150 placements. The MPP was so impressed with this turnaround that at the end of the school year, this principal was promoted and became the Superintendent overseeing First Nations education.

            Ahem…

            My point here is that if you take the punitive tools off the table and out of the toolbox entirely and get rid of them on principle, you have to come up with ways and means to achieve at least the same results (especially if funding is involved). And if you can achieve even better results? Well, then you become an advocate for children rather than an advocate for poor parenting utilizing what is already known (the rod) as the archaic tool of desperation it really is… what I think of as a necessary tool used to cover up failed parenting, failed teaching, failed methodology.

            I know that’s harsh, but I’ve seen far too many lives not just harmed but even destroyed by the use of this stupid form of unnecessary violence in the name of ‘discipline’ and ‘teaching’… for the child’s own good, of course… as if without this tool, the child MUST regress. I know this violence is what lies ever-so-close to the top of the child-rearing toolbox that has stocked up on punitive tools. It’s a risk that both parent and child can suffer from. So, if there are better ways to achieve the same or even better results, I have yet to meet a parent who refuses on reasonable grounds and dozens of parents with difficult children who advocate strongly in its favour. Unfortunately, I have also met parents who do refuse on religious grounds to put away the rod. So whose interests are really being served with this rod?

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,

            Great story. A teacher’s relationship with students is extremely different than a parent’s. A parent has way more responsibility for the child’s life. There are so many things a parent has to deal with that a teacher does not. My son’s teachers teach him like you and they are getting very good results. He feels much more free to misbehave and be unfriendly at home than at school. His teachers do not see what his parents see and they do not have to deal with what his parents have to deal with. And they told me “it’s better we don’t know” because they need to like him and have a good relationship with him. Sometimes he gets consequences at school, for example if he comes in late a few times or doesn’t come in because of a late sports game the night before (hockey, softball), he will lose being able to play a game the next time. And this works for him. He also has to keep his grades above about 80% in order to be on the team. And he is doing it! Without these consequences he would not be able to do well in school. Last year he almost failed, but this year because of the consequences he has about an 85% average which he is very happy about and he is doing well in sports.

            Also, Dina and I and almost all Orthodox Jews are extremely against using any kind of “rod” against kids – physical or emotional.

          • tildeb says:

            By guiding students – and children – to creating an identity that is both based on reality and full of characters of virtue, and then importing negative beliefs as one’s starting point is neither helpful nor wise. In fact, it is contrary to compelling evidence that even infants demonstrate a preference for what I compress into a single term I call ‘virtue’… a term that encompasses those characteristics we deem to be worthy of social respect and support. But I understand that these characteristics are already there – in the same way overtones in musical notes are already there – and that these characteristics can be amplified and brought forth by what I call ‘good’ guidance.

            Of course, the opposite is true, too. We can impose on children all kinds of identities we wish them to have and then work to bring forth those characteristics we wish them to exhibit. This goes back to the idea of whether we want children to discover, develop, and own their own identities or if we want to make them reflect what we think they should be. These are two very different objectives. In my experience, conflict is an essential indicator that something is wrong, something is misaligned, and – as the teacher or parent – it is MY job to figure out where I have gone astray and not blame the child for acting (often inappropriately) on feelings that are real.

            My math experiment was intended to demonstrate to the students that they were, in fact, excellent at math… in spite of people telling them forever that their failing grades and problems and behavioural issues were a reflection of them, their character, and their ability. And look: here is the proof in the form of demonstrating a much better understanding of math than almost all of their more ‘successful’ peers.

            Each of these students experienced the difference between intrinsic value brought forth accompanied by success and feelings of accomplishment and ownership (when lauded by these students as ‘the best teacher ever’, I always responded with “Don’t blame me… you’re the one who has earned it) versus doing stuff because people told them to just do it because they had to, because it had some extrinsic value that would pay off at some later date, because grown-ups simply knew better. All of these students demonstrated their frustration with this method through conflict behaviour. Well, duh. Children talk honestly by their behaviour and it is their behaviour that teaches us grown-ups what the real problem is, where the real motivation resides and can be addressed effectively. Change the motivation, change the behaviour. Pretty simple. What do we want to amplify in their character to bring out that intrinsic motivation that produces the kind of behaviour that promotes the virtues we know servers them best?

            Why didn’t some grown-ups along the way figure out that the i>real problem was in the teaching, was in the parenting, was in the failure to amplify for intrinsic motivation the right characteristics? I ‘proved’ the worst students could be the best students… if they wanted it. Don’t blame me for allowing these students to experience what they already possessed; they earned it because I helped guide them to learning how to show it. And isn’t that really the job of parents and guardians and teachers, that a positive and capable and kind and compassionate and beautiful intrinsic identity is already there and just needs a bit of guidance on how to bring it forth, how to utilize and trust healthy emotions as an interior guide how to successfully navigate challenges to its use, how to offer one’s strengths and awesome personal power to further the well being of one’s communities, to become a successful and valued member and mentor? And we don’t that by fooling ourselves into believing that behaviour indicates character and then telling kids they are selfish and self-centered and mean spirited to begin with. That’s a recipe for personal and emotional dysfunction (no matter how much worldly success one has amassed and few people are better at achieving exactly this than the very worst sociopaths).

          • Alan says:

            Everything you wrote is in line with Judaism. You prejudge Judaism. You have very big misconceptions of Judaism. This is a huge problem. You can’t just read the Scriptures and look at Christians and Muslims and say, “Judaism must be the same”.

          • tildeb says:

            Gee, ya think?

          • Alan says:

            You gave me the impression that you are not very familiar with Judaism.

          • Dina says:

            I don’t believe in insulting kids either, by the way. This all sounds very lofty and noble, but how do you put it into practice? I read Thomas Gordon’s P.E.T. and Faber and Mazlish and all the rest and I failed. I suspect those are the type of methods you apply.

            How is it that my kids are healthy and well-adjusted and come to me with their problems and troubles, if I’m such a horrific parent?

          • Dina
            In my opinion Tildeb is right – as an underlying principle – but if you are a parent 24/7 it is much more difficult to make the calculation especially if you have more than one child – and you have to factor in the child’s lack of understanding – you would also want a dramatic deterrent from hurting yourself (such as running into the street) if you knew that you didn’t understand the danger.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, that is a very beautiful story, but can you clarify how exactly you achieved your goals for the students without holding them accountable?

            Childhood is a micro version of adulthood, and children need to learn how real life works so they can be prepared to deal with it when they are emancipated. If you come to work late consistently, don’t meet deadlines, and hand your boss shoddy work, you will be reprimanded, be demoted, receive a salary cut, or even be fired ultimately.

            Kids need to learn early on that antisocial and/or irresponsible behavior has consequences. I have spoken to business owners who say it’s hard to hire young adults these days. They talk back to the boss, won’t do as they’re told, etc.

            I tried the liberal parenting methods that I expect you refer to when you take the “punitive” tools out of the toolbox. Punishment was out of the question. Every one of my decisions had to be explained and defended out of respect to my children. Each child had to get a specific amount of personal time with me and me alone every single day. Every negative interaction had to be outweighed by four positive ones. Every emotion of my child and every problem had to be empathically (or actively) listened to. And so on and so forth.

            I’m a person of average intelligence but of perhaps more than average persistence. I do not give up easily. I tried all the popular methods and in the meantime my kids became more aggressive, more violent, more narcissistic, more ungrateful, more disrespectful. I even went to psychologists where I was given more of the same advice.

            My household was teeming with emotional chaos and tension because of my kids’ disruptive behavior and constant fighting.

            Everything changed when I started saying “because I said so” (a very big no-no in modern parenting). The tension dropped by at least fifty percent. Then I learned about calm but no-nonsense parenting, not a popular method these days. Where leadership is balanced with love. And that’s when I started seeing success with my kids. And two of them who were diagnosed with ADHD? All of a sudden their symptoms disappeared. I have shared this with other parents and they see similar success.

          • tildeb says:

            Again, why presume there is no accountability? Of course there’s accountability and students know this because they experience it the same way you and I do. Given a choice, would you prefer to experience consequences that made you feel successful, proud, and satisfied by your achievement? Or would you prefer to to experience consequences that made you feel small, mean, and helpless? You don’t need the latter to bring out the former; kids do that to themselves all the time. In the same way I suspect you are your harshest critic, so too are kids on an emotional level. We don;t need to amplify that; we need to help kids learn how to amplify the former so that they want to self-motivate behaviours to achieve it.

          • tildeb that is an amazing story! How did you do that? What methods did you use? (I had a similar story with a high school class but it isn’t nearly as spectacular).

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            I used – and still do use – what I call ‘full bore reciprocity’.

            If you think what this could mean, I think you can begin to see that you are an excellent and wise source on how you would like to be treated, what works best for you, how your confusion can be eliminated and by what means, how you like to feel, how you like to be treated with respect and kindness and concern and shared humour, how you like to succeed incrementally and feel accomplished for doing so, how you like to be rewarded and regarded by peers, and so on. I’ve never met anyone who thinks he or she learns best by being hit, by being punished. I know I don’t… and so using myself as the primordial guide, I adjust my in person teaching outwards.

            When we Turn that idea around, you now have an excellent idea how to be the kind of guide/teacher/parent you wish everyone should be. And so you act this way consistently and reliably and – Lo and Behold – you are just about the best teacher/parent ever!

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, do you have children?

          • tildeb What exactly is “bizarre” about the assumption that a child’s sense of justice is not as developed as an adult’s? Wasn’t that your experience growing up? That your sense of justice became more sensitive to nuances that you didn’t appreciate as a child?

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            A child’s sense of what is fair is probably at least as high as any adult’s and, over time, the child learns to disconnect emotional investment in fairness because grown ups don;t seem to care much about it or will use it against children to manipulate behaviour.

            What’s bizarre is the assumption that this sense of fairness – what reciprocity really means – is somehow deficient in children. It’s not. But now that I see you reframe this sense to be a notion of ‘justice’, which is itself widely flexible because its meaning is equally nebulous, I can better understand how you might think children might not grasp the subtleties you might wish to import to some value justification. But cut a cake into two almost equal parts and I will guarantee children are consistently able to determine which is the bigger piece… an example of how fairness in the child’s mind is so easily framed by what is independent of them and what should be equally obvious to those who try to tell them they’re ‘deficient’ in their sense of fairness.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, my experience with children (having five of my own and as a parenting coach) has taught me that a child’s sense of fairness is this:

            Fair: I get what I want.
            Not fair: I don’t get what I want.

            Children have an extremely limited ability to see someone else’s perspective. Also, children only begin to develop a conscience at around age six.

          • tildeb says:

            Well, to be blunt Dina, you’d be factually wrong on both counts in your last paragraph.

          • tildeb I would say that a child’s sense of fairness is often sharper than an adult’s. The child hasn’t been desensitized by a crooked society to the same degree that an adult has. The area that the adult has an advantage is not the raw sense of fairness – but the application. The child is not aware that there are two pieces of cake as it relates to the feelings of others etc. What needs to be cultivated in the child is that his/her sense of fairness applies in situations where they would otherwise not see them and develop a sensitivity to these application. It is similar to cultivating a taste. The raw sense of taste is always there – its the sensitivity that is developed.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb And your comment about the God of the Pentateuch would be relevant if the book were meant to stand alone – outside of a given social context. It wasn’t 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            Although I agree with the sentiment you bring into the discussion, how does this external context influence and affect those who – like Alan – tell us in no uncertain terms that we get trustworthy information from scripture itself?

            You see the circular problem here, don’t you?

          • LarryB says:

            RT
            “I think I can agree with most of that. If someone does good only to avoid the wrath of his god, then the motive is wrong. If someone believes in a god only to avoid hell, then his motive are wrong and self center as well….”
            …..If you feed a hungry person and you get a great feeling because you did a mitzvot, and then worry about your motivations, do you think he cares what your motivations are?
            Isin’t that at least partially what it means, ‘the Law is grace?
            https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/?s=the+law+is+grace
            Even when you don’t understand, or want to, but still do it because your moved to follow the teachings.
            Also, If a person who has never been taught but does those things because they seem right, are they better than you?

          • Dina says:

            There is a concept in Judaism: mitoch sheloh lishmah ba lishma. The essence of this concept is that if you continually do the right thing out of a negative motivation eventually your motivation will be positive.

            This is in line with what I said before about training children. Sometimes the only way to motivate them is with the negative (such as revoking privileges until good grades are restored and chores are done regularly) but eventually children come to appreciate the value of responsibility and a good work ethic. They want to be good because it feels good, but they can’t get to that place on their own without the initial punitive factor. (Some educators disagree, but I have had experience with the other approach and it failed to yield results.)

            Another example: someone who goes on a healthy diet to lose weight because of his vanity but eventually appreciates how much healthier and more energetic he feels and so continues to eat healthy even after his objective has been won.

          • Dina says:

            I don’t know if this is true, but someone told me that people who work in customer service say it has an effect on the way they interact with people in general. They become nicer.

          • RT says:

            LarryB good question. Imagine one person who does good because he wants to keep a mitzvoth. Imagine another one who does good to please Jesus. Imagine a third one that does the same good because he fear his god will throw him in hell. Finally, imagine a fourth one who does the same good just because he wanted to help someone. The outcome are the same for the 4 people, one wanted to keep the law, another wanted to please another god, another wanted to please himself and the last wanted to help someone only. Are they all the same? Shouldn’t our motive always be to help others? Isn’t there something in the Talmud who shows a difference? The mitzvoth are there to teach us how to do good and care for others, you are not supposed to help others to gain magical mitzvoth points…

          • Alan says:

            Proverbs 19:17 – “He that is gracious unto the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and his good deed will He repay unto him.”

            According to Judaism/the sages of the Talmud, it’s a lifetime of work to purify our motivations so that they are more and more for others (including for Hashem) and less and less for ourselves. But as Dina said, bad motivations are not an excuse to refrain from doing good – Hashem wants us to do good even if the motives are not good and eventually by doing the acts over and over our motives will become purer. But even if they are not pure the acts are still good. But the acts are better (more God-like and more powerful) when the motives are purer. People can sense when others motives are pure. We respond better to people when their motives are pure. The world is a better place when our motives are pure. But we’ll also take good acts without the good motives.

          • LarryB says:

            Did I totally miss the boat on the law is grace

          • RT says:

            Tildeb “I know that’s harsh, but I’ve seen far too many lives not just harmed but even destroyed by the use of this stupid form of unnecessary violence in the name of ‘discipline’ and ‘teaching’…”

            I agree, many Christian books condone physical discipline and even say that you are not listening to G-d if you do not do it… Put that on the hands of an uncontrolled person and you have recipe for a traumatized and abused child… I think there are definitively better way to teach our children. Spanking does not require too much thinking either. Add to it that parents are 5 times the size of the children and can be quite scary to hear them scream and spank. Often that “teaching” is done with anger. I read some books, and it was quite ruthless activity to do in the name of G-d. Teaching, positive behavioral change and reasoning might be a way better way to teach than the rod. I am not sure what Solomon meant, but regardless, I think parents should use common sense and think before disciplining their children.

          • Alan says:

            “I am not sure what Solomon meant, but regardless, I think parents should use common sense and think before disciplining their children.”

            Let’s check the Explanation from Sinai to see if there’s a commandment to hit our kids…and the answer is….there is no commandment to hit our kids. It is only ever allowed under very limited circumstances, never with older kids, and never to inflict injury.

          • RT says:

            Thanks Alan, I cannot speak for Judaism, but many Chrisitans / “Christians” used that as an excuse to do whatever they want. Some are quite extreme, and they wondering why their children don’t follow in the way. You make the child’s life a hell and the child thinks it’s G-d who is the one to blame. And the parent wonder why the child does not want to go to church… The child’s not a fool, he can see through hypocrisis!

          • Dina says:

            The rod is the rod of discipline I believe.

          • Alan says:

            Rods and sticks are definitely not permitted according to halacha. There are times when a hand or a small strap might be permitted but not with kids who might hit back and not over a certain age even if you don’t suspect they will hit back. If they might hit back, then it is forbidden. And the hit must not be the hit of an enemy or with cruelty. This is the basic halacha as far as I’m aware.

          • Alan and never out of anger 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan says:

            Yes, I think I wrote this in a later comment.

          • Alan says:

            I meant an earlier comment, and this is what I meant by “And the hit must not be the hit of an enemy or with cruelty. ” I got this language from Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah.

          • Dina says:

            I don’t know why the conversation turned to hitting when it’s clear that no one here supports hitting as an appropriate and effective measure.

          • Alan says:

            I think it turned to hitting because tildeb mentioned several times “the rod” of religious education (including Jewish education) and how our teaching methods are the absolute worst.

          • tildeb says:

            I didn’t say that, Alan.

          • Alan says:

            You didn’t say it? –

            “And we know enough to know that the punitive harshness and vindictiveness and pettiness of the Pentateuch gods is the very worst possible teaching method.”

            And these –

            The problem in your thinking here is to presume that withholding punitive measures (the rod) is the same as removing consequences for bad behaviour.

            How could this be? These kids required the rod, donchaknow.

            And if you can achieve even better results? Well, then you become an advocate for children rather than an advocate for poor parenting utilizing what is already known (the rod) as the archaic tool of desperation it really is…

            Unfortunately, I have also met parents who do refuse on religious grounds to put away the rod. So whose interests are really being served with this rod?

          • tildeb says:

            No, I didn’t say it. I spoke about the perniciousness of using punitive measures like the harshness of the gods of Pentateuch. And one of the worst measures is using the rod in the sense of imposing a harsh physical punishment, operating under the threat of a harsh punishment, fearing for one’s life. This is not life-affirming intrinsic discipline one is teaching; it is manipulating fear and promoting self concern for one’s safety presumably to achieve what one mistakenly thinks cannot be achieved in other ways. It is as archaic as it is barbaric and it is usually counter-productive to the goals being used to justify. It’s punishment. And it is accompanied by all the ways – usually mean, uncaring, and selfish motivations – we learn to use to avoid it. What is being taught is how to AVOID and shift blame by abdicating personal responsibility for our actions in order to avoid punishment. That’s the real lesson we teach children when we utilize punitive parenting.

          • Alan says:

            You wrote those words that I quoted, which is why we started talking about hitting. This is all Dina was asking me – why we got on the topic of hitting.

          • tildeb says:

            Yes, I wrote those words, but you interpreted them incorrectly. I will say that any parent who uses punitive methods is using a very poor tool and that there are much, much better tools to use to achieve the same goals without the pernicious aspect of using fear and loss and physical threat. These are tools of manipulation and not the tools we use to describe how to enhance love and care and promote earned respect.

          • Alan says:

            You think I don’t agree?

          • tildeb says:

            No, I think you didn’t comprehend what I wrote.

          • Alan says:

            You wrote: “any parent who uses punitive methods is using a very poor tool and that there are much, much better tools to use to achieve the same goals without the pernicious aspect of using fear and loss and physical threat. These are tools of manipulation and not the tools we use to describe how to enhance love and care and promote earned respect.”

            And I agree with this 100%.

          • Alan says:

            “the pernicious aspect of using fear and loss and physical threat.”

            I wrote that I agree 100%. I don’t mean there is never a place for these extreme measures. Physical punishment according to halacha we discussed yesterday so I won’t repeat it now. We dont’ want to use fear of loss but in some circumstances it might be necessary. For example, yesterday I described how my son is happier and doing better in school than ever before because he knows he will miss a game if he skips school or isn’t carrying at least an 80% average. Without these consequences, no amount of incentive charts and rewards worked for the past 3 years. He was missing a lot of school and failing. Now he’s feeling so much better about himself because he sees that school isn’t too hard for him. He’s already moved up to some higher classes. And he’s becoming nicer to his family.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, you do not agree, because Tilly is opposed to using any negative consequences, ever.

            We do not support physical punishment, but it’s all the same to him.

            If my 3-year-old starts hitting the other kids outside, I bring her in. For Tilly, that’s too harsh and punitive. Instead, Tilly wants me to address the “healthy” feelings that lead her to hit other kids. If I soothe those feelings she will stop hitting. And it’s always the parents’ going astray when kids misbehave. She is probably hitting because when she was a newborn I didn’t respond to her cries fast enough.

            I’ve read loads of psycho mumbo jumbo and done a lot of investigating, contrary to what Tilly claims. There is some truth to what he says, but it’s not the whole truth.

            Kids do have natural goodness in them which with guidance will be drawn out. They also have a natural tendency to selfishness for which they also need firm guidance to learn to master. Adults also have a natural tendency to selfishness, but we’ve already been trained to master those impulses, at least most of the time, hopefully.

          • Dina says:

            I have a lot to say on this topic. Parenting is a topic I am quite passionate about. But I am putting the computer away for Shabbos. Good Shabbos to all of you!

          • Alan says:

            Good shabbos to you and your family too!

          • Alan says:

            I just saw the following in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Rebels 6:11 –

            “[Even though there are laws upon children about honoring and respecting their parents] it is forbidden for a parent to put a heavy yoke on one’s children and be particular with one’s honor with them as this would be placing a stumbling block before them, rather one should forgive and look the other way: because a parent who forgives the honor due him/her [by halacha], his/her honor is forgiven. And one who strikes one’s mature children [a 13 year old boy and a 12 year old girl] is placed in excommunication because he/she has transgressed [the commandment of] ‘before a blind person do not place a stumbling block’ (Leviticus 19:14)

            I recall that the stumbling block being placed before the child is that the child might hit the parent back or commit suicide. It can also lead to the child turning to alcohol and drugs and leaving Judaism completely.

          • tildeb says:

            No one I ever asked wanted their kid to become a terrible person and some people were shocked that I would ask such a thing. All wanted their kids to ‘succeed’, to be – you know – nice people, responsible people, people with enough money, with enough health with enough education, with enough drive, with enough charity, people whom others would respect and want to emulate, a ‘success’ which could be measured in all kinds of ways.

            But when I asked how they specifically planned on doing this to help their kids aim for success, almost everyone had some plan on how to punish diversions from it. No one had any real concrete answer.how to help by alterations to their parenting! And doesn’t that make you ask: why not?

          • RT says:

            Dina “I tried the liberal parenting methods that I expect you refer to when you take the “punitive” tools out of the toolbox. Punishment was out of the question. Every one of my decisions had to be explained and defended out of respect to my children.”

            I think that middle ground is better. You are still the parent and children should know that. If you need to do something, the child should still follow without asking question and demanding his way all the time. I have seen those children decision making family, and only become chaos. Punitive is not always bad, in extreme cases, spanking could be done (with control and not anger). You have to find the middle ground and reevaluate once in a while if you are too soft or too firm…

          • RT says:

            Wow, I made a small comparition between what Judaism teaches and Christianity…

            Judaism
            http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1316652/jewish/Spare-the-Rod.htm

            Christianity
            https://www.gotquestions.org/spare-rod-spoil-child.html

            That’s quite a difference. I wonder how they arrived at such a different conclusion. Would it be the NT teaching VS the Talmud’s teaching?

          • Alan says:

            Thank you RT! The Christian article says: “It means that they [kids] are not born with any natural “goodness” in them. ”

            This is horrific. And it contradicts reality.

          • RT says:

            And that’s why you gotta make sure to spank them to show them that they are vile creatures. Mouhahahah!

          • Alan says:

            The Talmud’s teaching comprises both God’s explanation to Moses and the wisdom of the sages.

        • Dina says:

          Funny you should pick on Tay Sachs. Probably a random electrical impulse :).

          http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/culture/features/1478/index2.html

          I guess this is why I’m so smart!

  7. Concerned Reader says:

    This happens when there is too little or too much airflow around the flame. Flames turn oxygen to carbon dioxide and heat the air around them.

    Ok, so you don’t (in this case) find a need to anthropomorphize the process of fire burning, to describe it as Dancing flame that dances for a reason? No need to see a face in the clouds and ask it to bring rain?

    Just extrapolate from the point you just made to the origin of our universe, and you can understand where Tildeb is coming from.

    Something can seem imbued with purpose, design, and chalked up to impossible odds without an intelligence present to explain it, but it doesnt mean any of us has direct knowledge of the origin point.

    DNA, RNA, Chemical reaction, etc. are our best model of describing what we see in the brain, learning how it works, learning a model by which we produce replicable results. If a doctor cuts into the tissue of a brain, the personality and cognitive ability will be adversely impacted if the wrong area is cut.

    When Tilly is talking about mind as an emergent property, she’s using the best model of observation we have at present.

    its no different than the example you gave. Where you see a dancing flame (design,) she sees carbon cumbustion.

    When you guys say “to THE ATHEIST (as if there is one reason or worldview behind a person’s lack of belief,) you sell tgem short.

    Have you ever watched the film, The Golden Compass?

    • LarryB says:

      CR
      I cannot speak for Alan but would like to ask if a person calls themselves an Athiest, what’s the problem with calling them an Athiest? I agree that if you lumped all Athiest into one group that would be a mistake. Same as if you lumped all Christians or even all religious people into one group. Both sides, there I am lumping people together myself, seem to do it all the time. Simply telling me how I should look at or inform myself about the origin of the universe is trying to get me to join his/her lump. It’s more than just an opinion depending how it’s presented. My understanding is that the Torah tells us to become scientist, “conquer the world” it tells us to become doctors “help the needy and sick”. Earlier when talking about origins titleb said “You want a superstitious substitute involving magic and miracles? Look to religion. “. Basically that’s telling me it its their lump or no lump. I have a good idea where an atheist is coming from, I simply disagree with them on some things. One more, why are you not asking them the same question?

    • Alan says:

      “When you guys say “to THE ATHEIST (as if there is one reason or worldview behind a person’s lack of belief,) you sell tgem short.

      Have you ever watched the film, The Golden Compass?”

      CR,
      I’m not sure if I understand what you mean. When I say “Athiest”, I mean a person who doesn’t believe in any god or gods.
      I’ve never seen that movie.

  8. Concerned Reader says:

    Im not attempting to tell anyone how to think. I just understand (due to the amount of pure hell religions have inflicted on people, members and non members,) that an atheist is completely justified in asking how one can possibly impute this chaos to design?

    You have read my articles about how various Christian like ideas can (and have) arisen in later Judaism, and Jewish messianism. Look at what Christians did to the faith they sprang from? Look at the hate over what amounts to sectarian disagreement?

    I respect the right to disagree with an atheist, but when you say in a mocking fashion “shhh just listen to the random impulses,” implying that an atheist is stubnorn or foolish in refusing to see design, just remember that G-d’s alleged mouthpieces have given the atheists and agnostics all the room to doubt intelligent design that they would ever need.

    Sometimes it has nothing to do with the person denying the possibility, but trying to get theists to grasp that “I dont know all the answers” is an acceptable position.

    • Alan says:

      “but when you say in a mocking fashion “shhh just listen to the random impulses,” implying that an atheist is stubnorn or foolish in refusing to see design,”

      I think some athiests are stubborn and foolish and some athiests are not. I didn’t take Larry to mean that he was mocking anybody. At this point in my life and I believe in Larry’s life, it seems ridiculous TO US that this boy is not being guided by Hashem. We understand it can seem ridiculous to other people who don’t see reality the way we see it. We are not mocking tildeb, God forbid. I used to be an agnostic/athiest for the first half of my life.

      • LarryB says:

        Alan
        Thank you for your kind words. I wasn’t mocking titleb. I saw this interview on tv and was amazed how this baby was drawing musical notes and instruments at two yeas old. It’s an example of how both believers and non believers can share the same awe.

        • LarryB says:

          Alan
          BTW I would like to join the chorus of others and tell you how much I really enjoy reading your comments.

          • Alan says:

            Thank you Larry 🙂
            I feel the same way about you too. This is a special place (when I say “place” I don’t mean a physical place).

        • tildeb says:

          It is awesome. How did it come about? I don’t know but I think it’s certainly worth investigating before assigning a pseudo-answer to the question..

          • Dina says:

            In that case, I highly recommend yet again Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism by Moshe Averick.

          • bible819 says:

            HI Tildeb,

            I believe in Jesus Christ Crucified and Resurrection.
            I also believe in the Invisible God that spoke at Mount Sinai.
            What do you believe?

        • Concerned Reader says:

          I think some athiests are stubborn and foolish and some athiests are not. I didn’t take Larry to mean that he was mocking anybody.

          I dont think there is any malice on Larry’s part, its meant in jest, I get that.

