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Comments by Rob W.

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 65 by Rob W.

Regarding Bob Marley: From what I've read about his family, his dad (son of Ellen Broomfield) was Jewish (i.e. according to Halacha), but his mom was not. So according to Halacha, Mr. Marley was Gentile.

Dear BenS, regarding your Comment # 59:

Methinks that thou doth protest just a little bit too much. You are (over-)reacting to things I've written here as though I were some sort of evil dictator, drunk with power, with military & police forces and courts & prisons at my disposal, persecuting & wounding you, and not letting you do what you want with your life. I keep thinking, "No Gentile would react so negatively and emotionally about this." Even though I can't see your facial expressions or body language, and even though I can't hear your tone of voice, I still detect a great deal of emotion coming from your keyboard and through my monitor.

Ben, your ancestory -- maternal or otherwise -- is your business. My love for you as a fellow human being is not changed either way whether Halacha classifies you as Jew or Gentile. If atheism makes you happy, then go with it. Religion can be toxic. I don't think that it has to be, but toxic religion is all some people know.

As for your your Comment # 54 about the Eruv: It's not about fooling anyone / anything, be it a child or the Gh-st. If you have any genuine, non-hostile curiosity as to what it is about, I can share with you my layman's understanding, or you can ask a professional snoggi, er... rabbi. May the Sn-ggle snuggle you, or the F-rce be with you, or good K-rma to you, or have a great day, whichever expression you prefer.

Tue, 28 Aug 2012 08:00:05 UTC | #951174

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 63 by Rob W.

I know of no reason why anyone should feel guilty about menstruating. I don't even know where that question is coming from. Who said anyone should feel guilty about it in the first place?

I already told you that I'm lazy. If I were more disciplined, I might be more consistent. I grew up very secular, so I'm still not used to all this religical stuff. My more pious Jewish neighbors might seem like balloons to you while to me they might seem very disciplined. When I said that I'm not consistent, I'm not just talking about performing one mitzvah and not another; I'm also talking about inconsistency in the performance of a given mitzvah. E.g. some weekends I do a better job of keeping Sabbath than on some other weekends. It could be analogous to going to the gym. If I go to the gym less consistently than some other person, but I still go sometimes, is that an ideological statement? Am I a hypocrite? Maybe I'm just undisciplined.

You are assuming that you can tell if someone is being superstitious just from some superficial glance. Two different people could be performing the same mitzvah, and one might have a more superstitious interpretation of what he / she is doing than does the other one. Ghosts or no ghosts, it's all about values.

I don't know why you keep twisting things around. What's this "real Jew" stuff? The only thing that makes me Jewish is my Jewish mom. I might be a lazy one, but that's not fake as opposed to real. Did I use the "No True Scotsman" fallacy? Did I say "No True Jew" about anything?

I hope that you realize that Mr. Shahak admitted giving false testimony to make an attack on his own religion. See the Telephone Incident in his Wiki bio. Please read the whole passage -- not just the parts which confirm your prejudices. While at it, one might as well read the whole article. He might have been on the side of right somethimes, but how can one establish credibility by lying for the sake of the truth? In fact, bigots like David Duke love to quote Shahak. So I have to wonder, Amos, who is the bigger Kool Aid drinker, you or me?

Just because I'm not Jewish, doesn't mean I can't read the literature and understand it

I never said that a Gentile is any less capable of understanding Torah than a Jew. If I question your understanding or interpretation, it is only because of the content of your writing -- nothing more and nothing less. I'm sure Rabbi Wolpe would be delighted by your brilliant commentaries.

I still don't quite get what you are saying about the Holocaust. Are you saying that European Jewry didn't take proper action to defend themselves because they were waiting around for some divine intervention or something? It's easy to play the Monday morning quarterback in retrospect. Enemies are hard to handle when one (or one's group) is severely outnumbered and allies are few and far between. Whether any of it has to do with too much faith in miracles, it might come down to too much faith in men. People sometimes underestimate the extemes of visciousness of which their neighbors might be capable. From what I've read, it seems that many people just kept trusting in human decency. In the short term, cruelty ruled. Thank G-d, however, that decency isn't dead.

Fri, 24 Aug 2012 08:52:39 UTC | #951164

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 60 by Rob W.

Dear Ignorant Amos, regarding your Comment # 52:

You don't take it seriously, or so you say

Sometimes yes; sometimes no. I am a lazy, undisciplined, hedonistic Jew / person. I have discovered great value in taking on some mitzvoth which I didn't used to do, but I'm not consistent. I would like to think that I am not so superstitious as I might seem, and that's why this discussion got started. Torah & Mitzvoth are about values more than they are about ghosts. Prayer is practical when it's about working on yourself -- when it's about meditating on good values and behaviors. Unfortunately, too many people around the world make the mistake of thinking that prayer is about trying to get work done (e.g. increasing the chance of rain, shrinking a tumor) by talking at the sky. So I often do see eye-to-eye with my Atheist neighbors when it comes to identifying problems with relgion.

Do you not think there is anything wrong with using guilt to achieve an aim regardless of who it is doing it?

That depends on what is the dasterdly deed. In my opinion, a kid-raper should feel guiltiy -- very, very much so. In cases such as that, the perp should be jailed, fined, etc. whether he / she feels guilt or not.

Do you believe that women in menstruation should feel guilty?

I am not a rabbi, and therefore not an expert in this area. Off the top of my head, Halacha might prescribe stricter purification rules for Jewish women than for Gentile women. However, to the best of my knowledge, this has nothing to do with guilt. Menstruation is not a sin; it is a normal part of life. Halacha instructs a Jewish woman to take a ritual bath at the end of the cycle before mating with her husband.

Good point on the "moratorium" bit. Stoning, gassing, oy vey, G-d forbid! As for circumcision, I don't think it's as terrible as you (and Hitch, r.i.p.) make it sound. It became so ubiquitous, at least in places like U.S.A., that it became commonplace amongst the Gentiles as well. The disasterous cases of circumcisions gone wrong are so rare that I don't think they form a very strong case to entirely ban the practice. Before you jump on my case for mixing up apples with oranges, keep in mind that I'm making an analogy to illustrate a principle here. In rare cases, immunizations have gone wrong and done more harm than good, but that doesn't make a strong case for banning vaccines. Anyway, circumcised males are at slightly lower risk of certain types of cancer. What's more, circumcised penises are significantly statistically less likely to transmit some diseases. When considering that and what's going on with the rampant spread of HIV in parts of Africa, it's a good idea for Gentiles to employ it, too. Should it be postponed until the male is older? I don't know. Baby boys seem to bounce back from it so quickly, I wouldn't be surprised if it might be tougher in some ways on an older boy / man. Female genital mutilation is a whole different story. Employing the English word "circumcision" for both practices is like calling the practice of scalping a "haircut."

