| Thursday, July 31, 2008

I want to thank all those who were so kind to share their thoughts so extensively in my previous post, AgnosticWriter, Michael Fridman, e-kvetcher, B. Spinoza, The.Signifier, and Da Candy Man. I look forward to hearing more from you. Anyone else, don't be shy. You probably know far more than I do ;o)

I'd like to summarize what we've discussed and I've discovered through this conversation. Any comments on this too would be appreciated.

1) There can be passion and fervor outside of religion, (thank goodness!) inspired through art, poetry, oratory, music, athletics and dance, contemplation and study of the universe and human nature, culture, human interaction and social activism, mysticism and meditation, ideologies, and mass movements.

2) There can be religious experience and passion, even in a religious setting (i.e. UU ) without the dogmatism. Though I do find UU to be a HUGE step in the right direction, it's not for me as superstitious and primitive beliefs are not criticized. Though I am open and tolerant toward everyone no matter what their personal beliefs may be, I reserve the right to remain critical of the dogmatic, irrational, superstitious beliefs themselves.

3) Religion is multifaceted and very difficult to define. Different personalities will be drawn to different aspects. The facets of religion are in short: worldview, ideology, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, mysticism, community, social and political structure.

4) There may be dangers to a religious type of fervor. It seems that a healthy skepticism could keep this horse in reins. Perhaps these dangers should be fleshed out a bit more.

5) I am still a little fuzzy on the quantity and quality of this type of fervor that is available to the skeptic in particular. Will someone who once was motivated by religious belief be able to capture the same fervor once it is rejected? AW, mentioned this and I'd like some more clarity and suggestions.

6) Art, mysticism, and community seem to have reoccurred throughout. I am especially interested in mysticism. I'm wary of community because of the influence of group-think and social constraints. I like art but it's not "my thing," as they say. However, I do NOT mean to shut down these other parts of the conversation as I feel that discussing these ideas will keep me open and help me to understand and relate to others. (Always selfish, aren't I? ;-)

7) It has been suggested that mysticism transcends beyond culture, time and place in a particular way, perhaps better then or in ways unavailable to secularism, and to complete what may be an incomplete scientific, materialist worldview. Though I want this to be true, I am still very skeptical. It seems too vague and frankly, too good to be true. What is its relationship with science and what is it's function for the individual and humanity? I hope to get more clarity on this as well.

Finally somewhat summed up in AW's three questions,

1. (How) Can we reap the benefits of religion, without planting its lying seeds?

2. (How) Can we find deep engagement outside of religion?

3. (How) Can we find deep meaning/mission outside of religion?

Religion, the thing that anthropologists study, is a human universal and seemingly fills critical human needs and functions. I have no desire to fall back into it's superstition and false ideologies or in being a part of a particular religious community in the traditional sense. I wish to move beyond strict cultural\religious boundaries. Yet I do not wish to deny myself of any benefit or fulfillment that may be rescued from religion.

Just a triple bypass heart surgery is all. Join in the fun!

| Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well can you?

Reading goes ever so slowly with me. I can't just read a book. Mulling it over and thinking about a book's ideas, reading tends to be a very emotional experience for me and thus a slow process. Unfortunately, this does little for my memory, as I forget almost as soon as my eyes leave the page. The reason I mention this is because often I feel what I can most accurately describe as religious euphoria while reading certain books. Not too long ago, I read Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" and my mind was blown and I was ecstatic so often while my eyes feasted on its pages. Not seldomly, the book would lie on my lap closed, with my finger in it so as not to lose my spot, as I shook my head, then stared blankly, reveling in exultation at the ideas to which I had just been introduced. This is a common experience for me, especially when reading books of the scientific milieu.

Orthoprax introduced me to pantheism and I was immediately enthralled. I read several articles about it and was especially keen on Paul Harrison's outlook on the matter. It seemed to be the gateway back into religious fervor and awe, without having to sign a bill of divorce to my newly beloved scientific skepticism. But emotionally, the scars were too fresh from the thorn of religious belief that had finally been removed from my side. I swiftly returned to my quest to make it known to whomever would listen that religious beliefs were false and bad for humanity. This quest was reactionary and all but futile. It does little good for my well being and is largely unnecessary, as my views on religious belief as evil and the recognition that there are millions of false beliefs polluting the consciousness of humanity, many of which are FAR worse, have been treated by time with temperance.

