Why Don’t Atheists Get It? (Actually, Some Do)

July 14, 2011 3:27 pm 95 comments

Atheism

To keep this discussion simple, I am – for arguments sake – abandoning ship. I’ve left behind all my connections to religion and a supreme being and am joining the legions of the non-believers. I have finally escaped from what Christopher Hitchens calls “the celestial North Korea”, the tyranny of the infinite and transcendent creator of mankind, who commands, demands, scrutinizes, and metes out reward and punishment by agency of his incomprehensible divine system of justice. As Hitchens himself so eloquently phrased it, the “hideous realm of permanent total inescapable unfreedom,” is behind me now.  I am free.

I must admit, it is more than a little disorienting. I am so used to filtering my perceptions, ideas, and emotions through the lenses of a God-centered reality, that without him in the picture I’m not quite sure how to view the world and my place in it. However, I see there is only one path in front of me; I have only one life to live before the eternal blackness of non-existence engulfs me. My destiny is in my own hands; I will answer to no higher power or calling, because there is no higher power or calling. I will answer not to those of flesh and blood, because they are no better, no worse, no more or less important or significant than I am. I will answer to no creature that creeps on the earth, that flies in the air, that swims in the sea; no heavenly body, no man, no woman, and no god. There was a time when I saw myself as being accountable to only one, that is to say, the One. In a certain sense, in my new existence as a non-believer, this has not changed.  I still only answer to one. But now, that one is myself. This is the first principle of my new life: In the final analysis, I answer to, and am accountable to no one but “I”. I will allow no man to interfere with my freedom; I will make my own decisions, form my own outlooks, forge my own path and values, and create my own unique identity and existence as I see fit. I will not allow others to seduce me with their delusional ideologies, and their phony utopian schemes.

I will let others sink in the quicksand of comforting fictions such as the following: “I have a dream when all God’s children, white men and black men, Jew and gentile, Protestant and Catholic will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” The only one who is “free at last,” is the one who rejects this type of imaginary nonsense. Every word out of this dead colored preacher’s mouth is a lie: (Yes, if I want to call him “colored” I will, how dare you presume to tell me how I should talk or what I should say. I reject your inane political correctness as much as I reject your religious superstitions. The next thing you’ll be telling me is who I can have sex with and how.)

  • There is no significance to being a preacher because religion is a farce.
  • There is no “spiritual”, only atoms, molecules, chemistry and physics, and of course no God Almighty.
  • We are certainly not “god’s children,” if anything, we are, perhaps, “Darwin’s children.” More accurately, we are the children of a blind, purposeless process that was named after Charles Darwin. Mr. Darwin himself, of course, rotted into nothingness a long time ago, and is not aware of his own notoriety, nor of the full extent of the upheaval he caused with his Origin of Species. (In that sense, I guess, the joke’s on him.)

As long as we are on the subject: I note with amusement the elevation of Charles Darwin, among certain secular/atheist scientists, to a level roughly equivalent to that of sainthood. I confess that even as an atheist I find it hard to be enthralled with a man whose greatest accomplishment was, essentially, to point out that a human being is to a cockroach, what a cockroach is to a paramecium. Do you find that exciting? Richard Dawkins certainly does. (Boy, I’ll bet he throws a wild party!) Eugenicists and Nazis also found it quite exciting and interesting. I think many – including phony sentimental atheists who desperately need to feel politically correct – judged them too harshly. In my opinion, they deserve a lot of credit for not just talking about natural selection and survival of the fittest, but for actually doing something about it. They certainly had a lot more guts than namby-pamby biologists who go around sappily wishing each other “Happy Darwin Day”, which is easily recognizable to someone like myself, as an attempt to create some sort of “sacred” secular ritual. They even go on “sacred pilgrimages” to the Galapagos Islands!

I, on the other hand, will never allow myself to be led astray by phony atheistic “preachers” either. I laugh with contempt at the banal, monotonous soliloquies of a Sam Harris, as he tries to convince us of his boring, “scientific” atheistic moral values. Who exactly does he think he is anyways? Does he fancy himself as a sort of oracle? What does Sam Harris have to offer that is more worthwhile than that of any of the other 6,000,000,000 human-primates that inhabit this planet? Jabber on Mr. Harris, jabber on. If you are able to con other non-believers into buying your books and convincing them of your status as atheistic “prophet,” then bully for you!

We are animals, Mr. Harris, nothing but animals. Instead of the Amazon jungle, we live in a human jungle. We are no different than our chimpanzee relatives, other than the fact that we have evolved higher intelligence and are therefore able – despite the fact that we share so much genetic material – to make sure that we are the zookeepers, and they are the ones in the cages, under our control, and to be available for our entertainment.

But you may ask: What of human emotion? What about human compassion and the natural altruism that most of us experience? What about conscience? Please don’t misunderstand me. I, as an atheist, feel emotions just as do all human beings. I take pleasure in the bonds I share with my fellow human-primates and often enjoy being of assistance to my fellow creatures. However, I will not allow illusion and fantasy to rule my life. I fully comprehend the simple truth of what philosopher Michael Ruse has pointed out; namely, that morality is nothing more than “an illusion put in place by your genes to make you a social cooperator.” Of course, this is obvious. Moral values have no actual reality.

Morality is a completely artificial construct. What is “moral” to the cannibal in the Fiji Islands is radically different than what is “moral” to the Eskimo, or to the liberal humanist at an ivy-league university. I say, different strokes, for different folks. Those atheists who pretend otherwise are simply lying to themselves and others. I have the capacity for compassion, but I also have the capacity for cruelty. I have the capacity to give, but I also have the capacity to take. I have the capacity for beneficence, but I also enjoy wealth and power. I will decide when to act with compassion and when to act with cruelty. I will decide when being of assistance to other advanced primates suits my purpose and when it does not. I will decide when my sexual needs take precedence over another creature’s needs and when they do not. Which other collection of atoms, molecules and chemicals in human-primate form presumes to be able to dictate to me how I should behave? Of course, the deluded “humanist” atheists will tell me that society would be chaotic if everyone behaved that way. In response, I declare to Abraham Maslow (another secular saint rotted into nothingness), and his loyal minions, “Whatever floats your boat,” just don’t tell me how to behave. I will decide what my relationship will be with the rest of society, not you. If that’s not clear enough, I will decide when killing suits me and when it does not.  Of course, they will then threaten me with jail and punishments. “Society will not tolerate your dangerous behavior!” I say, Catch me if you can!

It is laughable to see how quickly the so called, enlightened, scientific, and sophisticated atheist resorts to threats and brute force to get what he wants and to enforce his own subjective and narrow-minded view of what he “believes” a society should be. This, of course, is the hallmark of “true believers” throughout history. If that is the game we are playing, then perhaps, I will try to win hearts and minds by whatever methods are necessary and create a society to my own liking; a society that is “in my own image.” Others have achieved it, why not I?

Ironically, in quite short order, we have come full circle. The bittersweet joke is on you my atheist friends, there is no escape. You have simply exchanged the religious ritual for secular ritual, the religious saint for the secular saint, the tyranny of a “celestial” North Korea, for your own subjective version of the tyranny of a “terrestrial” North Korea; or as Dennis Prager once put it, God with a capital “G”, for a god with a small “g.”

Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website at http://rabbimaverick.com/

95 Comments

  • Well put Rabbi. Now Atheists everywhere will attempt to reinvent themselves and their philosophies to prove you wrong. They will (as the comments already suggest) be righteously indignant over your suppositions, demanding that their intellect be treated as vastly superior to your idiotic religious ideology — arrogantly proving your point over and over again. Thanks.

  • Rabbi, please forgive me for being so long-winded.

    I am afraid I must say that you have not proved your point. What I see above is someone not truly willing to open their minds. Your very words–”one life to live before the eternal blackness of non-existence”–give you away. You are not truly trying to understand an atheist’s mindset. It sounds petulant, pouty, and reluctant–and it does nothing to win over moderate viewpoints willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    It is funny, because your words do not mirror my personal experience. I was raised Catholic, but am now a queer mix of something I prefer not to define. When I was Catholic, I was–stable, perhaps. I knew the dogma of the Church and knew speaking against it would mean I wasn’t Catholic. So I did what I was told–I believed the homosexuals were to be pitied, fixed, and saved, I believed a fetus was more important than a mother, and I believed we were right to go to war with Afghanistan, because it was justice for 9/11.

    When I left Catholicism, I left behind everything I knew. I had to reinvent my entire belief system from mere threads–not even cloth. I was forced to go to Church and kneel. I was told by my parents that I had to study hard, because if I didn’t have God, my intelligence would be all I had left. I suffered depression, self-mutilation, and anxiety–I’m on medication now, and doing much better. By leaving my Church, I suffered, agonized, and went through pain that carved dark shadows in my soul.

    But I don’t regret leaving religion behind. I feel as though I am a kinder, better person. I volunteer more, and give more of my money to charities–and I believe in the causes I volunteer and donate to. I hand-make gifts and give them away just for the heck of it. And I truly believe that all people suffer–and that it is my place to do what I can to end that suffering, whether it be through writing or through actions. My pain has made me stronger, for when I had nowhere else to turn, I had to dig deep within myself and find the courage to keep living. I may not be religious–but I am a whole person, made more whole each day.