You have brought up many points, and it's not that I wouldn't want to address more of them, but I fear this comment is getting quite long. I'll just say a little more for now.

For centuries, even after Mosaic Torah got written down, Israel had Oral Torah as well. Details of due process in court cases were already in place long before they got written down in the Mishnah and debated in Gemara. If you want to criticize and ridicule Judaism, fine, but you would do well to get a little more educated on the matter. To be fair and truthful, though, so would I. There's so much more to it than most people realize. I think the only people who have a clue how vast it is are the yeshiva rabbis and their students.

I didn't avoid your question about the Holocaust. Maybe I don't understand what you're asking me or what it is at which you are driving. Feel free to enlighten me.

Thu, 23 Aug 2012 08:35:49 UTC | #951155

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 58 by Rob W.

Dear BenS, regarding your Comment # 51:

Let's just stick within living memory, shall we. 1940s, say? I'm an atheist, happily minding my own business until some dickhead says "Oh, Ben, yeah, his mother was a Jew once so Ben's a Jew according to our law.". Next thing you know, I'm on the way to a gas chamber for something I don't follow and don't believe in all because someone else used laws I don't subscribe to in order to pin a label on me that I don't want and doesn't apply.

G-d forbid anyone should gas anyone for anything, especially innocent individuals who just happen to belong to some "group." Unfortunately, we live in a world where people are sometimes curel and murderous. There are people who want to hurt Atheists, too. I hope that I would have the courage to die with integrity defending you against such people, rather than live as a coward who said, "not my problem." There's a Rabbinic saying, "Whoever saves one life saves an entire world."

The Nazis defined "Jew" differently than does Halacha. If I remember correctly, they went after anyone with at least 2 Jewish grandparents. It didn't matter to them if that person was atheistic, or if the person professed belief in Christianity; once they marked a so-called "Jew" for death, that was it.

you're confusing a legal system that people subscribe to (by being residents of the country that has those laws) to a legal system they didn't. Like I said, you don't get to invent your own legal system and apply it to people without their consent .. It's a 'legal' definition that has absolutely no standing

I didn't invent Halacha; I simply referenced it. It was around long before you or I were, and it may very well survive any one of us for a long time. I could reference Catholic Canon Law, and get a different result. Like it or not, Halacha is the reason there are still Jews today, including the individuals who have labeled themselves both atheistic and Jewish when posting here. Any people that severely dispersed without such a system of law would otherwise have become just a memory in history books (e.g. Hittites).

There are laws which empower, and there are laws which harm. If by "standing" you mean that there's a force in place with police, judges, etc. which can physically and financially punish, does that somehow make it more legitimate than a legal system which doesn't? Do I subscribe to any stupid law passed by the U.S. Congress just because of where I live? Just as you might protest that nobody asked you if you wanted to be categorized as Gentile or Jewish, I might protest that nobody asked me if I consented to be jailed for smoking weed. Thankfully, at this point in history, nobody is fixing to jail me if I put cheese on a chicken sandwich. Sadly, weed is a different story.

You say I haven't answered you. I've told you everything I know. Traditionally speaking, a Jew is someone whose mom is Jewish. That's the short, simple answer. If you want more detail, Amos has cited a Wiki article about it. There's tons of literature out there about it. There are synogogues and yeshivas around the world filled with rabbis and students who would be more than happy to answer your questions and debate with you about it. If you would rather do other things with your life then that, I defend your right as a sovereign individual to make your own choices which don't harm anyone. Peace.

Thu, 23 Aug 2012 06:53:35 UTC | #951153

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 50 by Rob W.

Re: Comment # 47 by BenS

What I can't do, and what YOU (and any other Jew) CAN'T do is insist that laws you (or your rabbis) invented apply to me.

This isn't the first time you've made this issue reflexive, Ben. I don't know what it's got to do with you; I said it applied to me. Why are you being so defensive? Is there something you're not telling us? -- not that it's any of my business. Even if it does theoretically apply to you, is anyone physically persecuting you with these laws? If you don't like them, go ahead and ignore them. I did so for years.

They can call themselves what they wish and then argue their case for it if required. YOU don't get to decide what they are and then say that's not open for discussion.

I'm not the moderator, and we are having a discussion. If anyone can label themselves anything for any reason, at any time, without reference to any standard criteria, then wouldn't that render the labels pretty much meaningless? Can I call myself Chinese just 'cause I feel like it, just cause I like Chinese food?

What people do when they voluntarily subscribe to a set of rules is largely up to them. If, say, I had a Jewish mother but did not follow any of those archaic customs and rules and someone said to me "Ben, you're a Jew, you shouldn't be using the 'phone on Sabbath!" I would tell them to fuck off and mind their own business.

Amen, Brother! You tell 'em, sovereign individual.

You value the individual, you understand an individual's need to define him/herself but you still don't let them do it?

That's terrible of me, not letting people do what they want to with their lives. You're right. I should stop persecuting people this way. Ben, free people in free societies can do pretty much whatever the heck they want. I was just referencing a legal system. I could tell you just as well that smoking marijuana is for the most part illegal in my country. That doesn't mean that I'm out there jailing people. There are some American laws which I'd like to see changed. For the moment, however, they are what they are.

you're not giving the full story and you wonder why I don't understand or accept it

There isn't enough space here to tell my life story, and I'm trying not to bore everyone to death. I am probably already too wordy as it is.

If you're going to claim that he's a Jew because he's defined as such by Torah and Mitzvoth and therefore Torah and Mitzvoth unite him with other Jews then it's circular reasoning, a tautology and a load of bollocks.

Again, it's just a legal definition, even if only an accademic and theoretical one. The point is that if the word "Jew" has any meaning, then there has to be something common to all the people with that label.

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 06:08:05 UTC | #951131

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Rob W.

