February 07, 2010

Answering Ebonmusings

Sunday 25 April 2010

1.1 I came across a website written by atheists and was extremely intrigued by their page
www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/theistguide.html
which set out conditions in which they would become theists, and offered a similar challenge to all theists, and asked for what would convince them to give up their belief in Theism. Since I enjoy such challenges, and since the Jewish POV rarely gets an airing I thought I’d put in my 2-cents worth.


Part 1:


1.2 What would it take to get me to abandon my belief in God?


1.3 In response to Mr. Atheist’s request that we Theists present our conditions upon which we would abandon their belief in God, I offer my own for his inspection and perusal.


1.4 There is a way that someone could convince me to give up my belief in God, and after giving it a great deal of thought, the way someone could convince me can be summarized into two words:


1.d Explain existence.


1.5 That's all. Just come up with an alternate explanation of existence and how it all came into being in a way that does not involve a master creator, designer, or organizer.


1.6 Simple, isn't it? Or is it?


1.7 After giving it some thought, I noticed that existence is composed of a number of components that are subdivided into many other components, and those can be further subdivided into many levels. The problem here is that without one central "address" that organized and ordered existence we must, out of necessity, assume that it all came into being by way of some various forces or multiple agents. Thus, one must then, come up with an explanation for the existence of every aspect of the entire universe. But if we do not assume any external force or creator(s) then it means that separate explanations are required for every aspect and every single smidgen that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist. This is obviously a daunting undertaking. For if one gives this some thought to the components of the universe the number of them is quite beyond counting. Here's a very abbreviated list of general categories that are part of existence for consideration:


1.8 First, the material component. To convince me that God doesn't exist, please come up with an alternate explanation for the existence of every single physical particle in the universe. Everything - down to the minutest sub-atomic particle known or surmised presently, to everything yet to be discovered in the future - must be accounted for up-front each with its own individual explanation. Since we can not assume that an agent that has one address, so to speak, like a Supreme Being, will organize and order our material universe, so any convincing explanation of existence must, out of necessity, account for each individual particle in the universe separately and distinctly, each one by itself. Just out of curiosity, how many particles are there in the universe? I, personally, would not dare hedge a guess.


1.9 Second, the energy component. The alternate explanation must account every individual packet/photon/wave/electron/what-have-you of energy in existence, each one separately, in a similar way to the material component. So too must the alternate explanation account for every bit of interaction between one energy wave/packet/photon/what-have-you with any other, as well as for every single particle of the material component.


1.10 Third, the laws-of-nature component. There must be an explanation for the existence of laws-of-nature such as gravity, centrifugal force and the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics to name only four. For me to abandon my belief in a Creator I not only require a separate explanation for the general existence of such laws, but also with every single occasion where the laws-of-nature apply and interact among both matter and energy.


1.11 Fourth, the process and structure component. It’s clear that the universe operates within a structure and organization. Our bodies, being one example, are clearly organized and structured and there are many many processes that run it. This component that I call "process” are organized systems o above and beyond that of mere laws-of-nature which is only a small component of an overall structure. When cells divide in a process of mitosis there are coordinated processes that are far more complex and integrated than can be explained by a series of material and energy interactions combined with the laws of nature. Stars shine by way of many processes all in a coordinated fashion So all those processes, individually and separately, must be accounted for by any explanation that would convince me to become an atheist.


1.12 Fifth, I require an explanation of how the four dimensions of our existence came into being. Those four dimensions of existence are 1.) length, 2.) width, 3.) depth and 4.) time. Although these four dimensions of existence are not in themselves physical they apply to the physical components, the energy components and structural components equally and are a reality in our existence, thus must be accounted for. Those four dimensions are non-physical and non-energy components of the universe it makes sense that any attempt to explain existence that does not include a Supreme Designer must also include an explanation of these aspects, too. Oh, and I’ll need a separate explanation of how these dimensions happen to apply to every physical particle and every bit of the energy component within the totality of existence.


1.13 Sixth, I require an explanation of how human beings have developed a consciousness. For even if one can account for all the above aspects of nature, how does one account for the existence of such consciousness in Homo sapiens? How did it come into being and how is it maintained? And then I would require an explanation for the consciousness not just one person, but of each and every individual human being and separately, if you wouldn’t mind.


1.14 Seventh, please explain the existence of emotions. It is indisputable that humans are emotional beings, and there are people who believe that at least some animals possess emotions as well. Please explain what emotions are, first of all. If you can answer this you will provide the psychological community a great service by giving them a satisfactory definition of emotions as they have been struggling for one even to this day. It’s curious how they have not been able to adequately define what emotions are yet clinical psychologists and psychiatrists daily work on and try to manipulate the very thing they can barely conceptualize! Once you define emotions then please explain how they came into being and demonstrate how they are maintained, even though they are often quite counterproductive to people’s well-being and sometimes even their influence on us is contrary to the survival of our species.


1.15 Eighth and finally, please explain how “chance” and “luck” came into being and how are they maintained. Many people claim that things came about by “chance”, well, it seems to me that if “chance” and “luck” are real mechanisms that operate in our world then they require an explanation. Now if one posits a Supreme Being that guides and directs the entire universe, logically there can be no “chance” or “luck.”


1.16 So that’s it. That’s what it would take to get me to drop my position that a Creator designed, created and maintains our universe – just come up with an adequate and alternate explanation for everything in this universe and that should be quite sufficient to replace my reasoned conviction that a Supreme Being that is completely outside our world, entirely separate from our universe, was the one who brought it all into being.


