Click this link for TOPICAL INDEX OF POSTS

About Me

A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Proof of God from Morality Part One

Updated thru 10/31/2015 June 2, 2017
Atheism is the non belief in Gods. It makes no statements about morality. 

Nevertheless I have been challenged - why should murder be wrong ? 

{Before directly addressing the question consider the following information:

Not only are many Torah rituals paralleled in the ancient near east so are some of their laws and "morals". 

From the book Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East [ANE] 1991- F. Greenspahn Editor

Beginning Page 176 "The Protection of the widow, orphan, and the poor was the common policy of the ANE".

"The policy of protection of the weak occurs also in the wisdom literature of the ANE"

Beginning Page 186 We have remarkable similarities and analogies between the conception of protection of the weak in Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Israelite literature with some minor differences. That Yahweh takes the weak under his protection is definitely not unique. 

From the book Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005

Page 423 “It has long been recognized that the form and content of the code of Hammurabi are particularly close to the book of the covenant in Exodus 20:22-23:33. This applies not only to the content and order of the laws (see Wright) but also to matters of iconography, since Hammurabi , like Moses, is depicted receiving his laws directly from the deity atop fire-and smoke enshrouded mountain(Van Seters). The best explanation for this similarity is that the Biblical author knew the code  of Hammurabi and intentionally shaped his work to mimic the older more venerated text." 

Page 430 "The form and content of Hebrew laws are similar and sometimes include provisions that are nearly identical to their Near East counterparts."}

The claim is made without "God" there is no basis for morality. Even if true, it certainly does not logically follow God exists.  Moreover the claim leads to several inescapable dilemmas with the result that claiming morality comes from God becomes a useless proposition.

1) Plato and Socrates - there are two options

a) A conduct is right because god commands it. OR 

b) God commands the conduct because it is right.

If b), then for the conduct to be right does not require a God.

If a) then the element of arbitrariness enters, since God could have just as well said lying and murder is right. Remember under option a) it is God's command alone that makes right or wrong. If that is 
the case the meaning of the words right or wrong loses all meaning. Also, any action can be justified by arguing God said so. (That has been the justification of some of the most horrible acts in the history of man.) 

2) If somebody persists with option 1a ,which God shall we select ? 

3) If somebody persists with option 1a whose interpretation of even a particular religious tradition should we select ?

4) Every religion based on ancient texts have ambiguities, uncertainties and contradictions. Take Judaism's command to rest on the Sabbath. The Torah and it alleged oral tradition was formed thousands of years ago and has no discussion of modern inventions. So there is a large unknown how those ancient laws are to be applied. It comes down to a human decision made in modern times and can not be claimed to be from God. And those ambiguities apply to every Torah law or command.

Moreover, the Torah itself is believed by academic scholars to be composed over many generations by different people each with a political or other agenda. 

5) What if a particular religion thinks murder is permissible sometimes ? Even the Torah commands murdering  innocent children under some circumstances. Some of my other posts discussed some disturbing Torah laws or commands.

6) If somebody claims a particular action is prohibited because God says so, we may ask what evidence do you  have he said so, and all such evidence is not convincing.

7) It is hard to imagine a society where murder is permitted. How would it survive ?
{ETA 10/31/2015 The Ramban commentary on Genesis 6:13 explains  the prohibition against violence is a rational commandment there being no need for a prophet to admonish against it. He adds in his commentary on Genesis 6:1-2 that not doing violence is a reasoned concept and does not require Torah to prohibit it. And Yehudah Halevi Al Khazri II 48 explains the rational laws [i.e. no murder] precede divine law in character and time and being indispensable in the administration of every human society.} {ETA June 2, 2017 Soncino Chumash 1968 Edition Edited by the Rev. Dr. Cohen - Beginning Page 35 - Regarding Genesis 6:13 Per Ramban  “The reason that violence (robbery) is made the ground for their punishment is that all can understand the wickedness of this crime even without a special revelation.” }