Re: Comment # 46 by Ignorant Amos:

Just like everyone has been explaining to you....yet you see nothing at all wrong with this bollocks? "just"?...."just"?.....Oy vey!

Since I'm not actually being jailed, fined, etc., I just take it in stride with a chuckle. I've heard it said that Jews invented guilt, but Catholics perfected it.

Quite amusing to watch.

Thanks. I do try my best.

The fact that all your Rabbi can invoke today is "guilt", where at one time could have you put to death for the same misdemeanour's, gives the game away

I once wrote Rabbi Altein an email saying something like, "Thank G-d there's a moratorium on stoning." What a lot of people don't realize is that it was darn hard to actually get the death penalty in ancient Israel. A lot of people read the so-called Old Testament from a translated Christian Bible and think therefore that they know what Judaism is. Tenach (Hebrew Bible, roughly equivalent to the Christian Old Testament) is just the tip of the Iceberg of Jewish Rabbinic literature. Without the Talmud, for example, Tenach lacks context and makes no sense. The Torah of Moses makes it look like it would be easy to get the death penalty, but the Talmud goes into tons of detail about due process thereby making it unlikely and rare.

what was it in the Jewish make-up that allowed the decimation of over 6 million of the people by the Nazi regime?

Like I said, it's a mystery to me. I don't know why anyone would want to mass-exterminate people. What is it in the make-up of bigots that makes them act that way?

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 05:08:25 UTC | #951130

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 45 by Rob W.

Dear BenS,

It makes as much sense as me defining everyone with the letters 'Rob' in their RD username - and all their descendents in perpetuity - a Snogwart. There you are, you're a Snogwart. You can't say you're not because, by very definition, you are. No point arguing. You might not stand on one leg on Wednesdays like Snogwarts are supposed to and you might not worship the great Snoggle in the sky, but you're still a Snogwart. And so are your kids. And their kids. Forever. For this is the law of the Snoggle - as old and as true as the sky.

While your knowledge of Snogwart Law is impressive, you are forgetting one thing. You can be excused for it, however, since you haven't met me in person. It is widely known that while Jews cannot opt out of being Jewish, blue-eyed Snogwarts can opt out of the Snogwart Nation. As much as I love the beauty of the Snogwart culture, I have my hands full juggling being both an American citizen and a Jew. Since I don't have time to stand on one leg on Wednesdays, and since neglecting that duty would be a disgrace to the Snogwart people, I'm going to have to respectfully invoke my blue-eyed loophole privilege.

I realize that the idea that a Muslim boy in Tunisia could be Halachically Jewish is academic. If the boy likes living as a Muslim, and nobody knows about his matrilineal Jewish background, then I can't think of any practical application to that case; it's just hypothetical and theoretical. But, hey, that's what rabbis do; they analyze this sort of stuff. So you see, I didn't say it's cause the Rob said so; I said that the rabbis say so.

A note on Law: Even a nomadic people can have a system of law. Prior to the modern State of Israel, there were settled Israelite kingdoms in the past. However, the fact that the Jewish people continued to be a people in any meaningful sense for so many centuries without having a geographically stable nation state is because they had a system of law -- Torah & Mitzvoth.

Even when more and more Jews went secular, Jew-haters hated them anyway. Why is a mystery to me. Haven't you noticed, though, that there are people posting here who call themselves both Jewish and secular, or both Jewish and atheistic? They aren't calling themselves ex-Jews; they aren't calling themselves non-Jews. If they have that matrilieal heritage, then the Orthodox rabbis will call them Jews regardless of their personal beliefs or their level of observance. At least some non-orthodox rabbis (e.g. Reconstructionist) will say that someone can claim to be Jewish based on either side -- matrilineal or patrilineal.

Just because my local rabbis don't physically arrest me, jail me, fine me, or stone me when I make a phone call on Sabbath doesn't mean they don't have a system of law. Instead of enforcing it physically, they just use guilt. They say things like, "Rob, you shouldn't do that. Wait till Shabbos is over."

Of course I value the individual, and I understand an individual's need to define him/herself. That's why I argued for a while, like you are now, that Halacha didn't apply to me if I didn't subscribe to it. After all, it's under American Law that I can actually be arrested, jailed, and fined. While I have been a wimp many times in my life about many things in many situations, it wasn't wimpiness that made me accept that I was Jewish. The annecdote I related only paints only part of the picture.

The case I made to that Jewish lady about (the heritage of) Torah & Mitzvoth uniting all the Jews globally was not actually a tautology. I asked her to tell me what cultural thing(s) all the Jews had in common, and she couldn't come up with a better answer. I did run into her the other day, though, and she said she still thinks there's something else. She was driving in the opposite direction, however, and didn't have time to tell me what it was. One of the last things I had a chance to say was that I'm looking forward to her answer next time I see her.

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 05:52:40 UTC | #951102

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 44 by Rob W.

The reason I said that empathy (the feeling which calls for compassion) is essential to morality is that it gives one that sense of fairness which people are talking about. Long before the so-called Enlightenment, the Golden Rule had been taught by teachers such as Moses, Confucious, Bhudda, Hillel, Jesus, etc. A sociopath might be able to use the Golden Rule for a while as a manipulative strategy, but it is empathy which makes a conscientious person go beyond just intellectualizing it; the conscientious person feels it, too.

The details about what's moral, of course, vary from culture to culture. Some cultural values discourage empathy. Hitler's Nazi values regarded compassion as weakness.

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 04:52:45 UTC | #951100

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 43 by Rob W.

Stick a '>' in front of the paragraph you want to quote. Sticking more on - like '>>' - lets you build nested quotes. Just experiment, there's a preview under the box so you can see what your post will look like.

Thanks, BenS; I needed that!

[Reply to moderated post removed by moderator]

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 04:38:59 UTC | #951098

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 236 by Rob W.

Dear Phil,

I just watched the video you cited in Comment # 230. It got me stoned... er, I mean I found it intellectually stimulating. I'll have to admit that given what you wrote, it's kind of scary, isn't it? At the same time, however, I think that they were implying that the very same liability has had certain advantages. If I can find the full-length documentary, maybe I'll find out more about that.

I also followed the link regarding the axial age. That's interesting stuff.

