Monday, September 6, 2010

Rapid-Fire Debate with E-man Regarding Judaism

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So E-man and I got into a debate on Google Chat. We were discussing our debate regarding rationalism and emotionalism, and then we agreed to disagree. I then brought our discussion into the realm of believing in religion. I've gotten his permission to put up the debate.

I've used replacements for swear words and deleted references to certain people we refer to. The salient points remain. Both of us were typing pretty fast, so neither of us can guarantee that everything we typed represents a wholehearted thought-out position. Here it is:

: [deleted]
it's amazing how stories pop up, i have no way of knowing if any of that's true now.
4:33 PM i suppose my main concern now is that i don't see how anybody can really believe in Judaism. Doesn't make sense to me anymore, just popped off. U'll have 2 explain that one to me sometime.
4:34 PM E-man: Well why did you stop believing
4:35 PM Why did you start believing in the first place?
4:36 PM me: I started believing b/c i was like, "Hey, Jews have been around a really long time. That is so cool it, like, SO has to be divine." And the Xtian and Muslim explanations were pretty lame, so i signed on. And then I got a whiff of what we actually were supposed to believe and i read refutations and i struggled with that and finally, while reading feldman, i couldn't take the logical disconnect from reality.
4:37 PM E-man: So you had a problem with specific halachas that you read in charaidi literature?
me: no, Sinai in particular.
E-man: What about SInai
4:38 PM me: oh, that it happened. That i am required to believe that God gave the Torah (or most of it anyways, with some possible exceptions) to da Jews.
E-man: What problems do you have with that scenario, that it happened or that it was given to the jews in particular
4:39 PM me: Happened.
E-man: Well, do you think it is probable that there is a higher power that created the universe
4:41 PM me: Well, let's start with that. Why would it be probable? Because we live in a nice world, only one we know of, we think about the human condition. Okay. So that doesn't convince me that there is 4 sure something else out there (forget higher power, it could be aliens), but let's grant that there is maybe something else out there. So now what?
4:42 PM E-man: Well, statistically, the creation of the universe and evolution in particular are soooooooooo far off that it leads me to think a higher power at least guided evolution and started the creation
If this seems probable then we have to ask ourselves, is there a purpose
me: I don't know that that's true. Remember, it only needs to happen once.
4:43 PM E-man: Ok, I hear that from skeptics/atheists all the time
Have you ever seen a monkey randomly strike a type writer and come close to writing a coherent sentence?
The world being created and humans being created from evolution are about as liekly to happen as a monkey striking a keyboard and writing hamlet
4:44 PM Those things DO NOT HAPPEN
me: i don't know where that statistic came from, prima facie sounds ridiculous.
E-man: I suppose we could also believe that, like scientific american says, another universe is going to pop into existence inside our own and destroy our universe
4:45 PM me: well, if the sun doesn't destroy the universe first, wot?
E-man: I am just saying the idea sounds illogical, not just improbable
4:46 PM me: But okay, evolution is some really crazy shitaki mushrooms and the world seems amazing to us, so maybe there's a Designer. So now what?
E-man: Well, if there is a designer there was a reason for the creation
me: (good opportunity for u to type, i'm gonna go 2 the bathroom, brb)
4:47 PM E-man: Ok, so if there is a creator and he had a reason to create the world then it only makes sense for Him or her or it to tell us what our purpose is in this world. Otherwise, His ro her or it's reasons will fall on deaf ears.
or the reason will not come about
4:48 PM Therefore, it makes sense that G-D or a god would reveal himself to a people or the whole human race
me: bak
E-man: At this point you have to look for the most logical monotheistic religion, because polytheism makes no sense.
4:49 PM me: uh-huh. Now see, here we run into a gazillion problems.
4:50 PM First, i'm going to assume you haven't talked to university philosophers of logic about this? Cause they don't seem to have run into this problem. Of course, this may be an Argument from Authority, but we should be humble to talk to people who are experts in the fields.
4:51 PM E-man: I have read up on it and guess what..... religious logicians believe it is logically impossible and atheist logicians believe even though it is improbable it only needs to happen once.
4:52 PM Shocking, I know
me: No, I mean the looking-for-a-religion-and-coming-to-Judaism bit.
4:53 PM E-man: Oh, no, I don;t know any that I feel close enough to have this discussion with
4:54 PM me: See, on issues like "how should I live my life" I don't think we can afford to be shy. [line deleted]
E-man: And remember everyone has bias, the atheist will tell me it is illogical, the Jew will tell me it is logical, the christian will tell me it is logical, but so is christianity and the muslim will be similar to the christian
4:55 PM Also, I have read up on this stuff quite a bit
me: Of course, but the insights of others allow us to overcome some biases, but that's just one problem. Then we have the document itself. Dude, it's nuts. This is an obviously human document. Global flood sounds a bit familiar. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live too. There are a series of impossible demands which, surprise, have manifested in other religions. We have a trek across Egypt which (per even David Wolpe) most likely didn't happen and certainly didn't have the numbers the Torah's speaking of.
