Friday, March 18, 2011

Expunging the Kool Aid



"Drinking the Kool Aid" is a popular metaphor for someone who simply accepts something wholeheartedly without thinking critically about it.  The origin of the metaphor comes from the People's Temple incident in Guyana, where over 900 people committed suicide by drinking Flavor-Aid mixed with cyanide at the behest of Jim Jones, the cult's leader.

Interestingly, at one time I was a Kool-Aid drinker as well.  In my late teens, I went through a period of about a year where I started accepting everything without question.  Young earth creationism?  Check.  The absolute historicity of every midrash?  check.  The notion that Jewish philosophy, culture and practice (with the exception of things like sacrifices and the like) have been unchanged since Sinai?  Check.  The notion that everything in the Gemara is Torah MiSinai?  Check.  Belief in an unbroken and completely intact and unchanged oral tradition passed down from generation to generation to generation?  Check.  And on and on.

Most people who go from Kool-Aid drinker to critical thinker (note that I did NOT say skeptic) arrive at the Kool-Aid stage in one of two ways:  a) they're born into it or b) they become ba'alei teshuva and just want to believe everything about their new-found spirituality.  I didn't take either of those paths.   I was not born frum -- I became frum (with my mother) at about age ten.  During high school, I was a skeptic (even if I wasn't a critical thinker).  Yet, about the time I turned eighteen, I began to drink the Kool-Aid.  A Rav Avigdor Miller book could often be found in my hands.  I could be found discussing and defending Judaism's objections to evolution, natural history, cosmology and the like.  I studied and regurgitated all the fallacious arguments, bad facts and mistaken notions.  I was never much of an evangelist, but if anyone wanted to discuss it, I was there to discuss and defend.

To this day, I can't tell you why I began drinking the Kool Aid.  While I tried to (and to some extent, succeeded) in internalizing it on an intellectual level, I did not "frum out," as the saying goes.  While I sometimes wore a hat/jacket, I by no means made it a requirement.  I sometimes missed davening.  I wasn't found learning every minute of the day that wasn't otherwise occupied, and so on.  But I did accept, without much critical thought, much of the anti-scientific dogma of the subculture that I was immersed in.

At some point, however, I began thinking critically.  I began to look at and evaluate arguments.  I learned to evaluate and weigh evidence.  I began to learn to spot things such as logical fallacies, poor reasoning and just plain silliness.  I began to consider not only the dogma of Orthodox Judaism, but the context in which that dogma was created.  I began to question and probe into the things I was taught, and discover whether the knowledge I had accumulated over the years (and the observations that I made with my own senses) affirmed, contradicted or were silent about those teachings.  

Over the years, as I began thinking more and more, I began adjusting my beliefs.  I reasoned out a version of old earth creationism that was consistent with both B'raishis (IMHO) and with contemporary scientific thought (again, IMHO).  I began exploring history not solely through writings that were made hundreds (or thousands) of years after the fact, but began to consider history through both historical and contemporaneous accounts.  I began to understand that not everything that is purported to be sacred writ *must* be viewed in the absolute, but also has to be put into its proper historical and cultural context.  I began to view our Sages not as simply great figures who grew up in a societal, political and emotional vacuum who were immune to the outside world, but as people who, as great as they were, were at least partly a product of the times, places and cultures in which they lived.  

It’s been a long journey -- one that is still ongoing and, with God’s help, will go on as long as I live.  I’ve slowly begun to make a change to my learning habits -- I’m still learning Torah, but I’ve also begun learning *about* the Torah -- something that was lacking in my previous education and, I would not be surprised to find, is missing in a lot of people’s education.  I’ve begun to pay more attention to not only Tanach, Mishna, Gemara and the like, but also the historical and cultural background upon which they were created.  I’ve come to look at not only learning the halacha, but viewing that halacha as a product of a halachic process that caused it to come into being.  I believe that the Torah has to be more than what is simply printed on the page -- it also has to include how the page came to be -- and in the vast, vast majority of cases, the story of how that page came to be is far, far more complicated than “God said it to Moshe on Sinai.”


I know that there are some who are reading this who would say that what I am engaging in is dangerous and forbidden.  They would like to tell me that such things may lead one away from whatever “pure” hashkafah that they are espousing.  They may try to tell me that context and background are unimportant or, worse, irrelevant.  They may believe that our great leaders and sages grew up in a “social vacuum,” unaffected by their time, place and culture and that their halachic, philosophic and other opinions are absolutely true across all times, places and cultures.  They may believe that if Chazal, Rashi, the Rambam, Rabbeinu Asher, the Vilna Gaon or any other “sage of the canon” says something that it must be true and that any critical thought about their statements is tantamount to a slap in the face of those great sages.  They equate critical argument with impertinence, respectful disagreement with insolence and a contrary opinion with disrespect.

I disagree.  I believe one can have the utmost respect for someone and yet disagree with them.  I believe that it’s possible that things that have been said and accepted in the past may no longer be applicable to our current times, places and cultures.  I’m not saying that halacha has to change because of that, mind you, but it should be recognized that such changes and obsolescence* has taken place.  A necessary corollary of this is that I’ve come to believe that not everything that a sage says is necessarily sacrosanct.  Like anything else, it has to be evaluated in terms of its message, historical context and the like.  In short, I no longer take anything as irrefutable dogma simply on someone’s say so.  That’s is not all to say that there are no irrefutable dogmas, universal truths or articles of faith -- but it is important to be able to make a distinction between a true article of faith, a halachic ruling that may or may not apply to our current situation, a midrash which may or may not be historically true, or a simple, personal observation of a sage.  Lumping them all together as inviolate “Torah” does a great disservice to both the Torah and to those sages.  But to be able to do make these distinctions, you need to begin to think critically about what you’re learning.  You need to learn not to blindly accept everything within the canon as absolute truth.  In short, to do this, you need to stop drinking the Kool Aid -- and that's what I've been doing.  I've spent a long time expunging the Kool Aid that I built up in my system over the years -- and I believe that I am, today, a healthier person and a better Jew for it.

