Ben Avuyah

Welcome to the Pardess.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Back?

Well, it appears I have not written anything on this blog for at least six months, probably nothing of substance for much longer than that...for shame, for shame.

A portion of my excuse for what appears to be late homework, I shall blame on my almost two year old daughter, whom, in addition to saying “hot” “ball” “car” and “colors” in the most adorable fashion; also recants the dreaded “no” to almost anything she is presented with. She, on a regular basis, runs rampant in her huggies, rounding our house with blistering speed, creating our private version of the indy 500 pediatric style,  during which our walls become smartly streaked with  smears of chocolate, egg, crayon and .....“unidentified substances”;  whose ever-present nature, despite my frequent hand wiping interventions, has led me to believe they must actually be secreted from her fingertips.

Sure, being no better than the next man, I was of the mind to sink in to a sulking semi-defeat of sorts; and try to find a comfortable perch from which to watch my dwelling reduced to some barbaric, pre-civilized afghani hut, thatched with whatever was in todays baby gerber can; but the circumstances of my life are unforgiving. 

I am moving, and doing so in one of the worst markets to date. My house must be pristine, host to whichever buyer’s realtor might call on a whim and say, “We’d like to come at three...is that OK for you”?

“Sure”, I might say, glancing over my shoulder at a living room most resembling a stretch of land over which a tidal wave had just receded. Left in the awful wake the scattered flotsam and jet-sum of my little tsunami...a veritable stew of half eaten crackers, broken crayons, scattered books, and a generous sampling of this weeks “ages 18 months and above” toys from the consignment stores.

At those quiet, dark, moments of the night when I am of a mind to jot down my latest science fiction theme ideas, I will often envision the barnacle that has settled over my living room floor, as a protoplasm, as pre-life...thriving, seething, vibrating, growing...within it the vaguest glimmering of sentient intelligence....did something move there in the corner?

But in the more practical moments there is only the reality of the frenzied cleanup, the stress, the time crunch, and the hurried evacuation of a dwelling narrowly turned from a toddlers romper room to home and garden extraordinaire.

So it is no surprise that my wife and I have colonized the local Targets, Whole Foods, and Publics stores, where, when called upon to abandon our home at a moments notice, we unleash our little rapscallion upon the unsuspecting gentility of the public marketplace.

I do confess, I think my little girl believes Target to be the larger room of her day care, with far better amenities.

I tell you this to explain why I spent most of the weekend shuttling between Barnes and Nobles and Whole Foods, while two families spent most of their weekends looking at my house. 

I love bookstores and once my daughter was happily engaging her powers of destruction in the children’s section, I took the rare chance to flit around through the isles engaged in one of my all time favorite pastimes, perusing for books.

I did stumble past Hitchen’s God is not great, but hesitated before picking it up. 

I have not been very motivated by the religion vs secular war recently. I feel that after so many years on the blogosphere I have heard, and probably argued every argument there is to be had, most of them over and over again. I have made my peace with my own opinions and my place in judaism and turned my attentions to other endeavors.

But old habits die hard.

So I picked it up and thumbed through the first ten to twelve pages. I’ve never been a huge fan of his, I think his pomposity undercuts his argument. And the book was no surprise. Sharp prose, a little too reckless with his blade for my taste, but the essence of his arguments where familiar to me, I’d probably paraphrased some arguments in blogosphere debate over the years... I hadn’t expected to find much new, and hadn’t by the time I observed a shadow making a slow ark through my peripheral vision.

CRASH.

“She’s throwing toys”, complained my wife, as I crammed Hitchen’s amidst the Tween fiction section, sure to shock the pants off some poor kid looking for Harry Potter.

During the short “time out”, and hasty exit from the bookstore that followed, I wondered aloud to my wife if we were on a department store most wanted list, our grim faced photos part of a portfolio of those blacklisted for disturbing the peace.

