Ben Avuyah

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

XGH

It’s strange.

Why is it that I am drawn to the discussions that GH/XGH initiates. I mean of course he is an entertaining and lively blogger, but I don’t think it is a stretch to say there is an element of repetition to the discourse. Most have noticed this. Some have commented on the way it resembles a feverish obsession with the subject matter. An itch that demands to be scratched.

I won’t be so bold as to suggest why XGH pursues the frailty of faith and religion, but I will try and analyze why it has such a formative hold on me…and why I preferentially peruse these discussions even though I am, by this point thoroughly familiar with the outcome as well as most of the arguments that will be represented in the thread.

The gripe is almost always the same. It’s what most people realize as they get a better grasp of logic and history outside of Orthodox Judaism. And that is: There are no good reasons to believe in the brand of Orthodox Judaism that we were raised with. Certainly there are appeals to consequences, and the dire situation those of us who lose faith find ourselves in, but when we usher out our preconceived notions, engage the same critical faculties that we use during our work day, and view what is reasonably known…. no religion passes the bar of credibility.

Sure, there are answers to those damaging questions, “the flood could be local”, “days don’t mean days”, “the creation isn’t the literal order”, “logic doesn’t apply in areas where it contradicts the torah”, “history doesn’t apply in areas where it contradicts the torah”, “God magically put animals on different continents after a flood.”


And sure, they could all be true. We can’t show definitively that they are not. But I think most people with a sensitive intellect begin to realize, that with the liberal amount of leeway the above “answers” require to make room for the torah, there doesn’t exist any story, or series of statements that cannot be justified with the same method. And the answer that answers every question really answers none.

And once one comes to this conclusion religion losses it’s lofty footing as absolute truth, and those who extol it as such are revealed as kindly figures who, despite expertise in Jewish legalities, have never pondered the larger issues.

Shouldn’t the Charedi Rabbi from my Yeshiva who laughed at Christians for the Virgin birth be forced to nod his head and admit that this is no sillier than a talking Donkey? Why was this analogy off limits to his thinking?

Shouldn’t the Modern Orthodox Scholar who easily eludes questions by invoking “alternate realities” and the “limits of logic” every time the Torah runs aground against hard fact, shrug his shoulders and admit that such tactics ultimately can be used to justify any system of thought, no matter how badly it is flawed? Where is this honest introspection in a person who claims that truth is his guide?

Can’t everyone take a step back and realize that they are playing tennis without a net, and marvel at how they remain completely convinced of their own victory?

I think it is necessary to understand that the answer is NO for many people. The ability to apply a critical assessment to themselves and their belief system in the same manner they do for the theological imperatives modeled by others, for reasons of ego, consequences, or otherwise, are outside of their abilities.

Indeed, it seems a core component of successful religion is the ability to avoid this type of introspection. In some religions these thoughts themselves are forbidden. And I have noticed on many comment threads that people seem unable to go down this road of contemplation.

Now, for those who have thought about their religion in this light, it begins to occupy a new space in probability, it is reduced from a certainty to one of many unsupported possibilities. Not better or worse than any other unsubstantiated bit of fluff out there. And as stated above, there exists no good reason to believe.

Well still, it could be true, some might protest, and wouldn’t they be correct? After all it is familiar, and does seem to have some benefits? And even if there is no evidence doesn’t our amazing history show us some hint of our chosen status?

And of course it could be true.

But the real rub comes when we look at “it”. For once you have reduced religion to it’s appropriate rung of likelihood, the “it’, which in our case is Orthodox Judaism, exudes a foul odor of absolute certainty in it’s convictions, which is not in line with the evidence supporting it.

Indeed, In light of the evidence supporting religion, and in fact the myriad of apologetics necessary just to keep it afloat, it would seem an honest religion in an honest community would issue it’s religious proclamations with a mandatory string of diminutives.

Like:

“If there is a God, and we can’t rightly say, seeing as how we have no way of knowing, and we won’t be so ethnocentric as to claim our revelations are better or more reliable than everyone else’s….but if we could ever take a guess as to what he was thinking, assuming he has a mind that resembles in some manner the human mind, in that it thinks thoughts. And with the conjecture that he is aware/concerned/remotely interested in human existence and or behavior, and considers us something more than an annoying layer of crud that grew on his favorite blue marble in his marble collection, we would like to posit the possibility, that the torah is his divine word, and that he is horrendously infuriated by gay people.”

