Crazy rabbi says that atheists are mentally ill for not believing in Creation

UPDATE: Rabbi Lurie asked me if he could respond to the points I made in this and my previous post, and I’ve put his response in a comment below.

______

Earlier today I posted on Rabbi Alan Lurie and his new article at PuffHo,“Why the universe has a creator (and why some atheists refuse to even consider it).“  In the first of my two-part analysis, I showed why Lurie is ignorant of science, invoking tired old god-of-the-gaps arguments in both physics and biology as proof of God.

But Lurie goes beyond that, for he thinks that atheists’ rejection of the palpably obvious fact of God’s Creation must bespeak some personality disorder.  He lists three of them, and I quote him directly.  These are the reasons why, according to Lurie, atheists reject a creator god:

1. A Childish Concept of God

For many, the belief in a Creator is rooted in a personal, direct encounter, in which God is experienced, often as pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything, or the Ultimate Reality. For those who have not experienced this Presence, though, God is a concept. And this concept may be sophisticated or childish, based on ones maturity, knowledge and innate gifts. The childish concept sees God as some kind of being — perhaps with a white cloak and long beard — who somehow made the world according to a “sacred text.” When Richard Dawkins, for example, said, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in; some of us just go one god further,” he showed such a childish image of God. And he showed a lack of any experience in the spiritual realm. If he had any direct experience he would have known that all these societies were attempting to describe the mystery of Spirit in human — often archaic — terms, and that the idea of competing gods is a literalistic and immature one. He also would have humbly recognized that theology is an activity for which, frankly, he has little talent or understanding.

This childish view of God is not limited to atheists, but also applies to those “religious” folks who place dogma over personal experience, and for whom any digression from dogma is punished.

I don’t get the distinction those who experience God as love or “pure consciousness” (I think that’s a fancy term for revelation), and those who form a “concept” of God.  Surely there’s substantial overlap between these people.  The dumb part of Lurie’s analysis is his flagrant dismissal of most of the world’s faithful whose concept of God is indeed “childish,” for they conceive of him as a humanoid god that shares traits with His flock.  Even “sophisiticated” theologians like Alvin Plantinga experience God as having human emotions and qualities, even if He is disembodied. God, for example, has a kind of brain that thinks, a set of emotions that feels love and concern, and an ability to store information in a kind of brain.  In other words, even sophisticated theists often see God as a sort of disembodied human. What else would it mean to say that God made man in His image? And wasn’t Jesus human after all, but divine at the same time?

Yes, sophisticated theologians sometimes reject an anthropomorphic god in favor of some nebulous Ground of Being, but really, given that there’s no evidence for God at all, much less of any specific kind of God, it’s just as rational to accept an anthropomorphic God as a Ground-of-Being God. That is, it’s equally irrational to accept both.  What is striking here is Lurie’s arrogance—as if he knows what God is like, and anybody who thinks He’s different from that is immature.  Really, Rabbi, who gave you a pipeline to the divine?

2. Tyranny of the Mind

The human mind is a powerful tool, but can also be a cruel tyrant. While it is skilled at storing and analyzing data, it cannot feel, and so there is much — such as art, music, compassion, love, sex or Spirit — that it cannot truly know. The mind, though, insists on analyzing these things, and tries to convince us that its analysis is the only way of knowing. It does this because it has little trust or respect for anything that is not measurable and linear, and consequently it resists recognizing the other essential human facilities: the needs of the body, the wisdom of emotions, and most especially, the guidance of Spirit.

For those who have developed strong connections to body, emotions and Spirit, the mind can be managed and used properly. But there are those who, for a variety of reasons, have weak connections to body, emotions and Spirit. For these, the mind has free reign, dominating their lives and seeking to eliminate anything that it cannot rationally comprehend. Then the mind eliminates anything that challenges its supremacy. And for such a tyrannical mind the concept of a Creator God — an ultimate intelligence that dwarfs its own — is completely intolerable.