Re: Comment # 234. When I read that bit about "chosen" = "absolved," I thought, "no way!" I thought "chosen" just meant that Israel took on extra laws, but I never thought it meant "absolved" of anything. I did read the paragraph you cited, though. I'm going to ask some rabbis what that's all about. I guess that rabinic stuff was saying that once the Golden Calf thing happened, Israel got un-absolved; I don't know.

Dear Steve,

I re-read Comment # 226 and thought about it some more. As you say, "Feelings aren't truths, and to believe that they are is a profound mistake." If I can just insert the word "facts" in place of "truths" (if for no other reason than I think it sounds all the more precise), I know what you mean. I'm an emotional person, but I have a friend who is so emotionally volatile that he make me look stoic -- like Mr. Spock -- by comparison. He sometimes makes the mistake of thinking that he can derive the facts from his feelings. This makes him prone to embracing conspiracy theories and fairy tales. When he gets that way, I tell him: "First let's determine what the facts are; then we can talk about how we feel about them."

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 02:56:27 UTC | #951097

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 235 by Rob W.

Dear Tyler and achromat666,

I don't think I said anything about "interacts;" I think that's a word which you put in my mouth. I don't think I've said anything pro or con about "creates," "neccessary," "influencing," or "intervenes." When you said that deity is the starting point of all religions and is in no way a scientific position, that's what I'm saying, too. That's why I might use a word like "G-d" in a philosophical discussion, or even a discussion on the social sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology), but I would insist on keeping such a word out of any discussion which is to be focused on hard sciences like physics or chemistry. As for what I meant by "G-d," I thought that what I said earlier about "honoring Nature" might be understood. There appears also to be misunderstanding around the word "reconcile." I'll try to clarify any misunderstandings in the discussion called "Does Religion = Superstition? G-d Forbid!" I invite you to look for my comment(s) there.

As for getting high, I didn't mean to make a virtue out of being a manace to society by running around in a drunken, delusional state. I just meant getting into a good mood. Haven't you ever had a good workout where your endorphins kick in? I meant something more healthy like that. I get into a good mood when watching a good science documentary, too.

B.T.W. Tyler, great quote from the great philosopher Ralph Wiggam. There's another I like from his distinguished colleague, Bart Simpson: "G-d, schmod, I want my monkey-man!"

Dear Steve,

Maybe I was stretching (the usage of the word) the truth. If you mean strictly facts, then of course science is where it's at. I'm glad you mentioned logic. That got me thinking about mathematics. Everything that we've been saying about teaching science in the classroom applies to math, too. Just as evolution shouldn't make people cry any more that gravity should, the same goes for math. If I were teaching arithmetic to a classroom full of kids, it shouldn't matter which kids are Bhuddists, which are Agnostics, etc. Logic is logic, and once these kids learn how to count, they should be able to comprehend that 1 + 1 = 2. What a tragic waste of time it would be if math classes got bogged down in a bunch of tedious, tangential, gobbledygook about whether 1 + 1 = 2 because G-d commanded it to be that way, or if G-d is not neccessary to make 1 + 1 = 2. Again, people should save that sort of mental masturbation for philosophy class; it has no business in math class.

Sun, 19 Aug 2012 17:09:39 UTC | #951050

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 38 by Rob W.

I'll ask my LOR (Local Orthodox Rabbi) how to spell "G-dzilla" in Hebrew.

Sun, 19 Aug 2012 08:55:06 UTC | #951034

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 230 by Rob W.

Achromat, I'm sorry if you feel that I'm doing such a lousy job of communicating. I'm trying my best; I really am. I'm surprised, however, that after all this discussion that I'm still being misunderstood this much on certain points. I never said I was trying to insert the subjective into the objective. Or am I now misunderstanding you? This is the very "people talking past eachother" stuff which I find so unfortuante. All I've been saying is that people would do well to distinguish what is subjective from what is objective. That way, science can be science. That's the very problem which I've been complaining about -- that too many people in the world are trying to insert religion where it doesn't belong, like science classes. I guess most people here feel that religion doesn't belong anywhere. I'm just saying it wouldn't be such a force for evil if it weren't misused so much.

I think you are saying that I'm being philosophical instead of evidential, right? Well, yeah, isn't that all I've been meaning to do all along? I'm sorry if you feel I've been wasting your time or something. I just like to wax philosophical about things.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 23:52:42 UTC | #950978

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 228 by Rob W.

Phil, I would expect one of my figments to call me a Solopsist. Seriously, though, talk about icky; the last thing I intended to do was to come across as a Solopsist.

Are you opposed to people studying fables? Karen Armstrong made an interesting point about that. She said that people think that a myth is a lie. I'm paraphrasing here; she said that a myth is a non-literal or non-factual story meant to communicate timeless truths. It was only when I started reading between the lines when reading about the Garden of Eden in Genesis that the story started to make any real sense to me. Then I found it to be a brilliant allegory about the human condition. That's when Moses (or whatever the author's name was) started to come accross as smart rather than half-baked. I think this might relate to what you are saying about art. I think that one of the reasons I finally became comfortable enough with relgion (more specifically Judasim in my case) to participate more in it was that I came to appreciate some aspects of it as art rather than psudo-science. That's when it went from turning me off to turning me on. There's a lot more to it than that, but I'm just pointing out that there's an artistic component there.

In fact, when I was a teen, I went off on an anti-fundamentalist rant when I was supposed to be giving a summary of a Torah reading in synagogue one Friday night. I'm really ashamed of myself 'cause it was completely uncalled for -- not to mention the completely wrong time and place. A woman came up to me afterward and said something like, "Don't you know that it's not all meant to be taken literally? It's poetry."

Atheist or not, don't you ever express yourself in non-literal, figurative, metaphorical language? I'm just wondering, 'cause I would expect any human being to do a bit of that throughout his / her day or week. I'm thinking that people might do that without even realizing it.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 23:15:26 UTC | #950974

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 221 by Rob W.

Ah, Phil, ouch! You really got me there, man! Of course I care about truth. It's just that there are factual ways of talking about truth, and then there's that other stuff that's more subjective and personal. When I was in elementary school, we learned Aesop's Fables (translated into English). The stories aren't lies per se; they're true stories told in a non-factual way (mythical). When I say "true" in this context, I just mean that they contained valuable lessons. Thankfully, we didn't have a problem of Fundamentalist Aesopists trying to get the fables taught as historical facts in history classes.