So the question that arises is that which the title of this post purports. Can you have Religious Fervor without Religious Beliefs? And secondly, and perhaps more importantly, can Religious Fervor be a co-wife with Scientific Skepticism? I have some thoughts of my own but I would like to hear what my readers have to say on these questions. Please comment uninhibitedly.

| Tuesday, July 22, 2008

AgnosticWriter is probably my favorite commentator on the Jblogs. I really wish that he (or is it she?) would write his own blog. Here is a quote from him that I had to repost.

"A lot of skeptical dialogue focuses on debate and logic. And this is appropriate to some degree. But what many with more warm-hearted temperaments are seeking on some level and don't find there (as they may not have found in the Beis Medrash) is the soulful, the poetic, and the inspiring. Having a soulful/philosophical bent, I try to access that voice now and then, and cast some seeds into cyberspace."

Though I couldn't say for sure, it seems that many/most of the skeptical Jblogs and commentators are former yeshiva bochurim (rabbinical students), and I was one myself. We tend to view the blogs as our cyber beis medrash (house of study) and engage in long, strung out debates over excessively minor points. Also, as in the beis medrash, nobody really wants to know what the other person is saying except to shlug him up (prove him wrong).

What about the more/most subtle things in life? Though the yeshiva student may spend hours a day shvitzing over a blatt gemara (sweating it out over a page of the Talmud) but the in-between times are spent giving over shtickel toireh (inspiring words on the Torah.) It seems that in every yeshiva there was always that one guy talking to that one rebbe (at the very least) exchanging pshetluch (short words of Torah) in the hallways.

“Ah, did you see what the kli yakar says in this weeks parsha (weekly section of the Torah)?”

“It can’t be as good as the pshat I heard from the Ohr HaHaim!”

And who can forget the vorts and divrei Torah that we share, without fail, around the Shabbes table? Not to mention the songs, the shnapps and the local guy who is serving chulent and beer late into the night where you sing yet more songs and exchange yet more words of encouragement and inspiration.

But now that you’ve looked behind the curtain it all seems childish and quaint. I think I can hear the snickers in the background already. You know that you loved it and miss the days when you experienced the sublime feeling divine inspiration.

So what is to be done? How can we regain the soulful, the poetic and the inspiring?

| Monday, July 21, 2008

I’m trying to break free from the “bash religion” scene and it's been a real struggle.

The only thing I know anything about is religion. It’s been my whole life’s passion, my whole life. Even though there are other blogs and other subjects that interest me, I can’t comment because I’m completely ignorant on the subject. Making blog posts is very difficult as well because if I want to do a post with a little thought, (something I admittedly haven’t done much of recently) then I have to do quite a bit of research first. But of course this takes effort and I find myself slipping back into my comfort zone of religion bashing.

It is my desire to break free, even though it’s difficult. I’m young and there is no need to get stuck in the rut of bashing my childhood religion for the rest of my life. Religion certainly gets a stranglehold on you. When you are in it doesn’t let you go, and if you manage to break free, then it leaves you so bitter that you feel this urge to rage at the machine for the rest of your life.

But life still goes on
I can't get used to living
without, living without
Living without you by my side
I don't want to live alone, hey
God knows, got to make it on my own
So baby can't you see
I've got to break free

I've got to break free
I want to break free, yeah
I want, I want, I want, I
want to break free
Ooh yeah
I want to break - yeah yeah


| Friday, July 18, 2008

What the hell are you waiting for?

Besides for being a friggin awesome film, there are MUCHO lessons in morality and moral psychology in this movie. But I don't want to spoil the movie for those who have yet to see it.

| Wednesday, July 16, 2008

OK so it's only for a minute or two but you have to hear this.

Starting at 1:57 and continuing for the next minute or two.

Update: I thoroughly enjoyed this talk and would recommend it if you have the time to sit for nearly an hour and a half. Most of the talk is about physics which is by far the most magnificent, awe-inspiring field of science. What I wanted to mention in particular was that in the 7th video of the series, both Dawkins and Weinberg get all soft and emotional about religion. I've heard Dennet do the same thing in some random interview that I can't recall right now. Dawkin's reveals his favorite book of the Bible, and it happens to be the only book of the Bible that I've read since I got out of yeshiva. But you'll have to watch it to find out.


