Saturday, December 27, 2008

The dialogue that's been going on here recently has been very interesting.

Believing in Myths (religious ones in our context)  is not necessarily problematic, according to me. Unless these myths are causing significant harm, then who is to protest? I believe in freedom of thought and that includes believing that the earth is 5768 years old.  Secondly, I don't believe there is a need to align everyone's beliefs with my own. As I've said, for the most part, I rather like the diversity.  Thirdly, constantly mocking the beliefs of others certainly won't do any good, in fact it will probably do more harm. Those that are convinced by mocking, are rarely satisfied in their new lack of belief, and those it doesn't convince will find the mocker to be just some jerk who mocks the beliefs of others. Besides all that, the mocker generally ends more and more like the ones he is mocking only with different beliefs. 

I've been using the term myth... that's generally what you call ancient or unpopular beliefs that are not considered as tenable. Pretty much everyone else's beliefs but your own are called myths. I used this term so as to assure the skeptics that I don't believe in the traditional OJ beliefs of TMS, etc. and that in a way, I'm on their side. On the same token, I wanted it to be known that I feel that many of their beliefs, in certain respects, are myths as well (e.g. that Science is, for all intents and purposes, God, and that with a little more Critical Thought, we can surely usher in the messianic age.) 

Orthoprax preferred to use the term ignorance. This is a very difficult term to use nowadays in this context. In 21st Century America, it's hard to claim ignorance in regards to the claims of both science and religious fundamentalism. They are all readily available to all who wish to inquire. Surely my critics don't believe that, aside from the farthest extremes, those that believe in religious myths are the equivalent of a tinok sh'nishbah (a jewish child that was captured and never told of it's Jewish identity) with regards to the claims of science? Most people are not ignorant of the issues, they simply have a different view.

Jewish Sceptic and SOS mentioned that the beliefs of Orthodox Jews can indeed cause significant harm and in many cases I'm forced to agree with them. However, I don't want to make sweeping generalizations here or bring random not-so-nice quotes from the Rambam which few OJs are even aware of or subscribe to. I used to do that, and thank Goodness I saw the light. Even if there are those that profess to believe every word of the Torah b'miluehah, they generally find away to get out of uncomfortable halachot and VERY few actually act on these types of beliefs. Plus, there are hundreds of thousands of Jews that find inspiration for life and goodness in the belief that God wrote the Torah, etc. and would have a hard time finding life worthwhile without those beliefs. Just because there are a few that use these same beliefs to spread hate, will you blanketly rob the harmless to assure yourself that you're saving the few? And who is to say that you will be successful in convincing such a person with your powers of critical thought and that you won't in fact be fanning the flames of hatred? Some people are sociopaths and are better left alone or locked up. 

SOS and others mentioned that most people wouldn't want to believe in their beliefs if they knew they were not true. This makes the assumption that everyone values or ought to value truth above all else.  I highly doubt that most people value truth so highly, neither do I think they ought to. From the simple example of lying to your spouse about their good looks in the morning, to the more extreme example of not robbing the cancer-research-scientist of her inspiration in Elvis's return to rock and roll, I think we can see that at the very least, there are cases in which the truth should not be called upon. 

Another point that Orthoprax brought up namely that Critical Thought should be popularized ,  I agree with in principle though I don't feel as strongly about it, nor do I feel that believing in myths and tolerating the myths of others is necessarrily at odds with it. I don't feel as strongly because I feel there are a large number of things that are more or equally important such as morality, politics, creative thought etc. It's not necessarily at odds because most people, including myself, believe ( or at least pretend to believe) in a fair number of myths. I pretend to believe in the Exodus when I celebrate Pesach with my family. Many others pretend to believe in Santa Claus when they track Santa on google maps or when they give their kids gifts signed "From Santa". There are countless other examples but I hope that I've proven this point.

I hope that my critics enjoyed this conversation as much as I have! Even if nobody agrees, at least I've given a different POV and shown that not all Jewish Skeptic Bloggers agree, and that's a good thing?