Of course, no such form of religion exists, probably because it’s hard to get people to judge other people with the recommended dosage of cruelty on such a long strand of maybes. And so religions shrug off an honest appraisal of what they can and can’t know and instead use indoctrination and fear tactics to get compliance with their “certainties”, and do so with enormous success.

Many of us have been “volunteers” and received extensive doses of indoctrination complete with the threat of punishment that comes with going “off the derech”, and can testify to the ability of these tactics to achieve their goals.

Religion has aptly demonstrated that it can get people to believe what is uncertain with unquestioning metaphysical certitude by pulling the right strings. And we should all continue to marvel at how all religions do this, in full sight of their contradictory counterparts.

So why will I be waiting at the next GH post that restates the above?

Well partly because GH is an expert orator, and I can expect humor and bravado along the way. And partly because I like to look across the fence and marvel at the inventive nature in which religion will be defended. Maybe I think someone will start to catch on…to look at themselves the way they used to look at Christians and Muslims, and wonder how they are so sure they are right and those are wrong. Maybe there is a rescue aspect, maybe sometimes I feel like I am extending a hand to people still caught up in the fear and indoctrinated hardship and I can show them a way out. Maybe it’s a bit of revenge against the forces that so casually assumed the right to mold me in an image that they had never really pondered the truth of…or perhaps I like to behold the psychology that allows individual certainty in the face overwhelming doubt.

Finally, I think GH has boiled down the difficulties of religion to it's core. He's dissected layer by layer until arriving at the very beating heart of the mythical beast, and executes it as a daily ritual in front of vast audiences. He's shown people the theological difficulties which when unanswered do not allow you to pass GO. And like myself, stands amazed, at the resiliancy of this belief, that in the minds of many commenters, will not submit to the deathblow it recieves. For, rooted in primitave places of the mind, it is immune to his grandest attacks.

Hell, Maybe I just like to watch the show...

Who knows…. either way, I’ll be there.

69 Comments:

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous gross said...

Brilliant.

 
At 12:10 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

thanks !!

 
At 5:52 AM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Great post, as always.

GH is indeed one of the most fascinating blogs I read, for exactly the reasons you mention.

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

BA, you are the master of eloquence. Nice post.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Thanks JA and BH, I wrote this post late last night when I read that GH, excuse me, XGH, was starting up his new blog.

I didn't get to include this in my post. By sometimes I suspect I am under the sway of the same emotion that he is, that compells me to want to grab fellow orthodox people by their jacket lapels, shake them and say...."Hey don't you get it! It's all a bad bad joke, a scary dream you need to wake up from....through centuries of declaring the logical steps that inactivate religion to be "heresy", we have effectively build a huge tower of knowledge, with it's own draconinan rule system.... upon NO foundation. The only trick is we told people they weren't allowed to look down there. Here! Watch me kick it down....Now watch me do it again...you see?"

Now why do I find this conversation interesting even after having it a thousand times ???

Who knows

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

I don't know. I think he has already pushed skepticism past its useful limit. After a certain point you just reach a state of absolute negativity which has no value at all.

At that time you either have to move on and forget the whole thing or try and rebuild you religion on more solid ground. This rebuilt structure may not be exactly "ortodox", but it may retain many of the essential elements that cause religion to be positive force.

In GH's situation, I don't think forgetting the whole thing will work, so that would leave the second option, reconstruction.

I'm not sure we should encourage and add fuel to GH's skeptical fire just for its entertainment value. Does it serve any good?

 
At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eloquent. GH is trying to defend a popular Judaism and that is impossible. The Judaism accepted by the masses has as its purpose to make them study and read expecting statistically that a few will be able to go beyond it.

 
At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was me David g.

 
At 3:06 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>GH is trying to defend a popular Judaism and that is impossible.

Very true.

>The Judaism accepted by the masses has as its purpose to make them study and read expecting statistically that a few will be able to go beyond it.

I don't know if that's the intended purpose, but that's exactly what thinking people must do if they want to remain within the religious community with their sanity intact

 
At 3:16 PM, Anonymous gross said...