1.17 The ancient Greeks believed that the entire universe was in existence forever, that it was primarily a static entity so the question of how the universe came into being was not a question at all, as they used to maintain that there was never a time when the universe didn’t exist. The scientific community assumed that Greeks were right until, almost overnight, evidence for the Big Bang came along and now science says that the universe had a definite beginning. The Big Bang theory says that the entire universe had a beginning and it started from a compressed a tiny speck maybe as big as a poppy seed and it had infinite mass. Then that tiny speck exploded. Well, if an object of infinite mass exploded then it would have taken infinite energy to detonate it. For all that matter to have been flung outwards at the colossal speed that the Big Bang Theory said it had then that would have taken infinite energy. So two questions come to mind: 1.) how did that primordial speck of matter come into being? And 2.) where did all that energy come from to detonate it? Scientists are so stumped at those 2 questions that they have not idea of how or where to start probing and investigating. They are utterly clueless about what came before that primordial speck, and just as clueless as to the mechanism of and where the energy came from to touch off the explosion. That’s the dead-end that science has reached thus far. But there has been progress, for science has come down from believing that the universe was eternal to the idea that the universe had a definite beginning.


1.18 Now Mr. Atheist has noted that some people have rigged the conditions under which they would give up religion to be so impossible that, of course, their beliefs could not be touched. Now I’m not into those kinds of games. For none of my demands are rigged in such a way to make an explanation impossible as some people might try to do. My questions are the very same of the scientific community as they explore our universe. How does the scientist explain the origins of reality? Either they have no clue whatsoever or they attribute lots of it to ‘chance’. At best they can claim it was ‘chance’ while I say it was God. It seems that the God-option is more logical because chance can’t happen unless there’s a reality already in place to allow ‘chance’ a framework to operate within.


1.19 I have simply stated that for me to give up my religion would require an alternate explanation that would replace my present conviction that accounts for the sum totality of the universe, present, past and future, without resorting to God. That's all. The notion that ultimately the act(s) of God answers all questions as to the origin of existence in one fell swoop is sufficient. For that to be replaced you’ll have to come up with something at least as comprehensive and as good.


1.20 To claim that there was no creator or designer or first-cause involved in existence allows only the option that it all spontaneously generated. The first problem with that is that we have never seen or experienced anything that has spontaneously generated. Science gave up the notion of spontaneous generation more than 150 years ago, and now it is regarded as simply irrational to claim that anything came into being by such means. But even if there was such an event of spontaneous generation is it logical to say that since that primordial event that produced our universe, spontaneous generation has not happened ever since? Was spontaneous generation a one-time event?


1.21 My position that God created the universe is logically based on the premise that everything has had a cause in our experience, thus existence itself must have a cause - or maybe even several causes. But the idea that a plurality of causes may have brought existence into being is not reasonable because existence is so well coordinated and structured that it all dovetails together and harmonizes so well, with no loose ends. There are no laws of nature that contradict. But if several causes had their hands it forming existence then they’d botch the job, and the result would be loose ends in the universe, and would just like committees that had contrary methods or designs which screw things up. So logically speaking, existence requires a single source for the origin of the structure of existence to operate in a ongoing dynamic fashion. Even if there were multiple causes and creations they would trip over one another as a matter of course. Obviously, the simplest explanation for everything in the universe is that it originated from one first-cause. But is that so outlandish, so bizarre of a concept? The notion that everything originated from one source is too absurd to consider? Are you aware of the principle of Occum’s Razor? This principle of scientific reasoning says that if we are beset with a number of complex explanations to a phenomenon then the simplest one is to be preferred. With that in mind, the simplest explanation for the complexity and structure of existence lies in that of a single Supreme Being, who exists outside our universe and was the force that brought it all into being.


Part 2


2.1 Providing prophesies which satisfy Mr. Atheist’s requirements. Mr. Atheist wrote that the conditions that would cause him to abandon atheism and become a theist.


2.2 First and foremost, I must maintain that I 100% support Mr. Atheist’s conditions for accepting prophesy. Every one of his conditions are entirely reasonable.


2.3 In response, I would like to offer Mr. Atheist a number of prophesies from a Jewish POV which answer his objections with provide prophesies that have been fulfilled. Although there are many prophesies that are found in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses (specifically Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy) and many have been fulfilled, yet I offer only those that have been fulfilled and do not need extensive or esoteric sources to confirm their fulfillment. I trust that prophesies that I provide will be readily found with an ordinary Christian Bible. As far as their fulfillment goes, at most one may need to consult a book or two on history which treats of this subject which should be found in most public libraries in the west.


2.4 Now Mr. Atheist objected to the one prophesy from our Hebrew Bible had been fulfilled but he discounted it because, in his mind, it was too easy to stage:

2.5 “The Jewish people returned to their homeland in Israel just as the Bible said they would, but this isn't a genuine prediction - they did it because the Bible said they would. The predicted event can't be one that people could stage.” (Emphasis is mine.)


2.6 Now his point that a prophesy is not genuine if it can be consciously fulfilled is well taken. He’s absolutely right on that as a principle. But unfortunately the example he used does not apply in this case. It appears that Mr. Atheist is very much in the dark about the conditions and processes that unfolded that even allowed the Jewish people the possibility of returning. The return of the Jewish people that are spread out to the four corners of the world couldn’t have just happened simply because the people wanted it or because the Bible said so. Yet this is a detail that I’ll deal with later on.


2.7 The first matter in dealing with whether a prophesy is authentic is whether the supposed prophetic book was in existence before the predicted takes place. In the case of the Torah we Jews have a tradition that says it was given on Sinai approximately 3,200 years ago, but for the purpose of confirming its existence for the sake of this discussion we need to go back into the historical record to the year 246 BCE when King Ptolemy of Greece desired a copy of the Torah for his library and the rabbis at the time were forced to comply with his request. Ptolemy got what he wanted and that translation of the Torah was known as the Septuagint or LXX for short. In addition, Greek writings affirmed that the Torah was known to be an ancient document even in Ptolemy’s time. So the mere fact that a translation was made of the book by the Greeks confirms its existence at least back to 246 BCE. So we have confirmation from a people other than the Jews that this book and the prophesies contained therein were extant at least 2,255 years ago.