    If Judaism gives you that same feeling–then I wish joy and all the happiness I can upon you, Rabbi Averick. Live life as you must, and I’ll live life as I must. But please–if you are going to attempt to understand an atheist’s viewpoint, do so sincerely, and with none of this half-hearted, disgusted sarcasm. I don’t believe it suits you.

  • And yet, most atheist don’t murder, rape, steal, persecute others based on race or religion, etc. Maybe it’s you who doesn’t understand atheists.

  • “I am so used to filtering my perceptions, ideas, and emotions through the lenses of a God-centered reality, that without him in the picture I’m not quite sure how to view the world and my place in it.”

    This is all that need really be said. Your various insinuations about how atheists behave are wrong. And this would be why.

  • “Eugenicists and Nazis also found it quite exciting and interesting. I think many – including phony sentimental atheists who desperately need to feel politically correct – judged them too harshly. In my opinion, they deserve a lot of credit for not just talking about natural selection and survival of the fittest, but for actually doing something about it.”

    This again? What the Nazis did was ARTIFICIAL selection, which has been around for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. Artificial selection is BY DEFINITION not natural selection. For fuck’s sake do some reading.

  • “More accurately, we are the children of a blind, purposeless process that was named after Charles Darwin. ”

    Maybe, if his name was Charles Evolution Natural Selection Genetic Drift Mutation Darwin.

  • I think – when it comes to morality – that it is indeed necessary for it to be subjective in order for us to “be the owner” of both our morals and our responsibility.

    An objective morality can not in any way be moral – because it’s objective and is given from outside of the self. Indeed, the very thing that pleases me with trying to be a good person is to see how very easy it is to lose that morality. I feel the need to be good to be very tightly bound up with my “Raison d’être.”.

    I am glad that I can make up my own mind to be moral for that fills me with a deep sense of meaning. I am so glad that I have chosen a moral path and not been forced. The only truly nihilistic position is the one where you make no decisions yourself.

  • Why do you insist that you are only accountable to yourself? Are you not accountable to your family, your friends, your fellow citizens, and your fellow man? Do you really think that not believing in supernatural beings for whom there is not a whit of evidence results in absolute narcissistic bedlam? If so, upon what do you base that conclusion? Clearly, thus far, it’s based on nothing but confirmation bias (your religious beliefs are good, therefore the absence of your religious beliefs must be bad). Surely you don’t consider that adequate evidence to support the claim that atheists are narcissistic nihilists. Please, show some intellectual integrity and reveal your evidence.

    And, now, let the tap dancing begin.

  • I have some thoughts and questions. Before I potentially waste your time would like you to state or restate that which I think I can glean or which may be implied: what are morals? as opposed to personal or societal preferences? Where do they originate, what is there source? If the value or effect of these behaviors are different when exhibited by theistic verses non-theistic individuals or groups of humans/animals, what differentiates them?

  • This is a reply to David von Rudisill, July 18, 2011, 3:48 pm (this forum only allows five replies): It’s long, I got carried away:

    David, in your first paragraph I see this inconsistency: “In a materialistic scheme accountability and responsibility do not exist.” I say: therefore there cannot be any moral actions in materialism. You continue: “some actions will cause more unjustified suffering than others.” This judgement you don’t make as a hard materialist. The word ‘justified’ requires that there be accountability and responsibility. Justice and accountability depend on each other.

    You are correct in that morality would not be possible without affective experiences, the life of feelings. Mankind has visited the possibility to kill human beings as if they were just complex computers and has proven that we are able to discard our capacity to feel for another sentient being. We don’t want to go back there, but are not safe from relapse, not by a long shot.

    My point is that there are no ‘good’ reasons for a materialist world view. I doubt that there are even bad reasons. However, I can understand why we human beings are seduced by some strong experiences to hold materialist world views. In our time the naive world experience leads to materialism. If you want to give materialism a philosophical foundation you will inevitably fail. Nonsense of a high order is just not so easily recognizable as nonsense than low degree nonsense. Neuroscience claims to be able to solve the question of consciousness, usually reducing the human being to a brain. Is it surprising that your personality gets a bad knock if you are clobbered with a sledge hammer? You can conclude from this that you need a well working organism to express your personality. But you can’t conclude that your body IS your personality. Michael Schumacher could not win any Formula I race on a bicycle. Don’t conclude he can’t drive a car.

    Regarding God: God wants to be believed by children. But he wants to be understood by adults. As long as you would LIKE TO BELIEVE that there is something out there, somewhere, you will not be able to SEE that there is something. It is possible to understand God, but it takes some effort, and you have to raise to very clear thinking to be able to grasp him. He is never going to be the way you like him to be. (Have you ever felt misunderstood?)
    One step towards understanding God would be to understand matter and energy. We know already, that matter IS energy. Why should there be more to humans than energy? (The problem tends to be that there is not enough energy to human beings.) Doubt is not knowledge. Knowledge you only get when you overcome the doubt.

    I say: we know that matter is energy, meaning that many great thinkers have arrived at this conclusion. The claim that the existence of God is unknown cannot be verified. ‘Possibly unknowable’ means at the same time ‘possibly knowable’. The glass is half full, not half empty.

    • David von Rudisill

      Now that I’ve thought about it some more, you appear to be correct on some matters. My comments on justice were in regards to what is logically justified: “Justice”, in the sense of someone paying for what they did, does not exist in a materialist scheme, as you have correctly pointed out.

      What I meant was logical justification, and I thought that one could still account for logic in a materialist world view. But it seems that, in the hard materialist scheme, logical absolutes cannot exist, so materialism is self-refuting. I’ve come to this conclusion as follows: A statement, such as A = A, is not in any way dependent upon matter and energy, and the truth value of such a statement in no way can be affected by matter and energy. Such a statement appears also to be timeless and has an absolute quality that no physical system can ever have, due to quantum mechanics. So materialism has limits, it seems.

      I don’t know if the human mind’s capacity to know logical absolutes implies that the mind cannot be matter or energy. This is certainly possible, but I’m not convinced of it. I understand what you’re saying about consciousness and the brain. The relationship between brain and consciousness could be analogous to that of car and driver, or signal and radio: even if the car or radio is damaged, that does not imply that the driver or signal is damaged as well.

  • David von Rudisill

    And I must say, Moshe is quite right in implying there is no more freedom in a materialist worldview than a theistic one, with a celestial dictator ruling with an iron fist. We are ruled by chemical and physical forces beyond our control, which are as unbending and absolute as the will of any God. So perhaps human freedom is really quite doomed?

    • I would suggest to all the non-believers posting her to look at P.Z Myers daughters’ blog about Sam Harris’ ideas on atheistic morality.

      http://lacrimae-rerum.org/?p=97

    • Moshe Averick

      David,

      I just noticed a crucial error in something you wrote. In a purely materialistic worldview there is no freedom at all. In (my) a theistic view there is total freedom. That does not mean there are not consequences to actions, there is accountability. That is actually the part of the definition of freedom, you are free to choose how to act, and your choices make a difference. If there are no consequences to your actions, the freedom is meaningless. If you hire a worker, and it doesn’t matter what he does, there is no consequences to any of his actions, his job is essentially meaningless.

  • David von Rudisill

    The situation is a bit worse than what Moshe paints it as. He claims “I will”, “I will”, “I will”, but in reality, free will is an illusion, and there is no “I” anything that wills. Recent work in neuroscience appears to have found that voluntary, conscious actions are made before one consciously chooses to act, and that our actions are really made by an unconscious “readiness potential”. We don’t consciously choose anything, rather we simply have the illusion of choice. (Read about work done by Libet).

    This of course abolishes most if not all personal responsibility for actions. How could we be responsible for what we do, if we don’t consciously choose to do anything, but rather our actions are dictated by chemical and physical forces? In the final analysis, in a materialist worldview you answer to no one, not even yourself. You, as a conscious being, do not make decisions even for yourself. This is illusion.

    Now, most people, myself included, find this a despairing perspective. But this is, as far as I can tell, how it really is. I of course could be wrong, and it could be that a dualist view of the mind may win more support in the future if evidence is found to support this.

    • David,

      “Who” figured this out? “Who” decided that the results of the experiment made sense? “Who” did the experiment in the first place? Did “you” “decide” that what you read made sense or was it just an illusion that you decided it made sense? Maybe the experiment is false but the deterministic series of causes and effects made you think that you “decided” it was true.

      The materialist view of reality folds in on itself and not only free will disappears, but all reality disappears. According to a strict materialist view, you don’t know if materialism has any truth, the only reason you say it is because you MUST say it.

      The whole thing is theatre of the absurd. It is complete nonsense.

      • David von Rudisill

        Benjamin Libet, the neurologist, did work on conscious decision making and showed that at least some actions that we perceive to be voluntary were actually made several seconds before we consciously chose to act. Libet denied that this meant that all of free will was an illusion, and he seems to have thought that a “conscious veto” could not be explained in a purely materialist fashion. Nevertheless, his work is interesting and relevant to discussions of free will. I am personally inclined to disagree with Libet’s conclusions and I think all actions would have a materialistic basis, not just some.

        I would say that in a materialist worldview, free will certaintly crumbles but all of reality does not. Materialism I don’t think implies that our sensory data is totally illusory or that we can’t trust our own thoughts. If a hard materialism, however, were shown to be self-contradictory I of course would give up on it.