Re: GH's new blog. Any details?

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

>>>I'm not sure we should encourage and add fuel to GH's skeptical fire just for its entertainment value. Does it serve any good?

Good question, Baruch, in a sense, are we all a rowdy Jerry Springer audience waiting for the next opportunity to say "OOOHHH", with little concern for the actual participants.

I think Yes and no. I won't deny interest in the debate, but my guess is that GH needs the satisfaction of shouting his findings from the highest mountain tops to assure himself of what many of us have been suspecting as of late....there are no decent answers to these questions.

Without feeling comfortable with that, it is too early to begin to rebuild. But I agree with you, at some point in time all of us who took the liberty of smashing the model of Judaism we were brought up with will have to sit down and put the peices back together in a way that we can live with them.

 
At 4:37 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi David G, thanks for commenting, I think GH is past the point of trying to defend Popular Judaism, rather he is "tearing it a new one" and seeing if any one has even the most remedial methods to stop him.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Gross, there is a link to his new blog on Dov bear, but I don't think he has really posted anything yet.

I'll add a link here when a I get a few minutes.

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

Great post.

The reason I love GH is because he started out as a defender of certain aspects or arguments and then honestly conceded when he was outgunned. It makes him a lot more honest than many of his commenters.

You get the impression that he is an honest guy trying to make sense of a musty mesorah. ]

Did anyone confirm that his new blog is real?

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Ben,

Great post. I like GH too. First because he's a great writer and second because he's so open and honest with his readers (or at least he appears to be).

If there is anyone among us who has the desire and the fortitude to rebuild a sensible Judaism, GH is definitely on the list.

 
At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Moshe Shoshan said...

"What can a man of faith like my self , living by a doctrine which has no technical potential, by a law which cannot be tested in any laboratory, steadfast in his loyalty to an eschatalogical vision whose fulfillment cannot be predicted with any degree of porbability, let alone certainty, even by the most complex, advanced mathematical calculations- what can such a man say to a functional utilitarian society saeculum- oriented and who practical reasons of the mind have long ago supplanted the sensitive reasons of the heart"
Rabbi JB Soloveitchik- "The Lonely Many of Faith Chap I

Ben-
Your thinking is dominated a notion of a confrontation between the your chareidi pseudo-modernist education and the scientific rationalism of your medical training. Ulitmatley these two ideologies are mutualy reinforcing. Both insisit on an intellectual for a unified Truth. Each strives to disprove alternate possibilities. You have abnadoned the conclusions of your rabbeim, but continue to play by their rules. Rules that in some ways were foisted upon them by your friends the rational scientists.

I think that there is strong strain with in the history of Jewish thought which has never tried to emiricaly prove the Truth of Judaism or the falshood of other religions or sytems of thought. Note that by and large the great medeival philophers did not focus on proving the truth of maamad har sinai. The beleived that perhaps a basic theism could be proved, but never sought only to prove that the particualrities of Judiasm were compatable with Reason, not the necessary outcome. It is only recently, in a crude attempt to respond to the challenges of the modern world that Orthodox Jews have begun to fabricate "rational" "scientific" proofs of the Truth of judaism.

however, as the Rav notes, this does not mean that in our modern world faith is a simple thing. It is not. I believe that it is much more problematic for us in 2006 that it was 40 years ago when the Rav wrote those lines. I am not really sure that faith is even feasible for many Jews today.



Moshe

 
At 3:07 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi RTJB and orthoprax, I agree, the ability to perform such a dramatic turnaround is probably what fuels GH's ire at the inability of anyone else to see the facts for what they are.

Moshe, thanks for commenting, I like RJBS's very poetic statement of the problem, it shows a sensitivity to modernity that few in Rabbinical circles ever seem to grasp, but let me respond to the rest of your comment more thoroughly.


>>>Your thinking is dominated a notion of a confrontation between the your chareidi pseudo-modernist education and the scientific rationalism of your medical training.

Probably true, these are my two major experiences.


>>>Ulitmatley these two ideologies are mutualy reinforcing. Both insisit on an intellectual for a unified Truth.