2.8 Another aspect that Mr. Atheist requires, which is vital to the confirmation of authentic prophesy, is that it must predict something other than the mundane or easily predictable. It must not predict events that are simply the continuation of ongoing trends. Predicting future events by extrapolating from past trends is definitely not prophesy. As Mr. Atheist rightly put it, "The prophecy must predict something surprising, unlikely or unique". True enough - but I'll go even one step farther. To demonstrate that a Supreme Being gave prophesy the predictions must go well beyond simply being unique and unexpected. For there to be evidence that this Being gave those prophesies they should also demonstrate that the Supreme Being controls nature, controls history, controls the process of events in time, and thus has knowledge of future events. To effectively demonstrate that It, the Supreme Being, has such complete control, the prophesies should be ridiculous and even utterly absurd at very least at the time they were given. So incredibly unlikely should the prophesies be, and imbued with such a high risk of failure, that no mere mortal in his right mind would dare concoct them, much less take the ultimate risk of writing it down in a book that is expected to span the ages. However, if a Supreme Being handed those prophesies down, if It truly has complete control of the universe, then there's no risk whatsoever and the prophesies can be wildly absurd. If the Supreme Being handed them down so there are no worries that they will come to pass. So specific, objective, high-risk prophesies are the only way to go if the Supreme Being actually exists and handed them down.


2.9 So let's start with the prophesies. I have chosen a Christian translation known as “God's Word”
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God%27s_Word_Translation_%28GW%29
which has a clear and straightforward reading. Its translation is one of paraphrasing and is not literal, although rest assured that the translated quotes that I bring forth accurately reflect the sense if not the literal meaning of the original Hebrew verses that I have selected. On the whole, it must be stated that reading the Hebrew Bible in a translation is only an approximation of the original. The Israeli poet, Bialik, said "Reading the (Hebrew) Bible in translation is like kissing one's sweetheart through a scarf." But despite that limitation, using the "God's Word" translation is good enough for our purposes.


2.10 The following quotes were given before the Israelites entered the Land of Israel and promised them that they’d settle into their homeland and get comfortable, but in time they’d pursue other gods and be kicked out of the Promised Land as a result:


2.11 Deut 4:25-26 “Even when you have children and grandchildren and have grown old in that land, don't become corrupt and make carved idols or statues that represent anything. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today: If you do this thing that the LORD your God considers evil, making him furious, you will quickly disappear from the land you're possess on the other side of the Jordan River. You won't live very long there. You'll be completely wiped out.”


2.12 Well, here's a prophesy that satisfies Mr. Atheist's condition of
"If the prophecy is obviously contrived for other reasons. No official seer or court astrologer ever predicted that the king he worked for would be a brutal, evil tyrant who would ruin the country." In this case we have a prophesy of Moses predicting that the Israelites would enter the Promised Land and be well situated and in time they’ll be expelled from their homes and land. What seer would dare predict doom and disaster and get away with it? Well, Moses did, and the prophesies were written down and carried through the generations by the very people to whom the disaster would inflict!


2.13 Deut 28:49 “The LORD will bring against you a nation from far away, from the ends of the earth. The nation will swoop (literally: “descend”) down on you like an eagle. It will be a nation whose language you won't understand.”


2.14 The Roman army did this very thing in the first century, and the symbol of the Imperial Rome was the eagle. In contrast to the Babylonians who spoke Aramaic which is closely related to Hebrew, the Latin is in a different language family and was unintelligible even to those Jews who spoke Greek as a second language.


2.15 Deut 28:32 “Your sons and daughters will be dragged off to a foreign country, while you stand there helpless. And even if you watch for them until you go blind, you will never see them again..." One fulfillment of this occurred in the 1400s in Portugal. The Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492 ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism. Flannery fills us in on what happened there: “Most refugees went to neighboring Portugal, hopeful of a speedy return to the land they had occupied for over 1,500 years. But theirs is another and, if possible, more painful story than the preceding. Our limitations permit only summary. Refugees were allowed to enter Portugal for a price and only for a limited time by John II (1481-95). Many, unable to quit the country when the allotted time was over, were enslaved and deprived of their children who were sent to St. Thomas’ Island (located in the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean - David). King Emanuel, under the Spanish sovereigns’ influence, after freeing the enslaved, ordered them out of the kingdom. Unwilling to forgo their economic benefit, however, he determined upon the mad plan – disfavored by the clergy – to force all the Jews into the Church. This was done with utter savagery. So that none might be concealed, all children were ordered baptized on one day. Whenever necessary, children were torn from their parents, baptized, and scattered throughout the land for Christian upbringing.” (Edward G. Flannery, The Anguish Of the Jews – Twenty Centuries of Antisemitism (Revised & Updated), Paulist Press, 1985, ISBN 0-8091-2702-4 , p. 140)

2.15a Deut 28:33 "As long as you live, you will know nothing but oppression and abuse.” Flannery's book, mentioned just above, is an in-depth record of the fulfillment of that the prophesy that foretold the abuse and persecution of the Jewish people - persecution that has been experienced like no other people on earth. His book is 350 pages long with 55 pages of notes and references.


2.16 Another fulfillment of this happened after the Romans conquered the Land of Israel, the invading army destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE. The Romans began their occupation of the Land of Israel more than 200 years after Ptolemy got his copy of the Torah, so it can not be said that the Roman occupation and destruction occurred before the Torah was written.


