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Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

Atheist or Agnostic??? Reasonable or Faithful???

I just stumbled across this video on Facebook. It is the astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson explaining his position on the vexing issue of religion: ‘Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson claims the title “scientist” above all other “ists.” And yet, he says he is “constantly claimed by atheists.” So where does he stand? “Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic”’.

Richard Dawkins, “Darwin’s Rottweiler”, famously adheres to the same position, namely that there are certain things which cannot be known – “known unknowns”, as it were – and that he therefore is happy to state that he is an agnostic, adding however, “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low”.[1]  It seems to me that admitting that one cannot be sure about the existence of a supernatural deity is but a natural and even logical thing to do . . . The recent phenomenon of New Atheism has produced many outspoken and aggressive atheist who are always talking about their belief in reason, somehow forgetting that the human being is not a reasonable creature. Man is an irrational animal that in the course of its evolution has achieved self-consciousness and a remarkable mastery over the natural world. Following the writings of the famous biologist Desmond Morris, one could describe man as a primate that has acquired carnivorous habits as a result of its changed habitat. From a forest-dwelling ape, happily feeding on freely available vegetables and fruits, man’s ancestor entered the wide open landscape and into competition with carnivorous wolves and big cats to ultimately become the most successful predator dwelling on earth. As a living thing, man’s ultimate fixation is procreation and the acquisition of digestible foodstuffs. Far from being a paragon of rationality, man is constantly subject to his or her sexual urges. Man’s ability to be cognizant of his (or her) own existence does turn him (or her) into a most peculiar animal, but at the end of the day, man is but an animal, man is but a naked ape wearing clothes as a means of controlling his (or her) constantly present sexual urges . . . Man is not controlled by reason, but by his procreational compulsion to ensure the survival of the species and the continuation of certain genetic material . . . and, to paraphrase Freud, civilization is but the outcome of a constant struggle to control the human sex drive . . . or as phrased by Adam Christian, “Freud notes that civilization’s antagonism toward sexuality arises from the necessity work of building communal bonds based on friendship. If the activity of the libido were allowed to run rampant, it would likely destroy the monogamous love-relationship of the couple that society has endorsed as the most stable”.[2]


[1] John Bingham, “Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist” The Telegraph (24 February 2012). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html.

[2] Adam Christian, “Chapter 5”, ‘Civilization and Its Discontents Summary and Analysis’. GrAdeSaver. http://www.gradesaver.com/civilization-and-its-discontents/study-guide/section3/.

The Magic of Reality: Dawkins Returns

On the popular website Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow reveals that “Richard Dawkins has a new kids’ book coming out in October 2011 called The Magic of Reality, which explains just how gosh-darned awesome the actual scientifically explained world is, and how wondrous the universe is when considered as a material, non-supernatural phenomenon. And if that wasn’t awesome enough, the book is illustrated by the wonderful Dave McKean”.[1]  Dawkins has been highly critical of the way in which children are being used by religious institutions, and has thus also been most vocal about the injustice of subjecting children to religious indoctrination, or should I say education: “Innocent children are being saddled with demonstrable falsehoods . . . It’s time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation. Isn’t it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents’ religion?”.[2]  In his quest to counter the religious indoctrination of ‘innocent children’, he has now finally taken the initiative by means of writing a book aimed at a younger audience, arguably in the hope that parents would choose his book to enlighten their offspring. And here is Dawkins selling his book on BBC 2’s Newsnight on 13  September 2011.

Ever since his God Delusion hit the bookshops in 2006, the Oxford professor Dawkins has become a public figure all across the world. As a result, many people have now become aware of his apparently controversial work and thinking. For instance, in Turkey his website was banned due to the machinations of the notorious charlatan Adnan Oktar, who employs the pseudonym Harun Yahya to distribute Islamic Creationist propaganda. The organisation behind Oktar has been active for many years, trying to  convince the gullible that Darwin was a buffoon and the theory of evolution just a theory, or rather a theory which does not explain the emergence of complex forms of life. But not just in Turkey, Dawkins has also become very “popular” in the U.S., as a figure personifying all that is wrong with non-religious people. Many has consequently taken it upon themselves to tell the professor just how wrong he is via e-mail. And here is Professor Dawkins reading his hate-mail . . . the internet is a great leveller indeed, now just about anybody, or rather anybody living in the affluent part of the world where computers are readily available and internet access equally easy to come by, can get in touch with the most learned of scholars, as long as he or she deems the ability to have a publicly accessible e-mail address a virtue. In this respect, Professor Dawkins is most virtuous indeed and he clearly revels in reading what less educated (and more gullible) mortals feel like telling him. We live in interesting times indeed . . .

(2008)

 

(2011)

As for the other side of the equation, here is the well-known YouTuber Laci Green reading her favourite, “brutal” Dawkins quote in one of her videos.

