Jewish Atheist

An agnostic atheist perspective
from a once orthodox Jew.

cool-gf:

jewishatheist reblogged your post and added:

a) Why do you think I don’t know much gemara? I’m…

you. I’m getting a bit drunk and feeling like I’d rather be agreeable than argue right now. But a couple of things I’d like to say.

no worries. this is all informal. I’ll post some responses but you can continue (or end) this discussion later if you like.

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Absolute “Truth”: Continental Drift as Proof of Judaism

 I found this blog about “proofs” for Judaism, I think would it would be interesting to debunk them.here’s one to start with:http://absolutetruth613.blogspot.com/2012/05/continental-drift.html

~~~

Fun submission. Let’s do this!

Continental Drift [as proof of Judaism]

Describing the act of creation, the Torah tells us: “And Hashem said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.  And it was so” (Genesis 1:9).  This verse in the Torah refers to the creation of a solitary continent, which became visible only after the waters that covered the Earth’s surface subsided.  In other words, at the beginning of creation, only a single vast ocean surrounded the only continent on Earth.

This description is in contrast with the precise picture we have of the earth today, with the oceans surrounding the seven continents: Eurasia, Africa, Australia, Greenland, North America, South America and Antarctica.

Amazingly, the Zohar (12:1) tells us about significant geological changes that took place on Earth after the initial period of creation: “One single continent came out of the water, and from it seven continents were formed.”

Repeating the Biblical image, the Zohar states that at the time of creation, there was only one continent, which later broke up into seven separate continents, which slowly drew apart.  At that point, water flowed into the gaps between them to form the various oceans and seas.

On the same subject, the Book of Proverbs (9: 1) offers an enlightening verse: “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out her seven pillars.”  According to Rashi, the “house” in this verse is the world, which God built with wisdom.

By juxtaposing Rashi’s explanation with the Zohar’s comments above, we can better understand the second half of the verse: “she has hewn out her seven pillars.” These are the seven continents, hewn asunder from the single, initial continent.

Of course, for centuries, scientists dismissed these Torah statements about the drastic geological changes that took place on Earth as baseless fable…. [but now they promote the idea of continental drift…]

Let us have another look at these events: With the exception of the Creator of the universe, how could anyone have known, thousands of years ago, that at one time, all the continents were comprised in one vast land mass, which subsequently split apart and separated? Furthermore, two thousand years ago, before Europeans had discovered North and South America and Australia, how would men of science have reacted to the Zohar’s statement that there are seven continents on planet Earth?

I guess, once again, they didn’t look at the Handbook of the Universe.
 
Have a good Shabbos

Where do I even begin?!

Firstly, without even looking at the argument, I already have at least one important response:

1. Getting one prediction right, in a sea of predictions that are wrong, is not impressive. That is, Between the bible, talmud, commentaries, medrash, and kabbalah, one can find a nearly endless amount of predictions and ideas about how the world works - and most are wrong. I can’t be impressed with the argument - that clearly Judaism had divine knowledge about the planet - when the torah itself is so obviously wrong about other parts, like water existing before light, plants before the sun, women from ribs, giant floods, etc. So even if this guy’s argument was powerful - which it isn’t - it still isn’t powerful, cause if you make enough crazy guesses, you’re bound to get some which are right, esp when you write very vaguely so it can be interpreted in many ways. So I don’t find it convincing at all. Not here. Not in Nostradamus. Not in other religions either… though I’m curious what the OP would say to those examples.

But let’s get into the meat of the argument.

2. Right from the start I’m somewhat skeptical about the alleged foreknowledge of these Jewish sages bc it assumes that ancient texts are using the same concepts and terminologies as we do today, and that’s very often not the case. For instance, the torah would define the bat as a bird (x) and a whale as a fish, while modern science would not. My point now isnt to debate whether the torah makes sense in doing it that way, but just to illustrate that quite unsurprisingly, ancient cultures had different frameworks and terminology, so directly equating ancient ideas to modern ones is usually not so cut-and-dry. So when we have an ancient text talking about an idea and term like “continent” I’m already skeptical.

2. Furthermore, to even more strongly illustrate that point, even modern science is somewhat divided on how we define a “continent”! For instance, wiki explains:

