Monday, August 31, 2009

The Safety of Anonymity

Besides JP's not-so-subtle obsession with drugs and sex, he has recently aimed his guns at the anonymity afforded by the internet.

I think that his arguments in this post , and in the subsequent comments, represent JP's dying breaths. In medical parlance we call it agonal breathing. As the circular reasoning, logical fallacies and ad hominem arguments that he uses have grown old and tired even to JP himself, he has resorted to one last desperate attempt to discredit his detractors-- that anonymous bloggers (mainly the atheist/skeptics kind) are all lying criminals.

The main asserion in JP's post is clearly false because it is based on the logical fallacy of generalization. Nonethess, I think the idea of anonymity and its attractiveness on the internet does warrant some thought.

First, I think that there are different levels of anonymity. There are the truly anonymous "feedbackers", the kind who comment on news articles and blogs for whom there is no possibility of identification. Some bloggers may fall into this category as well. Lets call this level 1. Then there are bloggers like myself, who express opinions and reveal information about themselves, without revealing their full identifying information. Anybody with enough determination would be able to find out who we are. In addition, when somebody legitimately wishes to initiate contact with me, he or she can by requesting my email. I'll refer to this as level 2.

Mentally healthy people do not always say what they think. This is human nature. We evolved the ability to not blurt out everything that we are thinking. This function is localized in the frontal lobes of our brains. This is a social skill, sometimes it helps us, and other times it doesn't. Sometimes what we think may offend certain people, so we choose not to say it. We don't tell people that they are ugly, or that we think they are idiots. We won't tell a coworker that he has body odor. Or we don't tell them that their religion is a lie, even if we think this. Sometimes we may tell something to some people and not others. There "others" might be people who our opinions won't offend, or those people that we don't particularly care about. JP argues that this type of opinion is not worthy of expression. I would argue that the internet and blogging gives us the "other"-- the targets of expression are those who won't be offended by our opinions, or , if they are offended, can choose not to read it. That is the whole point of the internet. This is truly egalitarian freedom of expression, even for non-professional writers.

Level 1 anonymous writers are at greater risk for writing blatantly offensive, racist and bigoted opinions. Nonetheless, most newspapers have continued to allow anonymous feedback, sometimes with filtering. We level 2 anonymous are generally more cautious, and I don't think that we write blatantly offensive or racist things that advocate persecution or violence against people. Ironically, it is JP himself, an non-anonymous blogger, who openly expresses violently homophobic and religiously biggoted opinions. He also falsely and maliciously accuses skeptics of drug abuse and prostitution. If he is truly "non-anonymous", it would be interesting to ask if he would be willing to walk around with a placard espousing his views about the racial origins of blacks in the streets of Harlem. I suspect not, because he, too, "filters" his message and chooses who hears what.

So JP's claims regarding anonymity are not only false but represent the height of hypocrisy. He is more of a fraud than any of his "anonymous" antagonists. I would tend to agree with the opinion of many that JP is just an unhappy, insecure and angry man. His blog affords him the opportunity to spew his hate in all directions, and in so doing he misrepresents Judaism. The purpose of this blog is to discredit JP, and therefore I will continue to expose his fraudulent and malevolent posts.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I'm glad that JP took a stab at the problem that suffering poses to Judaism and to religion in general. In so doing he exposes the ugliness and irrationality of his beliefs, and gives me the perfect opportunity to thoroughly repudiate and refute his claims.

Lets begin with the title "the kindness of suffering". How twisted can you get? It makes a joke of the English language and the meaning of "kindness", which is usually to the benefit of the recipient. It implies that without this supposed "kindness", we'd be worse off. We should thank god that he punishes us, where would we be otherwise!

I actually agree with JP's comment about media distortion of reality. Its a plain fact that bad news sells. No newspaper or TV channel would survive financially if it reported mostly the good things that happen.

He then claims that "He is also just. Every sin is punished and the punishment is always big." I don't know where he got that. The Torah and Talmud specify different types of punishments, some more severe than others, for different sins. JP might be trying to explain the otherwise inexplicable catastrophic things that happen to seemingly good people, thus justifying for example, killing a baby with cancer because the parents weren't strict in the laws of muktsah. But this is contrary to the biblical narrative and rabbinic interpretation. God didn't destroy Sedom because of tax evasion or giving inexact change.

JP admits that the "punishment" is often far removed from the "sin", sometimes coming even in the afterlife. At the same time he compares it to spanking a child, which is done for behavior modification. This is a ridiculous analogy. The father administering discipline does not HARM the child. He inflicts discomfort at the time of misbehavior so that the child will learn. JP's God, on the other hand, inflicts gross harm on people, and does it in such a way that neither they or anybody else know what the sin was, nor, if in the JP's Hell, can they do anything about it. Think about the 3500 year history of God's behavior modification program for the Jewish people. What an abysmal failure! For millenia god must repeatedly inflict, with loving kindness, catastrophes upon the Jewish people. JP doesn't even address the issue of suffering of gentiles, I guess because they don't matter at all.

