Jewish Atheist

An agnostic atheist perspective
from a once orthodox Jew.

thegodlessatheist asked: How licks does it take to get to the center of tootsie pop?

That’s not quite my field of expertise…

..

Anonymous asked: How did you become atheist? :-)

damn anon, that’s a long story! lol

to be honest, this blog was a big part of that transition. when I first started JewishAtheist I was REALLY uncomfortable with the title “atheist”, and wasn’t sure if it described me, but I let the blog be an outlet for that part of my brain I was trying to suppress for so long, and once I let myself start expressing that way, I soon found that it made a lot of sense and I finally found some mental peace!

But to backtrack a bit, I’d say that I became an atheist from trying to prove that judaism was the true religion. I studied a lot of stuff other people I know didn’t. I did a lot of outreach and was exposed to a lot of ideas they didn’t tell us about in yeshiva. I also did anti-missionary work, which helped me to start thinking clearer about the crux of arguments etc, but the big change happened when I was writing a paper about why evolution is wrong. basically after a few years and many many books and articles, I slowly started to realize that evolution - despite what I was taught - was actually true. As I studied more I realized that the rabbis I trusted actually didn’t even understand evolution; and what’s worse, they often seemed to lie about and misrepresent evolution (in addition to lots of near, if not actual, plagiarism.) That really shook my faith in the knowledge of the rabbis I had trusted. Made me realize I had to look into things for myself and really study the shit out of subjects and not just take people’s word for it - esp people who aren’t experts in the subject!

That got the big rock rolling, but there was so much that contributed, it’s hard to pinpoint it all and it would take forever to write! But those are what I consider to be the major turning points for me.

Cheers =]

hahaha, this is awesome!

hahaha, this is awesome!

(Source: skunkbear)

goodreasonnews asked: Whatcha doin in L.I.?

I was visiting my folks in my hometown for “shabbos” (sabbath), and got to chill with one of my favorite people who was in town too - and frankly, the main reason I came back to visit, lol. Sadly there’s no train service here on the weekends, so I’m just chilling out here till tom morning before getting a train to work in Quens. =]

stuck in long island. ask me stuffz =]

objective morality: a response to jewishatheist

ayekah:

if you don’t know what this is about then go here

… jewishatheist says:
  1. Just because a moral system is held by G-d, doesn’t make it objective
  2. If we have a definition of morality, and it doesn’t match up with G-d’s actions, what then? (cf: the Flood, not permitting two people with penises to have penetrative sex, permitting slavery).
  3. Morality is fluid and it can evolve
  4. Why be moral in the first place? People have an inherent desire to be moral for evolutionary reasons - is wanting to suck up to G-d really a better reason?

Firstly, I want to thank you for reading my response. I know from personal experience that it’s not easy to entertain ideas with some very uncomfortable consequences, esp when it affects one’s entire worldview.

1. my knee-jerk reaction, although considering it i’m not sure i believe it, is that G-d is the arbiter of what is moral and what isn’t in the same way as G-d is the arbiter of the laws of the universe - G-d is the only Thing which decides what objectivity is, what reality is. which is ironic because so many people see G-d as subjective.

This actually speaks directly to one of my favorite philosophical points: the Is-Ought Problem. Basically, it argues that the only objective things are facts, but values are inherently subjective. So I technically can’t even say, “you shouldn’t cut off your arm,” bc while we can agree on the “is” - that is, the facts of what will happen if you cut of your arm - we may not agree on the “oughts” - that is, our shared values. Some person might want to cut off his arm or other body parts. (Suicide would also be a good example - though sorry to pick such macabre ones, but they’re often the easiest to prove a point.)

This speaks directly to our issue here. God - assuming it exists at all - may be all knowing and all that, which would make it an objective source for all that “is”, but god’s values, god’s “oughts” are just his own. It is literally impossible to have an objective “ought” system bc all oughts are automatically subjective. God can’t dictate what you value. God can’t decide that you think mercy is most important, or harsh treatment is most important, that education is vital, that conformity or individuality is best, that sexuality is no biggie, that picking up sticks on shabbos is worth death, that slavery is ok, etc etc. He can’t decide what you feel is right. Which is precisely why most people nowadays, as I mentioned in the first post, and why presumably you as well, aren’t comfortable with lots of “morals” in the bible: You have your own values. (And really, how terrible would it be for someone to dictate what it is that you value?!)