On the bright side, the next encampment of our sojourn through the wilderness was a nifty little Whole Foods in my neighborhood that has free WIFI, and since I had Hitchens on the mind, I did a little surfing through You Tube to watch some of his debates, whilst dispatching my evil little apprentice with her mother to name fruits, and possibly throw fruits, in the produce section.

Of the two or three video’s I perused, I noticed two of the questions for Hitchens were identical. One was a video debate with Al Sharpton, in which I believe Sharpton leads with this question, and seems to act as if this is the true clincher for the demise of atheism. The identical question was chosen by Chris Mathews in his interview with Hitchens as a selected viewer question.


The question is a familiar one and goes something like, “How could you ever sentence a man to death, or inflict a heavy penalty, when you don’t believe there is a higher power and absolute wrong and right.”

Hitchen’s didn’t get flustered by the question but I don’t think he got the answer out very well either. I do think this is the question that most often confuses atheists or agnostics and they generally make attempts at justifying their reasoning regarding organic, innate morality and why it has value of it’s own.

I’m not interesting in spending a great deal of time on what I feel the answer to that question is. I think, to put it simply it is fair to admit that human criminal ethics and the morality of crime and punishment is complex, has areas of uncertainty, and that we don’t have a truly objective yardstick, though if reason can be relied upon for objective conclusions and can be at least in part applied to the human  traits of equity, empathy, and equality there is reason to believe that logic may contribute to  some bare standard from which to work, which I believe is the foundation of the secular rule of law that in fact we all abide by, and rely on daily for the administration of justice.

But I think where Hitchens started to go, but was never really allowed to arrive due to the unfortunate sound bite nature of the debates, was the utter absurdity of the question, coming from a religious believer.

Restated with it’s assumptions hanging on the outside the query reads as follows: I religious believer in x, who believe/know via the mechanism of faith that there is absolute good and evil, and who believes/knows via the mechanism of faith that I am privy to knowledge about absolute good and evil and how to judge them from my earthly vantage point...would like to know what right you, who admit to no definite possibility of absolute evil and good, and admit that your mechanism for moral judgment may be subjective, have in making important decisions regarding moral punishment decisions regarding others.

I believe what Hitchens began to say but did not really get to follow through on, was to point out that religious belief, that is to say the mechanism of religious belief, i.e. faith, results in a unanimous opinion of absolute good and evil, but a heterogeneity regarding the details, so stunning as to produce one set of believers who know the premeditated murder of, lets say those in the world trade center, was absolute evil, and another group who knows with certainty that it is absolute good. I believe this observation encourages the believer who is willing to make some type of leap towards honesty, to admit that his claim of certainty should be dimmed to a level of something lower than absolute, given the fact that everyone who uses his mechanism of faith comes up with conflicting directives. An honest person should likely concede at this point, that though he believes he is right, he will concede to back away from the terminology of absolute good and evil given the difficulties apparent in using faith to determine them accurately. Thus there may be absolute good and evil, but we can’t get there. And without this absolute certainty the question loses all it’s teeth and needs to be rewritten as, “How dare you make life and death judgements with your subjective morality, only I with my absolute knowledge of right and wrong should be meddling with that, though I admit that when I step back from my particular beliefs there appears to be the possibility that I am dead wrong.”

Doesn’t even make much sense.

Luckily for them, most religious people are not reasonable and are happy to tidy up their viewpoint with something like, “people who don’t believe in my religion are wrong, and there error doesn’t detract from my 100% certainty that I have accurate knowledge of absolute right and wrong.”

At this point the typical atheist tactic is to point out the fact that almost everyone believes in the religion they were born into, and that the odds of one’s certainty being based on fact or judgment rather than bias in light of this observation are all but laughable.

But this typically does not sway a believers focus either...sure they will reply...but mine could still be the right one !!!

Of course, for a reasonable person, who chose to insist this, he would probably be expected to either relinquish some degree of certainty or some degree of intellectual honesty...you can’t hang on to both with landing into a big pile of the absurd.

