Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Atheism 2.0


A reader sent me the following video of a TED conference lecture about atheism. The presenter, Alain de Botton, is a descendant of Avraham de Boton (c. 1560-c. 1605), author of the Lechem Mishneh commentary on Rambam's Mishneh Torah. Unlike his illustrious ancestor, Alain de Botton is an atheist who considers belief in any supernatural entity to be mistaken. But he also has words of criticism for militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins who consider religion to be not only wrong in its theological claims, but also a ridiculous way of life. De Botton says that atheists should adopt many aspects of religion, such as its intense focus upon becoming a better person, its way of reinforcing its messages via education, repetition and ritual, and its organizational structure, amongst other aspects:


After watching his presentation, I was thinking that while his ideas for how atheists should change their approach are good, it's just not going to happen on any significant scale. Religious communities provide a framework to sustain and perpetuate the values and practices that De Botton admires, which are not going to be provided in a society of atheists. If these values and practices are really that important to him, he might as well just rejoin the Jewish community of his ancestors and keep quiet about his lack of beliefs!

(Hat-tip: David Meir)

83 comments:

  1. The main difference between religion and atheism is the locus of control. Religion states that the universe is controlled and ruled by an outside source, therefore we have to adjust to that source's rules.
    Atheism claims we are each our own rulers.
    Therefore, for religion the outside laws don't change and a firm moral framework of some kind is maintained. For atheists, it changes with every passing fad and fashion. They would have great difficulty creating a framework that others would HAVE to hold by in order to be "good" atheists.

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  2. At least as regards the communal aspect of religion, he's setting up a straw man to say that this is something that non-religious folk miss out on. Culture does in fact provide the object for people to commune around.

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  3. "The main difference between religion and atheism is the locus of control. Religion states that the universe is controlled and ruled by an outside source, therefore we have to adjust to that source's rules."

    The main difference between religion and atheism is the locus of responsibility. Atheism states that a person must use his heart and mind to the best of his ability to create a better world. Religion advocates abdicating moral responsibility for whatever church elders advocate as God's Will.

    "Atheism claims we are each our own rulers.
    Therefore, for religion the outside laws don't change and a firm moral framework of some kind is maintained."

    Religion claims that we follow rules thousands of years old supposedly given by a God. Therefore, for religion, the laws shouldn't change and belief in racism, genocide, slavery, chauvinism, and other morally abhorrent ideas are maintained, though some remain thankfully theoretical.

    "For atheists, it changes with every passing fad and fashion. They would have great difficulty creating a framework that others would HAVE to hold by in order to be "good" atheists."

    For atheists, it changes with our increasing knowledge and awareness. Forcibly marrying off minors and putting them to work is no longer tolerated. Genocide is condemned, if often not forcefully enough. Slavery is illegal. The religious would have great difficulty creating such a framework when these ideas are expressly encouraged by their religious texts.

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  4. Many atheists are already concerned with being good, and becoming better people. You mention the positive influences of religious community, cohesion and ritual, but none of the negative influences. I do not think religion necessarily makes one a better person, or is necessary for one to become a better person.

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  5. You say, "If these values and practices are really that important to him, he might as well just rejoin the Jewish community of his ancestors and keep quiet about his lack of beliefs!" When someone to whom thought matters has to keep his thoughts to himself, he has no community.

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  6. I meant to watch a debate he had with religious people on this topic when it came out, but I completely forgot about it. Thank you for reminding me, I'm going to watch it now. Here's the URL for anyone else interested:
    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0444FE501D20D082

    (de Bottoin also had a very short dialogue with the Chief Rabbi for a documentary of the latter. I don't think it really went anywhere, but if anyone's interested, it starts at 8:26: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXPA0BGSWLI )

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  7. Religion does many useful things. Perpetuating its ideas is something that it does particularly well. Is a religious structure necessary to have those things? Maybe. Popular ideologies tend to develop a religious structure. But maybe that structure could be had without the superstition.

    > If these values and practices are really that important to him, he might as well just rejoin the Jewish community of his ancestors and keep quiet about his lack of beliefs!

    That’s… disappointing, coming from you.

    Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

    > The main difference between religion and atheism is the locus of control. Religion states that the universe is controlled and ruled by an outside source, therefore we have to adjust to that source's rules.
    Atheism claims we are each our own rulers.

    Nonsense. Many religious people feel great control: they can speak directly to the Creator of the Universe and have Him tinker with all of creation on their behalf. Conversely, there are atheists who understand that they have no control, and live in a deterministic universe where free will is an illusion and the laws of the universe are immutable.

    > Therefore, for religion the outside laws don't change and a firm moral framework of some kind is maintained. For atheists, it changes with every passing fad and fashion.

    Again, nonsense.”Religious morality” constantly changes to reflect popular norms. It’s a tired point, but there are many things universally considered immoral today that are permitted and even encouraged by the Torah.

    > They would have great difficulty creating a framework that others would HAVE to hold by in order to be "good" atheists.

    This is the only point with any validity, and only because it is hard to justify compelling others to abide by your moral system in the absence of a conviction that you’ve had all the answers handed to you by God.

    Also, there is a difference between being [good and an atheist] and being a [good atheist]. The former suggests a good person who is also an atheist. There are plenty of the former. The latter suggests some sort of ideology that one must adhere to in order to be an atheist in good standing, and so, once again, is nonsense.

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  8. Perhaps there are others who, like me, find it easier to reflect on a written essay. It happens that Alain de Botton published one in Saturday's Wall Street Journal: Religion for Everyone.

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  9. I went to a chareidi yeshiva for high school. From there I went to a secular university. My freshman year was a real eye opener.

    There, I befriended a fellow who was an ardent atheist. Aside from being one of the smartest guys I knew, He was the most upstanding, moral individual I had met that year. Students would frequently discuss homework answers before class, he never did, his own work was what he always turned in. If you didn't care about religion, he was the kind of guy every father would approve of their daughter dating. He was the only guy I knew in the class who was engaged senior year and married that summer after graduation.

    Coming from a chareidi yeshiva, I was taught that just the opposite should have have been true. Without the fear/love of G-d, he should have been the guy always looking for a way to get ahead by any means, looking for as many "conquests" he could get and those coming from the parochial schools would have been my moral peers.

    Even today, with all the eye-opening experiences since, I'm inclined to believe he was an anomaly. Why> - perhaps because it justifies my own choices as an Orthodox Jew, or perhaps because that's just how ingrained what you're taught when your young can be. However, intellectually I know that it's not the case, and am reminded of it every time I hear about some Orthodox Jews caught in some fraudulent activity.