2.17 Over the course of the next 60 years the Jews fought back. With the failure of the Jewish Bar-Kochba Revolt of 132–136 CE the Romans had killed hundreds of thousands of Jews and then out of those who survived the Romans had expelled a vast majority of the remaining population and sent them packing all over the Roman Empire as slaves. The Coliseum in Rome was built by 20,000 Jewish slaves. Jews were enslaved to work in the salt mines, enslaved as oarsmen on ships; Jewish young women were enslaved as prostitutes in brothels, children enslaved as household servants, some enslaved to fight in the stadiums for the ghoulish entertainment of the people of the Roman Empire. In the Greco-Roman Empire slaves constituted a distinct social class and estimates are that about 25% of the Roman Empire were slaves. And part and parcel of selling a person was put up for auction in a slave market, and there was a time when a price of a horse was more than that of a Jewish slave, and at another the price of slaves collapsed due to the excess Jewish slaves put up for sale. The prophesy that says that Israelite children will be wrenched away from their parents, never to be seen or heard from again, and this was fulfilled at the slave markets due to the Roman expulsion. Let's see, is it really credible to claim could this have been a self-fulfilling prophesy? Did the Jewish people all read about this in the Bible and then work hard to make those disasters come to pass? Did the Jews of Judea really want to have their homeland destroyed with them scattered over the whole of the Roman Empire, to be abused, dehumanized and enslaved under horrendous conditions for the rest of their wretched lives? Oh, and were the Romans good Bible-believers? Did they read the Torah and the verses that predicted this and so decided to initiate a major upheaval in the Roman Empire when they sent 12 Legions and their support services to destroy Judea as the Jewish state, just to make this prophesy come to pass?


2.18 Hardly.


2.19 As far as prophets not daring to make negative prophesies Mr. Atheist should read the biblical books of 1st & 2nd Samuel. There’s an account of one disaster after another recorded. The Jewish people were recorded as having done one wrong after another. If Mr. Atheist would read those books carefully he will note that there are whole hunks of time about which nothing was recorded, and obviously the Children of Israel were doing the right thing during those times, yet not a word was written about that. It has been said that the Hebrew Bible (“Old Testament”) was written either by God or an anti-Semite because the criticism of the Israelites has been legion.


2.20 Gen 17:7 “I will make my promise to you and your descendants for generations to come as an everlasting promise. I will be your God and the God of your descendants.”

Lev 26:44 “Even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or look at them with disgust. I will not reject or cancel my promise to them, because I am the LORD their God.”

Deut 4:27 “The LORD will scatter you among the people of the world, and only a few of you will be left among the nations where the LORD will force you to live.”


2.21 The notion that Jews will continue to exist at all while scattered among the nations is patently ridiculous in itself. There are many ancient nations (eg, the Basques) but no other nation speaks the same language as it did more than 3,000 years ago. In fact Hebrew was the only dead language to be revived and spoken by a whole nation. Truth is, if Moses could be resurrected he could walk the streets of Jerusalem today and converse comfortably with the average Israeli. No other nation occupies more or less the same territory, and most important, no other nation maintains a continuous literary record of its history – and that means that the Jews have an uninterrupted national consciousness. Which group other than the Jews have been expelled from their homeland, a remnant survive and kept their identity intact at all for more than 200 years much less that for 2,000 years? Only the Jews have accomplished this. In fact, it should be pointed out that the Roman Expulsion was the second time that the Israelites have been removed from their land. The first expulsion was by Nebuchadnezzar II after the siege of Jerusalem in about 600 BCE, that one lasted 70 years and many returned to the Land of Israel once the ban was lifted. Yet when every other ethnic group that immigrates to other lands they are only able to maintain their collective identity for 3 generations, maybe 4. For example, the Hispanics in the US have only been able to maintain their cultural identity for 3 generations and after that they fade into the American melting pot. Yet Jews have survived as a tiny minority for the last 2,000+ years in every country that they have wandered into, a feat that no other people have accomplished. I hope that Mr. Atheist would avoid objecting that the Jews were able to do it because of sheer force of will, originating from believing in the Bible prophesies. After all, if wishing-makes-it-so then other groups should have written such absurdly wild prophesies in their holy books and accomplished feats equal to or greater than that. Truth is, wishing does not make it so.


2.22 As far as the prediction that they will remain "few in number" goes, the Jewish people have been estimated to have been about 4 million in number 2,000 years back and they constituted about 9% of the population of the Greco-Roman Empire. Curiously, the Chinese people also numbered about the same at the same period. But look how the Chinese people have multiplied and expanded over the course of 2,000 years as they’ve been left relatively unmolested in a land of their own over the course of 2 millennia. So that shows the demographic growth potential that a people have. Yet, the Jewish people today did not attain the numbers that the Chinese did, instead Jewish population since Roman times has dropped to about 0.2% of the world's population. Did this happen because Jews have always been into small families from the time that the Torah was committed to writing at least 2,246 years ago?


2.23 Deut 28:37 “You will become a thing of horror. All the nations where the LORD will send you will make an example of you and ridicule you.”


2.24 And then there's the reality of anti-Semitism that is uniquely applied against the Jewish people. In fact historians have been puzzled at the intensity, universality and persistence of anti-Semitism. No other ethnic-religious hatred has endured those three qualities to the extent that the Jewish people have. Anti-Semitism is unique in that it spans time and cultures. In fact, the Jew-hate culminated in the genocide of 6,000,000 Jews at the hands of the Nazis. But then the early Catholic Church unwittingly fulfilled this very prophesy as they claimed that the Church had a covenant with God that superseded that of the Jews, and as a punishment for “deicide” the Jewish people were condemned to be the scapegoat for the ills of the world, destined to be cursed with perpetual wandering, no property with occupations heavily restricted which would essentially allow only those of money-lending and intellect. The Church pushed its doctrine that the Jew represents the quintessential example of what will happen to those who do not believe in Jesus. Now one may claim that the Church simply looked into the Bible, saw those verses and decided to fulfill it. Not so, for the Church claimed that the “old dispensation of the Jews” which the Old Testament contained was abolished by God and that the Church took over with a “New Covenant”. If the Church authorities would have consciously fulfilled that verse it would have indicated that the “old dispensation of the Jews” was still in force contradicting Christian doctrine. But the Church unwittingly fulfilled that one - not because they looked it up in their Bible – but rather their intense hatred of the Jews took over. Since the Church was out to show the superiority of the “New Covenant” over that of the “Old Testament” it certainly wasn’t about to consciously lend credence to it by fulfilling such a prophesy. Instead, they did it unwittingly, as a result of their passions.