          However, its just like Tildeb said. People question what is arguably our best observed explanatory model for how things like the mind work because of a faith position.

          I do respect the value Judaism places on science.

          The issue (as I see it) is that many a theist tries to tell science how to ask questions, and desparages scientific method, evolution, going so far as to spend millions to discredit established data, etc.

          Theists see a watch on a beach, so they infer that an intelligence created it, fine.

          That’s not where it stops though. When studying the watch, the theist thinks thereby that he can tell you the watchmaker’s favorite food, favorite music, what he loves, what he hates, and a complete personality.

          EVERY RELIGION creates an image of the maker’s will via this process, to varying degrees of nuance, and its that picture that people call G-d.

          Did you know that Hindu sources also say that G-d (Brahman) has no image? That to worship the images of Devas (the various images/manifestations) is an imperfect way to worship? The point? All humans make that mistake (often unintentionally.)

          The atheist is literally the best example of someone who puts no image to the possible alleged 1st cause, imputes no will, and yet tries to understand reality based on a model that we all experience together, can replicate, and can derive benefit from.

          Personally, I agree with Galileo that G-d has two books, science and faith, and the two can coexist, but shouldnt try to control the other.

          • Dina says:

            Con wrote:

            “Theists see a watch on a beach, so they infer that an intelligence created it, fine.

            That’s not where it stops though. When studying the watch, the theist thinks thereby that he can tell you the watchmaker’s favorite food, favorite music, what he loves, what he hates, and a complete personality.”

            So what? As long as they’re not imposing their views, ridiculous or otherwise on you, what do you care?

            Also, atheists can’t stand it for theists to even stop just at the implication of intelligent design. Even that is too much to bear.

          • Alan says:

            CR,
            “EVERY RELIGION creates an image of the maker’s will via this process, to varying degrees of nuance, and its that picture that people call G-d.”

            In Judaism, when there is no prophet, the only image of Hashem’s will that Jews perceive through nature is that Hashem is One and that He controls everything and that He is a giver. That’s it. The rest of what Jews know of Him is through studying and keeping the Torah.

          • tildeb says:

            Know? No you don’t.

            See, right there you assume to call your imported faith-based belief knowledge about something exterior to you. This is the fundamental misrepresentation that, like the phoenix, rises after every refutation. What you claim to know you do not know. You simply believe

            Sure, you have every right to believe whatever you want. And wouldn’t it be swell if that’s all it was. But you don’t have the right to make up your own facts, and the fact of the matter is that you do not know anything about this creator critter independent of you imported beliefs. That’s faith-based belief in action and it should be represented as such rather than misrepresented to be what it isn’t, namely, knowledge.

            Why does this matter so much? Why should it even be an issue of significant contention and tension between believers and non believers?

            Because it’s pernicious.

            At its root this chronic misrepresentation of a faith-based claim to be ‘knowledge’ is used as a springboard to then try to make faith-based beliefs equivalent to knowledge, as if it’s a different kind of knowledge, a different ‘way of knowing’. It isn’t. It is none of these.

            And this demand that others just go along to get along with this knowledge-charade motivates people to present their faith-based beliefs TO AFFECT in the public domain… an affect that is deeply pernicious because it relegates reality and what we can adduce from it to a secondary status, one to be shared with whatever belief you want to believe… no matter if it has any relation to our shared reality not if it conflicts with knowledge adduced from reality!

            That’s why it’s important to stop doing this, stop pretending faith-based beliefs are an equivalent source of knowledge… unless that knowledge can be demonstrated. And that’s where the rubber meets the road: faith-based beliefs presented as knowledge claims about reality carry the same burden of proof as any other knowledge claim. And yet this is exactly where faithesists suddenly retreat because they can’t carry this burden. That’s why they have to utilize faith.

            Faith-based beliefs possess no knowledge value. Zero. If they did, you wouldn’t need to use faith-based justifications for them but be able to demonstrate good reasons adduced from reality for their knowledge merit. These knowledge claims would stand or fall on their own merit… and adjust accordingly! That is what we do not see. The faith-based belief is maintained in spite of this failure to carry the burden of proof independent of the belief used by the believer. That’s why you have to prop up such a claim with your faith… because you can’t do so using good reasons based on good evidence. And that’s why your claim of knowledge is a misrepresentation and should be treated harshly and critically for this attempt at deception.

          • Alan says:

            If you don’t like the word know, let’s use the word perceive instead.
            You and nobody whoever walked this earth knows the true nature of reality. You have to believe that your senses give you true knowledge, but this is something you can never know for sure.

            What do you want from the people on this blog? What would you like us to do for you?

          • tildeb says:

            The comment about knowledge I made was in response to Alan’s statement, “The rest of what Jews know of Him is through studying and keeping the Torah.”

          • LarryB says:

            CR
            “I respect the right to disagree with an atheist, but when you say in a mocking fashion “shhh just listen to the random impulses,” implying that an atheist is stubnorn or foolish in refusing to see design.”
            ……”I dont think there is any malice on Larry’s part, its meant in jest, I get that.”
            Really.
            “The atheist is literally the best example of someone who puts no image to the possible alleged 1st cause, imputes no will, and yet tries to understand reality based on a model that we all experience together, can replicate, and can derive benefit from.”
            Really, and what does this even mean?
            What kind of a model are you even talking about?

          • Alan says:

            Larry,
            There is story of a rabbi who was speaking to an atheist and the rabbi said to him, “The god you don’t believe in, I also don’t believe in.”

            Atheism has a positive aspect to it in that it can demolish harmful and false ideas about God and allow true ones to take their place.

          • LarryB says:

            Alan
            I see your point. By itself @ I see where it fits in with CR’s comment. That’s not all that’s being said though.

  9. Dina says:

    The science is rarely settled on most issues. Questioning the results of tests, models, predictions, and so forth is healthy, not bad. I take issue with calling climate change skeptics deniers (most of whom are not skeptical that the climate changes, but of the idea that man-made contributions to climate change will cause catastrophe).

    When someone says “the science is settled,” meaning “end of discussion,” this is scary.

    I don’t want to start a discussion on the science, but when Tilly used the word deniers it rankled.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447215/climate-change-activists-science-deniers-environmentalism-public-policy

    • tildeb says:

      Yes, I understand that criticism. I’m coming around to thinking a better word might be ‘dismisser’ meaning someone who is ‘dismissive’ of what’s true for reasons other than respecting what’s true. And that’s usually identity. In other words, in order to maintain a particular identity, one must dismiss certain ideas and facts and evidence for ideological reasons rather than having to deal straight up and honestly with incompatible ideas, facts, and evidence.

      • Alan says:

        I think that traditional Judaism agrees with you. There is plenty of room in normal healthy Judaism for your way.

      • bible819 says:

        HI Tildeb,

        I believe in Jesus Christ Crucified and Resurrection.
        I also believe in the Invisible God that spoke at Mount Sinai.

        What do you believe?

  10. Concerned Reader says:

    Also, atheists can’t stand it for theists to even stop just at the implication of intelligent design. Even that is too much to bear.

    The problem is many theists wanting bereshit in science class taught on the same level as an observed phenomenon.

    • Dina says:

      Con, would atheists be okay with teaching just the theory of intelligent design along with the theory of evolution? I don’t think so.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        Dina, creationism is a hypothesis that requires faith. Evolution is an observed phenomenon occuring in nature. The fact that it is observable and testable, puts it on a different level than creationism.

        Think about it this way. Which deity would intelligent design in a science class prove as being the creator? Allah? Jesus, Brahman, or the Torah’s view of G-d?

        The answer would be none of these. And yet, intelligent design would be used by each mutually exclusive faith claim to say “Aha! It proves my deity is the true one.”

        • Alan says:

          “Evolution is an observed phenomenon occuring in nature. The fact that it is observable and testable, puts it on a different level than creationism.”

          No scientist has ever observed a new species evolve or even a new organ evolve. They’ve observed how adaptable genes and genetic expression are but not when it comes to turning into a new species or a new organ.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            They’ve observed how adaptable genes and genetic expression are but not when it comes to turning into a new species or a new organ.

            You are acting like evolution works in a vacuum Alan.

            WE DO have several examples of speciation, in fact several.

            When two distinct animals can mate, but produce sterile offspring, that is evidence of speciation. Ie horse and donkey.

            How do you explain a duckbill Platypus (an animal with Mamalian, and reptilian teaits?)

            Also, evolution has nothing to do with the deity question. A person can believe G-d acted via natural selection. IE religious objections usually have nothing to do with an inability to grasp evidence, but with a fear of possible implications for belief.

          • Alan says:

            “WE DO have several examples of speciation, in fact several.

            When two distinct animals can mate, but produce sterile offspring, that is evidence of speciation. Ie horse and donkey.”

            CR,
            A sterile hybrid like a mule is not a new species because there is no way for it to make another one. Athiests also need a kind of faith to believe in the evolution of species without a creative intelligent mind behind the process. According to kabbalah, Hashem in fact used a process of evolution to create – one thing being drawn out of the thing that came before it. But it takes a kind of faith to believe that everything just always existed in some form or another and that a soup of lifeless chemicals bumped into each other the right way to make a living machine that can perpetuate itself and ever more complex machines can keep emerging that can perpetuate themselves.

          • tildeb says:

            This claim about a ‘kind of faith’ needed for atheists to not believe in a creator tinkerer is what we in the atheist blogosphere call a PRATT – a point refuted a thousand times. The revival of such a claim demonstrates a dedicated point of view by the claimant that is impervious to change because no amount of explanation or accounting will alter it. After all, if it could, it would have already been altered.

            And the sordid history of this tedious and tired claim always goes back to how well (or, to be more accurate, how poorly) the claimant understands the mechanism(s) of evolution and the quality of the evidence (remember, evidence means a causal link) used to support it with the very highest degree of scientific confidence possible.

            Now consider this fact for a moment: the highest level of scientific confidence. Of any scientific model. Ever.

            So what?

            Well, when you disagree with the scientific consensus on this matter, you are in fact disagreeing not with atheists (that’s the wrong metric) but with almost all biologists. So it makes no sense to try to use theology to discredit the entire science of biology. But this IS, in fact, what such a claim means; you are disagreeing not just with the consensus of the best experts in the field but with the scientific method itself in order to disagree with a particular branch of science because of a particular effect that is caused when its most successful explanatory model in the history of science – all of science – conflicts with a particular aspect of your religious belief.

            That’s what you’re doing. As if you know more than everyone else, and certainly more than those who have amassed the greatest expertise about the topic. You. Are you really the smartest person not just in this room but in an entire academic field? Really? You honestly think so? That’s what you saying… just not so many words.

            What astounds and saddens me is the failure of the claimant to appreciate the extraordinary level of hubris and sanctimony necessary for a religious believer to discard and then think discredit so much in the name of so little (the creationist model usually framed in theological, metaphysical, and highly nebulous terminology that possesses no ‘alternative’ or ‘equivalent’ knowledge value whatsoever)… while completely oblivious to the fact that the same method used in the same field has produced so much understanding put to practical use in all kinds of applications, technologies, and therapies that – oh, by the greatest of coincidences – just so happens to work for everyone everywhere all the time. But nope; the religious believer eager to support some creationist model is absolutely oblivious to the scope of the mistake he or she has made (the colossal, even towering, amount of ego necessary to be so easily dismissive of so much) without offering anything even remotely as scientific an alternative or equivalent explanation.

            Intelligent Design is not science because it does not use this method; it uses what amounts in all ways to theology: a faith-based belief. That’s it. That’s why it is not and should not be taught in science class as if an ‘alternative’ or an ‘equivalent’ scientific explanatory model. It’s theology and, as such, is empty of any knowledge value about reality and full to the brim with assertions, assumptions, and attributions utterly divorced from having to factually account with testable and demonstrable independent evidence for the reality we share.

            None of this has anything to do with atheism and framing it as if it does is just a PRATT. It has everything to do with promoting a theological claim that has crossed the border into proposing and maintaining an anti-scientific contrary claim about reality. It is incompatible with science.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            Remember my brother is near the top of the field of genetics and molecular biology in the world. He recently had an article published in journal Nature. His name is Dr. David Silver at Duke Singapore previously at Columbia. Neither he nor I was raised religious. He is still not religious. Do you have a close relationship with any geneticists/molecular biologists like this?

          • tildeb says:

            Is he dismissive of the theory of evolution? Does he think for even one second that common ancestry is a flawed model? Does he honestly think that speciation is divorced from genetic inheritance?

            Look, I understand why there is difficulty looking at complex biological functions and not jumping to the conclusion of imposed design. It seems reasonable at first glance but there’s compelling evidence against it. So it’s repackaged into an either/or framework of either design or ‘chance’. (“it is impossible that DNA, RNA and genetics happened by chance.”) This is why I talked about scaffolding. Random small changes to genetic material that promote fitness through inheritance is what ‘chance’ in the evolutionary framework means, Of course no one is suggesting (other than creationists) that you mix some matter here with matter there and, PRESTO!, one has DNA (or , POOF!, humans). But that’s not what is meant by genetic inheritance over time that leads to speciation.

            I sincerely doubt you understand what your brother means by refuting the ‘chance’ claim. But that claim is not what the Theory of Evolution explains. It explains how small and incremental changes to genetic material over time leads to speciation. That’s why your DNA and your brother’s and mine still contains damage from an ancient simian virus; we’ve inherited it, meaning we share a common ancestor of a different species.

          • Alan says:

            “Is he dismissive of the theory of evolution?”
            No, neither am I.

            “Does he think for even one second that common ancestry is a flawed model? Does he honestly think that speciation is divorced from genetic inheritance?”

            No. I also think that speciation and genetic inheritance would go together.

            “I sincerely doubt you understand what your brother means by refuting the ‘chance’ claim.”
            He doesn’t believe in the same God as I believe in. But he does believe that an intelligent invisible “mind” is involved.

            “But that claim is not what the Theory of Evolution explains. It explains how small and incremental changes to genetic material over time leads to speciation.”

            It’s an ingenious explanation that I think works well with the kabbalistic idea of evolution.

            “That’s why your DNA and your brother’s and mine still contains damage from an ancient simian virus; we’ve inherited it, meaning we share a common ancestor of a different species.”

            This is new to me. Can you please show me an article on this simian virus?

            I believe the first cause of the origin of life and the evolution of species (whether according to science or kabbalah) is an intelligent first Existence. You don’t believe an intelligent self-aware mind had anything to do with the origin of life from lifeless sub-atomic particles. And all of this isn’t that important to me anymore. It’s not really relevant to how I live life the process of how the world and everything in it came to be. I am focused much more on HOW to live the best life I know how to live – how not to hurt anybody, how to share the burden with my fellow, how to develop self-control, how to tell myself ‘no’ when I want to over-indulge, how to develop loving and healthy relationships with others and with God (after 25 years of doing this, I have zero doubts that there is an invisible Mind that knows each and everyone of us because I have experienced it. Just like you have experienced the transcendent while playing the trumpet.)

          • Dina says:

            Tilly and Alan, evolution is not a problem for believers, and I just don’t understand why it keeps coming up in this discussion. The problem is origin of life. The discussion is a little over my non-scientific head (sorry, it’s just the way my brain is wired), but at the risk of sounding really, really, really tiresome, Moshe Averick does a great job explaining this in his book Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism.

          • tildeb says:

            Your brother would know far more about this than I but it has to do with the HERV family of viruses. From Wiki: “Human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) proviruses comprise a significant part of the human genome, with approximately 98,000 ERV elements and fragments making up 5–8%.[1] According to a study published in 2005, no HERVs capable of replication had been identified; all appeared to be defective, containing major deletions or nonsense mutations. This is because most HERVs are merely traces of original viruses, having first integrated millions of years ago.”

            As I said, this inheritance makes no sense outside of common ancestry. And common ancestry can speciate from very few to widely with many variables involved at each step of the way from a single parent species…. not least of which is environmental and geographical influences. For example, even something that is innocuous to us like a fairly gentle current in a lake can cause enough disruption in reproduction to bring about unquestionable speciation, so to extend that known mechanism from some tinkering in the distant past to explain results today is exactly the kind of ‘chance’ that creationists have already dismissed. This si why another model has all this work in front of it to explain what the evolutionary model so thoroughly does. And to have genetics align seamlessly (when it certainly didn’t have to… and should not have if the creationist model were the case) is itself powerful evidence of the tremendous explanatory power and value of this theory.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            Thank you.

            Here’s an article by an Orthodox Jewish PhD biologist/environmental scientist. I’m not saying this represents my view, but he is more qualified to write about evolution than any of us here on this blog –

            http://faithandscience.com/blog/2015/11/01/evolution-myths-and-fact/

          • Dina says:

            Alan, this article impressed me, a layperson. But I have no way of judging how sound the science is.

          • tildeb says:

            And yet uses typical PRATT right out of the gate to lay out his premises. He may be convincing to some, but why the immediate misrepresentations of what evolution is (what we in the atheist blogosphere call the ‘micro-macro mambo’)? Why not the best arguments honestly portrayed? Why the deceit… unless he has an agenda other than describing and respecting what’s true?

            This is a clue.

            I suspect his belief in Judaism guides his shaping of this issue, or, should I say, has determined his shaping of this issue rather than an honest and frank rendition of what the science actually is.

          • Alan says:

            “I suspect his belief in Judaism guides his shaping of this issue, or, should I say, has determined his shaping of this issue rather than an honest and frank rendition of what the science actually is.”

            tildeb,
            I can say the same thing about how your own vested interests and prejudices have prevented you from seeing parts of reality that other rational people have experienced. Let’s not say this about each other, and just move on in life, unless there is something more you want from us that you are not telling us.

          • tildeb says:

            No you can’t. Try and see.

          • Alan says:

            You’re not going to try with the Jewish biologist so I’m not going to try with you.

          • Dina says:

            “And yet uses typical PRATT right out of the gate to lay out his premises. He may be convincing to some, but why the immediate misrepresentations of what evolution is (what we in the atheist blogosphere call the ‘micro-macro mambo’)? Why not the best arguments honestly portrayed? Why the deceit… unless he has an agenda other than describing and respecting what’s true?”

            Tilly, if you charge someone with dishonesty then you need to substantiate the charge.
            That is only fair. Please tell us what in this article is dishonest and exactly why it is dishonest.

          • tildeb says:

            I thought I did, Dina: he misrepresents what evolution is. Right off the bat.

          • Dina says:

            No, all you did was say he misrepresented it. So how does he misrepresent it? What does he say that is factually incorrect?

          • tildeb says:

            What is the theory of evolution? In a nutshell, it is an explanation of how life changes over time. The (major) mechanism by which this happens is by natural selection. These explanations of the what and how are fully borne out by absolutely, unequivocal, overwhelming evidence. Does Gotfryd disagree?

            Well, he pretends to agree but with an introduced caveat: “If we define evolution as simply a change in species over time, any student of biology must agree that species do evolve, for it is an often observed fact that many species do change over time.”

            Then he offers us ‘another hand’ when he says, “If, on the other hand, we define evolution in the Darwinian sense – as a process of random mutation and natural selection by which all living beings have arisen by chance from single-celled organisms over 100’s of millions of years – we may not be on equally firm ground from a scientific perspective.

            That’s not the Darwinian ‘sense’ what evolution means. It is Gotfryd who has decided on his own to include the slimy phrase “all living beings have arisen by chance from single-celled organisms over 100’s of millions of years.”

            Notice the misrepresentations right off the bat? He presents evolution as if it has two legitimate ‘senses.’ It doesn’t. That’s not scientific; that’s religious ideology coming into play to make room for the micro-macro mambo. It’s intentionally dishonest.

            In the first ‘IF’ he slyly changes ‘life’ to become a group of things called ‘species’. Why is this a misrepresentation? Because species are a product of evolution and not a starting point.

            Why does this matter?

            It matters because the evidence we have today derives from what existed yesterday. Evidence isn;t POOFed into being today when we talk about evolution. So getting this order right is rather important. What Gotfryd does is reverse this order for his argument, that the process that led to speciation – genetic changes that favoured greater reproductive success to the second generation (changes to allele frequencies over time, which is equally and absolutely, unequivocally, overwhelmingly true because it is demonstrable with every single reproductive event) – is somehow unsettled or open to debate. It’s not. He knows this. And yet he offers no contrary evidence or alternative explanation for some ‘other’ source for his arbitrary decision to divide evolution into two different ‘senses. And I suspect that that it is because he knows perfectly well that what he’s trying to draw into question – speciation – is scientifically unassailable. He needs something else to do this smear job.

            So how does he go about this? Well, he tries to sound sciency…”To explain, random mutation refers to tiny, unpredictable changes in the hereditary qualities of a living being that get passed down to the next generation. If this slight change improves the chances of survival of the offspring, the next generation of that species will have slightly more of this new quality. This is the concept of survival of the fittest”

            What? No, it’s not. This is a PRATT.

            Fitness in evolutionary terms means the success of passing on genetic information into the second generation (in other words the emphasis for fitness is on heritability). That’s it. It too is an unassailable fact demonstrated by every successful species large or small who increase their population into the second generation: they possess the genes that survive the constraining pressures of their parents and into greater reproductive success.

            Survival of the fittest is not even a biological term! But telling us as much doesn’t suit Gotfryd’s thesis supposedly critical of ‘evolution’ because ‘the science is unsettled’, now does it?

            These are the red flags of religious apologetics in action: misrepresentation under the guise of science by those who know better, who know perfectly well that evolution is as much a fact as anything humanity can claim to know anything about, that it possesses stronger evidence than any other human explanation about any other aspect of reality.

            Survival of the fittest is a term used by Huxley – not Darwin – and it is an argument Huxley wrote about against the rise of what he called ‘social Darwinism’, a movement Huxley criticizes when he writes: “There is another fallacy which appears to me to pervade the so-called “ethics of evolution.” It is the notion that because, on the whole, animals and plants have advanced in perfection of organization by means of the struggle for existence and the consequent “survival of the fittest;” therefore men in society, men as ethical beings, must look to the same process to help them towards perfection. I suspect that this fallacy has arisen out of the unfortunate ambiguity of the phrase “survival of the fittest. Fittest has a connotation of ”best;” and about “best” there hangs a moral flavour. In cosmic nature, however, what is “fittest” depends upon the conditions.

            Huxley then writes about these conditions and how fitness – reproductive success – has been rewarded by humanity’s behaviour to socialize in cooperation. He says, “Moreover, the cosmic nature born with us and, to a large extent, necessary for our maintenance, is the outcome of millions of years of severe training, and it would be folly to imagine that a few centuries will suffice to subdue its masterfulness to purely ethical ends. Ethical nature may count upon having to reckon with a tenacious and powerful enemy as long as the world lasts.”

            But Huxley is still hopeful and he shows this when he writes, “The intelligence which has converted the brother of the wolf into the faithful guardian of the flock ought to be able to do something towards curbing the instincts of savagery in civilized men.”

            Gotfryd cares not one whit about the science of evolution nor does he feel any obligation to represent it fairly and honestly and consistently in this kind of essay. I suspect he is writing simply for his audience, and audience eager to find people with letters after their names to comport to their superstitious beliefs about a Creator they wish to believe in.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, thanks for taking the time to explain. I appreciate it! I didn’t quite follow everything Gotfryd said and I don’t quite follow everything you said. Meaning, both of you are over my head! So I’m curious to see what my more science-minded friends have to say to this.

          • Alan says:

            “So I’m curious to see what my more science-minded friends have to say to this.”

            Rabbi B already responded to tildeb over a year ago but Tildeb hasn’t yet replied.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, your thoughts on this? Have you seen this post by Rabbi B.?

            For your convenience, here is the link again:

            https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/facing-reality-an-open-reply-to-tildeb/

          • tildeb says:

            I did not reply because there was no point.

            Look, there are different ways of approaching something: for understanding, for learning, and for refutation. YPF’s method is to ‘know’ that evolution must contain enough weakness, enough doubt, enough uncertainty, to allow enough wiggle room for creationism. That is a starting point and everything he wrote in that post was to question but conform with whatever he could find with this basic assumption. This is not a method to understand not to learn and he demonstrated this in the later comments to CR.

            The problem is that the assumption he makes has no knowledge merit. It seeks only to deny that which does… in this case evolution and the mechanisms demonstrated to be unguided and without purpose by which it occurs. This is beautifully rendered by Lenske’s bacteria experiments: through common ancestry, random mutations that increase fitness cause speciation.

            Now one can approach this information with the intent to discredit it and this is what we call ‘peer review’. It’s a part of the scientific method, done by other scientists. Another way is through replication. This, too is part of the scientific method. The hypothesis for evolution by natural selection has undergone nearly a hundred and fifty years of this investigative crucible and has come out the other side with so much explanatory power comporting with evidence from reality in every case that it is a theory. A scientific theory. The good rabbi tries to present this accumulated refinement and support that has altered the hypothesis into a theory to be an ideology derived from a faith in science, both a faith and an ideology that I subscribe to in the same way one subscribes to any other faith-based, evidence lacking belief. The scope of the distortion is massive and it can only be so wrong by a dedication to refusing to understand why the theory is a theory, refusing to learn how it has come to be this way, and imposing a belief that he already knows… and, oh look, we can find stuff on the internet that seems to agree! Now, what am I going to do about that?

            Well…nothing. It’s not job to force anyone to understand or learn about anything (which is why many in the atheist blogging community will not debate or even comment with creationists because there is mounting evidence that it is futile from the start and serves only to highlight creationism as if it were a legitimate alternative, which it most assuredly is not because it has no knowledge value.) Such an endeavor would be a waste of my time and my effort to dismantle piece by piece by piece the massive distortion YPF is going to maintain no matter what I offer. And we know this because of his methodological approach. His goal is not to understand, not to learn, but to deny. If he spent the same amount of time learning why the theory of evolution is true he would realize why his creationist motivation denies him an honest and educated understanding. At that point I would gladly respond to legitimate questions.

          • Alan says:

            You referred to Rabbi B as a “creationist” several times in your comment. What makes him a creationist and what do you see is pernicious about what makes him a creationist?

            Was Dobzhansky a creationist?

            You wrote: “in this case evolution and the mechanisms demonstrated to be unguided and without purpose by which it occurs. ”

            How was it demonstrated scientifically that evolution is unguided and without purpose by which it occurs?

          • Alan says:

            tildeb refers to Rabbi B as a “creationist” in his latest comment. But Rabbi B writes in his article: “In my post entitled “Random Reality” I clarified that I believe that evolution happens. It is happening today and no one can deny it. ”

            So please will you tell us why you use the word “creationist” to label Rabbi B, and what is pernicious about what makes him a creationist. And more importantly you say that science has demonstrated that evolution is “unguided and purposeless” when we all know that this is something that science can never prove.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, if you cared about truth you would take the time to show us the “massive” distortions. Now all of a sudden it’s futile to argue with us? Why did you come here in the first place? You could have saved yourself a lot of time. Why back off now?

          • tildeb says:

            Because he believes in a creator… in spite of a lack of evidence where it should be combined with a lack evidence for this at all (except as a circular argument that because creation exists, there must be a creator… and then taken to the next step that we really, really, really can have a ‘concrete relationship’ with its creator by having a relationship with creation). This is the necessary assumption to approach evolution with a mindset already firmly in place that there must room for a creator in it… hence the need for the micro-macro mambo where one can try to say earnestly that one ‘really, really, really does ‘believe’ in evolution while at the same time insisting that it really, really, really cannot be a NATURAL, unguided, and purely biological mechanistic process independent of any intervening agency, which is the very definition of evolution.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,

            I asked another question: Was Dobzhansky a creationist?

            So even if a person says they accept that evolution is real, if they also believe in a creator, they do not really accept evolution?

          • tildeb says:

            Alan writes, “I asked another question: Was Dobzhansky a creationist?

            So even if a person says they accept that evolution is real, if they also believe in a creator, they do not really accept evolution?”

            Correct. In fact, I think – I could be wrong – that it was Dobzhansky who first introduced the micro-macro mambo (for just this reason, presumably… to make theological wiggle room in a scientific model).

          • Alan says:

            Ok, now I’m starting to understand better. So a person who believes in a Creator can never be a true scientist even if they leave their Creator outside of their scientific research?

          • tildeb says:

            No. Change the word ‘even’ to ‘only’ and you’ll fix the problem. Obviously, many great scientists have been and are religious and believe in creator but they must keep these beliefs out of their science in order to do good science. .