The Wolf

* I don’t mean “obsolescence” in terms of “should be discarded” but in terms of not currently applicable.  In this context, the halacha of egla arufa, for example, would be termed as “obsolete,” but I am not, God forbid, suggesting that it be excised from the Torah or no longer studied.  Likewise, it should be (and widely is) recognized that the reasons behind the institution of the second day of Yom Tov are obsolete... but again, I am not advocating changing the halacha to eliminate that second day.

74 comments:

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

Critical thinking has, until 200 years ago, been essential to the halachic process. So good job on ignoring the recent innovating thinking that demands mindless obedience. It was new and we're against new.

Jewish Atheist said...

I reasoned out a version of old earth creationism that was consistent with both B'raishis (IMHO) and with contemporary scientific thought (again, IMHO).

This is not critical thinking, it's rationalization or apologetics. Critical thinking starts with a hypothesis and attempts to determine its veracity, or else starts with some facts and attempts to put them together. Starting with your conclusion (B'raishis) and attempting to reconcile it with the evidence (contemporary scientific thought) is fundamentally dishonest. It is thinking, but it is not critical.

In a way, I almost have more respect for the Kool Aid drinkers. They are in psychological denial, perhaps, but they're not actively contributing to their false beliefs. People who have the skills to think critically but use them instead to prop up preferred conclusions are much more complicit.

Sorry to sound so harsh, but it's honest "critic"ism.

Garnel Ironheart said...

So here's the thing, JA. On one hand you disagree with Wolf's definition of his critical thinking, starting with the conclusion and then rationalizing it. But it seems the reason you do is because you have done the same thing: having done your critical thinking you've come to your conclusion and can't believe someone would follow the same process and come up with a different one.
This is quite consistent with what I've noticed for a while: the real threat to atheoskeptics are the MO crowd who use their critical thinking to justify their Jewish practice when the theory is that either you're deluded and religious or clear thinking and not with nothing in between.

Jewish Atheist said...

Garnel:

having done your critical thinking you've come to your conclusion and can't believe someone would follow the same process and come up with a different one.

I can accept people being agnostics or sort of vague theists (deists, panentheists, etc.) but yes, it's true I can't believe that someone could believe in Orthodox Judaism after doing unbiased critical thinking. In my experience, most thoughtful MOs will admit that they believe more based on some kind of feeling or that they've taken a leap of faith.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Ah, so you're guilty of what you're accusing Wolf of. In that case, how is your decision to embrace atheism any more valid than a Chareidi's to embrace Judaism? How is your belief that, chalilah, there is no God (because you cannot prove that definitively) any more valid than a Chareidi's belief that He exists?
Yes, there is a leap of faith involved even in Modern Orthodoxy, but the faith is buttressed by evidence and thinking, not blind following.

Boxed Whine said...

Careful with that powerful thing we call thinking. They say that your mind should not be so open that it falls out of your head....oh my goodness, you may get labeled an apikorus!

Jewish Atheist said...

Garnel,

I embraced atheism because I genuinely believed it to be the most reasonable conclusion, especially after reading Hawking's A Brief History of Time and several of Dawkins's books. What I was saying is that I think it's possible for a different honest person to be some kind of deist or panentheist, because it's not like atheism is absolutely provable or anything. Orthodox Judaism, though, makes some claims that are just obviously false to a real critical thinker, so that's in a whole different league.

(E.g. God dictated the chumash to Moshe, 600,000 Jews left ancient Egypt, etc. Even if you "reinterpret" things like the global flood or basically all of breishit, you're left with a few things you can't "reinterpret.")

Baruch Pelta said...

Reb Wolf:
You can reconcile the Torah with anything. If we found out the world was flat and all this science stuff was just a way of keeping us brainwashed, the Orthodox Jew would find plenty of ways to reconcile the Torah with flat-earthism. You can say that when the Torah says the flood was global, it meant it seemed global; you can say 600,000 male neshamas were at Sinai (or something). So of course you, as my frum friends say, "can reconcile the Torah with science."

The question is, why would you want to? Do you have a really good reason to believe these books (Pentateuch, Prophets, Writings, Talmud, et al.) are God-inspired? When you look at these books, does it seem more likely to you that these are the products of direct prophecy (excepting certain sections of the Talmud you may admit from the get go, based on rishonim, aren't) or are products of their time?

I'm with JA. 600,00 Jews at Sinai: never happened. The global flood: clearly in the same intellectual universe as the Epic of Gilgamesh, a universe we've since flown out of. Evolution OTOH, is a grander (if sometimes crueler) vision than our ancestors could've imagined. So the kool-aid people were fed when you were younger aside, like my fellow Jewish Atheist, I wonder why you Reb Wolf think frumkeit is the most rational derech; that would be a very interesting post (FTR, you are one of my favorite bloggers). A refutation of some ideas here: http://bpelta.blogspot.com/2010/12/kuzari-principle-proof-from-mass.html

Reb Jewish Atheist:
While we're on the same thread, I wanted to note my admiration for your fighting "The Curious Jew" and cohorts for their kool-aid drinking on the homosexuality issue. I really liked your comments over there.

Baruch Pelta said...

600,000 Jews
or Jewish men, anyways...

Jewish Atheist said...

Thank you, Reb Pelta. :-)

ZachM said...

