Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Monday, 9 March 2009

Being Positive

Something which non-believers can never understand is the positive feeling belief in God and religious observance can bring one.
Without God we are really alone in the universe. "Here today, gone tomorrow, that's me!" (Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon).
Without Torah we don't really know what God wants of us. So we invent things, generally things we want and say that it's God's will that we be happy and since these things make us happy, well that's what God wants of us. But all these thrills are cheap and temporary, fun at first but lacking in novelty and enjoyment after a while.
With God and Torah, each day is a new, positive challenge. How can I enhance my neshama today? How can I fulfill His will today? How can I make the world a better place today?
Where are the objective answers? In Torah. Where can I find eternal values? In Torah.
Purim is perhaps the best example of the divide between right (us) and wrong (them). Although God's name never once appears in the story of Esther, it doesn't have to. The believer knows through his faith that God arranged events the way they did. As a result, not only do we have a great story and a good reason to drink heavily, but we can also derive moral lessons and grow as individuals and a people as a result.
For the non-believers? Well first of all, the story probably dind't happen, and even if it didn, it didn't happen like that and God, if He's around at all, chas v'shalom, had nothing to do with it. And it might be a great story but there's nothing they're going to learn from it. Garbage in = garbage out.
Tonight we will be in the positive, full of love and gratitude to God Almighty and by tomorrow we'll be that much more complete. And them? They'll still be mierable, basing their entire lives on negating all that's great about ours. Oh well, sucks to be them.

32 comments:

Jewish Mamale said...

but it sure is wonderful being us

Yeshivish Atheist said...

"Something which non-believers can never understand is the positive feeling belief in God and religious observance can bring one."

What an ignorant thing to say. I know the feeling quite well, as I have experienced it many times in the past.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Yeah, but that just makes your current choice so much stupider. You've know positivity and rejected it.

Jewish Atheist said...

What an ignorant thing to say. I know the feeling quite well, as I have experienced it many times in the past.

Seriously. All of us OTDers felt that before we left.

Yeah, but that just makes your current choice so much stupider. You've know positivity and rejected it.

Have you accepted Santa Clause into your life? Don't you know how positive the feelings are that believing in Santa brings about? What a moron you are. ;-)

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Santa Claus is like the Flying Spaghetti Monster argument your buddy OTD likes to use. He's a commercialized child's wish come true (Claus, not OTD), prepared to give any kid who thinks they've been good all the presents they think they deserve. He's the exact opposite of what a good adult authority figure should be.
Kids generally stop believing in Santa Claus about the time they start figuring out that gifts should be earned, not demanded.

DrMike said...

It goes beyond that.

Santa Claus, at least the modern concept, is something that is verifiably man-made. We know exactly when Coke put him into his red and white outfit. We know where Rudolph and the other reindeer all come from. We know the moment in time each piece of the legend was created.

One cannot say any of these things about God.

Jewish Atheist said...

That's a whole different argument. We were talking about whether positive feelings due to a belief are relevant.

Garnel Ironheart said...

You're the one who brought Santa Claus up.

I think that positive feelings due to a belief are very relevant. People generally need to believe in something. Why? Because that belief gives them strength, confidence, the ability to go on when things are down or dull. Belief in God provides all those things. But if you're an atheist, what is there? Life is just this random things. You were born as a result of the random combination of a sperm and egg, you'll die and everything you will cease to exist. Is life going to get better? Does it matter? What greater things can you be part of, what more glorious goals can you attach yourself too?
Even at his lonliest, a believer knows God is there, providing silent comfort. That belief itself is the silent comfort. But if you're an atheist, you're alone.

David said...

Interesting argument, Garnel. Occasionally, one gets the impression that the fellow you're trying to convince is actually you. Is it working?

Yes, many of us unbelievers do know what it's like to be a believer. I'm not sure you understand (in fact, based on your comments, I'm pretty sure you don't) where we're coming from, however.

As to the Purim story, let's see, we have one villain who wants to kill the Jews. In return, the Jews kill him (which sounds reasonable), his wife and kids (a bit less reasonable) and 75,000 other people in what must have been (if it happened) a pretty bloody rampage.