    I don't think that we can rationally say that religion makes people moral. But if not religion, what does?

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  10. "If these values and practices are really that important to him, he might as well just rejoin the Jewish community of his ancestors and keep quiet about his lack of beliefs!"

    Whoa! You might want to be careful about telling people to be quiet. Isn't that exactly what your detractors say about you? Keep quiet about your lack of belief in the literal word of G-d, infallible chazal, emunas chachomim, ruach hakodesh, and daas torah?

    I'm just saying that questioning, pointing out deficiencies, fallacies, poking holes in sacred, long held beliefs, is not limited to atheists and I thought we didn't look to silence people in rational camp.

    Or, do we all have our line in the sand? And anything beyond that line should not be spoken out-loud.

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  11. For people who want to live in the charedi community, I would certainly advocate keeping quiet about Maimonidean approaches. See my essays "In Defense of my Opponents" and "They Could Say It, We Cannot."

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  13. Alain is also planning on building a temple to Atheism:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/26/alain-de-botton-temple-atheism

    I thought it was a very impressive speech. A kiddush Hashem in some respects. I wonder how the Lechem Mishnah would have reacted to the speech.

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  14. RNS: I have read your essay "In Defense of My Opponents" and I think the other one too. I respect you for being able to say that for the insular chareidi world, it undermined their treasured beliefs, and they were not wrong for banning your work in their community.

    The message I'm taking from your response in this context is this: it is okay for each community to exclude ideas that they find dangerous. However, isn't this the starting point of all anti-rational approaches?

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  15. Using religion to achieve ends other than worshipping God is the equivalent of making an idol. Religion is NOT for the purpose of satisfying OUR needs. It's for the purpose of devoting our lives to serving HaShem.

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  16. "Atheism states that a person must use his heart and mind to the best of his ability to create a better world. "

    No it doesn't. Atehism is a lack of belief in a god. There is nothing in atheism that compels an atheist to create a better world. Some atheists choose to do that. Others don't.

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  17. "I respect you for being able to say that for the insular chareidi world, it undermined their treasured beliefs, and they were not wrong for banning your work in their community."

    To the contrary, that was a classic example of the Stockholme Syndrome at work.

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  18. Just because religion may maintain a a certain order in society or people's life does not make it true or justify joining it. All it does is give us a cognitive pathway to how people may have come on to religious beliefs.
    In terms of him (or other atheists) joining religion, many just cannot. Rishonim have discussed what it means to believe, and it is in no way simple. One cannot just flip a switch and believe!

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  19. Natan Slifkin said...
    For people who want to live in the charedi community, I would certainly advocate keeping quiet about Maimonidean approaches. See my essays "In Defense of my Opponents" and "They Could Say It, We Cannot."

    Aha! So you AGREE with R' Elyashiv's ban! I'm glad you've come around!

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  20. As an aside I should mention to "C Laundry" that you clearly completely misunderstood R' Slifkin's point. Read it again, you should spot your mistake.

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  21. I am as shocked as I am repulsed by your last line... to which I reply "thank you but no thank you." If the cost of belonging to a theist society is closing my mouth, I prefer a different community.

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  22. @Yossi

    Using religion to achieve ends other than worshipping God is the equivalent of making an idol.

    I can see how one might conclude as such. Three points I'd like you to consider however:

    1) I would speculate that many atheists reject the idea of God (or at least the God of the Bible) precisely BECAUSE they feel it is idolatry - i.e. worship of falsity, untruth. So as counter-intuitive as it might seem, such a person who observes Judaism without God does so in order NOT to be idolatrous.

    2) I'm sure a lengthy philosophical debate could be had on the subject, but certainly one could argue that the "purpose" of the mitzvot is not merely to serve God, to be obedient. Torah provides a set of "instructions" for living life, and those instructions carry a great deal of meaning and practical wisdom. In other words, if one believes there is inherent value to the mitzvot, and that observance will produce a better world (in accordance with tzedek, shalom, kedusha, chaim, etc.), a better, more healthy Jewish people (more able to survive and thrive), then one can hardly call this "idolatrous" even if it is accomplished without giving much thought to God.

    3) There ARE sources in the tradition which point to a certain degree of equivalence between the human being and God. Beyond Adam being made in the "tzelem Elokim", there is the idea that the Shechina IS Knesset Yisrael. WE, the Jewish people, when standing together, unified, ARE the "God-presence". We produce kedusha spontaneously. Also perhaps you've heard the idea found in various sources that Kudsha Brich Hu, Yisrael and Oreita (God-Israel-Torah) are ONE. Again, if Torah and the Jewish people ARE God on a conceptual level, then this is an argument that the whole Jewish enterprise is "lo bashamayim hi". We don't have to look to the heavens, to some sort of ineffable, mystical, unseen "reality". Even if it exists (which will never be proven or disproved), everything we need is right here on the ground, in human hands, and in the Torah - which is our cultural/spiritual/historical heritage. It is a heritage that will forever define and shape the Jewish people - one that we should continue to embrace as our very neshama, our heart and soul - with or without God.

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  23. This fact is beyond dispute: atheism is, from a Darwinian perspective, a maladaptive trait. Atheists simply do not have babies in large enough numbers to perpetuate society.

    I think this is one are in which G-d shows his amazing sense of humor. He has given us ideas such as Darwinism which people use to deny Him. But those who use it that way are, by the very standards of Darwin himself, the biggest losers in the struggle for life.

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  24. I am as shocked as I am repulsed by your last line... to which I reply "thank you but no thank you." If the cost of belonging to a theist society is closing my mouth, I prefer a different community.

    Thanks JB for articulating what I was thinking. Sometimes we get so caught up in sophistry that we forget the point is basic and it is here.

    Living in an open society and having dialogue (real dialogue, vehameivin yavin) are just too important factors in making a better world for all people; we ignore them in favor of wanting to remain in our comfort zones at our peril.

    Every man is perfectly within his right to waive his right to free expression...but I think we often don't appreciate the inherent value of being able to change our minds. For us who are not religious fundamentalists, we don't believe in strict halacha given by God. We are thus able to think that there are right answers to ethical and political questions outside of the Torah's ethos. It's because of this that I think it's right we krummies are called frei :)

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  25. "The presenter, Alain de Botton, is a descendant of Avraham de Boton (c. 1560-c. 1605), author of the Lechem Mishneh commentary on Rambam's Mishneh Torah."