"Reb Pelta" I would like to respectfully disagree with you on the issue of 600,000 Jews at Sinai. What possible reason or evidence could you have for simply stating that such an event didn't occur? I can't say that I have hard scientific evidence that it did, but the evidence that it was stated to have occurred (ignoring the divinity of the Torah) and was not disputed by anybody at any point until the recent past seems to make it unlikely that SOME sort of event didn't occur because if such an enormous lie was completely fabricated, it's highly unlikely that it would simply have been accepted by the world at large. Maybe you can claim exaggeration in the 600,000 or that the event wasn't in fact the giving of a divine Torah, but it's hard to deny that any sort of epic event happened.

Wolf, I want to applaud you for this approach--I believe that any other approach destroys Judaism from it's core and goes against all meaningful Jewish values. Send your kids to a hesder yeshiva in Israel (if you plan to send them to israel) because that's the general train of thought in places like that. I'm currently at ma'ale adumim, one of the more highly thought of hesder yeshivot, and from day one the message you receive is to love the Torah, but not to accept what you're told blindly and to truly understand what is being said.

Anonymous said...

Jewish Athiest,
I suggest you read up on what critical thinking is, and critically think if it's what you think it is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking

"I embraced atheism because I genuinely believed it to be the most reasonable conclusion, especially after reading Hawking's A Brief History of Time and several of Dawkins's books."

Ah yes, the height of critical thinking and reasoning. Pop culture.

Nate said...

In the long run it makes no practical difference what you think happened or how it came about. A Jewish man is required to put on tefillin. So put them on, and spend your lunch break wondering why. Hashem wants you to do what the Torah says to do, regardless of how you feel about it or whatever mishegass the non-frum or non-Jewish world comes up with.
Don't be a letz or a batlan like these other bloggers, always finding things to laugh at, scoff at, and denigrate. For example, Slifkin has spent untold hours talking about the firmament on his blog. Who cares what it looks like and what it is and if the universe has a dome over it or not. Did you put on tefillin this morning? Did you make brachos? Keep Shabbos? If you did, good, go take a nap and leave these other things to the angels.

Samuel Roth said...

Wolf wrote: "The notion that everything in the Gemara is Torah MiSinai? Check."

Which part of the Gemara is not Torah MiSinai and which is? Please share some examples.

BrooklynWolf said...

Which part of the Gemara is not Torah MiSinai and which is? Please share some examples.

Well, for starters, any gemara dealing with a daughter inheriting from her father if there are no sons. Moshe obviously did not know that halacha when the question came up, so he obviously did not get it on Sinai, but at that later date.

Likewise the question of the punishment for the wood gatherer.

Any gemara that deals with Moshe's "sin" and his punishment of not entering the land was obviously not given to him at Sinai -- if he knew about it, wouldn't he have avoided his error?

Any gemara dealing with Korach and his rebellion was also likely not given at Sinai. Don't you think that if Moshe had advance knowledge of Korach's rebellion that he would have avoided it?

The Wolf

jrs said...

Nice! That was the best articulation (of your particular approach) I've yet seen. If only more people took your approach of simply trying your best to be honest & unflinchingly objective, avoiding both reflexive skepticism and mindless capitulation....

Nate said...

Moshe FORGOT some halachos. He was not perfect. That proves nothing at all, other than that he was human like the rest of us. It doesn't mean he didn't receive the laws at Sinai. He also wrote his own death with tears in his eyes. So?

Baruch Pelta said...

What possible reason or evidence could you have for simply stating that such an event didn't occur?
http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Judaism/2004/12/Did-The-Exodus-Really-Happen.aspx .

As for the possibility that some sort of event happened as you state later, maybe. Wolpe may be right that:
"The probability is, given the traditions, that there were some enslaved Israelites who left Egypt and joined up with their brethren in Canaan."

And then this became exaggerated over the generations. I would recommend looking at the story of the Mexica migration; see http://bpelta.blogspot.com/2010/12/kuzari-principle-proof-from-mass.html

Nate said...

I wonder what JA and his cohorts will say if after Hawking dies, they find out that half his brain is mush and what's left is scrambled eggs. Where will your lack of faith be then? In the toilet I think.

BrooklynWolf said...

Moshe FORGOT some halachos. He was not perfect. That proves nothing at all, other than that he was human like the rest of us.

By the wood-gatherer, it does not state that Moshe forgot, it states that his punishment was not yet specified. Clearly that was enunciated at a later date.

The same could be said about Pesach Sheini.


He also wrote his own death with tears in his eyes. So?

That doesn't prove that the last chapter of Devarim came from Sinai. I could just as easily state that the last chapter that the last chapter of Devarim was written at the very end of his life.

In any event, so are you positing that Moshe knew of his "sin" beforehand but went ahead and did it anyway?

Lastly, is it your contention that *everything* we have today in the Mishna and the Gemara was not only given to Moshe but transmitted orally from generation to generation in an unbroken chain until it's final compilation by R. Yehuda HaNasi and Ravina/Rav Ashi?

The Wolf

The Wolf

Baruch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate said...

It's not my contention. It's already clearly stated as such in the first Mishna of Pirkei Avos.
The only question is what part of the Oral Torah was the transmitted part. Obviously the opinions of the Tannaim and later Amoraim that are now part of the written version was not part of what was transmitted because the various people were not even born yet.
I think the best way to explain it is by using an example. The Mishayos always start with a rule. In the first Mishna of Pesachim, it says "By the "Ohr" of the 14th we search for chametz". This si what was given to Moshe orally. The generation from that time until the time of Beis Hillel & Shammai knew what Ohr meant, so there was no problem.
Then comes the debate on what "ohr" means by Beis Hillel & Shammai, clearly indicating that the real meaning was lost or somehow no longer clear. So from that point on there are arguments over that point, all being recorded in written form later by R'Yehuda HaNasi so that it would not be forgotten.
Now, he could have certainly just recorded the final conclusions and said "ohr means night". If all Torah is just a compendium of rules, that would have sufficed. But it's not. It's a living thing, and the discussions and debates are as much an intricate part of it as are the conclusions, because they teach us how to arrive at contemporary rulings.
As far as the "Moshe doing it anyway" question, there are numerous opinions about this. Some say he did not know certain things, that the words in the Torah were all mushed together and miraculously separated as each event took place. Others say that only the laws were given, but the events were written down as they occurred. And others say that what was given as far as Oral law was only the 13 principles of exegesis, that the actual laws were figured out by Moshe and the people using those principles.