        As to the issue of morality and materialism, I would say the following. Morality exists, but is to some degree relative. Morality in a sense is like space and time – no one can deny space and time exist, but to some degree statements of morality are relative to culture in the same way space and time are relative to one’s reference frame.

        Moral values do not cease to exist, I think, because so long as affective experience exists (such as pleasure, suffering), the world will have a moral component. No one can deny that some actions cause suffering, and that actions that cause unjustified suffering are considered to be evil.

        • David von Rudisill

          I’m willing to consider that a strict materialism may not hold in all circumstances and may be shown to be faulty, but I haven’t seen anything that really makes me think materialism is insufficient to explain reality.

        • But as in a materialist worldview free will crumbles, how can morality continue to exist? Morality totally depends on free will. If there is morality, there is free will, if there is free will, there is an entity that can use it. This entity cannot be material. If it is not material, then it must be spiritual. If this entity (the human being) obviously is not merely material but also spiritual, then there may be other beings that are spiritual as well.

          If you insists on hard materialism, you have to deny the free will, morality, and the one who can behave morally (the human being). It is a kind of spiritual suicide. The materialist has to deny himself. Any materialist who does not draw this conclusion is not really a materialist. Denying God is the choice of the materialist, but it is an irrational, illogical choice. Materialism is an irrational faith in matter.

          The world has not a moral component because pleasure and suffering exist, but because the human being exists who in his freedom has to make choices. The human being is himself the moral component. What these choices are only the human being can decide who has to make them. Good and evil does not equate with pleasure and suffering. Each of these are concepts in their own right. It is possible that pleasure is evil and suffering is good. Which is which, and when, is the question the moral being (the human being) has to answer when the question arises.

          The thoughts above are merely philosophical reasoning. All the latest neuroscientific research is irrelevant to the above conclusions.

          • David von Rudisill

            Neuroscience I would say is relevant to questions of free will and morality. In a materialistic scheme accountability and responsibility do not exist. But again, even in this scheme, some actions are still going to be more moral than others, because some actions will cause more unjustified suffering than others. So morality is not completely gone, just responsibility for one’s actions.

            The only way I can conceive of morality ceasing to exist entirely is if affective experience ceases to exist. In such a world, humans would be emotionless computers, and killing humans would be no more immoral than disassembling complex computers. But regardless if a God exists or not, or if humans possess some non-physical substance that survives their deaths, that isn’t our world.

            It’s not like there are no good reasons to hold to a materialist view. The fact that people suffer such profound damage to their intellect, personality, memory, etc. after traumatic brain injury strongly suggests that these things have a physical basis in the brain. Of course, I could be wrong. I’d love to believe that there was something more to humans than mere matter and energy, but too many things cause me to doubt it.

            I do not deny God in the sense that I claim God doesn’t exist, but rather I would say the existence of God is unknown and possibly unknowable.

  • It’s amazing how you equate atheism with anarchy. As if not believing in a higher power suddenly negates societal order. This is blatantly false though. If anything the opposite is true.

    Atheists don’t think “well no one is watching so I’m gonna do everything I can get away with.” This is something religious people like to insist on because it any easy way to demonize non-believers.

    The truth of the matter is that atheist realize that they are responsible for their own actions. The consequences of those actions are the sole property of the doer. What is important is that how others are effected and react to our actions is a consequence. How much importance we place on these reaction and effects on others is the basses of morality.

    There is no sky dad to say that your forgiven and are no longer responsible for what you did.

    • Dogger,

      You misrepresented what I wrote. I never said anywhere that athiesm is equated with anarchy or negates a social order. Atheism inescapably implies amorality, this is simply a philosophical truth.

      The fact that many atheists cling to or proclaim belief in moral principles either reflects their own subjective feelings, the psychological conditioning of their particular society, or if they actually believe their moral principles transcend their own personal feelings they are not really atheists, they just have not put two and two together.

      I want to emphasize here the power of psychological conditioning of our society. Most atheists have been conditioned to believe they are accountable for their actions in the same way believers have been conditioned. What happens when it suddently dawns on an atheist, that he is accountable to no one but himself? That ultimately, he does not have to answer to society, the only decision he has to make is can he live with making up his own rules for life, whatever they may be. When he fully integrates this reality into his psyche, that is when “to make an omelet you have to crack a few eggs” starts to make perfect sense.

      • Bull.

        Morality and religion are independent of one another no mater how much religion tries to usurp credit.

        Irregardless of the fact that almost every study shows an inverse relationship between religiosity and societal health, neither side can claim to be the cause for morality. Ever recorded culture has had morality long before the abhrahamic religions cam to be. To claim otherwise takes religious colored glasses.

        Today’s culture literally takes more of it’s morals from the star trek tv series than it does from any holy text. Mainly because it infused it’s values into the production of the fiction. Likewise the bible is a fiction from a different era infused with the morals of the time. Ni ether is the first source of said morals and neither will be the last.

        Your assertion that atheism implies amorality is a baseless accusation.

        Furthermore, the character know as god in the bible is amoral in almost every sense imaginable. Petty , jealous and wrathful. This character does not reflect morality in any way.

      • I appreciated the first half of your essay, where you illustrate how you have an inescapable burden to judge truth from falsehood. However this atheism=amoralism must be challenged.

        You seem to be a fond of reflecting on our conditioned perspectives. I will point out one of your own. Morality has had different meanings in history. Christianity, in particular, inverted the word’s meaning from how it was conceived by a few ancient Greek thinkers. To thinkers such as Aristotle, and especially Epicurus, morality was a practical means to living well.

        Recognizing only a handful of facts is needed to give fire to the concept morality. That reality is what it is and a human has a certain delimited nature. That value relates to success in life and emotional satisfaction; that such success relates to action; that action relates to belief; that belief relates to reality; that true beliefs yield results. It is a matter of fact that some choices, beliefs, attitudes, and principles have far greater likelihood of producing desirable ends than others; and further that some desirable ends are unsustainable and self destructive.

        Christian morality is supported by faith, artificial threats, and guilt. In this way atheism does negate morality. But the Greek and broadly egoist tradition of morality is far richer and sensible than its Christian counterpart.

        Chase what is truly beneficial to you.

        -Levin Randolph

  • ZZZZZZ…

    exactly what do atheists have to believe, based on insufficient evidence?

    exactly.

    • Kevin,

      Don’t understand what you are trying to say, do you?

      • Although I’m not Kevin and can’t speak exactly for him, I’ll just assume that he, like me, read your article, was slightly annoyed at your highly insulting straw man arguments. (Technically no argument was made. You were just incorrectly mocking atheists, aka being a dick.) However, as an atheist, I believe what he was trying to say was this:

        “When presented with a proposition, there are three possible stances to take on the issue. “I believe it is true. I believe it is false. And I do not have any belief on the subject.” Of course, it’s not so trinary, but there is actually a continuum of confidence in these beliefs. For example, if someone says, “There is a dog in that house’s back yard,” there are three distinct sets for someone else to react to this statement. The default position is, “I have not seen enough evidence for the existence or nonexistence of the dog to convince me one way or the other.” The other two positions would be, “I believe the dog exists,” and “I believe the dog does not exist.” Readily taking a stance without sufficient evidence is not the trademark of a rational mind.
        Now, if the second person is honest and cares about his belief in the existence of this dog, he should investigate further on the issue. He can look at the yard in question and see if there is a dog or not. If he sees a dog, then his belief should change to, “I am very certain that a dog exists.” (He could be hallucinating.) However, if no dog is seen, but perhaps some circumstancial evidence, for example a gnawed bone, his belief should still be, “I have not seen enough evidence to believe that a dog exists here.” The better position would be, “I have seen some evidence that does not contradict the idea that a dog does not live here.” The bone could belong to a wolf, or a raccoon, or perhaps it dropped out of a Russian cargo plane that was carrying gnawed bones. (Something similar to this actually happened once in Japan with cows.) However, maybe he sees some dog prints as well. His stance should change to, “I have seen evidence of dog tracks and a gnawed bone,” and his belief may change to, “I am somewhat certain that a dog lives here.” However, this is not the only possibility. For example, someone may be playing a trick on him, (Maybe the other person is just a dick. Maybe he’s selling dog-bite insurance.)

        Atheism, as many atheists would state (as it is a more easily defendable position), is not the assertion that there are no gods. (Although I’m sure you could find someone who would say that.) It would more likely be the lack of belief in someone else’s assertion that there is a god. Thus, by you implying that atheists believe in the lack of a god, you have created a false dichotomy, and are thus being incredibly dishonest. (As a Jew, I believe you are now forced to kill a baby female goat as according to Numbers 15:27-28) I do not have to actively disbelieve in a god to not believe in it. For example, if you were to tell me, “I heard that there is a house exactly 20km south of the Kremlin,” I would not have any belief on its existence or nonexistence. If you believe that this house exists, and you want me to believe in it, it is your burden to convince me why I should care about the house’s existence and also why it actually exists. Simply because I lack a belief in this house’s existence does not mean that I actively believe that it does not exist. Until you show me sufficient evidence for this house’s existence (for example, I’m sure google maps would be sufficient), it would be irrational for me to believe you.

        Since atheism, as many atheists would define it, is not the assertion that god does not exist, but simply the lack of the belief that god does exist, atheists are not forced to believe anything, hence his statement, “Exactly what do atheists have to believe, based on insufficient evidence?”