I don’t want to beat the question and answer to death, either you see it’s flaw by now or it probably will not become apparent to you in the near future. But what amused me was what the question really boils down to it when you think about it. It is an attempt to accost the atheist for being intellectually honest.

A dishonest atheist, or one who were as comfortable with the murky logics of religious consumption, as a truly religious devotee is;  should simply answer this question by saying: I know/believe that my estimates of right and wrong create and represent absolute right and wrong, and there need not be any higher being to define them.

I think this answer would be roughly on par with regard to unsupported assumptions, and liberties in “how we know what we claim to know”, as is the religious viewpoint. It as actually the willingness of an Atheist or agnostic not to rely on such shoddy mechanisms that gives the opening for religious attack.


I’m not really looking for a debate on this topic, I’m merely sharing something that interests me about the religious psyche. I think to most rational people the flaws of this attack strategy are extremely apparent, it almost makes one cringe to watch Sharpton and others throw this stone out of their glass house. It makes me wonder if there is not at least some degree of egomaniacal and infantile behavior requisite to hold this position in light of it’s flaws mentioned above; a little bit of the grey matter that sits with it’s fingers in it’s ears screaming, “but I’m right, but I’m right”, so as to drown out all else. 

But to lead with this question on national television as your thundering might, to see your own position as some powerful castle of steel rather than the thin plexiglass that barely supports your  weight, implies an unearned hubris of ideology powerful enough to dull the eyes, seductive enough to plug the ears, and dangerous enough to dim the wit, to which only the faithful can rightfully lay claim.

Nice to be back on the Blogosphere again, it feels good to type.

Well, I think I hear clean up in Isle seven.....that’s my cue....

I hope there is a Shop-Right nearby !

32 Comments:

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Big FAN said...

WoooHOOOOO! You're BACK!

 
At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back. Any chance of geting another "memoir of a yeshiva misfit" like you said back in December?

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Welcome back. You've always been one of my favorites.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

I don't believe in the religion I was born into.

 
At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At long last - welcome back!

 
At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hitchens is fun to watch, a rapier thrust and then a dramatic suck on the water bottle (letting you know he wished it was a bourbon glass) but a man who thinks the War in Iraq makes perfect sense is sometimes wide of the mark.

One of the Eight Who Loved You.

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger SS said...

Ben, good to see you back. You seem really tired... Hope your house sells soon, if that's what you want. It's all about fear, in my opinion. The atheist fears letting go of his beliefs and being left in the lurch of religious dogma, and the Believer fears the mire of questions that don't have any clear cut answers. Intellectual honesty demands a lot. But as someone once told me - simple faith is nice, but it's not for you. I will admit, I was disappointed.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Great to be back everyone !! thank you for coming by to chat. Yes there is another Memoir of the Yeshiva misfit (already half written from december), I think I will put it up soon.

Right now, back to filling boxes....

 
At 7:23 PM, Blogger littlefoxling said...

amazing post. I am truely saddened to think that I only reached the level of intelectual sophistication to apreciate your writing after you had already stoped posting. How awesome would it have been to read this blog in its heyday

 
At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Freethinking Upstart said...

Ben Avuya,

I'd like to second the sentiments of lf.

Sometimes I pine thinking, "If only I'd've been a kofer since 04, back when the big boys were still writing. "

Anyhow, I hope you keep writing.

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger Chana said...

Hurrah! You're back! What a pleasure for us all...

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger Moshe said...

good to have you back. combining narratives of daily life with philosophical speculation is one of your great strengths. Of course you do little service to yourself and your public by framing your discussion in terms a debate between a straw man and a paper tiger.

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

thank you little foxling, free thinker, chana and moshe. It's nice to surf the blogosphere again.

LF and FT, don't worry, not much has changed since 04 ! I think the religious vs secular debate is cyclical..it just roles over every six months or so. But I'm glad my views resonate with you.