Anonymous said...

And some do say that the last part (8 or 9 verses i think) were written later on before he died, while still others say that Joshua wrote them.

G@W said...

Nate:

There is a long standing Machlokes Amoraim (Gittin 60a) if "Torah Chasuma Nitna" or "Parshios Parshios". i.e. as a whole document or as it needed to be taught.

In addition, Rabbanu Yona (on Pirkei Avos, IIRC) specificly says that even if Chasuma Nitna, that only included the Halachos, not the "current events" material. It also may not have included all details required (see gemorah BB on benos Tzelafchad what exactly was Moshe Rabbenu's Safek)

(Sorry for feeding the troll).

Avram in MD said...

Jewish Athiest and Baruch Pelta,

If I may, I'd like to examine a few of your positions.

1.) I embraced atheism because I genuinely believed it to be the most reasonable conclusion, especially after reading Hawking's A Brief History of Time and several of Dawkins's books"

You seem to have made Dr. Hawking and Dawkins your rabbeim or priests. Sounds religious to me.

2.) What I was saying is that I think it's possible for a different honest person to be some kind of deist or panentheist, because it's not like atheism is absolutely provable or anything.

Belief in the unprovable. Sounds religious to me.

3.) Your very presence on this blog. Preaching the gospel of athiesm. Trying to gain adherents... sounds religious to me. If there is no G-d, and all life is a product of random mutation and natural selection, then what does it matter to you what the Wolf does and belives? It's not like he's harming you or anyone else with his religion. I think it has more to do with you. Just as a Christian's faith grows stronger if he can convince a non-believer, so goes the missionary athiest.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a person who would say that Orthodox Judaism is physically provable or disprovable. In fact, that would go against my beliefs, for it would contradict the concept of hester panim. But don't think that you have a monopoly on critical thinking and reason. Athiesm is every inch a religion as Judaism is, with its own leaps.

Nate said...

Hello Avrum, from Pickwick area.

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

All this inanity...

Let's look at it from the burden of proof position. Traditional Jews have been claiming for 3500 years than Yitzias Mitzraim, Matan Torah, etc. all happened. Suddenly in the last couple of centuries doubts have been raised. Is there any positive proof against the 3500 year old beliefs? Well no, just an academic certainty that "it couldn't have happened". Meanwhile, as the archeologists dig deeper and deeper they discover more positive evidence of the Biblical version of history. Jewish presence in Egypt? Check. A sudden jump in the population of Canaan and a lot of destroyed cities right about when Joshua is supposed to have invaded? Check. Evidence of David and Shlomo's Yerushalayim? Check. And keep in mind that with all those examples, before they were discovered the skeptics were trumpeting their absence as proof the Bible was wrong. Oops.

Next, understanding the historical events in the Bible. Again, despite claims by the "gedolim" the Torah is not a book of natural history. It skips out on lots of events that a regular history book would have included. It is a book of moral lessons and only deals with that topic bringin in what it has to for support. We know there was a mabul. What exactly it was, when exactly is was, how long it lasted, all that is speculative and frankly, none of it is an essential part of Judaism anyway. But the skeptics grab onto this like a hungry dog onto a T-bone steak to prove a point that is irrelevant in the first place.

Finally, Wolf is right. Not every mitzvah was given at Sinai. Several were given at Marah right after the Exodus. Don't believe me? Ask Chazal. And look at Rashi on the blasphemer and the wood picker-upper. In both cases he notes that while Moshe knew a crime had been committed, he did not know either (a) which death penalty to use or (b) if there was a death penalty in the first place. He didn't forget. The subject simply hadn't come up yet. He also never learned any halachos about microwaves either.
What's more, look at the midrash in which Moshe Rabeinu goes to Rabbi Akiva's beis midrash and can't understand the lesson. How is it possible that Moshe Rabeinu, who knew the whole Torah, couldn't follow Rabbi Akiva? Because the Torah is both a group of laws and a group of principles from which the laws are developed. Rabbi Yishmael has 13 of them. Another Tanna had 32. The Malbim, in his introduction to Vayikra, lists several hundred. That is the Torah being talked about.

mlevin said...

Nate - you asked who cares what the world/scientists say as long as one puts on tfillin, says brochos and keeps shabbos. Let me tell you I care.

As Wolf alluded to earlier being forced to observe two day yom tovs instead of one is a big deal. We are living in a very busy world and at work we are given a very small amount of personal and vacation days. These extra days are a big deal.

Keeping Shabbos also has many restrictions which add up to lots of money which could be saved if for example one is allowed to turn on and off electricity. This prohibition is based on a "scientific" decision made almost 200 years ago. (I am not saying if we should or should not be using it, just be open to reevaluating and acknowledge that people 200 years ago were more ignorant of sciences then they are today.)

How about the laws of kashurus and separate dishes. Great imposition and costs lots of money.

Nate said...