There is also another element of subjectivity in choosing god as one’s moral code: Which god? Obviously there are other religions, but aside from that, there are so many ways to interpret god’s will that’s seen even within the orthodox community. e.g. do I disown my child for being unobservant, or gay, or serving in the IDF? Do I give charity to only jewish causes? Do I teach my kids about science and the outside world? etc etc etc. How does one pick a side? From what I’ve seen, it’s usually just the side one is born into, or the one which simply resonates the most with the person, which basically means picking the moral system that is already consistent with your own moral system! And then, of course, there’s the problem that a variety of ways to interpret god’s will kind of negates the point of it being objective since, clearly, there’s no single way to understand it. It’s filtered through human thought and human subjectivity.

2. Um. Off the top of my head again, it feels like there’s the morality of stuff which “feels” right - examples “greatest happiness for the greatest number” (paraphrasing bentham), or “it’s wrong to use other people only as a means to an end” (paraphrasing kant), and then there’s G-d’s morality: not worshipping idols, not doing certain things which will increase sum happiness because G-d says not to, etc. Although they sometimes overlap, I completely take your point about how they differ sometimes. I don’t know how to resolve this one, or if it can be resolved - what does Judaism say?

I do remember reading about this a few months ago, about inherent morals vs. Torah morals - I have a vague memory of reading that someone (Rambam?) said something to the effect that some people believe that there are no morals outside Torah, but that he, the Rambam, disagrees and thinks that G-d gave certain inherent morals to humans because Adam committed a sin without having Torah and he was still punished, and it would be ridiculous to speak of amoral creatures sinning. Ugh, I wish I had a source for this.

To clarify a bit before beginning: How do we determine if god’s actions are actually moral? We need an agreed upon definition of what morality is about. So what if god’s and ours don’t match? This presents two problems: 1) If we can recognize what morality is and isn’t, then why would we need to take his word for it? 2) Is god actually moral?

What does Judaism say? I’ve heard opinions all over the place (which is true for most good questions about judaism), but basically any orthodox person is going to say that what god said just must be moral, either bc he decides morality or informs us of it. (With some interesting exceptions, like the Rambam arguing that animal sacrifices were just a way to help our primitive people connect with god in the culture around them.)

I also recall reading something about how we could have learned some morals from animals, like how cats clean up after themselves. Though I think we should bear in mind that “morality” meant something different back then. It was everything that we do, even if unrelated to what we’d consider moral issues. Similarly, lots of the mitzvos existed before the torah spoke about them. e.g. Hammurabi’s code. Judaism was interesting, though, in that it argued that these interactions also mattered to god, making them ‘divine rules’, whereas beforehand people just did them bc leaders made rules just made sense. {see Kugel pg 242 x) (and germane to the topic is whether these are actually god’s laws at all, or whether they were simply borrowed from the culture around them. e.g. kugel pg 270)

3. I don’t think I can believe in a moral system which is subject to change; I find that very unsatisfying.

To clarify, it’s not just that morals can evolve; it’s that morals do evolve. It’s an “is” regardless of whether it’s one of my “oughts.”

I’m not sure what to say in response to what you wrote. Personally, the atheist worldview was kind of terrifying for me when I first began, but for me it was about what made the most sense. I found satisfaction in that, even if I was disturbed by other implications. Though I’m at a point where I can say that unevolving morals would scare the hell out of me. I am extremely glad that we don’t live by the morals of 2,000 years ago, and I’m actively looking forward to more moral positions changing in the near future. (But I think that’s bc, to me, secular morals are kind of similar to science, in that they seem to always get closer to an objectivce truth, and a more moral truth, while recognizing that the system can - and likely will - get tweaked as we learn more.)

4. I also need there to be an objective reason to be moral. I don’t like just, like, “Act in a certain way towards other beings because you are programmed to”. It’s a bit better if it’s for the continuation of society, but still: why is it that society should be continued? Without G-d, without inherent value of a human soul, what reason is there to mourn for a natural disaster on the other side of the world?

Again, to clarify: It’s not just that “sucking up to god” is not a great way to think about morality, I think it’s a absolutely terrible way to think about it Morality should be about doing what’s right, not simply what one is told. Also, my point about evolution is that we have an intrinsic leaning toward morality. It’s already inside of us. (It’s not necessarily a reason to be moral, but an explanation of why we’re moral.) But we, as a conscious and intelligent species, can take it farther - and we do. Most people want to be good. Many psychologists see this as a natural extension of our evolutionary roots as well as our advanced brains and their ability to empathize. (Though, of course, not everyone can empathize and those people are often sociopaths.) Furthermore, most people strive to be good people, and that may also be bc of cultural influences (that is, our society praises good people and looks down on assholes). And lastly, we recognize that we can decide on the kind of place we want to live: Do we want, for instance, to live somewhere where one can get killed for drawing a cartoon of muhammed? Or do we want to live somewhere where we have freedom of expression (even though we know some of that expression may not be to our liking). WE decide that. We build the place to represent our values, and ideally, values which are most moral for everyone effected. So, basically, lots of reasons why people strive to be moral, even without a god instructing them to do things his way.

