כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the Ibn Ezra’s ‘Rational’ Approach

DovBear last year featured a posting by Yeedle called The Ibn Ezra's 'valid' approach for solving difficult verses (like the flood of Noah, topic of this week’s parashah).

I found the original quote on the Daat site and added my own translation. The text is from the second edition of the Ibn Ezra’s introduction to the book of Bereishit (Genesis):

והנה אומר כלל בתורה גם בדברי המקרא גם במשנה ובכל מסכתותובכל ברייתות ומכילתות
שאם מצאנו באחד הנזכרים דבר שיכחיש אחד משלשה דברים
כי האחד‚ שקול הדעת הישרה או כתוב מכחיש אחר בדרך סברא או יכחיש הקבלה הנגמרה
אז נחשוב לתקן הכל כפי יכלתינו בדרך משל‚ או תוספות אות או מלה על דרך לשונינו
ואם לא נוכל לתקן אל האמת‚ נאמר כי זאת החכמה ממנו נעלמה
כי יד שכלנו קצרה  ודעת בני דורנו חסרה והדבר שהלאנו‚ יהיה כספר מונח ונעזב
וחלילה לנו לומר שהוא שקר וכזב גם לא נאמין שהוא כמשמעו רק נאמין כי הכותב זה הסוד הוא ידעו
כי יש בדברי הקדמונים סודות על דרך משלים וחידות שלא יבינום כל השומעים ולבעל  המחקר יהיו נודעים

Now I will say a general rule concerning the Torah, both the words of the written text and the Mishnah and in all the Books (of the Babylonian Talmud) and the Baraita and Mekhilta. That if we find in one of the [above-]mentioned something that contradicts one of the following three [things]: Firstly, common sense (1) or a verse contradicting another verse through reason (2) or contradicting a taught tradition (3), then we should try to rectify it all, according to our capabilities: trough [seeing it as] a parable, or by the addition of a letter or word, in the way of our language. And if we can’t correct it [according] to the truth, we will say that this wisdom has disappeared from us because our mental capabilities are limited and the knowledge of our generation is lacking. And the matter that we exhausted (brought up?) will be like a book that is laid down and abandoned. And God forbid that we should say it is falsehood and a lie. We should also not believe that it is [to be understood] literally. Rather, let us believe that the one that wrote down this secret knows it (the secret). Because there are in the words of our ancestors secrets through parables and riddles that those who hear it will not understand and they will [only] be known to those who investigate it [properly].

What we learn from here from the Ibn Ezra, a supposed ‘rational thinker’: If something in our tradition is difficult to understand: a) first try to see if it can be understood as an allegory, b) then correct the text by adding one letter or word, and if this all doesn’t work: c) say that we can’t understand it because our brains are limited.

In other words, his approach is:

  1. The Written Torah and the Talmudic books are always true, regardless of the facts.
  2. If they don’t make sense, make sure it will make sense by saying it should be understood in another way or tampering with the evidence!
  3. If this doesn’t work, just say: We can not understand it. Rational thinking ends here.

In short: a more ‘Rational’ Rabbi like the Ibn Ezra admits that he is not really being rational.

So tell me: how on earth can the representatives of Orthodox Judaism expect us to take the Torah, Gemara, etc. seriously?!?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Off The Derech Facebook Group Comment of the Week

Ch. said:

It's really great to be a part of this group. I've doubted since I've been a child, but I've never had a community of people who are like minded. The nice thing is that if we all go to hell, at least I'll know people there ;)

In the meantime, the group has steadily grown to close to 250 members. Interested? Just request to be added here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/offthederech/.

PS Kiruv clowns need not apply.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nira is Back!

We missed ya, Nira! Looking forward to more kofer wisdom on the weekly parsha ;)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Great Article On Atheism

Disclaimer: I do not, currently, classify myself as an atheist, but I find the following article from American Atheists very instructive for those who foolishly believe atheism is a religion. Vehameivin yovin!