4:56 PM E-man: Who said it is definitely a global flood
These arguments I have heard before and are not that convincing
4:57 PM me: Then feel free to convince.
E-man: First off, the witch thing, in your mind, makes you think it isnt godly?
4:58 PM which demand is impossible?
me: (btw, there's also a problem w/ the whole creation-must-have-given-purpose thing, but we'll get to that later maybe)
E-man: The egypt thing is such a mess
me: well, dude, let's do 1 at a time.
4:59 PM E-man: well, if there is a creator there must be a reason for the created, logically
Ok, you start
5:00 PM me: erm, i dunno which 1 u wanna start with. Say, witches. Okay, the Torah certainly sounds like it's talking about real witches, real magic, etc. RSRH wasn't kidding when he said the Rambam read his own Aristotelian values into the Torah. The gemara and Jews throughout the generations buy into the ideas of magic, amulets, etc.
demons, Chazal can resurrect the dead, et al.
So yeah, that's a problem to start out with.
5:01 PM E-man: Torah can't be talking about people you think are witcches?
Remember the Torah was written to relate to man at the time it was given.
5:02 PM me: Uh-huh. Says who? Ibn Caspi? Like, come on, at that point u can say the Shevus Yaakov is justified in saying that the Torah "obviously" maintains a flat earth and really, we don't have to take it seriously.
(Shevus Yaakov doesn't say the "and really" part obviously)
E-man: true, if the Torah is written by G-D who is to say what it really means?
5:03 PM Moshe, unfortunately we don;t know what Moshe actually said in his explanantions of the Torah
me: well, sounds like a worthless flipping revelation to me. But I'm telling you, if it just happens to "sound" like it's human and "look" like it fits the Documentary Hypothesis (as R' Breuer maintained), maybe we should try the hypothesis that it is human.
5:04 PM E-man: Who says witch means literal witch
It doesnt look like the DH at all
I have read some of that garbage and it is laughable
If you are gonna say who is ibn caspi then you have a real double standard believing the dh
5:05 PM Made up hypotheses
me: Like we agreed, 1 point at a time, DH will take us on a tangent, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it. Dude, here's what I'm saying: You admit that it looks like something for the people of the time.
5:06 PM Witches and magic and global floods, this is prima facie what it's talking about.
E-man: That can relate to the people of the time
5:07 PM me: and mass exodus and killing children and focused genocide and (if we accept the Shevus Yaakov) the flat earth and lots of other relatively normal ideas of the time.
E-man: flat earth, that is funny
again do you want to talk about what the torah says or what commentators say?
5:08 PM me: See, but this is a problem, because how do u know what the torah's saying without the meforshim. But okay, let's go w/ what the torah says, let's subtract the flat earth from that list.
5:09 PM E-man: Ok, if you want to add meforshim then you cant just pick and choose who you like or want to read it like
me: Mate, here's the problem. Adding meforshim by definition is picking and choosing. Which is why when u said it was to relate to the people of the time, i felt necessary to bring in another rishon.
5:10 PM E-man: Truth is you cant have it both ways, either it is divine and all of these hidden meanings are there or it is not and then we dont know what the heck it is saying
5:11 PM me: What do u mean by "all of these hidden meanings?"
E-man: Like what the Rambam says or ibn caspi
Or maybe it isnt a global flood, but the people of the time couldnt understand that
5:12 PM me: But u've chosen the most rationalist rational aspects of rational commentary you can find. U know many meforshim maintain not like that.
E-man: so?
What is your point?
5:13 PM me: well, u just slapped me 4 picking and chosing. Sounds like picking and chosing.
E-man: And someone who thinks mysticism is "logical" will want to take the Ramban to explain everything
I know
that was my point
Either we can't pick and choose, or anyone can pick and choose
me: k, so u're saying, "We need to take the ones that make sense to us," correct?
E-man: no
5:14 PM My point is no one really understands the Torah, no one really knows the truth about what it is actually saying.
So the Torah itself can't really be used to discredit itself
in the way you are trying to
5:15 PM me: Oh, but see, i disagree with that, and here's why:
5:16 PM Because even after u've allegorized everything and taken everything and made it into the most rationalist mush you can find, the question that the BRAIN must ask is, "Yes, but is that reasonable enough that I should accept it?" I chose the above examples for that reason. I think the Torah's talking about a literal Adam and Eve, literal global flood, literal genocide, literal witches, et al. Otherwise, u can reinterpret Christ's coming to Earth, as many have done.