When I recite Hebrew blessings before and after eating, I realize that I have no means of objectively demonstrating to myself or anyone else that the Cosmos (or its omniscient C.E.O.) literally "hears" my prayers, "witnesses" my deeds, and "knows" my thoughts. These are anthropomorphic metaphors which Jews are supposed to believe on the one hand, but are still absolutely forbidden from taking literally on the other hand. That's one of the reasons why I've heard at least some rabbis argue that Judaism is actually closer to Atheism than other kinds of Theism. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman has written about this at

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 10:08:27 UTC | #950934

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Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 26 by Rob W.

Hi Phil. I get the first part of what you are saying. I didn't always get it. I grew up in a home which was for the most part secular. My parents gave my sibs and me plenty of freedom to explore religion(s). We lived in a largely Jewish, Jew-friendly neighborhood in a free and prosperous country. Even though my mom was a Holocaust survivor, I initially had no idea how much some people hated Jews. I always felt like just another American. So for a long time, I didn't understand why some Jews kept themselves so apart from the larger society. Later I realized that this apartness had historically been imposed from the outside as much as from the inside.

Maybe you can explain to me the second part of your comment. Are you saying that the intellectual heritage is one thing, and the tradition heritage is another? Maybe this goes back to my orginial comment about Judaism being not just a culture over here, and a religion over there, but a religious culture. Of course I'm not denying that the state of the Jewish people at the moment is different than it was a few centuries ago; what I'm saying is that if there is still such a phenomena as the Jews, then we have to see change and continuity together in historical context. As I keep saying, there's got to be some reason why Atheists, Agnostics, and other secular people with matrilineal Jewish ancestory would still be called "Jewish" by themselves and / or others. That's why I keep saying that even if such an individual does not personally care for religion, he / she still has that religious heritage floating around in his / her background, following his / her parents, and at least her children like a ghost from generation to generation.

So unless I'm misunderstanding you, Phil, I still think that the intellectual heritage and the traditional heritage are part of the same package deal. At least that was the case historically, right? Maybe in more recent generations, the intellectual part got largely shifted over into more secular studies. For centuries, though, they were all part of the same thing, and there wasn't so much distinction between secular matters and religious matters as in post-modern thought. The traditional intellectual thing I'm talking about here is Talmudic study. Talmud encompasses everything from what some might call the practical secular stuff like agricultural property law to the mystical religious stuff like how to properly talk to G-d.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 09:27:05 UTC | #950932

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 219 by Rob W.

One Christian minister to whom I do enjoy listening is Michael Dowd. His wife is a science writer (and an atheist). Together they go to churches and lecture about reconciling these seemingly contradictory ways of looking at life, the universe, and everything (r.i.p. Douglas Adams). Dowd wrote a book about this called Thank G-D for Evolution. I'll admit that I haven't read the whole book yet, but I've listened to some of Dowd's lectures and discussions about it, and I really appreciate what he says. He talks about "Night Language," which is that subjective, symbolic, mythic, mystical dream stuff which is part of the human mind where religion takes place. There's another kind of thinking which might be called Daytime Language or something like that, and that's the practical, logical, scientific, objective, factual stuff which of course we need as well.

So do I believe that there's a Big, Bad Boogie-Monster in the Sky (or whatever the hell people think G-d is) who appreciates it when Jews recite Psalms, and who is displeased when Jews order clam chowder and drive on Saturdays? Of course I do. I believe it with all my heart. But literally?! Are you kidding?! Would I ever assert that as if it were some kind of objective fact which ought to be taught in a science class? If I did, I ought to be locked up in a mental hospital with Fred Phelps.

I get high worshiping G-d. Does that mean that G-d exists? Who knows? Who cares? It's got to be safer than using actual opiates. The funny thing that I've noticed is that all this fuss about whether G-d exists or not is far more important to the militant Atheist (and to the Fundamentalist) than it is to me. I discussed this with my friend, Rabbi Yisroel Altein, the Younger.

I said, "Rabbi, you exist. I exist. Bacteria exists. The galaxy exists. I'm not saying G-d doesn't exist, but to say that G-d exists per se would be putting G-d in the same category as you and me, as if G-d were just another being subject to space and time, and that doesn't make any sense. Do I sound meshuge to you?"

He said, "No, Rob. Actually, you are absolutely right."

I said, "Really?!"

He said, "Yeah. Because of the limitations of human language, we use these figures of speech so that we can relate to G-d in terms which we can understand. So when we say that G-d exists, we don't mean in the same sense which you and I do."

Religious language is often highly poetic, mythical, and metaphorical. It can include all kinds of riddles, paradoxes, ironies, fables, legends, and parables. It's not always clear what is fact and what is fiction. For years, I neglected Torah in favor of Arthuriana. Though I'm not Catholic, my fascination with Camelot was so intense, one might have thought that it was my religion. History, fiction, and mythology are all jumbled up in the Matter of Britain. Archaeology has been able to shed light on some of the real-life aspect of it, but there will always be some mystery to it -- kind of like the Bible.

You know what an Atheist is? An Atheist is someone to whom G-d has revealed His lack of existence. There was a brilliant rabbi -- possibly Mordechai Kaplin, I'm not sure -- who stuck up for Atheists. He said that Atheists aren't rejecting G-d; they're rejecting the anthropomorphic conceptualization of G-d which is actually idolatrous. So if you really think about it, the Rabbi reasoned, Atheists are doing the world a favor, and making the world a holier place by ridding the world of idolatry.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 08:27:06 UTC | #950924

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 21 by Rob W.

Well, Aguazul, keep in mind that what makes a Christian a Christian is very different that what makes a Jew a Jew. These are two different camps who use very different sets of rules (not to mention all the subdivisions in each).

Dear BenS, In response to (I wish I knew how to properly block quote): "So when a Jewish mother births a daughter, who moves abroad and cuts ties with the family, who births a daughter of her own, who becomes a Muslim and moves to Tunisia who births a son who is brought up in a Muslim family and has never even heard of Judaism... that son is a Jew. No."