Moshe, can't I even get an opening post without critique :-)

I never claimed I wasn't attacking a straw man. My point of wonder was that sharpton and a good slice of america seems to see the straw as brick...that's what interested me.

Not to worry, I don't plan an devoting much time to actual religious debate in the future.

Thank you chanah !

 
At 6:04 PM, Anonymous S.O.S. said...

I've just discovered your blog and I have to say your a phenomenal writer. Practically every entry you've written has resonated with me. Thank you, I really hope you continue writing.

 
At 11:34 PM, Blogger rebecca said...

Old Black Joe

(1)

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay;

Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away;

Gone from the earth to a better land I know,

I hear their gentle voices calling, "Old Black Joe!"

(Refrain:) I'm coming, I'm coming, for my head is bending low;

I hear their gentle voices calling,

"Old Black Joe!"

(2)

Why do I weep when my heart should feel no pain?

Why do I sigh that my friends come not again?

Grieving for forms now departed long ago,

I hear their gentle voices calling,

"Old Black Joe!"

(3)

Where are thee hearts once so happy and so free?

The children so dear that I held upon my knee?

Gone to the shore where my soul has longed to go,

I hear their gentle voices calling,

"Old Black Joe!"

~~~by buy maple story mesos

 
At 7:23 PM, Anonymous SYL said...

hey, remember when you had a blog . . .

 
At 9:09 PM, Anonymous SYL said...

How've you been BA?

 
At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just discovered you about two hours ago with your fabulous pesach short story. Now I read this entry and your writing/philosophizing really speaks to me. I live an observant jewish lifestyle so our procedural bottom lines are different, but some of the points you made resonated with me. Either way, i enjoy reading you. Anyway, loved the short story and would love to read "memoir of a yeshiva misfit". where would i find that? in the meantime, good luck with the move (you are hopefully comfortably ensconced in your new home by now with that adorable sounding terror of yours :))

 
At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=http://www.sarvajal.com]viagra[/url]

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

nike air max, true religion, longchamp handbags, tiffany jewelry, polo ralph lauren outlet, coach outlet, coach outlet store online, ray ban sunglasses, nike air max, nike shoes, michael kors outlet store, red bottom shoes, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin, jordan shoes, longchamp outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, christian louboutin shoes, prada handbags, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet online, prada outlet, michael kors outlet online, oakley vault, louis vuitton outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton handbags, ray ban outlet, coach purses, christian louboutin outlet, polo ralph lauren, louis vuitton outlet online, kate spade handbags, true religion outlet, burberry outlet online, burberry outlet online, tiffany and co jewelry, tory burch outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, coach outlet, nike free, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet, kate spade outlet online, chanel handbags, gucci handbags

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

nike air max, true religion, longchamp handbags, tiffany jewelry, polo ralph lauren outlet, coach outlet, coach outlet store online, ray ban sunglasses, nike air max, nike shoes, michael kors outlet store, red bottom shoes, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin, jordan shoes, longchamp outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, christian louboutin shoes, prada handbags, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet online, prada outlet, michael kors outlet online, oakley vault, louis vuitton outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton handbags, ray ban outlet, coach purses, christian louboutin outlet, polo ralph lauren, louis vuitton outlet online, kate spade handbags, true religion outlet, burberry outlet online, burberry outlet online, tiffany and co jewelry, tory burch outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, coach outlet, nike free, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet, kate spade outlet online, chanel handbags, gucci handbags

 