Agreed, but I do not think they are using the same tools. Much of the peudologic in the talmud, and the glaring threats against logic that lead to the possibility of disbelief, both hallmarks of rabbainic Judaism, are not rationalist tools, or if they fall under that category they do so as a perversion of rationalism.


>>>>Each strives to disprove alternate possibilities. You have abnadoned the conclusions of your rabbeim, but continue to play by their rules. Rules that in some ways were foisted upon them by your friends the rational scientists.

Yes, but these are the only rules there are to play by. I sense this is a prelude to the cherished, "logic does not apply in areas where it threatens my preconcieved notions of the torah". And don't get me wrong, logic and rationale do have their limitations. I do understand this. But realize, that there is no system of rules or understanding that cannot be justified with this understanding. If I believed in throwing dried rasberies heavenward to appease the vengeful bird lords...I would also be rescued from annoying rationalists by incanting the favorite spell of logics limitations.

I'm not saying that it isn't true that Judaism may be rescued by being larger than logic, above our puny minds, outside the framework of what we can know.

I'm just saying that when you take away the net, your not playing tennis anymore, and if I declare I win by braking my racket over my knee....alls the better.

>>>I think that there is strong strain with in the history of Jewish thought which has never tried to emiricaly prove the Truth of Judaism or the falshood of other religions or sytems of thought. Note that by and large the great medeival philophers did not focus on proving the truth of maamad har sinai. The beleived that perhaps a basic theism could be proved, but never sought only to prove that the particualrities of Judiasm were compatable with Reason, not the necessary outcome.

This may be true, but it does not deliver you from the above problem.

>>> It is only recently, in a crude attempt to respond to the challenges of the modern world that Orthodox Jews have begun to fabricate "rational" "scientific" proofs of the Truth of judaism.

I think this was a necessary attempt, and is what Modern Orthodoxy was supposed to be about, I just don't think any one realized how badly the flaws where going to be exposed.

But it shows religion for what it is. A system that will use which ever methodology is closest at hand to justify what it has difficulty justifying.

>>>however, as the Rav notes, this does not mean that in our modern world faith is a simple thing. It is not. I believe that it is much more problematic for us in 2006 that it was 40 years ago when the Rav wrote those lines. I am not really sure that faith is even feasible for many Jews today.

I think faith is feasable for those who want it, but for God's sake let's put it in it's place. It is not certainty. It is a wish, it is a desire, it is a hope.

Do I abhor a dreamer who "feels" God around him, and wishes that ther is supreme justice for his percieved hurts....No. not really. as long as he realizes he is living by a dream. It is when this is formalized into system that requires all to share the same daydream as fact with socail and psychological punishment for nonbelief, that I start to chaffe at neck.

 
At 4:20 AM, Anonymous Moshe Shoshan said...

>>>>Agreed, but I do not think they are using the same tools. Much of the peudologic in the talmud, and the glaring threats against logic that lead to the possibility of disbelief, both hallmarks of rabbainic Judaism, are not rationalist tools, or if they fall under that category they do so as a perversion of rationalism.

Exactly, this is because these tools were never designed to prove religious claims. Its like using pliers to saw appart a block of wood.




>>>Yes, but these are the only rules there are to play by.

They are the only rules that make claims to universal applicability that seem credible to us. However, the accomplish this by bracketing if not excluding the possibility of the supernatural from the get go. To quote one of the great thinkers of the 80's "The only way to win is not to play at all".

>>>I sense this is a prelude to the cherished, "logic does not apply in areas where it threatens my preconcieved notions of the torah".

This is unfair. You dont acknowledge the well established position of allowing conflicts between faith and reason to stand as a teku. This not always easy or even feasible but it has far more intellectual credibility and humility than the other option of shutting of logic when it becomes in convienient.

>>>If I believed in throwing dried rasberies heavenward to appease the vengeful bird lords...I would also be rescued from annoying rationalists by incanting the favorite spell of logics limitations.

Ein Hacha Nami.. to a point. Sophisticated jewish thinkers in all ages have understood that other religions are also as internally coherent and intelectualy viable as Judaism. However, reason still has value. one can argue that Judaism, at least in some formulations, is not in conflict with reason and hence remains a viable option, if we are wiling to embraces its non falsifiable elements. Other religions may make claims that are in direct conflict with empirical rational thought. There is a continuum of belief systems.