        If you want to show us (us=atheists) evidence for the existence of God, then we’ll believe it. Until then, we won’t.

        Likely because of your dishonest approaches towards atheism, he did not likely feel the need to explain it as clearly to you as I have, since he likely felt that you have been so dishonest to atheists in the past that you will not change your honesty in the immediate now to bother to read and comprehend the argument.

  • Moshe Averick, thank you for your witty piece. According to the replies, it irritates those it is intending to irritate. Point for you. Non-atheists won’t fail seeing the humour (except some of them).
    Those who broadly agree with what you say don’t seem to bother to write, they may have more important things to do, which is even true for myself. However, I would like to demonstrate my agreement, and my amusement.
    It is very difficult to pin atheists down. As they are nihilists (“no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” Richard Dawkins) the pin will always end up in a void. It seems unjust that they can feast on the idiosyncrasies of Christians, Jews and adherents of any other religion and remain unaccountable for those of fellow atheists. According to Sam Harris one should not even use the term ‘atheist’. “In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” Thus atheists succeed in being shrill and self-effacing at the same time.
    And they don’t seem to be very “thinking” either (except some of them). If they were, they would have to agree with you. Perhaps they are not “atheist” enough.

    I am looking forward to your answer to Craig’s question about ‘introducing God. I do agree with the equation:
    No God = No morals
    God = Morals
    I think Craig understands you correctly. And he provides a kind of an answer in his question: the introduction of a higher being indeed introduces the possibility of the human being to have a choice to follow a law that is higher than his own sympathies and antipathies, than his instincts. He can ask this question only because he is in the materialist thought habit of presupposing a godless world. For Craig, religious people ‘introduce’ God into a world without God. However, by definition, God is already there, before the Big Bang. Connecting morality with God is not a religious undertaking. Beside being a being, God is also a concept. By definition, God exists without beginning and end. This is the concept of God. One does not believe in a concepts: ‘justice’ is also a concept; ‘meaning’ is a concept. We think in concepts. (We don’t believe in them.) The new atheists, the materialists of the present time, have a problem with the meaning inherent in language. They say that they do not believe in God, they deny his existence. They deny the existence of a concept. The more daring among them throw also other concepts on the trash pile: design, purpose, evil, good, vision, difference, but go still on talking and writing books, not noticing that they have done away with the concepts that would have given their efforts meaning.
    Moshe, you are trying to visualise the consequences of denying the inherent meaning in language, the consequences of denying meaning full stop. And these atheists (except some of them) keep just not getting it.

  • I would like to point out an atheist that is going to rock Dawkins et al out of the post-modern atheists ship by his revolutionary proposal that religion’s ideas are so intelligent, so subtle, that they are not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone.

    Who? Alain de Botton

    Where? TED Global 2011 pretty soon presenting a talk “Atheism 2.0″: http://conferences.ted.com/TEDGlobal2011/

    All best wishes from a former Brazilian atheist

  • Hear, hear ! The self-styled “maverick” Rabbi manages to alienate people with his charmless, smug words. It’s hard to see past his obnoxious attitude and calmly assess whatever may be of merit in his argument. And I speak as an observant Jew.

    • It’s funny, his entire rant came off as something that might be written in The Satanic Bible, and nearly as eloquent. He doesn’t know it, but he is on to something.

      • Dear Oxford,

        Who have I alienated?

      • Alex,

        If you feel that atheistic philosophy is something that might have been written in the Satanic Bible, then you are entitled to your opinion.

        • Alex,

          PS – Actually, I am quite aware that I am on to something. Other atheists who are posting here have a hard time accepting that your view of reality is just as “good”, or “moral” as any other.

          At least we understand each other.

        • I’m talking about the book by Anton LaVey, which did ostensibly contain atheist philosophy. The idea that there is no god, and therefor we must become our own god — and that ultimately we answer only to ourselves — is one that is written out quite explicitly in a number of neo-Satanic texts.

    • I agree Oxford

      Moshe is singularly unpleasant….WHEN HE ASSUMES THE POSTURE OF AN ATHEIST and frees himself from the “mind-forged manacles” which atheists complain about so often.

      Of course, as David von Rudisill correctly pointed out, the materialist who complains about “celestial dictators” is straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

      Gravity is a “celestial dictator”. Radiation is a “celestial dictator”. Entropy is a “celestial dictator”. Plate tectonics is a “celestial dictator”.

      Like their human dictatorial counter-parts, none of these “celestial dictators” give a stuff what Mr Hitchens thinks about personal freedom from Higher Powers.

      Atheists need to cooperate with the inevitable. (Sisyphus’ rock was an attempt to postpone the inevitable. Hence a myth!)

      As for the disorienting thought experiment of attempting to put ones self into the psyche of an atheist….I couldnt do it. I simply couldn’t! And I really I tried hard but just couldn’t muster that much faith. I crashed on the hard rocks of atheology.

  • Tim Campbell

    Sorry Moshe, but you fail on all accounts. You misrepresent both atheism AND the thoughts of those atheist who have published books.

    Let me brief and simple. You won’t accept, but at least you will not be able to plead ignorance.

    1) We are a nation of laws not dogma or personality–at least we are supposed to be. Laws are made BY humans FOR humans. Lawmaking is neccessarily fallible, therefore the same humans who invented the idea of law also invented methods (peaceful in theory) for changing, modifying, or deleting those laws.

    By living in this nation, you give implied consent to this form of governance. Thus while you may be ultimately accountable only to yourself, in reality you are accountable to the rest of us for your actions. If you rob a store and are caught, you face a specific punishment that is theoretically commensurate to the severity of your crime. NO NEED FOR LATER PUNISHMENTS OR FOR ANY OTHER ACCOUNTING.

    This is again a fallible system–but laws by humans work more often than not, and certainly work better than laws given by humans who claim that those laws were given to THEM by some magic supreme being.

    2) Having the threat of divine retribution has never stopped those who would commit crimes from committing those crimes. Morality from con men claiming to speak for God has never been any more effective than morality coming from secular lawmakers.

    3) While religion may have been a necessary step in the evoluton of humankind from primitive primate to scientifically aware civilization, they are still at the core based on superstitious imaginings, false perceptions of natural phenomena, and the unverifiable claims of would-be “conduits” between the Divinity and the rest of us poor uninspired humans.

    4) These issues have been discussed with you ad nauseum and you still refuse to learn. You still misrepresent what atheism actually is and still ignore what humans have learned in the past 500 or so years.

    You are either very stubborn in your religious delusion, or very stupid. You are welcome to your beliefs, but lying to support those beliefs does not honor either yourself or the deity to claim to believe.

    • Tim

      “By living in this nation, you give implied consent to this form of governance. Thus while you may be ultimately accountable only to yourself, in reality you are accountable to the rest of us for your actions.”

      Please forgive me, but the source of the above statement is your imagination. I don’t consent to anything. All you are telling me is that if you have the guns and the police you MAY be able to coerce me into the type of behavior that you prefer. You are no different that Pol-Pot, Saddam Hussein, or the government of Norway for that matter.

      Each creates a system of their liking and tries to enforce it. No system is inherently more meaningful or significant than any other. If you are in Spain, you grow up thinking that bullfights are incredibly exciting. If you grow up in Berkley, you most likely think it is horrible cruelty to animals. Both feel just as strongly, neither is right and neither is wrong. I keep telling you, Different Strokes for Different Folks.

      You keep camouflaging the issue by insisting on labeling your own personal/societal preferences with the word “morality.” If you would just substitute the phrase “personal preference” it would all fall into place.

      Example: “Con men expressing their own personal preferences claiming to speak for God, has never been any more effective than secular lawmakers legislating their own personal preferences.” You see how absurd the whole thing is. Quit using the world “morality” as if it has any meaning or significance other than as an expression of your personal subjective feelings about life, and you will understand why all atheistic philosophers agree with what I am saying. They all understand, as does Michael Ruse: “Morality has no foundation.”

      • Bravo!

        Look at Stirner, look at him, the peaceful enemy of all constraint.
        For the moment, he is still drinking beer,
        Soon he will be drinking blood as though it were water.
        When others cry savagely “down with the kings”
        Stirner immediately supplements “down with the laws also.”
        Stirner full of dignity proclaims;
        You bend your willpower and you dare to call yourselves free.
        You become accustomed to slavery
        Down with dogmatism, down with law.

      • Tim Campbell

        You may call it coercion if you wish, but that is how the system of law works. You may think that you are exempt and if you commit a crime, for example, you might get away with it–the police and the system is fallible and often manueverable. But it is based on human agreements ostensibly for the betterment of human society.

        You do not have to participate, as long as you are willing to accept the consequences for not cooperating or rolling with the laws of this nation. Or if you are clever enough or lucky enough to be able to “beat” the system.

        to attempt to compare a system of representative government with a representative system of proposing and passing laws with an absolute personal dictatorship such as that of Stalin is absurd and you should know it.

        Morality IS preference. It is based on preferance. Whether that morality stems from your own ideas or from those proposed by others, they are still preferential. That some will claim that they speak for a divinity and are therefore simply relaying the divnitiy’s commands does not change a thing. The morality is coming from a human being, and NOT directly from and divinity.