 

(22 April 2008)

Miss Green has since moved on to other pastures, here she is talking about the myth of Adam and Eve in graphic detail.

(12 September 2009)

Here she is, a little bit older and a whole lot wiser, telling the world of her own struggles with God, family, and life as she knows it.

(8 July 2010)

 


[1] Cory Doctorow, “Richard Dawkins’s science book for kids, illustrated by Dave McKean” boingboing (18 May 2011). http://boingboing.net/2011/05/18/richard-dawkinss-sci.html.

[2] “Dawkins: Religion equals ‘child abuse’ Scientist compares Moses to Hitler, calls New Testament ‘sado-masochistic doctrine’” WorldNetDaily (08 January 2006). http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=34248.

Religion Claims Its Place in Occupy Wall Street

From Boston to New York, many religious faiths are playing a role in the Occupy Wall Street protests (24 Oct. 2011).

 

Dead Sea Scrolls Online

Two thousand years after they were written, the world famous Dead Sea Scrolls are now available online. The Israel Museum and web giant Google initiated the project which were uploaded onto the Internet on Monday, 26 September 2011. The scrolls  digitalized so far include the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll and the War Scroll. All five scrolls can be magnified so users can examine the texts and details invisible to the naked eye are made visible through ultra-high resolution. The Great Isaiah Scroll can be searched by column, chapter and verse and is accompanied by an English translation tool and an option for users to submit translations of verses in their own languages. “The Dead Sea Scrolls Project with the Israel Museum enriches and preserves an important part of world heritage by making it accessible to all on the internet,” said Professor Yossi Matias, Managing Director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel  (http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/project).

The news agency Agence France-Presse reports that ‘[F]ive of the main Dead Sea scrolls, containing some of the oldest-known surviving biblical texts, were on Monday [, 26 September 2011] put online as part of a joint project between the Israel Museum and Google. The project gives the public access to ultra high-resolution images of the ancient scrolls in a format which is easily searchable, with the magnified text revealing details previously invisible to the naked eye, a museum statement said. So far, five of the scrolls have been digitised as part of the $3.5-million project which uses space-age technology to produce the clearest renderings yet of the ancient texts’.[1]  This latest stunt from Google is very exciting, as the scrolls offer insights into the development of Judaism and how it relates to Christianity. A Jewish sect known as the Essenes were responsible for the texts written on the scrolls accidentally discovered by a passing shepherd in an abandoned cave.

In order to understand the importance of the Dead Sea scrolls and how they relate to our understanding of Judaism and Christianity, I would here like to reproduce a lecture given in 2008: ‘The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has revolutionized our picture of the early history of Judaism and of the Jewish background of early Christianity. With the completion of the publication of the entire scrolls collection, it is now possible to draw significant conclusions from this treasure trove of ancient documents. This illustrated lecture by Professor Lawrence Schiffman will discuss the discovery of the scrolls, the archaeology of Qumran where the scrolls were unearthed, the nature of the library, and its significance for the study of Judaism, Christianity and their common destiny’.

 

 


[1] “Dead Sea scrolls go online” AFP (September 2011). http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/computers/stories/dead-sea-scrolls-go-online.

To What Strange Place: Ottoman Music in America

When producer Ian Nagoski started collecting the 78′s that make up To What Strange Place, he initially thought he was collecting music of the former Ottoman Empire recorded in Greece, Turkey, and Syria. What he learned instead was that he was collecting some of the earliest recordings made in America — until now almost completely forgotten. This short film explores Nagoski’s search for the lives behind the music of “To What Strange Place,” and what his search says about his own need to reclaim these lost
voices from obscurity (4 July 2011).

 

Inside Story – Ankara and Tel Aviv???

Following the recent New York Times leak of the UN report into the Mavi Marmara massacre and Turkey’s immediate reaction, Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story” asks these pertinent questions: Is Ankara setting itself on a collision course with Tel Aviv, or setting a precedent in dealing with Israel, to be followed by other countries in the region?

 

Israeli Subs get Torah Scrolls

Religious observance is making yet another comeback in unexpected places . . . The Israeli propaganda broadcaster InfoLiveTV reports that ‘[s]oon Israel navy submarines will be decked out with miniature Torah scrolls to be used by observant soldiers often forced to remain at sea for months on end. A family who asked to remain anonymous, donated a number of Torah scrolls to military bases in the past and recently decided to donate another one. They consulted with an army rabbi who suggested they donate one to the navy’s submarine fleet, for soldiers who spend long periods of time underwater. Due to the limited room on board submarines it was decidedto make a miniature Torah scroll that will fit in a small container, the size of a shoe box. The writing of the scrollis to be completed in the coming days and will be handed over to the Navy in a special ceremony and transferred from submarine to submarine as needed’.

 

 

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