          • Alan says:

            Do you think it’s PRACTICALLY possible for a scientist who believes in a Creator to do good science?

          • Alan says:

            “Obviously, many great scientists have been and are religious and believe in creator but they must keep these beliefs out of their science in order to do good science”

            Ok, I re-read this. So you do believe a theist can be a good scientist. I think so too.

          • Tildeb (and Alan) I see that the two of you have misunderstood my position on evolution – in other words you misunderstood my article. I did NOT speak of any “intervention” into the evolutionary process. I spoke of it being non-random. Not because someone or something is intervening, but because the organism is reacting to its surroundings. There is much scientific evidence to this position – read Spetner’s books (The Evolution Revolution and Not by Chance). I already pointed out that there are many good Jews who accept Darwinian evolution (such as Rabbi Sacks from the UK) so I am not forced into accepting Spetner’s arguments because of my belief in a Creator. I am not a biologist, so my opinion counts for very little. Its just that I have read Spetner’s arguments – I have read some of the counter arguments – and Spetner’s arguments seem to be rooted in science while those who disagree with him seem to be rooted in dogmatic fundamentalism. Yes, Lenski’s experiment is an argument against Spetner’s position. But Spetner treats this argument with a lengthy, respectful discussion which seems to me quite logical. While the scientific evidence that Spetner brings for his position is generally dismissed by his opponents with derision and a lack of understanding.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            So you accept that we are related by ancestry to the carrot and Cambrian blood worm?

          • Alan says:

            “So you accept that we are related by ancestry to the carrot and Cambrian blood worm?”

            tildeb,
            He answered this question already in his article. Please read it again when you have a chance and see if you can tell what his answer is.

            Also, do you see that we both misunderstood what he meant by the process possibly being “non-random”? (We both thought he was referring to divine intervention, but he wasn’t.)

          • Alan says:

            I would appreciate if you could tell me if there is any evidence for any new organs evolving – organs on the level of brain, heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, spleen, skin or on the level of cellular organelles.

          • Alan says:

            Hi Rabbi B,
            Now I see that I misunderstood what you meant by the process being “non-random”. Thank you for pointing that out to me.

            Tildeb,
            Do you see that we both misunderstood Rabbi B’s article? Now that you see that Rabbi B doesn’t deny that evolution occurs and that his argument that the process could be non-random has nothing to do with Creationism or with, as you put it, a “divine tweaker”, will you now respond to his article? – as you wrote you would –

            “If he [Rabbi B] spent the same amount of time learning why the theory of evolution is true he would realize why his creationist motivation denies him an honest and educated understanding. At that point I would gladly respond to legitimate questions.”

          • tildeb says:

            Evolution MEANS a natural, unguided process of how life changes over time through common ancestry… mainly by the mechanism of NATURAL selection.

            Rabbi B says he believes this and so I’ve misunderstood.

            Really?

            He does not believe this definition. He believes that some creator critter programmed something somewhere into becoming this process of evolution. But just to cover the bases, he calls this intervention preprogramming… as if that means more of a hands-off approach to the tweeking and the twiddling for what we call theistic evolution, believing that some designing agency set evolution into motion. The problem is, either this concept is contrary to the definition of a evolution as natural, unguided emergent property of matter and energy or it is identical in all ways to a natural unguided process by matter and energy alone. Either way, theistic evolution is not a scientific understanding but a purely religious idea unsupported by any evidence at all. It is an empty claim… again, to insert wiggle room into a scientific understanding for a religious idea for which there is no evidence from reality.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, I googled “evolution” and here is what I found:

            1. the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.
            synonyms: Darwinism, natural selection
            “his interest in evolution”

            2. the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.
            “the forms of written languages undergo constant evolution”
            synonyms: development, advancement, growth, rise, progress, expansion, unfolding

            Are you sure you didn’t add the word “unguided”? Who added that word to the definition? I looked at a few other definitions and didn’t see that word there.

          • tildeb says:

            The Theory of Evolution contains six parts (evolution, gradualism, speciation, common ancestry, natural selection, nonselective mechanisms), which are often summarized into a single general sentence. No part is ‘guided’, hence the inclusion of ‘unguided’, which is an essential understanding for the term ‘natural’.

          • Alan says:

            Tildeb,

            Are you saying that there is no dispute among scientists (the ones who do good science) over whether evolution is driven 100% by random mutations? There is no good science that has shown any evidence that contradicts random mutations? Is this what you’re saying?

            And the same thing for common descent – are you saying there is no dispute over this among scientists who do good science?

            When you have a chance please let me know about evidence for the evolution of organs and organelles.

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, there are always disputes among scientists. Your task is to figure out whether these disputes are trivial or profound. And there is no profound evidence contrary to the theory of evolution. For example, there remains hot debate about the various mechanisms – from unlikely to likely – for genetic changes.

            So what?

            What you’re suggesting is that we focus on the trivial (meaning quibbles among specialists about particulars) where legitimate questions of differences and likelihood is then transported and misrepresented to be legitimate questions indicating profound differences. The intention behind this method of approach is to be dishonest from the start in that one is not seeking to answer questions of real differences of importance about these details through legitimate collaborative inquiry and modeling but to promote the differences as if they were by their presence irreconcilable with the principle theory in order to substitute woo as if this it were a legitimate ‘alternative’. This is a diversion tactic from having to produce a similar ‘alternative’ model that accounts for an equivalent model… because you’ve still got all your real work ahead of you. But, of course, you care nothing about that lack of substance for some alternative model other than try to use the diversion to make wiggle room for some creator critter ‘outside’ the universe (whatever that means, and with ‘whom’ you can supposedly have a concrete relationship on the same level as far as I can tell of having a ‘concrete’ relationship with the astrological house of Gemini populated by the Twins). And the ‘alternative’ mechanism we are told to believe is some unknown and unknowable divine hand wave that looks just like POOF!ism.

            As for the evolution of sensory organs, any curiosity you have about the evidence for this can be done by you…. when you have the chance. I’m particularly amazed and amused at the amount of olfactory neurology found in whales (not to mention their utterly useless pelvic bones). Even POOF!ism has a hard time modeling this one example… out of thousands. But you’d know this if you had done even a modicum of honest inquiry.

          • Alan says:

            Tildeb,
            I inquired with Dr. David Silver, no newly evolved organs or organelles have ever been observed. He believes he can demonstrate the evolution of organelles from genomics.

          • tildeb “Evolution” does not by definition mean “common ancestry” and it does not by definition mean “unguided” in the sense of “random mutations” – The prevalent version of the theory of evolution includes common ancestry and random mutations in the total theory but that is not what the word means. I made that clear in my article. Tildeb – I am not a scientist. And I have no problem from a religious standpoint to accept the full breadth of Darwinian evolution including common ancestry and random mutations. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who is an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, who I respect as a representative of my religion wrote a book explaining how he could accept Darwinian evolution and accept the testimony of Israel at the same time. The reason I favor Spetner’s understanding of evolution – again – not as a scientist, but as a student of human conversation, is because his arguments sound logical and rational, while the arguments of those who oppose him sound, let me say – “faith-based.”

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan I will answer for tildeb (if I may). If evolution is non-random but pre-programmed as I posit in my article (which is basically Lee Spetner’s position written in simple terms) than the e-coli bacteria should have evolved much faster – it shouldn’t have taken 30,000 generations. 30,000 generations is statistically compatible with a calculation of random mutations. Did I get it right tildeb? I addressed this experiment in the article – again taken from Spetner (I am not sure if I got this from my correspondence with him or from one of his two books.) 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan says:

            “than the e-coli bacteria should have evolved much faster” – God could have programmed it this way and if He is guiding the process, He can speed it up or slow it down however He sees fit. Is this what tildeb is going on to make his claim that “it has been demonstrated that evolution is unguided and without purpose…”?

          • Alan Tha is not what Spetner (or myself) were arguing for at all. The argument is that evolution is preprogrammed into the original organism – not that there is active divine intervention i the process. Lenski’s experiment seems to prove that evolution is not preprogrammed.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan says:

            Do you think that Lenski’s experiment is a serious challenge to evolution being pre-programmed in the original organism? If it is, how does this demonstrate that the process is definitely unguided? God could (and I believe does) use what appear to be random events to conceal Himself (e.g. the book of Esther).

          • tildeb says:

            Where’s the guidance? Where’s this supposedly necessary Designer? The point is, there doesn’t have to be one. Mutation and NATURAL selection is all the engine that is required for speciation from a common ancestor. This IS evolution. It’s demonstrable. There is no reason to insist that there must be some agency of Oogity Boogity! hovering nearby to tweak and twiddle with genes to create new species.

          • Alan says:

            “Where’s the guidance? Where’s this supposedly necessary Designer? The point is, there doesn’t have to be one. Mutation and NATURAL selection is all the engine that is required for speciation from a common ancestor. This IS evolution. It’s demonstrable. There is no reason to insist that there must be some agency of Oogity Boogity! hovering nearby to tweak and twiddle with genes to create new species.”

            There is room within Judaism to tolerate such a belief. And if a benefit to the world can come out of this outlook through science, then we are all for it and will participate in it. Ok?

          • tildeb says:

            Alan writes, “There is room within Judaism to tolerate such a belief (in a divine tweaker) . And if a benefit to the world can come out of this…”

            There’s the causal claim that has no evidence: Evidence links a selected effect to a cause such that if you remove the cause you remove the effect. Think. Does getting rid of the tweaker’ get rid of the effect, the genetic mutation leading to speciation? You have no evidence for this. The assumption is that religion in your preferred form delivers benefit, a claim I find unconvincing when compared to the costs.

          • Alan says:

            “Does getting rid of the tweaker’ get rid of the effect, the genetic mutation leading to speciation? You have no evidence for this.”

            You think it’s impossible for a scientist who believes in a Creator to practically act and behave and work like a real scientist? This is the same question I asked before so no need to answer it here.

          • tildeb says:

            Because it’s been demonstrated to happen in a controlled experiment.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,

            I asked you about 3 questions. Which one does this reply answer? I honestly can’t tell.

          • Alan says:

            I am not able to follow what you wrote.

            “…who know perfectly well that evolution is as much a fact as anything humanity can claim to know anything about, that it possesses stronger evidence than any other human explanation about any other aspect of reality.”

            Did you read the article Rabbi B wrote against to this claim you’re making?

          • Dina says:

            Alan, how do you know the author of the article is an Orthodox Jewish PhD biologist/environmental scientist? I can’t even find the author’s name; there is no byline or author bio.

          • Alan says:

            Dina,
            All of the articles on faithandscience.com were written by him.

          • Dina says:

            Thanks, Alan!

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, you say, “I have zero doubts that there is an invisible Mind that knows each and everyone of us because I have experienced it.”

            It is the ‘what’ part of your experience that I point out is worthy of further inquiry. I hear this claim all the time, that it is this personal experience of “____” (insert whatever supernatural agency you wan there) that is the problem; this is the imported belief component. Remember, we have bicameral brains and so what we think of as a separate and distinct agency may not be the case at all. The attribution to some outside agency is the part that I claim comes from you. We can duplicate by magnetic interference of specific parts of the brain personal experiences of a different, separate, distinct, invisible yet present agency. The participants swear up and down that this agency is outside of themselves, that they ‘experience’ the reality of this Other agency by sensory means. The thing is, our brains fool us all the time and so granting no space for legitimate skepticism about the source of this ‘invisible Mind’ seems to me to be a classical case of importing a faith-based position to then justify the faith-based position.

          • Alan says:

            Please answer my other questions first before I answer this one. Thank you.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            You have zero doubts that the sound produced by musicians playing together is “greater” than the musicians playing alone. How did you arrive at the knowledge that it is greater? Did you measure this greatness with any scientific instruments that shows it is greater? You are defining “greater” as something more than what can be measured by instruments. But you know it is greater because you and many others use the same word “greater” to describe their experience.

            Religious people have experienced things together over and over again throughout the generations. I have seen together with others and have heard so many things that can’t be measured by scientific instruments but we all have the same or very similar descriptions of what happened. We know it happened even though it can’t be measured.

          • Alan says:

            Leaving my direct line of information to genetics/evolution aside, I don’t reject anything in science that has been solidly shown to be true over and over again. I also don’t reject the evolution of species even though nobody has never actually seen a new organ or species that can perpetuate itself come into existence. Nobody has ever seen a soup of chemicals turn into a self-perpetuating machine. But I believe this could have been the way Hashem made the world and set up the world to come into existence.

          • tildeb says:

            I’m relieved to hear that. But common ancestry through fitness is a truly bizarre means to accomplish a highly uncertain outcome. In fact, it looks exactly like a natural, unguided process.

          • LarryB says:

            Alan
            “But I believe this could have been the way Hashem made the world and set up the world to come into existence.”
            I don’t think this is what is taught but it is interesting that Genesis tells us that. God said “let the Earth bring forth vegetation” and ” the Earth brought forth vegetation” of all the other things that God is credited with creation this is the only one I can find that it doesn’t specifically say and God created, compare them to the luminaries, the fish, animals, man.

          • Alan says:

            Larry,
            That’s extremely interesting! I never noticed that before! Good noticing! I don’t have an answer though. If you want to give another job to Rabbi B you can ask him. 😉

          • Alan says:

            It would seem that the earth, as opposed to all of the other sources from which the other creatures sprung forth (water, sky), possessed some kind of free will, believe it or not. It sounds incredible but it might be in line with certain teachings of the sages.

          • LarryB says:

            Alan
            I’ve been studying Genesis for two years, I’m glad it wasn’t a waste if time. I’m sure though I’m not the only one.

          • LarryB says:

            Alan
            I would love to see the reasoning for the earth having free will but clearly we are not the only beings that do. At least it appears that way. Look at the serpent. Cunning, could talk to humans, it could reason, knew God and the difference between life and death,
            @ the value of knowledge. It knew gods commandment, at least of the tree. Of course it depends on what you would describe as free will.

          • Alan says:

            All I have is the following – Rashi brings the Midrash on Genesis 1:11 on the words “fruit trees” –

            fruit trees: That the taste of the tree should be like the taste of the fruit. It [the earth] did not do so, however, but “the earth gave forth, etc., trees producing fruit,” but the trees themselves were not fruit. Therefore, when man was cursed because of his iniquity, it [the earth] too was punished for its iniquity (and was cursed-not in all editions). – [from Gen. Rabbah 5:9]

            My understanding of the “earth’s sin” has always been not to take it literally, but perhaps it can be taken more literally. I really don’t know.

        • Dina says:

          Con, no it isn’t. No one has ever observed, or has ever been able to replicate in a lab, how that first living cell came into existence. That’s why this particular aspect of the theory is still just a theory. And I don’t think public schools should teach any religion over the other, that being a separation of church and state issue. I think atheists would have a huge problem with just presenting to students that some people believe that the universe shows signs of intelligent design while others believe in the theory of evolution and yet others in both.

          Remember what I was originally responding to. You said it wasn’t enough for the theist to deduce an intelligent designer behind a watch, but he has to go further and deduce the whole personality of the watchmaker. I said that even the first deduction is too much for atheists to bear. Do you see what I’m trying to say?

          In this particular comment, I’m neither defending or opposing. I’m just stating an observation.

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, origins has nothing to do with the theory of evolution. About this event, all we have is an honest “I don’t know.” To continue this theme, I don’t know why ‘I don’t know’ isn’t good enough for many of those who do not know!

          • Dina says:

            An honest “I don’t know” is great. I have no issue with it. Evolution may be a theory with holes in it or not, but that is not the issue that need divide atheists and theists.

            As you know, I’m a big believer in live and let live and I have a lot of respect for people who search for truth and knowledge, wherever that leads them–even if their conclusions differ from mine. I have no desire to impose my conclusions on anyone.

          • tildeb says:

            In principle, I agree with you. The big caveat is in practice…. where people who don’t know pretend they do and teach “I don’t know” stuff as if equivalent or compatible with explanatory models that have compelling evidence in their favour. The reason why your doctor asks for your family history is because we really can and do get benefit from this kind of working backwards – because of direct linking – and the same is true for evolution and common ancestry. We really can and do get benefit from this kind of working backwards so it has more value than Just So stories. But this can only take you as far as the compelling evidence takes you and then one is left as conjecture that has to fit the same model. That’s why you hear about a primordial soup where the basic building blocks of life are in proximity fueled by enough energy to undergo the necessary chemical processes to kick start what we would call life. And the basic model is extrapolated from even the most complex processes: local units obeying local rules. The patterns and complexity and emergent properties from this basic model seems to fit all available evidence so it’s more than a Just So story even if it is conjecture. Then conjecture fits the model and the model accounts for the evidence… right up to today. That’s why we can teach this as part of science.

          • Alan says:

            “the basic building blocks of life are in proximity fueled by enough energy to undergo the necessary chemical processes to kick start what we would call life.”

            A rational explanation for this is an intelligent agent. I accept that you are comfortable with living with no explanation. Can you accept that I am comfortable living with my explanation? If you can’t accept it, why not?

          • tildeb says:

            Because such a designer is not just unnecessary but adds a huge component of unknowable complexity (and how did the Designer come into life, by what means, by what mechanisms can achieve affect, and so on?) to explain without any reason what is in fact and display a very simple model for which we have plenty of real world examples: local units obeying local physical rules. So unless this Designer is synonymous with all the properties of ‘gravity’, I see no reasonable grounds to make such an assertion. This urge to include woo is not an addition but a subtraction from gaining a working understanding that matches biology with physics and chemistry. There is no need for this god hypothesis.

          • Alan says:

            “Because such a designer is not just unnecessary but adds a huge component of unknowable complexity (and how did the Designer come into life, by what means, by what mechanisms can achieve affect, and so on?) ”

            tildeb,
            A Unified Field Theory wouldn’t add a huge amount of simplicity?
            You believe that the universe didn’t come into existence, that it didn’t have a beginning, it just always was, albeit in a different state.

          • tildeb says:

            I have no clue how the universe came into being or what may have existed or occurred ‘before’ the Big Bang (a very complicated ‘before’ because time as we know it began at that moment due to the necessity for entropy, but that model has very compelling evidence leading to such an event. So, regarding claims of divine tinkering after than event, I have yet to encounter any such evidence. But that lack of evidence is a problem only for those who claim it to be the case and it’s a problem that isn’t going to go away by importing words games and logic loops and metaphysical claims and suggesting ‘relationship’ with the hypothetical tinkerer.

          • Dina says:

            So, to conclude, Tilly, I find the intelligence design argument compelling and you do not. You find the primordial soup of inanimate matter compelling and I do not. And that is all fine with me.

            I do have a question for you, though. Is there any standard of evidence you would accept for an intelligent designer of the universe, or do you know for sure there can’t be one so you would reject any evidence a priori? I’m not saying there is evidence, just wondering if there is a standard you would accept and if so, what is it?

          • tildeb says:

            Reams of possible evidence, Dina… all of which are missing.

            There could be evidence of intervention. There isn’t.

            There could be evidence of a single founding couple. There isn’t.

            There could be evidence of distinct genetic lines. There isn’t.

            There could be energy fields present but unaccounted for. There isn’t.

            There could be evidence for occasional events contrary to the laws of nature. There isn’t.

            Prayers could work. They don;t.

            I mean, seriously, the list of compelling evidence for a Designer that could be available and knowable to us truly is vast, yet nothing is there… every single time.

            It is a reasonable conclusion that there is no creator given the current state of available evidence… evidence where it exists of natural unguided physical and chemical processes, combined with the lack of evidence for intervention of these natural unguided physical and chemical processes where it should be plentiful. So the hypothesis of an intervening or creative Designer has no merit because it possesses no evidence independent of people… people who just so happen to be willing to accept a level of credulity in order to believe in supernatural causal agencies as if it this credulity were a virtue. Hence, the fundamental need for faith rather than reason, faith-based rather than and often in spite of evidence-adduced belief, a false certainty of faith to withstand the compelling but contrary and conflicting data.

            You can find some religions without creationism but as far as I can tell you won’t creationism without religion. That’s a clue…

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            Theists have more than enough evidence to rationally believe. And many or most theists have experienced transcendent things (things that are less rationally attributable to nature/chance than to God) similar what you have experienced of transcendance in your music (the sum is greater than the parts).

            If you can’t accept that we are like this, what do you want to do about it? What do you want from us?

          • tildeb says:

            I never claimed transcendence in music; I claimed emergent properties could be created and demonstrated from interactions with constituent matter… in my case, sound – from what appears to the senses to be something more than just the constituent parts. In other words, no god is necessary and the universe and everything it contains – including us – can be just fine without it.

            Your question about wanting something from ‘Us’ (meaning Jews on this site, I presume) reminds me of a slogan that could have been used at some of the recent marches for science and the environment :

            “What do we want?” Honesty.
            “When do we want it?” Now.
            “Why do we want it?” To set the foundation necessary for addressing real world problems by first establishing respect for reality and what it tells us about itself.
            “Who do want it from?” From those who confuse faith-based belief to be a legitimate method of justification for real world actions.
            “Where do we want it?” Throughout the public domain with any issue that affects real people in real life in the real world.

          • Alan says:

            “I never claimed transcendence in music;:

            Please explain your statement that harmony among musicians gives rise to a sum that is greater than its parts. How do you know the sum is greater than its parts?

          • Alan says:

            “Your question about wanting something from ‘Us’ (meaning Jews on this site, I presume)”

            Most of the people on this blog are not Jewish.

            “reminds me of a slogan that could have been used at some of the recent marches for science and the environment :

            “What do we want?” Honesty.
            “When do we want it?” Now.
            “Why do we want it?” To set the foundation necessary for addressing real world problems by first establishing respect for reality and what it tells us about itself.
            “Who do want it from?” From those who confuse faith-based belief to be a legitimate method of justification for real world actions.
            “Where do we want it?” Throughout the public domain with any issue that affects real people in real life in the real world.”

            If you want to see a healthy attitude about atheists please watch the debate between Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Richard Dawkins. There is no chance you will make us become atheists, but we are happy to talk and work with you on projects to repair and heal our broken world through scientific means.

          • tildeb
            Evidence of intervention there isn’t but there is much evidence that the process is not random but preprogrammed – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/facing-reality-an-open-reply-to-tildeb/

            There is no evidence of a single founding coupe and/or distinct genetic lines but there is evidence against the current models of the theory for common descent (see references in above article)

            I don’t know what you want with energy fields so I will not address it

            There is evidence for events that don’t conform to the general pattern – http://www.benmelech.org/z-def/english/israel-bailey.htm

            And there is evidence that faith affects your health statistics – http://taubcenter.org.il/wp-content/files_mf/therelationshipbetweensocialcapitalandhealthintheharedisectorenglish.pdf

          • tildeb says:

            The energy fields are important because these contain evidence of energy. When nearly 100% of energy can be successfully captured and attributed, there is not enough room left over for intervention… except at the very large and very small extremes (what we call ‘quantum data). What this means is that any tinkering must be at such an extreme distance that at its powerful it equates with ‘chance’, with ‘randomness’. Now in what field of science have we heard those terms before?

          • Alan says:

            “tildeb
            Evidence of intervention there isn’t but there is much evidence that the process is not random but preprogrammed – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/facing-reality-an-open-reply-to-tildeb/

            I wonder why tildeb didn’t reply to this letter by Rabbi B at least after seeing the tremendous amount of work Rabbi B obviously put into it.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, I don’t know why evidence of a single founding couple (a story we do not necessarily take literally), why evidence of distinct genetic lines (this really baffled me!) would be enough evidence for you to accept God. Even I can think of arguments that can fit this evidence neatly into an atheist explanation.

            But I do understand evidence of intervention. So if evidence of intervention were clear, that would be enough for you to accept the idea of an outside force guiding the universe? Is there any other kind of evidence? Just curious. This isn’t a trap, I’m not going anywhere with this.

          • tildeb says:

            Such evidence would immediately raise the level of likelihood from zero to something more. It’s a start. And if we multiplied incongruous evidence to what looks exactly like a natural, unguided, purposeless universe by many factors, then I’m sure you would agree that this would have to help the creationist claim and make it more reasonable.

            But right now there is… nothing… no evidence independent of religious belief. Why the profound absence?

            In fact, there is nothing but evidence for a natural, unguided, purposeless universe operating indifferently to everything affected by its functioning according to the inherent properties of matter. Yet from this we get emergent properties of astounding complexity… all from local units obeying local rules (just think of a murmeration of starlings or schooling of fish to get an idea of how local units obeying simple local rules produce the appearance of design and purpose). We even get consciousness (the mind is what the brain does).

            The addition of a creator critter adds nothing to this model but detracts significantly from it.

    • Alan says:

      “The problem is many theists wanting bereshit in science class taught on the same level as an observed phenomenon.”

      CR,
      I have never seen such a thing in the 25 years I’ve been living and learning in many many Jewish communities.

  11. Concerned Reader says:

    . I take issue with calling climate change skeptics deniers (most of whom are not skeptical that the climate changes, but of the idea that man-made contributions to climate change will cause catastrophe).

    The scientific method does not deny man made contribution to climate change will cause catastrophe in coastal areas.

    BTW its not a question wether nature is subject to temperature fluctuation, you are right, the real issue is the rate at which it is occuring.

    Earth is warming faster than it otherwise would by natural process because of the greenhouse gasses that we are adding.

    I say again, its the RATE at which warming is happening, the rate of greenhouse gas accumulation.

    If you have a funnell or a pump that is designed to handle a certain inflow rate or outflow rate of water, it only takes a minor fluctuation above or below that set rate to cause a malfunction.

  12. Concerned Reader says:

    What kind of a model are you even talking about?

    The model of shared human experience that a person independent of opinion can determine to be likely true.

    Every society we know of teaches basic ideas common to all people. As an example

    Non pain is preferable to pain.
    Peace preferable to war
    Honesty to lying
    Health better than sickness.

    As I pointed out, even the Vedic literature (some of the oldest human writing)

    expressed that the divine is without form, and warned about dangers of focusing on form over content.

    All humans in all societies are capable of grasping tenents of morality and conscience, whether Atheist, Polytheist, or Monotheist.

    Abraham (the 1st monotheist) did not have national revelation, or a scroll of the Torah, but was able to deduce unity in reality, law, etc.

    • Eleazar says:

      Never understood “Abraham 1st monotheist”. Adam? Enoch? Noah? Weren’t they monotheists? Didn’t the Noachide covenant exclude polytheism? Inquiring minds want to know!

      • Concerned Reader says:

        I meant it in the sense of Abrahamic religion.

        Abraham is important to the 3 major western monotheistic traditions.

      • Alan says:

        “Never understood “Abraham 1st monotheist”. Adam? Enoch? Noah? Weren’t they monotheists? Didn’t the Noachide covenant exclude polytheism? Inquiring minds want to know!”

        Eleazar,
        I remember learning that there were always a few monotheists (i.e. receivers of the Tradition from Adam) in every generation up to Abraham. One of the things (perhaps the main thing) that differentiated Abraham from the monotheists before him was that he was the only one who believed that the world can change and be fixed and that in order to fix the world you need to start a family and a nation that will be dedicated to this mission.

  13. Concerned Reader says:

    Alan, I think you misunderstand the example of speciation that I gave.

    A mule by itself (with its inability to reproduce naturally) is part of the main point.

    A horse is a different animal than a donkey. That is a fact. Its a subspecies of the equine family.

    And yet, when forced to make offspring, they make the mule. This proves that both animals had a distant common relative, ie Dinohippus. Members of the equine family share certain characteristics and are distinct in others. The ability to mate (and the sterility of the offspring due to missing chromosomes) proves speciation has occured.

    There are also a couple cases where succesful reproduction has occured, proving evolutionary processes are at work (very sliwly.)

    Google isnt letting me paste the link.

    • Alan says:

      CR,
      I hear what you’re saying now. I see all life as being related so it makes sense to me that the horse and donkey which are so similar would have a common ancestor. I also think the Camel is closely related to the South American Llama and Alpaca even though they are on different continents and would seemingly have had no contact with each other.

      CR. what part do you think Hashem played in the evolution of species?

      • Concerned Reader says:

        The fact that there is a mechanism of reproduction, mutation, and change over time, (natural selection,) and especially the fact that this mechanism makes sense to our human observation and perception is astounding if you are a naturalist.

        That fact alone inspires atheist and theist alike in a way one would describe as awe of divinity, though many wouldn’t say of a deity.