Nobody promised you that being frum was going to be cheap. If your priorities were in order, what you spend on mitzvos wouldn't matter so much. Take stock of how many non-essentials you pay for, such as cable tv, better than average car, eating out, etc. What's worth more to you, more channels or a nicer lulav & essrog? Do you give maaser even when it looks like you won't be able to pay the mortgage? Hashem will provide what you need if you give Him what He asks for.

ksil said...

stop feeding him! he's like a pack of lions around a zebra carcas.

garnel, for 2500 years the torah was a historical record and science book, but now that you see it cannot be true, you say, thats not really what it s for anyway. that does not bother you?

there are many flaws in your arguement, which have been fleshed ou over the years, but you refuse to acknowledge. you start from the FACT that the torah was true and given at sinai to the jews by god, then bob and weave your way around to say how it could still techinically work out.

Jewish Atheist said...

You seem to have made Dr. Hawking and Dawkins your rabbeim or priests. Sounds religious to me.

Scientists base their beliefs on facts. Rabbis and priests base their beliefs on books and tradition. No comparison.

Belief in the unprovable. Sounds religious to me.

There is a huge spectrum of "unprovable" that includes almost every belief a human being could have. They are not equally reasonable. For example, both "Superman exists in real life" and "my wife loves me" are unprovable, but it's much more reasonable to believe one than the other. You of course know this, but you're pretending to not know it because it lets you rationalize your ridiculous beliefs.

Your very presence on this blog. Preaching the gospel of athiesm. Trying to gain adherents... sounds religious to me. If there is no G-d, and all life is a product of random mutation and natural selection, then what does it matter to you what the Wolf does and belives? It's not like he's harming you or anyone else with his religion.

It matters to me that people suffer for entirely avoidable reasons, because I am a human being who feels empathy for my fellow human beings. In fact, what Wolf is writing does harm people, indirectly. When he or others defend a religion that teaches that gay sex is an abomination or just makes life miserable for teenaged skeptics or married people who come to realize it's all a lie but are trapped, he is contributing to the problem.

I think it has more to do with you. Just as a Christian's faith grows stronger if he can convince a non-believer, so goes the missionary athiest.

I have no faith that needs to grow stronger. Atheists don't have or need chizuk. Atheism just makes sense, it doesn't require the constant denial and rationalizations of fundamentalist religions like OJ.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a person who would say that Orthodox Judaism is physically provable or disprovable. In fact, that would go against my beliefs, for it would contradict the concept of hester panim. But don't think that you have a monopoly on critical thinking and reason. Athiesm is every inch a religion as Judaism is, with its own leaps.

Again, it's just dishonest to pretend that the "leaps" are in the same category. Believing in something you want to believe just because it's not disprovable is not critical thinking, it's wishful thinking.

Besides, OJ is disprovable. If you have an ounce of intellectual honesty and two ounces of education or the ability to spend 20 minutes on wikipedia, you'll realize the Exodus story could never have happened as described by OJ. At that point, you may squirm and rationalize and start talking about how it's not necessarily literal, but then you're not OJ anymore and you're still dishonest and wrong.

Nate said...

"Scientists base their beliefs on facts."

Really? The Big Bang is a theory. Evolution is a theory.The age of the universe being in the millions is a theory. Guesses and theories are not facts. Torah is the only fact.

BrooklynWolf said...

Really? The Big Bang is a theory. Evolution is a theory.The age of the universe being in the millions is a theory.

Which only shows that you are ignorant of the way science uses the word "theory." Are you going to doubt whether or not gravity exists since it's also only a theory?

The Wolf

Nate said...

Theory means it's not proven. Once it is proven, it becomes fact. As it stands now, it has no more basis in fact than the moon being made of green cheese. Gravity is, in fact, a fact, not a theory.

Nate said...

"you'll realize the Exodus story could never have happened as described by OJ"

1) it's not described by OJ or any J, it's described by God.

2) there is nothing that prevents it from having happened exactly as it says, not scientifically, historically, or rationally. Even the history channel says it happened.

BrooklynWolf said...

Theory means it's not proven. Once it is proven, it becomes fact.


Further evidence of the fact that you have no idea what a theory is in scientific terms.

As it stands now, it has no more basis in fact than the moon being made of green cheese.

Further evidence of the fact that you haven't even made the simplest effort in looking at the data.

The Wolf

mlevin said...

"Nobody promised you that being frum was going to be cheap. If your priorities were in order, what you spend on mitzvos wouldn't matter so much. Take stock of how many non-essentials you pay for, such as cable tv, better than average car, eating out, etc. What's worth more to you, more channels or a nicer lulav & essrog? Do you give maaser even when it looks like you won't be able to pay the mortgage? Hashem will provide what you need if you give Him what He asks for."

First I take affront with you accusing me of not giving maaser. You do not know me, but instead of defending your position, you go on a attack and insult my character.

Second, where does it say that Hashem will provide for one's needs? However, I do remember that the very same Hashem expects us to work to provide for our livelihood.

Third, where does it say that we have to live in dire poverty to be Jewish? As far as I remember our forefathers were very rich men. We left Egypt with riches. Most of the great scholars were rich, or they would not have the luxury of learning ( please do not site the few exceptions of rabbis who were poor, they are an exception not the norm).

Fourth, what makes you decide that cable tv, better than average car and eating out are non-essentials? Cable TV brings the world and understanding to your home, same as books and magazines do. Why did you choose to say cable TV is non-essential, but you did not say that owning an Machzor is non-essential, or wearing a tzitzis is non-essential? How do you define better than an average car? Is that a car that is smaller uses less gas and unable to transport as many passengers? Or is it a newer car which has more safety features and does not have to be in a shop all the time? How do you define not eating out? Does that mean shechting your own chicken and milking your own cow? Or do you define it by buying a prepackaged chicken breast and throwing it in an oven and waiting for it to cook and then doing the cleanup at the end of the very tiring day?

Nate said...

A theory is a theory is a theory. Semantics at best. You can call it a flibbit if u want, it's still unproven.

Nate said...

MLevin:

First of all, I didn't accuse you of anything. I ASKED if you gave maaser.