        If you wish to believe such claims, that is YOUR preference. The atheist does not. I do not. Human morality involves human welfare; divine morality involves divine welfare. “Do not steal” has evolutionary precedence that pre-dates the Judaeo-Christian myths by thousands of years. And this injunction works to promote human welfare.

        “Do not worship other gods.” Entirely subjective, entirely meant for the welfare of a specific divinity and has nothing to do with human welfare.

        We reject that sort of “moral” injunction or commandment. But you can go ahead and accept that and live by it as if it has something to do with an actual being. For that matter, if you Yahweh talks to you through your toaster oven, yay you! But I would not accept your claims without empirical evidence that you are not simply crazy.

        • Tim,

          I did not mention any claims to divine knowledge in this article. I agree with you that it would be foolish to believe a claim of revelation without very good reason for believing it is true. I am opposed to leaps of faith. But that was not the subject of discussion.

          Do we agree on the main thrust of the article?

          “You may call it coercion if you wish”
          What else would you possibly call it?

          Why is it absurd to compare one system whose source is human desire and imagination with another system whose source is human desire and imagination? Obviously democracy and Stalinist communism are two different systems. That was not the point. The point is that neither is more or less meaningful, significant, good, bad, moral or immoral. Remember that people voted Hitler into office, Mussolini also. Amazaon headhunters are very happy with their system, as were the cannibalistic Fiji islanders, as were the Indians with the caste system and throwing widows onto the funeral pyre, until the “good christian” British put a stop to it.

          When Rome ruled the world, they took it for granted that conquest, tribute, raping, and pillaging was their “moral” right. After all they were the strongest and most advanced civilization around. It was their prerogative.
          In the same way, you seem to take it for granted that liberal democracy is clearly the superior system. It is..by your subjective standard.

          Can we agree that in an atheistic world, the term “morality” is interchangeable with “personal preference?”

  • As a Romantic Satanist and a moral nihilist, I agree completely. The ideas of the “new” atheists, and many humanists, are without objective foundation. Morality is subjective, and in fact, the very concept of morality — when not enforced by some sort of power — is utterly meaningless.

    Physical reality, too, is merely a set of assumptions that we make based on phenomenal information, in order to more accurately predict further phenomenal information (to quote 1984, “The law of gravity is nonsense, no such law exists. If I think I float, and you think I float, then it happens.”).

    Emotion itself is not objectively any less important than reason, and I might argue that it is even more important. Ritual and pomp, spirituality, and worship, are things that are simply a part of the human condition. They are neither good nor bad. Rather, the effect of a belief should be the basis for judging it. By the same token, I don’t see why intensely individual beliefs (like that of prayers being answered, for instance) should be subject to scientific scrutiny, at least in the sense that it must be reproducible by others.

    That said, all you seem to have done is rehash the transcendental argument.

  • Andrew,

    1. I didnt see the point in your quote from the Torah. It is as misunderstood as “eye for an eye”. But that is an entirely different subject. the topic under discussion is not Jewish Law, jewish practice or whether one likes the traditional Jewish system.

    2. Andrew, I also did not see your point about the poison frog, marriage rituals or how men choose to relate to their families. what I mean is that I don’t see how it relates to the points I made in the article.

    3. No matter what the chemical, genetic, or evolutionary source is for what seems to be a human need to construct some sort of value system, it has no more significance than what you subjectively assign to it. I urge you to read Himmler’s speech to a group of SS officers in Poznan, Poland in 1943. (You can find it on Wikipedia (with a recording of the original speech) It is clear that Himmler was convinced of the profound and noble moral foundations for exterminating the Jews.

    Since the source of all value systems (in an atheistic world) is nothing more than human imagination and creativity, our value systems will always be products of our own proclivities and desires. Different people in different places and times will have radically different systems. None of them are right and none of them are wrong. They are what they are. In America we love baseball. In Spain they love bullfights. In Rome they loved gladiators and throwing people to lions. No one thinks their own system is wrong. This is the way we are wired. “All of a man’s ways are just in his own eyes.”

    It is absurd for the atheist to think that one person or one society can declare to everyone else how they should or should not behave. What makes you think I care about evolutionary processes? If I was an atheist I would say to you that if if turns you on to study evolution and base your behavior on that, then go ahead and enjoy yourself. I’m perfectly capable of deciding for myself how to behave. Don’t try to tell me who to have sex with, and don’t try to tell me who I should be nice to or be cruel to. There is no difference. No one can tell me how I should or should not behave.

    4. “distorted atheist” – Andrew, the point was not that all atheists would have the same attitudes that I portrayed, it is just that the attitudes I expressed are as valid as any other atheistic attitude. In other words, in the amoral world of atheism, your system of behavior is as “right” or “moral” as Stalin’s.
    I don’t recall calling atheists racist anywhere in the article. I just made the obvious point that it is as ridiculous for an atheist to demand that someone not call black people colored as it is to demand that he should not look at pornography. In an atheistic world, I look at porno if I like, and I hate colored peoople if that suits me. I am free to do anything I want or enjoy.
    Who presumes to tell me different, You?

  • This whole article is a failure of the highest order.

    I, on the other hand, will never allow myself to be led astray by phony Christian “preachers” either. I laugh with contempt at the banal, monotonous soliloquies of a Moshe Averick, as he tries to convince us of his boring, “theistic” moral values. Who exactly does he think he is anyways? Does he fancy himself as a sort of oracle? What does Moshe Averick have to offer that is more worthwhile than that of any of the other 6,000,000,000 human-primates that inhabit this planet? Jabber on Moshe Averick, jabber on. If you are able to con other believers into buying your books and convincing them of your status as theistic “bullshit artist,” then bully for you!

    See, nothing of substance. Rant on, your prejudices are showing:)

  • A better headline for this piece would be, “Moshe Attempts Critical Thinking, Fails”.

    • Johnq,

      They say that no publicity is bad publicity if they spell your name right “Rabbi Moshe Averick, author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist, available on Amazon and Kindle, Attempts Critical Thinking, Fails”

      • You’re about as funny as a funeral.

        If you’d work on your critical thinking every now and then, you might be able to run a lap as a freethinker. Instead you let your brain sit around wish-thinking… don’t be surprised by how hard it is to think for yourself.

  • Brian Westley

    Just another immoral theist trying to show that atheists are immoral by using dishonest strawman tactics. Yawn.

  • Samuel Sarc

    I hope this diatribe made sense to the author because it sure is a jumbled mess of straw-man arguments that have very little to do with a system of non belief in a deity. Just another covert attack on people who think and believe differently than said author. It kind of reminds me of what an westboro baptist church member would do if they had a higher education.

  • I agree with the commenter that accuses you of quote mining, rabbi. It’s exactly what you do. It is indeed intellectually lazy of you to misquote this way.

    I applaud the commenter that points out that just because one atheist said something doesn’t mean they all have to agree with it. The pope example is spot-on.

    But you, of course, have a book to sell. Good luck in your endeavors.

    • Johnq,
      I have yet to encounter one person who accused me of quote mining to actually present me his reasons why the citation was out of context. If you are not lazy yourself, why don’t you actually compose a reply that reasonably illustrates how I took a quote out of context. In all seriousness Johnq, I’m not going to hold my breath.

  • I apologize, I made a typo in the following line:
    Again, you seem to confuse “we we are” and “why we should.”

    That should be:
    Again, you seem to confuse “why we are” and “why we should.”

  • The idea is that some ideas ARE better than others… and that you can use reason and logic — along with your innate sense of compassion (that was ‘grown’ in you via evolution) to determine what is ‘good’ and correct … and what behaviors are antisocial or ‘evil’. You hyperbolic comparison of religions’ nonsense with the reasonableness offered by the ‘new atheists’ isn’t convincing.

    • Moshe Averick

      Rick,
      Within several decades of the publication of Origin of Species, the first major atheistic ideology was born; communism. In 70-80 years communism spilled more innocent blood and caused more human misery than religious tyrants had managed to do in the previous 1000 years. does that mean that all atheists are like the communists? Obviously not. Darwin inspired the eugenics movement also. Do you think that is “reasonable”? In fact I think that from an atheistic point of view, G.B. Shaws plan to “humanely” gas human misfits was perfectly sensible.

      Rick, I simply disagree that new atheists are particularly reasonable. If compassion was ‘bred” into us by evolution, so was cruelty. Neither is more valid, invalid, right or wrong, or moral or immoral than the other in an atheistic world. Anymore than a lion is immoral for hunting down a zebra. The lion is not immoral, and the zebra is not moral. That’s the way they are. A beagle being friendly is not moral either, that is its nature. Human animals are no different, unless you posit that they answer to something higher.

      • “The lion is not immoral, and the zebra is not moral. That’s the way they are. A beagle being friendly is not moral either, that is its nature. Human animals are no different, unless you posit that they answer to something higher.”

        How would answering to a higher being change anything?

        I’m not asking that to be awkward, just wondering how you came to the conclusion that it would.

        Who’s to judge if the Beagle is moral or not?

        • Craig,
          I am just pointing out what, in my opinion, is self-apparent. Let us assume for the moment that nothing exists except our physical reality. What then could you possibly mean when you use the term “moral”?