The Persistent And Incorrect Belief That Atheism Is A Religion

I wrote an article a while back that debunks the myth that Atheism is a religion.  The topic has come up frequently as of late, especially in light of some of my more recent writing, and it was one of the topics of discussion on the October 4th edition of Pennsylvania State Director Ernest Perce’s television show “Atheist Perspectives,” which I guest host from time to time.  Over the past several weeks I have received numerous requests to “reprint” it here on the No God Blog, so without further adieu…

It is suggested by many people that atheism is a religion.  Before we can examine why atheism is sometimes defined as a belief, it is important to understand who defines it as such.  Rarely, if ever, will you find another atheist, agnostic, freethinker, humanist, secularist, etc., putting the definition of religion in the context of atheism.  Almost without exception, it is the religious who do so.  The reason is simple.  The religious are are so caught up in their own beliefs that imagining another person without having any religious beliefs is largely incomprehensible. Those who claim that atheism is a religion do not only lack a clear understanding of what atheism is, they also tend to use religious terms to describe atheism.

There exists only one definition of atheism, and that is simply the lack of a belief in a deity.  There is a philosophical aspect to atheism, but it is not part of the definition, but an extension of the individual. Atheism, in of itself, cannot be described as religous because it takes mental gymnastics to attach the narrative, experiential, social, ethical, doctrinal, ritual and materialaspects of religion to atheism because it is not a structured system with defined rules.  It has no uniform beliefs and is not a means of understanding our existence.

With respect to the philosophical, atheism is not a philosophy. Unbelief in Santa Claus is not a philosophy and thus unbelief in deity is not. There does exist within the individual atheist a philosophy that is an extension of their atheism.  The philosophical aspects of atheism are germaine only to the individual. They do not surround their lack of belief, but are an extension of their experiences that have been affected by their unbelief. Whereas religion is a shared experience that is directly dependent on and pertinent to specific dogma, doctrine and superstitions, the atheist experience is dependent on nothing and pertinent only to the effect that unbelief has on how the atheist can effectively integrate in a religious society.

Thus, any comparisons that put atheism in the same context of religion are dishonest dialogue.  Atheism includes nothing even remotely similar to the religious.  Atheists can and do adopt a wide variety of points of view that can include anything except the belief in gods and still fit the definition of atheism. Even those who are outspoken, widely read and well known cannot be intelligently compared to religious leaders, and atheist organizations cannot be compared to religious congregations.  There exists none of the aspects that command such designations.

Inasmuch as the religous have a profundity to change the definition of words to suit their propaganda, atheism has no “preachers” nor “congregations”. Atheist groups have leaders and agendas, much in the way as groups such as the United Way.  To suggest that atheist groups are religious in nature is not only preposterous, but shows a lack of intellectual savvy that is common found in very young children.  The lack of “faithful believers” and the other inherent characteristics of religion do not allow for anything parallel between the two other than the assembly of human beings in one place.  The religious leader has a goal of uniting his congregation under one dogmatic banner where there is no room for congregational interaction, skepticism or free thought.  The atheist organization may or may not have the same speaker at their events, usually not, and the membership is encouraged to interact, discuss and be skeptical, and free thought and expression of opinion is accepted as the norm.

The fact that atheism has a literal definition and completely separate, individualized philosophical extension that is not connected to a common belief also separates it from religion.  The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in an article on Religion, includes characteristics that in no way reflect someone who lacks the belief in supernatural beings, nor anything that unites atheists on a dogmatic level. Atheism does not include any distinctions between sacred and profane objects. There are no ritual acts or a moral code believed to be sanctioned by god(s), or any characteristically religious feelings such as awe, a sense of mystery, guilt or adoration.  Atheism includes nothing even remotely similar to prayer or other forms of communication with the supernatural.

Religion is a system of belief and atheism cannot be classified as a system of belief because there is no belief and there is no system. No rituals, practices, rules, doctrines or dogma. Atheism does not concern itself with gods and it is definitely not a “faith” that includes unquestioning belief requiring no proof. Atheists live according to reason and do not apply a reference to a higher power. Atheism is a scientific approach to theistic belief systems. It is not a theory, requires no faith and has no hidden agenda. While an individual atheist may seek to contradict theism by using rational thinking and scientific theory to debunk the dubious and irrational assertions of religion, atheism merely awaits evidence to confirm the existence of god.

Defining atheism as a religion is embellishment and bad philosophy. Atheism has no dogma, no rites, no holy books, no places of worship and no clergy of any description. It offers no moral guidance, no political opinions and no world view. Atheism is a religion like “off” is a channel on your television or bald being a hair color.


Al Stefanelli – Georgia State Director, American Atheists, Inc.

Well put, Al!