JP also refers to God's "anger". What's the deal, then? Is punishment due to a divine temper tantrum or an attempt to improve people's behavior?

Thus, JP's concept of the divine hand and suffering is immensely childish and internally contradictory. It appears to be the product of a mentally disturbed person, or one who hasn't gotten past the emotional age of a toddler. Instead of JP's father/god analogy, I think a more apt one might be to a drunken, abusive father, who because of his erratic self-destructive behavior, bad temper and violent demeanor drives away his family. But some people, like JP, the enablers, stand by Him, prefering the abuse to being all alone without Him.

In Judaism there are much more rational and mature ways of dealing with suffering, but that will perhaps be a subject of another post.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Now I Understand

It was 28 years ago. Both my future wife and I had just spent a year in yeshiva in Israel. We were young and idealistic. As we were planning the wedding, the subject of seating at the chupah came up. My wife and I wanted separate seating for men and women, as advised by our rabbis. My very liberal future in-laws were incensed. They told us in no uncertain terms that they would not be separated during the service. I couldn't understand at the time what the big deal was. You can't be separated from your wife for a half hour?

Fast forward to the present. Our neighbors here in Rehovot are very nice people. We aren't real close friends, but we're good "neighbor" friends, so to speak. We were invited to their daughter's wedding. The family is dati leumi, national religious, like most of our neighbors. The girl is engaged to a yeshiva guy, with a big kipah srugah. Although no mention was made on the invitation, I found out that the whole wedding, including the meal, would be separate for men and women.

Although my wife will be there for the chupah to say mazal tov, I decided not to attend the wedding. About 3 months ago I attended a similar separate simcha, and I left early, feeling awkward and somewhat offended. I decided then that I would not go to separate seating weddings.

When I attend simchas, especially of those with whom I am not very close, my wife is my companion. I have to sit through a long meal, with music so loud you can't talk, and I like to be with my wife. So why do they force married couples to sit separately? Because they are afraid of the single boys and girls mixing. I think that this is really obnoxious, dumb, and inconsiderate. There is no halachic requirement for it, either. It is just the latest example of pseudo-frum heredi practices polluting the modern orthodox world. I find it offensive and primitive. It is saying that the men can't control themselves around women, and therefore keep the women out of sight.

I suppose that if this was a wedding of a close friend I would have to swallow my lumps and attend. But otherwise I feel no inclination to go to such an event.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Loving God

In Jewish Philosopher's latest post he extols the peacefulness and gratitude that comes from contemplating God's goodness, which culminates in love for god, and his creatures (only the ones who love god like him, of course).

I personally would find it difficult to love a psychopathic mass murderer, which is what Mr. Stein's god is. I imagine that the young starving children being led to the Nazi gas chambers might have a little trouble contemplating their love and awe for God, as well as the millions world wide who die of disease, famine, natural disasters or war. Even if this god is the one who grants life in the first place, what kind of sick joke is it to create creatures, only to torment and kill them?

I find it much easier and more comforting to contemplate with awe, a naturalistic and Darwinian reality, with all of its complexity, flaws, and magic.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"We're Going to Play a Game"

Those of you who have seen the Saw movies recognize the title of this post as the chilling introduction to each of Jigsaw's sadistic experiments with his victims. I thought that the first two movies were among the most frightening movies that I have seen. But anyway, back to JP bashing...

Let's do a mental experiment. Let's assume the Kantian idea of categorical imperative, and that one's ethical position is only ethical if applied to everybody. Imagine that all Jews were like JP. Or even better, the world was actually governed by JP's philosophy. What would the world look like?

We would have god-driven holocausts every few years as punishment for man's sins.

We would relentlessly pursue homosexuals and give them the death penalty.

We would be prosecuting and stoning blashphemers, heretics, atheists and anybody else who abandoned religion.

Children would be made ill or killed because of their parents heresy.

Many, or most of our loved ones who have died, would continue to exist as souls who are burning forever in hell, or at best, just floating around with the other dead people.

No modern economy could exist because interest would be illegal.

Since the Torah and rabbis are the sole and ultimate source of knowledge, there would be no need for scientific research and development, and therefore all of our scientific, technological, and medical state of affairs would be rolled back thousands of years.

One half of the human population, the women, would be relegated to serve the other half of the population. Any immodestly dressed woman is asking to be raped, since we know that men can't control their urges. Therefore, women must make sure not to entice men. They would not be allowed to vote, hold public office, or in any way have authority over a man. Young girls could be involuntarily married off at their father's will.

It would make life in Iran look like paradise.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Let's Rebut the Watchmaker Analogy Once and for All

This will consist of two parts.

