When I first got into blogging back in 2007 it was an exciting time. In the glory days of the Jewish blogosphere there were flames shooting back and forth between the pro-theist and a-theist gangs of bloggers who were eager and willing to share their opinion on the subject of God (He exists, by the way) and Judaism. New blogs appeared on a weekly basis, people commented with enthusiasm, it was all kinds of fun.
Times have changed, of course. As our society's attention span continues to shrink many blog essays have been replaced by the mental farts that pass for Facebook posts. Most of the atheist blogs, having made their one point repeatedly about God and the Documentary Hypothesis (it's wrong, by the way) eventually dried up and shut down.
One of the few blogs that kept this flame alive is Rav Natan Slifkin's Rationalist Judaism blog. Over the years his interest in Biblical flora and fauna, along with his safari trips and interesting insights into the rational side of Jewish legal history, have kept people tuning into his thoughts.
Along with his ongoing efforts, however, there has been the dark side. These are a cadre of bloggers who are obsessed in a negative way with Rav Slifkin. While FKManiac has managed to find other targets to attack over the years, The Slifkin Challenge still seems to have nothing better to do with his life than misrepresent what Rav Slifkin writes about and then challenge it.
And then there's Rav Moshe Meiselman who has written a large opus on the subject of Torah and science in an effort to refute the opinions expressed in Rav Slifkin's now classic The Challenge of Creation. Rav Slifkin in turn published a series of posts on his blog showing the holes in Rav Meiselman's thesis. Rav Mencken, over at Cross Currents, recently attempted to bring Rav Meiselman's book back to life with a glowing review only to discover that Rav Slifkin was quite happy to take that apart too. Since then attacks between Ravs Slifkin and Mencken have gone back and forth and I presume there are quiet phone calls between Mencky and Rav Meiselman in the background on the subject of how to deal with Rav Slifkin's cogent criticisms.
Watching all this from afar, I think the atheists were the smart ones for giving up on blogging and getting on with life.
I mean, seriously, what's the point of all this arguing? Anyone who agrees with Rav Slifkin is not going to read Rav Meiselman's book and suddenly come to a totally new conclusion on Torah and science. People who live in Rav Meiselman's magical universe full of unicorns and fire-breathing Chazal will not even touch Rav Slifkin's book no matter how well he presents his arguments. Those in the middle, for the most part, simply don't care.
What's the argument even over? Whether the Rambam thought Pi to be an irrational number and whether he learned this from Chazal and their supernatural knowledge of everything? Really, who cares?
Consider it this way: I'm not a student of Rav Meiselman's and unlikely every to be. I don't work for him, I don't rent from him and no close relatives of mine are likely to wind up as potential marital partners of his children's or grandchildren's. The chance of us ever crossing paths is remote and even if it did happen, it would likely be uneventful, just like the time I crossed paths with Rav Leib Tropper (yes I did).
I am also reasonably certain that Rav Slifkin is in a similar situation vis a vis Rav Meiselman. Yes, Rav Meiselman and his cadre seem overly interested in attacking Rav Slifkin but in the internet age these kinds of attacks have little punch. Did they put his book in cherem? Didn't hurt its sales and turned him from a well-known internet personality into an extremely well-known internet personality. Are scores of yirei Shamayim suddenly going off the derech because of The Challenge of Creation? To quote the immortal Al Bundy, "Uh, no Peg."
It all seems so petty to realize that this meaningless fight which leads nowhere and changes no one's mind is still going on. Do they really not have anything better to do?