There is a mantra that is developing in silence of my thoughts.

The government is evil.

Our formerly free country has enrolled us as slaves with all these taxes and what do they give us in return? Whatever it is, its not nearly what we are giving to them. Americans praise capitalism to high heavens, but can we say that we are really capitalists, with all these taxes?

Lechatchila, (as a first choice) I would go for something like laissez-faire capitalism, but that ain't gonna happen, at least not in America. But since we are already signing over our paychecks to the government anyhow, couldn't they give us a little something in return? Maybe a free education, or free health care? But of course as soon as that happens our education will get even worse and our relatively decent health care will plummet, from lack of competition. (There's always vouchers... but that's another can of worms.)

I hate that we allow our government to steal our hard earned money only to give us sardines in return and I especially hate that we stride the fence that divides capitalism from socialism. I mean pick one already. We are chasing the red herring of "capitalism" and meanwhile, we are being robbed.

| Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The study of philosophy seems like a big waste of time to me. But everyone has some kind of philosophy. It gives a person a context to interface with the world. I think it is safe to assume that there is an objective reality and that we can understand it to some extent, but our understanding of objective reality is almost immediately translated, as it were, into our own subjective interpretations.

For all we know there are multiple universes, multiple dimensions. The reality that is perceived through our evolutionarily evolved senses often deceive us. But it is the recognition of human fallibility where the split occurs. Some reject the notion of reality and existence, others work with what we have and try to make the best of it using the best tools we have created, while others still stick with ancient mythology and religious texts to align their perceptions to.

There are pros and cons to each of these crudely outlined philosophies. On the one hand are the anti-realists, which may in fact be the most accurate when all things are considered but from that point of view, I see little difference between the illusion of reality and non-reality, the illusion of existence and non-existence etc. We are trapped in the illusion that our minds have created and our illusions can only have so much effect on reality, or our illusion of reality. On the other hand, to stick our heads in the sand, or the past, as it were, is to disallow ourselves the pleasures of the use of our best tools for understanding the world around us and the freedom to interpret freely conclusions that may come from them, all to the best of our abilities.

And so we are left with taking certain practical metaphysical assumptions. I think that they should be kept to a minimum and that they should be in line with our best tools for understanding reality. What these assumptions are, I currently don’t have the capability to elaborate on. I’m exploring some philosophical thought, to give meaning to what I assume and perhaps shine a little light to enable me to polish some of them and shed others, and to allow me the freedom of communicating with others at this level. Right now, it seems that some form of objectivism will fit the bill.

Whatever your particular philosophy maybe, what is most important is that we govern our relations to each other on a common ground. This is where I feel that a little secular pragmatism will do us well. In order to maintain cohesive relations, we have to put our differences, our personal beliefs aside and work together to find out what works. Exclusive religious claims or any other intolerant ideology will never allow for it. We must try to allow for as much individualism, or if desired collectivism, as possible. Recognizing our distinct humanness and our unique role in this vast universe, we should be able to make our state of consciousness happy and worthwhile.

Debating the issues and coming to a certain level of clarity can be enjoyable and very useful. But at the end of the day… it is tolerance that allows individuals to interact.

| Thursday, July 10, 2008

As I hope you all have noticed, I am no longer FedUp with religion.

What I hope you all are wondering is why? But you probably don't give a damn. I'll tell you anyhow.

In the beginning, that is at the start of the conscious awareness of my new relationship with religion, I felt fed up. I had been struggling to justify my beliefs in the claims of Orthodox Judaism for some time and when I finally realized that they were not only bogus but unnecessary I felt a feeling of fed-up-ness. I started commenting on XGH's blog almost immediately and used the alias fedup.

But like most reactionary feelings, this feeling started to wane. After a while I realized that I no longer actually felt fed up but I perpetuated that feeling by commenting under that alias. It's amazing how your actions can have an effect on your feelings.

Another thing you might have noticed is that I was having a hard time with my profile. I must have changed it half a dozen times and I've only been blogging for a few months.