          “Morality is the custom of one’s country and the current feelings of one’s peers. CAnnibalism is moral in a cannibalistic country.” (Samuel Butler)

          Morality is simply a WORD that you use to describe the type of behavior you personally prefer or don’t prefer. It is a WORD that you use to describe the preferences of your society. In other words, “personal/societal preferences” is synonymous with “morality”, the two terms are completely interchangeable.

          If I declare child molestation as immoral, what I am actually saying is “my personal preference is that people do not molest children.” What about a person who has the physical desires of a pedophile. He obviously will feel differently. His “personal preferences” are different than yours. What makes one set of personal preferences more significant than another set of personal preferences? Nothing at all. That is all Professor Joel Marks (atheist professor of philosophy) means when he says that the religious fundamentalists are right, without God there is no morality. Atheism implies AMORALITY. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong, it is just one set of personal preferences vs. another set of personal preferences. (he points out the obvious, that this even applies to child molestation.)

          • Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I’m still just asking how introducing God into that equation would change anything?

            If I’m understanding you, then what you’re saying is this.

            No God = No morals

            God = Morals

            All I’m asking is how does introducing a higher being to a situation introduce morals?

          • Moshe Averick

            Craig,

            Your question is too important for a quick answer. I don’t have time now, (shabbat is rapidly approaching)I will answer sometime later in the weekend.

      • Every war in the 20th century was highly destructive, but it was less to do with any ideology than it was to do with new and uncontrolled technology; machine guns, tanks, explosive shells, factories and bad working conditions.

        Eugenics arose from ‘evolution’ interpreted through the lens of Racism/prejudice. Racist/prejudiced people wanted some races/individuals to be worth less than others, so they attempted to use science to achieve their goal. Eugenics is a distortion of 1 idea of how evolution works, one that has been revised and corrected since that time. Isn’t it beautiful that science is able to do that? We can correct our immoral and wrong actions, they are not set as the ‘truth’.

        Atheism and Communism are also not the same thing, communism has Atheism as part of its ideology. Atheism does not equal communism and communism is not necessarily a part of Atheism.

        In groups, it is generally better for ones own and the groups survival, to treat each other well. Those who take advantage of the system are generally punished by the group (in many social animals, not just humans). One can clearly view ‘society’ or the social group as the source of these sentiments, punishments and rewards. ie. Lions will be punished by the group if they openly attack another member of their own group.

        Is the lion accountable to ‘a higher power’ or can we give a simpler explanation?

        • Alan,

          It seems to me that Eugenics was taking the basic notions of natural selection and survival of the fittest and using them to create a more perfect species. In other words, lets use our evolutionary gift of intelligence to make our species more fit, by eliminating the unfit. Why is that a distortion of evolution?

          When you say “revised and corrected”, who did the revising and correcting? It certainly wasn’t scientists. The ideas are exactly the same. Eugenics was very popular among the intellectual elite in this country, what stopped it was that the Nazis took it to the limit, and people recoiled in horror at the implications of such practices. (Thank God)

          There is nothing unreasonable at all in suggesting that one race might, through natural selection, actually be superior to another race. That doesn’t mean it’s true, but it is certainly a reasonable proposition.

          I agree that atheism and communism are not synonymous, but it would be quite dishonest to ignore the fact that atheism was part and parcel of communist doctrine and this opened the gate for the most horrific blood letting man had seen until that point. Any honest person is going to have to deal with that.

          What instinct determines lion behavior, I cannot say. What does that have to do with human behavior? Lions eat zebras also, perhaps we should eat those from other races. As a matter of fact that has happened throughout history. I don’t understand your point about the lion behavior.

          • “It seems to me that Eugenics was taking the basic notions of natural selection and survival of the fittest and using them to create a more perfect species.”

            I’m tempted to call you a moron. You claim to be educated by you do not understand the basic difference between evolution and social darwinism. I suggest you take your 5th grade up again. This kind of statement isn’t a hallmark of someone who is learned and reflected and wants to conduct a serious and thorough argument. It’s the thinking and reasoning of someone who has an agenda to promote his own views no matter what. I honestly find that quite pathetic.

      • Rabbi.

        You can hardly use “In 70-80 years communism spilled more innocent blood and caused more human misery than religious tyrants had managed to do in the previous 1000 years” when you’ve not applied the context of modern warfare strategy and technology.

        “Human animals are no different”. So religion or no religion, we’re expected to behave only on instinct? What a nonsense. If we’re hungry, its expected we should attempt to eat the first edible/organic substance on offer? The difference with us “humans” is we have an opportunity to examine ourselves and our actions and to decide a course of action without requiring religion.

        • DG,

          You’re correct. The Iranians (religious) could very well outdo everybody if they get atomic weapons. However, the fact still is that when atheists were given the ball, they brought mass murder to new heights. If one wants to argue that religious fanatics have perpetrated great evil, then the only thing worse is atheism. Where does this leave us?

          Where it leaves us is the following: Atheism inescapably implies an amoral existence. One could argue about which secular system works better, but that just begs the question. You can only judge how well a system is working if you have presupposed a particular goal towards which you are working. “Working Well” means, is it bringing me closer or farther from my goal. Defining the goal is itself a purely subjective undertaking.

          If God does not exist, that is what we are left with. It doesn’t really matter that much what you do or believe,
          there is no judge, no justice, no judgment, and no accountability. The only thing to do is what makes me feel good, no matter what that may be.

      • “Within several decades of the publication of Origin of Species, the first major atheistic ideology was born; communism.”

        With all due respect, it was the leaders of the Russian communist movement that actually USED its Orthodox Church to keep the people quiet and sated, so long as said Church kept itself out of politics. It was the promise of a happy afterlife in exchange for suffering in this one that kept the workers working and prevented uprisings. There WAS persecution of minority religions, and the Orthodox Church was one of these when Lenin was originally in power, but corrupt communist leaders are quite happy to tolerate religion so long as it shuts the lower class up.

        That was its intent, anyway. Modern forms of communism are not “pure” strains of communism, but rather somewhere on the sliding scale of socialism and dictatorships. China’s probably the closest thing we have, but even THAT has elements of the free market.

        It’s also interesting to observe that Karl Marx–whose Marxist beliefs inspired communism–was of Jewish ancestry.

      • Moshe wrote: “Within several decades of the publication of Origin of Species, the first major atheistic ideology was born; communism.”

        On the Origin of Species was published in 1859.

        The Communist Manifesto (not the earliest communist work, either) was published in 1848.

        Care to explain your rather egregious misrepresentation, Moshe, or do you take us all for fools?

  • James Brown

    Well you were doing just fine until you allowed us to see your tongue sticking out of the side of you cheek. Then you lapsed back into your old way of trying to showing everyone that reads your stuff how dumb it is too look for a new deity in Darwin or Sagan or Harris or Dawkins or (well the list goes on and one doesn’t it). Don’t let it bother you that there are real people out in the world, quite a few it seems, that don’t feel that any deity is necessary. Your not one of them.

    If some day if you actually do ‘abandon ship’ I’m sure you will expect a group of welcoming compassionate atheists that will wrap their arms around you and say ‘welcome to the fold brother’! I’m sorry you will not find that group because it does not exist. The best you will get is ‘Just why the hell did it take you so long?’

    • Moshe Averick

      James,

      Actually I’m waiting here for you on the other side, impatiently looking at my watch. May the truth win out!

    • Glen,
      I am so proud of you that you resisted temptation. That is the true hallmark of a religious man.

      Social Darwinism is nothing more than a particular application of the principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest.

      Again, Eugenics is based on the following principle. Let’s make our species more fit, by killing off and/or sterilizing the unfit.

      I don’t see your point. After you calm down a little, perhaps you can explain it to me more clearly.

      • Actually, as you well be aware, eugneics is an attempt to SUBVERT natural selection and survival of the fittest, and replace those forces with artificial selection. If you’re as well read on this subject as you say you are, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that you lie for a living.

  • “I note with amusement the elevation of Charles Darwin, among certain secular/atheist scientists, to a level roughly equivalent to that of sainthood. I confess that even as an atheist I find it hard to be enthralled with a man whose greatest accomplishment was, essentially, to point out that a human being is to a cockroach, what a cockroach is to a paramecium. Do you find that exciting?”

    The theory of evolution is one of the fundamental pillars of modern biology and permeates all of scientific inquiry. It has allowed us to understand how things work enough to develop life saving medicines and vaccinations, it has been instrumental in the treatment of disease, it has influenced the creation of strains of rice that contain protein which are able to feed otherwise starving areas with an appropriate amount of nutrients with very little capital, the research and development in the evolutionary field has spurred technological advances and it has allowed genetic sciences to accomplish things we only dreamed were possible only a short while ago. Thanks to the theory of evolution, we can treat genetic disorders that were once considered treatable. We can screen for and at times augment genes which could prove potentially harmful to a person or even their offspring. I don’t think you really understand just why the theory of evolution is so highly regarded. And why, by proxy, Darwin can easily be considered one of the most influential and remarkable scientific minds of the last few centuries.

    So yeah, it is pretty exciting. The computer you use to type your poorly thought out, inane post was in part created on the shoulders of technology which was able to be developed because of evolutionary science. The internet you use to trap whoever happens upon your pathetic blog space into wasting their time reading your poorly thought out ideas – also developed in response to the need for universities to be able to freely share information, and was developed using (come on, I know you can do it) technology which was in part developed using concepts derived from evolutionary science.

