Sunday, 13 December 2009

Heritage

A couple of weeks ago I was posting on how I don't think I should pass as a Jew by anyone's account. In response to the post I got an email from the same guy who made me write that post in the first place, an email that contains two core arguments against my position. I would therefore like to use the opportunity to cite these two arguments and use them to further point out why you won't see me referring to myself as a Jew and why I have a lot against religion in the first place. Here goes.

Argument #1: "It is better to honour one's heritage than not"
Let me see, what does my Jewish heritage honor, amongst others?
Well, it honors the female sex as an inferior one. Don't tell me that bullshit about Judaism saying that women are special; if women weren't considered inferior then men wouldn't go about praying "thank god for not creating me a woman" several times a week in their regular prayer routine.
What else does Judaism honor? Well, it honors slavery. Granted, for its time Judaism was a step ahead of the pack in its relaxation of slavery's terms and conditions, but it's still an arguer in favor of slavery.
Judaism is also an arguer for racism at a scale that wouldn't shame Hitler. Remember the stories about Joshua, the hero that killed all the non Jews when the Israelites invaded the land of Israel so as to avoid interracial influences? Remember that most important of Jewish holidays, Passover, in which Jews celebrate god committing mass murder and killing all the Egyptian firstborns, including babies? Not that Christians are better; they admit they worship the exact same god. And no, I don't argue that all Jews and Christians are walking Hitlers; I argue that most Jews and Christians blindly follow their heritage without thinking about what it is that they follow. No one sane would celebrate the mass murder of babies; religion is obviously capable of twisting people's sanity enough that they do.
One last argument against blindly following one's heritage: What should the decent sons and daughters of Nazi officers do? Are they doomed even before they're born?
So what should I do? I don't blindly honor my heritage. I appreciate Judaism, but I appreciate it the same way I appreciate all the rest of humanity's Bronze Age heritage. What I really honor is my ability to pick and choose the good values from the bad ones; blindly honoring a tradition comes in the way of me being able to think for myself.

Argument #2: "But atheism is not all it is cracked up to be, because it too is an ideology and has its own internal contradictions and rigidities. People are not rational beings, so it is unrealistic and sometimes dangerous to pretend we are. Inner daftness, perversity and a need to believe in things that could not possibly be true is an unavoidable part of our make up."
I find this argument so flawed it's hard for me to determine where to start attacking it from. I'll start with the definition of atheism, as taken from the Atheist Foundation of Australia's website: "Atheism is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural."
The reason why I quoted this definition is its reference to science. It's one thing to say "I don't believe in X" and it's another to say "I don't believe in Y because it has no credible evidence on its behalf". Take, for example, global warming skeptics: they have all the evidence in the world but they still won't believe. Or those who damn evolution in favor of creationism: they're not atheists, they're just lunatics or ignorants. Proper atheism is not a dogma; it's simply about accepting science, because science is the best and only tool we humans have devised so far in order to assess this world that we're living in. And science is reliable, it works, you make accurate predictions using it, and it delivers (e.g., cell phones or jet planes).

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Originally uploaded by reuvenim
I agree: people are not rational beings, definitely not to the fullest degree. But it's exactly because of that trait of ours that we need science to help us find the objective truth. None of us would want to live in a world where a doctor's verdict depends on a throw of the dice or where a court's decision is based on how good a night the judge had before the trial; we value truth and we need to know the truth.
Religion is a hurdle on the way to truth; I keep my distance from it. Science is a tool with which to know the truth; I honor it and I embrace its heritage. I honor the heritage of Newton and Darwin.

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