All the other things you listed are luxuries. You can live without cable tv. You can not live without tefillin. If you think your mode of living is called living, you are upside down. Better you should exist on bread and water and spend a thousand dollars on an essrog than to dine out at some fancy restaurant every week because you don't want to wash dishes. Tzitzis are an obligation, indisputably so. You want to watch tv, go stand in front of the store window and watch. I sure hope you don't have children. If you do, you are teaching them that their desires are equal or above their needs. Spoiled is another word for it. If you can get by with a 20,000 dollar car, but like the 50,000 dollar one more, that is not proper. Give the extra 30k to a yeshiva bochur so he can learn all day.

BrooklynWolf said...

A theory is a theory is a theory. Semantics at best. You can call it a flibbit if u want, it's still unproven.

So, instead of finding out what a theory is, you're just going to stick your fingers in your ears and go "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA-LA-LA-LA!!!"

Go and learn what a theory is with regard to science. It does NOT mean the same thing as it does in colloquial speech. Words (including "theory") can have different means in different contexts.

The Wolf

Nate said...

doing the cleanup at the end of the very tiring day

Awwwww, is life too taxing for you? Does mommy bring you milk & cookies at the end of your long tiring day?Poor bubbele. Ok, i understand now. If it's convenient and requires little or no energy on your part, and entertains you at the same time, that makes it a necessity. So if you had to chop down your own tree to make a succah, you wouldn't do it, but i bet if you had to work 2 jobs to send your kid to college, you would. Lovely. Guess what? I'm not buying meat for the next month so I can afford to buy shmura matza for Pesach at $22 per box.

Avram in MD said...

JewishAthiest,

Scientists base their beliefs on facts.

In the context of their field, I agree. Once we depart from that field, however, why would a scientist's beliefs be any more valid than my neighbor's?

There is a huge spectrum of "unprovable" that includes almost every belief a human being could have. They are not equally reasonable.

I agree with the principle. We disagree, however, on the definition of reasonable.

"Superman exists in real life" and "my wife loves me" are unprovable

Actually, the first can be disproven, based on the lack of a Metropolis, Lois Lane, and everything else Superman interacted with. With the second example you come close to touching religious experience. No, I cannot prove it, but I can ask her.

You of course know this, but you're pretending to not know it because it lets you rationalize your ridiculous beliefs.

I guess atheists are not immune to making ad hominem attacks. Or hurling insults. It's sad, because the discussion would have been more enjoyable without these things.

It matters to me that people suffer for entirely avoidable reasons, because I am a human being who feels empathy for my fellow human beings.

So you believe that Orthodox Jews are suffering? This is a statement that can be proven or disproven, why don't you conduct a survey? Don't forget to designate a control group of non-Orthodox Jews.

Again, it's just dishonest to pretend that the "leaps" are in the same category.

Again, we'll have to agree to disagree. We look at the universe in different ways.

If you have an ounce of intellectual honesty and two ounces of education or the ability to spend 20 minutes on wikipedia, you'll realize the Exodus story could never have happened as described by OJ.

First, I don't think Wikipedia is a good research resource for big issues. Second, we can disagree, and you are welcome to think that my views are ridiculous and stupid, but to accuse me of dishonesty and insult me weakens your arguments.

Avram in MD said...

Wolf, was my last post deleted, or did it never appear?

Nate said...

Avram please email me if you would. napper61@yahoo.com

BrooklynWolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mlevin said...

"First of all, I didn't accuse you of anything. I ASKED if you gave maaser."

And what would make you think that I didn't? You asked because you wanted to plant a seed of doubt, to mar my character, in order to undermine everything I had said. It's a classic attack technique.

"All the other things you listed are luxuries. You can live without cable tv. You can not live without tefillin."

Yes, you can live without a tefillin. You can borrow one from your friends or relatives. Actually, as long as there are 10 tefillins in the community, so that the mourners can say a kiddush you are fine. Having your own tefillin is a luxury.

" If you think your mode of living is called living, you are upside down. Better you should exist on bread and water and spend a thousand dollars on an essrog than to dine out at some fancy restaurant every week because you don't want to wash dishes. "

Well, that is a loaded sentence, but I will try to tackle a few points. A person can not live on bread and water. Period. There are not enough nutrients and vitamins. So, no essrog to me is not something I would give up my life for. Second, time is money. When I am not washing dishes I am free to dedicate my time to something else which will bring me money. I could use a portion of that income to eat out. But if I spend all of my time washing dishes, I will bypass the opportunity to improve my financial situation.

"Tzitzis are an obligation, indisputably so."

Go back to your chumash and reread it again. You are only obligated to wear Tzitzis if you are wearing a four cornered garment. In today's day and age men don't usually wear four cornered garments, therefore Tzitzis is a luxury.

"You want to watch tv, go stand in front of the store window and watch. "

Ummm, the store windows do not have a sound on their TV and they do not switch channels to those you want to watch. Actually, lately, they don't even show live TV, but play a recording of something very colorful.

"I sure hope you don't have children. If you do, you are teaching them that their desires are equal or above their needs. Spoiled is another word for it. "

I could say exactly the same thing to you. I hope you don't have any children. If you do, you are teaching them how it is more important to follow the crowd then to stop and thing and reevaluate what you are being taught and form your own opinion. Brainwashed is another word for it.

"If you can get by with a 20,000 dollar car, but like the 50,000 dollar one more, that is not proper. Give the extra 30k to a yeshiva bochur so he can learn all day."

Ummm, no. Hashem gave me that money not the yeshivah bochur. My hallochic obligation is to pay a minimum of 10% of my income and a maximum of 20% of my income to the charity of my choice. If I paid my tzidokah and I have enough left over for a $50,ooo car, it is none of your business if I choose to spend it on a new car. But giving more than 20% of my income to tzidokah is a sin that many seem to ignore when they are trying to separate people from their money. Actually, you are implying you know better than Hashem when you tell me to spend on the yeshivah bochur.

