Is Rabbi Avi Shafran Sane? I’m Not So Sure …

Agudah-hack Rabbi Avi Shafran writes:

It is a point as straightforward as it is unarguable. If we are mere products of random evolution, than any repugnance we feel at, for examples, incest, child-molestation, stealing or murder is meaningless (no, not less meaningful but meaningless). Just as we don’t think to judge non-human animals through a moral lens, no true atheist has any justification to judge fellow humans through one (any one).

What is this, Shafran? Your defense against all the haredi child molestation charges? The rampant theft and welfare fraud? The real estate scams?

Haredim – especially hacks like you – have no business lecturing anyone else, atheist or not. Clean your filthy house first.

You think there is no morality without God? I think there is an equally strong argument to make – there is no morality with Him. Why? Because of the behavior of rabbinic creeps like you.

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28 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership

28 responses to “Is Rabbi Avi Shafran Sane? I’m Not So Sure …

  1. Yos

    The first thing that pops into my head is how technically wrong his assumptions about evolution are. The second is, yeah, who can prove that these things are repugnant according to the religious when they occur throughout Haredi infrastructure with little resistence?

  2. Anonymous

    Regardless of where the truth comes from its still the truth. Atheism says there is no G-d and thus morality is just like any other type of law, subject to change at the drop of a hat. Morality is relative without G-d. You can say what is moral, and someone else can say something different, but no one is more right without an all powerful being who decides what is immoral. The Nazi’s had their own form of “morality” too. And by the way, your last sentence should be, “I think there is an equally strong argument to make – there is no morality with people who break the torah.”

  3. Anonymous

    I know people are gonna misread my quote I just made so I would rephrase it, “I think there is an equally strong argument to make – there is no morality with rabbis who choose to break the torah in such serious ways.”

  4. Baruch Goldstein had God. So do suicide bombers. So does Osama. Morality is relative with God, too.

  5. Yochanan Lavie

    Regarding this thread, and the other one under “Shafran and the Atheists:” Today’s NY Times Science section talks about how empathy is an evolved trait. (10/31/06). That would support those who believe a morality is possible w/o God, or culture, etc.

    However, I still have a problem with all this. Racism probably also has a biological basis. (Think of the good old days, when it was us Cro Mags vs. the “bestial” Neanderthals, for limited resources). As a self-reflective species, we can overwrite our biological programming, even if it’s hardwired. Therefore, the question is still begged: Why bother being good?

    For me (and no, I won’t kill those who disagree), mild religion is the answer. I think I am at heart a selfish person, so it is only mild religion that keeps me good.

    Yes blind faith practioners like Osama and Goldstein do evil things. But as a mild religionist, I cultivate a humilty about what I can and can’t know about the will of God. And I refuse to do things that I think ungodly, even if God seems to want me to.

    There is precedent for that in Tanach: Avraham and Moshe argued with God, unlike Noach who did not. And while it would be very arrogant to compare myself to Abe and Moses, I try to emulate them in that aspect.

    Religion is the opiate of the masses (including me). In low doses it is tonic. In overdoses, it is toxic.

  6. Anonymous

    Very nicely said, Yochanan. You express many of my own sentiments. I wish I could print my name, but I’m a public person.

  7. D

    Religion is the opiate of the masses (including me). In low doses it is tonic. In overdoses, it is toxic.

    Hey, I’m going to use that line at the next cocktail party I attend. With attribution, of course. I hope you don’t mind, Yochanan.

  8. noclue

    The question Shafran was addressing is the basis for morality; not whether self-assertedly “religious” people are more or less moral.

    Since you are so sure that morality exists sans God, pray, tell, what is the basis for this morality besides your own self assertion. If you can not answer that satifactorily, then Shafran is not wrong, at least concerning the point he was making.

    In fact, if you do not believe in God, then it is perfectly defensible (and more probable) that people lack free will. Without free will, any sense of moral indignation goes out the window.

    It may be that you either have to discard belief in God or discard belief in good and evil. Choose your poison.

    Or, how about this.

    Good and evil exist.

    The existence of good and evil can only be because of God.

    Therefore God exists.

  9. Anonymous

    Yes. Foolish.

    Now I see the illogic of my ways. It is always good to be illuminated by the compelling logic of a word like foolish. It explains so much.

    I must, admit that you have a talent for name calling.

  10. Okay, try this: Logic 101. Your argument makes no logical sense.

  11. Anonymous

    Actually, it is called a syllogism (Logic 101), and it makes perfect sense. It is of the form A (exists). A implies B. Therefore, B.

    That does not mean it is correct. It may be that that one of the first two statements are incorrect. But which one and, more importantly, why?

    Stating that a statement makes no logical sense is not sufficient. You should at laest attempt to state why the statement is illogical.

    It appears to me that you would either have to abandon good and evil or come up with another jutification. Certainly, phiosophers have attempted the latter, such as Utilitarianists. The question, however, is whether they have succeeded. I took Ethics as an undergraduate and got an A.

  12. If you posit that everything exists because of God, and take that UNPROVABLE assertion as a given, then anything you claim in its name makes ‘sense.’

    Now, look at it this way: There is good and evil in this world. Religious people do both and are both. Same for polytheists, animists, agnostics and atheists. Evil people often prosper and good people often suffer. There is no inherent cause and effect reationship between monotheism and good or monotheism and evil, anymore than there is for atheism. Therefore, the argument that Shafran makes is foolish, as is basing anything on an unprovable and unfalsifiable assumption.

    Now do you get it?

  13. Or this way:

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) created the world. All men originally worshipped him, which is why spaghetti-shaped foods are common worldwide and often served at lifecycle events and religious feasts (dim sum, church pot lucks, shul melava malkas, etc.). But worship of Him was gradually lost until, after many years He was slowly reintroduced to the world. All good and evil come from him. Without belief in Him, there is no true free will.