2.25 (Deut 4:28 GW) “There you will worship (bow down to) wooden and stone gods made by human hands. These gods can't see, hear, eat, or smell.”


2.26 This was fulfilled particularly at very least by with many of the Jews of Spain and Germany who wanted to assimilate into non-Jewish society. In Spain and Portugal many turned to Christianity and converted to Catholicism by pain of death or under various degrees of duress and so willingly or unwillingly bowed down to statues made of wood and stone as a fulfillment of this prophesy. In Spain and Portugal most Jews were given 3 options, to convert to the Catholic Church, to leave the Iberian Peninsula and all of the territories held by those countries, or to die a as heretics or “Judaizers”. In those days many could not make the dangerous trek to relocate to other countries, or were barred from them, and so chose to outwardly accept the RCC and genuflect to their statues outwardly, while inwardly they rejected Christian doctrines and beliefs, and they practiced Judaism secretly as and called themselves ‘Conversos’. As far as For an account of this miserable period in history see Edward G. Flannery, The Anguish Of the Jews – Twenty Centuries of Antisemitism (Revised & Updated), Paulist Press, 1985, ISBN 0-8091-2702-4 chapter 6 entitled "An Oasis And An Ordeal".


2.27 In Germany, the Lutherans held sway and from then to this very day the Lutheran Church has no problem with displaying statues in their churches and their people bow in reverence toward them, so the Jews who assimilated did likewise and bowed down to their statues as well.


2.28 (Deut 4:31 GW) “The LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not abandon you, destroy you, or forget the promise to your ancestors that he swore he would keep.”


2.29 Despite all the horrors over the course of centuries the fact that the Jewish people have survived is evidence enough for a God that has kept that promise and kept at least a remnant alive.


2.30 Concrete evidence for this was when the establishment of the State of Israel was declared on 14 May 1948 and all the Arab states around her immediately went to war against her. It’s wildly improbable that such a state would come into being at all considering the condition of it’s people who endured WWII with many having been European refugees still traumatized by the Holocaust, with no formal standing army, should have beaten back the Arabs in the Israel’s Independence War of 1948, but that’s exactly what happened. Then in 1967 nine Arab armies lined up to crush the State of Israel and Israel countered them and beat them back in just 6 days, and non-Jewish journalists at the time were calling the Israeli victory a “miracle”. In 1973 the same armies took Israel by surprise on Yom Kippur, the day when Israel took off and was most defenseless because most of her regular and reserve soldiers were home for the holiday and a skeleton crew was left to defend the country, but Israel beat them back just the same. So God has not abandoned the Jewish people, and that should be clear if one has knowledge of history.


2.31 The following are prophesies that refer back to the post-Exodus Sinai event of the Israelites, but first a bit of background.


2.32 What I call the Sinai Event was where the Israelites were at Mt Sinai and the entire nation was recorded to be ear-witnesses to God having spoken to them from the top of the mountain, and where God gave the Ten Commandments to the entire Israelite nation. Now it was also recorded that when the Israelites left Egypt in the Exodus there were about 600,000 men on foot, besides the women and children:


2.33 Exod 12:37 GW “The Israelites left Rameses to go to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, plus all the women and children.”


2.34 If we assume a normal demographic distribution, 600,000 adult men would have women and children sufficient to make the number of Israelites to at very least 1.2 million people. Since it was recorded that the Israelites were reproducing quite vigorously despite their Egyptian slavery it would be safe to assume that the families had at least a couple of kids in tow…


2.35 Exod 1:7 GW “But the descendants of Israel had many children. They became so numerous and strong that the land was filled with them.”


2.36 …which would take the number of Israelites well over 2 million. So then in Sinai Dessert the narrative has it that God informed Moses that It was going to make an appearance to the entire nation all at once.


2.37 Exodus 19:9 GW “The LORD said to Moses, "I am coming to you in a storm cloud so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always believe you. Moses told the LORD what the people had said."

Exodus 19:16-20:1 GW “On the morning of the second day, there was thunder and lightning with a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast from a ram's horn was heard. All the people in the camp shook with fear. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had come down on it in fire. Smoke rose from the mountain like the smoke from a kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the sound of the horn grew louder and louder, Moses was speaking, and the voice of God answered him. The LORD came down on top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up. Then God spoke all these words:”


2.38 From there in Exodus 20:01-20:17 God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments. No need to include the text here as Mr. Atheist can look it up and read it all himself. But the points I want to emphasize are:


2.39 Exodus 20:18-20 GW “All the people heard the thunder and saw the lightning. They heard the blast of the ram's horn and saw the mountain covered with smoke. So they shook with fear and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we'll listen. But don't let God speak to us, or we'll die!" Moses answered the people, "Don't be afraid! God has come only to test you, so that you will be in awe of him and won't sin."”


2.40 So that was the Sinai Event where the entire Israelite nation heard the voice of God speaking out of the fire on Mt Sinai.