Without G-d, without inherent value of a human soul, what reason is there to mourn for a natural disaster on the other side of the world?" Frankly, I don’t think there is one. But just bc there isn’t an inherent or cosmic reason doesn’t mean that people don’t find their own reasons, or that they don’t feel bad simply bc they’re caring human beings even if they don’t have a thought out reason.

But I don’t see why one needs an “objective” reason (in the godly “objective” sense). Why can’t our own feelings and reasons suffice? Why is it better if we feel bad bc we’re told we ought to feel bad vs just feeling bad bc we’re caring human beings? Or not care bc sometimes we just don’t care. Fact is, different people feel and think differently. Kindness, compassion, and empathy all still exist without god, just as much as cruelty, malevolence, and apathy all still exist with god. People are just people. Some will care more; some less. But saying that a superbeing is dictating certain values or feelings doesn’t seem better to me. I’d much rather inform people of why it is a tragedy, to help people learn to empathize with others, to explain how we’re all one species on this tiny rock of a planet together, etc etc and let them decide for themselves how much they want to care about a particular issue. 

Why should society be continued? You’re absolutely right. Perhaps it shouldn’t. (Kinda similar to the suicide example I began with.) But frankly, most people don’t see it that way, and most people would agree to stop someone who tries to destroy society. It’s like if someone murders someone. The victim may have been a total scumbag who absolutely deserved to be killed; but still, even if one can convincingly argue that the person “soul” had no value, we live in a society of laws. Like morals, our laws are based on what the majority of people believe and desire. If you think society shouldn’t continue, or that a certain guy shouldn’t be alive, you’re completely allowed to have that opinion. You may even have great and compelling reasons for those views, but if you act on them, that’s when we have a problem. So yeah, maybe society shouldn’t continue. I mean, hell, we know it’s gonna end at some point. The earth and sun and even the universe will die at some point, but as a people, most of us want it continue as best it can for as long as it can, and so that’s how we go. But if everyone on earth decided for some incredibly strange reason that it’s just not worth it, we could end it all. It’s our values. Our decisions. And it it’s done in a moral (/legal) way, then yeah. we could that. Just like all the other moral values societies have evolved their opinions on. There is no objective reason why society must continue. It is entirely and only bc we all want it to continue.

thewhiskeytango:

There is now a measles outbreak in New York. A whole ward of cancer patients currently undergoing chemotherapy have been exposed to it. Imagine fighting cancer for years only to die because some jackass didn’t vaccinate their brat and you caught measles. 

Great point. It’s not only endangering the kids themselves but everyone else too. Really stupid and really immoral.

Brooklyn Haredi Measles Outbreak Continues, Health Department Now Urges Vaccination For All Haredi Children 6 Months Old Or Older

And just another social issue caused by groups which glorify ignorance instead of actual answers and solutions.

(via radicalmadison)

telesam:

jewishatheist:

radicalmadison:

the-uncensored-she:

friendlycloud:

neongenesisevangaylion:

sapper-mike:

How about…go fuck yourself

'have a little decency and respect' is this some kind of joke

They basically invented picketing funerals.Hypocrisy, as usual

Homophobes/heterosexists can fucking burn for all I care. I would hurl used tampons at these people if I ever saw them in person.

Lmfao

damn, I was all set to ignore it but now kinda feel like actually protesting. what a bunch of self-centered assholes.

I just checked. This is from Daily Currant, a satirical news site.

hahaha, good lookin out, I should’ve guessed! lol

telesam:

jewishatheist:

radicalmadison:

the-uncensored-she:

friendlycloud:

neongenesisevangaylion:

sapper-mike:

How about…go fuck yourself

'have a little decency and respect' is this some kind of joke

They basically invented picketing funerals.
Hypocrisy, as usual

Homophobes/heterosexists can fucking burn for all I care. I would hurl used tampons at these people if I ever saw them in person.

Lmfao

damn, I was all set to ignore it but now kinda feel like actually protesting. what a bunch of self-centered assholes.

I just checked. This is from Daily Currant, a satirical news site.

hahaha, good lookin out, I should’ve guessed! lol

Anonymous asked: What makes the Torah perfect?

Trick question. Nice try, anon lol =]

Anonymous asked: But if you spell yoga backwards it spells "a goy"!!! Doing yoga makes you into a goy!

hahahaha, flawless religious logic!

Anonymous asked: Move to Connecticut, you need this, you cant just slump around

Thanks for the bold advice.

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