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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.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs - Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth

I have a great affinity for Professor Solomon Schimmel (Author of The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs - Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth) because similar to him I was born into an Orthodox Jewish milieu,  placed significance on the importance of truth and left Orthodoxy in my 20's. We both rejected Orthodox Jewish claims for some of the same reasons.  

As a 'young-en'  seeking the truth I spoke to Rabbis, sought 'proofs to our faith', 'proofs of G-d',  and read Orthodox Jewish responses to the challenges they cared to respond to. I still do !. The religious proofs and responses are a failure as has been demonstrated in my posts and will be explained more generally below.

My passion for Emes (truth) was probably instilled in me by my Orthodox Jewish upbringing. To this day I remember the lesson my Father taught to me as a very young child. Why do we so despise the Chazir (pig) ? Because the pig displays it's split hoofs and says see I am kosher. A lie, intellectual dishonesty - what a great lesson. 

My Ire is ignited by dishonesty of any type, including those deceptive arguments used by Kiruv (Jewish Outreach).

The following summary is adopted,  (portions may be copied accidentally as its based on my notes of the book read a while ago),  and inspired by part of a chapter of the book The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs.

Why do gods and religions persist ? What defense mechanisms do believers use to respond to logical or empirical challenges ? What
belief maintenance mechanisms do believers use ? 

Why Do People Maintain and Protect Their Religious Belief ?

Religion may satisfy many needs: Social , emotional, psychological, and intellectual. These reinforce its hold on those socialized from birth and may attract new converts. The latter some of the most ardent defenders of the faith.

To many it provides meaning and purpose to life, hope in the face of adversity, immortality, joyful occasions, a moral code, group identity, and can explain the mysteries of the world.

Family attachment and childhood memories are integrated into the religion, guilt of betraying parents, friends, teachers, Klal Yisrael, the six million, the millions of  our ancestors butchered by (you name the countries) ...

All that results in expending much energy to defending and even using arguments they would reject purely on intellectual grounds.

There are educational, economic and financial forces encouraging the preservation of the religion. 

No doubt religion fulfills a need for many people and many societies and a complete response requires several books. Of course, none of this implies supernatural beings exist.

Why Do Certain Religions or Belief in God(s) persist even when the religion or belief is confronted with valid logical and strong counter evidence ? 


Because religious beliefs that are flexible can be more readily retained. If  there beliefs that are rigid,  there arise a strong mechanism to deny the reliability of the evidence  and admissibility of the evidence.

Here are some examples of this flexibility or rigidity:

G-d is omnipotent. If so why does he allow horrible catastrophic events to happen, like Earthquakes ? 

Religious response may include: Perhaps G-d lets nature take its course and does not interfere. Yet, the claim is made G-d does, can and has interfered. Or perhaps, G-d works in mysterious ways and he has his reasons...

How can the Torah's Genesis  have incorrect cosmology and evolution sequence ?

Religious response may include the Torah is not to be taken literally - it does not mean what it says. It really means...Or perhaps the believers may say science  shmience - the Torah has it right. But if 'science' may conform something in the bible it becomes SCIENCE proves bible had it right over 3,000 years ago.

How can a merciful  G-d allow the Holocaust ? 

Religious response maybe: The Holocaust was punishment for the sins of the Jews, or the intention was to save them from assimilation (with friends like that who needs enemies).  Or G-d allows free will. Or they may say G-d works in mysterious ways.

Archeologist are unanimous there was no mass Exodus; No mass invasion of Canaan by the Israelites; No mass wandering in the desert for 40 years. Therefore, how can Orthodox Jews believe all that ? 

Religious response maybe: Archaeology is not 'real' science (unless some discovery confirms a Biblical verse, then it becomes ARCHEOLOGY proves the bible is accurate).  Or they may say expert opinions can change. 

What Defense Mechanisms do believers use to respond to logical or empirical challenges ?

1) Believers use arguments that cannot be refuted, can not be confirmed, are non falsifiable, not subject to disconfirmation so their arguments are useless. 

Example: The Universe  was not 'created' in six days; it is not 6,000 years old. The Universe is Billions of years old. 