By convention, “continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water.” Many of the seven most commonly recognized continents identified by convention are not discrete landmasses separated by water. The criterion “large” leads to arbitrary classification: Greenland, with a surface area of 2,166,086 square kilometres (836,330 sq mi) is considered the world’s largest island, while Australia, at 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi) is deemed a continent. Likewise, the ideal criterion that each be a continuous landmass is often disregarded by the inclusion of the continental shelf and oceanic islands, and contradicted by classifying North and South America as two continents; and/or Eurasia and Africa as two continents, with no natural separation by water. This anomaly reaches its extreme if the continuous land mass of Europe and Asia is considered to constitute two continents… Continents are sometimes extended beyond the major landmasses, in a way that every bit of land on earth is included in a continent.

(Btw, as another example, modern science is also a bit divided on how we define a “species”. And notice that the torah only speaks of “kinds”, not “species”. Just an aside to illustrate the point.)

So how can one definitely conclude the Zohar’s claim is true when the number of continents recognized is mostly convention?

3. Furthermore, as wiki said, “Many of the seven most commonly recognized continents identified by convention are not discrete landmasses separated by water.This fact contradicts the Zohar’s (alleged) opinion directly: “There was only one continent, which later broke up into seven separate continents, which slowly drew apart.  At that point, water flowed into the gaps between them to form the various oceans and seas.

Of course, one could always pick the next biggest separate landmasses and count those as a full seven, but it would only demonstrate even more strongly my second point. 

4. As an aside, I’ve honestly never really studied the Zohar and was having a really hard time finding this reference online. I’d really love to see how it was written in the original. (Seriously, if anyone can find it, please send it to me.)

However, in trying to find it, I noticed something about the Zohar: It is overflowing with mystical nonsense, and it has a special affinity for the number 7, which it relates to “sefirot" and all sorts of mystical ideas. I actually encourage the reader to find an online zohar (e.g. here), do a word search for “seven”, and peruse the results. Again, not having seen the direct quote inside (if it exists at all), it seems a pretty safe bet that it was meant metaphorically or mystically… 

5. Before moving on to Proverbs Rashi, I’d like to back-up and discuss the Torah for a second. It’s important to keep in mind what the actual text says, aside from how people thousands of years later may like to reinterpret it. And like I mentioned in the first point about the torah being wrong in general, it is also specifically wrong here. 

Any unbiased reading of the Torah clearly shows that it believed in a single, solid land-mass, just as the article’s author begins by stating. And that, simply put, is wrong. Just something to remember.

6. Furthermore, even if we accepted the premise that the Torah was talking about Pangea, the super-continent, it’d still be wrong because it is believed that there were other broken up continents before Pangea formed (x), and the earth continued to evolve until it reached it’s present state. That is, it didn’t simply go from one to seven. 

(And out of curiosity, would the author suggest that the proper understanding of that verse from Proverbs is that there was specific wisdom in choosing 7 continents? Because the earth is still changing! There won’t be 7 continents forever! Soooo…. what then? Was it just wise to have 7 continents for a time for some mysterious reason?)

7. Furthermore, even if we ignored those problems we’d still have the problem that the Torah incorrectly explains how land formed: And God said: ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.

Rashi explains: “Let the water…gather: They were spread out over the surface of the entire earth, and He gathered them in the ocean, [the Mediterranean], which is the largest of all the seas. — [from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 5; Gen. Rabbah 5:2]” (x)

The problem is that that’s not actually how it works. It seems the author of that verse in Genesis, as well as Rashi,  are trying to explain why the water doesn’t simply continue up the shore and swallow up the land (much like how the nonsense about the “firmament” is an attempt to explain why the “water above” doesn’t simply rain down on us all the time; see also Gen 7:11 “all the springs of the great deep were split, and the windows of the heavens opened up.”). The answer they give is that god commanded the water to stay back and make room for land. But that’s not actually what happens. Water is subject to gravity, like everything in the universe, and so it naturally “clings” to the earth at the lowest point possible - you might recognize this as a basic property of liquids - aside for the effects of other gravitational pulls, like those from the moon which cause the tides. The sea didn’t “go back”; rather, the earth “went up”. The tectonic plates shifted, moving certain sheets above sea level, but the ocean always did what it does: Seeks the lowest point.