        I think in a world after Baruch Spinoza, theists and atheists don’t really need to argue about Hashem or his person, we can all just sit back and marvel (for our different reasons) that the world makes sense to people at all..

        Think about it this way. If you are an atheist, there is (to your perspective) no creator, no over mind at work who forces the world to be something we can comprehend.

        That being the case, we also would find that many agnostics, atheists, scientists etc. know from observation that the world has no obligation to make sense to humans or our ideas about reality, but it turns out that it does make sense to us, and there is correlation between our senses and the real world.

        Reality appears to be poetic, complex, lovely, (ever more so the more we learn about it over time.) This means that life is like a pearl in an ocean, but it turns out to be an understandable pearl. We are like a fish swimming by a pearl, (but unlike other fish,) we comprehend “hey, that’s a beautiful pearl.”

        What we know about Physics, etc. tells us: The world shouldn’t be understandable to us, but it is. That’s miracle, no matter which side you are on.

        An atheist can have a sense of Awe about the cosmos without invoking a cosmic personality behind the scenes. Scientists are aware that this position appears to be counter intuitive to most people.

        Ever hear of PanPsychism? It talks about what the philosopher calls qualia. (Behind all of our senses is the expectation and assumption (among humans) that our five senses make sense and provide “true” input from the real world around us.

        Why should it be that our hearing, sight, smell, taste, etc. turns out to provide real repeatable data that makes sense over and over again?

        That is what I find inspiring, and I flip back and forth on the reasonableness of other aspects of religious belief often.

        • Alan says:

          CR,
          Thank you for writing this. Am I misunderstanding or are you saying that in life it’s not essential any longer to know or not know about Hashem?

        • tildeb says:

          Where do you get this idea that the universe should not be understandable or orderly? From the atheists POV, we are a product of the universe. Of course we should be compatible with it. It would take divine intervention to make us incompatible with its properties, wouldn’t you think?.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            I have heard Lawrence Krauss, Michiu Kaku, Hawking, Karl Sagan, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Dawkins, all say that the cosmos has no obligations to be perceptible (more accurately to make sense to our notions,) or to be compatible with our ideas about it. Ideas are emergent properties unless you are a pan psychist?

            Off course, the universe (our surroundings) fit us chemically, and fit us as biological organisms, but thats not the same thing as fitting human cognitive constructs like mathmatics, and actually making sense of the world “out there, in a neat way, that makes sense.”

            As you know, if there are different universes out there, the laws of physics would be different there, and would have different organisms selected for that environment, but there is no guarantee that an organism will reproduce long enough for cognitive ability to emerge, and if it does emerge, no guarantee of self awareness. Also, cognition should only “work” insofar as the data that comes in. Ie if you were an organism that could see infared light, it makes sense that your meat computer makes sense of it. But, for a human, why would it make sense that we learned that ability?

            Many animals have cognitive ability, but not to our level.

            Even if cognitition emerged in another universe, it would be cognition alligned to that universe’s laws of physics.

            People are often mistaken to think that evolution is about survival value instead of it being 1st and foremost described as reproduction, with survival value being a correlate of reproduction.

            IE, I mean that even atheists sometimes unduely anthropomorphize natural selection, Physics, chemical reactions, etc. and thereby just assume “off course the universe makes sense and should.” But that is an assumption.

            Here’s the thing Tildeb. Since science is correct, we are here by chance and factors of selection. Our species of homonid had no “reason” to survive to this point, much less to be able to have cognitive abilities that match our reality. Remember, cognition is an emergent property.

          • tildeb says:

            I mean this in the sense that if cognition did emerge, it should be compatible in the same way the puddle is an ‘amazing’ fit for the hole it finds itself in! Change the hole , change the puddle, no?

  14. Eleazar says:

    “About this event, all we have is an honest “I don’t know.” To continue this theme, I don’t know why ‘I don’t know’ isn’t good enough for many of those who do not know!”

    Because it is not the whole truth. “I don’t know” is usually followed by, “But I know it wasn’t a Supreme Being”. Of course to say such a thing does imply either knowledge or is a statement of belief/faith.

    • Alan says:

      Eleazar,
      If tildeb would not say “But I know it wasn’t a Supreme Being” would that mean he is not an atheist?

      • Eleazar says:

        That’s a good question for him. He may not even say such a thing. But in reality I know several atheists who ALWAYS make that response. Frankly, an honest and simple “I don’t know” is an agnostic response by definition.

        • tildeb says:

          And that is why most atheists freely admit that they are agnostic atheists… right up to and including Richard Dawkins. But most are anti-theism advocates (not anti–theists as so many faitheists chronically misrepresent them to be) and are such for very good reasons.

    • tildeb says:

      Eleazar, you say, ” “I don’t know” is usually followed by, “But I know it wasn’t a Supreme Being.”

      I sincerely doubt this a typical response because I’ve never encountered it enunciated by other atheists… and I’ve had a lot of encounters!

      What I have encountered is the realization by atheists that inserting the ‘Supreme Being’ component doesn’t mitigate the “I don’t know” at all with anything other than the appearance of an answer that in truth answers nothing, explains nothing, clarifies nothing, indicates nothing. It is a useless addition if one wishes to know anything about origins but it does have the affect of offering a kind of pablum to those who want to assume they know more than they actually do. And this affect is not without perniciousness.

  15. Concerned Reader says:

    I mean this in the sense that if cognition did emerge, it should be compatible in the same way the puddle is an ‘amazing’ fit for the hole it finds itself in! Change the hole , change the puddle, no?

    Yes, change the hole change the puddle. However, the water in the puddle doesnt have to be H2O based, but could be methane, LN2, or made of other substances. Hole and puddle are a generic variable that could just as easily fit a hole and puddle of different elemental composition.

    My point in saying that there isnt a reason the cosmos needs to make sense to humans is because we in fact recognize its randomness.

    As I said, the scientists I mentioned above all freely mention that nature doesn’t have to make sense to us by necessity.

  16. Concerned Reader says:

    • Alan says:

      CR,
      I’m glad I watched it, but why did you want us to see it?

    • Dina says:

      I listened to part of this. There’s a list of great thinkers in the beginning. I didn’t catch all their names. But I caught Voltaire. Did you guys know he was an anti-Semite? Not just a by-the-way, side-job anti-Semite, but a leading anti-Semite of his day?

      It is so disappointing that a man with his intellect could be so warped in his thinking.

  17. Concerned Reader says:

    To make the point that you dont need to be a theist to see a sense of poetry in the universe.

    When Einstein said, “G-d does not play dice,” its a way of him noting that our knowledge is always growing, and the universe makes sense even though it doesnt have to.

    • Alan says:

      But can an atheist or agnostic see purpose and morality in the universe (not purpose and morality within his/her own mind but in the universe)?

      • RT says:

        How can the universe have purpose or morality? It is just a bunch of atoms… Not sure I understand

        • Alan says:

          RT, I don’t understand either. I’d like to know if anyone on this blog understands.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            RT Let me help.

            The cosmos is the result of the big bang (near as we can tell a totally random event,) and organisms change over time via random mutation and natural selection. Given that information a well meaning person can say the whole system is unguided and random near as we can tell from our sensory input.

            However, humans exist in this universe. IE consciousness is an emergent property that without a doubt exists in this universe.

            We “know” purpose exists in the cosmos because we as humans exist in the cosmos, and there is no rule that says other organisms with cognitive ability cannot exist in our universe.

            Purpose may be a human construct, but we exist, so it “exists.”

            For example, whether we existed or not, the laws of Identity, non contradiction, and excluded middle would stillexist, and these concepts are the foundation for rationality and moral philosophy .

            They would only be perceptible truths as long as minds were around to perceive them, but for the cosmos to make any sense, they must exist.

  18. Dina says:

    Tilly, I too am wondering why you did not respond to Rabbi B.’s open letter.

    • Eleazar says:

      Tildeb responds selectively. Just as he responded to the evolution article by saying the author misrepresented evolution without saying why or how. He just used it to brush off the entire article. But notice there was not a single word of refutation to the substance or the facts presented. He chose to ignore it based on the first paragraph, which he offered no factual critique of other than to say evolution was dishonestly misdefined by the author.

      This seems no different than any religious person who does not want to question their faith, and brushes aside information contrary to it without serious consideration. Like any person of belief, the atheist has his own sources that he trusts, and defines words based on what works best for their belief. Their own “canon”, as it were.

      • Dina says:

        Eleazar, although you will disagree with Tilly’s conclusions, he did just offer an explanation of why he sees Gotfryd’s article as a dishonest misrepresentation of evolution. Just saying this to be fair and to give credit where it is due.

        And while we’re on that topic, I think the ad hominems are not helpful. Not against me, and not against Tilly. They do not advance the cause of truth seeking.

        • Alan says:

          I didn’t notice any ad hominems.

          • Dina says:

            Alan,

            Here is one against Tilly:

            Tildeb responds selectively. Just as he responded to the evolution article by saying the author misrepresented evolution without saying why or how. He just used it to brush off the entire article. But notice there was not a single word of refutation to the substance or the facts presented. He chose to ignore it based on the first paragraph, which he offered no factual critique of other than to say evolution was dishonestly misdefined by the author.

            This seems no different than any religious person who does not want to question their faith, and brushes aside information contrary to it without serious consideration. Like any person of belief, the atheist has his own sources that he trusts, and defines words based on what works best for their belief. Their own “canon”, as it were.

            And here is one against me:

            So, Dina. Are you siding with the Christian belief of an intrinsic “fallen sinful nature”? Did you know that Christian preachers use the behavior of children all the time to justify “original sin”, that everyone is born intrinsically evil? We called it “Babyology”.

            (Eleazar knows what a staunch defender of Judaism I am, so to insinuate that I side with a major Christian doctrine is ad hominem and really not very nice at all.)

          • Alan says:

            I don’t take these as attacks against anyone’s character at all. I think Eleazar and you (and me too) were misunderstanding eachother, no one was accusing anyone of being a Christian.

          • Dina says:

            Maybe I’m oversensitive. Being an woman and all. I thought the tone wasn’t kind and there was an insinuation. But I’m willing to see this as me just being oversensitive.

          • Dina says:

            It would have been more tactful to say something like, “I see a similarity between what you said and the Christian doctrine of original sin. Can you clarify?”

            Of course, I am not the most tactful person on the planet, so maybe I should just stop while I’m ahead.

          • Alan says:

            I agree we can all be more tactful and careful with how we write to each other online. It’s a huge challenge.

          • Dina says:

            Yes, it is. We are more comfortable saying things to faceless, nameless things than would be saying the same thing to people’s faces.

  19. Dina says:

    Tilly, you have children. If you have had success teaching your children to be polite and share and not hit other kids just by explaining the reasons to them, then you will be the first parent I have met who has done so. Unless your children are naturally born that way. Some kids are super easy going.

    Let’s say your three-year-old hits other kids.

    Which scenario will help your child develop more prosocial behaviors and which will teach her to continue being antisocial?

    Scenario one: Every time your child hits, you say firmly, “No hitting! Hitting hurts! We are going back inside because you hit” (or similar consequence). Then you follow through.

    Scenario two: You get down on eye level with your child and say, “Honey bunny, hitting is not nice, okay? When you hit someone else it hurts, right? So please say sorry and don’t hit anymore, okay? Oh, you don’t want to say sorry? How about you let me know when you want to say sorry, okay?”

    • Dina says:

      Kids are not naturally altruistic. They are not naturally polite and grateful. At least in my experience! They need to be taught to share, they need to be reminded to say please and thank you.

      I have never met a child who naturally had good manners just by observing his parents, without anyone consciously teaching him.

      • Eleazar says:

        So, Dina. Are you siding with the Christian belief of an intrinsic “fallen sinful nature”? Did you know that Christian preachers use the behavior of children all the time to justify “original sin”, that everyone is born intrinsically evil? We called it “Babyology”. My own autistic daughter has never been anything but sweet, kind and extremely generous
        (unless she was teased or bullied, then watch out). Her nickname as a toddler was “Sunshine”.

        On the contrary, I have known children who were altruistic, kind and generous from earliest ages, and stayed that way. Also, kids have to be taught to be racist, in my experience.

        • Dina says:

          Whoa, whoa, whoa, Eleazar!

          Please don’t misrepresent what I said. I said that children are naturally selfish, not that they are intrinsically evil. Ki yetzer lev ha’adam ra mine’urav means the inclination of man is wicked from his youth. This means that children will fight over the biggest piece, they are indeed naturally selfish and naturally ungrateful, and our job as parents is to teach them manners and civility and empathy for others.

          If they were naturally selfless, well mannered, and grateful, we would not need to teach them manners, civility, and empathy for others. Right? Of course!

          God told Cain that sin is crouching at his door, but he can master it. So can children. They just need the firm guidance of their parents.

          You are making the same mistake as Alan, making a generalization about all children based on your one exceptional child, who never needed to be taught to share or to say please and thank you because she was born naturally sweet tempered, generous, and courteous. Congratulations! You are one of about six lucky parents in the country to have such a child! 😉

          The fact is, kids can be unbelievably cruel and hateful to each other. I speak not only as a parent of five, having been both the parent of the aggressors and the victims, but also in my experience as a parent coach, speaking to parents about their children. And they did not learn this behavior from their parents!

          I am very happy for your good fortune in not ever having to discipline your child. Your are blessed that God did not give you this particular nisayon (trial). The rest of us have experienced tza’ar gidul banim (the aggravation of raising children).

          • Alan says:

            I know tzar gidul banim (pain of raising kids). Little kids little problems, big kids bigger problems. But there is natural good in there too (true altruism and compassion) that just needs to be cultivated. There’s tzar (pain) from the selfishness in our kids and nachas (feeling of pride) for the selflessness. Both are in there. But they need their parents and teachers help to be their gardeners otherwise weeds will grow and it will be harder to pull them up when they get bigger.

          • Dina says:

            Great analogy, Alan! If you nip the little problems in the bud, you may just avoid the big problems when the kids get older.

  20. Eleazar says:

    Tildeb, if you see this post, I have a couple of questions I am interested in your answers to.

    1- Where do you stand on man-made climate change? On what scientific evidence, that you have seen with your own eyes and objectively scrutinized, do you base that on?

    2-Where do you stand PERSONALLY on transgender identities ( eg; Kaitlin Jenner)? Do you think a fully masculine man can be a woman “inside”? On what scientific evidence do you base your view?

    2- Where do you PERSONALLY stand on abortion? Not “the right to choose”, but YOUR OWN views on the act itself. On what scientific evidence do you base your view?

    Thanks in advance!

    • LarryB says:

      Eleazar
      Have you ever clicked on his name and went to his web page?

    • Dina says:

      Tilly, I’d like to add to Eleazar’s question on gender.

      Is there a scientific and objective basis for determining gender, such as DNA, or is someone the gender he/she says he/she is? If the latter, what is the scientific basis for that?

      Do you accept that neurophysical differences exist between men and women?

    • Eleazar says:

      Tildeb, please respond to to my OP that this is in reply to. Since Shabbos is starting soon, my post should not be buried as they can so often be.

      • tildeb says:

        1) I have a very high confidence that AGW is happening and that we are experiencing it now. I think we’ve left our grandchildren a significantly different planet than the one we grew up on. I think we will see at least 3C increase by century’s end and probably closer to 4C.

        Back in the 80s I did not agree that humans were the driver of climate change. I was asked by one of Hanson’s students what evidence would I require to change this opinion (I was studying climate science at the time). I thought about that and came up with an answer: compelling evidence for rapid (in the historical sense) changes to rates and frequencies of extreme weather measured not in centuries but decades. In the 90s, that evidence became available. So I changed my mind and granted the ;probability to go from unlikely to likely. In the 2000s, the evidence continued to mount unfolding as Hanson predicted. In the 2010s it became indisputable, which is why reinsurers (the conglomerate that insures the insurers) have stopped covering environmental catastrophes due to human caused rapid climate change … like insuring Florida and East coast beach properties while launching lawsuits for outstanding claims against municipalities for not having done enough to mitigate these predictable and known effects, which is why the US military has begun to adopt policies and procedures and spend money (Norfolk has to be rebuilt) for a much warmer future… lobbying Congress to stop pretending this isn’t happening on their watch. It is. The problem is no longer something to argue about; it’s 30 years late to start mitigating these causes than it should be (the same climate scientists pointed out both acid rain and ozone depletion but suddenly they are vilified for AGW). We see China advancing into renewables so that they are now world leaders (reaping huge economic benefit) while continue doing the same old, same old, yet trying to compete against countries who can produce goods with a fraction of the cost for energy.

        2) There are two sexes, male and female. These contain real biological differences starting with either two X chromosomes or an XY combination. That’s just a brute fact. Gender and all the identities it now contains is a construct, just like religious identity and just as meaningful to those who empower it with belief.

        3) I do not see abortion as a moral issue. I see it as a medical issue – an essential component of women’s reproductive health care. As such, it’s none of my business. At all. It’s moral overtones are the same as any other medical condition that some people have to go through. My care and concern is for the welfare of other people.

        Anyway, that’s all the time I have for these questions for now. I’m sure we’ll talk more later.

        • Dina says:

          Tilly, while I disagree with your conclusions, you are fairly consistent in your reasoning.

        • Eleazar says:

          Your answer to question 1 is very different from your answers to the other two, with the exception that all three are more political answers than scientific ones. The answer to #1 at least is based on scientific measurements.

          Your answer to question 2 is interesting in that many transgender people are “diagnosed” by counselors as being trans, including a relative of mine. This implies a scientific approach. No doubt there will be “scientific facts” conjured up to support the political backing of pro-trans agendas and policies. I agree with you that it is a construct ( especially in larger, more liberal cities), but the same people who reject theism as an imaginary construct accept transgender as a scientific reality, with no empirical evidence to back that up except for anecdotal evidence.
          To the political aspect, places have now passed laws to allow anyone who “thinks” he is transgender to use the bathroom of the opposite sex. The NCAA and pro sports leagues have even boycotted cities that do not allow transgender persons into the bathrooms of the opposite sex. Now, my final thought on this is, do you visit LGBT/ transgender websites to convince them that they are unscientific and that their transgender identity is a product of an over-active imagination ( or possibly a mental illness)? Why not? Transgender suicide rates are over 40%. Not so with theists.

          As to question 3. I did not ask you about any moral or political implications, I asked about the act and if science backs up your opinion. In other words, is a human life being taken. Does the scientific evidence conclude the humanity of a fetus or is it as they say “a non-living clump of cells”? If a living being, then it cannot be accepted as “women’s reproductive healthcare”, in 95% of abortion cases. You are a logical thinker, right? If 95 unborn “women” are killed for every 5 times it improves the health of an adult woman, can it be scientifically be called “women’s health”, a term recently co-opted by Planned Parenthood and adopted by the DNC as a talking point? I find it interesting that millions of unborn children have been/are being killed and you feel it is “none of your business”, but people having faith in a Supreme creator being IS something so important that you have to get involved as much as possible.

          Again, thanks for responding!

          • Alan says:

            Eleazar,

            Thanks for asking tildeb these questions and for your penetrating comments and questions in response to his answers – this exchange really cut to the core. I thank you very much for doing such a great job and may Hashem bless you with much ko’ach (strength) and simcha (joy)!

  21. Alan says:

    25 years ago, when I first started experimenting with Torah observance and the possibility of Hashem existing, a close friend took me to the home of a very holy person in Monsey, NY for shabbat lunch. This man was known to be a truly great man and Torah scholar. He was also a professor of psychiatry at a university in Pennsylvania (I think it was Pittsburgh but I might be wrong). I sat right next to him near the head of the table and without my saying a word he must have sensed that I was struggling very much with believing in God because out of nowhere he told me two incidents that happened to his patients and it was just what I needed to hear at that moment. In the first incident his patient went in for surgery under general anesthesia and during the surgery he had an out-of-body experience in which he was hovering over the lighting fixture above the operating table. He was able to count the number of light bulbs in the fixture and was also able to hear and remember much of the conversation of the doctors during the course of the operation. After the operation the patient told the doctors what happened to him during the operation. The doctors asked a technician to check how many light bulbs were in the fixture and it was the exact number the patient said it was. The doctors also confirmed that the patient knew many specific details of their conversation during the surgery.
    The other story the Rabbi Dr. told me was of another one of his patients who went into cardiac arrest. When the paramedics arrived, the patient was unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse. The patient was able to see everything going on from above the room. He saw that when the paramedics first tried to jump start his heart with a defibrillator the machine wasn’t plugged in and so the machine wouldn’t start. It took them a few seconds to realize it wasn’t plugged in. When he regained consciousness he remembered watching the EMTs working on him. He asked to speak to the EMTs that saved his life. He told them that while they were working on him and while he was clinically dead he saw everything happening from above the scene and to prove it to them he told them that they forgot to plug in the defibrillator. They said he was right.

    I didn’t read this story in a book. I heard it from the mouth of an extremely intelligent, rational, God-fearing Torah scholar, psychiatrist and college professor. This man wasn’t of the mystical streams of Judaism. He was not chassidic or kabbalistic. If I remember correctly he was a traditional German Jew.

    These are only two stories of many dozens that I have either experienced myself or have been told by trustworthy, normal, rational first-hand witnesses over the past 25 years. And these two stories are actually very general and superficial compared to many of the other incidents.

    Occurrences like these cannot be measured with any scientific instruments. There are many things we just “know” even though they can’t be measured on any kind of a meter. For example, a musician might say, “I can’t prove it to you or show it to you with numbers but I just know that the harmony that is made by musicians playing together is greater than the sum of its parts. Don’t ask me to show you with numbers or explain scientifically what I mean by “greater” because I can’t. I just ‘know’ its greater.”

    • Dina says:

      I love NDE stories!

      • Dina says:

        And here is a fascinating book that explores the subject in a more scientific way:

        Highly recommend!

        • Alan says:

          Dina,
          We cannot accept the testimony of people who have had NDEs. It has Zero knowledge value and is therefore less than useless, even if the people are rational and trustworthy.

          • Dina says:

            I agree, but then your previous post is worthless :).

            This book is a study of NDE’s that finds patterns among experiences, etc. It’s interesting because it confirms what traditional Judaism affirms about the soul shortly after death.

    • Eleazar says:

      I have had experiences as well. They are not OBE or NDE ( I have very close anecdotal evidence supporting OBE). But I have had one “impossible” experience that is unexplainable in any natural or scientific sense, which started me down the path of exploring Judaism. Now I know that experience does not equal religious truth, since even a pagan Pharaoh had supernatural dreams. Impossible is impossible, but by definition if something actually happens it is not impossible.
      As a one-time Pentecostal pastor, I know for certain that many of what people call supernatural experiences are not only explainable, but easily explainable. Some are misinterpretation of experiences, some are pure imagination and some are outright lies and frauds.

      • Alan says:

        Thank you Eleazar,
        “But I have had one “impossible” experience that is unexplainable in any natural or scientific sense,”

        I also had my one and only “impossible” experience and it was almost 25 years ago just a couple months at most, after I started keeping shabbat, kosher and speaking to Hashem. It never happened again in all these years. For many years I had hopes something similar would happen again, but I have long given up hoping for it. I realize I only needed it that one time.

        • Alan says:

          And no, I didn’t see the virgin Mary or an angel or even Moses. I have never had any visions. I’ve never heard any voices telling me to do anything either.

          • Eleazar says:

            Please email me, Alan. numberonewrencher@gmail.com. Wondering if it is similar to something I experienced once as well. I have had several experiences. All but two of which are explainable from a skeptical POV. Of the other two, one could theoretically be explained as physiological/ psychosomatic ( with the exception being that a new-to-me religious word/concept was introduced to me that I had never heard of). The other one was simply not explainable on any level, and involved obscure historical facts that were several degrees of separation from anything I ever learned or had interest in. Something that only an actual antiquities expert or Jewish or Roman historian would know. My Hebrew name, Eleazar Dekel Ben Avraham, was taken from that experience. And yes, my conversion-sponsoring rabbi knew about this and even supported the name choice.

          • Alan says:

            I just sent you an email.

  22. Dina says:

    Tilly, your continuing silence in response to Rabbi B.’s open letter is troubling. Do you realize it can be taken to mean that you are ignoring it because you can’t refute it?

    • Alan says:

      Dina,
      He might be working on it. Just like it probably took Rabbi B several days to produce his letter it might take tildeb a few days. He also might be tied up with other things that are taking him away from this blog. Unlike us, he might have a life. Just joshin Dina!

      • Dina says:

        Alan, I hope you are right because I would like to think the best of Tilly. Thanks for reminding me to give the benefit of the doubt!

  23. Concerned Reader says:

    Those “laws of thought,” at least as far as classical authors were concerned, were axiomatic.

    These principles are in fact an underlying reason why we as humans still press on in scientific endeavors, and questions of moral philosophy. We assume that the world (as messy as it might be) still conforms to sensible notions.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Let me ask you guys something.

      Have any of you tried the new virtual reality technologies?
      HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, etc.?

      I ask, because I have tried them. Vive and Rift are head mounted displays with a gyroscope, and two displays that refresh at 90 frames per second in front of optical lenses. There is also an optical tracking system that does 1 to 1 mapping of head position.

      When you put this thing on, you experience fleeting moments of what is called “presence.”

      Presence is where you actually feel (only subconsciously mind you) that you are in the virtual experience.

      One experience puts you on a ledge, on top of a building in a cityscape. When you look down, your body gives the feeling that you might fall. Your brain stem controls these impulses, like fight or flight. Wearing this HMD actually seems to fool your most basic cognitive systems and instincts, if only for a brief time.

      My point with this example is that our minds can buy into something as “real” when it is in fact merely being fed a simulated input. When you have a lucid dream that is super realistic, that is what is happening.

      • tildeb says:

        This is a key understanding about human perception in all forms: it is our brain doing the perceiving and not the senses (which simply transmits data to the brain). Our eyes do not see and our ears do not hear; our brains do this and utilize whatever and whichever senses can help model the data to make ‘sense’. Yes, we can ‘see’ with our tongue, ‘hear’ with our skin, and so on. It is our brain that decodes the input.

        Why is this important regarding religious experiences?

        Because it our brain that interprets data and assigns various explanations to create a model in which to understand the experience. Here’s the thing: we foll ourselves all the time and presume that what we assign is correct if the model remains cohesive. Thunder is Thor’s anger, rain is Jesus’ tears, evolution is some divine critter’s means to bring about the human soul, and so forth.

        So this is why the scientific question of how do we find out if our model is WRONG is so vital… if we are concerned about what is true rather than simply functional. Can you figure out what evidence from reality you would accept that would demonstrate your religious model is wrong?

        I didn’t think so. That’s not part of the method essential for faith-based beliefs to be passed on to the next generation: assuming the assignment of a divine critter and fiddler and interventionist and designer and creator is true FIRST and then do all the work necessary to maintain and protect that assumption from anything contrary that reality itself presents. In addition, one must do even more work to protect a particular version of this critter from other contrary and incompatible religious assignations.

        Enter the ‘identity’ component. One is a ‘baptist’, a ‘catholic, a ‘jew’, a ‘hindu’, and so on. This identity helps the individual to frame one’s self as a part of a ‘we’. How very beneficial, right? Well, except this entails the necessity to create a ‘them’. That’s tribalism in action, an archaic form of community that creates and sustains social tension for no other reason than to advance some religious belief into the next generation… because, hey, you were born a ‘us’ and oh so fortunately not one of ‘them’.

        It’s so stupid and short-sighted to guarantee a way of thinking to support a superstitious belief that fosters and maintains an unnecessary conflict between imposed identity differences. And then to have to deal with and incorporate superstitious tribalism into science is like having to deal with and accommodate the identity politics of which house of astrology one belongs to when seeking medical aid.

        Just because someone can try to utilize language and metaphysics in such a way to obfuscate and confuse how planetary positioning at the time of one’s birth comports with best practices in medicine doesn’t mean it’s compatible in principle. And that’s where theistic evolution lies today… as if making enough wiggle room metaphysically for some divine creator critter means it is compatible in principle to science is really a matter of the brain working overtime to keep a superstitious model alive. It si a sign of desperation.

  24. tildeb says:

    Rabbi Sacks says, “Whatever happened to the intellectual depth of the serious atheists, the forcefulness of Hobbes, the passion of Spinoza, the wit of Voltaire, the world-shattering profundity of Nietzsche? Where is there the remotest sense that they have grappled with the real issues, which have nothing to do with science and the literal meaning of scripture and everything to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of human life, the existence or non-existence of an objective moral order, the truth or falsity of the idea of human freedom, and the ability or inability of society to survive without the rituals, narratives and shared practices that create and sustain the social bond?