Religious Response: God created a universe that has the appearance of billions of years old, but it only came into existence 6,000 years ago.  {ETA 12/3/2014 So god would have had to create one planet to be a certain age, another one much older another one much younger. Same for stars and everything else. There is virtually an infinite amount of ages to be kept track of. It seems very inefficient for God to do that. And why would he do it that way anyway ! It seems more reasonable things look older or younger because that is how they evolved or developed. The earth now billions of years old went thru many stages before it became earth as we know it. It did not come into being in one instant.}

Or Gerald Schroeder's use (misuse) of  science and the Torah to argue that from a certain vantage point the Universe is 6,000 years old from another its billions (as in his book the Science of God). After all, according to relativity  time is relative right ? {ETA 12/01/2014 The Torah just should have said the universe is billions of years old. Then it would not require the mental gymnastics of Schroeder 'creative insight' that part of Genesis is from one vantage point and the other part of Genesis is from a different vantage point.}

Or the Torah does not really mean what it says. Its an allegory. Or the "real" interpretation of the Torah is...and now you see it is consistent with science. 

(Note - I would argue the above religious responses can be refuted. But religious people do use non falsifiable arguments.) 

2) Selective Attention - Believers cherry pick facts or arguments that support their belief while ignoring facts and arguments that challenge it.

Example: With prayer, a 'miracle' occurs and a newly born severely diseased child recovers. This ignores the multitude of others that died. And why was an innocent child born so  ? The ways of the Lord are a mystery.  Or if the child dies he will go straight to heaven.

3) Selective Interpretation - Accept a less plausible interpretation of a certain fact or event because that interpretation confirms your belief.

Example: The numerous Torah anachronisms, contradictions, doublets etc: are  there to teach us deep lessons, are miracles of prophecy or for some other reason.  Actually, the Torah itself never teaches us these reasons. Rather, Rabbis and others  invent explanations. It is more plausible there were multiple authors compiling disparate oral traditions for political and or theological or other reasons.

4) Discredit Contradictory Information - 

What do academic bible scholars know ?  Are not they  anti-Semites anyway ? There is a conspiracy against us. They have not studied all Shas, all the Midrash,  or our holy commentators (meforshim)... they are ignorant. 

Well, many academic scholar have studied ancient near east languages, cultures, myths and rituals and it has illuminated so much of the real meaning and origins of the Torah. Many are Jewish or Israeli with no hint of antisemitism. Many have studied our Jewish holy texts. Peer review, competition , evidence based reasoning all prevent conspiracies.  You cannot dismiss the mountain of evidence they have compiled with ad hominem attacks. 

5) Selective Evaluation -  Seeing congruent events as more important than incongruent events.

One archeology find that may corroborate a Biblical passage is worth ten that contradict it. One event that can be interpreted by some to confirm a "Bible Prophecy" is fulfilled,  is worth more than ten that were not fulfilled. And why did a particular beneficial prophecy not occur ? Because the Jews sinned. Or if the 
prophecy was punishment and failed to occur, it  is was because the Jews repented and G-d did not punish the Jews.

What Belief Maintenance Mechanisms Do Believers Use ?

1) Selective Interaction - Believers associate with other believers which provides mutual reinforcement to challenges. 

They study with each other in Shuls and Yeshivas. Form institutions to defend the faith....

2) Social Forces - Many people benefit in some way from the maintenance of the belief system. This reinforces the belief system and people feel united. Many people rely on 'truth' from Authority figure. Religious rituals reinforce the beliefs.

Orthodox Jews tend to associate themselves in enclaves, almost like self imposed ghettos. They have kosher supplying stores, Jewish owned stores, attend Shuls (synagogues), and socialize with virtually only each other from birth on. Many shun secular studies, while other may study secular material up to a point.

One argument some Orthodox Jews use is - there is this 'Scientist' or Rabbi who believes. You think you are smarter ? You are arrogant. 

This is meant to stop you from thinking for yourself. Also, it does not address the reasons why Orthodoxy is most likely bogus. Why does that authority figure believe ? Is it because of early childhood socialization ? Is the authority figure being intellectually honest ? Does that figure really believe and what is it he believes ?  Has the figure examined  the arguments and evidence against the belief ? Is 
that authority qualified to examine the issues ? What is the consensus of qualified opinion as opposed to this alleged authority’s opinion ?

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