Senate Atheism 5.0 - Is Atheism a belief?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by SuperWatto, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    If they are so well-accepted, and it's not a problem to be atheist, then why do rabbis say it is a problem to be atheist? Why are they lying to everyone? What is the point? You keep avoiding this pretty basic question. Don't.
  2. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Also, your definition of spirituality is off base, as you well know. The term is widely used in contexts that don't imply a belief in the supernatural. You're being pedantic. Have you done a survey of all rabbis in all synagogues across the United States, particularly in reformed synagogues in affluent urban and suburban settings? I can't imagine any of the ones I know would be so unsophisticated about belief as to assume that a well educated Jew even had volition over whether he or she believed in God's literal existence. What is required of Jews is heartfelt participation and commitment to the perpetuation of the the culture through the religion.

    Look, I was initially as surprised as you seem to be when I found out how many educated atheistic/agnostic Jews practice their religion so fervently. Once I really understood it, that's when I fell in love with the religion. Because it is more sophisticated and capable of adapting itself to the modern world than Christianity.
  3. Emperor_Billy_Bob Chosen One

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    Ultimately, I find Jabbad's position scarier than J-Ws. Jabba-wocky is insisting on a superficially rational interpretation of the truth claims of Western religion.That camp is doomed in the long run, no matter how fervently current believers and their descendants will try to hold on. It is the bastardization and postmodernization of religion as represented by Jabbadabbado that will grant the desert monotheisms longer life and greater staying power.
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  4. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Islam and Christianity will persist through the power of ignorance. Judaism will persist through the force of will of intelligent people seeking to adapt their culture to the modern world.
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  5. Emperor_Billy_Bob Chosen One

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    Or, to quote the genius Arthur Schopenhauer:

    "The bad thing about all religions is that, instead of being able to confess their allegorical nature, they have to conceal it; accordingly, they parade their doctrines in all seriousness as true sensu proprio, and as absurdities form an essential part of these doctrines we have the great mischief of a continual fraud. Nay, what is worse, the day arrives when they are no longer true sensu proprio, and then there is an end of them; so that, in that respect, it would be better to admit their allegorical nature at once. But the difficulty is to teach the multitude that something can be both true and untrue at the same time. Since all religions are in a greater or less degree of this nature, we must recognise the fact that mankind cannot get on without a certain amount of absurdity, that absurdity is an element in its existence, and illusion indispensable; as indeed other aspects of life testify."
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  6. timmoishere Force Ghost

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    The thing I despise about religions is that they all claim their beliefs are true, despite having zero evidence to support it. I realize there is a lot of stuff out there that is unknown, but I'd rather learn about things as they are discovered, not just randomly accept some **** that was made up by barely literate desert nomads.
  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    I don't think it's "random" that many Jews devoutly practice a religion they know with certainty isn't literally true. The religion is "random" in the sense that Jews must contend with the cultural heritage they're born into and decide whether and how they want to work to maintain it. Judaism is Plan A and the Jewish State is Plan B. Completely secular Jews living outside Israel have the hardest time contributing to the continuity of the culture, marrying catholic girls and celebrating Christmas with your children and not sending them to Sunday school or prepping them for a bar/bat mitzvah, and so on. That's why so many agnostic/atheist Jews continue to practice the religion and are encouraged to do so.
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Apr 14, 2013
  8. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    We have something better than "surveys." We have consensus statements of belief from the denominations that represent Reform Judaism in the US quite comprehensively. And they reject atheism.

    You keep trying to frame my argument as I'm saying it would be impossible for a religion to say that they accept atheists. I've never said that. I simply pointed out that, as a matter of fact and record, the denominations of Judaism, even in their most liberal forms of interpretation, do not.