    A significant area of intellectual discourse — the human condition sub specie aeternitatis — has been dumbed down to the level of a school debating society.

    So he thinks my intellectual discourse about atheism and why it matters to criticize claims about reality that have no basis from reality is dumbing the discourse down, does he?

    That’s as dumb as it false. He goes on:

    “But if asked where we get our morality from, if not from science or religion, the new atheists start to stammer. They tend to argue that ethics is obvious, which it isn’t, or natural, which it manifestly isn’t either, and end up vaguely hinting that this isn’t their problem. Let someone else worry about it.”

    This is, to be extraordinarily kind and gentle-hearted, absolute idiocy and a denial of reality.

    Now, I don’t care what the rabbi thinks about comporting evolution with his religious beliefs, but when he’s already told me I’m both immoral and relatively dumb, then I’m not very concerned about correctly labeling him as someone willing to – again, to be very kind, bend the truth to suit his own religious agenda.

    • Alan says:

      He obviously has a lot of respect for Richard Dawkins. I wouldn’t assume he’s referring to all atheists. I would assume however that he would have similar words for superficial theists too.

      If a religious Jewish scientist observes a process that to the best of his knowledge appears to be completely random, he will accept that finding and will conduct himself accordingly. Jews don’t deny that things can work randomly. It doesn’t affect science one bit if a religious Jewish scientist believes in his heart that God created the concept of “random” or even if God is behind randomness. If something behaves randomly it behaves randomly and that’s how we work with it. A religious scientist who believes this is capable of doing good science and he shouldn’t reveal his heart when he writes his scientific papers.

      • Eleazar says:

        Things can only be so random with DNA.

      • tildeb says:

        By inference, you mean you agree with Sacks that New Atheists are superficial?

        To maintain this fiction, Sacks has to ignore the seriousness of a slew of excellent writers not least of whom are far more serious than a Sacks with his patina of literary understanding regarding New Atheism, very serious writers all… like Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, Rushdie, Tyson, Coyne, Krauss, Carroll, Dawkins, the list goes on and on. Nope. Not serious, according to Sacks. Superficial atheists, one and all.

        Sacks earns nothing but Templeton money for intellectual bankruptcy of integrity..

        • Alan says:

          I don’t agree or disagree because I’m not up on their writings. I’m not sure who he is referring to.

          Would you have a problem if Dawkins used the same language but just substituted theists for atheists? Sacks at least has respect for some atheists’ thinking (he’s talking about their thinking, not the people themselves). Do atheists have respect for any theists’ thinking?

          Could you please comment on the second half of my post?

          • tildeb says:

            Sacks wrote this for publication in The Guardian and it is a critique directed towards New Atheism itself and everyone who identifies with it. Furthermore, he tries to argue that New Atheism will bring about another Holocaust because, get this, such atheists cannot be moral. This is a PRATT special, promoted and distilled by the ‘highest’ rabbi in England.

            Yes, you do agree with Sack’s vacuous charge against New Atheists of dumbing down atheism and not being as serious as past atheists – each and every one of them who identify as such – when you say, “I would assume however that he would have similar words for superficial theists too.” That’s why I pointed out the directed inference you made, that New Atheists, supposedly like other superficial fundamentalists, would ALSO earn Sacks’ equal criticism. The problem is that you’ve gone along with the comparison and furthered it rather than agree it is mistaken from the start. But tribalism will blind people this way.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, can you please post the link to Rabbi Sacks’s article in The Guardian? Thanks!

          • tildeb says:

            Sure, Dina. It’s from a deplorable an duplicitous article he wrote for The Spectator and it is here. It is a demonstration of what an accumulation of belief in PRATTs will do to a mind. Sacks seems to have misplaced his.

          • Dina says:

            Thanks for posting this, Tilly, but aren’t you operating a double standard here? You’ve called theists intellectually dishonest, among other things, and you’re offended by this very mild condemnation?

            You wrote that Rabbi Sacks is duplicitous. What did he write that isn’t factually incorrect? Remember, an opinion is not a fact.

            You’re free to disagree with his opinions, but to attack his character because you disagree is to do the very thing you accuse him of.

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, you ask, “What did he write that isn’t factually incorrect?”

            Ya got me! (Two negatives, donchaknow…)

            He’s vilifying atheists, which is duplicitous when he knows not to confuse the character of people with ideas they may have, In other words, he knows better but either doesn’t care or has decided the dishonesty is a good rhetorical tool. That justifies me doing the same to him and calling him intellectually bankrupt and a name-caller.

            And atheism is an empty set. There’s nothing there to vilify. All of us do not believe in almost every superstitious claim… except those we choose to. So we share non belief and don’t do what Sacks does and import all kinds of nastiness and immorality in order to impute the characters of people who do not believe as we do…. except in the many cases of conflicting religious differences, of course.

          • Alan says:

            Tildeb,
            Please give me examples of where he says that ahteists are villians. Not where he says that he thinks their ideas are evil or can lead to evil, but where he says they are villians/evil/immoral.

          • tildeb says:

            The entire article is intended as a smear job. Each paragraph links back to vilifying atheism in general and New Atheism in particular. He call such atheists dullards, relativists, and casts individualism as if it’s a bad thing to appreciate why every human being shares the same rights and freedoms and responsibility for their uses. He equates New Atheists as equivalent religious fundamentalists and calls the lot of us New Barbarians, elevating Neitzche as someone concerned with real issues (unlike New Atheists he tells us without even having the decency to blush out of shame for such a bald-faced lie) while later casting him and his criticism of religious belief as nearly the same as justifying a Holocaust.

            Seriously, a Holocaust if Europe loses its religious morality to the Ne Atheists. Look how he defines the New Atheists:

            “The new barbarians are the fundamentalists who seek to impose a single truth on a plural world. Though many of them claim to be religious, they are actually devotees of the will to power” (that’s the reference to Neitzche, which is the link to atheism, which is the link to New Atheism, which he is out to smear). “Defeating them will take the strongest possible defence of freedom, and strong societies are always moral societies. That does not mean that they need be religious. It is just that, in the words of historian Will Durant, ‘There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.’”

            That’s a lie. The United States government is dedicated to secularism and has been so since its inception, although the majority of population is some version of Christian… sects that contain contrary and conflicting dogmas, it must be remembered before we blithely slip all of them under the same tent. He omits commenting on all the Western countries whose populations have done just this, whose population remain even more moral by every measurement than homogeneous religious countries, populations who have relegated religious belief to be, at best, a private affair. That’s what lies at the heart of New Atheism, getting religion out of the public domain where it has nothing to offer except perniciousness… which he would know if he bothered to read any of the works by the dullards who write these atheist best sellers…. an omission that suits not honesty and integrity but a religious apologetic agenda that must vilify what it cannot compete with on merit. These countries aren’t mentioned because they don’t fit his vilification of pending barbarism.

            He hints at how terrible such a world might be presenting non belief as unbridled selfishness and violence. So this ‘opinion’ fails to account for reality and substitutes what we like to call a Sacks’ Special… what we in the atheist community call a straight up lie. And it’s a lie because these countries – like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, France, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Finland, and so on – do not suffer from what Sacks tells us accompanies the fundamentalists including the New Atheists.

            Sacks is a hatchet man of low integrity. His apologetics are profoundly dishonest and he has been awarded a great deal of money from Templeton for making this kind of targeted and dishonest smear job seem erudite and compatible with what’s true when it’s exactly the opposite.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,

            You wrote: “He equates New Atheists as equivalent religious fundamentalists and calls the lot of us New Barbarians,”

            And you wrote: ““The new barbarians are the fundamentalists who seek to impose a single truth on a plural world. Though many of them claim to be religious, they are actually devotees of the will to power” (that’s the reference to Neitzche, which is the link to atheism, which is the link to New Atheism, which he is out to smear). “Defeating them will take the strongest possible defence of freedom, and strong societies are always moral societies. That does not mean that they need be religious. It is just that, in the words of historian Will Durant, ‘There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.’”

            You misread what he wrote. Do you think he’s calling atheists barbarians? Do you know who he’s referring to by the term “new barbarians”? It’s not the atheists. Please read it again and see if you can tell who he’s referring to. The hint is in the following paragraph –

            “In one respect the new atheists are right. The threat to western freedom in the 21st century is not from fascism or communism but from a religious fundamentalism combining hatred of the other, the pursuit of power and contempt for human rights. But the idea that this can be defeated by individualism and relativism is naive almost beyond belief. Humanity has been here before. The precursors of today’s scientific atheists were Epicurus in third-century BCE Greece and Lucretius in first-century Rome. These were two great civilisations on the brink of decline. Having lost their faith, they were no match for what Bertrand Russell calls ‘nations less civilised than themselves but not so destitute of social cohesion’. The barbarians win. They always do.”

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, you think it’s simply a coincidence that responding to the rise of New Atheism, the use of New Barbarians refers only to religious fundamentalists? Note how he slyly inserts some painted idea of relativism and individualism to contrast religious fundamentalism, by inference painting these to represent New Atheism (when it doesn’t) and then calling such a belief ‘naive’. This chronic and constant misrepresentation of New Atheism generally and New Atheists specifically (oh yes, Dawkins understands, but only partly… always the passive aggressive insertion against every New Atheist Sacks so effortlessly sleights on principle) is a staple of his dishonesty. And no one but new Atheists hold him accountable for his execrable dishonest style.

          • Alan says:

            100% the barbarians he refers to are the radical Islamists. He’s says the barbarians he’s referring to are religious. That’s it. I think because you’re hot under the collar you are imagining that he really is hinting to you. But he’s not.

          • Alan says:

            Also, why did you capitalize New Barbarians? Please don’t evade this question.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, it’s clear to me at least that you are reacting emotionally to an article you disagree with and therefore attacking the character of the writer, who has never spoken so viciously about atheists (indeed he’s been respectful) as you have spoken about him, and now me!

            Where do you guys get off thinking it’s okay to call people with whom you disagree willfully dishonest?

            You don’t think it’s possible for good and honest people to see things completely differently? You don’t think it’s possible for good and honest people to disagree and still be good and honest?

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, can you not tell the difference between government and society? Sacks used the word society, you called him a liar, and you used the word government in your explanation.

            Your vicious denunciation of all religion everywhere and your ad hominem attack on Sacks are hypocritical. Your lack of awareness is breathtaking.

            You do not personally know Sacks, who happens to be a good man and a man of integrity. The person doing the smear job is you. And it’s not based on anything scientific or factual. It’s based on your visceral, emotional reaction to an article you disagree with.

            This is very sad to me. I find that people eventually reveal their true colors, if you talk to them long enough. When people get angry about something, they reveal their true nature.

          • Dina How do you know what a person’s “true nature” is? When he/she reacts to pain? When they are frustrated? 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Dina says:

            Maybe I’m being unfair, Rabbi B., but when people get mad they say revealing things. When CP got mad, he spouted anti-Semitic rhetoric. When Tilly gets mad, he attacks the character of the person who got under his skin rather than the ideas he disagrees with, a tactic he excoriates when others use it.

            So it’s just disappointing, is all.

            Perhaps you missed the quite awful things Tilly said about Rabbi Sacks, attacks which were entirely unjustified.

          • Dina says:

            Rabbi B., b’kiso, b’koso, u’v’ka’aso, eh?

          • Alan says:

            “b’kiso, b’koso, u’v’ka’aso”

            The Talmud in Tractate Eruvin 65a:

            “Rabbi Ila’i says: ‘Bi’shloshah devarim adam nikar: b’koso, uv’keeso, uv’kaaso. V’amri lei: af b’sachko – [The true nature of] a person is recognized through three things: koso (his glass, his behavior under the influence of alcohol), keeso (his pocket, how a person acts when his own money is concerned) and ka’aso (his anger, how the person behaves when he is angry) And some say: [he is recognized] also through his ‘fun’ (how he spends his leisure time).’ ”

            A person can always work on his character. Today it might be rough around the edges, but next year it could be a little smoother.

          • Dina says:

            What does he say that vilifies atheists? Why is it okay for you to vilify religious people (calling them intellectually dishonest, claiming that all religious education is “pernicious,” calling educating children in a religion “child abuse,” etc.)?

            Whatever he said about atheists, what you said about him is way more vicious. Whatever he said about atheists also pales into comparison with what you have said about theists.

            Why do you believe that two wrongs make a right?

          • tildeb says:

            Am I accusing him as a Jew for bringing about the right conditions for a holocaust?

          • Dina says:

            What brought about the Holocaust? An atheist ideology.

            What kind of governments in the twentieth century caused the deaths of over 100 million people? Communist governments dedicated to atheism.

            Atheists love to point out how much death and destruction is caused by religion but can’t handle it when religious people point out that the record of atheists has been as bad (or worse).

            Rabbi Sacks is worried that Muslims, not atheists, will bring about another Holocaust. But as you surely know, secular liberal humanists are kowtowing to Muslims out of fear of being labeled Islamophobes. Thus, in the name of political correctness which is not a religious ideology Islamic radicalism is spreading across Europe. I do not see the problem you see with what the rabbi wrote.

            I disagree tremendously with Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists. They say much that is offensive to religious people. I have read attacks on the character of religious people many times (you are a case in point, just now). But I never use the vicious invective that you just used now against Rabbi Sacks. I have never heard Rabbi B. talk like that either.

            Now, I’m not saying there aren’t religious people who don’t talk like that. There are, and they’re a dime a dozen. I’m just saying that I want the cream of your crop to be as kind and courteous and respectful as the cream of our crop. It’s disappointing when you’re not. That’s all.

            You can disagree with someone without vilifying them, to use your word. Even if you think Rabbi Sacks vilified atheists (I disagree), you are stooping to his level by calling him names and attacking his character instead of just showing us why he’s wrong (this you failed to do).

            In fact, you would be far more effective if you did just that. So how about it, eh?

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, you say, “What brought about the Holocaust? An atheist ideology.”

            This is not true. The ideology that creates totalitarian states is not predicated on non belief in gods or a god. It’s predicated on collecting all political power using whatever means is necessary. Hitler was Catholic. Stalin a Russian Orthodox seminary student. None of the totalitarian states built its ideology on promoting good evidence-adduced reasoning and respect for reality and framing these states to be an expression of atheism is much further from the truth than describing them as the ultimate theocracy, the ultimate submission to the Dear Leader in all ways. This constant and chronic smear against atheists is a PRATT. That’s all it is. You might as well blame mustaches for murdering 100 million people and have a stronger case than you do blaming atheist ideology. Remember, atheism is a null set (it contains no fundamental principles) and so it cannot be an ideology. Describing it as an ideology demonstrates a significant category error and then building on this error with further argument when it has already been corrected a thousand times demonstrates that something other than a quest for accuracy is going on. And we call what this other agenda looks like as ‘vilifying’. That’s what you’re doing: you are vilifying atheists for supposedly being responsible for killing real people in real life by pretending non belief gives rise to totalitarian states. It doesn’t. Getting religion out of governance and turning to secularism gives rise to the most advanced and socially well adjusted countries int he world. That’s the historical record.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            You say Hitler was Catholic? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler

            And Stalin was Russian Orthodox? – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin

          • Alan I didn’t research Stalin – but Hitler WAS a Catholic – a tithe of his salary went to the Church until the day he died. The Catholic Church NEVER excommunicated him as they do people who make fun of the pope. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan says:

            Rabbi B,
            The wiki article I linked to says that he came from a Catholic home but later became very anti-Catholic and anti-Christian for the rest of his life. If he gave tithes, it was probably for ulterior motives, if this wiki article is correct in saying that he despised religion. What do you think?

          • Dina says:

            Sorry for butting in again, but everything I have read about Hitler suggests he hated religion. However, he made common cause with Christianity with Jew hatred.

          • Dina says:

            Rabbi B., forgive me for saying, Hitler was only nominally a Catholic. Based on things he has said and done (as the article Alan posted illustrates), one can fairly conclude that he hated Christianity. He may have needed his Catholic status for political reasons, but not for reasons of conviction.

          • Dina says:

            Hello? Tilly, you’re still conflating government with society. You did not read carefully what Rabbi Sacks wrote about society. I agree that government must be secular, but I don’t necessarily agree that society must be secular. You can be moral and religious; you can also be moral and not religious. This perhaps is the crux of our disagreement. I may be wrong, but you seem to believe it is not possible to be moral and religious.

            The Nazis eschewed religion, Hitler excoriated religion, and the Soviets persecuted adherents to any religion because of their commitment to atheism.

            So Tilly, the record is mixed for both. I think that is the fair thing to say. (By the way, proclaiming something a PRATT doesn’t actually make it magically be refuted. You have to show this. Oh, and I can play your game and say that by using the acronym PRATT, you’re slyly insinuating that I’m a prat. I’m not saying that, just showing you how you twisted Rabbi Sacks into a sly, nasty liar using this type of reasoning.)

            The best model in my opinion is the United States, with its secular government and largely religious society. Though perhaps not for much longer. The breakdown of the traditional family is leading to all sorts of social dysfunction. The epidemic of fatherlessness due to out-of-wedlock births is wreaking havoc on the black community, for example.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, I don’t know what country you live in (from your spelling I suspect somewhere in the U.K. or the British Commonwealth), so when I refer to the black community I am referring to those segments in the inner cities of America. It might well be different where you live.

          • Alan says:

            He mentioned Manitoba a week or two ago, so I assume he’s in Canada.

          • Dina says:

            His spelling isn’t American. Canada, being part of the British Commonwealth, uses British spelling. I’m one of those nerds who notice these things.

          • Alan says:

            Dina,
            I read Rabbi Sack’s article. He was extremely polite to the atheists as people. He is criticizing only their ideas. Not even once did he criticize the person of the atheist. He didn’t even remotely hint that any specific atheist is evil nor did he generalize that they as a group are evil. He only says that the atheistic ethic has been tried many times throughout human history and it “leads” to evil being committed. He says specifically that he respects Richard Dawkins: “Richard Dawkins, whom I respect, partly understands this. He has said often that Darwinism is a science, not an ethic.”

            Near the end he writes: “I have no desire to convert others to my religious beliefs. Jews don’t do that sort of thing. Nor do I believe that you have to be religious to be moral.”

          • Dina says:

            Alan, I did not see what Tilly saw in it. Perhaps he read his own preconceived notions into the article. He did not note anything that Rabbi Sacks wrote that is factually incorrect.

          • tildeb says:

            Oh, for crying out loud, Dina, I pointed out Sacks’ deception right away. He’s a verbal painter, painting what he wants and then presenting his creation as if descriptive of reality. The problem is that it’s not. At all. And he knows this but continues doing so. I’ve already explained how and where he does this, presenting atheism as a danger to the safety of all and New Atheists as dullards compared to the old. These are lies.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,

            A dullard is a dull or stupid person. Sacks does not say new atheists are dull or stupid. His opinion is that SOME of the THEIR PRIORITIES IN LIFE and THE BATTLES THEY PICK are RELATIVELY DULL compared to earlier atheists. And he backs this up with examples.

            Can you see the difference between calling someone stupid and saying that what they wrote is (relatively) stupid?

          • Dina says:

            Not stupid, Alan, boring. There is a huge difference.

          • Alan says:

            dull·ard/ˈdələrd/
            noun
            a slow or stupid person.

          • Dina says:

            Oh, I didn’t remember Rabbi Sacks using the word dullard, I thought he said dull. Maybe he used neither. I have to go back and reread at some point.

          • Alan says:

            This is what he wrote: “A significant area of intellectual discourse — the human condition sub specie aeternitatis — has been dumbed down to the level of a school debating society.”

            He’s not saying atheists are dumb. He’s saying what the are spending their time focusing on has been “dumbed down” compared to what he views as much more important issues that the earlier atheists dealt with.

            tildeb read the word “dumb down” and is deeply insulted. He thinks Rabbi Sacks is calling him and the New Atheists dummies (which he’s not). So tildeb is having an explosion by calling Rabbi Sacks all kinds of slanderous and degrading names.

          • Dina says:

            Okay, got it. Thanks for clarifying!

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, you are not only misrepresenting Rabbi Sacks, you are presenting him as an intentional liar because you say he knows the truth but is anyway lying. This is something you cannot possibly know. Your passing judgment here is totally unscientific.

          • Alan says:

            I see why you made that inference. It would be true if I had known what New Atheism was before today. I didn’t know he was directing his words at a whole movement. I have never heard of this movement until today. Now I know what it is a little bit. But I still haven’t read any of the writings, not even of Dawkins. So I still can’t agree or disagree with his personal opinion of the movement.

          • RT says:

            Tildeb “This is not true. The ideology that creates totalitarian states is not predicated on non belief in gods or a god. It’s predicated on collecting all political power using whatever means is necessary.”

            Which includes religion and atheism. Now why do you vilify religion because people uses it for their evil purpose, but excuse atheism and only blame the political power? You could actually say the same about the pope; he did all his atrocities to have political power. You also could say that Hitler really believe in a superior race and that his racial cleansing was actually due to his belief in evolution. Why do you have two standards with two scenarios that have the same kind of background and same kind of consequences?

          • tildeb says:

            RT, you are confused. Atheism is not an ideology, so it cannot be contrasted with an actual ideology. Considering atheism an ideology or ‘worldview somehow similar to some kind of religious ideology or political ideology is simply not true. Pretending it is a different kind of ideology is a PRATT. Atheism is a null set. It contains no fundamental precepts., Atheism means non belief in gods or a god. That’s the sum total. Nothing else is attached.

            New Atheism is a movement to get religious influence and privilege out of the public domain. The means is by criticizing it. This criticism is considered by you to be vilifying and, in a sense, it is because religious ideology relies on a method of thinking called ‘faith-based’ that allows all kinds of perniciousness when privileged to be in any way, shape, or fashion equivalent to evidence-adduced thinking. Because faith-based thinking is necessary for religious ideology, religion itself is understood by New Atheists to be the Mother Ship of this pernicious way of thinking and so is targeted. But the same method is also used for all kinds of pernicious belief impervious to evidence contrary to beliefs associated with faith. This includes species wide threats ignored, trivialized, and often outright denied by those who use the same faith-based method to justify their incompatible beliefs… beliefs contrary to evidence-adduced knowledge about concerns like like AGW climate change, vaccination, credible news, and so on. These forms of faith-based justification threaten everyone so the job of criticizing these depends n first getting people to at least respect what reality has to say, and the main impediment to this are those who continue to justify faith as a perfectly fine and acceptable and even moral way on which to base beliefs about reality. That’s why New Atheism goes after religion and, yes, vilifies it because it is a pernicious way to think.

            And no, Hitler and his racial beliefs had nothing to do with evolution. In fact, and to be historically accurate, it is Churchill who writes about evolution and not Hitler. You’ve been fooled into believing that social Darwinism and eugenics comes from evolution when in fact, Huxley coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ to CRITICIZE these very ideas as having anything to do with evolution by natural selection. He wrote extensively about why social Darwinism was incompatible with the theory Darwin proposed and presented. So ask yourself why you assume Hitler conveniently exhibits everything someone like a Sacks wants to apply to those who criticize religion? Coincidence? And… oh look, we require historical revisionism to make it appear this way. Now how can that come about on such a wide scale… if not purposefully done by religious leadership to constantly and chronically misrepresent reality, disregard what’s true, and then intentionally keep telling the same lies over and over and over no matter how often corrected? Well, perhaps they have an agenda that is more important than honesty. And what’s more important than honesty and intellectual integrity and historical accuracy?

            Piety, of course! It’s such a virtue, donchaknow.

            Why, you can even claim to have a special relationship with a magical creative agency outside of the universe and build not just a tribal identity on that notion but hold such a special relationship with this absentee overlord that you make a contract with it! Now, seriously, who could possibly find any reason to criticize that little claim for being so very special?

          • Alan says:

            Tildeb,
            “Atheism is a null set. It contains no fundamental precepts.”
            No fundamental precepts? You wrote: “Atheism means non belief in gods or a god.”This is a precept.

            And you do trust in powers, lots of powers. I think you even believe in these powers. If you don’t want to use the word “believe”, then use the word “know” or “perceive” or “trust in”. You have lots of powers that you serve. You just haven’t come to realize the truth of what I’m saying yet.

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, what are you talking about? Precept means “a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.” Atheism contains no rules to regulate behaviour or thought. It’s a term to mean non belief. Non belief is not a ‘thing’, not an idea, not… anything. The term indicates a lack of a belief, an absence of a belief. That’s why the ‘non’ is essential to what follows. The attached meaning after non belief is specific and opposite only to theism: non belief in what constitutes the term ‘theism’, which is the belief in some god or gods.

            Please get this straight.because the misunderstanding you have continues to colour your opinions into misrepresentations about atheism.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            I have it straight. Name all of the powers in the world that you believe exist and that you believe you are subject to – including the power of your subconscious, the power of your instincts, your natural urges and inclinations, the power of all of your needs that are pressing you, the power that forces you to need to be a New Atheist and the power that urges you to speak condescendingly and disrespectfully to people who disagree with you. You believe in all of these powers that rule the world according to their natural laws. And you have set up yourself (your mind, your subconscious, your inclinations) as the Power that has the ultimate say of when and when not to listen to these other powers. But you must admit that many times, you have no control over these other powers that you believe exist.

          • Dina says:

            “…and the power that urges you to speak condescendingly and disrespectfully to people who disagree with you.”

            Well said.

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, if you’re referring to Sacks, then you conveniently forget he has accused me as an atheist of creating the right conditions for another holocaust. On what basis does he make this allegation? Not on reality. In fact, he has to squirm and wiggle his way around blatant examples of improved human well-being by removing religious privilege from the public domain. And he does this by pretending such examples don’t exist. That shows me he is more motivated to smear those who exercise reasonable skepticism about his religious sympathies with such a disgusting allegation than he is speaking truth to power and dealing honourably with those with whom HE disagrees. That’s why I pointed out upthread that I wasn’t the one calling him a supporter of bringing about a New Holocaust. But he doesn’t suffer from the same urge to be equally respectful to those with whom he disagrees on merit, and he cares not about respecting what is true if it doesn’t support his a priori belief that nonbelievers like New Atheists who so effectively criticize his religious privilege are a threat to civilization. It’s like you’re demanding I should be really nice and very respectful to the SS leaders who believe I am a cancer to to the state.

            Umm… no. Perhaps you can figure out why.

          • Alan says:

            Dina,
            I am not addressing tildeb any longer so I will give you the following information-

            Rabbi Sacks is not saying that atheists are bad, immoral or a cancer to society. What he is saying is that the new barbarians (the radical Islamists) will be able to overpower an atheistic state which lacks the social bonds and power of conviction that the barbarians have, just like the old barbarians overran and conquered the first scientific-atheistic cultures. Atheism doesn’t have the power to stand up to stand up to much more powerful forces of evil such as radical Islam.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, I did try to explain that when I said that radical Islam is overrunning Europe because secular humanists, thanks to political correctness and out of fear of being labeled Islamophobes, won’t stand up to it. But I do not think that was understood.

            To Tilly: perhaps you don’t realize that you come across as disrespectful and condescending. I have observed that when people have a feeling of 100% rightness of their convictions, they sooner or later develop a contempt for those who disagree with them, and this contempt sooner or later creeps into their language and tone. I have noted this phenomenon when talking to Christians trying to convert Jews and to atheists trying to convince us that we are delusional.

          • tildeb says:

            Yes Alan, it’s hard to hold a discussion when confronted by misrepresentation and adherence to that misrepresentation. Your defense of Sacks is not by substance but assumption by you. Let me say that an article like this is built… premised paragraph by premised paragraph, to arrive at the conclusion. This is how Sacks writes because he’s an academic. You’re not reading this article this way; you are selecting only the sentences in the best possible light, but fail to read the title; Sacks is out to defame atheism generally but New Atheism in particular. And he does so dishonestly. For example, Sacks writes,

            “I love the remark made by one Oxford don about another: ‘On the surface, he’s profound, but deep down, he’s superficial.’ That sentence has more than once come to mind when reading the new atheists.”