2.41 Now that prophesy was couched in rhetorical questions. The prophesy was that no other religion has ever, or will even so much as claim that God had talked to an entire nation directly and that every one of them heard it all; and no other religion has ever or will ever again claim that God took them out of slavery en masse:


2.42 (Deut 4:32-36 GW) “Search the distant past, long before your time. Start from the very day God created people on earth. Search from one end of heaven to the other. Has anything as great as this ever happened before, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Have any other people ever heard God speak from a fire and lived? You did!Or has any god ever tried to come and take one nation away from another for himself? The LORD your God used his mighty hand and powerful arm to do this for you in Egypt. He did this using plagues, miraculous signs, amazing things, and war. He did his great and awe-inspiring deeds in front of you. You were shown these things so that you would know that the LORD is God. There is no other god. He let you hear his voice from heaven so that he could instruct you. He showed you his great fire on earth, and you heard him speak from the column of fire.”


2.43 Here the writer of the Torah has taken a great risk. The text here uses the idea that only God would ever take a whole nation out of slavery and present Itself in a powerful demonstration to that entire nation, and that one could check all of history throughout all time and never find another example of this happening, not even a rumor of such an event. Now if either of those two events had ever happened to other than the Israelite nation before or since, then that would completely invalidate the Torah’s claim of a record of the experiences of the Israelite people with the Divine, and all would be required would be to throw the Torah and the entire Bible into the garbage. What I think is remarkable is that not only does the author of the Torah ask the reader to check things out and confirm the truth of it, but the beginning of verse 32 in this chapter even begs the reader to do so. For the Hebrew has the word "please" in it and it so much as challenges the reader to do so. Verse 32 starts out with "Ki sho'el na..." The word "Ki" translates into "for" in English, "sho'el" is "ask" or "search" and "na" is "please" in both ancient and modern Hebrew. For some reason that I can not explain no English translation acknowledges the existence of the word "please" in this verse. Not even Jewish translations mention it, but it's as clear as day to those who read it in Hebrew and it's significant as makes the risk of failure even greater. As far as you confirming the word "please" in this verse you don't have to take my word for it, just go to the rabbi of your choice or to one who reads Hebrew fluently and ask if Deuteronomy 4:32 has the word "please" in the first phrase of the verse.


2.44 The fact is that every other religion and philosophy has started with essentially one person. That person claims to have had a revelation of some sort, he convinces others, who convince others, who convince others. Sometimes the method of convincing is by the sword, sometimes by political pressure, and sometimes the naive and incredulous are taken in by a wild story and believe that somehow God confirmed it to them. The exact method of convincing is not important, but the fact that with every other religion their devotees believe because they accepted the words of someone via hearsay. In the case of the Jewish people this was not the case. In the case of Israelites, the both the Exodus and the Sinai experience happened to an entire nation all at once, The Israelite people saw and experienced something so unique and profound that it left a powerful and indelible impression on them and that has been transmitted down through the generations.


2.45 Now one may argue that the Children of Israel experienced a mass hallucination. Well, if everyone had a hallucination there was nothing to make certain that 2+ million people had the exact same hallucination. How could something like an identical mass hallucination occur? Maybe we can speculate that the entire nation came across a field of hallucinogenic mushrooms and everyone ate them at the same time and the hallucination started at the same time, but what would make everyone have the exact same hallucination? Then it stands to reason that everyone would have had different hallucinations and not the exact experience.


2.46 I had one person claim that the entire Sinai experience was contrived. He asked me to suppose that somehow Moses had contacts in China and they supplied him with pyrotechnic equipment sufficient to make the mountain appear to be on fire. And maybe Moses could have obtained explosive charges that were bored deep into the mountain with drilling equipment so to make the mountain quake. And maybe Moses could have obtained extremely powerful public address amplifiers and enormous hidden speakers, to make a voice boom out at 50,000 decibels “I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD WHO BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT TO BE YOUR GOD!!!” to give the Israelites the impression that God was speaking to them. So maybe that was the way Moses “did it”, and maybe he was cagey enough so that no one else was the wiser. So if it really happened that way, assuming that the technology was available to Moses, and, in collaboration with outsiders unknown to any Israelites, Moses pulled off a huge hoax that completely fooled 2+ million people in one fell swoop - then why hasn’t it ever been repeated? If it was done once, it could be done again. And for someone trying to concoct a religion the claim that God spoke to him/her in front of 2+ million people would be the strongest claim imaginable. That sort of performance would make the claim to whatever religion or philosophy one would want to sell to be nearly air-tight. Every founder of a religion would give their eye-teeth to have a start like that - but no other religion has ever even claimed nor will any religion ever convince an entire nation in go that God talked to them all, all at once. And for this reason the Sinai experience couldn’t be faked. No one can get 2+ million people to be completely convinced, without the slightest doubt at all, that they heard God’s voice boom from a mountain - unless it really happened.


2.47 And the Torah records that the Israelite people were not passive sheep that followed, believed and accepted everything that was told and given to them. There were a number of examples of the Israelites having complained and groused that their conditions were not comfortable enough. One place records that they complained that the drinking water was bitter in Exodus 15:24, that the food was dull Exodus 16:3, there was a minority who rebelled and attempted to foment an insurrection by claiming that Moses was just gathering power around himself Numbers 16:3. The Israelites were perfectly capable of resisting and complaining. The feistiness and rebelliousness of the Israelite people was described in the Torah as being “stiff necked”, yet despite that stiff-neckedness there is no record of anyone doubting the Sinai experience or the Exodus from Egypt.


2.48 In any case, toward the end of the Torah, Moses gave a final discourse when he told the Israelites of the future to ask their grandparents whether it all really happened:


2.49 (Deut 32:7) "Keep in mind the days of the past, give thought to the years of generations gone by: go to your father and he will make it clear to you, to the old men and they will give you the story."


