I thought it would be interesting to analyze a typical JP post to show how false his arguments are. Fortunately, he has given us today another gem, so here it goes:
People sometimes ask how Judaism is different from any other religion. Many religions claim to represent the true will of God. Why do Jews believe that they are right and others are wrong?I think that this can be answered very simply.
Here of course he ignores the basic reality that every religion thinks it is right and others are wrong. Why? Because that's the nature of the psychology of religion. You adopt a world view, and other people are wrong.
Now he goes on the make an argument by analogy, which is the weakest form of argument:
Imagine that a UFO supposedly landed in a farmer’s field in Nebraska one day for ten minutes. One person claims to have witnessed it.Alternatively, imagine that a UFO supposedly landed in Central Park in New York City and remained there for two weeks. Millions of people claim to have witnessed it.Obviously the second UFO sighting would be far more credible than the first.
Presumably, in this scenario either these million witnesses are alive, or their direct descendents are alive who heard it directly from their parents. In this case the testimony would be seriously credible. But suppose we had this testimony from 1000 years ago, but without any independently verifiable source. Then this testimony would be highly suspect.
How do we know that there was a civil war? How many people alive have a personal family tradition of having participated in this war? Very few, but we have independently verifiable sources.
Similarly, the Torah was revealed by God in front of millions of witnesses (see Exodus 20).
First of all the Torah's text here is very confusing and it is hard to know what exactly they heard, the commandments, or just the other sound effects. Certainly the Torah doesn't claim that the remaining torah itself was transmitted directly to the people. Secondly, it is the Bible (and talmudic interpreters) itself making the claim, not the witnesses. Nobody has a personal family tradition of being there, other than being taught that from the book. Yet clearly the people are capable of believing such a claim, which in itself disproves the Kuzari "proof" that people would not believe a story for which they have no tradition. Furthermore, thousands of people convert every year to and from different faiths, without having any personal evidence of the truth of the claims. They simply choose to accept without proof, because other people believe it.
The New Testament and the Koran however were revealed only to an individual.
First of all Christians don't believe that the New Testament was revealed to an individual. Secondly, as Naftali Zeligman points out in his excellent essay (http://www.talkreason.org/articles/letter1.cfm#15) that Catholics also have examples of publicly witnessed miracles. Jesus' miracles were witnessed by many. (see http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/miracles.htm) As far as the Koran, you can use a "kal v'chomer" to show how gullible people are. If after 20 years of Mohammad's private revelation, millions of the Arab world came to believe and accept Islam, how much easier would it be to convince early Hebrews that they were descendents of an ancient people who witnessed a miracle 1000 years before. Look at what the Mormons and Scientologists have done.
One may ask that considering this, why are Islam and Christianity more popular than Judaism?The answer is simple: Most people prefer to lead an easy life and Judaism is perhaps the most burdensome of all religions.
With this breathtakingly ignorant answer JP dismisses thousands of years of history, demographics, and archeology. Its like answering why are there only 60 million Italians vs a billion Chinese by answering, "its easier to be Chinese". Besides, I think that its harder these days to be a Muslim than a Jew.
Therefore it is the least popular. One may ask, doesn’t the Torah contain clear factual errors which disqualify it from being the true word of God, for example doesn’t the Genesis creation story contradict paleontology? I have explained elsewhere that this is not the case.
As usual he links to his own posts which contain the usual nonsense.
Another argument sometimes advanced is that the account of the revelation at Mount Sinai is an ancient story and people in ancient times were extremely gullible. Therefore ancient stories lack any credibility. The problem with this assertion is that first of all it seems to be baseless.
Suddenly something is true until proven otherwise! JP is a very trusting person. I suppose he would consider skepticism about the truth of ancient Greek myths as "baseless".
Second of all, if this were the case, then we would assume that many other ancient religious leaders would have convinced their incredibly gullible followers that they had all heard God affirm the truth of their religion. Of course, that is the not the case.
Bad assumption. All the leaders have to claim is that he spoke to God and worked miracles. If he tells them that their ancestors spoke to God, it makes no difference. Why would they want to mimic our claims?
Some people may say that they cannot believe in anything supernatural regardless of the evidence. This is equivalent to saying that one cannot believe in extraterrestrial life regardless of the evidence. This is known as an argument from personal incredulity .
Straw man argument.
As usual I welcome your comments!