            Has he even read the New Atheists? I sincerely doubt he’s done more than perused a few it because there are many heavy hitters who are anything but superficial. This is the kind of gross distortion you are defending (that might be defensible if Sacks wasn’t a notable scholar, which means he’s doing this intentionally). It is indefensible to use these kinds of tactics and sly smears and then try to insist that one honestly wishes to hold a legitimate conversation about content and the meaning of it. As I’ve said and will maintain because of the evidence that Sacks writes this pejorative way about New Atheists because he has a contrary agenda other than respecting what’s true and honest.

          • tildeb says:

            You are using a tactic to lump under one tent a bunch of things that then label as if one thing: powers. You then build on this singularity as if one either believes in ‘it’ or does not, and that the atheist is just like a theist in that each believes in a ‘power’.

            I mean, come on. This tactic might work on the feeble minded and those who don’t wish to use reasonable skepticism as a standard tool to evaluate claims, but it doesn’t work here with me.

            There are all kinds of natural properties of matter and energy acting on everything – including each other – in the universe (as far we can tell). Gravity simply doesn’t care if you or I believe in it or not. The same is true throughout the list you provide under the heading of ‘power’.

            What you’re trying to do is import an extra ‘thing’, an extra ‘creator’, an extra ‘Designer’, an extra ‘agency’ for which you have no compelling evidence to believe is the case, is highly likely, is probable. That’s why you must utilize faith… because of this absence of compelling evidence. So, you import faith and then make other claims based on this inclusion that YOU import. You then try desperately to make doubt about your faith-based claim to be a faith-based claim, which is not. Atheism is not a claim. It imports nothing. It has no precepts, no fundamental principles. It is an absence of faith-based belief. No another ‘kind; an absence of faith-based belief.

            I use appropriate skepticism and look at the claims you and many other religious people make to support their faith-based claims about gods or a god, and am not convinced. I do not think your claim is highly likely (in fact, I find the claim for this import to be without any merit independent of you whatsoever), do not ‘believe’ that such a claim could even be possible without very compelling evidence. After all, your claim is to have a special relationship with this agency that even other religious models don’t have! I mean, wow. I have outlined exactly this absence of evidence where it should be ample, where it ought to be ample, if the fundamental claim about this agency had any substance independent of imported faith-based belief.

            It doesn’t. It doesn’t even have mundane evidence from mundane events supposedly through which you have any reason to make a covenant with this agency. You import likelihood and probability that has no merit where it should be plentiful. But none of this matters to the faith-based thinking that empowers it.

            I do not suffer from this condition. I don’t have to import anything. I can utilize reality to arbitrate claims made about it. Reality, I have found, is a handy ally when it comes to informing my beliefs about it… including all the ‘power’ items on your list. I don;t need any faith-based thinking imported to my less-than-certain understanding about these properties of matter and energy.

            As for control? Well, that’s the ongoing debate about free will (if we have will, it isn’t’ free’ and if we have freedom, then we can have no will). I suspect the central problem is defining our terms better so that we figure out what ‘it’ is we’re talking about. But, rest assured, my control is sadly lacking when it comes to demanding that reality operates according to it. That would be a faith-based claim… one that actually fits the medical definition of delusion. And I do my best to try avoid deluding myself.

          • Alan says:

            tildeb,
            I am not going to continue any more discussions with you. Nothing productive is coming out of this. I have no problem with getting emotional and screaming out, but If you just screamed out with more respect and empathy for your fellow human beings who don’t believe what you believe, maybe we’d be able to have a discussion.

          • RT says:

            Tildeb, I am glad not all atheist think like you. You enclose all religion in the same bucket and finds ways to exclude atheism. You play on words and only nicely put your pieces to look good all the time and

          • tildeb says:

            RT, if you read my comments, you find that I criticize faith-based thinking because it doesn’t produce knowledge. You will recall that I have often said religion is not the only subject that utilizes this method. It is this method that empowers conspiracy thinking, supports alternative medicine, justifies all manner of belief in woo from tarot cards to ghosts, that enable all kinds of dismissive thinking from AGW climate changer to vaccinations, from wifi pollution to dowsing. Faith-based thinking is not a virtue.

            I have explained many times that the reason why so many people are willing to pretend that faith-based thinking is virtuous is because of religion. Religion as a whole absolutely relies on faith and so it presents faith-based thinking to be a virtue. That’s why it’s the Mother Ship of faith and the leader of faith vs fact and a worthy target of legitimate and honest criticism. That is why I lump religion together: because of its shared methodology, its broken epistemology.

            It is fine for individuals to empower this method in their own lives concerning all kinds of stuff. But as soon as those who empower this method try to gain privilege for it in the public domain, then a line has been crossed and the push back must be critical., immediate, and severe. Faith has no place in the bedrooms and boardrooms, courtrooms and classrooms, laboratories and legislatures of the nation.

          • RT says:

            Sorry, I put send by mistake. I think you find only good excuse to be intolerant to others and like to excuse your point of view with semantics. Basically, you vilify others and find nice words to say it does not apply to yourself… There is very little reason why to argue with you, because you are right in your own mind and found explanation to exclude yourself from anything that could show you that you might be wrong in the slightest.

          • tildeb says:

            I am not intolerant of others unless given very good cause. I am highly critical of certain pernicious ideas as I think all of us should be. I also think we should hold people accountable and responsible for ideas they believe in… especially if they act on them and use these beliefs to justify the actions and call out and reveal those who knowing tell falsehoods. I suspect you do not disagree with any of this but have attributed to me what you believe rather than what is the case.

          • RT says:

            Been highly critical of people who do not think like you makes you no-less intolerant than other intolerant individual. You cover it well with the words you use and the “fact” that what you believe is a science-base reality. You also put people accountable and responsible if they do fall into the category of “Those who don’t agree with me”, but might excuse those who caused harm to others and say it was not their ideologies, but their individual identity that pushed them to do whatever wrong they did…

            I can tell you that I disagree with a religion-base public education, forced prayer at school and other such thing. I also can tell you that I think most natural health medicine and all homeopathic medicine is a lie, just like taro. But where I disagree with you is that you use the generally accepted view of things and look at everybody else in such a way that would render the world a fascist place if you would be put in a position of authority.

            Many people in the name of religion did what you would like the government to do in the name of science.

            You will never have a world that everybody agrees. Forcing your view will only create problem and will create the opposite of what you really want… If you really want a better world, you better not force your view on others if you don’t want them to force their view on you. Tildeb, you are too proud, if you would only acknowledge that we know so little of the world, where we come from and where we are going, then maybe you would at least listen to the people who think differently.

          • tildeb says:

            RT, I spent time in apartheid South Africa and stood outside the iron gate that lies, that says ‘Work will make you free’ at Auschwitz. I have traveled throughout the old Soviet Republic and saw the tanks roll into Prague so I have at least a sense of how important personal and legal autonomy really is. I take that autonomy and the rights and freedoms that come with it very seriously indeed and wouldn’t dream of undermining it to further my own opinions and beliefs. I just wish others had that same level of respect for these enlightenment values, and I think that begins with a deep and abiding respect for knowledge and what is true for it there that we find the compelling reasons to expose lies about a group of people when we encounter it. That is why I am so harsh with Sacks… because he should and does know better. Lying for piety is still lying and accountability for spreading such lies goes hand in hand with the leadership territory Sacks not just lives in but has been hugely rewarded financially for espousing these lies. That’s dangerous. Not me.

          • RT says:

            I think that by holding to our rights and freedom is a better way to deter abuse of power. Sure knowledge of science and mainly history is one of the best way to teach and avoid this kind of thinking. I think that critical thinking should be thought in the aspect of religion and science as well. If you think that exposing all religion as lie will make things better, I would like to disagree with you. Even if all religion would be a lie, what good would it be to force it on people? Would that convince any evangelical that Jesus is not the truth? Or any Muslim that their god is not the truth? I would only bring more chaos and violence. And remember Tildeb, because you think you hold the truth does not make it so. All people think they know the truth and most deceive themselves.

          • tildeb says:

            RT, I do not call religious belief a lie; I call the method used to justify such belief – faith-based thinking – a source of great perniciousness. People can believe whatever they want and, as long as they keep it in the private domain, all is good. I can still disagree, but that’s a private opinion neither here nor there.

            You say, ” Even if all religion would be a lie, what good would it be to force it on people? Would that convince any evangelical that Jesus is not the truth? Or any Muslim that their god is not the truth? I would only bring more chaos and violence.”

            If you’re talking about forcing people to think this way or that, do this or that, support this or that, then sure. This causes strife.

            But if you’re talking about privileging religious belief from legitimate criticism because it will cause some fundamental harm, then no. This idea is a standard talking point by faitheists as if it had merit. It doesn’t. If we look at populations that are not religious, we find peace, order, and good government with lower economic disparity and higher levels of social support. This idea that religion and religious belief is associated with a net benefit in comparison to lower levels of religion and religious belief is simply imaginary.

            But I do agree that forcing people to believe or not believe is equally poor thinking. This includes all the pernicious ways supporting and subsidizing and privileging faith-based beliefs in the public domain: this is all very poor thinking and it too is a constant source of conflict.

          • RT says:

            “RT, I do not call religious belief a lie; I call the method used to justify such belief – faith-based thinking – a source of great perniciousness. People can believe whatever they want and, as long as they keep it in the private domain, all is good”

            Then maybe we do not disagree with many things…

            What method used to justify such belief do you refer to? I would not say all method are necessary wrong, but some must be.

          • tildeb says:

            Simple, RT: an evidence-adduced method that works by likelihood and probability to which we award various levels of confidence and trust.

          • LarryB says:

            Titleb
            “Dina, you say, “What brought about the Holocaust? An atheist ideology.”
            This is not true. The ideology that creates totalitarian states is not predicated on non belief in gods or a god. It’s predicated on collecting all political power using whatever means is necessary. Hitler was Catholic. Stalin a Russian Orthodox seminary student. ”
            Here’s proof he was not atheist. Two quotes from the …himself:

            ““Besides that, I believe one thing: there is a Lord God! And this Lord God creates the peoples.” [1] ~Adolf Hitler

            “We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations; we have stamped it out” [2] ~Adolf Hitler

            But then again, he also said:
            Hitler himself says in Mein Kampf that his public statements should be understood as propaganda that bears no relation to the truth but is designed to sway the masses.

          • tildeb says:

            LarryB, thank you for that.

            Hitler has left us a vast array of compelling evidence about his belief in some god and his deep sympathies for theism… a necessary sympathy he must have endorsed in order to vilify Jews as sub-human and sell that fiction to a population all too willing to believe it in spite of overwhelming evidence from reality to the contrary.

            Sound familiar?

            A pretty good indicator that the Nazi regime was not atheist at all is the standard German military belt buckle (that came as part of the standard uniform of the State and worn by all branches in all kinds of metals and shapes but with a common phrase on all). The stamp on each reads, “God with us.” That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of some atheistic principle by those in power. This should be obvious to those who wish to know what was the case for this totalitarian state, and who must then account for the state-mandated artifacts we have now to help inform their beliefs about it

            Assigning to Hitler – and every other totalitarian state – this atheistic motivation does not align with reality but has been imported by theists to smear atheism with the very worst of human atrocities, not because it’s true but because it serve a religious agenda to vilify those who do not believe. This way, reasoning with atheists and having to account for contrary data they raise in defense of their criticisms about religious beliefs can be completely ignored. It is this tactic Sacks uses and it is the same theistic agenda that he is serving up: the vilification of atheism itself ( just look at how many times Sacks demeans the work of New Atheists with a degrading general descriptor). The agenda is what theists import into understanding atheism and it is this agenda that Sacks then uses in his anti-atheism stance. Not evidence. Not reality. An agenda. That’s why it’s dishonest and intentionally so, and utilizing these well-known tactics of dishonesty and directed historical revisionism to attribute to atheism what it does not posses cannot help but reflect poorly on the character of the person using them.

          • Dina says:

            “…but has been imported by theists to smear atheism with the very worst of human atrocities, not because it’s true but because it serve a religious agenda to vilify those who do not believe.”

            We don’t need to pretend it’s there, it’s there. The Soviet Communists persecuted the adherents of all religions because of their commitment to atheism. But the same is true for some religions like like Christianity and Islam.

            Nobody gets a free pass, Tilly. You want us to be brutally honest about the religious record; you need to be brutally honest as well.

          • tildeb says:

            The point, Dina, is that atheism has no connection whatsoever to totalitarianism. Totalitarianism will go after anything that offers any competition to its absolute power. But totalitarianism is not predicated on atheism because atheism has no precepts or fundamental principles. Totalitarianism is predicated on centralizing power and if any atheist or theist is seen to be a threat to this in any way, he or she is removed. The threat is not from atheism and atheism is not necessary for totalitarianism. To associate atheism with totalitarianism as if a cause for it is a straight up lie.

          • Dina says:

            I disagree.

            By the way, the fact that you label as liars those who disagree with your conclusions (even in a non scientific discussion) is very tellling.

            People can disagree and not be lying.

          • tildeb says:

            Also quite true., You’re on a roll, Dina!

            To be clear, just because we might disagree about something doesn’t make you a ‘liar’ in my eyes (it probably makes you wrong, but it would be rather boring if we did nothing but agree!). But someone who intentionally tells a falsehood knowing it is a falsehood, and repeatedly tells the same falsehood for reasons other than respecting what is the case, is. And that description fits Sacks.

          • Dina says:

            You’re also not getting Sacks’s point about radical Islam, which both Alan and I explained to you.

          • tildeb says:

            I don’t need Sacks to point out the danger from Islam; its central tenets are antithetical to Western secular liberal democracy, If you wish to associate atheism with anything, I think you’ll find most atheists – certainly New Atheists – are very staunch supporters of the enlightenment values of personal autonomy and legal rights upon which Western liberal secular democracies are founded and speak up and speak out against Islamism. If Sacks were truly concerned about this danger, he would find and support his natural allies: atheists. But that doesn’t suit his religious agenda to vilify them.

            Any theocratic danger to these Enlightenment values is a target for New Atheists and it is the New Atheists who publish stark criticisms not just of Islamism but those illiberal liberals (the regressive Left) who support it… out of some seriously warped sense of political correctness and misguided tolerance for including intolerance.

          • Dina says:

            The illiberal liberals are also atheists who hate and mock religion.

          • Dina says:

            IN OTHER WORDS, there are good atheists and bad atheists just like there are good religious people and bad religious people.

          • tildeb says:

            Yes, quite true.

          • LarryB says:

            Tildeb
            The quotes were meant to show that you have to be pretty gullible to believe hitler a theist. His public statements were for nothing but political gain and power. Propaganda, and From the looks of it it works very well indeed.

          • tildeb says:

            From Mein Kampf on, in dozens and dozens of speeches, from his private correspondence to his governments secret dealings and policy agreements with the Vatican, Hitler was not an atheist. He was a Catholic and identified as such. He used religious anti-Jewish sympathies first of the German and later the Slavs to implement the holocaust.

            Note: I am not trying to imply that Hitler’s religious beliefs were a main cause of the Holocaust. I am arguing that atheism certainly was not.

          • Dina says:

            Hitler was definitely atheist. That may or may not informed his world view regarding the Jews. But he was definitely an atheist. He was only a Catholic nominally.

            Why does it matter to you so much that he wasn’t an atheist that you need to disregard obvious historical facts?

          • tildeb says:

            If someone were to suggest that YPF was a rabbi because he was an atheist, because he was trying to promote atheism, because he ‘believed’ in atheism, you would probably find this reasoning rather suspect. And rightly so. The same is true for those who suggest Hitler was an atheist, he was trying to promote atheism, because he ‘believed’ in atheism. The reasoning is just as suspect.

          • LarryB says:

            titleb
            “To be clear, just because we might disagree about something doesn’t make you a ‘liar’ in my eyes (it probably makes you wrong, but it would be rather boring if we did nothing but agree!).”
            Dina, your not a liar in his/her eyes. But your probably wrong! Sound familiar?
            Superior what?

          • tildeb says:

            Oh. come on LarryB, that was a joke. Just like anytime we agree, you’re probably right. See? Simply a joke.

      • tildeb says:

        Alan, why are you so hung up on pretending there is some confusion between those who are religious and those do science? As I’ve said, over and over again, good science CANNOT by correct methodology be done if you insert religious belief. Good scientists who ARE religious do not insert religion and their religious beliefs into their science. But you seem bound and determined to continue to believe that atheists who criticize religious belief in the public domain, who criticize religious claims masquerading as scientific, who criticize faitheists who make such religious claims, means good scientists who are religious are being unfairly targeted by New Atheists. This charge is false. God science is good science. Period. Who does it doesn’t matter. Whether done by a theist or an atheist doesn’t matter. The science stands on its own independent merit. Period.

        Would you please stop suggesting atheists think otherwise. It’s a falsehood.

        • Alan says:

          I truly do not understand what you are saying. I agree with you that good science cannot be done if you insert religion. I wrote exactly that in my comment – ” A religious scientist who believes this is capable of doing good science and he shouldn’t reveal his heart when he writes his scientific papers.”

          What am I missing?

          • Alan says:

            “…when he writes his scientific papers.”

            Writing his scientific papers includes doing the science – yes, religion and mysticism should be left out doing the science except for the scientist’s need to be honest and straight. The religious Jewish scientist considers being honest and straight a religious commandment.

          • tildeb says:

            “… except for the scientist’s need to be honest and straight.The religious Jewish scientist considers being honest and straight a religious commandment.”

            You need a commandment from some god for this? Really? Do you need to consider being kind also a religious commandment? You can’t figure why this a virtue without being commanded to be so?

            Why do my questions matter? Because intention matters. There is a difference in merit between doing something for its own reasons and doing the same action because you’re commanded to do so. The former involves ownership and responsibility; the latter involves borrowing and irresponsibility.

          • Alan says:

            We’re commanded to know the difference between right and wrong, and to help us do the right thing when we don’t feel like doing the right thing.

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, you say, “If a religious Jewish scientist observes…” and “A religious scientist who believes this (randomness) is capable of doing good science and he shouldn’t reveal his heart when he writes his scientific papers.”

            You’re imply that someone somewhere says this can’t happen. And you imply it every time you write something like this. Whomever this person might be who supposedly insists a religious Jewish scientist cannot do good science is not me, yet it’s directed as a comment to me. Of course I infer this to mean you think I am that person.

          • Alan says:

            Last week I didn’t know if you believed that a religious person can be a good scientist and you told me you believe he can be. I believe you. So I’m not directing these words at you. Please chill a little bit.

          • LarrB says:

            Titleb
            “I also think we should hold people accountable and responsible for ideas they believe in… ”
            Just a joke, as long as everyone agrees with you.
            We can’t have unapproved beliefs.

          • Alan says:

            Larry,
            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Atheism

            Check out the Criticism section- it’s not just Rabbi Sacks who is critical of New Atheism but some professional atheist philosophers are even more critical. Also notice at the beginning of this article the other names that New Atheism is known by.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, these two quotes from the article point to New Atheism’s biggest problem in my view:

            Murtaza Hussain has alleged that leading figures in the New Atheist movement “have stepped in to give a veneer of scientific respectability to today’s politically useful bigotry”.

            “I consider them atheist fundamentalists…They’re anti-religious, and they’re mean-spirited, unfortunately.”

            What I am seeing from these New Atheists is a high level of anti-religious bigotry. You can be an atheist and not be a bigot, and I can respect that.

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, may I suggest that if you want to know anything about the New Atheists, utilizing what faitheists say about them (both atheist and theist) is not source material. It is a second hand smearing you are choosing to believe.

            I suggest that you actually listen to and read New Atheists themselves… if you are curious. And, yes, you will find the vast majority are highly anti-theism in whatever form this theism takes. And you can’t be bigoted again Really Bad Ideas, which is how New Atheists see religious belief.

            You will not find New Atheists vilifying theists as people but fully support each and every theist’s rights and freedoms that New Atheists themselves desire and support. What you will find is that we do criticize real people who support actions and behaviours and discrimination for theistic reasons and who then try to justify acting on this beliefs. New Atheists hold these individuals to be responsible for harming real people in real life for Really Bad Reasons. That’s the anti-theism aspect, and many people feel that this identity that is being criticized – the Really Bad Idea under whatever religious name it goes by – is really an attack on the individuals who holds them. This is not true. Again, New Atheists have as much respect for the rights and freedoms of a theist as they do for any atheist; they just disagree with the Really Bad Idea and how it is used to affect. That’s not bigotry, in the same way a verbal criticism against Islamism is not a personal attack against Muslims. It’s a criticism of a Really Bad Idea, which necessarily must be held by individuals. As long as these individuals decide to identify with the religious tribe, then they are going to have to get over themselves trying to protect the Very Bad Idea by pretending criticism of it is an against them. And New Atheists aren’t the ones making this affiliation; it is religious people trying to seek cover and protection for their Very Bad Ideas by hiding behind the created identity and then claiming this identity is synonymous with then individual who holds it It’s not. It’s a facade built from the particular Very Bad Idea.

            You would know this if you actually read some of the New Atheists rather than go along with some faitheist smear job on Wiki.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, it’s really bizarre that you would tell me this to my face knowing full well that we first met in the company of your friend “Arkenatan” and several of his cronies, who were the most uncivil, discourteous people I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. They engaged in direct personal attacks, used foul language, and were so uninterested in hearing us out and actually having a dialogue except to mock us that Rabbi B. finally blocked them. And let me tell you, it takes a lot for Rabbi B. to block someone.

            So, excuse me, sir, but I have first-hand experience with New Atheists, and that Wikipedia article simply confirmed my own experience. In-your-face, first-rate, anti-religious bigotry. God help us all if you guys ever get the power you wish to have.

          • Alan says:

            Larry,
            And doesn’t Tildeb make us really want to go out and read the New Atheist writings? He makes it sound so appealing. Like a hammer salesman trying to sell you a hammer by smashing you on the head with it. See how strong and well-made my hammer is?

        • Dina says:

          Tilly, wrote: “God science is good science.”

          A typo, but a funny and ironic one ;).

        • Eleazar says:

          Bringing “anti-theism” into science is no better than bringing religion into it. Either way, a pretext based on personal beliefs taints any objective investigation.

          • tildeb says:

            Eleazar, religion has no place in science. That’s not anti-theism; that’s a methodological necessity. Religious people who can compartmentalize their thinking and keep their religious beliefs out of doing their science is fine… hard to do sometimes when religious leadership urges inclusion all the time, but quite possible.

            So it’s a mistake to assume that keeping religion out of science is ‘anti-theism’. It’s not. Religion has not earned a place at this table because it does not produce insight into the workings of reality. Never has. It’s role seems to be to pass moral judgement – again, from a vacuous starting point – on whatever science is being done and the products we derive from it It’s like the Plumber’s Union demanding they be allowed to pass judgement on what astrophysicists are up to because, you know, proper plumbing piety and all that jazz. These members of the plumbing community demand people then pay attention to how the plumbers describe and define what effects might derive from what those physicists are up to.

            Keeping out the plumbers from having any affect on the astrophysicist’s work is not ‘anti-plumbing’; what Plumbing Union representatives think about the work being done by astrophysicists has no bearing. Why so many religious people assume religion has a place at scientific table and, when kept away, involves some kind of bias and discrimination means they don’t understand how science works.

        • LarryB says:

          Dina
          You may remember but you challenged titleb a long time ago and he/she told you the reason they talk this way is because it works.
          Alan
          That’s funny. I also think titleb is only here to cause doubt.

    • tildeb In the context of Dawkin’s “God Delusion” this is child’s play – this is Dawkin’s language

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  25. Concerned Reader says:

    Rabbi, excommunication is only a punative action by the Church for a sinner who has the hope of repentance. Since Hitler had no hope of repentance, excommunication would not have been relevant as per Catholic teaching.

    Not even the anti Christian Roman emoeror Julian the apostate (who had many Christians and bishops killed) and who tried to rebuild Roman polytheism was excommunicated.

    Hitler exploited the bigotry of his Christian countreymen to harm the Jewish people, but a person honestly had to ignore the whole ethic of Jesus 1st.

  26. Eleazar says:

    Tildeb= “And I do my best to try avoid deluding myself.”

    Better try harder. Not doing so well at this point.

  27. Concerned Reader says:

    “Check out the Criticism section- it’s not just Rabbi Sacks who is critical of New Atheism but some professional atheist philosophers are even more critical.”

    I think those criticisms are partly disingenuous Alan, because these are philosophers who themselves base their worldview on a soft science with its own axioms (read assumptions.)

    Philosophy is indeed based on logical argument, even though its likewise true that a logical argument, though it is logical, can be proved factually incorrect given time and added knowledge.

    For example, the geocentric model of planetary motion is a functional and logically derived model of the world, but nonetheless it is factually incorrect based on what we know now. Philosophical logical argument does not equal proof of reality.

    Generally, criticism of new atheism by Philosophers is based on the perceived pitfalls of moral philosophy should it be derived from theories like natural selection. Even Dawkins admits that such would be an improper use of the theory.

    Calling people like Dawkins “mean spirited” is thoroughly a subjective criticism of that individual atheist, and is not a valid argument against all atheistic people, or of the view that a deity doesn’t exist.

    Philosophical criticism of atheism largely starts with the premise that “you cannot justify why you know what you know based on materialism alone,” and so uses a type of reductio ad absurdum to discount the position which is circular reasoning.

    Not even Plato or Aristotle could “prove” that the realm of the forms existed, they just needed to posit some explanation to serve as an axiomatic baseline for a worldview.

    Atheists acknowledge that they accept certain axioms that they cannot justify,(see Tildeb’s water perfectly fits a puddle analogy,) but there is no rule that says a person has to justify everything philosophically.

    Take for example the Kalaam. Religious people often say, “you cannot justify your position, (claim it is logical,) without positing a basis for the existence of logic, (the TAG)

    The issue is that saying

    “whatever begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause,”

    does not in itself prove the existence of an intelligent agent, It merely proves “some unknowable 1st cause exists.” “some ground floor exists.”

    All major theistic philosophers (Rambam and Aquinas included) knew full well that arguments for G-d’s existence did not subjectively prove their faith positions. That is why they both compartmentalize knowledge into general knowledge (derived from observation) and knowledge granted by revelation.

    • Alan says:

      CR,
      I accept what you’re saying. I’m just saying that R’ Sacks was mild compared to these other professional critics and that the New Atheists have a reputation beyond R’ Sacks.

      I recently read, don’t remember where, but it seemed like a reliable source, that most science today is based on indirect observations- because we’re dealing today with time scales and sizes hat we can’t directly observe.

    • Dina says:

      Con, you wrote that calling someone mean-spirited does not apply to all atheists. Of course it doesn’t. The person writing this was referring specifically one strain of atheism that goes today by the name of “New Atheism.” Just judging from the comments “New Atheists” who have visited this blog, it’s a fair assessment.

      The level of anti-religious bigotry is actually frightening. And Jews are very, very scared of anti-religious bigotry for very, very valid reasons.

      Con, I’m sure you know that it’s possible for atheists to be tolerant of religion without feeling threatened by it. There are loads of such atheists, such as those mentioned in the article, and also such as Charles C.W. Cooke and Charles Krauthammer (more of an agnostic than atheist).

      We have no problem with them.

      • Eleazar says:

        Tildeb is mistaken. I know and have interacted with many antitheists or “New Atheists” or whatever they are calling themselves now. Almost all vilify theists of any stripe as “morons”, “idiots”, “ignorant”, “uneducated”,etc. Some troll Facebook or Twitter and personally attack theists as a mission. Then again, since I am a theist and am reporting on my first-hand experiences, to Tildeb this is a “second-hand smearing”. Its a game in which Tildeb is fully willing to accept second, third or even 20th hand smearing against theists by fellow atheists who may or may not be telling the truth, or may be spinning facts, but write off our personal experiences easily.

        Atheists, like Tildeb, also use different standards to judge what is true. They are willing to accept “scientific evidence” they have not seen or measured personally, and are many degrees of separation removed from the actual facts. Yet, were I to share my own first hand spiritual experiments, which I empirically confirmed, they would not accept them. Why? Because I am a theist, and for no other reason. In other words, they are willing to take an atheistic scientist at his/her word.

        For example, believing the temperatures as reported in various parts of the world to support global warming, with no skepticism whatsoever that perhaps those numbers are being cherry-picked or skewed, knowing global warming is a political issue that Democrats have used to win elections. A lifelong antitheist friend of mine posts “scientific” atheistic memes on Facebook all the time that are skewed and/or fake. One such was a map of the “most peaceful places on earth”, and the meme points out that these are also the least religious places. Of course, the map includes Antarctica, Greenland, Northern Canada, Switzerland and other sparsely populated Northern areas that have little to no cultural diversity.