8) Some moral philosophies argue for moral standards based on  theories having nothing to do with God.  For example: 

a)  Kant - Categorical Imperative (CI). An argument for absolute morality independent of God. Can your act be desired as a universal law ? {Regarding the CI  "He [Kant] believed , for example that lying is never right...But Kant did not appeal to theological considerations, he relied only on rational arguments, holding reason requires that we never lie." Page 117 The Elements of Moral Philosophy1993 James Rachels second edition. } {And on page 53 of Kant's Moral Philosophy by H.B. Acton 1970 "Nor did he [Kant] think the analysis of morality showed moral laws must be commands of God - this was dismissed by Kant as 'theological morality' or 'theological ethics"}

b)  Hume, Mill, Bentham - utilitarianism - right actions are those that produce on balance the greatest amount of happiness amongst all sentient beings.

c) Hobbes - Social  Contract - Morality as rules rational people will accept for all their mutual benefit  on the condition others follow those rules as well. 

d) Plato, Aristotle, Socrates - The Ethics of Virtue. Ethics based on reason. Virtues are traits that are good for people to have. And why they are good depends on the virtue itself. For example honesty is good because without it relations with others can go awry. In addition the virtuous person will fare better in life. The virtue of fairness will help in relations between people. The virtue of perseverance will help one complete college or complete the planting of the crop in time.

e) Ethical Egoism - Do that what will truly be in your best interest over the long run. 

[In short the basis of morality may lay in biological evolution see 9, human society organization, the sense of fairness, empathy, reason and self interest  - none of which require God.  Some Torah laws/commands come in conflict with some of those things.  ]

9) The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins 2006 page 219  provides four reasons for the Darwinian origins of the moral sense (altruism, generosity, pity, empathy, decency, feelings of morality...):  
First - Genetic Kinship. Second - repayment of favors; giving favors expecting payback. Third - the Darwinian benefit of the reputation for generosity and kindness. Fourth - a particular benefit of conspicuous generosity as per Israeli zoologist Zahavi.

10)  It is possible God (or at least something like Yahweh) was developed by ancient societies for reasons somewhat related to morality.  

In an ancient society with scarce resources and without a large police force to patrol, individuals may be tempted to commit crimes. Perhaps the threat of divine retribution encouraged people to behave so society could run smoothly.  This only works if the individual believe in it, hence the need for early indoctrination and societal pressure to encourage the belief. 

This divine retribution theory works not only for individuals, but for the interaction among the different tribes of ancient Israel or even with interaction among countries.

God could be invoked by leaders or people to provide justification or force for certain laws or action.

I suspect those are important reasons many religious people are afraid to give up God. God is the all knowing policeman-judge who will punish people (or countries) for evil deeds. It was noticed some evil people thrived. So, the threat of hell/after life  is added to the equation. The fear is all hell will break out without the God threat.  

Then again maybe not. I am not aware of any evidence that rising rates of non belief in Gods are correlated with increasing crime rates. And many crimes have been justified by religious beliefs.

{ETA 6/18/2015 I have just discovered there are studies showing there is a correlation between religiosity and 'crime' see my post Proof of God From Morality Part Two }

Friday, May 16, 2014

Proof of God from Secrets in Holy Texts

The claim is made that an alleged divinely inspired ancient holy text has a "fact" that an ancient human author could not have known, yet the “fact” has  now been shown to be true.

Does this imply that indeed God authored or inspired the book ? No

(Here is an example of such a "fact". There are similar examples from other religions. The Torah lists 4 animals that have only one of the two required kosher signs. How could the Torah have known that for the entire planet those are the only four.   If desired see       proof-of-god-from-kosher-animals for more details of the argument. Lets assume for the sake of argument that indeed those are the only four animals that have only one of the two required kosher signs.) 

We must rule out other possibilities such as - could it be a coincidence or chance the text got the "fact" correct. {ETA for example the text speculated or guessed. } ?  

We must consider the nature of the "fact". How remarkable is it that it gets that "fact" correct ? 