    Good and evil exist.

    The existence of good and evil can only be because of FSM.

    Therefore the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists.

    Prove me wrong.

  14. noclue

    Fine. If you want to believe in the Flying Spaghetti monster, that is your choice. And if the Flying Spaghetti monster created the world, then he is, in fact, the mandater, which would be God.

    It hardly matters what you call God, or how you picture Him, at least for the purposes of this exercise. The real question is, does He exist, or is he an invention of our imagination?

    The other question that you have not answered, because you can not, is why should I choose good acts over evil ones. Utilitarianists say because it maximizes overall good. That is fine, but it may not maximize my own personal good. It cwertainly does not explain why people sacrifice their lives for other people.

    The fact is, that, sans a God, even if you call Him a Flying Spaghetti Monster, you have no rational reason to choose good over evil.

    Your attempt at ridicule aside, you have not answered the two second parts of the question.

    1) Why should I believe in free will? why not accept that we are all a bunch of chemical reactions with a predetermined course of over which we have no control?

    2) Why choose good over evil?

    You must answer both questions fully to get a passing grade. No partial credit will be given.

    P.S. Your argument about the incidence of good and evil acts by atheists or believers is totally irrelevant. Atheists are also capable of fooling themselves into believing in good and evil and acting accordingly. I have no idea if atheists are more or less good than believers (Hitler was presumably a believer, Mao and Stalin were presumably atheists). If you read Shafran, you will see that the excerpt that you quote says nothing about who actually acts better in the empirical world.

  15. No. You’re wrong. Living in a better world is one reason people choose to do good over evil. Look at much of the new research on altruism and its GENETIC base.

    And the Flying Spaghetti Monster is opposed to Humash. Now what?

    You see, all you are saying is that a force (or forces) beyond our current knowledge is (or are) behind creation and therefore morality.

    And, as I have shown, that is both unfalisfiiable and unprovable.

  16. noclue

    Define what makes a better world.

    (1) The fact that something is unfalsifiable and unprovable does not make it either true or false. In fact, we may not be able to prove that God exists, but if He does exist, He could prove it, so the existence of God is provable but not falsifiable.

    (2) You still have not explained why a person should be altruistic when it will not benefit him. And you can not. Philosophers have struggkled with this, but to little or no avail.

    (3) Genetics can not explain morality. It can only explain how things came about. It can not explain why things are mandatory.
    (4) You have not stated why people shopuld believe in free will.

    (5) Your grade is an “incomplete.” Try again.

  17. Yochanan Lavie

    D: Be my guest!

  18. You just don’t have a clue. Try processing this:

    1. It is impossible to see God.

    2. God cannot be touched or perceived with our senses.

    3. His existence cannot be proved.

    4. Great evil happens, some of it in His name.

    4. Therefore God does not exist or, if hHe does, is evil and must be fought.

    This is basically Dawkins’ argument.

    What you do not understand is that God’s existence or lack thereof is not falsifiable. That you argue this only proves that you do not understand.

    Lastly, people can believe what they choose. In fact, this is what they do all the time. Yet, overwhelmingly, in diverse societies with varying views of God or gods or atheisim, they overwhelmingly make the same choices, most likely due to genetics. This is why little children react in predictable ways, long before they have the language skills necessary to learn the complicated behaviors. You could start by reading the Times article I linked.

  19. Again, reverting to the “miracle” argument – God can do anything, including proving his own existence, therefore … – is not rational or logical.

  20. Or this:
    People have innate tracking abilities to catch moving objects, but we still do better by training. People have innate abilities to do simple math, but mathematicians can explore areas closed to almost all untrained minds. I see no problem with the idea that we all have an innate sense of morality but (some) religious training can make help us express that sense more fully.

    Posted by: Larry Lennhoff | October 31, 2006 at 12:31 PM

    Left as a comment on the genetics post above this one.

  21. Yos

    God exists because the scientific proposition that energy can weave itself into matter, and matter can weave itself into a conscious mass–that is intellectually capable of enjoying aesthetic concepts–is by definition intelligent design.

    As for animal ethics versus Torah ethics, one is for security of the species and the other is for the propogation of enlightenment.

    As for the naturally occuring belief in divinity – a parable. A man is given a television set. He slaps it on the side and it comes on. He is amazed by the technology, he watches the same channel, enjoys the program but doesn’t appreciate the content. Another man comes along and picks up the manual, learns to change the channel, takes it apart and comes to understand the machine completely. Both of these actions originate in human understanding, but they’re worls apart in the approach.

  22. DK

    I am saddened that there continues to be those who use the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a proof of atheism. Flying Spaghetti Monster may not be our faith, but there is no reason to insult those FSMers who are believers, are to use him as the butt of sophistry.

    I demand more sensitivity in this matter.

  23. Shafran is unimportant once you are no longer frum. Just throw Ortho Judaism out the window and you never need to read what these clowns have to say again. It’s THAT simple.

    The arabs are a pretty good example of what chareidim would act like if they numbered 1 billion instead of 200,000. Fire and brimstone. Lex Talonis. Dark Ages Dogmas. Hebrew Hezbollah.

  24. Ilan

    It occurs to me that Noclue’s arguments are similar to that of the nonsense at http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/. Maybe they’re the same person

  25. noclue

    They are not.

    If you have a substantive comment, say it without the insults. Its funny but my arguments are virtually never called nonsense, except by bloggers like you who always fail to explain why my arguments are illogical.

    Apparently, your forte is name calling, an art form which I do not excel at.

  26. Anonymous

    Worse yet, I have, for the first time, perused, briefly, the aforementioned blog.

    For better or worse, my arguments are not at all similar.

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