Apr 29, 2012
Debating Atheist Ideology
I was always fascinated by the historic debates, actually the background of those debates rather than the arguments themselves, about Judaism, such as the supposed debate written about by Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi between the king of the Khazars and a simple Jew, such as between the Ramban and Pablo Christiani, among others. The idea of a debate in which everything is on the line is exciting.
This debate is not quite at that level, where everything is on the line, where the victor might be at the threat of death or banishment, but it is interesting nonetheless. This is more of the modern day type of debate where a couple well-versed people get together to see who can present better, or maybe who knows a little more than the other. This debate almost reminds me of the great book jointly written by Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch and Orthodox Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman in which they publish a debate about the major issues in Judaism that they discussed via email.
Rabbi Moshe averick, author of the book, "Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist" about the flaws of atheist ideology, has invited a proclaimed ideological atheist to a debate about atheism and Judaism.
Averick extended the invitation, er challenge, to Shauli Grossman, via his article in The Algemeiner a few weeks ago:
[...] Under “religious views” he wrote: “shul [synagogue] of the flying spaghetti monster.” For those who are unaware, “the flying spaghetti monster” has become a standard atheistic metaphor used to mock religious beliefs as in “you believe in something as ridiculous as angels, I believe in the flying spaghetti monster.” While the “shul of the flying spaghetti monster” might not be conclusive, the following does not leave much to the imagination: In “People Who Inspire Shauli” he has listed three of the most prominent “new atheist” ideologues: Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. It would seem reasonable to assume then that Mr. Gross is a committed ideological atheist himself. He also described himself as “A puS**Ter yid” – poking fun in a vulgar sort of way at the common Yiddish expression “A Poshitah yid” which means “A simple Jew.” Interestingly enough, I recently posted a song on YouTube that I wrote and recorded in Jerusalem called “Just A Simple Jew.” (It hasn’t gone viral yet, but I’m still hoping)
As I explained earlier, I have no intention of expressing any opinion on Shauli Grossman’s personal experiences or the particular lifestyle he has chosen to lead. However, the ideology of atheism as expressed by writers like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris interests me very much. All three are discussed in my book (whose title does not leave much to the imagination as to where I stand on these issues), Nonsense of High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is one thing to make personal choices; it is another to mislead people with ideas and ideologies which are utterly false. If Mr. Grossman is inspired by these people and is prepared to go on national TV to express his opinions, perhaps the following challenge will be of interest to him:
Dear Mr. Grossman (R. Shauli): As we both know, Talmudic literature is filled with metaphors comparing the arguments that took place between the sages regarding Jewish law and thought, with the idea of warriors battling one against the other. I respectfully invite/challenge you – from one “simple Jew” to another – to articulate and defend your new-chosen atheistic ideology in the arena of the intellect. Let us meet and debate the issue in a proper forum. I think the best place to start would be at the very beginning (always a very good place to start). I suggest “Does the Origin of Life require the existence of a Creator?” I look forward to hearing from you. May the truth win out.
While I don't know if either of them are an authority on the matter, or in general in any way, I am not sure that it matters. Must one be a national leader of sorts, or the head of a large movement, in order to hold a serious debate? Not at all. The only thing is that when it is just two guys arguing about something, the results don't matter much to anybody else. Maybe this one lost because he just was not well-versed enough, or maybe the other guy was a bit more charismatic or boisterous. Without a large following of people who will act on the results of the debate, the debate is just a simple discussion between two people. Nice, but does it matter?
Either way, even if there are no ramifications to the actual debate, if it happens it will be interesting to keep an eye on. I have not seen any response yet from Grossman regarding the debate invitation, but I am hoping some interesting reading will come out of this..
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