Yes, BenS, that's exactly what I'm saying. I don't care whether you like it or not; that's Halacha. Just 'cause you don't like it doesn't make you an authority, and doesn't make it not so. There are laws on the books where I live which I don't like, but that doesn't mean they aren't the laws. Ben, if you are Gentile, then of course someone telling you that you're Jewish over and over wouldn't make it so. In my case, however, the people who told me that were correct. Israel (a.k.a. the Jewish people) -- not just the modern State of Israel -- has been a nation for centuries even when dispersed. The Rabbis have kept Halacha going. They have rules and regulations about how a Gentile might become Jewish just as the United States Immigration Service regulates how an immigrant to the U.S.A. might become a citizen. Citizenship in a nation is not just a matter of your individual opinion or mine; it's a matter of the legal system in place for that nation.

Now please, Ben, if I am wrong when I say that the matrilineal heritage of Torah and Mitzvoth is what unites all Jews including the atheistic ones, then please tell us what does. Why would we ever even call an Atheist a Jew if there isn't something which unites him with those Jews who are more religious than he is? Your point about Vegans for Beef is fine, but if the same principle were applied here, wouldn't an Atheist with matrilineal Jewish ancestory be a non-Jew?

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 02:19:12 UTC | #950918

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 216 by Rob W.

The reason I think that this pertains to the OP is because I think that if people would just keep in mind what science is and isn't, and what other kinds of conversations (e.g. religion) are and aren't, then we wouldn't have problems like silly girls crying in science classes. (I didn't mean for that to sound as sexist as it did.) I was listening to Karen Armstrong on National Public Radio one day, and she said that when you pit science and religion against each other and misuse each in place of the other, all you end up with is bad science and bad religion. I said, "Amen, Sister!" (She's a recovering nun, you know.)

The reason I think that you are mistakenly trying to turn what ought to be subjective into something objective is that you keep talking about G-d as if G-d is supposed to be some sort of explanation for something, just as the Fundies do. You keep talking about G-d being unneccessary, just as Fundies think that G-d is some sort of neccessary explanation for something. I think that you and the Fundies are on opposite sides of the same misguided paradigm.

Please remind me at some point to tell you something funny a rabbi said about G-d as a neccessity. In the meantime, however, you've got me curious. In your usage of these terms, what is the difference between a subjective G-d and an objective one? And why are they equally problematic.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 00:29:12 UTC | #950911

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 214 by Rob W.

I did try earlier by stressing the distinction between subjective and objective. The cave is a place where people are still confusing the two. I'll try to develop my case further as soon as I can, but right now I must rush off to work. Have a blessed, er, I mean rational day!

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 10:21:27 UTC | #950868

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Rob W.

Dear Cartomancer,

My comment about D&D was tongue-in-cheek. I don't literally think that all people who enjoy fantasy role-playing games can't distinguish the game from reality. Maybe you were being funny in return...

Dear BenS,

I'm not sure what answer you think I've given to the belief in G-d thing here. If I implied an answer, maybe you correctly picked up on that, but I'm not sure that I've explicitly addressed it. You can see in that other thread that I hesitate to give a simple "yes" because I think a simple "yes" is bound to be grossly misunderstood. A lot of that has to do with those ubiquitous notions about what religion is.

In my experience, Jews tend to use the term "religious" differently than do Christians. When I hear Christians (and Atheists, b.t.w. who've bought into Christian terms) say that someone is very "religious" or "has a strong faith," it seems to me that they mean "dogmatic." When I hear Jews describe another Jew as "religious," they don't neccessarily mean "dogmatic;" they mean "observant." That's because often in Christianity, the "belief" is The Thing; it's The Point to it all as if it were a virtue in and of itself, as if it had some intrinsic value. Belief without action doesn't go a long way in Judaism; in Judaism, behavior trumps belief every time.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 10:02:21 UTC | #950867

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Rob W.

What unites the atheistic Jew with the religious Jew (and all the Jews between them -- e.g. secular, agnostic Jews)? What is it that they all have in common which allows us to apply the term "Jew" to them all? I'm arguing that it's that heritage of Torah & Mitzvoth, even if part or all of that heritage is rejected at an individual level. That's why history is part of the big picture. The idea of "Jewish culture" being separate from "Jewish religion" is a very post-modernist idea which takes Jews and Judaism out of historical context.

A Jew is not neccessarily someone who believes or practices Judaism. A Jew is someone whose mom is Jewish. That's not just some opinion; that's the legal definition. In fact, it took me a long time to get this because the western world is so dominated by Gentile -- mostly Christian -- notions about what religion is. I've noticed that a great deal of Western Atheist thought is informed by these Christian notions. It's so ubiquitous that it has affected the thinking of Western Jews and Gentiles alike even when people are not aware of it.

If it is not the heritage of Torah & Mitzvoth, then I don't know what it is. All other suggested answers fall short because all other suggested answers only include some subset(s) of Jews; no other suggestion I've heard covers all the Jews.

As I say, this heritage is matrilineal. For years, people kept telling me this, and I would argue. It typically went like this:

"Rob, if your mom is Jewish, then you are Jewish."

"Isn't it my own personal decision what religion I am? What if I want to go join the Hindu temple, for example?"

"Then, Rob, you will be a Jew sitting in the Hindu temple."

"But my dad's side of the family is Gentile. So that makes me half-Jewish."

"You can't be half-Jewish any more than you can be half-pregnant. It's your mom who determines your religious identity; Jewish Law (Halacha) says so."

"What do I care what Jewish Law says? I'm an American; I live under the Constitution."

But the world won the argument by wearing me down through repetition. So many people over the course of so many years just kept telling me over and over again:

"Rob, if your mom is Jewish, then you are Jewish,"

until finally one day, I just caved. I threw in the towel, and said,

"Okay, alright, I'm Jewish! Apparently I'm Jewish whether I like it or not. I guess I better get my toochas to shul and learn to like it."

So nowadays I do attend synogogue services where I'm learning to like it.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 09:18:41 UTC | #950865

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 13 by Rob W.

As for the science of morality, I should add that there are great scientific explanations about the evolution of morality. I was trying to explain this to my friend YA. If you look at the Classroom Clashes: Teaching Evolution discussion, you will see some of his comments there, but alas, many of his comments got deleted by the mods, and then he got banned. For some reason, he is more reluctant to accept evolution than I am, so sometimes I find myself trying to explain aspects of it to him. I was explaining how developing a sense of empathy is essential to long-term survival. I told him about how our aggressive traits have come down to us in some balance with our compassionate traits because too much of one or the other would interfere with one's survival.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 08:27:09 UTC | #950859

Go to: Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 12 by Rob W.

