Jewish Atheist

An agnostic atheist perspective
from a once orthodox Jew.

sixpenceee:

Orchis Simia is a rare orchid that is also called the monkey orchid. It can be grey pink to red. It gets its name from its lobed lip which mimics the general shape of a monkey’s body. (Wiki Page)

If people believed in a monkey god, this would no doubt be hailed as indisputable evidence. “Monkey flowers? You can’t explain that! ergo Monkey God!”

(via bluejewofzsouchmuhn)

I’ve followed a lot of blogs in my time, and gotta say, without exaggeration, mine’s gotta be in the top ten.

bluejewofzsouchmuhn:

natskep:

Visit http://natskep.com - Oopsies!!! Turns out I have to add black plague to things religion has done.

Moral: Don’t fuck with cats, assholes.

"How does religion cause any harm? What’s wrong with believing in bullshit?" The problem with living in your personal delusion is that all of us are stuck in actual reality. 
As Matt Dillahunty points out, believing in false things leads us to believe in other false things, and all those have effects on the people and world around us.

bluejewofzsouchmuhn:

natskep:

Visit http://natskep.com - Oopsies!!! Turns out I have to add black plague to things religion has done.

Moral: Don’t fuck with cats, assholes.

"How does religion cause any harm? What’s wrong with believing in bullshit?" The problem with living in your personal delusion is that all of us are stuck in actual reality.

As Matt Dillahunty points out, believing in false things leads us to believe in other false things, and all those have effects on the people and world around us.

God’s Not Dead: An Atheist’s Critical Review

Unsurprisingly, this film is pure Christian propaganda, full of emotional manipulation, stereotypes, bad writing, and quite short on substantial arguments (sadly, but also unsurprisingly).

I was actually fairly intrigued by the premise, a young christian student debating his fervently atheist philosophy professor (played by kevin sorbo, aka hercules) about the existence of god. I was looking forward to at least a moderate level debate. However, the film had only the most elementary philosophical arguments, if we could even call them that, and a lot pseudo-science, straw-men, and caricatures.

**Spoiler Alert**

Let’s start with…
The Characters:

Josh - The protagonist. Simple kid trying to stand up for his christian beliefs. As someone else pointed out online, I’d actually respect that this kid is arguing for his beliefs against a blind authority - except that the arguments are so terrible, but wtvr.

Professor Atheist Philosopher - Played by Kevin Sorbo. This guy is a real jackass. He acts smug, threatening, vindictive, egotistical, (actually, sounds like yhwh so far! lol), total asshole to his wife (who he apparently started dating when he was her professor. no, not creepy at all), etc. Perhaps worst of all, he shows none of the training of an actual philosopher, even a student of philosophy!  
Anyways, his character is meant to paint a negative image of atheists as immoral, selfish assholes who think they know everything and are intolerant of different opinions. (Oh, and all of the professor’s peers, other philosophy professors, are also total assholes. of course.)



Amy - Angry atheist. She goes off about animal rights and attacking those who promote jesus, and even takes jabs at stay-at-home moms, and she’s too busy to be respectful to even her doctor, till she finds out she has cancer and now suddenly decides to believe in Jesus. The point of her character is to paint atheists as angry liberals - but ones just one tragedy away from belief, hallelujah.

Superman - aka Dean Kane. His character is almost unrelated to the entire story except that he’s a huge “atheist asshole”, who doesn’t believe in love, only greed, and dumps his gf, Amy, when he finds out she has cancer. Again, the point of him is to hammer home just how terrible atheists are.

Aiyisha - A muslim girl who somehow comes to love jesus but her father - a swarthy arab man with a shitty car - beats the crap out of her and kicks her out of the house when he finds out. Great portrayal of muslims here. pfft. But good news is that they can be converted, just like Aiyisha, hallelujah.

Martin - An asian kid who apparently and amazingly never heard of the notion of “god” or “jesus”, whose father tries to dissuade him from being interested, but who is finally convinced to become a christian by the end of the film, hallelujah

These characters themselves are one of the problems with the film: Aside from being token members of the human race from all over the world (Arab, Asian, African, etc) meant to show that Jesus is for everybody, they’re all too one-dimensional, and most are outright unbelievable. For instance, professor atheist, who in his philosophy class would rather skip the god arguments as long as everyone just agrees with him. What kind of philosophy professor would want to skip the arguments? The whole point of philosophy is the arguments, not consensus. (Instead, it sounds a lot more like a theology professor, if you ask me.)The philosophy professor also makes his main point from arguments from authority, which is also antithetical to philosophy, and anathema to most atheists. But, of course, the film is a thin plot meant mainly to malign atheists and promote jesus, so what can you expect.

Surely, though, the actual substance of the arguments will have to be good. Right? Afterall, it’s a debate in a philosophy class! And the film-makers could choose any arguments they like and craft the debate to go as they like. So, surely some good stuff there, right? Guess again.