2.50 Now if the miraculous history of the Sinai experience and the Exodus from Egypt were contrived by story tellers who spun the tale around a campfire, or an act of deliberate myth-making then asking the elders for confirmation would be fatal to the contrivance. If it didn’t happen then grandpa would say “My grandparents said that they never heard of such a thing. It’s bogus.” OTOH, every generation of Jews (well, at least up until 3 generations ago in Europe as many Jews hankered to assimilate into Christian or atheist gentile society) all had grandparents that confirmed that they received those accounts as fact from their grandparents as a tradition. And that the tradition of the Exodus and the Sinai experiences went all the way back.


2.50 Mr. Atheist has one other condition:


2.51 “And finally, if the prophecy is the lone success among a thousand failures. Anyone can throw prophecies against the wall until one sticks. The book or other source from which it comes must have at least a decently good record on other predictions.”

2.52 The Torah has a bunch of other predictions that have come to pass, some of them pretty horrendous. It provides a list of curses that will befall the Israelite people and those can be found from Deut 28:15 to Deut 28:68. Those curses have all come to pass throughout the history of the Israelite people. Obviously I can’t verify and give specific examples here of the individual fulfillments but it can easily be seen that many of them were fulfilled during the Holocaust, especially the one that predicts…


2.53 Deut 28:34 “The things you see will drive you mad.”


2.54 …was definitely fulfilled during the Holocaust as nearly all who survived suffered from permanent psychological damage that couldn’t be healed.


2.55 A number of the curses in that section obviously describe the effects of a siege on a city where the method by the attacking army was to slowly starve the population into complete helpless submission or death. Jerusalem was under siege a number of times, and those events are all recorded in history.


2.56 Admittedly, there are prophesies yet to be fulfilled. The section of blessings from Deut 28:1 to Deut 28:13 were fulfilled to a great extent during the reign of Kings David and Solomon but due to our tradition from Sinai we expect them to be fulfilled once again in the upcoming messianic age. Ok, so about 50% of he prophesies in the Torah have been fulfilled, but my point here is that it wasn’t "one out of a thousand". Not only those prophesies that I have offered were among the few success while all others have not come to pass.


2.57 One final thought. Mr. Atheist wrote:


2.58 “The Jewish people returned to their homeland in Israel just as the Bible said they would, but this isn't a genuine prediction - they did it because the Bible said they would.”

2.59 Just for the record, the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel was not as simple as that, for many returned even though they were atheists, socialists and communists with social doctrines that didn’t allow them to take the Bible seriously. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russian there were those Jews who had thrown off their religious beliefs and observances and enthusiastically joined the Communist Party. The problem was that there remained substantial Jew-hate in the ranks of gentile communists and Jews were only permitted very limited participation in political life, if at all. So a significant number of those Jewish socialists and communists saw no choice but to leave Russian and Poland, go to the Land of Israel. They would have gone elsewhere but there were fewer travel restrictions for Jews to there and the Land of Israel was severely undeveloped so they could easily express their socialist ideals by building the collective settlements known as the kibbutz in the Land of Israel. BTW, nearly all of the kibbutzim at that time were atheistic and anti-religious out of principle.


2.60 And today we have many “ultra-Orthodox” Jews who live in New York and Belgium who condemn the State of Israel because it was established and was established and is today maintained today by successive governments of non-religious and many anti-religious Jews. Since the State of Israel doesn’t come up their religious standards they have announced that they will not return to Israel until the messiah comes.

2.61 After WWII ended there were hundreds oft thousands of Jewish refugees still in Europe with no where to go. For some they didn’t have homes due to the destruction of the war. For others they had homes intact but non-Jews took them over and refused to return them to their rightful owners, and there was still a lot of Antisemitism and the courts would not help even if proof could be submitted. For other Jews just having experienced the trauma of the war in Europe with all the residual Jew-hate they refused to remain there. Yet, the European countries didn’t want them, the US, Canada and South America didn’t want them, so in 1947, when the UN voted for the establishment of a Jewish State it was moved by less than noble motives. The Jewish state provided a convenient dumping ground for the refugees. Yet many European Jews did not want to go to the Middle East because it was a backward and primitive place with millions of hostile Arabs. Yet there was no other choice because no country wanted the European Jews. Although it may be hard to believe to those who know little about Jewish history as it applies to the State of Israel, but only a small minority of Jewish immigrants to the State of Israel arrived willingly and out of choice. A vast majority were compelled to go there due to circumstances quite beyond their control.


2.62 On another occasion, after the creation of the Sate of Israel in 1948 and after the Arab armies failed to snuff out the fledgling state, Arab governments decided to expel the Jews that had been living in Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, etc. with the expectation that Israel would collapse under the burden of being swamped by Jewish refugees. To promote that end they confiscated all the property of the Jews and everything of even slight value, and expelled them with only what meager belongings they could carry in their hands. A vast majority of them, about 850,000 Jews from Arab lands, arrived in Israel over the course of the first 7 years of the State of Israel. The State had to incorporate and assimilate and enormous number of Jews who had no choice but to live in dire poverty in tent camps for the first few years as the State of Israel worked to assimilate and incorporate them into society. The arrivals were utterly penniless as the substantial property that they had accumulated over the centuries of living in Arab lands were all confiscated.
www.americansephardifederation.org/sub/sources/jewish_refugees.asp
True, those Jews were religious and certainly did believe that sooner or later they would return to Israel, but if given a choice they wouldn’t have gone at that time and certainly not under those conditions!


2.63 So to say that Jews returned just because the Bible says so is a claim born out of simple yet understandable ignorance of the facts.


2.64 So there’s a curious irony in those two groups that returned to the Land of Israel as Torah prophesy. The one returned willingly but did not believe in the Bible as the revealed word of God, while the other believed but would not have gone at that time and under those circumstances.