    And Godwin-ing your own post? Pathetic. We should base ALL our judgement of all concepts and ideas on the craziest person to ever misunderstand and misapply said concept, right? Christianity should be judged only by the actions of Phillip Garrido who kept Jaycee Lee Dugard as a sex slave for 18 years, after all, he WAS a self professed Christian and he DID use his beliefs to justify his actions. Come on man, employ just the tiniest shred of critical thinking. If you can’t muster that, maybe you ought to go back to school or at least get your head surgically removed from your backside. (Which would be made possible in part thanks to evolutionary science.)

    • Moshe Averick

      Pinko,

      I did not understand the last paragraph of your reply, except that you devolved into a mini-hysterical rant.
      Please explain what you meant.

      Although I don’t usually get into evolution, I generally deal with origin of life for reasons I explain at length in my book, I have to disagree with you. Developing vaccines and new strains of rice deal with the part of evolution that everyone agrees on, that is to say, micro-evolution. The disagreement, of course, is about macro-evolution.

      Don’t forget, Darwin also was the father of Eugenics and much of Nazi race-based ideology. Obviously not all Darwinians fall into either category, but they are reasonable social/philosophical applications of natural selection and survival of the fittest.

      • Darwin didn’t invent evolution, natural selection or ‘survival of the fittest’. He was simply the first to notice and write about those ideas in any real detail.

        I’m sure that seems like I’m stating the obvious, but surely by your world view, if anyone invented Eugenics, then God did.

      • Micro and macro evolution are one and the same process over different lengths of time.

        • Alan,
          That’s what you say. Zapping a fruit fly with radiation and making the next generations wings shorter is micro-evolution. Zapping a fruit fly with radiation and turning it into a butterfly is macr-evolution. The first example everyone agrees happens. The second is where there is a dispute. I will not get involved in the details of the dispute, but that is the point of contention.

          • Brian Westley

            Uh, no. What you’ve said — “Zapping a fruit fly with radiation and turning it into a butterfly is macr-evolution” is just complete nonsense. You do not understand evolution.

  • John Doubek

    I read it. An excellent example of strawman argumentation. You set up a fake atheist philosophy than smash it to pieces, to the applause (I suppose) of your personal echo chamber. Kudos mighty warrior. Now sweep up all that straw.

    I prefer Gregg’s approach in the comment above this one. I woke up (so to speak) in this floating isolated world like a stowaway on a ship at sea. Do I really only answer to myself? Hardly. I answer to my neighbor, my mate, my children. And I answer to myself. I answer to my brothers and sisters in Sudan, in Mexico, in Israel, in Arkansas, all over the world. I answer to the laws of the stowaways who came before me as much as I can.

    This does not require a god or gods or any such mumbo-jumbo. It only requires you and me, waking up on this ship at sea (so to speak), looking each other in the eye and shaking hands. Atheists, too, have a dream.

    Why isn’t the world already in a state where we look each other in the eye and shake hands as brothers? Our tribal myths keep us separated and at each other’s throat. High time we ditch them all. We’re all in this together.

    • Moshe Averick

      John,

      Let’s continue with the premise of the article. Let’s assume for the moment I am also an atheist. My reply to you would be as follows: You are entitled to relate to others and behave towards them as you see fit, why should I expect anything different. All of us seek our own pleasure, and if that’s what makes you feel good, I would expect you to behave that way. Just because you feel that way does not mean that I feel the same.
      I happen to agree with Michael Ruse: “morality is an illusion put in your genes to make you a social cooperator.” I happen to agree with Peter Singer: “NOTHING is intrinsically wrong.” I happen to agree with Joel Marks: “Atheism implies amorality, therefore as an atheist I embrace amorality.”

      My viewpoint is not any more significant in objective reality than yours. I don’t really care what you do or think as long as you don’t get in my way. If we have to clash, then isn’t that what “survival of the fittest” is all about? May the “fittest” survive!

      • Moshe,

        This is the sort of thing I was talking about. I know I said in my other post that I’d set this aside, but here’s a blatant example of quote mining. You quote Peter Singer, who tirelessly promotes utilitarian ideals in suggesting that we should feel more obligated to provide financial support to those who really need it in areas of extreme poverty, who does not eat meat because he sees no justification for torturing and killing an animal, as if he simply took a Crowley-esque, “Do what thou wilt” approach to morality.

        The source of this quote is an interview Singer did with William Crawley. I’ve watched that interview – he speaks at length about vegetarianism, charity, and even criticizes himself when he failed to live up to these ideals. If you watched this interview, you cannot honestly argue that he sees no moral value in any action, which is the position you’re asserting as if you somehow got there from Singer’s work.

        He was speaking about intrinsic morality – that is, morality assigned to an action that is independent of context. Something is wrong because of its results, not because the action is “just wrong.” If no harm is done, why should any action be viewed as “wrong?”

        You use this quote all the time. Did you know that if you Google “Peter Singer nothing is intrinsically wrong” you are the first match? You are lying to your readers, and I do not particularly care if it annoys you that I have noticed and will call you on it. You are dishonest, intellectually lazy, and sensational, as I originally stated. I hope that your irritation at being called these things will encourage you to change your behavior.

        • Gregg,

          You have missed the point. Peter Singer is entitled to make up any system of behavior that suits him. If he feels that not eating meat is significant and it makes him feel good, why should I care? My point is that he makes it up as he goes along. All he tells us is what his own personal preferences are. Because he “prefers” not to eat meat, that does not make it moral or immoral. It just means that it is his personal preference.

          “If no harm is done, why should any action be viewed as wrong.” What do you mean by “harm”? “harming” who? Where did you come up with this defintion? Why should I care if someone is harmed or not, as long as it suits my purpose? Who is Peter Singer, or anyone else for that matter, to declare to everyone else how they should behave? Singer calls himself a “consequentialist”, which means, If I like the consequences it’s good, If I don’t like the consequences it’s bad.

          What gives you the right to tell me or anyone else that I should care about others in poverty? Where did you come up with this idea. Does it make you feel good to help others? Then go ahead and do it. If it doesn’t, why should you do it?

          Goats, cows, sheep, and dogs are harmless and can even be quite friendly. They are not moral or immoral. Lions, jackals. and hyenas, hunt and kill other animals. They are not moral or immoral. some humans are more like goats and cows, some tend to be more like jackals and hyenas. Neither are moral or immoral, that is just the way it is. You may PREFER that people are kinder and gentler, but others may prefer differently. Neither of you is right or wrong, just different.

          Jean Paul Sartre: ““It disturbs me no more to find men base, unjust, or selfish, than to see apes mischievous, wolves savage, or the vulture ravenous.”

          In an atheistic world, we are nothing but animals. Does this disturb you? Why?

          • I was nice in my previous comment. I was wrong. You just used a Singer quote out of context to look smart and were called on it. He tells you you are completely misinterpreting the quote. You argue the quote is not the point.

            You are not a smart man. I think the concept of ethics may be beyond you.

          • Andrew,

            The Singer quote was not out of context at all. Singer defines “morality” by the context and the results of the action. But the evaluation of the context and result is also a purely subjective invention. He has just pushed the problem back one step. Who creates the first principles? Who decides what is harmful or not? If they are created by human imgagination then they are all equally signigicant/insignificant.

            Let’s take a Mafia hit man who agrees that something is wrong depending on it’s consequences and context. His goal is to make money, enjoy life, and stay out of jail. He is being paid 50,000 to kill someone. he does not consider there to be anything wrong with that. He is a “consequentialist” in his own way. If there are police around then he would get caught. These are “bad” consequences for him, so he will not pull the trigger.

            Peter Singer has manufactured different goals for himself so his evaluation will be different. So What?

            How is that different than an absolute, metaphysically existent, God commanded, “intrinsically immoral” system?
            If someone points a gun at my head and says, kill this low-life drug addict who has been sentenced to jail for 20 years for armed robbery, or I will kill you; The Peter Singer method is to evaluate the consequences. Which will bring about a better/worse result – my death, or the death of the drug addict. I then have to evaluate, maybe I will conclude this way, or maybe I will conclude that way. For me as an orthodox Jew, there is no “evaluation” to make, I am forbidden to murder period.

            Once subjective human feelings are brought into play, everybody is just doing what they personal prefer and then, of course, labeling it as “moral.”

            Example:

  • Hello Mr. Averick.

    When I saw it was you who wrote this, I was immediately skeptical. Still, I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. Honestly, you did okay until you got to the bit about not being accountable to other people. I wonder how you conclude that you are not accountable to other people from the premise that they are no less important than you. Hm. Tough bit of mental gymnastics, that.

    I’ve tried to correspond with you via e-mail in the past, but you insisted on quote-mining a dozen different atheists saying things that, if you really try, can be used to suggest some sort of relativistic nihilism, rather than address any of my arguments. So I wrote you off as a loon and stopped. But I’m a glutton for punishment, I suppose, so here goes one last try.

    Why we are moral and why we should be moral are two different things. The fact that we are moral is because of evolution, which has rewarded cooperative behavior. Societies flourish better than lone predators, as long as they can create the resources they need.

    From an atheist’s perspective, why we should be moral is really much simpler. I can break it out into a few steps:
    1 – I think, therefore I am.
    2 – Pleasure is good, suffering is bad.
    3 – I perceive that I am surrounded by others who seem to think and feel similarly to me.
    4 – I lack any rational basis to assume they are anything other than exactly what I am (for instance, automatons meant to trick me into thinking they can think and feel).