Class-Room Debate:

Big Bang = Bible
In the first of the three debates, Josh makes the argument that the big bang is essentially what the bible says.

Sorry dude, but no, it is not. For one, the bible claims that the earth is a few thousand years old. Aside from that, it claims that before the creation of light - which Josh argues is the big bang - there was already stuff! “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters”. So we’re already dealing with a watery universe before ywhw even created light or the universe. Which not coincidentally fits in with what they actually used to believe: namely, that the earth was flat, the water flowed out forever, and the heavens were just above some magical curtain called the “firmament” that acts as a dome above the sky. Speaking of which, Genesis 1 verse 6: “And God said: ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’”

So, no, the bible doesn’t fit with the big bang upon even a curosry examination.

But honestly, aside from all that, even if those problems didn’t exist, how on earth can one say, “When the bible said ‘let there be light’ it *really* meant the big bang and all that entails.” -  Yeah, that’s just super convenient and not obvious at all. We’re gonna need some real evidence to convince us that hill shepherds thousands of years ago meant all that big bang cosmology entails when they simply wrote, “let there be light.” (Though I’ll give the film-makers credit for at least not attempting to go the young-earth-creationist route.)

The movie then segues, but returns two minutes later, with Josh apparently finishing up a very persuasive cosmological argument; shame that the film couldn’t include it.

Where Did Everything Come From - Part I: Poor Science & The Shifting of the Burden of Proof
Josh then asserts that “in the real world, we don’t see things popping into existence out of nothing. But atheists want to make an exception - the universe itself!”

The main problem here is that Josh is conflating science and atheism. Atheists need not explain where the universe came from. All they have to say is they’re not convinced that the story of an ancient book has the right answer. Just like I don’t have to know the actual origin of the Native Americans to say that I think the Mormon explanation is total bullshit.

Furthermore, aside from the philosophical problem, there’s also the scientific one: We know that particles actually do pop into and out of existence all the time. (Sci.American) And there’s a lot of scientific data for the “exception” which scientists want to make. It’s not special pleading when there’s actual data to suggest it’s that way. It is special pleading, however, when one simply avoids a question by arbitrarily choosing a special condition for their position when faced with opposition. Which brings us to….

Where Did God Come From?
But Josh’s confusion continues when a student then quotes Dawkins as asking the logical question: If you, theist, ask me “where did the universe come from?” I can equally ask, “Where did god come from?”

Josh avoids a real answer by explaining that he defines god as something that doesn’t need creating. Of course, “atheists” (really,  materialists, but wtvr) could say the same thing: “We are simply defining the material things which created the universe as things which do not need creating.” In other words, it’s a semantic trick to avoid the question, but not a real answer. It’s like saying, “I’m the greatest man on earth bc I’m defining myself as the greatest man on earth.” It doesn’t actually demonstrate anything nor answer anything; in this case, “why or how are you the greatest man on earth?” Or “Why doesn’t god need creating? How does that happen?”

Inductive Failures
Of course, the discussion could get more fruitful - and philosophical - by asking: Why do we assume everything needs to be created? Josh hints at this when he says that “we don’t see things popping into existence.” But then it’s an argument from experience or inductive reasoning; just like “we always see the sun rise, so we assume it will tomorrow.” Or, “we know how watches are made and therefore where they are found, so finding one in the middle of the desert wouldn’t make sense.”

The problem, though, is with comparing our experiences to forms of experience we do NOT have. Namely, how universes are made. We have no experience with this and so can’t say if it’s common or rare. In other words, maybe a universe can pop into being from nothing. Our experience does nothing to tell us it cannot. 

This answer, could, of course, help to argue that god doesn’t need a creator, but that does nothing to help with josh’s ultimate point, proving that there’s a god. It just obliterates this entire “Where did everything come from?” approach.

Where Did Everything Come From - Part II: The Shifting of the Burden of Proof
But Josh continues in his poor thinking, arguing that ‘both atheist and theist are burdened with the question of how did things start.” - The problem with this is that it’s wrong. Atheists need not explain nor claim to know how things started. That’s not what atheism means. Atheism is simply a disbelief in the claims made by religions, such as “oh, we really do know how things started! It was a super being who lives outside the universe!” Atheists need not prove that wrong, or provide a better alternative, to simply say, “yeah, that sounds like primitive guesswork.” Josh is an attempting to shuffle off the burden of proof, or at least to share it, when in reality, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim (ie a supernatural being exists) to demonstrate that.