We must also consider if there is evidence that the book as a whole has much incorrect information or suggest human authorship.

We must consider the entire book and see if its really making a precise secret knowledge statement or if we are using current knowledge and retrospectively projecting it back into the book. 

We must consider if the book was even intending to make a secret knowledge statement.  

I would argue any known holy texts would not pass the tests.

And the level of evidence is higher than normally required, because an extraordinary claim is being made.

Finally, it is important to mention that some ancient Greeks for example came close to "modern" discoveries. This includes for example the concept of "atoms", rudimentary evolution and even Newtons first law of motion. Does this mean they had secret divine knowledge ? Of course not, they were using imagination, speculation and keen observation.

{ETA 9/29/2014 Are the holy text verses unambiguously making a clear statement. For example: 

Genesis 6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives, whomsoever they chose. 3 And the LORD said: 'My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for that he also is flesh; therefore shall his days be a hundred and twenty years.' 

Some argue that indeed the life span of man is 120 years - how did the Torah know this ?

The Torah verses are unclear and have been given different interpretations and only several of these are provided below. Is it providing a fact about life spans ?

Rashi -  Until a hundred and twenty years I will delay My wrath towards them, but if they do not repent, I will bring a flood upon them.  So Rashi provides an interpretation unrelated to the life span of people, but as a warning.

The next two sources do relate the verses to life spans.

 Page 7 The Interpreters One-Volume Commentary On The Bible sixth printing 1982 - explains as follows:
After divine beings marry beautiful human females, God says 120 years life span, as if to say the offspring will not be immortal like gods.

Page 21 Jewish Publication Society - The Jewish Sudy Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler - Interprets it a an explanation why humans do not live as long as their forebears.

Lets assume the Torah meant 120 years as maximum life span.

If the Torah has one verse wrong it implies it is not divine. Yet we know people can potentially live past 120 years and at least one has been documented at 122 years old. 

It is also plausible observation would show most people dying under 100. So the Torah authors threw in a few more years as an upper limit. 

It is also plausible 120 had mystical significance to Sumerians and perhaps other ancient near east cultures including the ancient Israelites. For example one Sumerian King reined 60 years, one  120 years and  another 360 (multiples of 60, but not all kings reigned with multiples of 60). This hypothesis needs to be researched. }

{ETA 1/15/2015 Here is another so called divine secret this time in the Talmud. Rabban Gamaliel said to them: I have it on the authority of the house of my father's father that the renewal of the moon takes place after not less than twenty-nine days and a
half and two-thirds of an hour and seventy-three halakin

The notes to the Talmud explain: Lit., ‘parts’ (sc. of one hour), 73/1080 X 60 m = 4 m 3 1/3 sec. 

If I did the math correctly I get the lunar cycle is 29.53031632

Some Rabbis then claim it was impossible for anybody in 
the days of the Talmud to know this without divine knowledge.


First notice Rabban Gamaliel makes no claim for divine 
knowledge. So why would some modern Rabbi's ?

Second - given the the number of days between two eclipses it easy to calculate the lunar cycle to the precision in the Talmud. Ancient people could have made the observations and did the calculations. 

Third the Ancient Babylonians already new this value or 
could have easily calculated it. 

"They [the ancient Babylonians] built up a numerical 
theory of the main irregularities in the Moon's motion,
reaching remarkably good estimates for the (different) 
periods of the three most prominent features of the Moon's 
motion:-The synodic month, i.e. the mean period for the 
phases of the Moon. The so-called System B reckons the 
synodic month as 29 days and (sexagesimally) 3,11;0,50 
time degrees (of 4 of our minutes): this converts to 
29.530594 days = 29d 12h 44m 3.33s, to compare with a
modern value (as at 1900 Jan 0) of 29.530589, or 29d 12h 
44m 2.9s " }

Related posts: Proof of God from Gematria/NumerologyProof of God from Circumcisionproof-of-god-via-jewish-survival- and bible predictorproof-of-god-from-kosher-animals