Naturally, if those 75,000 people were killed by the believers, they probably had it coming (don't all of us non-believers have it coming?). To coin a phrase, "oh well, sucks to be them."

Garnel Ironheart said...

David, your comprehension of the Purim story is quite selective. No doubt you see Goliath as a victim of David's disproportionate guerilla attack?

Here's my take: the prime minister of Purim announces that all non-Jewish citizens of the country will, on the next Adar 13 (a full 1 months away so lots of time to stock up on arrows and swords) be allowed to attack Jewish citizens with impunity while the official constabulary either look on or tacitly assist. Oh, and the Jews aren't allowed to resist.
Now what do you think happened in society over the next 11 months? How many times did the average Jew get to hear the line "Come Adar 13, I'm going to kill you, rape your wife and steal your kids"?
And then Adar 13 comes. Now if you actually read the megillah you know the original proclamation giving people a national day of rioting to attack the Jews was never repealed. What changed was that the Jews were now given permission to defend themselves and the local authorities were again to remain either uninvolved or now tacitly help the Jews.
So on Adar 13 you have a non-Jewish population which massively outnumbers its Jewish population and which has had 11 months to prepare and they still get their asses kicked! The megilla doesn't say that the Jews went out and attacked defenseless people. There was massive rioting and we won. Only self-hating Jews would feel guilty about that.
Yeah, sucks to be them.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Oops, I mean 11 months.

David said...

"David, your comprehension of the Purim story is quite selective. No doubt you see Goliath as a victim of David's disproportionate guerilla attack?"

No, I see it as an amusing piece of fiction, much like the Purim story. At least, in David's case, there was an actual war on, and Goliath was a soldier.

"Here's my take: the prime minister of Purim announces that all non-Jewish citizens of the country will, [yadda, yadda]"

Cute, except that your "take" is made up (like most of your theology). What the text shows is pretty much a riot, which, no matter how you slice it, is inconsistent with dispensing justice in any form-- if you feel the need to read additional facts into it to render it palatable, well, that, too, says something about the text.

Moreover, hanging Haman's dead sons the day after they had been killed would appear to be a violation of the Torah commandment in Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

But all that is fine... you're entitled to your "take" on the story. I'm just not sure why you're so defensive about insisting that the story is true. It doesn't really seem all that plausible, and, apart from the megillah itself, there doesn't appear to be any indication that any of the events happened as described.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> What the text shows is pretty much a riot

What's left unsaid is how an emperor like Achashverosh can just declare a national riot day without worrying about all law and order breaking down?
And I'm not reading additional facts into the text. Look it over again - the initial confrontation with Haman is just before Pesach, the text tells you the month and date. Adar is 11 months later. This isn't anything I'm reading into anything, it's all there.

As for hanging Haman's sons, no that's consistent. Read Devarim again - first the criminal guilty of capital punishment is put to death, then he is to be hung and then he is to be brought down immediately for burial. Again, the text doesn't suggest anything different.
As for the story being true, well of course it was. But that's all part of the belief thing I'm working with and that you're avoiding.

David said...

"As for the story being true, well of course it was."

Hmmm... how could I respond to that argument...? Oh, wait-- here's an equally persuasive refutation: "Of course it wasn't."

"But that's all part of the belief thing I'm working with and that you're avoiding."

You really don't get it, Garnel. I'm not "avoiding" anything-- I've been where you are. There was a time in my life (as in the lives of many of us) when I was inclined to buy into these stories, and, yes, it did make me feel good. I was not able to sustain the belief.

The only person who is "avoiding" anything is you-- you're turning into a tuned-down version of Jacob Stein, and your arguments in defense of your beliefs have lapsed more and more into attacks on people who don't share them.

Seriously, Garnel, you're an educated person. Would you have pulled this nonsense in a medical school class? "No, professor, I'm quite certain that this treatment will work, because I have a tradition from Hippocrates."

Garnel Ironheart said...

David, here's the other thing, I was where you are and went the other way.