BrooklynWolf said...

Avram,

Found it... your comment somehow ended up in my spam folder. I've marked it as "not spam" and put it in it's place.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

http://www.msghelp.net/files/index.php/dl/zzmk8h9z-dont-feed-the-troll.jpg

Nate said...

MLevin: Just make it simple and say you worship money as your God. Ask yourself this: If you are not self-employed, and your boss says I need you to work this Saturday because everyone else is sick, and btw if you don't, I'm going to have to let you go, would you work or stick to keeping Shabbos?
I'm curious, because my wife just quit her $70,000 a year job when she was given that choice to make, which was 80% of our income. So now we may go on govt assistance. But for Shabbos there is no price too high. What would you give up for a mitzvah? Now that we know you don't wear tzitzis and borrow tefillin, which is just laughable at best.
Don't forget to tell Wolf to ban me for insulting you, that's the usual course of action for those who refuse to confront their own ridiculousness.
I'll be expecting an obligatory maaser check from you, now that you know there is a fellow Jew in need. Or does that apply only to Jews who haven't been brainwashed by God and Torah that was written by His own hand?

BrooklynWolf said...

Don't forget to tell Wolf to ban me for insulting you, that's the usual course of action for those who refuse to confront their own ridiculousness.

I don't ban people for such things. I generally believe in the "give 'em enough rope..." method. The more you talk, the more we're able to judge and evaluate the worth (or lack thereof) of your arguments.

The Wolf

An Observer said...

"When I am not washing dishes I am free to dedicate my time to something else which will bring me money. I could use a portion of that income to eat out. But if I spend all of my time washing dishes, I will bypass the opportunity to improve my financial situation."

Just like the goyim.

ksil said...

"I'll be expecting an obligatory maaser check from you"

please send your check to nate so his wife can sit at home and do nothing and he can troll the jewish skeptic blogs all day and night, push buttons and stir the pot.

jeez louise

ksil said...

observer, is there something intriniscally wrong with all goyim in your view? or just the ones that want to earn a living, consistently improve the quality of their life and others around them, and generally participate in society?

An Observer said...

HA! Never met a goy who is interested in improving anything other than his blood alcohol level on a Friday night. Wake up. Comfortable living is a far cry from what Levin is talking about. Borrowing tefillin and driving an expensive car, and you don't see the problem? A fine example of a Yid. Feh

Nate said...

Yeah, what AO said.

What a crock. A Jew who would pass up the mitzvah of tzitzis so he can eat a steak for $25 or more, give up owning tefillin so he can bask in the light of his plasma tv, and you don't see how he's like a polineh goy?

ksil said...

observer, was that a "yes"?

Jewish Atheist said...

In the context of their field, I agree. Once we depart from that field, however, why would a scientist's beliefs be any more valid than my neighbor's?

Hawking is an expert in cosmology and the beginning of the universe, so he is more qualified to discuss the question of a creator than anyone else on Earth outside of a handful of others who seem to agree with him. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist who is far more qualified to discuss as to whether living things were designed by an intelligent being or evolved through blind processes than pretty much anyone else, and again, a majority of his colleagues agree with him.

I agree with the principle. We disagree, however, on the definition of reasonable.

OK.

Actually, the first can be disproven, based on the lack of a Metropolis, Lois Lane, and everything else Superman interacted with.

What? Kofer! Metropolis was destroyed by God 3607 years ago because the residents had sex in the missionary position too often. Lois Lane is in my house right now, although she is invisible and also exists outside of space and time.
I guess atheists are not immune to making ad hominem attacks. Or hurling insults. It's sad, because the discussion would have been more enjoyable without these things.

I apologize.

So you believe that Orthodox Jews are suffering? This is a statement that can be proven or disproven, why don't you conduct a survey? Don't forget to designate a control group of non-Orthodox Jews.

What? No, I never said that. I said some people suffer because of Orthodox Judaism. I offered two examples: gay Orthodox teens and married skeptics who are trapped because e.g. their wives would leave them and take the kids if they were honest about their skepticism.

Again, we'll have to agree to disagree. We look at the universe in different ways.

Right. And I'm saying the way you look at it is not "critical."

First, I don't think Wikipedia is a good research resource for big issues.

Obviously you don't just leave it at that. You take wikipedia as a starting point and follow the references. Or, visit any library and ask the reference librarian for books about ancient Egypt by actual historians. Or, call your local university and ask for a professor of ancient Egyptian history.

Second, we can disagree, and you are welcome to think that my views are ridiculous and stupid, but to accuse me of dishonesty and insult me weakens your arguments.

I don't mean to imply that you are consciously dishonest. I think you're in denial and are rationalizing. When I say dishonest, I mean intellectually dishonest.

An Observer said...

Dont worry yourself over goyim Mr. KSil. Jews are what counts, and without Torah & mitvot, we are no better than they are, which aint much.

ksil said...

"Jews are what counts"

ugh

mlevin said...

I will not be answering to Nate, he is obviously a troll. But something bothers me about what Observer said. Are you saying that only Jews wash dishes and goyim eat from dirty dishes or something? Or are you saying that only Goyim go to work and where do Jews get their parnasa from? I really, really want to know.

Nate said...

this is for you ksil

http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/torahaccuracy/

http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/start-of-judaism/

UNDISPUTED AND 100% TRUTH

ksil said...

100%?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis

ksil said...

The Torah claims that the entire Jewish nation received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, eh?

any circulare reasoning there?

Nate, this is not the time or place for this discussion.

BrooklynWolf said...

UNDISPUTED AND 100% TRUTH

AND IN CAPITAL LETTERS WHICH MAKES IT EVEN TRUER!!