>>>I'm just saying that when you take away the net, your not playing tennis anymore, and if I declare I win by braking my racket over my knee....alls the better.


The honest thing to do, as the the Rav does, is to concede that you cant win at this game and move on to more productive endeavors.

.

>>>I think this was a necessary attempt, and is what Modern Orthodoxy was supposed to be about, I just don't think any one realized how badly the flaws where going to be exposed.

>>>But it shows religion for what it is. A system that will use which ever methodology is closest at hand to justify what it has difficulty justifying.

I think you seriously misunderstand and underestimate the intellectual Modern Orthodxy as it has developed over the past century or so. The Orthodoxy you attack is a straw man, if a ubiquitous one.



>>>Do I abhor a dreamer who "feels" God around him, and wishes that ther is supreme justice for his percieved hurts....No. not really. as long as he realizes he is living by a dream. It is when this is formalized into system that requires all to share the same daydream as fact with socail and psychological punishment for nonbelief, that I start to chaffe at neck.

Fair enough. but i pity the person who lives with out dreams. at least now you are attacking organized religion and not religion as such. this is a different set of issues.


Moshe

 
At 4:38 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi Moshe,

>>>This is unfair. You dont acknowledge the well established position of allowing conflicts between faith and reason to stand as a teku. This not always easy or even feasible but it has far more intellectual credibility and humility than the other option of shutting of logic when it becomes in convienient.

I don't shut of logic when it is inconvenient, that is the tactic of modern orthodoxy. I don't mind the idea of rationality and faith as a teiku. I don't mind the fact that we can never really know anything about a spiritual world.

But let's for once see that reflected in our religion. An honest approach that admits we can't have any degree of certainty about realms outside our understanding does not demand certainty from it's constituents. We may indeed postulate a world in which we accept that there may be a spiritual world outside our perceptions that science cannot hope to touch, and as such we can have no verifiable knowledge of. But it is at this point that the honest person distances himself from statments of certainty.

 
At 4:42 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

>>>The honest thing to do, as the the Rav does, is to concede that you cant win at this game and move on to more productive endeavors

I don't mean to insult the Rav, who was obviously a pious man and a genius, but I cannot call him intellectualy honest.

I don't see how you admit that the game of theology can't be played or won and then say, "ah well, now back to my regulary scheduled program of orthodox Judaism..."

When you realize that you can't really know anyting about a spiritual world, and all statements of religion are tentative guesses, assumptions, hopes, dreams, inspirations, then you don't turn back to your system which requires metaphysical certitude on pain of death, without smelling something fishy.

 
At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>And partly because I like to look across the fence and marvel at the inventive nature in which religion will be defended.

Ooh, thanks for the chizuk :)

Lakewood Yid

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

>>Ooh, thanks for the chizuk :)


Any time !

 
At 11:51 AM, Blogger dbs said...

Sheesh, I wish that I could write as well as you.

It was facinating to watch GH really write himlsef into an honest corner. In the end, (or at least at the most recent hiatus) he ended up resorting to pure faith and the moral/emotional benefits of practice. (And, with the crumbling of the moral part of the argument, he closed up shop.) There really was nothing more to say.

He went as far has he could with the emotional context which he had. The next step will depend more on how his life goes than on intellectual fencing. He has a wife and family and there is a big difference between being the great skeptic and not buying a lulav.

Reality TV at its finest.

 
At 1:55 PM, Blogger Nice Jewish Guy said...

There really is ultimately no way to intellectually reconcile belief and reason, especially if you know how to engage in critical thinking. But belief, and spirituality and critical thinking will always be on opposite sides of the coin. Belief feeds our spiritual need to reach out to that which is beyond our comprehension when we can't make sense of the world and its cruel vagaries. What we believe depends on what we are taught as children. No matter what the religion, it's more common for someone to reject their faiths than to switch them. Some people have more spirituality than others, and that makes it easier to remain with a faith than to reject it or become orthoprax.

GH was wise to get off the carousel- he was tilting at windmills, attempting to resolve a conundrum that cannot be solved. Ultimately, you either believe or you don't. And as you pointed out, what is amazing, especially to ourselves- those of us who are able to recognize the deficiencies revealed by critical thought- is that we can yet believe.