Your response to my argument sums up as: We have to agree to disagree. I believe and therefore for me the story is true. You don't, so for you it's a piece of fiction. I'm not interested in demanding anything of you. Your lack of belief is your personal right and if I want you to respect me, I have to respect you.

As for medical school, that's a totally separate matter. In medical school everything is based on science. Of course the answer "I have a tradition from Hippocrates" would be unacceptable. It's a science based system so such an answer is irrelevant.
Religion is a faith based system. One you believe, we can argue using a common set of beliefs as the basis. But if you don't, there's no real point. It just upsets everyone involved.

Here's an analogy - I rarely discuss medicine with naturopaths. Why? Because they reject the scientific method medicine embraces. I can't find a common ground with them so I don't discuss the issue. Besides, eventually even the most pro-homeopathic patient winds up in my ER so I always get the last word.

As for Jacob Stein, please. I haven't advocated shooting anyone... lately.

David said...

But, Garnel-- you brought the whole thing up, with (what amounted to) an expression of contempt for people who don't share your views. You said that we lacked any understanding of your views (clearly wrong), and that we spent our lives being miserable, focusing on negating what was great about your lives.

Now, you say that we should just agree to disagree. Well, with all due respect, that's where I started; you're the one who came out swinging.

Also, I do find it amusing that you can condemn the naturopaths for doing exactly what you do-- i.e., adhere to something based on your faith, even where logic and reason tend to militate against it. In the end, I suspect you do this for the same reason as the naturopath-- it's working for you. When (and if) it stops working, like the naturopath, you may find yourself in the emergency room. It has happened to others!

DrMike said...

Here's a great medical example:

Professor, I have a tradition from Hippocrates: First, do no harm.

Now, as far as I know there are no scientific reasons for this principle. No studies that show it leads to better outcomes. But every doctor around where I practice seems to hold by it. Why?

Don't say because it's ethical because that's totally subjective. In some parts of the world, placebo treatments are considered standard therapy. In North America you can lose your licence for using a placebo because you're lying to the patient. It's the same with "First do no harm". It makes sense, it's ethically accepted but there's no science behind it.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

> But, Garnel-- you brought the whole thing up, with (what amounted to) an expression of contempt for people who don't share your views.

From what I've read on various non-believer blogs, it's all the same fare. Just last week a newby non-believer invited me to comment on his blog and when I went to check it out, it was once again the same old thing: all frummies are bad. God doesn't exist. Religion is evil, blah, blah, blah. I'm simply responding to attacks like that.

You'll note that Rich Perkins and I don't argue visciously, for example.

>and that we spent our lives being miserable, focusing on negating what was great about your lives.

You don't have a blog so I don't know what you do with your life but like I said, every non-believer blog I've seen have one thing in common: unrelenting negativity and attacks on religion. Never anything positive, just how wrong we frummies are and how stupid we are to believe.

> Also, I do find it amusing that you can condemn the naturopaths for doing exactly what you do--

You're wrong. I didn't condemn them. I said I won't discuss medicine with them. There's a big difference. A lot of my patients go to naturopaths. If they get better on what I think is a bogus treatment, I encourage them to continue. Why? Because the bottom line is that the patient got better. As long as it's legal, who cares how?

The tone I get from the non-believers is: who cares if religion makes people happy? It's wrong, it's not real happiness and it must be stopped! Why? Because we know the truth, we're miserable for it and we want the frummies to be too!

David said...

"You don't have a blog so I don't know what you do with your life"

Precisely.

"I didn't condemn them."

I did get the impression you were rather dismissive of them.

"The tone I get from the non-believers is: who cares if religion makes people happy? It's wrong, it's not real happiness and it must be stopped!"

Hmm. I can't recall ever having argued that religion "must be stopped." In fact, I'm quite a devoted believer in the freedom of religion. Moreover, I've generally observed that it is believers, rather than non-believers, who are the keenest on eliminating rival opinions-- religious societies tend not to be particularly tolerant.