    "For people who want to live in the charedi community, I would certainly advocate keeping quiet about Maimonidean approaches."

    Am I the only one who sees the irony of telling someone like this to keep his MAIMONADEAN approaches to himself?

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  26. "Religious communities provide a framework to sustain and perpetuate the values and practices that De Botton admires"

    Is there any empirical evidence for this?

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  27. For Mighty Mouse's information:
    The leaders of the fight to abolish slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries were very religious people like William Wilberforce in England and William Lloyd Garrison in the US. It was the atheists who liked the ideas of Social Darwinism that said people are not equal and are not entitled to equal rights that would not have a problem with slavery. It was atheists like Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot who attempted to reinstate slavery in the 20th century.

    There are plenty of good atheists. They like doing good things just like they may like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla. There are other atheists who have other preferences.

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  28. May the atheists become believers and the religious become seekers of good.

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  29. Cut flowers might look as nice as planted flowers, but they don't last as long. (Hat tip to Dennis Prager)

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  30. Thank you JB and Baruch Pelta for articulating the focal problem with ALL of R' Slifkin's premises! The modern liberal notion of attempting to embrace all viewpoints can ONLY end with marginalizing coherency until we are forced to accept ATHEISM as a valid and intrinsically worthy explanation of the Universe. And yet even R' Slifkin does not accord the atheists their proper respect and so they are unhappy. Do you not now sympathize that much more with the Charedei world?!

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  31. "If these values and practices are really that important to him, he might as well just rejoin the Jewish community of his ancestors and keep quiet about his lack of beliefs!"

    I have met Orthodox Jews who don't believe in "G-D", not many, but a few.

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  32. > Ari said...

    > This fact is beyond dispute: atheism is, from a Darwinian perspective, a maladaptive trait. Atheists simply do not have babies in large enough numbers to perpetuate society.

    First of all, unless the low number of babies is CAUSED by the parent’s atheism, it has nothing to do with natural selection. Secondly, what makes you think that atheists, as a rule, reproduce below the replacement rate?

    > He has given us ideas such as Darwinism which people use to deny Him.

    1. I find the notion that we must credit God for all of our achievements - along with the unstated corollary, that we must never blame Him for our misfortunes – offensive.

    2. Nobody uses evolution to deny God. That’s a Creationist strawman. On the other hand, Creationists seem convinced that if they can show evolution is incorrect, that somehow proves that God did it.

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  33. Note to commentator whose comment was rejected: If you want your comment to be posted, don't refer to other commentators by derogatory nicknames.

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  34. "Nobody uses evolution to deny God. That’s a Creationist strawman. On the other hand, Creationists seem convinced that if they can show evolution is incorrect, that somehow proves that God did it."

    Uh, Richard Dawkins (and many others) didn't get your memo.

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  35. @ ezra, G*3, ahg, JB, Baruch Pelta, Dovid L.

    Re: he might as well just rejoin the Jewish community of his ancestors and keep quiet about his lack of beliefs!

    AT FIRST, I too was taken aback when I read this, thinking it was criticism of people who are honest about their beliefs (or lack thereof), who have the "chutzpa" to speak them aloud, that they should really keep quiet if they know what's good for them, etc. Something to that effect.

    HOWEVER, knowing Rabbi Slifkin, I quickly realized that is most probably not what he meant at all. (RS is of course welcome to weigh in on the matter himself!) Rather, it is that if a person wishes to be a part of the religious community, a more effective practical strategy, one that will result in the greatest degree of happiness and fulfillment, might be to simply live as one of them and not publicly express their lack of belief. Again, not because they "shouldn't" or that it's "wrong" to do so, but because the reality is that if they were to do so, they'd likely be rejected by the community.

    It's a cost-benefit issue. We "pay" by not getting to express ourselves intellectually as honestly as we'd like, but we feel that the benefits to being a part of this community greatly outweigh the cost. (And this analysis could apply to atheists in the frum community as well as rationalists in the charedi community.)

    I would contend that MANY people in the frum community (either knowingly or unknowingly) utilize such a cost-benefit analysis. And it's certainly different from one person to the next. For one person, it may be quite easy to simply maintain a separate mental world and live on the intellectual "fringe". For another, it may be downright torture, such that the cost eventually outweighs the benefit. So R. Slilfkin may be right or wrong about Alain de Botton - for him, the cost of remaining silent might be a bargain - or it may be far too great to bear.

    Either way, I would like to say that the advent of internet forums which allow frum people to express themselves honestly (this blog being no exception) provide a great service for many by helping to absorb a great deal of the "cost". If people cannot express themselves publicly and remain a member of the frum community in good standing, at the very least it helps to have a place where one can let their intellectual hair down (albeit anonymously).

    Though from experience I can say that having a circle of friends who know you and whom you can really open up with is a great "benefit"! (And to that end, if you're out there and could use a non-anonymous friend, feel free to be in touch with me via R. Slifkin.)

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  36. David Meir, very well said. Thanks for articulating what I was thinking.

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  37. @Phil

    Re: cut flowers not lasting as long - it's a good quote. I used to be quite the Prager fan myself.

    There are two sides to this however. On the one hand, emuna can be grounding, can plant firm roots, so that a person's observance (and consequently their children's Jewishness) is not easily blown away with the winds of a given generation.

    On the other hand, in the post-Enlightenment world, emuna itself can make for rather fragile "roots" on which to base one's observance. At a time when science and other fields of scholarship have opened up whole worlds of knowledge and creative possibilities (and will only continue doing so), the notion of either ignoring or rejecting parts of that knowledge to comport with traditional Jewish metaphysics, on the basis of authority-argumentation, is for many people asking them to trade in venerable roots for flimsy ones.

    In this sense, one might argue the following as a firmly-rooted, sustainable Judaism: Where people are able to fully embrace ALL of the intellectual and creative power of science/contemporary fields of knowledge, and where one's Judaism becomes a tool for honing all that power towards positive, constructive ends (without having to adopt any metaphysics whatsoever), and provides us with cultural/historical self-identity and a path to self-knowledge and interpersonal enlightenment... THAT, it seems to me, is a basis for firm roots, ones which are capable of supporting and invigorating Jews/Judaism in the decades to come.

    Just a thought to consider.

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  38. Amazing. The first post with more kfira votes than emes votes. (Probs because the kofrim were offended by Slifkin telling the kofrim to keep their mouths shut if they want to live in the religious communities.)

    10024 said...
    "Religious communities provide a framework to sustain and perpetuate the values and practices that De Botton admires"
    Is there any empirical evidence for this?