At 4:49 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

nike air max, ralph lauren pas cher, louis vuitton pas cher, sac louis vuitton, nike blazer pas cher, ray ban uk, ralph lauren, tn pas cher, hollister, nike free pas cher, vans pas cher, new balance pas cher, louis vuitton, lululemon, lacoste pas cher, sac vanessa bruno, nike air force, nike roshe, scarpe hogan, north face, nike roshe run, nike air max, longchamp pas cher, michael kors canada, abercrombie and fitch, north face pas cher, true religion jeans, air max pas cher, timberland, barbour, converse pas cher, air max, michael kors uk, louis vuitton uk, chaussure louboutin, longchamp, sac michael kors, burberry pas cher, hermes pas cher, guess pas cher, nike free, mulberry, ray ban pas cher, true religion outlet, hollister, oakley pas cher, air jordan

 
At 4:49 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

nike air max, ralph lauren pas cher, louis vuitton pas cher, sac louis vuitton, nike blazer pas cher, ray ban uk, ralph lauren, tn pas cher, hollister, nike free pas cher, vans pas cher, new balance pas cher, louis vuitton, lululemon, lacoste pas cher, sac vanessa bruno, nike air force, nike roshe, scarpe hogan, north face, nike roshe run, nike air max, longchamp pas cher, michael kors canada, abercrombie and fitch, north face pas cher, true religion jeans, air max pas cher, timberland, barbour, converse pas cher, air max, michael kors uk, louis vuitton uk, chaussure louboutin, longchamp, sac michael kors, burberry pas cher, hermes pas cher, guess pas cher, nike free, mulberry, ray ban pas cher, true religion outlet, hollister, oakley pas cher, air jordan

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

new balance outlet, canada goose, ugg boots, mcm handbags, ugg soldes, herve leger, canada goose outlet, babyliss pro, uggs on sale, birkin bag, reebok shoes, vans outlet, instyler ionic styler, p90x workout, soccer shoes, mont blanc pens, abercrombie and fitch, uggs outlet, north face outlet, canada goose outlet, jimmy choo shoes, hollister, bottega veneta, lululemon outlet, asics shoes, chi flat iron, insanity workout, nike trainers, canada goose outlet, marc jacobs outlet, ugg, ugg outlet, wedding dresses, longchamp, valentino shoes, north face jackets, rolex watches, soccer jerseys, nike huarache, nfl jerseys, roshe run, giuseppe zanotti, beats headphones, mac cosmetics, ferragamo shoes, ghd, celine handbags

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

new balance outlet, canada goose, ugg boots, mcm handbags, ugg soldes, herve leger, canada goose outlet, babyliss pro, uggs on sale, birkin bag, reebok shoes, vans outlet, instyler ionic styler, p90x workout, soccer shoes, mont blanc pens, abercrombie and fitch, uggs outlet, north face outlet, canada goose outlet, jimmy choo shoes, hollister, bottega veneta, lululemon outlet, asics shoes, chi flat iron, insanity workout, nike trainers, canada goose outlet, marc jacobs outlet, ugg, ugg outlet, wedding dresses, longchamp, valentino shoes, north face jackets, rolex watches, soccer jerseys, nike huarache, nfl jerseys, roshe run, giuseppe zanotti, beats headphones, mac cosmetics, ferragamo shoes, ghd, celine handbags

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

karen millen, hollister, moncler, louis vuitton canada, toms outlet, converse, air max, moncler outlet, pandora charms, gucci, pandora uk, uggs canada, pandora jewelry, parajumpers outlet, nike air max, converse shoes, vans, coach outlet, ray ban, ugg, moncler, thomas sabo uk, hollister canada, baseball bats, canada goose pas cher, moncler, swarovski uk, moncler, canada goose uk, oakley, juicy couture outlet, timberland shoes, lancel, replica watches, supra shoes, links of london uk, juicy couture outlet, swarovski jewelry, iphone 6 case, canada goose, louboutin, ralph lauren, wedding dress, canada goose, montre femme, hollister clothing, moncler, moncler

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