In any event, perhaps you might consider that the non-believers you're running into are people who, in many cases, are feeling a bit betrayed and let down by religion. The attitude you're noticing may have more to do with that than with non-belief per se.

Almost by definition, one who is completely indifferent to religion is unlikely to spend his time blogging or posting on the subject.

David said...

"You don't have a blog so I don't know what you do with your life"

Precisely.

"I didn't condemn them."

I did get the impression you were rather dismissive of them.

"The tone I get from the non-believers is: who cares if religion makes people happy? It's wrong, it's not real happiness and it must be stopped!"

Hmm. I can't recall ever having argued that religion "must be stopped." In fact, I'm quite a devoted believer in the freedom of religion. Moreover, I've generally observed that it is believers, rather than non-believers, who are the keenest on eliminating rival opinions-- religious societies tend not to be particularly tolerant.

In any event, perhaps you might consider that the non-believers you're running into are people who, in many cases, are feeling a bit betrayed and let down by religion. The attitude you're noticing may have more to do with that than with non-belief per se.

Almost by definition, one who is completely indifferent to religion is unlikely to spend his time blogging or posting on the subject.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> I did get the impression you were rather dismissive of them.

Big difference between that and condemnation. For example, I am dismissive of autoworker unions who refuse to consider pay cuts in a time when their company just might be going bankrupt (mind you, I am also annoyed by execs who don't also agree to massive pay cuts considering how incompetently they've run their companies). But I don't condemn them.

I mean the happiness, not the religion because, let's be honest, this new atheist movement is a religion in all but name.

>that it is believers, rather than non-believers, who are the keenest on eliminating rival opinions

But that's not just religion but any philosophical group. Look how global warmers work to attack and surpress the skeptics. Look at how the gay movement attacks anyone who questions the 10% statistic. ANY movement does what religion is always accused of doing.

And the scary thing is that it's the dominant movement that screams the loudest about how it's under attack.

As for the betrayal and being let down, I sympathize completely. But then there are the unrelenting attacks. Consider: how would you feel if I posted that all blacks or all women were a certain way, generally a negative one? You would be quite right in pointing out I'm either racist or misogynist. But why is it that when someone hits back against an atheist blocker who calls all religious people or all rabbis "f--king bastards" everyone tries to take the atheist's side?
If generalization is bad for one, it's bad for all. I think you and I would agree that religion, especially the way it's run nowadays, isn't for everyone. I certainly agree no one should be forced, that practice should be voluntary. But a sense of betrayal does not justify a hatred that would, in other contexts, be completely unacceptable. And that's what I generally rail against.

David said...

"Big difference between that and condemnation."

If by "big," you mean "semantic," I'll agree. By being dismissive of something, you condemn it as unworthy of your attention.

"I mean the happiness, not the religion because, let's be honest, this new atheist movement is a religion in all but name."

OK, but you're making a mistake when you lump skeptics and atheists together. I'm a skeptic, but would not consider myself an atheist (I do not deny God's existence at all). I'd probably accept "agnostic" as a label, if you felt strongly about giving me one.

"But that's not just religion but any philosophical group. Look how global warmers work to attack and surpress the skeptics. Look at how the gay movement attacks anyone who questions the 10% statistic. ANY movement does what religion is always accused of doing."

Assuming this to be true, it does not help your cause. Religion, claiming the moral high ground, can hardly be defended by the claim that it's just like every other group.

"If generalization is bad for one, it's bad for all. I think you and I would agree that religion, especially the way it's run nowadays, isn't for everyone."

Well, I'm partly with you on this, but I can't accept your analogy between race and religion. You are an Orthodox Jew because you made (and make) an affirmative choice to subscribe to a set of defined beliefs. Therefore, to the extent that one holds that some portion of those beliefs are immoral (i.e., acceptance of slavery, agunot, different standards of conduct as applied to one's dealings with non-Jews, death penalty for Sabbath violations, etc.), it is reasonable to say that, at least to that extent, one would have to hold that someone who accepted those beliefs had a morality issue. It is not fair to say that about an immutable characteristic, such as race.