I got a kick out of fulfilling the stereotype of the arrogant militant atheist. I'm really no such thing but it was fun. Now don't get me wrong. I was under the false impression that there were believers out there that I could have a discussion with and essentially get them to reject their outrageous beliefs or at the very least get them to admit that they believed them in faith, despite strong evidence in the other direction.

Back in late April, early May of this year, I had a go round with RJM. I had discussions with him for several reasons. His "If only you knew like I do... " claim is just laughable on its face. His, "When you show me solid proof of any ANE nation or culture that..." claim makes so many false assumptions about the ANE religion that became modern day Orthodox Judaism. I mean RJM believes that the Ancient Israelites rejected magic! No really! Sure, if you define magic as magic done by anyone but Moshe, Aaron, and all the Jewish Magicians afterwards then yeah Judaism rejected magic. But come on... Now of course I believe in magic as much as I believe in fairies, but let's call a spade a spade. They believed in magic. However the main reason I had my discussion with RJM was because I had never really "duked it out" with a Rabbi. I had seen that RJM had some respect amongst the bloggers and was willing to discuss things with skeptics like Orthoprax and Littlefoxling so I gave it a try myself. At the time, I felt I owed myself that discussion. I recently looked back at that discussion and I noticed more then a few mistakes and a few more holes I should have poked in RJM's arguments. The main thing is that I learned something from the experience and enjoyed it while it was happening.

In the meanwhile I got into a couple of discussion with HH, Daganev, and Yus. Oh and there was one really embarrassing one with mevaseretzion that I royally fucked up on. I bit off WAY more then I could chew but newbie skeptics tend to do that. They think that since they don't believe in religion therefore they know everything. HA! if that ain't a non sequitor... Yus and Daganev were frustrating but I remember enjoying discussions with Holy Hyrax.

I've already mentioned my discussions with evanstonjew, though I think they came out too negative in my last post. My conversations with ej have always been good. When I read ej I just think, "Wow, isn't ej cool?" No really... I think ej has an awesome writing style. Even if I can't always understand everything ej writes, it's still leaves me with the impression that ej is one cool cat. ej was the only one that could make me fill guilty about playing the militant atheist, but only in the kindest way and has helped me to get out of the mentality of "Let's go shoot clay pigeons for the rest of our lives!" only the clay pigeons are religious claims.

Then as I was preparing to make the change from FedUp to something else I was possessed by a demon to go try commenting on Hirhurim. Hind sight is 20/20 to be sure but why did I keep going back? I must have tried 3 times to get comments posted on his blog and they were almost indefinitely deleted. I said really vague stuff like, Aren't we being biased towards chazal? and Shouldn't we make a critical analysis at the claims of OJ to come to the best conclusion on the matter? But Gil accused me of missionizing... oh well. I guess we define the word differently.

I think it was shortly after that round about with Gil that I finally got it. Move on! You are WASTING your time trying to talk to people about things they refuse to hear.

And now as to why I've decided on Freethinking Upstart.

As I mentioned earlier in this post I was having problems with my profile. All these new labels that I felt the need to sort threw and place on myself. Atheist, Bright, Naturalist, Scientific Pantheist, yada yada yada. I don't like these types of labels especially the one "atheist" and after reading a bunch of the definitions given on the atheist meme by those that didn't consider themselves atheists, I was feeling even less comfortable with the label. It seems that atheism has never really shed it's poor conotations. Why the hell should I want to sanctify such a word? I mean it tells you absolutely nothing about a person. The word God is meaningless to almost everyone. The strong definition is what most people identify atheism with and I only ever considered myself a weak atheist. Plus, people like Jacob Stein and Vox Day are constantly creating myths about atheists and there is the ever present question, "Well weren't Stalin and Mao atheists?"

So anyhow, I wanted to communicate something with my name so I decided that it should be more of my attitude toward ideas. Freethinking seemed to fit. It's pretty vague but generally positive.