8. Plus, let’s take a look at that rashi I just quoted, which quotes from the medrash. Basically, it’s flat-out wrong. The Mediterranean is not the largest sea or ocean (btw, this could again be a good example of terms unlikely to be used the same way in ancient times). The Mediterranean is only the 7th largest sea, and even if we counted it as part of the Atlantic Ocean, which some oceanographers do, that is still only the second largest ocean. 

Of course, that medrash wasn’t part of the author’s article, so it’s not 100% apropos to criticize it, but it’s a good example of my first point: There are tons of ideas out there, and religious folk can simply cherry-pick the ones which could sorta maybe be right and act as if their religion offers divine knowledge, when it’s anything but.

In fact, I’d actually say that the OP’s article is a fantastic example of how people exegete any idea they want into the torah. The author finds a torah verse which is flat out wrong, finds a random interpretation which fits with modern knowledge (though only sort-of), and then couples it with a super vague verse from Proverbs, and half of an interpretation from one commentator who lived over a thousand years later (see my next point). He ignores the other half of which is obviously wrong, but more importantly, unhelpful for the leap of interpretation the author wants to make. Yeah, this kind of “proof” is not convincing. When you have to first make a weak argument that your interpretation is valid, it doesn’t do much to prove that they had great insight. If we had a clear verse or medrash with scientific prescience, then we’re at least having an interesting discussion, but when you first need to make some strange, twisted, and weak arguments to say that that’s what those ancients even meant - yeah, not convincing.

9. I mentioned that the OP only picks half of an interpretation. That’s because the excerpt where Rashi explains what else he thinks the verse in Proverbs is about, he explains that the “7” things alluded to are either the 7 days of genesis (another myth, just btw) or the “7 books of the torah” (yeaaaah). x But the OP is fine just mixing and matching interpretations, regardless of internal consistency, bc that’s how he can exegete his nonsense into judaism.

Btw, speaking of half-interpretations, I did find a section of the Zohar about that verse from Proverbs - the Zohar explains it as referring to righteous people, not continents. (x) But of course the OP doesn’t mention that, but has no problem arguing about what the Zohar and Torah  and Proverbs are really talking about.

10. And just a last note about the OP’s closing line: “I guess, once again, they [non-believers] didn’t look at the Handbook of the Universe [i.e. the Torah].”

The difference between science and religion is that religion claims to be the “handbook of the universe” even though it doesn’t actually match reality; science, in contrast, looks to the universe for facts and answers before writing it in a handbook. And guess what, fact-checking first is the method which works.

p.s. I would really like to know if the guy who runs the website wrote this article or borrowed it from elsewhere, since it’s been somewhat difficult to locate the origin of the argument.

Anonymous asked: What do you believe in? It seems you don't believe in much of anything.

Actually I believe in most things which most people believe in. I just try to leave the superstition out of it. You’re probably just confused bc I actually have a different opinion than you. 

For instance, I believe in love, humanity, goodness, science, and education, for starters. How about you? 

Also, I think it’s worth clarifying what we mean by “believe”. I try not to believe in anything that has no good reason or evidence to be believed in, such as supernatural stuff, alien visitations, crazy conspiracy theories, etc. But I have no problem “believing” in things for which there is good reason or evidence, such as naturalism, the possibility of alien life, and less-crazy conspiracies.

Cheers

cool-gf:

Well, I gave one example of infanticide. another could be the law to kill the “Rebellious child”. slavery is all over…

you must not know much gemara. and slavery was all over the world back then, to tihnk it wouldn’t be in the torah at all is naive

a) Why do you think I don’t know much gemara? I’m guessing that I’m just as familiar with it as you are. However, whether you’re familiar with scholarly works on the bible and israelite history, I’m not so sure. But please, by all means, inform me of how the rabbis explain what the torah really means when it says something.

b) Slavery was common back then; it’s true. And the Israelite culture more or less mirrored the values of the other cultures back then - also true. However, for a divine document, it’s a shocking degree of apathy for humanity, or a lack of humanity. Just bc everyone was doing it doesn’t excuse it. The whole point of the bible, according to theists, is that it instructs moral behavior. if one just says, “well, of course the bible has it bc everyone had it” - it basically validates the point that the bible is an very humanly invented documented, and basically invalidates it as a divine moral compass.

But I guess it’s naive to expect an allegedly all-knowing all-good law-giver to denounce things like owning people. riiiiight.

נפתלי שניצלער

—אתה בחרתנו

made-in-jerusalem:

One of my favourite songs.