In the end, however (notwithstanding your protestations to the contrary), I think that your acceptance of medical knowledge and your acceptance of religious belief are based on the same thing-- you find that they work. Lots of times, a drug works for reasons that are not clear (heck, I read the "clinical pharmacology" info on the drugs my docs have prescribed); it is, nonetheless, administered, and frequently to great effect. The same is true of religion. However, like the drug, when it doesn't work, it's hard to justify continued use. And there's the divergence-- no doctor will insist that a drug which works for patient X must continue to be administered to patients Y and Z regardless of the effect that it has on them.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Hi David,

> By being dismissive of something, you condemn it as unworthy of your attention.

Yeah, but that's a very liberal use of the word "condemn". I was using it in the more classical sense. Otherwise it's no different to say that if I always choose chocolate frozen yoghurt, that I'm condemning the vanilla.

> OK, but you're making a mistake when you lump skeptics and atheists together.

I'm not lumping skeptics and atheists together altough they share much in common. If I had to differentiate, I'd say skepticism is subjective while atheism is objective. For example, atheism denies the validity of all religions. I cannot be an atheist. But as I doubt the claims made by Chrisianity and Islam, I am a skeptic.


> Religion, claiming the moral high ground, can hardly be defended by the claim that it's just like every other group.

You;re right but that wasn't my goal. My goal is to point out the hypocrisy of the atheist movement which is attacking religion.

> You are an Orthodox Jew because you made (and make) an affirmative choice to subscribe to a set of defined beliefs.

See, I see it entirely different. I accept that there is an all-powerful God controlling everything in the universe. Therefore nothing happens by chance. If I was born into a Jewish home, it means to me that God wants me to be Jewish. If I want to be a good Jew, I have to live by Jewish law. I don't see it as an affirmative choice. I see it as a consequence of my fundamental belief in God and His power over me. So I can change about as much as someone Black can change his skin colour.

> holds that some portion of those beliefs are immoral (i.e., acceptance of slavery, agunot, different standards of conduct as applied to one's dealings with non-Jews, death penalty for Sabbath violations, etc.),

Listen, I like discussing things with you but you have to stop doing this in particular, that is: picking out Jewish laws that sound bad at first glance and using them to point out the negative side of Jewish observance.
For example, we haven't had slavery for 2000 years or so and even when we did other societies wondered why our slavery rates were so law. Anyone who looks at the laws regarding slavery realizes that it has nothing in common with the general understanding of the word. But by saying "Well, Jews believe in slavery" you are committing a misrepresentation.
Same thing with your mentioning of the death penalty. Yes, a Sabbath violater would be subject to capital punishment if two witnesses testified in court that they had warned him about violating the Sabbath, and told him what death penalty he was up against and if he acknowledged that he was accepting the penalty but intended to violate the Sabbath anyway. In other words, I doubt anyone was ever actually convicted.

> you find that they work. Lots of times,

Fair enough, but I could say that about your skepticm too.

> heck, I read the "clinical pharmacology" info on the drugs my docs have prescribed

Don't do that! You'll get all the side effects !

8-)

>However, like the drug, when it doesn't work, it's hard to justify continued use.

There's a huge difference there. Many drugs are taken for an immediate effect. Tylenol, or arthritis pills, for example. But there are others that are meant in a preventative sense. Take cholesterol drugs which are designed to prevent heart attacks. Yes, I know, we measure how much your cholesterol goes down but that's a side point. You're not taking the drug to lower cholesterol. You're taking it to prevent a heart attack. And until you actually have one you don't know if it's working. Yet you take it anyway.

Religion is like the latter. Until you die and wake up on the other side, you don't really know because you can't feel the effect of it in this world. But religion isn't meant to be a quick, feel-good experience. It's meant to prepare your soul for the next stage of its existence.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Hi David,

> By being dismissive of something, you condemn it as unworthy of your attention.

Yeah, but that's a very liberal use of the word "condemn". I was using it in the more classical sense. Otherwise it's no different to say that if I always choose chocolate frozen yoghurt, that I'm condemning the vanilla.