It’s the same problem as when the protagonist begins his speech by saying that “no-one can *disprove* the existence of god.” Again, it’s a switch of the burden of proof. No-one can disprove that tiny, invisible leprochauns dance on our faces while we sleep, but we’d expect the person making the claim to prove it, not those who doubt it to try and disprove it. Or, as Sagan famously said, “Extraodinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” A super omni-being running the universe is an extraordinarily extraordinary claim. Yet the evidence provided is not even ordinary. It’s laughable.

Read More

finally finished my “god’s not dead” post which I’d been procrastinating finishing for a few weeks now. But I’ve been busy! I had been working 6 days a week for the last few months bc of my job in CT. But I quit, and am looking forward to a normal schedule… soon. I’m actually in the middle of moving now, looking for a new apartment; I’m also gonna buy a car soon (w00t!), and am taking a two week vacation to Seattle which I sorely need. So, life’s still a bit crazy, but I’m getting back to normalcy.

This has been a post.

Anonymous asked: I was just wondering, I know that some people give up practice but still have a little emunah besides rationalism, is that your case or no? Also, I saw an interesting science video on TV called 'Unlocking the mystery of Life' which was pretty cool. Anyway, Shalom

rationaljew:

I will answer your second point first:

I looked up the “interesting science video" video you mention and after 20 minutes I had to shut it off because my brain cells were hastily combusting with every passing moment of nonsense that I endured.

I am not going to get into all of the details because if you have ever taken a few moments to read any real modern scientific book discussing evolution in any detail you would instantly see how silly your video is to anyone with any real knowledge on the subject. But there are a few points I would like to make:

1. In NO WAY is that a “science” video. It is a video preaching intelligent design, which is the exact opposite of science. The “scientists” in that video are all ID hacks whose claims have been debunked and laughed at by the scientific community many times over,

2. This video was made by religious people for religious people as a way to allow the religious masses to think there is actual some scientific backing to their beliefs. News flash: there is not. 

3. If you are really interested in the specifics as to why many of the points in this video are just plain wrong, here is a good article. (THAT’S science) There are many other things wrong with the video, but that article should suffice for now. However, I have no doubt that the article I just linked to will do nothing to sway your opinion on that video or the idea of intelligent design.

Which leads me back to your first point…

The nature of your question shows just how ridiculous the idea of “Emunah” (faith) is. You said “…(some people) still have a little emunah besides rationalism.” What that basically means is that some people disbelieve their own senses and forgo their ability to reason and instead opt to believe in things that cannot be validated and, in fact, contradict the nature of reality. And you ask it as if that is the better thing to do.

Emunah is what will keep you from reading the link I just posted and realizing the video you mentioned is flat-out wrong. Emunah will keep you disbelieving all the evidence that shows the bible was man-made. Emunah will have you doing things that are harmful to you and/or others because you think God said so. It will even make you think those things are good. Emunah will beat your ability to reason down to a slimy pulp of submissiveness. It will stop you from questioning that which begs it.

No, I do not have the type of Emunah you are referring to.

And if you are really interesting in the subject of evolution. Here is some recommended reading on the subject, although I’m afraid your emunah will prevent you from reading any of these”

Richard Dawkins

The Greatest Show On Earth (light reading)

The Blind Watchmaker (Moderate reading)

The Selfish Gene (heavy)

Jerry Coyne

Why Evolution Is True (Light reading)

Daniel Dennet

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (fairly difficult read, but very good)

Anonymous asked: What do you think of William Lane Craig? He defeats nearly every atheist he debates.

So I waited to respond to this till after watching 3 of Craig’s debates. (I had seen some before, but it was like two years ago.)

So, my response:

"He defeats nearly every atheist he debates."

I watched three debates and that was definitely not the impression that I got (though I’m obviously biased).

I will say that Craig is definitely one of the best Christian debaters I’ve seen. However, being a good debater is not the same as having good arguments.

Craig does a few things to work the debate in his favor a lot: 1) He uses straw-men to waste time and misrepresent his opponent. (e.g. “atheists believe that there can’t be a reason why the universe exists.”) Which, I’ll add, is extremely dishonest. 2) He uses a tactic where he throws out a ton of nonsense arguments but which would take much too long for his opponent to debunk. E.g. It’s quite quick - and intuitive - to argue that biological design implies a designer, but it takes a whole lot more time to explain how we can actually produce biological design without a designer. 3) But he also uses both of those quite well to try and shape the debate. That is, to try and steer his opponent to argue about certain points, and framed a certain way. 4) Lastly, he does have a decent grasp of philosophy and will stay focused on a point. Sadly, many debaters don’t. This is actually something I admire, and he does it fairly well.

But in terms of substance, he’s just regurgitating the same old arguments as everyone else. I haven’t found any of them to be persuasive, but I invite you to ask about a particular argument, if you’d like.

Cheers

my-borderline-nightmare:

I guess I will just never understand the shidduch system.