        The point I am making is this- most antitheists employ heavy source criticism to those whose evidence is contrary to their beliefs, but do not hold their own sources, and evidence, to the same standards. This is standard operation procedure for people of any view: religious or political. And the fact that Tildeb is even posting on this blog is undeniable proof that many of them are simply Evangelical Antitheist missionaries.

        • tildeb says:

          That little gish gallop by Eleazar is what we call an ark load of PRATT: you either drown in its dribble or have to write dissertations to explain all the problems that make the whole fallacious.

          • Eleazar says:

            Four short paragraphs that really only make a couple of points. Why would it take a dissertation to refute it?

            Fallacious: Proposing that certain select professionally edited books represent “New Atheism” attitudes and methods more accurately than the thousands ( millions?) of internet trolls and family members who spew mocking hate and unscientific nonsense at all things religious.

            What’s next? Are you going to say, “Those aren’t REAL New Atheists”?

          • tildeb says:

            Eleazar, there all kinds of atheists and many of them are trolls. Many are anti-theists. But I telling you that New Atheism is predicated on four spokespeople who each wrote a similar kind of thesis: stop respecting religious belief and get it out of the public domain. Each of the four had a different angles even though each of the first three were writing at about the same time.

            Harris was first published and talked about why we as a species could not afford to continue to think this way and survive; Dawkins was second and was charged to teach the public why creationism going unchallenged was not an ‘alternative’ to evolution; Dennett wanted religion to stop being granted immunity from being scientifically studied for its psychological staying power and ability to alter thinking methods; Hitchens wanted to challenge people to take the blinders off their eyes when going along with respecting religion – he was utterly appalled at Mother Teresa’s brutality and wickedness in his biography of her – and realized just how poisonous to both reason and morality religious belief had become. These were the Four Horsemen who formed the genesis for a new kind of active atheism and the press labeled these authors as representing a much more vigorous and outspoken atheism. They called in New Atheism because each of these author’s books were massive – and massively surprising to their publishers – intenational bestsellers. There were many other authors also doing their part – Grayling, Rushdie, Ali, Onfray, Adams, Neiman, Solomon, Singer, Pinker, and so on – but none of them had the crowd-drawing power of the horsemen pulling in hundreds and thousands into their book tours.

            The pushback from various religious leaders was not based on the merit of the arguments presented but on the character of those who would dare to publicly challenge religious privilege. That’s why the meme (coined by Dawkins) that labelled these gentle souls to be ‘militant’ and ‘hateful’ and ‘angry’ and so on. From the archbishop of Canterbury to the pope – including a foray by our friend Sacks who won a Templeton prize for his misrepresentations of how cozy and compatible archaic and barbaric religious belief is to the method of science… failing utterly to account for all those areas where the incompatibility of methodology is an ongoing driving force for denialism and conflict.

            What we find with Sacks is what religious people do when faced by confrontation of their dearly held beliefs shown to be factually incorrect and a source for certain kinds perniciousness (like not respecting reality): attack the character of the messenger and claim the tone is just too darn harsh.

            Same old, same old, and just as effective now as it was when he wrote his article. He uses it not because it’s true about New Atheism or New Atheists but because it continues to work to effect on some people who have religious sympathies. Yup, it’s those New Atheists blowing people up, flying planes into buildings, beating children to death and withholding medicine and medical care, practicing ‘scientisim’ and discriminating against real people in real life. Yup, it’s New Atheists who are the fundamentalists, who are preaching a religion and evangelizing the young maintaining patriarchy. Yup, up is just another kind of down, you see, and look at all the people gullible enough to go along with this lie. Yup, blame the New Atheists and warn people just how very dangerous they really are: they ask you to think and maybe even cause insult. Oh, the triggering. Terrible heathens one and all.

          • Dina says:

            You were right, Eleazar, those aren’t the “real New Atheists.”

          • Dina, Alan, Eleazar and Tildeb All of us are intelligent people who recognize that it is wrong to personally attack people when arguing over ideas. Each idea that any of us has espoused or will espouse has a crowd of “personal attackers” to “defend” it. We all (and I include myself) sometimes slip into the “personal attack” mode without really meaning to.But what is the point of discussing if some people personally attack others or not? Isn’t there enough substance to debate about? I happen to be busy with the upcoming debate with Dr. Brown – but tildeb’s point about following commandments as opposed to following our own moral compass is on my mind – do any of the theists here want to take this up? (Averick has a piece about this argument in his book – in the language of the New Atheists this would then be called a PRATT – but for the benefit of those who haven’t digested the “thousand” refutations – maybe we should discuss it?)

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Alan says:

            I responded to tildeb’s point a couple of weeks ago but the topic didn’t take off. We can try again. From one viewpoint it is greater to be commanded and do then to not be commanded and do. From a different view, it is greater to do without being commanded than to do because one was commanded. There is a whole discussion about this in the Talmud. And Rav A.I. Kook has an amazing essay on this topic.

          • tildeb says:

            Glad to, YPF.

          • Dina says:

            Rabbi B., the mockery, condescension, and bigotry of some atheists are not irrelevant because one of their biggest arguments against religion is that it produces this attitude among its adherents toward others. My point in dwelling on this is to show Tilly that this is not a religious problem. This “perniciousness” has more to do with human nature than any given religion or non religion.

          • Alan says:

            There is natural morality- without even being taught we just know that some things should not be done and other things should be done. We are born with a healthy moral compass, an undeveloped one, but a sensitive one nonetheless. The society we live in has a strong effect on even the most sensitive natural moral compass. But a human being is also born with another feature in their makeup- it is the force of selfishness, ego, fear for their physical safety and comfort. These two forces are equal opponents. But because the world is physical and very scary, the ego has the upper hand. The ego is also a master of taking the clay the moral compass is made of and molding and shaping it according to the ego’s needs. So the ego is able to re-jigger the natual moral compass – and to truly believe – the new version of morality is even better and more true than before. But if we try hard to get our natural moral compass in synch with an external moral compass even when the ego is protesting, then we have a much better chance of keeping our morality true to itself as well as developing it to its full potential. The Torah doesn’t command every single act of kindness and every single act of going above the letter of the law in our relationship with Hashem and with our fellow man. There is a huge area that is voluntary, optional and open like the sky. The difficult question is what do we do when we confront a situation where our natural morality seems to be in conflict with the external morality? When the external morality doesn’t seem moral to us. And am I being immoral to my own self when what I want to do or think or say seems moral to me but according to the external morality I am supposed to suppress what I want to do.

          • Alan says:

            Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook 1865-1935, rabbi of pre-State Israel in (Orot ha-Kodesh III, rosh davar, 11):

            Fear of Heaven such that, without its effect on the living, people would be more inclined to doing good and realizing that which is beneficial to both the individual and the community, and because of its effect this active force diminishes – such fear of Heaven is unfit.

            A sign that one’s fear of Heaven is pure is when one’s natural morality, that which is implanted in man’s nature, rises with it to levels that are higher than where it would have stood without it.

          • Alan says:

            Rav Kook’s letters, letter #89 –

            What must be added through generosity of spirit and freedom of good will must thus remain “deeds of the pious [deeds of the pious are not mandatory but are beyond the letter of the law]”. We cannot even imagine the great loss that would result to human culture if these great qualities were established as obligatory…Those matters that target the depths of good as it spreads, like the dew of resurrection, are intended for the future and are considered acts of generosity and love of kindness. This is the fate of going “beyond the letter of the law,” which will do much good at the time that man’s stone heart will be replaced with a heart of flesh. Thus, those matters that are left as “beyond the letter of the law” must remain that way. As humanity is uplifted, the qualities of the pious will leave private property and become public property; they will be acquired by the entire nation – “And all of your sons will be learned of God (Isaiah 54:13).”

          • Alan says:

            Rav Kook writes the following in a discussion of the biblical institution of slavery which with all of the laws involved to protect the slave was extremely different from the cruel slavery that we see in many other cultures (the word for servant and slave are the same in Hebrew (eved); there is no word for slave to distinguish it from servant):

            The reality of life is that there is rich and poor, weak and strong. A person who has great wealth hires poor people – legally – in order to do his work. These employees are, in fact, “natural” slaves [as opposed to the legal slavery of the Torah] due to their socio-economic standing. For example, coal miners. These people go to work in the mines of their own free will, but they are in effect slaves to their employers… and maybe if they were actually owned by their employer, they would be better off!… The rich, with their stone hearts, scoff at all morals and ethics. They don’t care if the mines lack air and light, even if this shortens the life expectancy of their workers, whose numbers run into the tens of thousands, many of whom become critically ill. They certainly won’t engage in any extra expense to improve working conditions in the mines, and if a mine shaft collapses burying workers alive, they don’t care. Tomorrow they will find new workers to employ. If these people were owned by the master by legal slavery, he would have a financial interest to look after their lives and well-being, because they are his own assets. (R. Kook. Letters of Rav Kook, vol.1, no.89)

            From http://etzion.org.il/en/morality-slavery
            Put simply, R. Kook suggests that servitude is like any other natural phenomenon – it can be used properly and responsibly or it can be abused. As long as some people are wealthy and powerful and others remain poor and weak, “natural servitude” will always exist, even if slavery were to be formally outlawed. The poor will always rely on the wealthy to hire them. It is better that the worker remain the “property of the owner,” creating a situation in which it is in the master’s best interest to look after his slave’s welfare. The owner will more often than not care about his profit sheet, not his workers’ interests.

          • Dina says:

            Alan, is your middle name Ira by any chance? The guy from KDK? Used to live in Philly, I think?

          • Alan says:

            Dina,
            My middle name is not Ira. But I grew up outside of Philly and went to college in Philly.

          • Dina says:

            Okay, then it must not be you, if KDK doesn’t mean anything to you :). Funny coincidence, though Ira is a pretty common name among Jews and Silver is even more common. Probably a lot of Ira Silvers in Philly :).

          • Alan says:

            KDK doesn’t ring any bells. I’m from Bensalem. Went to Temple U.

          • Dina says:

            Not far from where I live in Northeast Philly.

          • Alan says:

            From Bensalem to NE Philly is only a 15 minute ride down Roosevelt Blvd.

          • Dina says:

            Yup.

          • Alan says:

            I left PA many years ago. I still drive to Chalfont to visit my one family member still living in PA.

          • Dina says:

            My apologies to Rabbi B. for going off topic :).

          • Alan says:

            Finally found the main one I was looking for (http://gush.net/alei/2-1kook.htm) –

            Rav Kook adds that if it all came “as mandatory law, people would have obscured its eternal guidance from being a beacon to all generations and a light to the nations, according to their widely varied spiritual levels.”[22] In other words, if all the moral duties were to be turned into mandatory Halakhah, it would be detrimental to Israel’s mission of being a light to the nations. It is the very fact that the people of Israel reached, through the Torah’s guidance, a moral way of life out of a free inner awareness, that will cause many nations to marvel and will inspire them to ascend to the mountain of the Lord. This is “the Torah [that] will go forth from Zion” and this is the “word of the Lord [which will emanate] from Jerusalem.” Moral duties that we are accustomed to define merely as pious deeds, or beyond the letter of the Law, are thus found to be the essence of the Torah. Rav Kook adds,

            “One cannot measure the magnitude of the loss that human culture would suffer if these exalted virtues were set as fixed obligations. Only that which is most essential for present physical and moral life, and which, if weakened, harms the roots of the future, becomes law, and [of this it is written,] ‘Greater is he who is commanded and acts’… This is the fate of [duties] ‘beyond the letter of the law,’ which will be of great benefit when man’s heart of stone will turn into a heart of flesh. (Letters of Rav Kook I, pg. 97)”

            And if we ask what is the relative weight of that part of Judaism that has to be observed out of a free inner awareness, as compared with the obligatory halakhic part, Rav Kook answers that:

            “That aspect of morality which must rise out of charity and the love of kindness must always be the greater part of general positive morality, just as the open air is in comparison with the buildings and cultural activities in them; it is impossible that they should not leave it a very broad expanse.(Letters of Rav Kook I, pg. 97)”

            Note the image used by Rav Kook. Its meaning is that the autonomous duties are quantitatively several times greater than the halakhic duties.

            “Be aware that the Torah was lenient in laws relating to the community, not pressuring the spirit of the nation to piety, because then piety would have been made into a matter of routine and duty, and the Torah’s purpose is that the mind be ruled by love and benevolence. This is the reason underlying some of the Torah’s leniencies in the laws of warfare. As for the elimination of idolatry, this is in keeping with Israel’s general mission; in any case, this subject was left to the courts to inquire into the moral quality of each cult, since not all cases are identical. Because of our many sins these matters have not been expounded to us in detail, for from the time we lost our national spiritual strength we lacked practical experience in these things, and thus it will remain until God, blessed be He, will restore to us our crown of glory; may it be soon, in our days.(Letters of Rav Kook I, pg. 100)”

          • Alan says:

            Talmud Tractate Kiddushin 31a (and elsewhere) –

            [Rabbi Hanina taught] He who is commanded and does is greater than he who is not commanded and does.” I don’t believe this teaching is challenged anywhere in the Talmud (if it is I hope someone will let us know, but I don’t think it is).

            If anyone wants to take a stab at an explanation of this teaching please do. No need to answer and no pressure.

          • Dina says:

            Wow, Alan, you’re on a roll!

            The standard explanation is that it’s easier to do something if you know you don’t have to do it. The minute you know you have to do it your natural tendency is to chafe at the bit and say no. For example, let’s say you were considering taking your child for counseling because of a particular issue. Then let’s say the school says you can keep your child in the school only if you take him for counseling. You wanted that to be your decision, not something forced on you by the school. So although you were considering it anyway, now all of a sudden you’re going to push back.

          • Alan says:

            Dina,
            Rabbi B suggested we change the subject to this particular topic that tildeb brought up a couple of weeks ago and so I am taking Rabbi B’s advice.

            Yes you’re explanation is the explanation of the Tosfos commentators on the Talmud and the Ritva’s first explanation.

          • Alan says:

            Let’s say there is an obligatory good behavior which is easy for Bill and hard for Sam. They both did the same act. Who did something greater and why?

            What if another good behavior were voluntary for Bill who finds it very easy to do but obligatory for Sam who finds it very hard to do. Bill does the act easily and with joy, and Bill does it just because he has to and not because he wants to but he finds that he is happy that he was able to do good. Who did something greater and why?

            What if it was voluntary for Bill who finds it very difficult but obligatory for Sam who finds it very easy? Who did something greater and why?

          • Alan says:

            The following is an excerpt from an article by Rabbi Mois Navon (an Orthodox computer design engineer living in Israel) called “The Psychology of Being Commanded” http://www.divreinavon.com/pdf/NavonBHT18.pdf

            Indeed, following this story [in which R’ Hanina says that one who is commanded and does is greater] the Talmud goes on to demonstrate that Rabbi Hanina’s principle is not necessarily intuitive by telling the story of Rabbi Yosef. Rabbi Yosef was blind, and, according to Rabbi Yehudah, a blind person is exempt from the mitsvot (commandments). Rabbi Yosef was very happy over this exemption. He saw his merit as all the greater because he was performing the mitsvot without being commanded to do so. However, when Rabbi Yosef learned of Rabbi Hanina’s principle that the one commanded has greater merit, he was greatly saddened. Rabbi Hanina’s principle might seem counter-intuitive to us today since we generally place greater merit on personal initiative, on the free exercise of will without compulsion. Nevertheless, Rabbi Hanina’s principle is brought elsewhere in the Talmud as a truism without dissent:…The rabbis of the Talmud here do not seek to prove the veracity of this principle; rather, they employ it axiomatically in order to solve a particular quandary: Why is an act done under compulsion held unequivocally to be of greater value than one done free of coercion?

          • Alan says:

            An act done because God commanded is greater than the same act done without being commanded by God because the person doing it is not doing only to fulfill his sense of self. Even if he is doing an act of kindness and charity for others, which is definitely a good act, he is still only doing it because something in his self tells him to do it – he might not even feel any true compassion for others but he does it because his reason has led him to the conclusion that this is the right thing to do or the right way to act. Or maybe he’s doing it because he hopes to get something in return or because he hopes that others will help him someday if he needs it. But if he does it because God commanded, then it’s not rooted in his sense of self; he takes himself out of the picture and can truly learn to do for others without consideration for his sense of self. He can truly learn to be selfless and emulate God’s selflessness.

          • tildeb says:

            Yes, this is the line of reasoning Himmler used to encourage the SS in his Warsaw speech, that the selfless act of committing genocide over which so many in the SS had real psychological problems carrying out was actually a demonstration of the highest virtue, you see. The SS was unappreciated, sure, tasked with such a difficult job, and criticized by those who didn’t understand the selfless motivation, but as Himmler emphasized the Dear Leader knew just how courageous and virtuous was their collective action.

            So you’ve got to ask yourself, “What is the moral difference?”

          • Alan says:

            I am changing the subject to do a positve act, not a negative one. We’ve spent the last few days discussing doing negative and destructive acts. I think we’re tired of that and so I’m only talking about constructive acts today.

            Do you plan to answer Rabbi B and Jim?

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, no I don’t plan on responding to questions asked out of petulance (YPF) and pseudo-humility and -simplicity (Jim) because the intention is not to discuss or explore or even understand the other view but to defend one’s own at all costs. That’s a waste of time and effort to a doomed endeavor. At least you have the honesty to say you wish to evade the problem.

            By the way, my friend John Zande has written a book using all of these typical arguments to demonstrate this divine figure to be the the owner of all infernal names. The reasoning is identical to justify why we can come to know (tongue in cheek) that such a divine agency is really quite horrible. Examining this thesis demonstrates the root problem justifying religious belief and all that derives from it: the belief hinges on imported faith, which is then held in greater confidence than any amount of credible and contrary and compelling evidence from reality. So the point (especially when it comes to obeying ‘commands’) is, have you imported the correct faith-based belief and how might you ever know…before, say, committing genocide in its name? That’s the question I’m interested in, the ‘how do you know’ part because I have yet to encounter anything other than, Because I was taught to believe so.” And when it comes to imposing actions and effects on other, I see this justification as immoral and irresponsible.

          • Alan says:

            I will respond in about 40 minutes.

          • Alan says:

            “Alan, no I don’t plan on responding to questions asked out of petulance (YPF)”

            He didn’t intend to be petulant. Give him the benefit of the doubt after how good he’s been to you. You could have asked him if he was being petulant instead of running away and not responding to him. Besides, have you ever been petulant on this blog?

            “and pseudo-humility and -simplicity (Jim)”

            He was joking! http://www.wikihow.com/Have-a-Sense-of-Humor

            “because the intention is not to discuss or explore or even understand the other view but to defend one’s own at all costs.”

            Why didn’t you ask him if this was his intention. I didn’t see this in his words at all. You often give the impression that you’re trying to defend your own view at all costs. I have never even once seen you write, “thanks for that” or “thanks I didn’t see it that way” or “yeah, you might be right” or “I see your point of view”. Not even once.

            “At least you have the honesty to say you wish to evade the problem.”

            Evading? Where have you been for the past few days? We’ve all been doing nothing but not evading.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, if you think it’s pointless, why did you bother in the first place? You seem to be arbitrarily selecting challenges to not respond to because it’s futile to tackle those but productive to tackle others.

            Can you imagine how this looks to others?

            Also, you make subjective emotional judgments (deciding Rabbi B.’s question is asked out of petulance, a characteristic that simply does not belong to him). For a man of science who makes decisions based on facts, aren’t you being hypocritical? You also imputed a malicious motive to me without evidence as well (saying I intentionally misrepresented you). That’s not only a foul thing to do (reciprocity!) but doesn’t fit with the worldview you are promoting.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, I rephrased my question to: if Judaism is so pernicious, then why have its adherents been model citizens of every country they’ve inhabited (the record isn’t perfect but it is remarkable), showing respect to their neighbors and to each other?

            Is that a question that is pointless to answer because of my inherent dishonesty, or will you answer it?

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, I have… many times. You’re not listening.

          • Dina says:

            Tilly, I must have missed your answer. Do you mind answering it again, or posting a link to the comment that answers the question?

          • Alan says:

            Does this make any sense to anyone? I would like to challenge myself – can’t we say that even the person who is doing it because God commanded is doing it because his sense of self tells him that he must listen to God? So how can a person ever fully take his sense of self out of it?

          • Alan says:

            To answer myself, I don’t think it’s possible to ever fully remove one’s sense of self while doing an act of giving commanded by God.

          • Dina says:

            Makes sense.

          • Jim says:

            Alan,

            A few years back, I read a few accounts of Jewish converts who were quite dissatisfied with their conversion. The sticking point for several of these accounts had to do with the commandments. Before the convert had undergone his conversion, he was excited to do these commandments, not so much those that related to justice but other observances. They were happy to take upon themselves dietary prohibitions, Shabbos restrictions, and other things that seemed to express “spirituality”. Indeed, they felt that keeping the Seven Laws was unfulfilling and lacking.

            Their enthusiasm for these practices ebbed after about a year from their conversion. Something had changed for them, and that something was that they no longer had a choice in keeping those commandments. They chafed under the notion that they “had to” do these things now and “must not” do these other things. It no longer felt spiritual to them. It was not an expression of their desires. Unfortunately, these people discovered that for them, this was never about submitting to the will of God. And some of them were looking for a loophole out of their conversion.

            The act of submitting to God does minimize the self. Of course, many converts joyfully submit themselves to their Creator. They recognize their own relative unimportance. But for some, performing the commandments is about ego. The idea of doing something, because “God said so” irritates them. They no longer feel like they are expressing themselves. They are no longer fulfilling their own will but God’s, which was not their intention. For them, obedience is a burden, precisely because it minimizes the ego.

            Jim

          • Alan says:

            You’re very special Jim (I’m not saying your more special than anyone else here). I don’t have time to write more now, I’ll try a little later after I respond to tildeb.

          • Alan says:

            Jim,

            “Something had changed for them, and that something was that they no longer had a choice in keeping those commandments. They chafed under the notion that they “had to” do these things now and “must not” do these other things. It no longer felt spiritual to them. It was not an expression of their desires. ”

            Did these people consciously realize that this was the problem and admit it?

            This was an extremely beautiful and, I believe, true comment you wrote. I’m glad I asked the question just in order to get this comment from you.

          • RT says:

            Tildeb, the believe in G-d should never go against another human being. I would have to deny what I believe if I would have to hurt another being in the name of my G-d. It would be that line for me, but many don’t hold that and consider obeying God/god more important and would even be willing to kill in his name. Many would not think too much if it is in the name of their god and rather hurt others, willingly or not. You don’t have to go as far as genocides, how many marriage and family has been broken because one was unwilling to compromise for their god? I can see your point, but can only answer for my own actions.

          • tildeb says:

            RT, what you’ve described is along the lines of keeping one’s private religious beliefs in the private domain. I have no problem with that.

          • Jim says:

            Alan,

            I am gratified that my comments on the commandments were of benefit.

            Those that converted but now chafed under the commandments did not realize their problem, no. They began complaining about the emptiness of the commandments, how they had lost their enthusiasm for them. They did not realize that it was that nature of being commanded that bothered them, however. They only knew that they were disillusioned.

            Jim

          • Alan says:

            Thanks for the explanation. I understand now.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        Dina Said: “one strain of atheism that goes today by the name of “New Atheism.” Just judging from the comments “New Atheists” who have visited this blog, it’s a fair assessment.|

        There is no specific “strain” Dina. There are a total of like 10 guys who can even fit that description of “New Atheism.” Giving it a fancy name does not make a brand, or a set of doctrines to apply unilaterally to a sample group.

        If you don’t like how Tildeb speaks, that only reflects Tildeb’s words, not atheists generally.

        Also, guys like Dawkins and Hitchens have said in public lectures and their books that they are fine with people who practice their faith in the private sphere and by personal choice. Yes, they are critical of practices like circumcision of babies, but that has been a criticism since Greek times, nothing new there. Dawkins has said that if an adult makes an informed decision (which a child can’t which is why they oppose preaching to kids,) there is nothing wrong with faith in private.

        Atheists are more concerned about the effect that belief has on people outside the fold. For example, if you choose to give your child an education that neglects subjects beyond the 8th grade, that has a real impact on people who don’t share a religious conviction.

        Dina, I understand Jews being afraid of anti religious bigotry, completely, but I would think Jews in particular should understand better than anyone ON EARTH where atheists are coming from viz their fear of religion and the horrendous legacy its wrought.

        I mean think about it. Jews have suffered for centuries at the hands of Christians who sprang from your own religion and yet ignored every ethic of their teacher. IE G-d existing was an irrelevant factor viz the question of these people’s goodness. In fact, the belief spurred the violence as you yourself have said in several places.

        In spite of faith in the creator, despite having the same commands (which my articles have shown,)
        wickedness was still there. Nothing about acknowledging a deity’s existence or not, or about the Torah and its mitzvot, made those people moral or objectively better than others.

        Also, its not like we can say Judaism is removed from this problem itself. Its True Judaism has a better record, but the Christian movement is what can happen when messianism in Judaism goes south, and that is proven, not opinion. The world has seen the likes of Jesus and Shabbatai Tzvi, and in Islam Isis, the Mujahadeen, etc.

        Even when commands are similar, who controls how it gets interpreted when its proven that each major monotheism has produced the same problems in spite of faith?

        Off course religious people will say “well, that’s just bad religion.”

        Consider this carefully though. If Judaism has taught the world at large anything, its a clear message that a person should be critical of mythology and of religious claims, and
        I hate to say it, but sometimes, I don’t think Jewish people are as critical of their own truth claims in the Torah as they ask other peoples to be of their own belief systems.

        I don’t particularly like religion anymore either, and not for lack of effort. Consider that I came from a faith system that could establish its own plausibility based on things other than my opinion, other than Christian sources.

        I was already trying to understand my belief critically when I came here.

        1.Jesus’existence was plausible
        2. His messianism was repeatable within Judaism from Judaism’s own sources.
        3. The interpretations that gave rise to Christianity could be based on various ideas present in Judaism at some time in the past.

        I realize now that If I had not actually chosen actively to question my belief and assumptions, (joined the atheist/agnostic/skeptic) that I would have had no reason to question my previous beliefs, I could have just kept on.

        That assumption of absolute knowledge and truth without criticism is what scares atheists for a great many reasons.

        I could have easily reduced the messianism of Jesus down to being something akin to what is seen in Chabad, or held views posited by the Jesus seminar and could have said, “well, plausible enough based on Torah for me.”

        Dina said, “The level of anti-religious bigotry is actually frightening. And Jews are very, very scared of anti-religious bigotry for very, very valid reasons.”

        I agree, but what of anti religion at the hands of the religious that many religious dont frown on?

        Dina said: “Con, I’m sure you know that it’s possible for atheists to be tolerant of religion without feeling threatened by it.”

        Yes, and I’m equally aware that Its historically been a biblical mitzvah to be opposed to belief systems other than the Bible’s and the faith of G-d.

        IE tolerance is a modern invention that moderns have imposed on the Bible.

        Ideally, you shouldn’t be violent, but Torah itself condones an intolerance of foreign religion that (at least in the text) can become exceeding violent.

        To an atheist for a religion to ask for tolerance is like water asking not to be wet.

        I know theists are scared of people like Hitler or Pol Pot, but that these people were not theists is immaterial because they created cults of personality around themselves that they used as religion to manipulate. IE they were not atheists devoted to reasonable questioning of their assumptions. Like drug addicts they merely left one addiction for another.

        Eleazer said: “Almost all vilify theists of any stripe as “morons”, “idiots”, “ignorant”, “uneducated”,etc.”

        Eleazer, and you are not doing the same in return to an atheist when you say almost all?

        You are aware that most of the removal of religiosity from public life took place by the hand of the religious because of persecution of religious minorities? IE it had nothing to do with atheists that the likes of school prayer was removed.

        Add the Catholic Church to the list of people who don’t want creationism taught as a science. Many people like to label a war on religion as a product of some atheist hate,when in fact the greatest proponents of removing faith from law and public life have been the faithful themselves.

        Eleazer said: “Atheists, like Tildeb, also use different standards to judge what is true. They are willing to accept “scientific evidence” they have not seen or measured personally, and are many degrees of separation removed from the actual facts.”