    De Botton said it himself!

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  39. David Meir,

    I certainly understood what Rabbi Slifkin was saying, but I'll take your point about the Internet. The Internet is helpful. Still, an atheist in the frum community gives power and authority to folks he doesn't agree with. He is forced to shut his mouth at the Shabbos table, at the minyan, and at the yeshiva. He is forced to let his kids imbibe ideals he doesn't believe in.

    For many of us, that's a problem. It's true that the Internet can mitigate it, but it doesn't solve it.

    You're right that at the end of the day, there is a cost-benefit analysis. I'm just making the case that for many of us (not necessarily all of us), the cost is too great.

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  40. G*3


    There is little dispute amongst demographers that atheism has an extremely high correlation with low birth rates and that Judeo-Christian religious belief has a high correlation with higher birth rates. It's as close to a proven fact as anything in demographics.

    Secondly, what makes you think that atheists, as a rule, reproduce below the replacement rate?

    Simple: demographic evidence.

    > He has given us ideas such as Darwinism which people use to deny Him.

    G*3, you realize that if it were not for Judeo-Christian ideas, science would not have happened, right? Don't believe me? Patient argument is needed to make that point. If you please, you can look at Rodney Stark's book "For the Glory of G-d." If you're of a more statistically oriented mind, you can look at Charles Murray's masterful "Human Accomplishment." The case for these ideas being the necessary for the invention of real science is well nigh indisputable.

    1. I find the notion that we must credit God for all of our achievements - along with the unstated corollary, that we must never blame Him for our misfortunes – offensive.

    Fine, but credit where credit is due. It was the idea of G-d that led to Darwin. The chain of causation in ideas is clear.

    2. Nobody uses evolution to deny God. That’s a Creationist strawman. On the other hand, Creationists seem convinced that if they can show evolution is incorrect, that somehow proves that God did it.

    Ricky Dawkins does.

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  41. Oh, and G*3, you might want to look at David P. Goldman's book "It's Not the End of the World. It's Just the End of You." or his other book "How Civilizations Die" for details on how atheism is so firmly correlated with low birthrates that causation is pretty darn likely.

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  42. I would suggest you look at what atheists are saying about Botton's insufferably bombastic self-promotion. PZ Myers' thoughts and those of his readers are instructive. The most common are variations on "Atheism is the rejection of religion. It doesn't need to copy what it leaves behind" and "We already have the equivalent of atheist temples. They're called libraries, museums and laboratories."

    It is as if Ancient Israelites decided to fit in and update their image with a kinder-and-gentler Judaism 2.0 complete with a postmodern monotheistic pantheon, animatronic sacrifices to Moloch and purely symbolic go along to get along idols.

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  43. "G*3, you realize that if it were not for Judeo-Christian ideas, science would not have happened, right?"

    You ought to publish my prior post. Statements like this really do border on pathology.

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  44. I don't see why you say that, considering that several books discussing the history of science say precisely that. Even if you disagree, to say that it "borders on pathology" sounds, well, bordering on...

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  45. Mighty Mouse:

    Please do a Google search for the Lennox Dawkins debates. In it, Ricky Dawkins said this very thing:

    "It has to be admitted that science grew out of a religious tradition."

    Now, Ricky was forced to admit this because he very well knew that if he did not, he would have lost debating points due to his ignorance. You can watch the video yourself.

    So, don't take it from me. Take it from the pope of atheism himself.

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  46. One can debate the extent to which a Christian worldview contributed to modern science but to claim that science would never have happened without Christianity exceeds the threshold for a simply ridiculous statement. It is an expression of the "Everything good came from my religion" pathological worldview.

    Thales was already seeking naturalistic explanations for things in the seventh century B.C. Did the Jewish God have something to do with that? Did He have something to do with the mechanistic explanations (or atomic hypotheses) of Democritus? When Eratosthenes used experimentation, geometry, and knowledge of the earth's sphericity to ingeniously calculate the earth's circumference in the third century before Christ was that because he was "Judeo-Christian?" Do you think the Platonic ideas which helped mathematics develop (according to the science-developed-from-relgion historians) have more in similarity with the bible or Plato?

    Maybe religion had something to do with scientific progress, maybe it hindered it. Maybe if religion had something to do with it it was simply that archaic traditional Christians preserved the Latin needed to revive the ancient scientific and philosophical writings which they themselves quashed to begin with. One can make any of these claims reasonably. One cannot with even a smidgen of reason claim that science would never have existed but for "Judeo-Christian ideas." It's worse than claiming that if God had not taken us out of Egypt we would still be slaves there, and even that no one at the seder table takes seriously.

    In a thousand years from now, some half-reasonable charedi apologist might write about how the Nobel prize winning Natan Slifkin became such a great scientist because of his charedi upbringing, others will argue that it was despite his charedi upbriging which only delayed his scientific progress several decades. One pathologic charedi will claim that not only was Slifkin influenced by Charedism but he could never have become a scientist without it.

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  47. OK, so he overstated it. But not by much.

    "In the age of science we regard it as perfectly natural to seek mechanistic explanations of things… A given cause, usually in the form of a force, produces a later effect. But early cultures did not generally regard the world in this way. Some perceived nature as a battleground of conflicting forces… Other cultures, especially in the East, believed that the physical world was a holistic tapestry of interdependent influences… For the modern scientist, it is sufficient only that nature simply have the observed regularities we still call laws. The question of their origin does not usually arise. Yet it is interesting to ponder whether science would have flourished in medieval and Renaissance Europe were it not for Western theology."
    Paul Davies, The Mind of God, pp. 74-77

    "Most scientists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries… may have been unconscious of the fact that the metaphysical foundations of their discipline stemmed, in spite of all secularization, in great part from the biblical concept of God and creation."
    Reijer Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science, p. 26

    Etc., etc.

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  48. Mighty Mouse, you really, really, really need to read "Human Accomplishment" by Charles Murray. Until you do so and acquire enough facts to discuss this issue with them in hand, there is no point continuing.

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  49. I like de Botton's balanced approach. Absent is the sheer arrogance that animates some fundamentalist atheists. While I think someone like David Coyne is an extremely bright and well spoken individual, his militancy detracts so much from what he has to say. And as a leading evolutionary biologist he has a lot to offer.

    On the other side of the coin, it seems that the further right you go in our religion (probably any religion) the more arrogance you also see. So many of these people irrationally turn belief into fact. While we may have a mesora and strong indication that there's a God, we certainly have no proof. Most, if not all, of the so-called proofs are based on lack of information, ie if we can't figure out how x happened then it must be God who did it. The problem is that, as time marches on we find more answers. (Hence the reason some of our most extreme co-religionists are so fearful of science.)