Really? The mind can’t “know” compassion, art, music, love, and the like? These things are perceived in the mind, which generates (along with hormones) the emotions.  But beyond that, this is just a diatribe against rationality and a call for superstition, for the unevidenced—for the existence of things that lack proof.  It’s also a call for recognizing ESP, space aliens, Xenu, Ouija boards, astrology, faith healing, and the whole panoply of superstitions that aren’t rational.  Lurie: “Evidence? We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence!”

Finally,

3. An Ego Strategy

As I’ve written in several previous blogs, the ego is the software implanted in us to ensure survival. Its job is to scan for threats and devise strategies to avoid pain and death. The ego knows only fear, and it will fiercely fight anything that threatens its survival. And nothing is more frightening to the ego than sharing or ceding control with another, because this feels like death. So the ego’s favorite strategy for protecting itself is the refusal to surrender to anything or anyone. It will even go so far as refusing to acknowledge a mistake, to apologize, to recognize superior abilities in others, to admit a weakness and, most pathetically, to ever express gratitude.

I recently heard a man state that he “does not believe in gratitude,” but instead prefers the word “appreciation”: “I appreciate a delicious meal or a beautiful sunset, but I feel no need to say ‘thank you,’” he proudly proclaimed. This is the voice of ego.

I would say “thank you” to a waiter who brought me food, or to a chef who cooked a meal, but there’s no evidence that anybody gave us a sunset.  Should we say, “Thank you, laws of physics!” A refusal to thank god is not a manifestation of ego, it’s simply a refusal to grovel before a nonexistent being. I’ll thank god when a stack of thousand-dollar bills drops from the heavens into my lap.

Lurie’s capper is this:

Clearly one does not need to believe in God or follow a religion in order to be a wonderful, happy, caring, human being. What matters most is how we treat each other. But the refusal to even consider that a Creator may exist — often accompanied by the adamant desire to “prove” otherwise and to ridicule those who do — especially in the face of much blatant evidence, is an indication that a psychological mechanism is at work. Perhaps what is needed for such an irrational position may not be more intellectual investigation, but psychoanalysis.

Earth to Lurie: we have considered the claim a creator may exist, and have rejected that claim.  Why? Because we have no evidence for such a creator. (We’ve already disposed of Lurie’s “blatant evidence”.)  That makes us rational, not mentally ill.  If anyone is disordered, it is those people who are victims of The God Delusion.  And talk about ridicule!  Prescribing psychoanalysis—a technique resembling religion since it’s based on wish-thinking rather than evidence, has its own bearded God, and is unable to discover truth—for atheists? Really?  Who is being strident here?

It make me ashamed to be a cultural Jew when I see a rabbi go this far off the rails.

127 Comments

  1. Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I once had a happy and comforting dream that involved a very kind talking kangaroo. According to Lurie, I’d be crazy to not assume the kangaroo is real.

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      “I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo…”

      :-D

      /@

      • Tulse
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        At least Skippy is a friend that is true.

        • Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Ant + Tulse – I now have that stupid theme song as an earworm :(

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 12:50 am | Permalink

        Then there’s always “Hopsiah, the Kanga-Jew:”

        http://objectiveministries.org/kidz/

      • Dominic
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 2:20 am | Permalink

        “What’s that Skippy? A Rabbi has fallen down the old mine shaft?”

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and we would be crazy if we did not also believe in your dream kangaroo, based only on your report of the dream!

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      But he is real!! Why, I had a dream about him only last night.

  2. truthspeaker
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    So it’s childish to think of God as a being. But it’s not at all childish to ascribe intelligence to God. Makes perfect sense, rabbi.

    • Myron
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Theology makes sense to theologians if and only if it doesn’t make sense to nontheologians.

