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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.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Proof of God from Miracles (part 2) or Kuzari Argument Part 15

Updated twice on 1/1/2018

Before reading this post, please at least skim   Proof of God from Miracles or Kuzari Argument Part 9  which can be considered part 1 of Proof of God From Miracles

Kuzari proponents argue  How could the ancient Israelites come to believe in miracle manna from G-d, if manna was not really a miracle food from G-d ? 

Lets read Psalms. (source Jewish Publication Society's 1917 edition of the Hebrew Bible in English.)

Psalms Chapter 78:20 Behold, He smote the rock, that waters gushed out, and streams overflowed; 
can He give bread also? or will He provide flesh for His people?'
21 Therefore the LORD heard, and was wroth; 
and a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also went up against Israel;
22 Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in His salvation.
23 And He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;
24 And He caused manna to rain upon them for food, and gave them of the corn of heaven.
25 Man did eat the bread of the mighty; He sent them provisions to the full.
26 He caused the east wind to set forth in heaven; and by His power He brought on the south wind.
27 He caused flesh also to rain upon them as the dust, and winged fowl as the sand of the seas;
28 And He let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their dwellings.
29 So they did eat, and were well filled; and He gave them that which they craved.
30 They were not estranged from their craving, their food was yet in their mouths,
31 When the anger of God went up against them, and slew of the lustieth among them, 
and smote down the young men of Israel.
32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not in His wondrous works.

Psalms Chapter 105:40 They asked, and He brought quails, and gave them in plenty the bread of heaven.

Psalms 78:24 {ETA 1/1/2018 in conjunction with verse 28 bread of the "mighty", which some translate as "angels" } and Psalms 105:40  suggests  manna was food for heavenly beings. otherwise the two verses make no sense.  (Side note: Do you really think there are heavenly beings and they are eating Manna ? )

{ETA 1/1/2018 The interpretation that the Torah/Tenach is referring to manna being food for heavenly beings or even supernatural food as some scholars have just suggested is open to doubt. Other scholars interpret the Torah/Tenach that manna is food from heaven in the sense there is food from the Earth. Are you surprised that ancient people could believe that the gods controlled the supply of food or provisions that derive from heaven or from Earth ?  Many Orthodox Jews till this day pray to Yahweh for rain, because they believe he can provide it or withhold it, just like many other peoples believe (or maybe believed would be more accurate) their supernatural beings can do so.}

It is widely believed by scholars that Manna was probably a natural substance of some sort. A common opinion being an exudation from certain plants with additional  help from insects.  It is known some ancient people  would ascribe certain foods or natural substances  to be the food of the gods or foods associated with supernatural.  For example, Honeydew (plant-insect secretions)-ambrosia- nectar by the Greeks. Why could not this be so for the ancient Israelites ? Why must we insist the manna was truly a supernatural substance ?  Maybe it was a natural substance that for political or theological purposes was eventually claimed to be divine or to have supernatural involvement for it's provision. 

Previous posts discussed the idea the Sinai story as a national foundation myth, myths which are known not to be fully reliable. Heavenly manna could be part of such a mythology.  

Here I will present a different argument.

Did the ancient Israelites consider manna miracle food  ?  {ETA 1/1/2018 Did the ancient Israelites truly believe all the miracles and wonders ? }Read verse Psalms 78:32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not in His wondrous works.

It seems the ancient Israelites did not believe miracles had occurred !  {ETA 1/1/2018 Apologetic response may include the text does not 'really' mean they did not believe in the miracles. Nonetheless, the text does describe a situation where the alleged miracles lacked enough convincing power. That people were not fully convinced of the miracles.}

{ETA 1/1/2018 Another apologetic response -  the Israelites "really" believed in the miracles, but were not convinced they were from Yahweh. That is a bit of a stretch if you read Psalms 78:32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not in His wondrous works.}

This informs us that we really do not know that the bulk of the  ancient Israelites always accepted that something truly miraculous occurred regarding manna. Psalms all but writes such was not the case. 