First, we can use the "who cares?" argument. Remember my post on the mass revelation argument? Its the same thing. Something that may or may not have happened a long time ago-- what relevance does it have for us? If life got here from evolution, so be it, and, perhaps we can learn from the biological principles how to possible better our lives now. And if life got here suddenly, when one day, the uncreated Yahweh went "poof!", so what? Who gives a flying f**k? Do the animals have to bow and express gratitude to their creater? Why should we? Since this Yahweh no longer seems to exist, perhaps he died or went to sleep, or moved on to something more fun. Who cares?

With regard to the watchmaker argument itself:

1. It is an analogy, the weakest form of argument. Since we know non-organic machines are man made, by analogy, life forms, with their apparent complexity and purposefulness, must have been created. But non-organic machines are different than life forms (we see that they replicate,, grow, change, evolve, which machines can't), therefore the analogy is invalid.

2. The analogy is powerful psychologically, because our brains are wired to see purpose and cause. When we see a watch, a priori we know it is a man made object. So we tend to attribute these elements of cause and purpose to all other entities that we see. By example, when ancient man saw lightening or thunder, he could easily argue that they were coming from the gods' anger, a very logical extrapolation from other human experiences. Loud noises and bright lights come from people or animals doing things. Yet when we learned that there is an alternate, non-creator explanation, we abandoned the gods explanation.

Can you guys come up with other powerful, succinct rebuttals?

[Bloggers note: sorry about the previous typos, I have made corrections to the post.]

Monday, August 3, 2009

JPism, the World's Most Ridiculous Religion

JP's latest post gives us the perfect opportunity to mock and repudiate JP’s religion, which is NOT Judaism.

Basically this is what he believes:

Once upon a time, there was this very irascible, petulant god. Let’s call him Yahweh. We don’t know how Yahweh got here (did he make himself?), but anyway, he was sitting around for billions of years making worlds and repeatedly destroying them, along with millions of species of living things, including human like creatures. Then after billions of years, about 6000 years ago, he made a man called Adam. Then he made a woman from the man’s rib. (Meanwhile there were many other species which had males and females, some of which had no ribs).

Then Yahweh, starts to make a bunch of big mistakes. Things didn’t go as planned. He had to destroy all of the living things he created once, along with various other acts of destruction and punishment. Later, Yahweh and his helpers found man threatening, so they had to disperse them and confound their speech so they couldn't become like gods. Yahweh was very disappointed.

Now skip ahead 2500 years. About 3500 years ago, Yahweh decided to set some rules, and apply them to a tiny nation called Israelites. These rules included killing homosexuals, apostates, blasphemers, idol worshippers, witches, and gatherers of wood on the Sabbath. The Israelites were to exterminate the non-Israelite inhabitants of their land. He also included some other ritual laws, which he evidently copied from some other god’s books. He required his people to kill animals in order to assuage His anger and avoid punishment. There were also some social laws, which reflected social reality at the time.

But, despite Yahweh being all knowing and his laws perfect, the laws just didn’t work out so well. The Law didn't stand up the test of time. People couldn’t follow all of the rules, and since Yahweh stopped talking, they couldn't even remember them all (since he supposedly prohibited his people from writing down the details). So His chosen people were doomed to failure. His first prophet, Moses, even tells the people that they will fail and be punished for it. But despite the problematic nature of the Law, Yahweh kept torturing and punishing His people for not following it. Furthermore, circumstances changed, so that this supposedly perfect Torah law had to be changed as well. So the “Oral Torah” was invented, which allowed his people to do what they thought was right, while saying that Yahweh told them to do it that way. So they could add and cancel laws as needed, or change them to reflect reality. In JPism this Oral Law, with all of its myriad details, was supposedly given to Moses in the desert, and transmitted to the people, even though it could not be written down and therefore would be impossible to preserve.

In JPism certain nasty Torah laws are still valid, others not. For example, we don’t do Levirate marriage or child slavery or sacrifices any more. Nor do we burn witches. However, apostates, homosexuals, and users of pornography are still worthy of death. In JPism, Yahweh is a very homophobic, sex-obsessed and sadistic god, who enjoys creating people only to destroy them. He even killed 6 million of His chosen people, including children, because many of them prefered science and reason to primitive beliefs. He is the world's worst mass murderer. Perhaps He gets off on this. Ironically, JP likes to blame Nazi atrocities on atheist ideology, but JP himself has plainly stated that he believes that it was God punishing the Jews. In other words, it is JPism and Torah that advocates mass murder. Furthermore, Yahweh ignores 99.9% of humanity since they are not Jews and thus don’t matter. Therefore he allows untold suffering to be visited upon their innocents as well.

Just for fun, I will now paraphrase from JP's post about atheism:

This is the basic belief of JPism, the world's most irrational and destructive religion. This religion is merely an absurd myth, not based on a shred of science (or any other evidence), created to permit us to persecute people that we don’t like or don’t agree with us. It justifies the suffering and death of untold millions. Various forms of JPism exist today, in certain forms of Islam or Heredi Judaism.

I invite my readers to compare this post with JP's, and decide for themselves which ideology is more irrational and immoral.