  3. vel
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    wow, the same old arguments wrapped in in pretty new packaging to disguise the shit within. His argument comes down to the usual “but but you don’t understand *my* god and he’s better than yours”. Sorry, Lurie but your god is a petty brat that is nothing different than Ares or Odin, no matter how much you try to “re-interpret” your moldy old book. Oh and Lurie, I do know love, sex, compassion, etc quite well; that isn’t limited to theists. I don’t need to know “spirit” since it doesn’t exist. Why don’t you break out the solipsism and get it over with? And finally, the old pathetic claim that atheists don’t like god becasue they want to rebel. Yeesh, nothing better than that, Lurie? Then the claim of “much blatant evidence”. What evidence, Lurie? Show me some that can’t either be applied to any other religion. Show me some that can’t be easily explained by other means. Join me at a pair of altars, you with your prayers and me with a Zippo and let’s see which of us can get the fire started. Supposedly your god doesn’t mind being tested per your own holy book so you should have no excuse. But you will, oh you will….

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

      From what I read above, God, according to Lurie would equal “pure consciousness”. That sounds more eastern than hebraic. So I don’t see why you are talking about “my god is better than yours”…
      But if God is really the Ground of Being, it would mean that we can’t see that we are borrowing right now are own awareness from that Ground. And like Lurie seems to explain, that would the ego’s fault. The ego isn’t interested in knowing that he isn’t true because that would cause its cessation. But if you were able to remove your ego, there would be nothing in between God’s pure consciousness and your. That is why some people are able to experience God, they are able to remove what separates them from God.

      But when that happens, the mind is grasping the world through another mode, not the same one that fuels the Ego. That is how I read Lurie’s comments about the tyranny of the mind. The tyranny in question is the constant validation that the ego fabricates in order to assure him he is real. The eastern traditions call that our dual mode of perception. But it is only when you experience a non-dual mode of perception that you can understand that. That especially makes atheist go nut because they see this as a rebuttal for Reason and Logic.
      But logic, language and our intellect are by-products of our dual mode of perception that fabricates the veil of the ego, which prevents us to access to the “pure consciousness”.

      There is still reason left in a non-dual perception, it is just way way much wider. That is what Pascal meant by “the heart has reason reason knows nothing.” It is beyond objectivity and subjectivity. It is non-dual. It is beyond time. It can’t have started so it can’t end. No opposition can exist in a non-dual state.

      So yes, you could find evidence. But the evidence you are looking for isn’t exterior to you. God being the ground of being, it is within you. Don’t look elsewhere.

      Otherwise, you are searching like someone who would point his flashlight at the sun and complains that he can’t see nothing new he doesn’t know… Your mind, i.e. your dual mode of perception, only recognizes what is dual. God is beyond dualism, it is beyond the opposites by which we can grasp the world.

      • josh
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Note that non-dual is in fact dual to dual, so opposition would still exist. This is what happens when you pull stuff out of your ass in an attempt to appear wise. Similarly, when you say that logic and reason are byproducts of a mode of perception, which prevents access to ‘pure consciousness’, you are arguing (if badly) in a logical mode. If logic and reason don’t apply then there can be no reason not to use them.

        You feel like you’re widening your perception but actually your just limiting yourself to a trite vacuity.

        • Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

          If you read well, I didn’t say that reason doesn’t apply there, I said reason was wider there because not limited by the absolutes that appears within a dual mode. As for logic, it is true that it would not be relevant in a non-dual mode. Logic makes sense because of the boundaries (absolutes) that are seen in a dual mode. In a non-dual mode, those boundaries, i.e. opposites, aka absolutes, aren’t seen as such. For example, the law of non-contadiction, or identity, makes no sense in a non-dual mode.

          Of course, a dual mode is opposed to a non-dual mode. But this is mainly because of language, which is actually a dual mode of communication. Because I’m stuck with words when I want to communicate concepts, I can’t escape the paradox of a non-dual mode being in opposition with a dual mode. But that is a semantic matter that can only exits in a dual mind and that has no reality in itself.

          Let’s say you see the world in 2 dimensions and that one day, you begin to see a 3rd dimension. The world as you see it is still the same in some ways, and drastically different at the same time.
          But is the 2d world in opposition with the 3d world? Yes and no. Yes because it is only when you have access to the 3d world that you can realize that you had a limited 2d perspective. But no because the 2d is included in the 3d, it is not opposed to the 3d. The 3d is just wider.
          Length and width are still there, but they are infinitely augmented by volume…

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 8, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

        In other words, your God is beyond having any physical effect on the world. He / she / it is undetectable by anybody else other than you. So how can we distinguish your God from a figment of your imagination? More practically, so far as any effect on reality is concerned, we might as well assume your God doesn’t exist.