    And you’ll see that you’re off and running from just a set of givens. From there, it’s easy to get to utilitarianism. I don’t think I could make it any simpler. If you can find a flaw there, I would welcome your response. If you think a flaw is that so-and-so atheist said something that maybe doesn’t work with that, I encourage you to remember that you are speaking with me, and not so-and-so atheist. If you would like to say that you have found a flaw, and then instead make a naked and baseless assertion like, “Morality cannot exist without God, therefore the model does not work,” then I encourage you to save both our time. Because you like to write things in a very intellectually lazy, sensational manner, you’ve become quite popular. Thus, you aren’t obligated to spend any time on me. I’m nobody of consequence.

    • Moshe Averick

      Gregg,

      Because of time constraints sometimes I have to write quick responses that may not be as precise as I would normally have liked them to be. I will try to be as precise as I can.

      First, I must tell you that I find it particularly annoying to be accused of “quote mining”. If you disagree with something I say, explain to me why and I will try to respond in kind. If I quote a well known atheist scientist/philosopher/etc. that backs up my analysis, that is not quote mining, that is called “marshalling facts and evidence.” If you disagree, that is fine, but please disagree with the point, don’t accuse me of “quote mining” unless you can present a clear response why you think I took the quote out of context.

      In fact, I would state your point even stronger than you. From the moment we are born until the day we die, all human beings (religious, skeptic, atheist, agnostic, other) are essentially doing only one of two things: A. seeking our pleasure B. Avoiding those things that cause us pain. Of course, there are many different types of things and activities that bring us pleasure and different pains we avoid.

      One person finds his greatest pleasure in building relationships with other people, another finds his greatest pleasure in amassing wealth, etc. What gives you pleasure may not be what gives someone else pleasure. Neither is “right” and neither is “wrong”.
      Neither is “moral” and neither is “immoral”. What could possibly be the basis for any human-primate or society of human-primates to declare for everyone else how they should or should not behave, unless you are the ones with the police and the jails. then you can enforce your way of life as long as you continue to hold power. To paraphrase Mao-Tse-Tung, “Morality grows from the barrel of a gun.”

      In the presentation of your argument you have already presupposed certain principles that you have no right to presuppose.

      “Societies flourish better than lone predators”
      What do you mean by “flourish”? According to whose defintion of “flourish”? What makes you think that there is inherent value in a society “flourishing”? You clearly care about society “flourishing” (whatever exactly you mean by that). What about someone who has a totally different idea about what society should be like, or how he wants to behave? The best you can say is a. I disagree with you b. your behavior will interfere with MY idea of the way things should be

      In an atheistic world, there is nothing but personal/societal preference. You then choose to label those preferences with the word “morality”, but personal preference by any other name is personal preference.

      If you want to live by the system of utilitarainism, and you can convince others to accept it, be my guest. But because you prefer this way of life (i.e it gives YOU pleasure to live this way) does not obligate anyone else to feel the same.

      • Moshe,

        Since we’re now on a first-name basis, I hope you don’t take it personally if I say that you seem to have misread what I wrote. Let me see if I can correct some misperceptions.

        I’ll retract the bit about quote-mining for now. I do think that I could make this case, but I also have time constraints and it’s really just a distraction from the argument. However, we should discuss why quoting a famous person who is an atheist constitutes neither fact nor evidence. Indeed, these are things that people said and nothing more. I wonder if, coming from a theistic perspective, you feel that atheists are somehow obligated to agree with things other atheists have said because that is the case for religions. When the Pope says something, Catholics either have to agree or compromise their Catholicism. Atheism is, of course, not a structure or hierarchy. So when you quote Mao Tse Tung at me, it has no relevance. Why should I take anything he says seriously? He’s wrong. Morality does not grow from the barrel of a gun. From what I can see, he’s made a baseless statement and I reject it.

        Again, you seem to confuse “we we are” and “why we should.” By “flourish” I mean “survive.” As in, “have not yet been eaten by lions.” Think about it logically. You are alone in a jungle. You are surrounded by predators. You have the opportunity to cooperate with someone else. Will that make you more likely to survive? Yes. What if that person betrays you, or you betray that person? Then the advantage is lost. Moreover, if betrayal becomes common, then cooperative relationships will be less likely to form in the first place. Then, everyone gets eaten by lions, and humanity is driven to extinction. Why do wolves hunt in packs? Why do ants form colonies? Cooperation is conducive to survival in a harsh world. Cooperation cannot continue without a societal structure – a system of morals. Rules. Whatever you want to call them. That is why we ARE moral.

        Now, set that aside. Let’s take the view of the atheist who finds none of this to be a compelling reason to remain moral. After all, now that the system is exposed it could surely be exploited for personal gain. Depending on one’s priorities in life, that may be the best choice from a purely selfish perspective.

        That brings us to the question of, “Should we remain moral, now that we know why we are?” As I tried to make clear above, this is a different question. You seem to have missed this, so I can only assume I explained poorly.

        I am not suggesting that I am a utilitarian out of personal preference because it makes me happy. I am a utilitarian because it is my only rational choice. I do not want to be stabbed. I have to assume that everything around me feels similarly about stabbing, and so I should not stab them. After all, as you said in your original article, “they are no better, no worse, no more or less important or significant than I am.” So what rational basis would I have for putting myself above them? That, I think, is your biggest failing. You agree that atheists do not claim superiority over other sentient, mortal life, and then assert that we should still behave as if we do, if we were being consistent. No, actually. That would be inconsistent.

        You’ve wrapped up why I am a vegetarian – I don’t think having a tastier meal warrants taking a life. I can’t justify it rationally. And to get there, I’ve only had to make three self-evident assertions (I exist, Suffering is bad, pain is good) and one assumption (others exist). In order to prove that atheism necessitates nihilism, you must prove that atheists cannot believe one of those four things and maintain a rational, naturalist worldview. Good luck.

        (And, for the record, I don’t think I would say that others are “obligated” to be utilitarians, depending on what we mean by “obligated.” I would say they are being irrational to do otherwise or, at the very least, they must make a great many more assumptions about existence, sentience, rights, suffering, and pleasure than I do.)

      • I am a good Jewish man. My wife is a good Jewish woman. I am being beaten over the head by a man with a stick. My wife goes to save me by pulling the man off of me, but her best way of gripping him for proper leverage is to get him under the leg and around the neck. I am now upright and can now hold this man at bay with her help until police arrive. I will now chop off the hands of my wife in gratitude. As a good Jewish man it is my duty and I am pleased to serve my Lord.

        “If two Israelite men are fighting and the wife of one tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the testicles of the other man, her hand must be cut off without pity. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12 NLT)”

        This was just a minor experiment to show you how your article might come across to a friendly atheist such as myself.

        For a point toward societal evolution one might consider the poison frog. The poison frog does nothing to save himself with his poison. He will be attacked by the hawk and eaten. His evolved poison does nothing to save his life. The hawk, however, is now ill and recognizes that consuming this frog has caused his illness. That is an evolutionary trait that helps a society, rather than an individual.

        I will continue this example further in the realm of humanity. When a human child is born it has a mother and father. Now one could presume that since the male of the species is capable of mass reproduction, while the female can realistically see no more than fifteen offspring (significantly less in the time that this evolutionary trait would occur) that the male would sow his seed elsewhere and the female would be left to tend for her children, treating them far more precious than the male. This is not how we evolved, though. Why would a man, in general, stay to rear his offspring? If he stays with his children he is far more likely to pass onto them his experience and they are more likely to be successful when they begin their journey to find a family. This is why we can see some form of marriage pervading almost every culture, from the Mayans to the Tiwi. That is not to say that some men don’t flee from their families, but it is not a biological necessity so it never evolved to become an unbreakable limitation of the human condition.

        You seem to think atheists are nihilists. I am not sure why. Might I recommend a fantastic book called The Moral Animal by Robert Wright for an evolutionary perspective on how morality and society came to be over a non-theist perspective. Perhaps you may come to be more understanding of those who have differing world views.

        I do also hate the idea that we deify men of science. We are interested in the man because the man was peculiar. He opened his mind and came to a conclusion that was tested and tested and seen as valid. His peculiarity must have been his means to accomplish his great work. Because of this, does it not follow that a man who too wishes to open his mind and come to a new and exciting perspective would consider the peculiar man as a role model?

        I love the works of Shakespeare. I celebrate his birthday. I memorize soliloquies. Is this worship? I do read other plays, so if it is, I am lucky the man never issued a first commandment of his own.

        Lastly, and I was just going to let this go, but calling atheists racist is just asinine. Who has more cause to be racist than the religious, whose Lord tells them they are the chosen people and the rest of the people on Earth are not. I suggest the mere fact that you chose the word “colored” shows insight into how you perceive differences in people. If I were to be your distorted atheist I would see all people as the same horrible muck, even though I would be that same muck.

        As it stands, I am not your thought experiment. I see all people as the glorious product of strength, will, and intellect, capable of achieving everything, or nothing. Consider this quote as not the forest from the court, but the man from the dogma and you may see my worldview.

        “And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
        -As You Like It, William Shakespeare

        I hope you one day see the good in those unlike you.

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