karen millen, hollister, moncler, louis vuitton canada, toms outlet, converse, air max, moncler outlet, pandora charms, gucci, pandora uk, uggs canada, pandora jewelry, parajumpers outlet, nike air max, converse shoes, vans, coach outlet, ray ban, ugg, moncler, thomas sabo uk, hollister canada, baseball bats, canada goose pas cher, moncler, swarovski uk, moncler, canada goose uk, oakley, juicy couture outlet, timberland shoes, lancel, replica watches, supra shoes, links of london uk, juicy couture outlet, swarovski jewelry, iphone 6 case, canada goose, louboutin, ralph lauren, wedding dress, canada goose, montre femme, hollister clothing, moncler, moncler

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger ninest123 said...

ugg boots, longchamp outlet, louboutin outlet, prada handbags, tiffany jewelry, longchamp, sac longchamp, air max, ralph lauren pas cher, tiffany and co, longchamp pas cher, nike outlet, kate spade outlet, nike air max, oakley sunglasses, uggs on sale, replica watches, gucci outlet, louis vuitton outlet, louboutin, air jordan pas cher, nike roshe run, nike free, chanel handbags, oakley sunglasses, christian louboutin outlet, prada outlet, louis vuitton, nike air max, tory burch outlet, nike free, oakley sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet, jordan shoes, polo ralph lauren outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, louboutin shoes, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, burberry, louboutin pas cher, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton, ray ban sunglasses, ugg boots, michael kors, replica watches, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet

 
At 7:13 PM, Blogger ninest123 said...

lacoste pas cher, hogan, ugg boots, hollister pas cher, ray ban uk, new balance pas cher, ugg boots, michael kors, oakley pas cher, true religion jeans, coach purses, sac guess, mulberry, michael kors outlet, ralph lauren uk, burberry, hermes, coach outlet, replica handbags, north face, vans pas cher, nike air max, true religion jeans, nike air max, true religion outlet, converse pas cher, nike air max, timberland, michael kors, nike free run uk, michael kors outlet, coach outlet, michael kors, north face, michael kors outlet, michael kors, ray ban pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, hollister, lululemon, nike trainers, michael kors outlet, air force, vanessa bruno, burberry outlet online, nike roshe, tn pas cher, michael kors outlet, nike blazer, true religion jeans

 
At 7:21 PM, Blogger ninest123 said...

insanity workout, jimmy choo shoes, hollister, soccer jerseys, nfl jerseys, ghd, herve leger, s5 cases, iphone cases, mcm handbags, iphone 5s cases, ferragamo shoes, iphone 6 cases, beats by dre, vans shoes, hollister, babyliss, valentino shoes, lululemon, wedding dresses, ralph lauren, instyler, abercrombie and fitch, nike huarache, bottega veneta, oakley, new balance, mont blanc, nike roshe, birkin bag, iphone 6s cases, chi flat iron, p90x workout, mac cosmetics, north face outlet, ipad cases, soccer shoes, celine handbags, iphone 6s plus cases, nike air max, timberland boots, reebok shoes, giuseppe zanotti, asics running shoes, iphone 6 plus cases, north face outlet, louboutin, hollister, longchamp, baseball bats

 
At 7:27 PM, Blogger ninest123 said...

converse outlet, pandora jewelry, ugg boots uk, bottes ugg, moncler, lancel, links of london, canada goose, canada goose outlet, pandora charms, canada goose outlet, moncler, gucci, moncler, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, canada goose uk, montre pas cher, louis vuitton, moncler, replica watches, converse, doudoune canada goose, hollister, wedding dresses, coach outlet, moncler, louis vuitton, moncler outlet, karen millen, barbour jackets, canada goose, sac louis vuitton pas cher, supra shoes, canada goose, pandora charms, swarovski crystal, swarovski, moncler, moncler, ray ban, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, juicy couture outlet, louis vuitton, ugg pas cher, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, thomas sabo, marc jacobs, pandora jewelry, barbour, louis vuitton, toms shoes

 
At 1:37 AM, Blogger Mie Helal said...


I really like it when folks get together and share opinions
http://www.prokr.net/2016/09/rat-control-companies-9.html
http://www.prokr.net/2016/09/rat-control-companies-8.html
http://www.prokr.net/2016/09/rat-control-companies-7.html
http://www.prokr.net/2016/09/rat-control-companies-6.html



 

Post a Comment

<< Home