But anywho, I was doing research on something completely unrelated to this (Jonathan Sacks's tenure as Chief Rabbi) and randomly ran into Aish's attempted refutation of Dawkins. Thought I'd put my two cents down:
"The Atheist Crusade: A Jewish Rebuttal to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion"
by Sara Yoheved Rigler with Rabbi Moshe Zeldman
Rebbetzin Rigler's family had me and a friend over once, the family was very nice.
Many critics have pointed out that the appeal of these books is less in the soundness of their arguments than in the eloquence of their prose. As Bruce DeSilva of the Associated Press wrote: "Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well."
Five of the six books constituting the neo-atheist crusade can be dismissed as screeds...
What DeSilva wrote was, "This is, of course, a familiar argument. Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well." If you read DeSilva's review, the point of this quoted excerpt in context had nothing to do with the soundness or perceived soundness of Hitchens' argument against God, but the staleness of the argument (others said it first!). I think most readers would assume from the Rigler/Zeldman piece that DeSilva thought the arguments were bad (and thus Rigler/Zeldman were misleading), but let's be dan lekav schus and assume they meant only that authors such as DeSilva thought the main appeal of Hitchens' book isn't the arguments, but the prose. That's accurate..
The venom of their invective against God and religious believers actually turns these proud rationalists into irrational hate-mongers. Witness Sam Harris's declaration in his book The End of Faith: "The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them."
Obviously, such a diatribe does not merit a rational rebuttal.Right out-of-context.
...The obvious rebuttal of Dawkins's allegation that religion causes terrorism, wars, crusades, inquisitions, jihad, etc. is a cursory look at the genocides of the 20th century. An estimated 80,000,000 human beings were murdered in the course of the 20th century (not including war casualties), and they were all murdered by atheists: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao.
...He then devotes seven pages to attempting to prove that Hitler was not an atheist but a Catholic. He sums up this section: "Stalin was probably an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't; but even if they were both atheists, the bottom line of the Stalin/Hitler debating point is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism."If Dawkins had asked Stalin or Mao if they were motivated by their ideology, they would certainly have contended that all their policies derived directly from their Communist principles. Even today the Communist regime of China is cutting open live Falon Gong practitioners and removing their vital organs for sale on the lucrative organ transplant market. This atrocity is consistent with their atheistic ideology that regards human beings in exclusively economic terms and denies that human life is sacred because human beings were created "in the image of God." Since Communism is an inherently atheistic system that denies both God and the Divine soul, Dawkins's contention that atheists "don't do evil things in the name of atheism" is blatantly false.
I don't think the authors addressed Dawkins' point. The point is that fundamentalist ideology is the problem. I think our evolved senses of right and wrong, as well as the development of society, have led us to reject a lot of that old time religious dogma (I mean, do you know how our benevolent God and his rabbis used to punish people who thought out of line?* Much better than other cultures maybe, but oy vey! Der alter helm, my tuchass...). As Sam Harris notes, moderate religion is just religion which has been influenced by positive modern secular thought. And you think our antecedents were down with communism because they were atheists? Bertrand Russell: "In our day, a new dogmatic religion, namely, communism, has arisen. To this, as to other systems of dogma, the agnostic is opposed. The persecuting character of present day communism is exactly like the persecuting character of Christianity in earlier centuries." We are for making things work on this planet as best as possible. Because, frankly, we're all we got. Increasing human suffering...not so into that. Communism, Nazism: faith-based initiatives. The authors discuss the immoral worldview of atheism again in the last part of their review, but I won't rehash my arguments there.
Furthermore, to say that religion is evil because religious people have committed heinous acts in the name of religion is like saying medicine is evil because Dr. Josef Mengele committed heinous acts against the subjects of his Auschwitz experiments in the name of medical research. One can take any constructive enterprise and use it for destructive purposes. This offers no grounds for condemning the enterprise itself.
I think Dawkins made an actual case and didn't just say, "Look here! People have done evil things! Therefore religion is evil!" I think he was saying that the problem is that telling a kid that you can believe things with lack of evidence is an open invitation to extremism. (I'm not sure he and Harris are right about this. John Haught, in a book I otherwise wasn't much impressed with, makes the metaphor of religion as sex and problematic religion as sex abuse. Unlike Haught, I don't believe in religion, but maybe in our modern bedeved society, some people need a bit of social engineering via some light religion in order to keep them in line; perhaps people can't handle the truth. I don't like that argument -- I don't like the idea of social engineering in general -- but I don't think I can refute it straight up).
One of the many distortions in which all the neo-atheist books abound is that they rant about the evil byproducts of religion without ever mentioning religion's benefits to every society throughout history. As Theodore Dalrymple observes: "The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy."Dalrymple gives as examples the Cathedral of Chartres and the Saint Matthew Passion.
See here. But I can hear that maybe in a Hegelian sense, religion was a good thing. Like I noted above, maybe some people still need some liberal religion.
Judaism can point to its legacy of Western values. As Ken Spiro demonstrates in his book WorldPerfect, Judaism has given the world its core values: respect for human life, peace, justice, equality before the law, education, and social responsibility.
Would take too long.
...Just open a page of the Talmud, read Maimonides, or spend one hour learning in a yeshiva, and you will experience Judaism's rigorous argumentation to discern the truth...
Right, and it's great that they use Socratic dialogue. It does help the mind. But they're not empiricists, so they can't help but suspend their critical faculties when it comes to a bunch of things (evolution, the Bible's authorship...). They lose their openness to facts and the ability to change their mind based on information.
A biologist, not a philosopher, Dawkins simply fails to understand the depth of argument of philosophy, and is too arrogant to admit when he's out of his element. The problem of "First Cause" is the knock-out argument against which Dawkins has no defense.
No it isn't and repeating the book's points would be superfluous. I could refer you back to the book, but see also here and here. But okay, I particularly like Hitchens' approach to this argument (most recently used in his debate with Dembski). Even if you feel that you have to believe there's something out there, it still doesn't get you to Judaism or, in fact, to the concept of a Benevolent Anything.
Even if Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, could prove that human beings evolved out of some primordial soup...
This is what I was talking about when I said that they're not empiricists.
Dawkins's insistence that religion and science contradict each other dismisses with an imperious sweep of the hand an entire body of work written by respected scientists who show that science in fact corroborates the Genesis narrative...
He does mention Collins and discusses others, particularly during his discussion of the anthropic principle. He sees their views as implausible.
...Dawkins is, in fact, surprisingly tolerant of the sexual abuse of children.
I'm not sure if "tolerant" is the word I'd use, but I didn't like his discussion of either. I thought his language was too nuanced.
[In other news: New Random-Video-of-the-Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It at the bottom of the sidebar. Also, a friend-of-the-blog is putting the finishing touches on his own demolishing of the Kuzari Principle. This is great! So I changed my mind, I won't be writing my own refutation of Kuzari, instead I'm endorsing his. I've been pleading with him to release it as soon as he gets a chance and he seems to be just about finished.]
*Gershon Hundert's Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the 18th Century: A Geneology of Modernity:
h/t Tom. You're the best!
Update: They also used to have people lie on the floor and the congregation would trample over them. IIUC, it was this which demoralized Uriel da Costa before he committed suicide.