Seriously, however, this deserves its own post, which I'll try to get on the site in the next day or two.

Suffice it to say that there *are* variants of the Torah text (contrary to the position of the former article) and suffice it to say that there are those who do dispute the latter article. Your saying "UNDISPUTED" in capital letters does not change that.


The Wolf

An Observer said...

Levin, don't be a tard. You know exactly what I'm saying. You and the money worshipping goyim want to get the dishes done so you can go make more money, and your entire life is centered around money and creature comforts. That is not how God wants us to live at all, and there is ample evidence of that in every single Torah based writing that exists. That does not mean we are to live an ascetic life at all. But that is not our purpose, though it clearly is yours.
You're more worried about the sin of exceeding your 10 or 20% obligation to charity than not wearing tzitzis. I wonder if you do a precise accounting to make sure that you don't exceed it by a penny.
And the saddest part of it is that you actually think that it is YOU who determines your net worth! Nate is right. You should send him a check. Just imagine another tax deduction. That should make you and your accountant happy. Disgusting! No wonder the goyishe world thinks we're all money grubbing shysters.

Dave said...

Yeah, all those Goyim who have religious holidays where their leaders declare it is a sacred obligation to get hammered (even if you are underage), and send out their students to do so.

And I'm sure the Baptist church down the block has all the men sitting around drinking expensive whiskey every Sunday morning.

Yeah, the Goyim are the ones with the fixation on alcohol. Good thing frum Jews would never consider such a thing!

An Observer said...

Leave it to Dave to pick a handful of guys as representative of all frum Yidden. And as far as Purim, it IS an obligation.
For Jews it's a minute part of 1 holiday a year. For goyim, it is the center of their lives. When was the last time you saw a black hat wearing Jew sitting at a bar drinking 12 beers and enough shots to kill a horse, then stagger to his car, kill 3 people on the way home, and rack up 10 dwi's? For them its part of their lives. For us, it's an anomaly.

ItcheSrulik said...

I know I haven't visited your blog since I gave you the link to your question about Ramses in the leining group back around parshat shemos, but I see I'm missing some good stuff.

You seem to be describing an approach that has been around pretty much since the beginning, at least the hermeneutics; the Torah/science thing wasn't an issue until modern science became worth the name. I'm not surprised at the atheist comments. They're debating religion vs. irreligion which is a separate argument and doing it civilly too. I'm surprised at Nate who -- in his zeal to defend a handful of random statements which he can barely cite correctly -- throws out a good part of how his religion works.

Nate said...

in his zeal to defend a handful of random statements which he can barely cite correctly -- throws out a good part of how his religion works


All I have said is Daas Torah par excellence.

Anonymous said...

Nate:

Please continue posting. You are helping a fellow Yid do the Mitzva of being B'Simcha!

ItcheSrulik said...

Yes Nate, דעת תורא מיט א אלף

BTW wolf, is there a way to set the difficulty levels of the captchas on your site? I notice that some sites like yours are much simpler than others. I doubt google lets you upload your own database of images but do they let you choose in some way?

BrooklynWolf said...

BTW wolf, is there a way to set the difficulty levels of the captchas on your site? I notice that some sites like yours are much simpler than others. I doubt google lets you upload your own database of images but do they let you choose in some way?

No. It's just an on/off switch. I can't customize it at all.

The Wolf

Avram in MD said...

JewishAthiest,

I don't have a lot of time to post, so I'm sorry this is brief:

Hawking is an expert in cosmology and the beginning of the universe, so he is more qualified to discuss the question of a creator than anyone else on Earth outside of a handful of others who seem to agree with him. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist who is far more qualified to discuss as to whether living things were designed by an intelligent being or evolved through blind processes than pretty much anyone else, and again, a majority of his colleagues agree with him.

I wrote above that G-d is hidden. Therefore, I wouldn't expect them to find the Divine by looking into the universe for open miracles. I'm sure this drives you crazy.

What? Kofer! Metropolis was destroyed by God 3607 years ago because the residents had sex in the missionary position too often.

If true, you have yourself disproven the existence of Superman, because Superman would not have allowed Metropolis to be destroyed.

Lois Lane is in my house right now, although she is invisible and also exists outside of space and time.

And let me guess, she gives you numerous commandments that you must follow, but are curiously similar to your own inner desires and world view.

You are quite good at disproving idolatry.

What? No, I never said that. I said some people suffer because of Orthodox Judaism. I offered two examples: gay Orthodox teens and married skeptics who are trapped because e.g. their wives would leave them and take the kids if they were honest about their skepticism.

So with all of the problems and suffering in this world, where members of other religions kill their OTDs, you choose to focus on a small subgroup of a small subgroup of a small subgroup?

Also, why do you call yourself JewishAthiest? For a true atheist, Judaism must be the absolute worst tragedy of religion there is. Not only have Jews fallen victim to the horrific mass delusion of religion, but they picked an ancient one and stubbornly stuck with it, even when newer, more open religions who also believe in invisible gods instead of statues sprang up, even when it meant generations of death and suffering. How could you associate yourself with something like that???

Obviously you don't just leave it at that. You take wikipedia as a starting point and follow the references. Or, visit any library and ask the reference librarian for books about ancient Egypt by actual historians. Or, call your local university and ask for a professor of ancient Egyptian history.

Why, if it is written by ancient Jews, it is a lie; but if it is written by ancient Egyptians, it is true?

I don't mean to imply that you are consciously dishonest. I think you're in denial and are rationalizing. When I say dishonest, I mean intellectually dishonest.

OK. I have evengelical Christian friends who tell me the same thing, so I can live with that.

Show me where I have rationalized, I'd be interested to know.

Englishman said...

Well said Nate. Thank you.