I chose Upstart because I'm young and stupid but I'm not afraid to speak up, even if I make a fool of myself. I just hope that someone will be kind enough to correct me when they see that I'm in error.

| Wednesday, July 9, 2008

While observing some of the more “sophisticated” debates between the moderate religious sector and the “new atheists” I’ve often wondered if all that the moderate religious leaders are arguing for is religion as poetry or do they still believe these “sophisticated” beliefs the same way that the religious right believes that the universe is 6-10 thousand years old.

Every now and again I get into discussions with PoMo believers, particularly with evanstonjew and more recently chardal. They tend to be very intelligent, very polite and understanding, though not without spice. Yet almost without exception, we end the conversation talking past each other. We come to an impasse, and from my POV they are essentially speaking another language. But this isn’t another language with which I could learn to communicate or at least so it seems. Oh no, for every time I try, and Lord knows I try, all I hear is Charlie Brown’s teacher. Their language is so abstract to my ears as to become completely meaningless. I find it ironic that Postmodernism talks so much about meaninglessness, abstract language, and irony.

From where I stand, here on planet earth in the year 2008, there is the real world that we can discover and understand using the scientific method and healthy skepticism and then there is how we humans interpret that information into our subjective existences, through music, language, culture and the arts in general. I feel that we should each choose, as it were, to interpret them in a subjectively meaningful way. While I feel free to look at the universe in a romantic sort of way, I realize that things are only that way when I have my glasses on, that my rosy painting is but an illusion and I am quite comfortable with it. However, never do I wish to forget about the indifferent objective reality of the universe and existence in general. My subjective interpretations of the universe and existence may not be meaningful for most other people, otherwise I'd try to market them and make some cash on my ideas. As a skeptic, I try to keep a one way street from objective to subjective. I derive inspiration and awe from the advancements that we are making in our understanding of the universe and human nature but I try keep my beliefs about objective reality free from bias and subjective interpretation.

I am highly optimistic and idealistic, so when I hear a pomo thinker say that life is absurd, I think they are absurd. What are they thinking? What planet do they live on? Life is so freaking awesome that I can’t think about it too much, for fear that my heart will explode in sheer delight. In the immortal words of the Psalmist [adapted by yours truly]

When I consider the universe,
The moon and the stars,
What is man that he was privileged to be mindful of it,
And the son of man that he should care about it?
Yet he has become a little lower than the gods,
He crowns himself with knowledge and wisdom!

With the advances of science, and by science I mean the entire enterprise of human reason and advancement, we have bought ourselves the time to contemplate the vast universe in both scientific and poetic ways, to contemplate the meaning of life, what we feel our purpose is, how to fulfill it, and how to make this world a better place. We no longer have to scratch in the dirt, filling our futile existence with mere survival. We can live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives. If only our ancestors could see us now. No longer do we have to speculate about the dragons in the dark and shadowy corners of our existence. Gone are the days when we were controlled by our superstitions.

Now don't get me wrong. Though I revel in our progress and experience bliss at every falsehood slain, it is the mystery that is yet to be discovered, that flaming curiosity that engulfs our very being that can afford us perhaps even more pleasure then the satisfaction knowledge so lovingly bestows. The joy is in the journey as they say.

| Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bruce is a conservative Jew. Don't worry guys, he's cool. Together we can DESTROY fundamentalism. I mean, why else would I plug a believer on my EVIL MILITANT ATHEIST blog? (I'm joking... relax... geez... you guys are so uptight)

Anyhow, Bruce is undertaking a project about the Torah and the Documentary Hypothesis. Ladies and Gentleman you are about to witness history in the making! So don't just sit back and watch the smart people like littlefoxling show off their high IQs and crystal critical thinking skillz. Join the damn discussion. Heck, if someone as stupid as I am can type a comment, then surely you can.

Oh and by the way you will want to click here, here, here, here, and here, and here is the general link to my favorite religious blog, to get yourself up to speed. Now go learn!


here and here and here

From Overcoming Bias


For those of you that are interested in my views on morality and the discussion I was having with littlefoxling you are going to have to check out his blog and the comments there.

Also, turns out Daganev and Chardal are Post Modernist believers. Chardal and I got into a conversation on Holy Hyrax's blog. Check out the comments between Chardal and me starting here.