    I'm not "surprised" about anything. You just keep failing to reconcile your statements with known facts.
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  9. harpua Chosen One

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    Neither one of you are providing any documented facts, actually. This is just a silly slap fight. Post something that backs up what you're saying.
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  10. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    We already covered this, harpuah. We've been waiting for several pages for him to respond.
  11. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    All you have to do is Google atheism and Judaism to recognize that I am describing the phenomenon with 100% accuracy, and that my first-hand experience reflects what is going on nation-wide and has been for some time.
    From a cursory Google search:

    This quote saying - reformed Judaism will readily accept born Jews in the religion who are atheists but practice the religion, but cannot accept converts.

    and from Washington Post

    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/georgetown/2007/11/paul_beattys_2001_novel_tuff.html

    confirming the phenomenon exactly as I have described it from my own experience:

    Larger numbers of atheists and agnostics, needless to say, are to be found in Conservative and Reform Judaism. They are--let me be clear about this--a very small minority in both denominations. Still, every Jew knows of congregations (usually those in major urban centers with more affluent memberships) that harbor pockets of nonbelievers and other assorted contrarians.

    The key takeaway is there are atheists and agnostics that are ACCEPTED as practitioners of their religion in reform and conservative synagogues across the nation.These people are accepted in their synagogues by the rabbis of those synagogues and by the governing bodies of those synagogues as appropriate members in the pursuit of the faith. That's just the way it is. Many Jews dislike this phenomenon, but they don't speak for all of Judaism, nor can they.

    Here is a link describing an effort in conservative Judaism to recognize the Torah as a largely allegorical document:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/09/books/new-torah-for-modern-minds.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Apr 14, 2013
  12. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    It's hard to comment on your "cursory Google search" that couldn't be bothered to allow links.

    However, what you've gathered seems to skirt the issue entirely. As I pointed out earlier, there are also Catholics who continue to go to mass on a weekly basis, despite being willing to admit that they have lost any faith they had in God. That doesn't mean that "Catholicism accepts atheists." Nor does the fact that atheists attend and nominally participate in synagogue activities mean that Judaism accepts atheists. What you are describing is a pretty common phenomenon in all religions, and that's some degree of compromise among local believers and clergy about the extent to which theological fidelity is important. Specific points of laxity can't be transformed into commentary on the religion as a whole.

    What has often been at issue in this discussion is who has the right to define Judaism as a whole. My position is quite straightforward. It's overall character is best defined by those bodies that the overwhelming majority of Jews acknowledge (through membership and financial backing) to be authoritative interpreters of the religion. So long as those bodies do not condone atheism, it is not cogent to say that the faith "accepts" atheism. Your proposal, on the other hand, is that if you can demonstrate the activity of a known atheist in a synagogue, this "proves" their acceptance. Yet, somehow, you don't acknowledge that by this standard, Judaism isn't at all unique from other religions, which was your original contention.
    Last edited by Jabba-wocky, Apr 14, 2013
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    You have not demonstrated an authoritative interpretation that atheism/agnosticism is impossible for practicing Jews. I have demonstrated that it is a widespread phenomenon, widely accepted and acknowledged to be happening. Is it the subject of some controversy, sure, but I do not see a comparable controversy in Christian churches.
  14. Emperor_Billy_Bob Chosen One

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    Religion in modern times is too much of a buyer's market to even coherently talk about "authoritative interpretations" anymore. As far as I can see, the most widely held authoritative body in Christianity declares that anyone who is not a member of their church has about a 99.9% certainty of being damned for all time, yet this doesn't seem to bother Protestants too much.
    Last edited by Emperor_Billy_Bob, Apr 14, 2013
  15. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    All I've argued is that in practice, in synagogues where it counts, agnostic and atheistic Jews practice their religion alongside those who believe in a literal God. They are accepted as devout fellow members, nor has any authoritative body of Judaism declared them not to be members.
  16. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    I believe this will shed light on the matter.

    Source

    I should think that precludes atheism.

    EDIT: It is increasingly, difficult, yes. But we can do two things instead. For one, we can agree on common points of consensus across many authoritative bodies. Two, we can speak authoritatively about what is true for a particular sect.