        • Posted March 8, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          You can keep the world and its laws as it is now. There is no contradiction. God is not external to nature, God is a process.
          He is detectable when you remove what prevents you to see it. God being the ground of being, you are borrowing right now your own consciousness from him. If you were able to remove your ego, you would also remove what stands between God and you.

          But removing the ego is very hard. We could say that it is its imagination that prevents us to see God…

          • Posted March 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

            JF, first you talk about Buddhism and now you talk about God. You do realise that most Buddhists are atheists don’t you?

            • Posted March 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

              Bien sûr Bernard. But I would say that what is left when the ego is erased is God, no matter the cultural vehicle that is used to get there.
              Sufism talks about the erasing of the ego the same way buddhism does. In sufism, when the erasing is done, the empty place is taken by God. In buddhism, it is by Emptiness.
              But I think their synonyms.

              • Diane G.
                Posted March 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

                God = Emptiness.

                You’re getting close…

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 12:55 am | Permalink

              • Diane G.
                Posted March 9, 2012 at 2:19 am | Permalink

                :D

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

                JF you my think that, but, as far as I can see, Sufism is completely any form of traditional Buddhist. There are some wishy-washy new age people in the West that call themselves Buddhists who say things like “God is emptiness.” There are also some Buddhists who, trying to make their ideas more acceptable to Christians, say similar things.

                One of my wife’s cousins, who is from a Buddhist family in Hong Kong but was sent to a Methodist primary school and a Catholic secondary school once told me he had always thought the Christian God was weird. Coming from a religious but non-theistic background the idea of such a God quite literally seemed insane to him. I haven’t actually asked them but I suspect that most of the Buddhists I have met would think the same. I also suspect that this would be true of most Buddhists in general. Of course this is just anecdotal; if you have evidence to the contrary I would like to see it.

                Sufism is an Islamic sect and has absolutely nothing to do with Buddhism. It seems to me that a lot of Westerners take a hodge-podge of “exotic” Eastern ideas and mix them up into a sort of spiritual stew. They won’t get to understand any Eastern religion by doing this. It does, however, serve to massage their egos, which, curiously enough, they are often seeking to erase.

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

                Sorry first sentence of post should have read:

                JF you my think that, but, as far as I can see, Sufism is completely different to any form of traditional Buddhist.

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

                Ahrg! got it wrong again “Buddhist” should have read “Buddhism!”

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

                This is why “God” is such a dirty word. JF is using it as an equivalent for what other people would call something completely different. I used to do that crap. It stems from a cultural insistence on the existence of “God as in the Bible” and the rejection of such a deity as untenable but with the stubborn insistence on holding onto the cultural term. I used to look for a God that made sense so I got into the woo-ish ego-destroying nonsense that might seem like an enlightened impression of some ultimate reality, but is, in the end, a lot of made up crap in order to rationalize a cultural need to believe in God by defining the thing under my own terms and then solving the “well what about other religions” question by taking the “they all must be talking about the same thing” road. This whole “destroying the ego to find God” thing is actually ironic in that it is bolstering the very “ego” it wishes to eradicate by clutching onto a cultural meme by redefining it. This is similar to the “Pantheistic” model but at least most pantheists admit that the term “God” is a symbolic term from the cultural trash-heap without the arrogance of saying “this is what God really is!”

                JF is an atheist in the sense of the Abrahamic God and in that sense of “personal God”, but he hasn’t given up the meme yet. He’s probably parroting Tolle or Choprah with the “Silly atheists, I made up this really cool God concept that I can’t defend anymore than any other so I’ll just use ancient psychoanalytical mumbo jumbo to make it sound true even though the guy that originally came up with this crap also thought cocaine was a great way to pacify your children thus belying his complete abandon for empirical study before asserting a concept as true!”