> OK, but you're making a mistake when you lump skeptics and atheists together.

I'm not lumping skeptics and atheists together altough they share much in common. If I had to differentiate, I'd say skepticism is subjective while atheism is objective. For example, atheism denies the validity of all religions. I cannot be an atheist. But as I doubt the claims made by Chrisianity and Islam, I am a skeptic.


> Religion, claiming the moral high ground, can hardly be defended by the claim that it's just like every other group.

You;re right but that wasn't my goal. My goal is to point out the hypocrisy of the atheist movement which is attacking religion.

> You are an Orthodox Jew because you made (and make) an affirmative choice to subscribe to a set of defined beliefs.

See, I see it entirely different. I accept that there is an all-powerful God controlling everything in the universe. Therefore nothing happens by chance. If I was born into a Jewish home, it means to me that God wants me to be Jewish. If I want to be a good Jew, I have to live by Jewish law. I don't see it as an affirmative choice. I see it as a consequence of my fundamental belief in God and His power over me. So I can change about as much as someone Black can change his skin colour.

> holds that some portion of those beliefs are immoral (i.e., acceptance of slavery, agunot, different standards of conduct as applied to one's dealings with non-Jews, death penalty for Sabbath violations, etc.),

Listen, I like discussing things with you but you have to stop doing this in particular, that is: picking out Jewish laws that sound bad at first glance and using them to point out the negative side of Jewish observance.
For example, we haven't had slavery for 2000 years or so and even when we did other societies wondered why our slavery rates were so law. Anyone who looks at the laws regarding slavery realizes that it has nothing in common with the general understanding of the word. But by saying "Well, Jews believe in slavery" you are committing a misrepresentation.
Same thing with your mentioning of the death penalty. Yes, a Sabbath violater would be subject to capital punishment if two witnesses testified in court that they had warned him about violating the Sabbath, and told him what death penalty he was up against and if he acknowledged that he was accepting the penalty but intended to violate the Sabbath anyway. In other words, I doubt anyone was ever actually convicted.

> you find that they work. Lots of times,

Fair enough, but I could say that about your skepticm too.

> heck, I read the "clinical pharmacology" info on the drugs my docs have prescribed

Don't do that! You'll get all the side effects !

8-)

>However, like the drug, when it doesn't work, it's hard to justify continued use.

There's a huge difference there. Many drugs are taken for an immediate effect. Tylenol, or arthritis pills, for example. But there are others that are meant in a preventative sense. Take cholesterol drugs which are designed to prevent heart attacks. Yes, I know, we measure how much your cholesterol goes down but that's a side point. You're not taking the drug to lower cholesterol. You're taking it to prevent a heart attack. And until you actually have one you don't know if it's working. Yet you take it anyway.

Religion is like the latter. Until you die and wake up on the other side, you don't really know because you can't feel the effect of it in this world. But religion isn't meant to be a quick, feel-good experience. It's meant to prepare your soul for the next stage of its existence.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Hi David,

> By being dismissive of something, you condemn it as unworthy of your attention.

Yeah, but that's a very liberal use of the word "condemn". I was using it in the more classical sense. Otherwise it's no different to say that if I always choose chocolate frozen yoghurt, that I'm condemning the vanilla.

> OK, but you're making a mistake when you lump skeptics and atheists together.

I'm not lumping skeptics and atheists together altough they share much in common. If I had to differentiate, I'd say skepticism is subjective while atheism is objective. For example, atheism denies the validity of all religions. I cannot be an atheist. But as I doubt the claims made by Chrisianity and Islam, I am a skeptic.


> Religion, claiming the moral high ground, can hardly be defended by the claim that it's just like every other group.

You;re right but that wasn't my goal. My goal is to point out the hypocrisy of the atheist movement which is attacking religion.

> You are an Orthodox Jew because you made (and make) an affirmative choice to subscribe to a set of defined beliefs.