    The bottom line is that you can't prove to an atheist that there is a God and no amount atheistic logic is going sway a true believer. Hence it's so refreshing to hear de Botton extol the virtues of religion.

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  50. Mighty Mouse,
    I'll make your education a little easier. If you look at Murray's chapter on "Meta-inventions" he discusses the invention of the scientific method from pages 235-243. The crucial distinctions between real science and what the ancient Greeks were doing is fully laid out on page 241.

    He credits the Chinese with achieving a near-miss in inventing science. Indeed they did miss. But only just a little. Their ideas of nature just didn't have what it takes to qualify as science in the true sense. That is one reason why the Westerners who met them in the early 1800s were so shocked at how backward they were.

    The activities of Thales upon whom you heap so much praise are discussed on pages 264-265. He calls that the "secular observation of nature." You can achieve a lot without the scientific method. But only so much. It was with this method and this method alone that you can have science. It was invented in one place. It was invented over a period of centuries from 1200 - 1600 (depending on your criteria for what constitutes science). And it was invented for one purpose: to allow mankind to understand G-d's handiwork. Those who invented science learned about G-d from us.

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  51. Oh, and Mighty Mouse,

    Charles Murray is a self-declared agnostic and he believes that the most accomplished person in history is Aristotle. So he's got no dog in this fight.

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  52. Ari: >There is little dispute amongst demographers that atheism has an extremely high correlation with low birth rates and that Judeo-Christian religious belief has a high correlation with higher birth rates. It's as close to a proven fact as anything in demographics.

    CITATION NEEDED

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  53. Yirmiahu said...

    >> "Nobody uses evolution to deny God. That’s a Creationist strawman. On the other hand, Creationists seem convinced that if they can show evolution is incorrect, that somehow proves that God did it."

    > Uh, Richard Dawkins (and many others) didn't get your memo.

    While I haven’t read Dawkin’s books, I’ve seen some of his lectures, and I’d be surprised if he actually made the argument, “Darwinian evolution is the correct explanation for biodiversity, therefore God doesn’t exist.” It’s a ridiculous non-sequitur.

    What the theory of evolution does is make God unnecessary for explaining biodiversity. It ruins the Watchmaker Argument. Much like the germ theory of disease made the demons that were previously thought to cause disease superfluous, but didn’t disprove their existence. And indeed, there are people today who still think that demons cause diseases – like the story a while ago about the South American man who went to Israel to have his dybuk exorcised.

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  54. Menachem Lipkin said..."I like de Botton's balanced approach. Absent is the sheer arrogance that animates some fundamentalist atheists."
    If you'd like more of this type, perhaps you'd like Bradley Monton.

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  55. Isaac Newton was certainly inspired by the Bible and traditional religion. There was an article in Ha'aretz about how the Hebrew University got ahold of his massive theological writings. As I understand it, he was not a trinitarian and people with beliefs like his had an extra-strong interest in the TANACH. He wrote a book about the Beit HaMikdash. He viewed his scientific work as being important to understand how G-d worked in this world.

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  56. R. Slifkin, thanks very much for posting this thought-provoking piece. One thing very much stuck out for me, and it was in the Q and A after the lecture. De Botton stated, correctly, that we seem to have lost the ability to disagree politely, to ignore our points of disagreement and look for where we agree. Sadly, I see this all the time, in the Jewish as well as in the secular world.

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  57. Tzahi-
    It seems we are entering a new era. While secularism has been triumphant in the secular (which includes the political) world for over 200 years, the massive change in values since World War II is making people more and more feeling that existential values are being threatened...and BOTH sides feel this way. Why? Because up until a few decades ago, even secularists held that there were conservative social values that religious people also held thate were important. Examples were opposition to homosexuality, opposition to foul language and pornography in the media and the like. These values have now collapsed in the secular world and "anything goes". This change in values even affects religiuos people. For example, an Orthodox fellow who graduated yeshiva high school in the US and is now attending YU told me that to oppose homosexual marriage makes on a Fascist. Thus, those who opposed these things see a direct threat to their value system. Thus, the militant religious are becoming even more active. In the US, for generations it was accepted that the President of the US should belong to a church and even attend it fairly regularly (Lincoln was the only one who didn't but he became quite religously concious while he was President), but the President and other public figures kept their own private theology to themselves. We now see, particularly among the Republicans that many candidates wear they theology on their sleeve and talk about it in public. This is a direct reaction to the militant, 'in our face' secularism we see. We see the homosexual rights people insist on having parades in Jerusalem, making a deliberate provocation, in order to strike back at the religious.
    Much of the hate directed at Israeli from the Jewish and non-Jewish Left is based on the view that Israel is a retrogressive country based on the Bible....come to life again even though they thought this type of supposedly theocratic state disappeared 2 centuries ago! This makes them feel very threatened, even if you tell that modern Political Zionism was created and built by militant secularists....they see Israel is a "religious" state that must be eradicated.
    Thus, we can expect the culture wars to continue for a long time. We see an increasing revulsion against Western secular culture, not just among Jews, but in Egypt, Turkey and other Middle East countries and in the US. It may come to Europe as well, and the current economic crisis may ignite it.

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  58. OTD,
    Here are two articles to get you started both by atheists: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2010/12/22/gods-little-rabbits-religious-people-out-reproduce-secular-ones-by-a-landslide/

    http://takimag.com/article/religious_extremists_will_inherit_the_earth#axzz1nCuxTLfJ

    Further, you can read David P. Goldman's books or "The Empty Cradle" by Phillip Longman.

    You can also watch this video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3757815781049368457

    You can also go to the CIA World Fact Book and look up the demographic information in the sources.

    You can even do an informal survey yourself by looking at your facebook friends and how many kids the religious have versus how many the irreligious have.

    This information is not that hard to find. It's not really up for dispute. It borders on the obvious.

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  59. "OK, so he overstated it. But not by much."

    No; by much. He wrote, "you realize that if it were not for Judeo-Christian ideas, science would not have happened, right? ... The case for these ideas being the necessary for the invention of real science is well nigh indisputable." Again, the hypothesis that religion sped up the arrival of modern science is itself far from indisputable, but the idea that science would not have happened without Judeo-Christian religion is silly. Declaring one silly idea indisputable is not a travesty, I simply find it interesting because I had already mentioned this religious tendency (which you are still requested to post, sans any unappreciated humor) before he made his profound declaration. One could call my hidden post and his subsequent post a mini-experiment, if you will.