        Eleazer, someone who is a scientist can accept evidence with more degrees of separation, because of the nature of the claims, and due to the fact that if you wanted, YOU COLD test it yourself if you chose. Science is come to by means of consensus of experience,or based on hypothetical models that adequately describe a phenomenon that are repeatedly tested.

        IE just because I haven’t seen gamma rays doesn’t mean if a nuke explodes that i will refuse to enter a fallout shelter right?

        Eleazer do you know how you can be sure global warming isn’t a conspiracy or skewed? You don’t need to trust temperature numbers alone, though I don’t know why you shouldn’t.

        ITS THE RATE OF TEMP INCREASE, not the fact of increase itself.

        Just look at the planet Venus to see what greenhouse gas accumulation does to temperatures. We know that its atmosphere is full of greenhouse gasses, and we know the effects of those gasses are that more heat is held in.

        Also, have you seen the time lapses of huge glaciers melting? its not that climate doesn’t do this naturally, its that its doing it too fast.

        Even if you don’t accept human driven global climate change, you should still support eliminating fossil fuels and using renewable energy sources for several reasons unrelated to it, in my opinion.

        1. Depending on foreign nations for your energy supply is a terrible idea, especially when the people who supply that energy are paying others to harm you.
        .
        2. Source Scarcity (Oil will run out.)

        3. Pollutants from fracking and drilling (that adversely impact WATER that we NEED to LIVE!) Flint?

        4. If I can produce my own electricity via solar, and produce my own hydrogen for a car, NOBODY else has to be relied on, neither government nor corporations.

        Eleazer saud: “knowing global warming is a political issue that Democrats have used to win elections.”

        As a Democrat ( and former Republican) LMAO! Using climate change to win elections? HAHAHA!

        They don’t know what to use to win at this moment, and it sure isn’t climate!

        • Dina says:

          Connie, your last line is very funny!

          I agree with a lot of what you say. However, I have a particular reason for calling out the apparent anti-religious bigotry and ugly mockery of religious people (not religion, but people) that I personally have witnessed.

          One of the biggest arguments that Tilly and others of his ilk use against religion is that teaching children that their belief is the right one and everyone else is wrong automatically creates a climate of “othering,” looking down on the other, and discrimination.

          What I am witnessing first hand is these particular atheists refining the art of “othering” to an acute degree. My point is, atheists’ are just as susceptible of “othering” those who disagree with them as religious people are.

          I told Tilly the record for religion is a bad. But so is the record for non religion. And we just have to be honest about it. (The Russian Communists persecuted adherents of any religion specifically because of their commitment to atheism, remember that.)

          And frankly, Con, Jews are the least harmless people in the world. The only people who are scared of Jews for real are anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, and…New Atheists?

          The whole world has opposed the Jewish people since its inception. They always eventually disappear, we always eventually don’t, so that’s something to think about, don’t you agree?

          • Dina says:

            Oops, I meant to write most harmless or least harmful but my brain must have gotten twisted up a little!

        • Dina says:

          Con, I do think it’s troubling that you would lay the blame for the violence of Christianity at the feet of the Jewish people because it arose from within Judaism. People could take that idea as an incitement to hatred, although that is clearly not your intention (kind of like Christians today saying that those Christians who were violent took Jesus’s words the wrong way–still he bears responsibility for saying it). It would almost be like blaming the Jews for communism because Karl Marx was a Jew who converted to Christianity, so double whammy!

          You also wrote that Jews are not as critical of their claims as they ask others to be of theirs. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Since when do Jews ask others to be critical of their claims? The only time we criticize the claims of others is when those others aggressively target us for conversion, as I have tirelessly pointed out to you. We truly and honestly don’t care what other people believe as long as they leave us in peace to worship as we please.

          You wrote that the Torah commands intolerance of others’ belief systems. No it doesn’t. The only time Jews were commanded to root out idolatry was in the conquest of Canaan and never again. How many times in recorded history have Jews been anything other than respectful to their neighbors?

          Finally, you are wrong to say that we assume knowledge of absolute truth without criticism. The Talmud is full of discussions about the deepest questions of religion, and every thinking person is going to struggle with questions that they will either find satisfactory answers to or they will not.

          I myself have questions about Judaism to which I have not yet found satisfactory answers. However, I have found the arguments for the basic foundations of Judaism and the truth of the Torah compelling.

  28. Eleazar says:

    Dina.
    Thanks for noticing. He wrote a whole lot of words just to say “They aren’t REAL New Atheists, but even if they are they are still better than those ignorant, murderous, religious people. So there.”

    No doubt he would disassociate himself from those secular, anti-religious nations who have murdered millions of religious people ( they weren’t REALLY atheist nations), or anti-religious abortion mills which have destroyed millions of living fetuses and sold the body parts for profit ( we’ll ignore science on this one).

    • tildeb says:

      Eleazar and Dina, when one encounters people who wish to believe something that is counterfactual, and who continue to fail to account for compelling evidence presented as counterfactual, then one’s patience is worn thin very quickly and it does and often can become quite personal. Ark knows a lot of biblical scholarship. He is an asset. Treating him as an enemy or malicious as a person rather than using what he knows invites an equivalent response. Yes, I would classify him as a New Atheist but his style – like my own – is not to everyone’s taste or sensibilities. He was raised religious and does not like finding out how much he was lied to. His anger has a legitimate source even if his targets don’t understand why he is so impatient with them to own up to their incompatibilities. He’s rather like a bulldog that way.

      • Dina says:

        Fascinating.

      • Eleazar says:

        Just as I am sure you will be upset when you find out you too have been lied to, when you discover that false, misleading and selective reporting of evidence is very common in the scientific community and is often motivated by politics and money.

        • Alan says:

          My brother told me that so many scientists are motivated mainly by ego and money and it distorts their search for truth. He couldn’t stand working at a certain university because of the huge egos there and this caused people to keep their knowledge to themselves instead of people helping each other. He said it was much better when he went to Yeshiva University/Albert Einstein where their were a lot of religious Jewish scientists and an overall Jewish atmosphere which promoted sharing and being down to earth.

          • Alan says:

            Just to remind people: my brother is not religious. We both had virtually no Torah education growing up.

  29. Concerned Reader says:

    Con, I do think it’s troubling that you would lay the blame for the violence of Christianity at the feet of the Jewish people because it arose from within Judaism.

    Im not blaming Jews for Christian violence. I am saying that Judaism has a good track record, but it is not beyond the ability of any religion, even Judaism, to create something negative that is the direct result of religious fervor.

    No, Christians are guilty of their own wrongdoing, but that religion would not exist without messianism.

  30. Concerned Reader says:

    Also Dina, blaming a text is not blaming the people. You know that.

    People are free to make their own judgement viz a text.

    Actually, when Saul told G-d no, he proved that people cant be blamed for bad thingsa text says.

    My criticism is that you cannot control how a person will read a given source text. It doesnt matter if your interpretation is all chocolate and roses.

    So, lets take your Canaan example.

    The Torah text allowed for the wiping out of entire nations men women and children as long as the people were “sure” that all proper protocol had been followed. Lets assume all protocol is followed.

    1. Was there an offer of surrender/acceptance of noachode laws for peace?

    2. Was it impossible to find 10 righteous people there?

    3. Is there an active war against the Jewish people?

    Lets assume all protocol was covered and all attempts taken to avoid war.

    All ifs ands or buts granted, THE TEXT still says wipe out man woman and child, (a bronze age war tactic.)

    This is BAD. IMMORAL. Killing infants is wrong. Killing the Egyptian 1st born or the Israelite 1st born was immoral.

    Consider that the Chrstian Bible only has ONE VERSE that explicitly says “kill those that wont have me to be king.”

    It wasnt hard for Christians to ignore literally every other pacifistic option that had way more textual support.

    If a Christian decided to kill an entire people, they had to look to the Canaan incident plus 1 verse from their book to say “Aha!”

    This is not the fault of Jewish people, it is the fault of the book. There is a difference.

    The history of sectarian dusputes in second temple times shows that Jews were not immune to forced conversions or violence.

    I bring up that Christianity emerged from Judaism because of a textual and tradition issue.

    Whatever you think of their motives, they have the sources to back up their readings. It is the sources, not the people that are at fault.

    I do not blame the Chabanik, or the Christian for believing a dead guy can be messiah, thats on the sources.

    • Alan says:

      CR,
      I didn’t understand your example of Saul saying no to Hashem. Please explain because I don’t think Saul ever said no to Him.

      The genocides in biblical times were only allowed by the word of a proven prophet. and it couldn’t be the prophet’s decision but it had to be a comand from Hashem through the prophet. Prophecy ended at the beginning of the Second Temple period. A prophet had to go through a rigorous and long and drawn out testing process by the whole Jewish people before the were confirmed as a true prophet. There a many chapters of laws on how this empirical testing was done. It didn’t have anything to do with the candidate doing miracles and wonders. And as you said before the Jewish people went to war they had to follow many laws of giving their enemies a way of escape- they couldn’t surround them on all 4 sides, they had to leave an escape route; they had to offer them peace first and if they didn’t want peace they were offered the option of fleeing. But yes, killing woman and children and other non-combatants even only under the direct command of a true prophet is not something that any Jew alive for the past 2000 years can relate to and if theoretically the Jewish people had to do such a thing today, I don’t think we could do it. We are so far away from things like that, it is just too repulsive to the Jewish people and has been for at least 2000 years. Prophecy ended about 2500 years ago.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        The problrlem Alan is that the safety net of interpretation is irrelevant because nobody can control how a text gets read and applied.

        That the genocide was commanded at all is horrible because it didnt have to happen even back then.

        Life is full of examples of children being raised by the enemies of their parents, and while not perfect, even that would be preferable to killing infants.

        You are right, Saul only saved Calves for food, no people.

        The fact that you find genocide abhorrent is great, but the point is that this pearl of wisdom manifestly did not come from scripture.

        Your innate morality knew better than a bronze age text. Thats the point. The all seeing made genocide a command when it was not necessary, and this text, outside of its interprative safety net, led to the destruction of many peoples, still to this day.

        • Alan says:

          CR,

          “The problrlem Alan is that the safety net of interpretation is irrelevant because nobody can control how a text gets read and applied.”
          True, I’m only concerned right now how it gets read and applied by those it was given to and who lived it before the text was given to them. I’m not concerned right now about how the text can be misused. Good things, truths can be misused to hurt people.

          “That the genocide was commanded at all is horrible because it didnt have to happen even back then.” It is horrible. You know enough about societies back then that you are sure that it didn’t have to happen? For some reason, all cultures operated this way in war. But the Jewish people did give them a way out because they were commanded by Hashem to. But yes, when the nations chose war, Hashem commanded Israel to wipe out all men, women and children of a few nations (not all nations). It is horrible. And I pray it should never happen again. But again it was through an empirically confirmed prophet. Are you saying you believe these stories actually happened?

          “You are right, Saul only saved Calves for food, no people.”
          Saul also saved the king of Amalek – Agag.

          “The fact that you find genocide abhorrent is great, but the point is that this pearl of wisdom manifestly did not come from scripture.”
          What pearl of wisdom didn’t come from scripture (or from its Oral Explanation)?

          “Your innate morality knew better than a bronze age text. Thats the point. The all seeing made genocide a command when it was not necessary, and this text, outside of its interprative safety net, led to the destruction of many peoples, still to this day.”

          I don’t know what your point is, I really don’t.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            I know you dont understand Alan.

            You did not get the notion that genocide was evil from a book, or from an oral tradition.

            Your own nature opposes such ideas.

          • Alan says:

            CR,
            It’s because of my relatively healthy human nature and my normal Jewish education that I oppose genocide. If I had the wrong friends, teachers and society, I might not oppose it, God forbid.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        This exercise of interprative saftey nets is precisely what bothers atheists, old abd new. Atheists would say

        “you already know how to behave better than your text would ask, so why defend what is abhorrent to our nature and indefensible?”

        Every fiber of your being already tells you that life is preferable to genocide, but because the text allowed it, we rush to defend it in this one case.

        The atheist asks, “why defend that which is morally indefensible?”

        The answer ends up always being because of divine command theory.

        You only defend that which cannot be defended otherwise, in another situation, because you believe that a deity commanded it in this one instance. As I said, the issue is that no group has control over how these books get read and applied, even when they claim they have the authority.

        • Alan says:

          The Jewish people most certainly has control over how the texts (and their Explanations) get interpreted and applied. Ever since the end of the Biblical period (really even before the end of the Biblical period – around the time of Saul), Jews have not engaged in genocide, to this day. We hate it, always have, and never wanted to be commanded to do it.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            The existence of the Christians and other various messianic sects throughout your history proves beyond doubt that you dont have that control, though strictly speaking, you are the target audience of the book.

          • Alan says:

            CR, define “you” in “you don’t have that control”.

    • Dina says:

      Con, this is so frustrating because you completely missed the point of everything I wrote. Later if and when I have time I’ll go back and reread both our comments and try to clarify. It could easily be the fault of my text :).

  31. Concerned Reader says:

    If I had the wrong friends, teachers and society, I might not oppose it, God forbid.

    You would oppose it though. The fact is, hatred must be taught, as the defense of what is indefinsible must also be taught.

    • Alan says:

      CR,
      But I’m telling you, I know myself, I don’t know if I would oppose it if it was taught to me like the Palestinians teach their children (actually most Muslims around the world teach this to their children, according to testimony I have heard from Muslims).

      No religious Jews defend any kind of genocide. Amalek is not even a nation anymore. Thank God, because if they were still a nation a prophet might have told me to wipe them out.

  32. Concerned Reader says:

    You is human beings in any religious group with any religious text. Every religion I have studied has its dissident sectarian groups. The groups themselves do harm, and the attempt by religious authorities to supress dissidents likewise does harm.

    The sad thing is, sectarians often have textual support for their readings.

    You would not have the inclination to fight and harn over G-d’s opinion of the text if you didnt believe he was there.

    • Alan says:

      “You is human beings in any religious group with any religious text. Every religion I have studied has its dissident sectarian groups. The groups themselves do harm, and the attempt by religious authorities to supress dissidents likewise does harm.”

      I agree. I just meant that there will always be a mainstream in the Jewish people that in general understands the texts correctly.

      “The sad thing is, sectarians often have textual support for their readings.”
      But they don’t submit to the mainstream and “go after the majority”.

      “You would not have the inclination to fight and harn over G-d’s opinion of the text if you didnt believe he was there.”
      I don’t understand what you mean in this sentence. Can you please try again?

      • Concerned Reader says:

        My point is, the problems are in the texts themselves.

        If you were not religious, you would have no reason to defend the Canaan genocide incident, just like if a Christian didnt read about anti Jewish rhetoric in the New Testament, he would have no reason to treat Jews terribly. Such behavior is taught, not innate.

        The mistake is in thinking that the “correct” reading avoids the problems with the books.

        I did not listen to the Church’s anti Judaism, because

        1. Its wrong
        2. My reading of the New Testament did not lend itself to that understanding.

        However, I had and have no control of how someone else reads a book. Nonody does, even when they claim they do.

        My point, again, is the inherent problem in claiming that the “proper” reading fixes the issues.

        • Alan says:

          “I did not listen to the Church’s anti Judaism, because

          1. Its wrong”

          You are one of the lucky ones. You had good parents (I remember you wrote about this once). That has a lot to do with why you sensed it was wrong.

          “My point, again, is the inherent problem in claiming that the “proper” reading fixes the issues.”

          CR, it’s not the proper reading. It’s going to the proper people who have the proper Oral Explanation from Sinai and the proper lifestyle and good values in real life.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            Again though, Jewish people (even religuous ones) are not immune to the same cycles, trends, and issues.

          • Alan says:

            We’re not immune. So the faithful of Israel have to watch over themselves and stay in the middle of the road.

          • Alan says:

            CR,
            I will do some research on why the God of Israel would command the Jewish people to commit genocide against the Canaanites. I’ll get back to you. It might take me a few days.

            Are you familiar with the story in Joshua about the Givonim? A Canaanite people that tricked the Jews into not killing them? Because the Jews swore in Hashem’s name to make a treaty with them, they wouldn’t kill them even after the found out the truth. These people lived side-by-side with the Nation of Israel for as long as the Jews were living in Israel. They might have been exiled to Babylon together with the Jews, but I’d have to check to make sure.

          • Alan says:

            In the war with Midyan, everyone was destroyed except for the girls who didn’t know man. With the Amonites and Moabites, only the females are allowed to marry into the Jewish people. Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch in his commentary on the Chumash says that perhaps only the females of these nations were able adapt and integrate with the divine calling of Israel and marry into Israel. I think he is saying that the males became too corrupted even on a biological/genetic level to become healthy members of Israel. We don’t see this attitude in the Torah with other nations, for example Edom and Egypt both the males and females can marry into Israel after 3 generations, and all of the other nations both males and females can marry in right away. Perhaps people can become so morally corrupted that the corruption changes their genes as well (negative character traits became imprinted in their genes and passed down, perhaps the Y chromosome?). In the story of the Flood, the Torah says that even the earth itself became corrupted (Genesis 6:11-12), not just the people. The Jewish people were human beings just like the other near-eastern human beings in ancient times and they saw and lived the same kind of experiences as everyone else. They drove the same cars, had the same smartphones, watched the same TV shows, played the same sports. Except the Jews had filters on their phones and Internet and mostly drove Honda and Toyota minivans (yeshiva mobiles). Some like my family drove Chrysler Town and Country’s (9 years old). They also fought wars and saw life and death very similarly. Those times were extremely dark morally. The Jews had to be elevated slowly. The laws of the Torah helped them slowly rise up from the moral darkness. It doesn’t happen in one or two generations. You see today how the Jewish army tries to be so careful not to hurt non-combatants and women and children. But most other nations aren’t on this level yet. They are better than the Canaanite were but they have not yet reached the level of the average Israeli when it comes to the morality of war.

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, you say, ” Perhaps people can become so morally corrupted that the corruption changes their genes as well (negative character traits became imprinted in their genes and passed down, perhaps the Y chromosome?)”

            No. Morality doesn’t alter the genes by inheritance. Morality is a question of behaviour on a spectrum from good to evil. Change what these terms means, change the morality. Genetic inheritance has nothing to do with it.

          • Alan says:

            There’s a lot of good science today that says that personality traits are inherited. In those dark times, it was the brutal that survived and that had the most offspring. You know natural selection and evolution and all.

          • tildeb says:

            Alan, ‘moral corruption’ is not a genetic issue. How genes may express themselves without altering the underlying genetic code is the current hot topic under the label of epigenetics.

            But that’s not what you are saying.

            You are jumping to a conclusion that a one generation of behaviour shaped by a specific environment in a local place defined to be ‘morally corrupt’ might be/ can be quickly absorbed by genes and then inherited by the next generation and this simply isn’t true. It’s not even close to true because it’s contrary to how we understand genetic inheritance to operate over time…. you know, natural selection and evolution and all…. that as far as I know has no good science to back up this radical and revolutionary model you propose. If it were the case, then we should be able to trace genetic evidence for moral corruption, and this you certainly cannot do because you can’t even define moral corruption genetically. You’re just coming up with what you think might be a ‘sceincy’ kind of hand wave to rationalize a story about justifying some god-sanctioned genocide.

          • Alan says:

            Ok, I’ll try to say it another way. Perhaps (I am saying perhaps), after many generations, the brutal survive and have more children more than the gentle. And their children inherit the personality tendencies toward brutality. There’s a lot of real science that shows very strong evidence that personality is inherited. I’m not trying to justify genocide. I hate genocide. Jews hate genocide. Throughout the first and second Temple periods, over a 1000 years of Torah rule, there was no genocide. They were known as gentle people relative to most of the other peoples.

          • LarrB says:

            Alan
            “The Jews had to be elevated slowly. “. I watched a 5 part video this morning before work about this concerning Shavuot.

          • Alan says:

            Before work, wow, Yashar koach Larry!

        • Alan says:

          “If you were not religious, you would have no reason to defend the Canaan genocide incident”

          I wouldn’t say I would have no reason to defend it if I weren’t religious, but I would likely not have a reason given my background before I became religious.

          • RT says:

            Alan, the Givonim, were the Nethinim from Ezra 2:43 and 58 (at least as per the Stone Bible commentary)

          • Alan says:

            Thanks RT. That means they lived together with Israel for at least 1000 years – a Canaanite nation!

        • Dina says:

          Con, let’s cut to the chase.

          Compare through the last two centuries the violence perpetrated by religious Jews and the violence perpetrated by atheists. If you can show me that in general Jews are more violent than atheists then your point would be better taken.

          The proof is, after all, in the pudding–not in the instructions for making it.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            Have Jews been in positions of power for the past 2 centuries? No. They have been at the mercy of people who sprang from their own faith.

            North Korea has a policy of supressing religion, as did russia, but rational consideration was not their aim. Establishing authoritarian cults of personality was their aim.

            Again, you are falsely conflating atheistic tendency with aithoritarian cults of personality.

            To prove my point. Consider this.

            Examine any of the authoritarian states, and you notice quickly that not only religion is put down, but also any competing secular ideology, especially education and philosophy.

            Pol Pot had all educators/professors (who tend to be secular atheists) murdered, not due to their atheism, but due to their skeptisism of his narrative.

            You falsely ascribe atheism as the cause of authoritatian systems.

            The Kim family in North Korea puts down religious expression, but their family was Christian before. They replaced faith with the leader.

            Rational skepticism plays no role in authoritarian systems.

          • Dina says:

            Con, this has to be the most astonishing post I’ve ever read. I didn’t choose any atheists with which to compare. You did–and then you ascribed those choices to me as if I argued for them. That’s pretty unbelievable.

            You can’t do this exercise. So that pretty much settles it for me.

            By the way, why when atheists do bad things, it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re atheist, but when religious people do bad things, it has everything to do with their religion?

            Jews have been remarkably well behaved throughout history. Just because they didn’t have power didn’t mean they also couldn’t have been drunken tavern brawlers with problems of internal rape and murder among themselves. But they didn’t. Religious Jews have had an extremely low level of violent crime throughout history. Find me a comparable group of atheists. And explain to me why Soviet persecution of religious adherents due to their commitment to atheism has been ignored every time I brought it up (between you and Tilly I believe this is the fourth time).

            Sorry, but it’s getting hard to take you guys seriously anymore.

          • tildeb says:

            Dina, you ask, “By the way, why when atheists do bad things, it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re atheist, but when religious people do bad things, it has everything to do with their religion?”

            And the answer is, “When the bad things being done are for religious reasons, then yes.” And this is because the Bad Things are NOT done for atheist reasons. Atheism is a lack of belief, an empty set… no principles, no tenets, no authority, no scripture, no… nothing…. Atheism is non belief in gods or a god. That’s not a reason to do any Bad Things.

          • Tildeb You keep on insisting that atheism is a non-belief and therefore cannot be a cause of evil. Atheism is a belief that man is no more than a sophisticated animal – that there is no qualitative difference between a man and an animal. Atheism is a lack of respect for the inherent holiness of the inner being of man. This may not be a cause for murder, but it certainly removes one of the most important psychological barriers to murder. In order for the Church to commit the amount of murder it did – it first needed to dehumanize its victims. Atheism rejects the concept of humanity altogether. No, tildeb, it is not a coincidence that those who chose to murder millions and millions of people also chose ideologies that dehumanizes their victims – be it Christianity or atheism.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            YPF, I’m glad you brought this up and appreciate that you expressed this sentiment so clearly because it cuts to the very heart of why the religious assumption about non belief and those who admit they have no belief in gods or a god is so pernicious and in need of criticism.

            This assumption you make (“Atheism is a lack of respect for the inherent holiness of the inner being of man.” And, “Atheism rejects the concept of humanity altogether.”) then quite naturally leads you to then informing other opinions about atheists that is not adduced from reality but imported by you – aided by your religious sensibilities – to potentially drastic and detrimental effect on a group of people who you think shares a stereotypical negative characteristic. This is, at its core, the very definition of bigotry. And that should be a red flag to you that something has gone amiss in your reasoning about a group of people because I sincerely doubt you see yourself this way… or even capable of falling into this trap.

            Nevertheless…

            The assumption you make is that there is an inherent ‘holiness’ to your fellow man. That terminology matters when you then use it as a position upon which to then view and evaluate others. ‘Holiness’ is a fully religious term and it comes packed with meaning relevant only to the religious sensibility in this framework. Take away the religious aspect, and what does the term mean?

            Well, you assume it’s empty and then assign that emptiness to non believers.

            Once the religious baggage is sorted and discarded – including the term ‘holy’ – what do atheists have left?

            It turns out we have left is a lot… like the inherent shared value of each and every human being (at least in potential) that posses a common bond. That bond is a common dignity and a common personhood that derives from this idea of reciprocity, that all of us share a common impulse to treat others as we would wish to be treated. And this impulse is neither absent nor trivial for non believers in gods or a god. It is profoundly important.

            We share as human beings the potential for developing personal meaning and personal purpose, for lives that share the same needs and wants for a general state called ‘well being’, for attaining wisdom and knowledge, for sharing community, for experiencing the human condition through triumph and tragedy, to encounter awe and wonder and delight, to love unconditionally and make things beautiful. What atheists see in the Other is not an absence of humanity at all; what atheists see in the Other is a reflection of themselves in at least potential if not in the particular personal details. And this fundamental one-to-one respect for the Other as we wish to have offered to us matters a very great deal to every atheist I know. But note, you’ve already denied that atheists can have this vastness of appreciation for the Other… not adduced from reality (well, you certainly try to cast the very worst human beings in the history of the world to be ‘typical’ or exemplary atheists representative of those who have no belief in gods or a god) but by you having imported your religious assumption that assigns all of this to be ‘holy’ and therefore the property of religious sentiment.

            It’s not. Religious sentiment (as is so often the case) has co-opted our shared and recognized humanity and claimed it for itself. This is the worst kind of theft because it divides us unnecessarily and does so not to elevate and enrich and defend our shared humanity but to aid and abet the divisive religious meme. Look at what it’s done to you! The cost is to its victims… which I think is both the theist and atheist who are divided not by actual differences of merit but by fiat… serves only one master: the Dear Leader. And you are taught to believe that it is from this Dear Leader who then bequeaths some ‘special status’ to those who act to maintain this fiction of group differences. Most theists simply do not appreciate why this divisiveness model is so very pernicious and yet, from the atheist’s point of view – like the point of view from any discriminated person so assigned to possess some arbitrary negative characteristic by fiat – is as obvious as it is difficult to effectively confront and change.

            This is why the New Atheism movement seems to be aimed at theists: because theists are responsible for maintaining and promoting the meme. But the real adversary is the framework of faith-based belief that filters and distorts how people think about others… not as themselves or as they themselves would like to be seen but as the Other… fundamentally different by some negative characteristic. And the most pernicious is this moral assumption that ends up stripping real people in real life of their shared humanity. That is faith-based belief in action because it is diametrically opposite to what we encounter in real life with real people… people of all nations with whom we really do have far more in common than these kinds of artificial imported differences. What faith-based belief promotes almost always is diametrically opposed to enshrining our shared humanity as the highest virtue in the name of something else, be it religious, political, or social. Each of us is no more ‘special’ than anyone else and the sooner we come to understand why this is so the better we can remake ourselves as ancestors worthy of veneration. And that’s a worthy legacy each of us can achieve. For the right reasons.

          • Tildeb in atheist terminology please explain the intrinsic difference between man and beast. Why is the killing of one wrong and the killing of the other right. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            This is the thing about morality: how we inform our spectrum to begin with is rather important. Starting the discussion with this ridiculous notion that there is something called ‘atheist’ terminology doesn’t help; what does help is to try to use impartial terminology

            We have terms for killing other people that range from murder – an unlawful killing – to justifiable homicide – a lawful killing. See what we’ve done? We’ve brought in a metric – the law. The act is the same, so how do we differentiate? We judge the Intention, not the act.

            The same is true for killing other animals (and yes, humans really are primates by any reasonable standard of the genus). Because we are primates, we require death to provide us with fuel. So we try to mitigate this atrocious means by bringing ethics into the act and have wide ranging ethical debates about killing plants and animals to meet our nutritional needs. Then we have ethical debates about killing reasons other than food. Again, good reasons play a central role because this allows us to take various situations and intentions into account versus ‘Just Following Orders’.

            So you’ve cast this issue into a stark divide where none exists in fact, that one ‘kind’ of killing – hum