People coming up with “resumes’ and giving them to people to give out to guys to see if they’re interested. Resumes basically selling yourself to the guys. You are not an object. You do not need to be advertised. 

It just makes me so uncomfortable whenever my friends are into it.

well, to be fair, a wedding in judaism was, traditionally, basically about purchasing a woman to bear you children. 

Assumptions and Outlooks About A True Judaic Society

Sooo… I was talking with one of my best friends - who is not practicing, but quite agnostic - and another friend of ours, who is religious, but from an ortho-light sefardi background… Religion came up, as always, and I was rather amazed by some of the assumptions my friend still holds on to (even more than our religious friend!).

For instance:

1) He believes ortho culture is probably “better” than most others. I disagreed. (This discussion began, btw, with me pointing out an article on FailedMessiah.) My contention is that the jewish world is just as fucked up as the outside world - though in different ways.

He argued that jewish parents don’t abandon their families, or commit murders, for instance. And he may be right, they may be less prone to those particular evils, but that doesn’t mean they’re not prone to other horrible evils. (eg. homophobia, over-reproduction to the point where they can’t support themselves, a culture of covering up sexual abuse, etc.)

2) He thinks that were the “right” orthodox jews put in charge to run the world ortho style, that the country (world?) would run just as well, if not better, than in a democracy. To me, this would be a nightmarish scenario for so many reasons… but amongst those we discussed, he believes, for instance, that corruption of power is probably no worse in a theocratic monarchy of orthodox design than in a democracy. (And I agree our democracy is terribly corrupt in the US… but I still think that having a theocratic ruler would make it much worse!)

3) In that same scenario, he doesn’t think religion would impede scientific development. I find that hard to believe. The history of science is littered with examples to the contrary, and it’s an issue even today! ‘But, wait, I forgot, those were christians or other religions in charge… Jews wouldn’t be like that, of course! We are pro-science! Like Maimonides!’

(He also considers ortho culture very intellectual, bc of talmudic study. I disagree. While there certainly is an element of intellectualism, it’s extremely limited in scope - legal casuistry, mostly - and it actively limits the mind of those who embrace it, such as not allowing one to question the system itself, and to doubt the scientific method and rationalism compared to faith, and an extreme lack of fact-checking, etc etc. That is, talmudic study has intellectual elements but is also an intellectual sinkhole with little to no benefit to society.)

4) When I countered that there are many examples of orthos being anti-science (e.g. anti-evolution, or the many ortho schools which don’t even teach secular subjects!), he explained that those aren’t the right examples of a real torah jew. Bc he grew up in a close-knit community of very sincere jews. He knows what they’re like. And they’re not like the posers and extremists and controversial and insincere orthos from the big city, like NY, the ones you read about in headlines on FailedMessiah. No, he grew up with the True Scotsmen, er… torah true judaic posterboys.

Anyways, my point isn’t to talk trash about my friend, but to point out how amazed I was. I had not realized how much we differed on some of this thinking. I had not realized how much my mentality had changed since I was religious - bc I definitely had a very similar mentality to his. I was much more optimistic and idealistic about the nature of the jewish cultural system. Now, not so much.

Now I start with the assumption that they’re basically the same as people everywhere. Historically as well. I don’t think the ancient jewish monarchy ran any more piously than other ancient religious monarchies. I don’t start by making them exceptional, just like I don’t start examining the torah with the assumption that “amongst the thousands of ancient religious texts, these happen to actually be true.” I start with the assumption that it’s like the rest, and guess what, it quickly and obviously confirms that suspicion.

It was a good discussion though. It made me wonder if I’d become too passionately anti-judaism and anti jewish society. I don’t think I’ve gone too far, but it’s good to question one’s self now and then. One thing I am certain of is that I began my journey with an obviously too passionately pro-judaism and pro-jewish-society outlook. It’s been one of the more subtle but also more difficult ideologies to challenge. But I have. I’ve evolved. Others, not as much.

Thoughts?

ramrituals:

My view on the jews true nature will and is received as ignorance and racism all which is presissly what the masses have been groomed for . Ask anyone how many people died in ww2 they will have not any idea but they will recall the number of jewish death. Ask any youth why the USA sends billions in US tax payers money to the state of Israel, they will have no answer. Ask any youth why until the state of Israel, the USA had no enemies in the middle east, they will have no answer. The jew only grooms the mass of sheep to attack any attack on the jew the sheep is not groomed in history because then the sheep will know the true nature of the jew. 

You misspelled “precisely”. Also, you seem pretty ignorant and racist. Cheers

(Source: aryanepoch)

Is this like one of those religion-based detox programs? First step is admitting the supernatural exists…
I’d rather suggest using drugs to kick magic.

Is this like one of those religion-based detox programs? First step is admitting the supernatural exists…

I’d rather suggest using drugs to kick magic.

(via trippppyyyyytittieeeesssss)