Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Two Types of Religious Apologetics

There are two things that religious apologists need to deal with

1. How to prove their religions

Most religions struggle with the fact that they have very little evidence of the divine in general and their specific revealed religion in particular. I think this has become a more acute problem in the modern era when atheism has become a rather legitimate intellectual position. In the Middle Ages you basically just had to show how stupid the other religions were and then your religion won by default. (Think Kuzari) Everyone basically assumed that A. There was a God and B. He had something to say. It was merely a question of figuring out which of the books was REALLY from God. Nowadays even if you believe in a God which is already a rather difficult thing to prove, what's stopping you from believing in Deism or a sort of God of the scientists? In short why is it more logically sensible to believe in MY religion rather than NOTHING.

It's basically impossible to prove revealed religions. And in our science saturated age the religious person is faced with the difficult problem of how to justify holding onto his or her religion when he or she has already accepted a more skeptical approach when it comes to other fields of inquiry.

2. How to deflect direct challenges to the religion

Atheism challenges religion in general. Evolution challenges Genesis and the primacy of man. Textual criticism, modern morality and history challenge the divinity of the Bible. Much of apologetics is dedicated to deflecting these challenges to religion. Some apologetics are more successful than others. But the fact is that every religion -no matter how ridiculous-manages to cope. No religion AFAIK has ever died out from modernity.

I find it really irksome when religious Jews scoff that skeptics are just ignorant of their apologetics and that everyone must realize that all the questions to Judaism have been answered. Yes they all have been "answered" but one must realize that the second form of apologetics is only really meaningful if one accepts the religion in question as true in the first place. If all religions are able to answer questions posed to them then "your answers" are only better if your religion is somehow more true than theirs which brings us back to square one and the question of how do you "prove" or even tip the scales in favor of your religion?

My impression from my limited knowledge of the subject is that most apologetics in the Jewish world and probably in other religions are of the second variety. Maybe its because the "proving" a religion is too hard. Maybe its because most writers of apologetics don't have any real doubts. I don't know. The problem is that the second type of apologetics is predicated on the first.

If anyone were to prove Judaism or any other religion or even demonstrate the likelihood of it being true then the second form of "deflectory" apologetics would be justified. But since the best Judaism has is the Kuzari proof which is merely an opiate for the Jewish masses, we haven't even been able to get off the ground.

Anybody involved in deflective apologetics is already assuming their religion is true. And since no one has very satisfactorily succeeded in the modern era with the first type of apologetics assuming your religion is true is rather unjustified logically speaking.

So perhaps the difference between the deflective apologist and the skeptic is not so much the quality of the apologetics themselves as much as the fact that the one assumes the religion to be true from the onset and the other doesn't.

The main skeptic argument is not any explicit attack on religion but rather the rather damning lack of evidence in support of religion in general not to mention MY religion.


Baruch Spinoza said...

The person who deconverted me from Judaism was actually a deist, he was rather hardcore against religion. ^.^

I wrote about the Kurazi arguments a while back, it is a terrible arguments. Very bad arguments.

Here are three questions that religious Jews must answer, and no good answers can be provided to these questions.

1)Why would God make it so that science always points away from the Torah? You claim that the truth will lead to Judaism. So why when we look for the truth it always leads away from Judaism?

2)Why are people mostly religious based on their geography. 98% to 99% of all Jews were born Jews. Same with Muslims and Christiand and Hinduns and even the Morons. Atheism, however, is not based on geography, you would probably find that most atheists were religious at one point in theire life.

3)Masturbation! (Yes, you knew that was coming, there are no non-sexual posts from me). It is said that God does not give challenges which are impossible, well, masturbation is impossible for teenage boys. It is like 100% of all teenage boys that have masturbated. And no normal teenager boy can stay away from regular masturbation, they all fail, it is pretty much impossible for boys not to do this. I can understand "do not watch porn", that is certainly doable, but "do not masturbate" is basically impossible. The worst part is that Jewish boys are taught to feel wrong when they do this. God must therefore be evil. Enjoying himself over the failure of others. I am sure God is sitting there masturbating to all teenage boys that fail, it gets him off.

Shilton HaSechel said...

1) If you REALLY looked at the evidence it would ultimately lead you to Judaism ;)

2)Little Foxling (a blogger from before our time) put it like this:

"Since you bring up RYBS, let’s analyze him. I don’t have statistics for when he was alive, so I’ll use today’s statistics instead. Of 6 billion people in the world, 99.75% of them aren’t Jewish so they don’t think Halachah is from Sinai. Coincidentally, RYBS sides with the 0.25% of the world he’s born into.

But, wait it gets better! Of the Jews, say around 80% are not OJ’s. Again, coincidentally, RYBS falls into the 20% he’s born into.

But, wait it gets better! RYBS could have been Chassidic or Misnagdish. Like everyone else, he sides with his parents.

But, wait it gets better! RYBS is a Brisker! What a coincidence! Again, RYBS sides with his parents and is very Brisker in his approach to psak and learning. How many true Briskers are there in the world? A few thousand? What is that? .0001% of the world. So, coincidentally, RYBS takes a stance at odds with 99.9999% of the world, and coincidently, it’s his parent’s views?

But, wait it gets better! Most of the Briskers were anti secular studies. Coincidentally, the one child or Rav Chaim Brisker to have kids that valued secular studies was Rav Moshe who coincidentally was the one who married a wife who valued secular education, and coincidentally, all 3 of their kids were known for valuing secular education – RYBS was the great scion of MO, Rav Aharon was known for being open minded, and Rav Shmuel was a Chemist and a Rabbi. So, of the 2 billion or so people in the world at the time, there were around 10 that were Briskers and MO (or 0.00000017% of the world) and coincidentally all the of them were brothers and coincidentally all 3 of them had a Brisker dad and an MO Mom.

But, wait, it gets better! Look at the Ruv’s kids. Dr. Grach is very MO. Tovah married an MO Brisker and the other girl (forget her name) married a super duper MO academic who was an expert in Rambam. And, virtually all their decedents straddle the worlds of MO and Brisk.

And, you want me to believe he wasn’t biased? Gimme a freekin break!"

3) Well no one (except crazy Rabbis out of touch with reality and JP) really take that seriously anyway so its not a really big deal.

Undercover Kofer said...

Hi Bento ;)

Where did you write about the Kuzari? Would be interested!

Abe Silberstein said...


It really makes no difference if they take the masturbation prohibition seriously or not, it is in the Shulhan Aruh, a document in which they think is practically canonized.

JewishGadfly said...

This post reminds me a bit of this.

JewishGadfly said...

There's a link on the word "this" above--for some reason, it's coming up the same color as the rest of the text on my computer.

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