    "In the age of science we regard it as perfectly natural to seek mechanistic explanations of things… Yet it is interesting to ponder whether science would have flourished in medieval and Renaissance Europe were it not for Western theology." Paul Davies, The Mind of God, pp. 74-77

    As I have already pointed out, people had already begun seeking mechanistic explanations thousands of years before medieval and Renaissance Europe. Copernicus knew that Aristarchus had already proposed the heliocentric astronomical model 1800 years before he did. Do you honestly find it inconceivable that science could have progressed more quickly during those 1800 years than it did under Christian domination? Is it impossible (not simply wrong, but impossible) that if people's time and money were not dedicated to the church that more attention could have been paid to the natural world? That if unorthodox doctrine weren't suppressed that other discoveries could have been made sooner? Davies notes that, "It is interesting to ponder whether science would have flourished in medieval and Renaissance Europe were it not for Western theology." Indeed, it is interesting to ponder. I highly doubt whether he would ponder whether science would have flourished without the rediscovery of ancient Greek texts, because the answer would be a clear, "No." Either way, Davies' pondering does not make something indisputable (even for Davies), and it certainly doesn't imply that modern science would never have happened without the Judeo-Christian religion.

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  60. FYI: Blogger does not give any way to edit comments. If a comment has something unacceptable in it, then the entire comment will not be posted.

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  61. "CITATION NEEDED"

    OTD,

    I'm not sure why you would be skeptical that atheists have lower birthrates than the religious (other than a well-deserved skepticism for any religious argument). It makes perfect sense and is, I believe, even true. What is much less clear is the implication. Does this make religion more true? Obviously not. More moral? Obviously not. More successful? In a sense, but then perhaps someone making this argument should adopt Donald Trump as a spiritual guide.

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  62. Mighty Mouse,
    Much of the history you are describing, specifically, your general appraisal of the middle ages is an example of substituting myth for history.

    The middle ages were not, as you might suspect from reading the mythology, a great age of faith. People were about as religious then as they are now. Maybe slightly less so. There are a number of quantitative ways to measure this claim, including the fact that most parish churches didn't have enough room for even a fraction of the surrounding populations. Historians have also evaluated the data from purchases of wine and other supplies necessary to have mass. If everybody was going to mass, they would have required quite a bit more than were actually purchased.

    Furthermore, if you take a list of the great scientific stars of the age in which science was born, you will find that nearly all of them were at least conventionally religious. Many were extremely devout and quite a number were clerics. Again, not a disputable fact.

    Now, would civilization have stumbled onto science were it not for Christianity?

    Well, look at it this way: the Babylonians were solving quadratic equations phrased as word problems around the 2000 B.C.E.

    Diophantus came around and started doing letter substitutions for the variables in solving equations. It never caught on. The mohommadans in the 1,200s C.E. were back to solving quadratic equations phrased as word problems.

    Thousands of years, and no progress. And that discover, the use of letters to represent variables JUST SEEMS SO OBVIOUS. And for thousands of years, nobody did it. And when it was done, it never caught on.

    So, sure you can construct a mental model as to how science could possibly have come about without Judaism and then Christianity. You can talk about how certain Greeks "discovered" (speculated about, really) certain physical truths which they had amongst their mountains of error. But realize this: it wouldn't have happened the way you think. Best illustration: it DIDN'T happen the way you think. And your way of thinking about it just isn't plausible.

    For a quantitative destruction of your point of view, consult Charles Murray's book Human Accomplishment.

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  63. Now, Mr. Mouse,
    You wrote:
    "What is much less clear is the implication. Does this make religion more true? Obviously not. More moral? Obviously not. More successful? In a sense..."

    Now, if you have a society like, say Russia that is going to disappear, like literally thousands of other societies before it due to low birthrates, you can say, without any fear of contradiction, that it's a massive failure in its will to live. It failed in the struggle for life.

    Jews and Christians who bother to reproduce will not have similar failures. (They may have other failures, but not in the very basic struggle for life).

    But that wasn't my point. The point is this: if you fail to reproduce, St. Charles of the Galapagos is going to call you a big loser or something. If you're irreligious, you have in Darwin's terms a massively maladaptive trait.

    If you don't find that irony delicious, then you just have no soul.

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  64. 10024 said: Is there any empirical evidence for this?

    E said...
    De Botton said it himself!

    ___________________

    Some religions result in harmonious, open and developed individuals, while others produce conflicted, constricted and immature people. A claim that a particular religion or religious strand is, from an atheist's perspective, beneficial requires empirical evidence. That De Botton didn't offer.

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  65. It will be interesting to see -- after de Botton's book is published -- whether he addresses:

    (1) the actual history of failure of such enthusiasms, and
    (2) the terribly non-abstract dangers lurking around this turf .

    Re. (1), the history of failure: Are there any Brazilians or historians here who can comment on the not-at-all-new Positivist Temple in Porto Alegre? (Perhaps related: the Positivist Church of Brazil.)

    From Wikipedia's article on Positivism:

    "... [Comte] was ... influential: Brazilian thinkers turned to Comte's ideas about training a scientific elite in order to flourish in the industrialization process. Brazil's national motto, Ordem e Progresso ("Order and Progress") was taken from Comte's positivism, which was also influential in Poland. ...

    "In later life, Comte developed a 'religion of humanity' for positivist societies in order to fulfil the cohesive function once held by traditional worship."

    Re. (2), the dangers: The general dilemma that moves de Botton seems related to Ferdinand Tönnies' classical sociological reflections on Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft. Tönnies lived to see the Nazis build their vast popularity on innovating their Volksgemeinschaft, with its Hitlerjugend, SS mysticism, etc.


    (Comment submitted on Homer 6, 224, according to the Positivist Calendar.)

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  66. De Botton, it turns out, has thought about Comte and his 'Religion of Humanity':

    Not the messiah, New Statesman, 19 July 2010

    "Comte's thinking was an attempt to be unjust to the dogmatic aspects of religion in order to extract ideas that could sound plausible and even consoling to sceptical, secular minds facing the irritations of communal life or the terrors of finite existence. It attempted to rescue some of what is beautiful, touching, reasonable and wise from what no longer seems true. For these reasons, it is extremely timely."