Dear Aguazul,

You are reminding me of some interesting things I saw on featuring Sam Harris. In one video he was talking with Richard Dawkins, and in another he was debating William Lane Craig. As smart as Professor Harris is, some of his arguments didn't quite make sense to me. Maybe I misunderstood him, but it seemed to me that he was arguing that science can teach us morality -- as if the more science you know and understand, the more moral you will be. He was talking about how primitive someone like Abraham was -- as if Abraham couldn't possibly have had as well-developed a moral sense as do modern men who know so much more science than was known back in the days of Abraham. All I could think was, "Wait a second. Dr. Joseph Mengele must have understood many scientific things which Abraham wouldn't have known. Would we assume that Mengele was more moral than Abraham?" Some folks might not think of Abraham as all that moral anyway, but he was no Mengele.

I've listened to a lot of debate and discussion about the relationship (or lack thereof) between religion and morality. The late Christopher Hitchens (whom I affectionately nick-named "Atheistopher Hitchens") argued that we don't get our morality from religion, but that religion gets its morality from us. I can only agree half-way since he made it sound like a one-way street. It's clearly a 2-way street. Culture informs individuals, and individuals inform culture.

For some reason(s), some people are just sociopaths and / or psychopaths. I've long argued that without empathy, there can be no true morality. No matter how many rules and regulations you write down, they can't be remotely reliably executed in real life without a gut sense of right and wrong which intuitively takes into account that others are as capable of pleasure and pain as you are, and that it matters that this is so. Harris understands that; that much is clear to me. Mengele, on the other hand, was a sociopath.

I was listening to The Atheist Experience out of Austin, Texas. One of the co-hosts (whose name escapes me at the moment) was asked from where he derives his morality. He said, "Empathy and Reason." I said, "Amen, brother!"

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 08:15:01 UTC | #950858

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 212 by Rob W.

Dear achromatt666,

The point I'm trying to make is still relevant to the article about teaching science in the classroom because the article is talking about some students (and parents) getting all bent out of shape if and when they think that science education clashes with their religious beliefs. These clashes are borne of wrong-headed thinking. You might think that the wrong-headed thinking is religion itself. Since there is so much stupidity associated with religion, that should be no surprise. Nevertheless, I am still challenging the very premises upon which people are basing their interpretations and assessments of religious teachings -- favorable or unfavorable. That's why I'm saying that fundamentalists on the one hand, and many atheists on the other, share a common paradigm which I'm trying to blow wide open here. You are obviously very smart, but you are still missing my point. As long as people insist on having a stupid approach to religion, then folks like you and Andy Thompson will be correct for all practical purposes more often than not. I'm trying to invite everyone -- atheists, fundamentalists, whoever -- outside the bloody cave!

One summer, several years ago, I dated a lady who taught in a public elementary school. She and I both live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., but the school district which employed her was not Pittsburgh propper; it was suburban. [For British reading this, keep in mind that here in the States, "public" school means government-run, tax-supported, and secular.] I was shocked by the conditions she described set out by her employer. She actually had to sign a contract stipulating that she would not live with a man out of wedlock for the duration of her employment. Can you imagine?! I thought only some private, religious school would ever ask a teacher for such a promise. The other bit which shocked me was that when teaching biology, she had to make a disclaimer when teaching about evolution that not everyone believes in it. My reaction: "Oh, for freak's sake, you've got to be bloody kidding me!" I asked her, "Are you sure you work for a public shcool district?" She said, "Yes." She said that if she didn't make the disclaimer, some parents might complain that the biology class was teaching things contrary to their religion. I just couldn't get over it; still can't.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 06:47:17 UTC | #950854

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 209 by Rob W.

While we wait to see if the Mods accept comment # 205 as the seed for another discussion, I would like to still try to respond to some of what has been discussed here as relates to this article. I will relate all this back to the issue of teaching science in the classroom.

I still stand by what I said ealier about science and religion need not be in conflict since they are different kinds of conversations. That's why I think this business of crying when taught science is so silly and tragic. I realize that what I am saying, however, is idealistic; the reality of the world does not always live up to it, but I still think it should, could, and sometimes does.

Achromat, if you want to just throw in the towell and agree to disagree with me, that's your choice. However, I don't know if you can really disagree with me if you still haven't got my point in the first place. Please people, don't take the things I'm saying the wrong way. I might be at risk here of coming across like some pretentious prick, but that's not my intention. I am still asking you to try and just think outside the box / paradigm to which you are acustomed.

The paradigm to which I refer is the same one used by born-again fundamentalists and such. It's a box where people keep trying to turn the subjective (back) into the objective, and I see that happening here a lot. As long as one's religious faith is kept in the realm of philosophy, then it need not be superstition or psuedo-science.

I don't really care if that Jewish physicist really "talked with the Divine Force" on the one hand, or if he was just meditating on important values on the other. It's all the same to me, and it's his subjective experience anyway.

I should note here that words like "faith," "G-d," "spiritual," etc. can be really problematic since no one seems to agree on what the heck they mean. The ideal for which I strive and which I champion is the most practical, rational, logical interpretation of religion possible. So if those tricky words evoke nonsense to you, then I probably don't mean them in the sense with which you are familiar. For example, I have no use for blind faith; if I use the word "faith," then I mean something else.

When I first heard the term "Intelligent Design," I thought, "Yeah, cool; I'm into that," because like many people, I marvelled at the beautiful, intricate designs I saw in Nature / Universe. As soon as I realized that ID was the same old Creationist crap and people were trying to teach it as science, I became as opposed to it as anyone. I'm not alone; there are other religious and semi-religious people who are on our side.

Recently I actually discussed ID with YA. He claims to be good at science, and was giving ID respectful consideration as a scientific idea. I countered by admitting that I suck at science, and I still know exactly why it is completely inappropriate to try and teach ID as science. If ID were taught in a class on religion or philosophy, I might not have a problem with it, but as hard science it is absolutely useless. My mantra in our discussion / debate was, "compared to what?! compared to what?!" It seems to me that if you intend to scientifically prove something, you need to have contrasts. For example, if you want to prove that x exists, then there needs to be not-x with which to contrast it. So if you are out to demonstrate that something is designed, then you would have to contrast it with something which is not designed. If religious nuts like me feel that everything is designed, then where is the contrast? Therefore, it ain't science.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 08:58:07 UTC | #950806

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 205 by Rob W.