~~~~

This song is based on an excerpt from the holiday prayers:

Thou hast chosen us from all the nations, hast loved us and wast pleased with us; Thou hast lifted us above all tongues, and hast hallowed us by Thy commandments, and hast brought us, O our King, to Thy service, and hast pronounced over us Thy great and holy name.

Best case scenario is that this is simply bragging. (“God chose us for the most important task in the world… not you! We have a special place in his heart that you don’t. And we’re gonna sing about it!”) And annoying as fuck if you actually believed this crap and aren’t jewish.

Worst case scenario is that it engenders all the negative ideas about being chosen, such as general superiority, and the negative stereotypes about gentiles.

Likely scenario (imho): People trying to convince themselves that the shit they have to put up with all the time is actually a good thing.

cool-gf:

hate to break it to you, it’s not the “one” part missing the human element… misogyny, infanticide, slavery, genocide…

…what? i see the misogyny but….uh….what?

Well, I gave one example of infanticide. another could be the law to kill the “Rebellious child”.

slavery is all over the bible.

killing every amalekite - a fairly big theme in the bible, actually - is genocide.

I mean, seriously, there are entire books which discuss the truly horrific ideas in the bible - ideas which are often glossed over. it happens to be that anti-lgbt rights is still not recognized as being as horrific as it is, so they still discuss it openly, but in twenty years, being anti lgbt will be seen as so backwards (as it is), that no-one will discuss it, or they’ll drastically reinterpret it - just like with those other examples.

but thankfully, at least these will have a well documented evolution of the religious position on it, so it’ll be harder for religious groups to say, “we thought this was, say, a metaphor all along!” No, you didn’t. You discriminated against these people and thought you were moral for doing it.  Just like when religious people discriminated against women, maimed children (i.e. circumcision), enslaved people, took an “eye for an eye” (I do not for a moment believe the bible meant it pseudo-metaphorically, despite the rabbinic REinterpretation of it), etc etc etc.

"The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion"

bluejewofzsouchmuhn:

shallanelprin:

Story after story of “pro-life” women getting abortions and then going back to protesting immediately after. The level of hypocrisy in the anti-choice movement is astounding.

Excellent reading.

Indeed. I actually used to pass a Planned Parenthood when I would go to work in CT. Every Saturday there were people protesting outside, and I would exchange words with them often. (It reached a point where they started to recognize me, lol.)

Personally, I see absolutely nothing wrong with abortion for any reason if it’s under, say, 6 months. Seriously, I see it as no worse that jerking off (which is to say, not a problem at all). One day as I cut through the clinic’s parking lot, two zealous women asked if I was just using it as a shortcut or if I was planning to go in: “Sadly, I don’t have any business for them today.” hahah, those ladies lost their shit. it was rather amusing.

I really dislike those people. They’re calling doctors murderers and basically harassing people at an extremely difficult time in their lives. and they also make close to no sense in their argumentation. They’re basically a great example of how meme virus of religion: be an asshole, and don’t be open to correction bc you’re too fucking brainwashed to even use your sense of reason anymore. Quite sad.

That said, I’ve been seriously thinking about going back one saturday to do some pro-Planned Parenthood rallying - or even some anti-anti-PP protesting ;D (Signs like, “Planned Parenthood is a Godsend!” Or maybe, “I would have aborted Jesus” lol - still debating how much of a jerk I want to be about it, lol.)

Oh, I want to bring a big dry-erase board with me, though, to help spell out their circular and faulty reasoning. The one morning I spent over 30 minutes arguing with them consisted of 20 minutes of having to reiterate points already clarified.