    In this case, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism make up almost the entirety of that religion. So we can look at their common beliefs to derive a sort of essence of Jewish theology.
    Last edited by Jabba-wocky, Apr 14, 2013
  17. Emperor_Billy_Bob Chosen One

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    I suspect that a Traditionalist Catholic or a Hasidic Jew would consider that very problematic, as they would likely consider Protestantism or non-Orthodox Judaism as illegitimate and not worthy of consideration. It is really problematic the deeper down the logical rabbit hole you try to go.
  18. Ghost Chosen One

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    Oct 13, 2003
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    I'm going to skip responding to the never-ending debate on religious atheist Jews
    (btw, Jabbadabbado, just because they're acknowledged and not forcibly kicked out out doesn't mean their atheist beliefs are accepted as compatible with Judaism... and even your article says there are a very small minority... it's not more widespread or widely-accepted in Judaism than it is in Christianity)

    What I think is more important is @Jabbadabbado saying that Christianity and Islam rely on ignorance, and that education naturally leads to atheism/agnosticism. Why do you think that? That's kind of insulting.


    Just because you don't understand something (like faith) doesn't mean you should despise it.
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Apr 14, 2013
  19. Emperor_Billy_Bob Chosen One

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    "Why do you think that? That's kind of insulting."

    Statistically speaking, higher levels of education and IQ correlate to lower levels of religious adherence. May be insulting, but it is also true.
    Last edited by Emperor_Billy_Bob, Apr 14, 2013
  20. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    Not really. Your point here is okay in general, but it has no application. We are trying to arrive at minimum acceptable beliefs. In particular, we are trying to determine if one particular belief (in the existence of God) should qualify among them or not. While a stricter sect might fault a list developed in the fashion for having too few requirements, it is not possible that they would criticize it for having too many, as their opinion would already have been polled.

    For instance, no matter how many other points in the Conservative statement of beliefs he or she finds detestable, a Hasidic Jew would not disagree that belief in God is "critically important" to their religion. The scenarios you are imagining have no meaningful context in this specific discussion. If everyone agrees you have to be a theist, then everyone agrees. There aren't more parts to it. It's just factually true.

    EDIT: EBB, the second half of your statement is almost certainly not true. First, because IQ testing isn't widespread enough (and is not, in any case, accurate enough) to really chart such trends. But that besides, it takes the bizarre position that, even without any sort of relevant environmental exposure, a "smart" person would automatically tend towards atheism. That's not really reflective of how human growth and development works.
    Last edited by Jabba-wocky, Apr 14, 2013
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  21. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    I think from reformed to conservative to orthodox to subgroups like Hasidic Judaism, tolerance for a nonbelief in a literal God would tend to diminish.

    Yet, the passage you quote seems to evidence a high tolerance for the idea of an allegorical God. Indeed, the whole passage opens with an overt questioning of God's existence, which is of course entirely consistent with everything I have asserted about Judaism to begin with:


    This does not preclude belief in an allegorical meaning of God "that is not independent of our beliefs and experiences."
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Apr 14, 2013
  22. harpua Chosen One

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    So yeah... is Atheism a belief?

    I think it is.
  23. VadersLaMent Chosen One

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  24. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    But what's your point? You didn't say Judaism allows for a highly allegorical, asbtract or mystical interpretation of God. No one would have disputed you if you did. Nor would that be distinct from many stripes of Christianity. What you said was that it endorses atheism, a belief that there is nothing which is appropriate to call "God" at all. Their published statement rejects that view.
    Last edited by Jabba-wocky, Apr 14, 2013
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  25. harpua Chosen One

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    For some, yes... I guess I should amend my previous post and say that I think for some, it is a belief. I've seen several people who passionately believe that god does not exist, and I've seen some who lack a belief in a god. So I guess my answer is yes and no.
    Last edited by harpuah, Apr 14, 2013