2.65 Over 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: “Why, the Jews, Sire —the Jews.” We don’t have to speculate what Pascal meant when he gave this answer, because he took the trouble to spell it out. (See Pensees, para. 620, p. 285.) Pascal said that the fact that the Jewish people survived until the 17th century—to the time period when he was living—was nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon. If he was convinced by everything that kept the Jews alive up to his time, think of what he would have said had he lived to see the Holocaust.

2.66 There simply was no logical explanation for it, yet it has all come about according to prophesy.

2.67 So you want evidence for God? Consider both the existence of the natural world as well as “The Jews, Sire - the Jews!”

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2.68 Addendum:

2.69 Question of the Week to Rabbi Moss:

2.70 Due to my business, I travel a lot and meet many people from different religions. I have met Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians of all denominations, and each and every one believes that their religion is the one true religion and it is the right one to follow.

2.70 We can't all be right. So how are you so convinced that you are not going to burn in hell by not following Catholicism? Or get Allah angry by not being a good Muslim? Ultimately should we pick a religion like we choose our lotto numbers; just hoping that when it all comes to an end we have made the right choice?

2.71 Best regards and may the right god be with you.

2.72Answer:
Imagine there was one belief that Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus all accepted as true. Wouldn't that be amazing? For these very different religions to agree on something - anything - is nothing short of a miracle. If all the major religions would concur on one divine revelation, there could be no stronger indication that this revelation is true.

2.73 Well, it exists. There is one revelation that all believe to be true. All religions agree that the Torah was given to the Jewish people at Mt Sinai. This fact is written clearly in the Christian and Muslim scriptures. And the eastern masters have veneration for the Torah and its divine wisdom, to the point that they actually send Jewish seekers back to Judaism. The Dalai Lama is known to have told Jews who come to him "Why do you come to me? Go home and study Torah!"

2.74 So all major religions believe in the divine origin of Judaism. The same cannot be said for any other belief system. This is an incredibly significant point. It means that while so many Jews walk around unsure of their beliefs, most of the world today believes that G-d gave the Torah to the Jews.

2.75 But there's more. Believing Judaism is true does not mean negating other spiritual paths. Judaism teaches that while Judaism is the way for Jews, it is not for everyone. We are not out to convert the world to Judaism. Unlike almost every other religion, Jews do not missionize. This is because we believe not everyone needs to be Jewish.

2.76 A non-Jew can be close to G-d, go to heaven, and lead a moral and meaningful life, all the while remaining a non-Jew. Spiritual paths other than Judaism can be valid, as long as they conform to the seven basic laws for all humanity, known as the Laws of the Children of Noah (Noah being the father of all humankind). The seven laws are: do not serve idols, do not curse G-d, do not murder, do not commit acts of sexual immorality, do not steal, set up a fair justice system, and treat animals mercifully.

2.77 This is amazing. All religions believe in Judaism, and yet Judaism leaves room for other religious expressions. I am proud to be part of a belief system that can accept others, and is accepted by others. Not that this is the basis of my faith. Judaism doesn't need outside confirmation to be acceptable. But this is a strong argument against those who think that faith is a zero-sum game. And it provides a vision for how the world can live in harmony - many paths, one divine truth.

2.78 Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

6 comments:

  1. after sorting through that long post, i can't help but be struck by the fact i stopped trusting it early on.

    the thrust of your argument seems to hinge on the fact we don't know enough about the creation of the world. fine, i'll agree we don't, since neither of us are particle physicists. doesn't mean that since you and i don't know right now what caused the creation of matter that some god must have done it.

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  2. I agree with Timaree, your entire first section can be summed up as one long "god of the gaps" argument. You could have just said, "until science can explain every minute aspect of the universe and give an exact history of every particle in existence, I'll continue to believe that a magic man done it!"

    In essence, your long reply firmly plants you in with the group of believers quoted by the Ebon Musings article as not being able to come up with true or reasonable evidence that could convince you that your beliefs are incorrect. You are requesting a level and detail of evidence from the countering viewpoint that you cannot even offer to support your own beliefs. I'd love to see you grant an exact, precise explanation for how your Prime Mover created every particle in the universe. It should be easy - you can just ask Him, right?

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  3. Hello Mr Ben-Taleh,

    I have posted a lengthy and polite reply as comment #27 on http://www.daylightatheism.org/2010/04/an-unserious-response-to-the-theists-guide.html.
    I invite your further comments.

    Regards

    Peter Clemerson

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  4. Hello Mr Ben-Taleh.

    A day or two ago, I posted a note here to say that I had responded lengthily, and politely, to your response to the Ebon Musing challenge at http://www.daylightatheism.org/2010/04/an-unserious-response-to-the-theists-guide.html with comment #27

    I see that this note to you was deleted. As I would like people other than you to be able to read my response, I am putting this message here now in the hope that it will not be deleted a second time.

    Peter Clemerson

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  5. "Explain existence."

    "goddidit" isn't an explanation at all, it's an abdication of explanation. Science has made great advances in this area, but clearly has a ways to go. But lack of an explanation is no reason for an HONEST person to believe in "God", whatever the heck that is supposed to mean. If we can't explain existence then ... burning bush + Noah + Job + the rest of that crap?

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  6. " My position that God created the universe is logically based on the premise that everything has had a cause in our experience, thus existence itself must have a cause - or maybe even several causes."

    Then God must have a cause - or maybe even several causes.

    "Are you aware of the principle of Occum’s Razor? This principle of scientific reasoning says that if we are beset with a number of complex explanations to a phenomenon then the simplest one is to be preferred. "

    Of course he is aware of Occam's Razor, but God violates it by adding another entity to explain. How did God come about? What are the characteristics of God? There are many competing claims by theists, and none are any good.

    ReplyDelete