The Kuzari argument for manna miracles requires an unbroken chain of an Israelite/Jewish national tradition of believing in the manna miracles.  But we have evidence from our holy texts that such an unbroken chain of national tradition seems not to have existed. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pascal's Wager

Pascal Style Wagers go something like this. If you follow the religion you potentially get benefits (maybe on Earth and in Heaven) from a Deity, but if you do not follow the religion all sorts bad things (maybe on Earth and in Hell) could happen to you.  So it makes more sense to follow the religion because you don’t lose much when following it and have much to gain.  Some may add that the religion advocates good traits, so even if the religion is false you gain on Earth. Some people tweak the argument that even if there is only a small percent chance the religion is correct you should follow it. 

It is a sort of fall back position when the apologetic gives up trying to convince you based on logic, reason and evidence for their religion. To keep you ensnared or to ensnare you they may use the Pascal Style Wager.

1) A  problem for Judaism is the wager works better for the religion that claims the worst sort of punishment and the best benefits for following it. Probably some Christian denomination would qualify.

2)  There are competing, contradicting, mutually antagonist religions and religious denominations, and some claiming that if you follow that other ‘guys’ religion or denomination  you are doomed.  

Most if not all religions think they have at least some evidence that truth is on their side. Each can use the Pascal Style Wager, leading to logical conundrums.   

3) The argument assumes the Deity of the religion will behave a certain way. Meaning if you follow the religion even for disingenuous reasons the Deity will deal with you in a kindly manner.  

Sincerity is the sort of trait I assume "G-d" would desire.  If there is “G-d” I  assume it would be more or less repelled by following the religion for such reasons as advocated by Pascal Style Wagers. 

However, a religion may claim it's Deity does not care about sincerity and then I think my objection fails for that religion.

Do you want to worship a Deity who has no issues with the reasons to worship as advocated Pascal Style Wagers ?

4) Suppose there is a religion that advocated or advocates evil or unfair laws or negative traits ? Will you follow the religion because Pascal Style Wager ? 

I do not think the Torah or Judaism is exempt from this critique. If there was a "G-d" I assume it would not want you to follow a religion that advocated or advocates evil or unfair laws or negative traits.  If it did,  it is not a god I desire to worship, nor could I. That is something out of my control. 

5) There can be costs and  sometimes dangers associated with following some  religions. 

Consider Orthodox Judaism. It is an expensive religion. Yeshiva  tuition and Kosher food are expensive. Maybe you would love to eat shrimp but can not because the religion forbids it. There are numerous Holidays and the weekly Sabbath  that can  restrict income potential and uses of your time. And that is just a tiny example of the  huge costs associated with Orthodox Judaism. ( Some may object that Judaism is not burdensome and or that the earthly benefits of Judaism are so great as to outweigh the costs. That is not an intellectually honest response; this post is not the place to refute it).  Orthodox Judaism is expensive, can restrict potential enjoyments in life and proposes some negative traits. THESE ARE ACTUAL REAL TANGIBLE NEGATIVES AND COSTS as opposed to alleged rewards and punishments from an alleged Deity. 

6) When entering a wager,  you desire assurances the terms and outcomes of the wager can be fulfilled. 

For example. An individual offers you a wager. Toss a coin. If it lands heads he will pay you 613 million dollars. But if it lands tails you pay him only 13 dollars.  Seems like a good bet but only if the coin has at least some chance of landing heads. If it does not you should not accept the wager.  But we may also reject the bet even if the coin toss is fair. Maybe the guy will just run away after the bet so you will never get anything even if the coin lands heads.  In short, unless the terms of the bet can be reasonably expected to be fulfilled why bother with the bet ?  
There are good reasons not to take the Pascal Style Wager seriously. We do not have assurances the terms of the wager can be enforced or will be enforced. There are good reasons to believe the alleged benefits and punishments are bogus. It is very unlikely there is any existence of a ‘life’ after death. There are many religious people who have not enjoyed great rewards on this Earth and have suffered  greatly here on Earth.  There is no valid evidence for supernatural,  any religions or cults.  So the threats and rewards are more bluff and puff than substance.