I have been reading GH's blog, and a couple of others, long enough to recognize the problems. And I don't have all the answers.. come to think of it, I don't really have any. But at the end of the day, I was raised a certain way, to have certain fundamental beliefs. And while my current "hashkafa" would probably now be unrecognizable from the one I had when I was shukling in beis medrash with my black hat & jacket in high school, I still believe in a God that every rational neuron tells me I have no reason to believe in. Indoctrination? Conditioning? Maybe. Probably. But I am most omfortable in a Modern Orthodox lifestyle and community and have no real desire to leave it. I think our lifestyle provides real benefits that are lacking outside of Orthodoxy and some other religions.

So the bottom line is, I think wether one believes or not is not a choice made from a rational faculty.

 
At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BA,

Although I generally enjoy your writing, I am afraid that I am not one of your psychophants who sit like trained monkeys and applaud all that you write. I am struck by how impressed you are with yourself and your willingness to assume that you have gotten to the crux of issues that the geniuses of history, Jewish and non-Jewish alike have struggled with. It is nothing short of arrogant to assume that you have finally arrived at the truth that the Rav Saadia Gaon, Rambam, the GRA etc. have not been willing to face. It is regretable that in your time in yeshiva and medical school you achieved somethings, but a healthy dose of humility does not seem to be one of them. Get over yourself.

 
At 5:14 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi DBS, once again good luck with all your going through, I think your right about GH and all of us. Eventually you have to decide if your going to buy that expensive lemon or not.

 
At 5:16 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi njg,

>>But I am most omfortable in a Modern Orthodox lifestyle and community and have no real desire to leave it.

Yes, I am to a point also, but it's the theology that rubs me the wrong way, I can't keep just nodding my head at the rabbi's speaches...

 
At 6:36 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hello anonymous, thanks for venting your animus,

>>>>Although I generally enjoy your writing, I am afraid that I am not one of your psychophants who sit like trained monkeys and applaud all that you write.


I've got plenty more bannanas, no need to get snooty.

>>>>I am struck by how impressed you are with yourself and your willingness to assume that you have gotten to the crux of issues that the geniuses of history, Jewish and non-Jewish alike have struggled with.

Actually these are typically not historical questions, but theological ones from a familiar battle that religion lost during the enlightenment.



>>>It is nothing short of arrogant to assume that you have finally arrived at the truth that the Rav Saadia Gaon, Rambam, the GRA etc. have not been willing to face.

Well, I won't comment as to the arrogance, you are free to gauge my demeanor as you see fit. But realize that our great sages really did not have useful tools at their disposal for determining reality. In addition the religion meme has a conditional subset that restricts creative intuitive thought in the direction of non belief. It is no surprise that once one is a believer, thinking about how it might not be true becomes impossible.

I'm not saying I am smarter than our greats, chas vesholom. But's let face it. They believed it was enethema to question their faith, as is stated explicitly by the faith itseld, so how trustworthy could their lack of conclusion be.

Also remember, there wasn't much to question faith with in the old days, even had one of the gedolim decided to internally misbehave and consider doubt for a moment he would be poking at the cardboard crate that surrounded his thoughts with a toothpick. Through no accomplishement of my own I have a power saw at my disposal. It makes a difference.


>>>It is regretable that in your time in yeshiva and medical school you achieved somethings, but a healthy dose of humility does not seem to be one of them. Get over yourself.

:-)

Unfortunatly, this argument is terribly typical from a religious perspective. It boils down to, "who the hell do you think you are young man...."

It's kind of sad that you didn't choose to actually engage any of the points I raised, it doesn't make for much of a statement.

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger Hai Anav VTzaddik said...

I learned that they had no answers a long time ago (while still a teenager) and to some extent I have been successful at reconstructing Judaism in a way that can enhance, instead of inhibit, my life.

I often have thought that the Yeshivas have highjacked Judaism and brought it to its knees. But that does not mean that the true religion is not life-enhancing and meaningful. You just got to discover Judaism the way it was probably meant to be.

Ben - Do you believe that this world is the product of intelligent design?

 
At 7:23 PM, Blogger Hai Anav VTzaddik said...