Anyways, anyone want to join? This is something I’d consider doing in around a month =] 

cool-gf:

i realized why the whole judaism vs homosexuality thing, it’s the one part of judaism that is completely devoid of any sense of humanity. it’s the one part missing the human element

hate to break it to you, it’s not the “one” part missing the human element…
misogyny, infanticide, slavery, genocide (!), killing non-believers, etc etc..

bluejewofzsouchmuhn:

diosaesqueletal:

I need one. #antitheist #atheist

LOVE

Today at lunch with my folks and the neighbors the doorbell rang… I kinda wished it was missionaries. Honestly, for me it’s like santa dropped a gift at my door.
man, that would have been really great, bc I could have segued into arguing about atheism, and it would have been great to hear my folks having to agree with a missionary, and trying to differentiate their poorly reasoned beliefs from each-other. 
I’d invite missionaries, but maybe have a sign like this on the front, lol

bluejewofzsouchmuhn:

diosaesqueletal:

I need one. #antitheist #atheist

LOVE

Today at lunch with my folks and the neighbors the doorbell rang… I kinda wished it was missionaries. Honestly, for me it’s like santa dropped a gift at my door.

man, that would have been really great, bc I could have segued into arguing about atheism, and it would have been great to hear my folks having to agree with a missionary, and trying to differentiate their poorly reasoned beliefs from each-other.

I’d invite missionaries, but maybe have a sign like this on the front, lol

Another review of “God’s Not Dead”
Fairly accurate, lol

Another review of “God’s Not Dead”

Fairly accurate, lol

that sick fuck was captured. sadly, I think his 11 digits are in-tact.

imnotkanyewest:

OKAY. OKAY. WHAT THE UNHOLY HELL. OH GOD I’M SO MAD. HANG ON LOOK, KEEP READING THIS AND I PROMISE I’LL BE MORE CALM.

In 2012, a 17-year-old boy named T.J. Lane killed three fellow classmates in a school shooting, and was sentenced to life in jail. But wait, that’s not the worst part. This kid pulled a few nasty stunts to really show how much of a pathetic monstrosity he is. In the courtroom during his trial, he took off his more formal clothing to reveal a white undershirt with the word “KILLER” crudely written on it. He was smiling and laughing while the case progressed through the day. And to top it off, when he was finally sentenced [to life in prison], he turned to the families of the victims he killed, and said, “This hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. F—- all of you,” before flicking them off. As if this sick waste of human life couldn’t get any more disgusting.

AND NOW, FOR THE DAMN KICKER: This vile animal has somehow managed to fucking escape prison with a fellow inmate, and is currently on the run. I urge any and all of you to spread this info around and be fully aware of the tragedy this vermin has caused. He must be found and apprehended as soon as possible, and if I’ve made anyone more aware, I’ve helped this cause.

I WANT HIM OFF THE STREETS AND AWAY FROM EVERY OTHER HUMAN BEING. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW INFURIATED I AM. I APOLOGIZE FOR ANY OBSCENE LANGUAGE BUT I’M PISSED OFF AT THE AMERICAN JUSTICE SYSTEM AND THIS IS ONLY ANOTHER NAIL IN THE COFFIN.

catch this guy. cut off his fingers and his dick. etch “I like it in the ass” onto his chest. return him to prison.

#justice

(via its-the-mexijew)

bluejewofzsouchmuhn asked: Been meaning to ask. Is it really taught to Jewish men that zera levatala is the worst fucking sin (so to speak) in the world? Or is that just my husband being his freaky hyperreligious old self? You can answer this publicly if you want; idgaf anymore...

I think it depends a bit on where one lives and the schools they go to and even the particular rabbis one has growing up. It’s definitely considered an extremely bad thing, but diff places will put diff amounts of emphasis on it.

I know that I definitely tried to stop jerking for a while - and always failed. I felt SOOOO fucking bad about it. It really gave me a lot of guilt and anxiety. (And I think the sexual repression definitely gave rise to some perversion, just btw.)

now it just makes me laugh, I couldn’t care less, really. My own happiness and natural biological functioning shouldn’t be impeded by supernatural ideas about half-cells. (Aside that the whole sin is probably a misinterpretation of the sin truly grave sin of not fucking your dead brother’s widow.)

I think I should start a website that looks exactly like the Aish website but instead debunks every stupid article on their site.

PutOutTheAish.com?