For Orthodox Judaism there is also evidence it's claims are not likely true. This makes the application  of the Pascal Style Wager for it even more problematic.  For example, if you know the individual offering the toss coin bet is not truthful or not  reliable you become even more reluctant to accept his wager.

7) Why should we consider there is X% probability or X%  chance the religion  or cult is true or even the possibility it may be true ?  Does it make sense to consider  invented probabilities within a calculation ? 

There are and have been thousands of religions and denominations and cults.  Suppose we give each a tiny percent for each being true, then you may  end up with with the conclusion that there is a high probability at least one religion or cult is true.  This only happened because of invented probabilities.  

To what may this be compared ? Lets  assume there is a tiny percent chance elves exist or existed, a tiny percent chance flying fire breathing dragons exist or existed, a tiny percent chance the  phoenix exists or existed etc: etc: then you may end up with with the conclusion that there is a high probability that a fantastical creature exists or existed. You could make up other examples. 

One way out of this conundrum is to use probabilities that have support and not just assign made up probabilities that XYZ is true.


I would rather make decisions based on the best evidence and what seems most likely,  not wagers on things that there is at best tiny evidence for their existence. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Proof of God from Ontological Argument

I  do not think the Ontological argument can be considered a Jewish arguments for G-d  The Ontological Argument was devised by the Christian Anslem.

The argument proceeds along the lines :

1) G-d is a being who possesses all perfections

2) Existence is perfection

Therefore G-d exists.

Or the argument may proceed as follows.

I can conceive of great things. I conceive XYZ as the greatest thing. Does XYZ exist ? It must, otherwise it is not the greatest thing. I can conceive of “XYZ with the attribute of existence” and that would be greater.  Thus G-d being the greatest thing must exist. 

Sophistry, logical conundrums, word games and puzzles are not proofs of G-d.  Just because you can add the attribute of “real existence” to the definition of G-d, or think G-d necessities the attribute of real existence, or that perfection requires existence does mean that G-d exists in reality.

I am not sure that premise (1) is an accurate  portrayal of G-d.  For example, some may argue we can not give G-d attributes. He is unknowable. But some people may wish to define G-d as in premise (1).  

For premise (2)  I am not sure existence is a ‘perfection’. Something either exists in reality, can potentially exist in reality, does not exist in reality, or cannot be made to exist in reality.  Here is the gist: Is an abstract beautiful geometric structure that can only be 'seen' in your imagination less perfect or less great than if it could actually be manufactured ?  (Sort of assuming a structure in your imagination is not something that can be considered as existing in reality. For example,  I can conceive in my imagination an elf, and I think most would agree that is not an elf existing in reality.)

Consider this proof for Satan: I can conceive of an evil being. I conceive ABC as the most evil being.  Does ABC  exist ? It must, otherwise it is not the most evil thing. I can conceive of “ABC with the attribute of existence” and that would be even more evil.  Thus the Devil/Satan being the most evil thing must exist. 

Some may object that unlike the attribute 'evil' the attribute 'perfection' requires existence in reality. I have argued previously that I am not so sure 'perfection' requires existence in reality.  And even if your definition of perfection requires the attribute existence in reality, that does not mean the most perfect thing will actually exist in reality. In any event, perhaps 'evil' requires the attribute of existing in reality ! For if 'evil' does not exist in reality, then can you claim 'evil' exists at all ? 

Is your head starting to bleed yet ?

A major problem with the Ontological argument is the lack of connection to the empirical world.  It relies on arm chair philosophizing to deduce things about reality. The best way to  understand  reality is to examine empirical data (the scientific method) and not arm chair philosophizing.

Happy Holiday Season and New Year !