Though I can't help but laugh at the basic philosophical underpinnings of PoMo, it's certainly an improvement (practically speaking) on fundamentalism. I had no idea that there were so many believers that were PoMo... I find this oh so fascinating. It's like they are playing leap frog with philosophy. Medieval Philosophy and the Rambam? I can dig that. Enlightenment and the Haskala? No way! Post Modernism and Rav Kook and Rav Tzadok? Hells yeah! What's the common denominator? It fits my religion!

All this Post Modernism... I hope I don't have to get conversant in this nonsense.

| Monday, July 7, 2008

Mishnayoth Hagigah 2:1 "Whoever speculates about four things, it would have been better for him if he had not come into this world: what is above, what is below, what was before, and what will be afterwards."

You see? Epistemic Angst and Post Modernism is bad for you!

| Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Definition of Subjective

  • Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
  • Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.

Definition of Objective

  • Of or having to do with a material object.
  • Having actual existence or reality.
  • Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic.
  • Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.

I think the question is not whether morality is subjective or not. Everything is subjective as soon as it is experienced or thought by a human being. The question is whether or not morality is or can be objective or not.

Morality obviously isn't a material object. However it could have an actual existence or reality in a platonic sense. There are no numbers that we can point to in the material sense; they exist in our minds in some kind of platonic reality. Morals may be the same way. I think that this can be argued from the mere fact that the average human being has an instinct that can be developed to understand morality, much as we have can understand numbers.

Can we say that abuse is objectively wrong, meaning that whether or not certain individuals feel that abuse is wrong, it is still factually wrong? How could we prove this?

Whether or not actions can be objectively wrong, all societies since the dawn of society have acted this way and we've made laws to ensure that people behave with in certain guidelines. All societies of note have discovered the silver rule (NOT doing to others that which they wouldn't want done to them [as opposed to the golden rule which is active and intrusive.]) Now this is not to say that everyone has had a correct understanding of humanity or even reality as to know with whom they should behave with the silver rule. We are gaining a better understanding of this as science and history brings us more and more clarity. As we understand ourselves and each other through the various means of science, language and other communication, history etc. we can know in more then just a subjective sense, dare I say it, an objective sense, how we ought to behave.

I don't think that one has to have the answers to all questions of morality to say that there is an objective morality. I don't know all the answers to every manipulation of numbers possible but that doesn't mean that there aren't objective answers to these questions.

I also don't think that an objective morality is binary. There may be more then one right course of action, and I don't think that this takes away from objective morality. It seems that all actions may be categorized as moral and immoral but that you can compare moral actions amongst themselves and say that that action X is moral but this is more moral. Much as you would say that 1>0.1 but 2>1 is also true. Different societies may interpret action X as being greater then action Y but objectively we can say that both X>Z and Y>Z though we may disagree at about the relation of X and Y. I don't feel confident about this and but if all else fails I think that this may pass for an argument for moral objectivity.

There is a struggle to get from ought to is but I don't think that it needs to be so complicated. If you want to find out x in x+x=2 then you ought to do the math and you ought to say x=1 because that is what it is. Similarly if you want to find out if action x is moral or immoral then there is an answer that you ought to give and therefore a way you ought to act if you wish to align yourself with the reality of morality. This is not to say that you are incapable of saying or even acting as if action x is moral even when in fact it is immoral. I could say x=3 even though in fact, in reality I’d be wrong.

Now the study of morality isn't as developed as mathematics. Mathematics is easy to study as there are no reasons for personal bias. I have nothing to gain if I say that 1+1=3, but as a white male in the deep south 150 years ago, I have a lot to gain by saying that enslaving blacks is perfectly ethical. But we cannot let personal bias hold us back and I don't see any reason to believe that we are enslaved to bias, so much so as to make us incapable of being morally objective. Is morality somehow intrinsically different then other objective fields of study that it must be categorized under the arts?

I honestly can’t see how morals could be comparable to a taste preference in the arts. We don’t say that it’s just the opinion of the Islamic suicide bombers to blow themselves up on buses filled with innocent civilians, as we might say that it is just your opinion that the Red Sox are the world’s greatest baseball team or that country music is god awful. I can’t see that any human being could compare the two. The fact is that humanity is not nihilistic. We lock up sociopaths because they are a threat to the reality of human society. We could never have become the dominant species of the planet if we thought that human behavior was just a matter of taste. We have a natural instinct to live and to live with other people. Only short sighted self destructive creatures are or can be nihilistic. Our very ability to see into the future in regards to human behavior, our capability for empathy, the inherent logic of zero sumness in almost all of human relations, the progress and spread of cosmopolitanism… all these point to objective moral facts.