5:17 PM E-man: u can reinterpret Christ's coming to Earth [<-] I don't know what that means
me: i'm saying, u can interpret everything the way you'd like. If Xtianity doesn't sound rational enough, we can Rambam it up.
E-man: Not possible
me: (I'm reading Terry Eagleton right now, he tries to do a bit of that)
5:18 PM E-man: It requires that you change Judaism based on the words of someone who was not a leader nor prophet in judaism
think of it like this.
G-D had a revelation to the whole people and then some joe shmoe comes along and says we are gonna do it differently
Does that make sense?
5:19 PM That is like Toyota announcing they have one business plan and a week later some mechanic comes and announces that toyota really has a different business plan, will anyone listen to the mechanic?
me: Some Joe Shmoe!?! Some Joe Shmoe!?! Are you talking about the Messiah, Shabbetai Zvi!? Jews did exactly that and the fact is that when the messiah comes, rishonim hold that Torah does change.
(and acharonim)
5:20 PM E-man: NOPE
I don;t know who told you that
me: k, 1 sec, lemme get u one. brb [I go offline momentarily]
5:21 PM E-man: Um, also, remember, Jesus supposedly changed the Torah, Shabbtai tzvi didnt until later when he converted to Islam and then he lost most of his followers
E-man: The point is, neither was a prophet so no credibility to change the Tora
5:22 PM me: [I come back] hey
"We absolutely do not admit that which Maimonides laid down, that the entire Torah will not change, for there is no decisive proof for this -- neither from reason and logic nor from the Bible. Verily, the Sages tell us that the Holy One will give a new Torah in the future [!!]. If our King should wish to change the Torah, or exchange it for another [!!], whatever the King wishes, whether it be to descend on Mount Sinai or another of the mighty mountains, or even a valley, there to appear a second time before the eyes of all the living, we would be the first to do His will, whatever be His bidding."
--R' Yaakov Emden (1697 - 1776)*
5:23 PM E-man: Which book of Rav Yaakov Emden is this and can you find me a Rishon
me: I don't have the mekorot on me right now, this is all from Marc Shapiro's book.
E-man: Yeah, that doesn;t make any sense since it goes against the Gemora
5:24 PM Maybe he means that the world is going to change
In Sanhedrin
me: well, we know that gedolim don't have to make sense
E-man: haha
Yeah, where in marc shapiros book is this
5:25 PM This goes against everyone from the Rambam to the Maharal also, so it doesnt really make much sense that he said it
5:28 PM I found this quote fromk mark chapiros book
on a christian website
"We absolutely do not admit that which Maimonides laid down, that the entire Torah will not change, for there is no decisive proof for this -- neither from reason and logic nor from the Bible. Verily, the Sages tell us that the Holy One will give a new Torah in the future. If our King should wish to change the Torah, or exchange it for another, whatever the King wishes, whether it be to descend on Mount Sinai or another of the mighty mountains, or even a valley, there to appear a second time before the eyes of all the living, we would be the first to do His will, whatever be His bidding.

R' Abraham Hayim Viterbo (quoted from Marc Shapiro. Littman:2004, in The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
So who really said it?
5:29 PM me: I have the book and the quote, it's from Emden.
E-man: argue with them they quote marc shapiros book
5:30 PM me: dude, look around, they misquote it. I quoted it a long time ago. Here:
U see, others quote the same way I did.
5:31 PM But I've seen it inside more than once, so they messed up, what's the kashe?
E-man: I just thought it was funny that they had a different person from the same book
5:32 PM me: yeah, they screwed up
But yeah, so I just happen to think it's more reasonable to think the torah's like any other document (human) and is talking about witches, etc. The other interpretations seems aristotelian and forced.
5:35 PM E-man: Yeah, I think most explanations are not reasonable, least of all the dh
The only thing is if ther ewas an oral torah given with it, then that is what was meant
5:36 PM me: What is what was meant?
E-man: the ORAL TORAH
5:38 PM me: That doesn't make sense (which is why I was dan lekav schus). yes, of course, the oral torah would be the interpretive part. I don't know what u specifically mean by the oral torah. The Talmud? Magic, demons, and reviving sheep, oh my!
E-man: haha
No, whatever was given at the time of the giving
5:39 PM The gemora has parts of the oral torah, but most of it is rabbinic interpretations
me: Uh-huh. Like, whose?
E-man: what
I believe the true oral Torah, msot of it was lost
There are some things we have from it, but most of it was lost
as was told to us throughout tanach
5:40 PM me: Oh, okay. So we have some oral torah and then we have some areas where we got like nothing but the bible and gaonic guesses?