See, I see it entirely different. I accept that there is an all-powerful God controlling everything in the universe. Therefore nothing happens by chance. If I was born into a Jewish home, it means to me that God wants me to be Jewish. If I want to be a good Jew, I have to live by Jewish law. I don't see it as an affirmative choice. I see it as a consequence of my fundamental belief in God and His power over me. So I can change about as much as someone Black can change his skin colour.

> holds that some portion of those beliefs are immoral (i.e., acceptance of slavery, agunot, different standards of conduct as applied to one's dealings with non-Jews, death penalty for Sabbath violations, etc.),

Listen, I like discussing things with you but you have to stop doing this in particular, that is: picking out Jewish laws that sound bad at first glance and using them to point out the negative side of Jewish observance.
For example, we haven't had slavery for 2000 years or so and even when we did other societies wondered why our slavery rates were so law. Anyone who looks at the laws regarding slavery realizes that it has nothing in common with the general understanding of the word. But by saying "Well, Jews believe in slavery" you are committing a misrepresentation.
Same thing with your mentioning of the death penalty. Yes, a Sabbath violater would be subject to capital punishment if two witnesses testified in court that they had warned him about violating the Sabbath, and told him what death penalty he was up against and if he acknowledged that he was accepting the penalty but intended to violate the Sabbath anyway. In other words, I doubt anyone was ever actually convicted.

> you find that they work. Lots of times,

Fair enough, but I could say that about your skepticm too.

> heck, I read the "clinical pharmacology" info on the drugs my docs have prescribed

Don't do that! You'll get all the side effects !

8-)

>However, like the drug, when it doesn't work, it's hard to justify continued use.

There's a huge difference there. Many drugs are taken for an immediate effect. Tylenol, or arthritis pills, for example. But there are others that are meant in a preventative sense. Take cholesterol drugs which are designed to prevent heart attacks. Yes, I know, we measure how much your cholesterol goes down but that's a side point. You're not taking the drug to lower cholesterol. You're taking it to prevent a heart attack. And until you actually have one you don't know if it's working. Yet you take it anyway.

Religion is like the latter. Until you die and wake up on the other side, you don't really know because you can't feel the effect of it in this world. But religion isn't meant to be a quick, feel-good experience. It's meant to prepare your soul for the next stage of its existence.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Sorry about the babble from OTD, folks. I guess he hadn't taken his medicine before he turned on his computer yesterday.

DrMike said...

What a knob. I've checked out his blog a couple of times. I think the guys obsessed with you. Probably has posters of you on his bedroom wall.

David said...

"I don't see it as an affirmative choice. I see it as a consequence of my fundamental belief in God and His power over me. So I can change about as much as someone Black can change his skin colour."

Garnel, that argument is so ludicrous as to be barely deserving of a serious response. The fact is, there are many people who were steeped in Orthodox traditions and raised in observant homes who stopped believing. There are absolutely no people who were born one race (or ethnicity) and stopped being members of it. You may wish to pretend that you don't have a choice, but, in fact, you do. Even the Torah says that you have a choice ("choose life...").

"Listen, I like discussing things with you but you have to stop doing this in particular, that is: picking out Jewish laws that sound bad at first glance and using them to point out the negative side of Jewish observance."

In other words, you're willing to have this discussion with me, but I have to agree to stop pointing out the weak points in your arguments? OK, let me think about that for a while....

"For example, we haven't had slavery for 2000 years or so and even when we did other societies wondered why our slavery rates were so law (sic)."

And yet, Southern rabbis in the 1800's justified slavery on Torah grounds. And I have personally heard not one but two Orthodox rabbis suggest that black people are descended from Ham, and thus subject to Noah's curse. While I recognize that neither you nor many other Orthodox Jews accept any such thing, the belief exists within the framework of Orthodoxy, can be supported with authorities, and is completely immoral.

"Same thing with your mentioning of the death penalty. Yes, a Sabbath violater (sic) would be subject to capital punishment if two witnesses testified in court that they had warned him about violating the Sabbath, and told him what death penalty he was up against and if he acknowledged that he was accepting the penalty but intended to violate the Sabbath anyway. In other words, I doubt anyone was ever actually convicted."