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  67. Ari,
    You previously said, “You really, really, really need to read "Human Accomplishment" by Charles Murray. Until you do so and acquire enough facts to discuss this issue with them in hand, there is no point continuing,” and, “For a quantitative destruction of your point of view, consult Charles Murray's book Human Accomplishment.” You’ve obviously found an author who supports your worldview and believe any other view ignorant, and I agree there’s little reason to continue such a fruitless discussion.

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  68. Mighty Mouse,
    He supports my worldview, so evidently he's wrong, right? He's so obviously wrong because of this that he's not even worthy of consideration.

    Now, if you were a real rationalist, you would have said something like "Murray's methods for cataloging and evaluating human accomplishment are wrong because of the following methodological errors" and then set forth your reasons, I would have to evaluate your claims. If you would say that he made significant factual errors, I would have to evaluate it.

    But you seem to be more attached to ideology than to truth. I'm not impressed.

    Also lurking in the background of your comment is the implication that I found nothing challenging to my previously held beliefs in Murray's work. You are quite wrong in that.

    Murray does a fantastic job in anticipating how critics will challenge his results. I doubt you will find a way to make a dent in his work if you had the guts to read it.

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  69. Ari: Your argument is not against atheism. It is for fanaticism. The two articles you linked (the second one did not work) merely establish that Amish and Jehovah's Witnesses reproduce like crazy. Wow! The only interesting tidbit I found was that with higher rates of religious attendance, birthrates rose. That's it. The moron of an author even had the chutzpah to quote the "Muslim" birth rate and the "Jewish" birth rate - as if the difference between an atheist and most people who identify as Jewish is really that pronounced. I'm sick of this triumphalist nonsense and ridiculous "science" that is incredibly insensitive to sociological data, and twists numbers and facts every which way to support an agenda. You realize that most people commenting here who consider themselves atheists would likely be considered "Jewish" in data like these because Judaism is also a culture and a freaking ethnicity. Next, I'm sure you'll say theists give more charity too. It won't be long til we hear that Hitler was an atheist and that atheists killed FAAAAAR MORE people than theists ever had. Oh wait, Y. Ben David already made this exact point. I'm beyond sick and tired of all this Garnelish bulls**t.

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  70. OTD,
    I quoted those two articles for one reason: they were both written by atheists. If you care to call it Jewish triumphalism, I can hardly find the words to respond.

    Here's another article, perhaps more to your taste, than the previous two by Phillip Longman. His religious belief is self-described as "unchurched." so there's a lot of leeway between atheist, agnostic, or just doesn't bother to go to church. He's also more genteel than the odious Bering. He's also a demographer. Anyway, on with the article: http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2006/the_return_of_patriarchy

    I could easily have sent you an article by David Goldman "Spengler" but he's an orthodox Jew, and I would be accused of triumphalism.

    Incidentally, high birthrates are not an unmixed blessing. One can argue that in certain Jewish communities, birthrates are too HIGH and cite the various drawbacks. But I would think that for societal health long term, a too high birthrates is better than too low. In the first case, at least there will be a long term.

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  71. "You realize that most people commenting here who consider themselves atheists would likely be considered "Jewish" in data like these because Judaism is also a culture and a freaking ethnicity."

    Charles Darwin laughs at you.

    Check out Anthony Gordan and Richard Horowitz's National Jewish Population Survey of 2000 (I would bet the data has gotten worse since then). Total Fertility Rates for Reform, Conservative or Secular Jews are pathetic. (1.36, 1.74 and 1.29 births per woman respectively). These are extinction-producing numbers plain and simple.

    Your calling me a fanatic for showing you this information rings of a person who made an impulsive or foolish decision to go OTD and now does not want to see reasons why that decision might not have been as great as you thought it would be. Remember this fact about bacon: the first time you eat it as a formerly frum Jew, its' exciting. After a while, it's just meat.

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  72. OTD,
    I will have to agree with you on your point about who killed more atheists versus theists.

    Gavriel is right about that statistic since the triumph of Christianity. The Christians were a lot less bellicose and warlike than the pagan Romans, for instance. The Vikings calmed down quite a lot after adopting Christianity. The real story is not quite what the anti-religious polemics say it is.

    But what about before Christianity? Most of human history happened before.

    Well, it turns out that the ancient pagans were quite a lot deadlier (in terms of percentages of population killed) than anybody. If World War II had the same casualty rate as a function of total world population as primeval warfare, the casualty figures would have totaled about two billion.

    If you read Nicholas Wade's book Before the Dawn, you will learn that primeval paganism was the deadliest of all. Nicholas Wade is not a frum Jew, I can tell you that. (Why is it that I keep citing as my sources agnostics and atheists)? Oh yeah, because I know my facts and I'm right!

    Hey, wasn't Rabbi Slifkin the one who argued that our Beloved Torah is a polemic against paganism? Why, I believe he did. Now I can see why that's the case.

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  73. OTD,
    Read the concluding reflections of this on page 26: http://www.jewishfederations.org/local_includes/downloads/3905.pdf

    I'll sum it up in one sentence: being a secular Jew is one of the most evolutionarily maladaptive traits imaginable.

    This whole thing makes for extremely depressing reading. And remember, it's eleven years old. I would suspect that things have gotten much worse since.

    And this was written by secular Jews.

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  74. >>>>> ….. the one who argued that our Beloved Torah is a polemic against paganism?

    As an aside, the Torah is woefully ignorant about paganism.

    The Torah repeatedly warns against (a) idolatry (i.e. worship of icons/idols); (b) worshipping Gods other than the One who created heaven and earth and saved the Israelites from slavery; or (c) representing God by icons.

    All in all it has very little to say about paganism (i.e. the religion or beliefs of the idol worshippers).

    A bit odd wouldn't you say.

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  75. Ari: First of all, your pasting skills are awful. Every single link besides for the one I commented on and the google video does not work. Please check your links before hitting "post comment." Thank you.

    Here's the issue. There is a problem with world population rates being low (according to the google video anyway). This is a problem throughout most of the developed world, and I see little correlation between that and atheism. You have said yourself, "Total Fertility Rates for Reform, Conservative or Secular Jews are pathetic. (1.36, 1.74 and 1.29 births per woman respectively). These are extinction-producing numbers plain and simple." The difference between secular and Reform Jews is 5%. Is that substantive in any way?

    For you to say "There is little dispute amongst demographers that atheism has an extremely high correlation with low birth rates and that Judeo-Christian religious belief has a high correlation with higher birth rates. It's as close to a proven fact as anything in demographics." and "This fact is beyond dispute: atheism is, from a Darwinian perspective, a maladaptive trait. Atheists simply do not have babies in large enough numbers to perpetuate society." is disingenuous, dishonest, and misleading. If you have problems with modern society, by all means, enjoy your cave. Just don't hate on certain groups of people who are not responsible for the problem.