I wasn't planning on completely dominating the conversation at this point, but since no one else is posting at the moment, I thought I would try to address a point or two which might call for some clarification. Here's why I reject the alleged distinction between "Jewish culture" and "Jewish religion" as a false dichotomy: If you understand Jewish history (a.k.a. the history of the Jewish People / Nation of Israel, which is also part of the same big picture), you will see that we're talking not about a religion over here and a culture over there, but rather a religious culture.

I debated this point with a Jewish woman who tried to argue in favor of the dichotomy. I asked her, "What's Jewish culture? Matzah ball soup? Corned beef on rye? Marx Brothers? Mel Brooks? I'm not knocking those things, but is that all there is to it? There are plenty of Jewish sub-cultures: Sephardic; Ashkenazic; Yemenite; etc., but what is the one thing which unites them all? Torah & Mitzvoth." She couldn't deny the truth of what I was saying.

A Jewish man once told me that he was interested in Jewish history, but not in the religion. I told him that the two could not be completely separated from each other. I told him that religion is a lot more than just believing in a bunch of invisible beings for no good reason. If all it were, I told him, were about believing in ghosts & goblins and fairies & elves and witches & warlocks and angels & devils, I wouldn't have much use for it; I would just go play Dungeons & Dragons.

Okay, so what is religion? What is Torah & Mitzvoth? It might be more than you think it is, and less. I said before that Judaism is not Christianity, and my point is still lost on some. You can go on about the Deity and YHWH worship all you want, but the Chrisitan take on this is not the Jewish one. What might appear to be an ancient superstition to some is really (ideally at its best anyway) a living and enduring philosophy which is more than just words and ideas; it is lived out in all sorts of deeds including giving to charity, visiting the sick, marriage counseling & conflict resolution, prayer & study, sex & abstinence, honoring parents & raising children, work & rest, and even bathing & diet. It is a system of law & self-discipline, as there are other disciplines in the world such as Zazen and T'ai chi ch'uan.

I was walking around with my friend & neighbor Eddie after attending a Sabbath prayer service a few years ago. I said to him, "I'm not really a religious Jew; I'm more of a philosophical Jew." He said to me, "You're more religious than you think you are." I thought that was funny, 'cause I wasn't sure what he meant. Then I realized that he and I had just prayed with a minyan, and that is a religious thing to do.

A little bit more recently, I was walking around between prayer services on Sabbath with another friend & neighbor named Yitzchak. I said to him, "You know, I used to regard so many of the mitzvoth as if they were just a bunch of superstitious mumbo-jumbo. But now that I'm learning more about the meaning of the mitzvoth..." and he said to me, "Now you're learning that it's meaningful mumbo-jumbo?"
I said, "Yeah, well put!"

So how does all this relate to the current article? Let me put it this way: Irate, if you dare disagree with me one more time, I'll burst into tears. That'll show you!

Tue, 14 Aug 2012 07:47:21 UTC | #950778

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 203 by Rob W.

While I wait to be clued in about the Name(s) issue...

I'm digging this discussion, but I am determined that it should constantly refer back to this article. I have had a long, difficult, up & down, back & forth, love-hate, rocky roller coaster relationship with religion throughout my life. Many people do. Some don't; some folks don't think about it much one way or another; some have always been happy with their religion; some have always been happy without religion. Part of what fascinates me about it is that it is so important to so many people one way or another, so like it or not, it's part of the story of the human condition and civilizations. Since I don't think it's going away anytime soon, I'd rather seek a rational approach to religion than to try and stamp it out.

My father once said to me, "Rob, it seems you've always been interested in religion, but I can't figure out whether you're for it or against it."
I told him, "I can't figure out whether I'm for it or against it either!"

One of the main points which I've been trying to make regarding this article is that one need not be an Atheist to be a good scientist. I saw an interview with a Holocaust survivor whose name escapes me. He escaped or was liberated from a camp. He rebuilt his life somehow, and enrolled in a university where he did his undergraduate work in physics. He then went on to do graduate work in physics. Ultimately he got his PhD. in physics. In the interview, he cried passionately about how his faith kept him going through everything including the process of becoming a physicist. They showed a picture of him wearing his tallith gadol (large, fringed prayer shawl). I guess that talking and walking each day with G-d gave him the psychological wherewithall to keep from falling into dispair about all he had been through so that he could live in the present and create a future. Some people go through adversity, and say, "See, G-d is B.S.!" or "G-d doesn't care." Others go through adversity and say, "G-d's all I've got!" It's all very subjective.

Tue, 14 Aug 2012 03:00:14 UTC | #950771

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 202 by Rob W.

Call me "dense," but you might have to spell it out for me. What's the glaring elephant that I'm apparently missing?

Tue, 14 Aug 2012 02:34:08 UTC | #950770

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 200 by Rob W.

"god" or "G-d" or however one spells it is an English word, and people often underestimate how tricky, challenging, difficult, and problematic it can be to translate from one language to another. A lot of the misunderstandings to which I've been referring have to do with Hebrew and English being very different. Many Jews don't understand their own religion because they've forgotten Hebrew (especially classic Biblical Hebrew). See the chapter "English is a Christian Language" in Ronald Brauner's Being Jewish in a Gentile World: A Survival Guide.

Habit, tradition, sacredness... (in my own self-centered p.o.v.) it's a package deal, just like Jewish culture and Jewish religion aren't two separate things. I can't write in Hebrew letters here, but there's more than one word in Biblical Hebrew to refer to G-d depending on context. In Roman alphabet, G-d's personal name is spelled YHWH. Jewish Law (Halacha) prohibits me from trying to pronounce the Name, so depending on context, there are substitute words, such as "HaShem" (The Name) in casual conversation.

Anyway, I appreciate and enjoy the discussion, people. I've got to go earn a living now. I'll try to respond to comment # 198 and others in the near future. May G-d bless you all, er... I mean, may the laws of cause & effect work harmoniously in your favor... um, or maybe what I mean to say is good luck! Oh, for crying out loud, you all know what I mean: Be well!

Mon, 13 Aug 2012 10:29:59 UTC | #950735