Except that guy in the Torah who got stoned on Moshe's orders for picking up sticks. Of course, I don't believe the story, but then, you do, don't you? No matter it happened a long time ago... the law hasn't changed, has it?

I note that you haven't addressed the question of agunot. This is a very real problem, which is not a thing of the past. It is a gross injustice, and it is perpetrated, daily, in the name of the Torah.

I have also heard arguments from Orthodox Jews that one cannot violate the Sabbath to save the life of a gentile. Yes, not every Jew believes that, but there it is in the halakha.

The fact is, Garnel, you are claiming to accept as axiomatic that Orthodox Jewish morality is perfect. However, unless someone shares your axiom, that's not an acceptable argument; moreover, it does not excuse you, from a moral perspective, of whatever guilt you may incur by accepting without question a system of questionable morality.

Apikores said...

Garnel,

Your implied assertion that non-believers are in general more miserable than believers is baseless. I also had positive feelings about God while I was frum, but eventually I realized that I don't need made up fairy tales to make me happy. In fact I am much happier today without religion than I was before I went OTD.

If you are content to believe in myths because they make you happy, that's fine. But you are wrong to think it is impossible to be happy without your myths.

yfeld said...

I'd like to get in on this, if I may. I always say - better an apikorus than a shakran. If God exists then He may only be a God of Truth.

From the above, I came - directly and indirectly - to the following conclusions:

Can God's existence be proven through logical assertions and philosophical calculations? It seems quite reasonable to assume that since the topic of His existence has been discussed and debated and then debated some more by minds more brilliant than ours that no conclusive outcomes are to be expected via that avenue in the near future, save for outright revelation and the like.

Freedom of choice is the basis for almost all religions. (It seems also that freedom of choice is relative and not everyone has the same choices; even when it comes to matters of religion, I think, and I may be wrong, that some people are just not given the opportunity to find God. The Talmud speaks about cases of Tinok Shenishba.) There are those that are given the opportunity to choose to believe or not to believe in God. And if God exists, He must think that this individual has all the tools necessary to find Him, and He probably has the ability to peer into the mind of that individual to see if he or she chose to suppress the 'right' choice.

Thus religion must be a choice, but a choice that God thinks you're capable of making. This choice has to be a totally True choice and not one one you fool yourself into making - because that would be against the concept of a God of Truth.

What if one is an agnostic and is simply incapable of making the choice one way or another? (Which is where I think most people are.)

As I see it there are only 2 options:
1. Pascal's wager. (can't imagine this one being too popular. It's like Sofek Deoraisa Lechumra.)

The second option is based on the Jewish belief of Hashgacha Pratis - that the infinite God is also each person's personal God. And so, me thinks, that if one was to think about it, and I mean really think about it , and may be even cry about it (really, it is a choice with infinite ramifications), and to drill to the source of ones being and to verbalize to the may or may not be God: "God I would be a lier if I said I believe in you, I am truly trying to make an honest choice. Please help me find the Truth. All I want is the Truth." (It is really all we are looking for.)

To do this for a number of days, no more than 40. After this if you won't find God, He will find you. And if He doesn't then better an apikorus than a shakran.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

David, I think we've reached a loggerhead here:
I'm demanding you accept my assumptions about God and Torah.
You're demanding I accept yours.
But I'll admit that this is what's happening.

I like yfeld's comment but I have trouble with his final paragraph. God find us all the time. The quesiton is: are we paying attention when He does?

DrMike said...

David, you ever seen "My Cousin Vinnie"?
There's a scene near the beginning of the movie where one of the characters is accused of murder. To which he replied "I killed him?!"
Later on in court the police officer who accused him pops up and announced "But your honour, he admitted to the crime. Here's the transcript. 'I killed him.'"
You're doing the same thing by taking laws out of context and Garnel's right in calling you on it.
No major posek endorsed slavery in 1800's America. If you have evidence for a couple of cranks out there who did, so what? That's all they were, fringe cranks.
The story about the stick gatherer? If God says kill the guy, then it's the right thing to do. After all, we believe God is always right.
Take a step back and check your biases.