I was thinking. I don't know if you are being any less ethnocentric and biased than the religionists that you oppose. You seem to have your own form of "if it goes against the Torah it is not valid". Only instead of Torah you seem to think that "if it doesn't hold up to scientific analysis, it has little merit." Granted, there is no hard sensory or logistical proof of G-d or the divinity of Torah. But in a truly honest discussion, who is to say that you need hard proof. Our modern scientific way of thinking has a standard of proof that precludes any conclusion that cannot be sensed and/or measured. Religion is not science however. religion is faith based. So if there is a belief system based on tradition and faith, that meets the religion's standard of proof. And mesorah and faith is enough for religionists to hold something as truth, however laughable and primitive that is to our scientific minds. It is dishonest and ethnocentric to judge a faith based thought system with scientific standards. In my opinion, there is no room for apologetics and there is good reason to believe. maybe not to your empirical mind, but within a faith based framework, Judaism passes the bar of credibility with flying colors. It meets every standard of tradition.

As far as I can tell you are absolutely right about people who "apply a critical assessment for the theological imperatives modeled by others". Those who wish to engage in discussions of comparative religion must not use the critical assessment tools of empiricism and logic. if you want to disregard Christianity, or any other religion, critique it by the standards of faith and tradition. There, I believe, is where it is weak. And there is where Judaism is strong.

 
At 2:35 AM, Blogger BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Great post.

I just want to add, that humans have a evolved a susceptability to believe the irrational. There must be evolutionary benefits to believing in God that outweigh the costs of being completely rational. I'm sure I can dig up more theories on this.

But this explains why the religious and Apologists start with the premise that God has to exist in order to believe their own arguments.

Perhaps the tide is turning, and future generations will not need to have irrational beliefs and evolution of our minds will eventually eliminate our inherent need to falsely explain what we don't readily understand.

 
At 6:17 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hai anav Vtzadik, very thoughtful comments, thank you, you must have been quite a whiz to figure all this out so early. You raise some great questions that I think deserve serious answers, but the more I think of it the more I want to answer them in a post rather than in a comment section...stay tuned.

 
At 6:20 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hai anav Vtzadik, very thoughtful comments, thank you, you must have been quite a whiz to figure all this out so early. You raise some great questions that I think deserve serious answers, but the more I think of it the more I want to answer them in a post rather than in a comment section...stay tuned.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi Bacon, thanks for commenting, I was reading a book called "religion explained" but never finished it...it was quite good though, and had some thoughts about the evolutionary nature of some beliefs.

 
At 4:02 AM, Blogger Hai Anav VTzaddik said...

Ben - thank you for taking my thoughts seriously. I am eager to hear your response. "you must have been quite a whiz to figure all this out so early." - they dont call me an anav and tzaddik for nothing, you know!

 
At 12:35 AM, Anonymous S said...

I think that this is a test. If everything was clear, then we would have no choice but to believe. But here we have a choice whether to doubt or to still have faith.

Even if we're not sure about the credibility, we can still take some lessons from it for example, interpersonal ethics like shemiras haloshon and business ethics and other ethics and lessons.

 
At 6:05 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi S,

I have heard the "nissayon" speach before, but part of the reason I have never been able to buy into it is because of what it implies about the "tester".

Many people, after a very truthful examination of what we know and what we don't know come to the conclusion that it is extremely improbable for orthodox judaism to be a reasonable interpertation of history or reality.

So now what is the test? To not believe yourself? To do what is the opposite of what you conclude? If so why not be thoroughly opposite and be a mormon or hari chrishna?

And why would it be reasonable for God to put anyone in this situation. Assuming orthodoxy is correct and after my life span I end up in hell with a vengful god, I will honestly tell him I followed my reason to the best of my ability....what is his rebuke ? Why is he angry ? Why does he have the right to be anry and punish, or deny reward ?

Should I have abdicated my reason in favor of other smarter peoples reasons ? But if so, why the smart people of my religion, why not the brilliant people of other religions or those brilliant people who advocate secular humanism.

I can't fathom a reasonable God who will punish people for choosing one path over another in what is clearly a gray area with no answers. That God is by defenition evil or at least rediculously unfair. So I can't get myself to believe it is a test.