Now some will argue that there are considerable differences across societies in regards to morality therefore it isn’t objective. However there have been arguments about everything and not everything is subjective. On the contrary, there has been a growing consensus concerning morality and this would point to moral objectivity.

Others will argue that since morality isn’t a material object it can’t be objective but neither are a lot of things that are objective like gravity, the speed of light, the origin of the universe, numbers, etc.

Some will argue that there has to be an objective law giver for morality to be objective. I don’t think that this works because no one would say this for gravity or numbers or any of the inherent laws of the universe. I mean if you want to say that then knock yourself out. I have no problems with positing something that authored the laws of the universe, I just think that this answers a question with a question and doesn’t help us out at all.

Others will say that we can’t figure out morality using science so therefore it’s subjective, but I say nonsense. We can use science to understand human nature (for example evolutionary psychology) and human relations (for example anthropology) and we can use those very important tools to find an objective morality.

There are many questions yet to be answered, and I’m not a moral philosopher. These are just my thoughts on the matter. Critiques are welcome.

In conclusion, when I speak of an objective morality I'm speaking of an ideal code of human behavior that is encoded, as it were, into the way things are, into nature, the Universe, reality. We can learn more and more about it as we study human nature and human relations.

| Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Daganev said, "I don't know which is more disturbing...people like Fedup..."

and in response to one of my comments, "Yeah, thats what scares me most about these people."

Gadfly said, "You guys are scary."

Yus said, "You're an even bigger fool than I thought you were."

and here,"The only redeeming factor to your presence here is that you make the skeptics look bad."

and here, "You must love those anti-semitic sites."

Avrum68 said, "FedUp.. deserves a bit of an ass kicking."

and here "FedUp...you shit on things that people hold dear."

and "I place you in the "Jews for Jesus" camp. A group of people that should be exposed as frauds and no friend of the Jewish people."

There's been more but I thought that should get the point across. Don't you love em?

hat-tip to littlefoxling who gave me the idea to make a post out of all this love.


I use the word God in casual conversation.

I wouldn't tell anybody but a fellow atheist that I am an atheist in the real world.

I pretend to pray if I'm at a simcha or happen to be at some other gathering where people are praying. Most people space out during davening. I think about how ridiculous this whole thing is.

I go through the parsha on Shabbat sometimes, though I never go to shul.

Whenever people ask me about my beliefs, I try to steer the conversation elsewhere. I hate talking about my beliefs to people, partially because the pain of losing religion suddenly starts choke holding my memory and I wouldn't want that pain for anyone and partially because I know that most people think there is something wrong with you if you aren't religious or don't believe in God.

I used to be a Na Nach, Boreynunick, misnagid granick, yeshivishe, Hirshian, neturei karta, zionist, modernish, hareidi, Torah and Sciencenick, Emunah Peshutanick, leftist, conservative, heimishe, conservadoxish, bochur, baal habus all at he same time!

Ok, that last one was a lie.

How do I expect to spread the good news of free thought if I don't think freely in public? Oh well, I guess I'll have to save that for another lifetime. Or maybe I'll just use the internet to spread the gospel... This way you can read it if you like, but if you don't then you can always go check our Harry Maryles's blog or DovBear for some Kugel.

The thing about free thought is that it's free. People don't want things that are free. Honestly... when a person is locked up in a cage, and you suddenly give it freedom... If this person was told for his or her entire life, since this person was but a young child, that the outside world is an immoral, vacuous, free fall... If this person wanted to be locked up, then there is very little chance that he/she will want to walk out of the cage, or even if he does want to leave, he'll stay because this is who and what she's always known.

There's nothing wrong with that. If you were forced to be free, now that wouldn't be very free would it? Don't let anyone tell you differently.

But why keep your mind locked up? Why force your brain to believe things that aren't true? If your lifestyle is such that you like it the way it is, why won't you, at the very least, free your mind?