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  76. OTD,
    It might have been more accurate if I had said "irreligiosity" is the maladaptive trait, at least in a modern society in which having children is a net economic cost. This is in contradistinction to a traditional society in which having children provides labor within five years and thereby provides a net economic benefit (or some similar benefit).

    I do note that if I extend my scope of maladaptive traits to irrelegiosity rather than just atheism, my case for orthodox Judaism (or Christianity) gets all the stronger. I'm not sure you really want to argue that, now, do you? Our beloved Tanach does say that it is a tree of life for those who take hold of it. If you want its life-giving properties, you have to take hold of it, not just have it as part of a passive identity. Need I quote you the fertility statistics for orthodox Jews? You know they're comfortably above replacement level, now don't you?

    So, children are a net economic cost. People need to have a REASON to have kids. That reason can be provided by one's religious belief. At least three of my kids were born because of my religious beliefs and my commitment to passing the torch to a new generation. Having children is not only expensive but they do tend to wear on your nerves. You have less freedom. You have less time. You need a REASON to do it rather than spend the money and time on a beach on some island somewhere.

    In noting this serious problem (low birthrates) I'm not "hating" on anybody. Is your doctor hating on you when he says you have scurvy and you really ought to eat an orange or two? No. He's trying to help you. Same here.

    Sorry about my pasting skills.

    I'll relax on my beach in Gan Eden.

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  77. OTD,
    By the way, it's worthwhile to watch the last five minutes of "Demographic Winter." After the credits:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3757815781049368457

    Phillip Longmann shows that he's not making a faith based argument, but notes that the facts might bring him to faith.

    As these sad facts should for all of our Jewish brothers and sisters.

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  78. Ari: Your arguments are getting past the point of ridiculosity.

    >It might have been more accurate if I had said "irreligiosity" is the maladaptive trait

    "Irreligiosity" is not the maladaptive trait. You have not brought studies that show non-religious people have lower birth rates. Where are the studies breaking down the birth rate by faith? What is the birthrate for Episcopalians, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, various types of Jews, etc.? You have not produced those numbers. You have certainly not produced any numbers to demonstrate that atheists around the world (or even in the religion-showboating-obsessed U.S.) have lower birth rates than the general population or comparably enlightened, modern citizens. Again, the birth rate for secular Jews is only 5% lower than Reform Jews in the link you gave, and that would suggest atheist birth rates are close to Reform and possibly also progressive Christian denominations. So if by "irreligiosity" you mean "progressive religions and atheists" you might be correct. If you mean atheists, I still see no evidence for this claim. Please cut down on the assertions, red herrings, outright lies and instead focus on supporting your claims.

    >Our beloved Tanach does say that it is a tree of life for those who take hold of it. If you want its life-giving properties, you have to take hold of it, not just have it as part of a passive identity.

    Really, if I wanted a Tanach lecture I would give it myself. I don't doubt I have far more yeshiva experience than you.

    >At least three of my kids were born because of my religious beliefs and my commitment to passing the torch to a new generation.

    I don't have children, but I like to think if I did it would be for reasons beyond religion. I can't imagine a parent who's doing it only for religious reasons is any sort of qualified parent.

    >In noting this serious problem (low birthrates) I'm not "hating" on anybody. Is your doctor hating on you when he says you have scurvy and you really ought to eat an orange or two? No. He's trying to help you. Same here.

    I hate doctor examples, especially when they're really not relevant. You still have not addressed my point that your attributing low birth rates to atheism is grossly simplistic and unfair. You have not presented evidence to suggest there is a significant drop in birth rates between religious and irreligious, especially when controlling for the fundamentalist sects that reproduce at a ridiculous rate. Please address this fundamental point and cut down on the tangents and red herrings. Thanks in advance.

    >By the way, it's worthwhile to watch the last five minutes of "Demographic Winter." After the credits:

    I watched the entire 60 minute thing. The word "religion" is mentioned maybe once.

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  79. OTD,
    I will not do the research for you. Try Phillip Longman's book "The Empty Cradle" which I suggested before. Longman is secular. All his policy prescriptions are "the government should do this" and "the government should do that." It's a bit at odds with his pessimism expressed in Demographic Winter, but I couldn't imagine him suggesting an evangelical revival.

    You can also try "It's Not the End of the World. It's Just the End of You" or "How Civilizations Die" both by David P. Goldman. Goldman is a religious Jew and probably ten times smarter than either of us. Both books are excellent. If you're interested in this subject (even if you're interested in reading them just to see if you can put a dent in them) those books are highly recommended.

    You have no kids? Knock me over with a feather!

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  80. Ari:

    >I will not do the research for you.

    For serious?

    You have made the claim "There is little dispute amongst demographers that atheism has an extremely high correlation with low birth rates and that Judeo-Christian religious belief has a high correlation with higher birth rates. It's as close to a proven fact as anything in demographics." You have brought no evidence to support that claim even when asked numerous times. Withdraw the claim or bring proof. It's that simple.

    You have not supported your claim that atheism is "maladaptive" (your words) any more than modern society, in general, (with its low birthrate) is "maladaptive." What's next, blacks are an inferior race? God hates fags? Go back to Fred Phelps and your buddies with the Westboro Baptist Church.

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  81. Provide evidence? I offered you the titles of three books for your consideration.

    These are not the kind of issues that can be fully laid out in a comments section of a blog. They need patient argumentation over a large span. Hence my book suggestion. If you are interested, read them. If not, don't tell me to put up or shut up, because I did put up. It is up to you to reap the benefit of my prior research.

    Honestly, OTD, your invective is not constructive. Refusing to consider the sources I've suggested and accusing me of racial and other types of bias is really the last refuge of a beaten man. If you're not interested in reading the books I suggested, say so. Or not. Just don't say I provided no evidence. I did.

    I would appreciate an apology for your unfounded accusations of bigotry. I may argue aggressively, but I do not insult. I expect the same from you.

    You know, as an OTD Jew, you really ought to make it a point that religious Jews look at your behavior and say "it's a pity we lost him" not "good riddance."

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  82. Ari, sorry I came across this late. Being Jewish doesn't seem to be all that adaptive - we get killed a lot. We also assimilate a lot. So does that mean G'd doesn't want us to be Jewish? This doesn't seem like a worthwhile way to go.
    Also, your condescending tone might make some feel sorry to have you counted among them.

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