And even if it is a test by this unfair God...what makes you think you know what the answer is? Even if all of orthodoxy is true what makes you think God desires you to follow it ? Perhaps God is testing if you are strong enough to break the religious dogma he has saddled you with. Perhaps he is testing if you will finally show the inner resolve to tell yourself, "this is what is reasonable and despite my upbringing and indoctrination and the personal pain it will cause me, I will follow what I think is right".

Maybe that's what this inscrutible God wants.

I will tell you, that the most difficult interviews I went on for residency training, typicaly put mein position where I had to tell "truth to power", to see if I could follow my own moral judgments in the face of established rules or authority.

Following rules can certainly be a challenge, but true character is observed in the gray areas where you have to follow your instincts.

How could you possibly know this isn't the correct answer to the test ????

As far as the second part of your statement I heartily agree. There are many wonderful things that Judaism has contributed that we can learn from. It is the central Dogma and theology that are untenable.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

Ben, I understand your questions about Judaism, however the alternative is problematic. Atheism requires infinitely more faith. I lost that faith when I was 14...

 
At 5:07 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

JP, I don't think weak atheism requires faith.

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

Believing that molecules can spontanteously become men requires immense blind faith.

 
At 7:25 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

JP, wrong outlook...

We don't know all of the facts about how we came to be. In those areas where we have data, we take it, in those areas where we don't have data, we wait, and honestly say we don't know yet.

 
At 7:02 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

Or perhaps we say that we don't want to draw the obvious conclusions.

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

I'm familiar with your affinity for the word "obvious".

 
At 6:08 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

Obvious as "clearly truthful to anyone having good judgement".

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

If you say so....:-)

 
At 12:34 PM, Blogger EPA said...

Have a happy and healthy year! And may it be Hashem's will that you have a refuah shleimah.

 
At 6:38 AM, Blogger Rebeljew said...

Of course, you (and GH) are correct on this count, that when religion runs aground on the sandbar of observation it challenges the faithful, and lame answers only worsen the matter.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the gedolim do not use the following answer.

True that the world appears to be billions of years old. True the torah seems to say farkert. We have no good resolution of these matters that are satisfying to the seeker. However, cosmology and other obcure sciences have a very short history, and there are no doubt other magnificent discoveries awaiting us in the centuries ahead. So, while we cannot answer these questions now, some novel discovery about science, Torah, history or all of the above will clarify the matter someday. In the meantime, go and learn.

This is infinitely preferable to kiruv apologetics, foul use of modern physics, more dogmatized nonsense and ultimately, while we would lose some people at the beginning with this approach, I venture that we would net out about the same over 20 years.

 
At 6:17 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Interesting thoughts RebelJew, I agree with your suggestion: saying, "let's wait and see" *is* more honest then the quackery that we typicaly see espoused by our beloved greats.

but I have to say, approaches to this problem that don't include the possibility of the torah as a true variable (from right to wrong and with every gray area of mythology inbetween), always fall short of an honest approach to problem solving...

this is how I imagine the scenario in the minds of religious people, "Alright, we've got a contradiction between what currently seems to be factual but may be refined or change as scientific understanding changes, and what we really want to believe in but have not a shred of evidence for. Now, let's assume what we want to believe is absolutely true, in fact, unquestionably true, and wait and see if science and fact will eventualy come around to something closer to what we want, so we can have an easier time squeezing it in to what we have decided, on the basis of no rigorous methodolgy, must be true."


you see what I mean...still not honest !!

 
At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey BA,

I don't know if you've mentioned this before, or if you would refrain, but what kind of doctor are you?

 
At 5:53 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Sorry, I can't say, I'm still enjoying my anonymity.

 
At 10:31 AM, Anonymous moshe shoshan said...

I though this article (quted on Hirhurim) by jonathan saks on richard dawkins might be of interest to you. I dont entirely agree with it. I am curious as to what you think

Moshe

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3933-2414119.html

 
At 9:25 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi Moshe, thanks for the link, I think he avoids most of the real problems of athiesm, but I posted about it becuase it was too long for a comment.

 
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"the Modern Orthodox Scholar who easily eludes questions by invoking “alternate realities”"
Who is he. Can I access anything from him on the internet?

 
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