E-man: yeah, they use systematic ways to figure out laws
5:41 PM we aren't 100% sure, so better to be safe than sorry when it comes to divine laws
me: Right, systematic commentary, like Tosafos: "We don't want Chazal to be arguing, that's not good for the Jews, so..."
E-man: no
me: Sry, meant to put a "?" there.
E-man: Tosfos has chazal arguing plenty of the time
5:42 PM However, he does try to reconcile them so we can have a more cohesive set of rules
5:43 PM I was referring to Rabbi Yishamel's 13 principles of how to figure out rules and laws
me: Ah, but if we can prohibit it, that's better. I mean, do you see why somebody might not see this whole endeavor as rational? How about this: the Torah's human. When it says witches, it means what other documents meant at the time -- witches. When the gemara talks dybbukim, it means demons! That's why Jews bought into the Baal Shem Tov and his talmidim in the first place; they'd prolly think you're nearly as much a kofer as I am, denying the clear truths of the Torah as espoused by gemara, etc.
5:44 PM E-man: haha
Yeah, no
First, what is not rational about this?
5:45 PM Second, people belived in the baal shem because they were uneducated and just wanted to be involved. Most of them couldnt read
from what I understand
I could be wrong about that
5:46 PM me: I disagree w/ u, I think the Torah promotes this stuff and Rambam's revolution is reinterpreting it 180 degrees. That's why haredim (/hasidim) don't buy into this whole Chazal were wrong thing; the gedolim know gemara and rationalism's clearly not what the gemara actually means!
5:47 PM It just seems so clear to me that the Torah's talking about things which others were talking about, having myths based on other myths, etc. The Torah's a pretty haredi document if u ask me. Magic is SO there.
5:48 PM E-man: yes, THAT is why Charaidim dont buy into it, it has nothing to do with Charaidim not learning science or anything else that has to do with secular studies
5:49 PM Oh, I see your issues
me: well, hold up! The science and secular studies is what requires u to reinterpret, not the document itself!
E-man: Ok, you hate charaidim and you associate the text with charaidim
me: Uh...definitely not where I'm going. No, I don't judge Judaism by the Jews, I judge Judaism by its core claims. Or try anyhow.
5:50 PM E-man: Well, there are two ways to believe in Judaism, one is that G-D spoke to the Jews and that is why you believe or you think the Torah looks like a godly document
5:51 PM Why do you think most people believe?
me: Lolz, I think most people believe because they were indoctrinated at a young and impressionable age OR like cholent and thought the rabbi's cool.
E-man: nice
Why do you think THINKING people believ
5:52 PM Why do you think [name deleted] believes or [name deleted]
or [name deleted]
me: Sir, the former, indoctrination. (Michael Wyschogrod has said that's for sure a part of it for him). And it's hard to believe in materialism.
E-man: BTW if you want to ask someone about the Jews being too numerous for the exodus being real ask lawrence schiffman
5:53 PM me: I've seen what he says. He can't buy into the big number either, has to rationalize around it.
E-man: You saw a small quotation
why not have a discussion with him, you just told me that is what you do
me: It was a letter he wrote IIRC to R' Gil.
E-man: I know
5:54 PM me: I'll tell u why, it's a good question.
5:55 PM There is one person who usually consistently convinces me that I'm wrong about something and that's [deleted]. We agree on most stuff but when we disagree, he usually wins (although recently it's been a bit standoffish, ties and all).
E-man: I wonder why
me: ?
5:56 PM E-man: I am sure you talk about faith and believing and it is impossible to PROVE G-D
me: oh no, i don't mean about that.
E-man: oh
me: I mean about other stuff. Politics and Dovbear and Failed Messiah.
E-man: oh
He was anti- the mosque?
5:57 PM me: I don't know, I think so...but I'm not sure, he is very Republican but not to FOX News extent. So I told him that I didn't think I believed in frumkeit any more. And he said that he couldn't help me with that. I figure if he can't, who can? But I do plan to talk to [name deleted] when I go to AJS in December, but I also plan to talk to [name deleted].
E-man: Ok, that sounds like a good idea
So, you don;t believe that Mt. Sinai incident happened
5:59 PM G-D never revealed Himself to anyone?
me: [line deleted]
E-man: I hear
6:00 PM brb
me: HEY!
Only I get to "brb."
6:01 PM Seriously, I actually don't believe in god. If there is a god, he didn't give us the ridiculously easy-to-reject-for-its-magical-and-anthropologically-really-similar-to-other-cultures claims. I don't mean to be instigating, but that's what i think.
E-man: I gtg we can talk later

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