                Sorry, I’ll light some incense, put on some Enya, and obliterate my “ego” for regular stress relief, but I’m not going to call it “God” just to fit into the God-club, because I know that’s NOT what most people are thinking of when they start praying for rain or for earthquakes in heathen Japan, or for the death of the President, or for the “souls” of those who don’t believe as they do. I have no problem with the “God is consciousness and woo-diddy woo-woo” just don’t say that “this is really God” with the same arrogance as the preacher who paints “God Hates Fags” on cardboard signs! Once you actually evaluate that woo for what it is, you’ll realize that when Choprah and Tolle and all those others use “God” it is most often repackaging eastern philosophy for a western market. It’s a marketing strategy!

                /rant

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

                +ॐ

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

                ॐG! That’s funny!

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

                “ॐG” — that’s clever… unless you transliterate ॐ as “aum”, of course…

                (I wonder if everyone can see the ॐ glyph?)

                /@

              • Posted March 9, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

                I thought of that but figured, phonetically, the effect was the same as I pictured Ben Kingsley in the Love Guru chanting the mantra “ॐG LOLCAT ROFL I-can-haz-cheezeburgerrrrrr…” right before a bout of piss-mop.

              • Diane G.
                Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

                @ Justin Zimmer

                “/rant”

                And a damned good one!

            • Posted March 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

              Wow Justin, reading you is like reading my mind…
              Sérieusement… Nice try but

              1st: I’m allergic to New-age and flute, no matter the kind of music, except for The fool on the hill, but that is probably not due to “hazard” (which accidentally is an arab word, we are not that not far from sufism..)

              2nd: if you read about buddhism, sufism, mystic judaism, even christians like Meister Eckhart or John of the Cross, they all talk about the emptiness you need to make in order to make space for that unconceivable concept called God while you don’t make the space for it…

              • Posted March 10, 2012 at 12:55 am | Permalink

                It’s amazing how all these religions that have historically tried to exterminate each other turn out to be all the same.

  4. truthspeaker
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    He’s right that there is a psychological mechanism at work. It’s called “cognition”.

    • Frank
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      And LOGIC.

      • Posted March 6, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        God doesn’t even know his own logic. How can he be the Alpha and the Omega when we all know accordingly to logic that A cannot be non-A.

  5. Tim
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Rabbi Lurie,

    Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior? If not, why not? Why do you not bow before Allah? Is it your ego that keeps your from recognizing that Jesus just one of god’s aspects? Is it your ego that keeps you from acknowledging that Muhammad is the last phophet of god? I’ll get treatment for my “mental illness” when you’re finished with yours.

  6. J
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    *facepalm*

  7. MartiniConQueso
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    It’s really quite breathtaking to be accused of egotism by someone who then goes on to suggest those who disagree with him may well be mentally ill.

    • Marella
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      It is impressive isn’t it.

  8. Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    And I should care what a Crazy Rabbi has to say because……

  9. truthspeaker
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    often as pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything, or the Ultimate Reality

    Yes, we understand that, Rabbi. That’s one of the god concepts Dawkins says atheists reject. It is not categorically different from all the other god concepts we reject. It’s just one in a long list.

  10. Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Rationalizing (granting carte blanche to superstitious horseshit) and being rational (eschewing superfluous propositions) are two distinct modes of cognitive processing.

    On the correct side of the ledger, let’s not forget the inherent disorganized attachment caused by faith (juxtaposing fear and love). What about the chronic anxiety caused by ideas of reference (usually found in Schizoid Personality Disorder)? And finally, the therapeutic communication incongruency caused by invisible, unfalsifiable third parties. I never asked a magical ghost to speak for my client during a 30 minute session. And how, exactly, does one bill for that? Are supernatural entities covered by safety net?

  11. Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Really, Rabbi, who gave you a pipeline to the divine?

    Well, יהוה‎, obviously!

    /@

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Oh… interesting effect on formatting there… (Good job I didn’t say, “Jehovah,” then!)

      /@

      • Tulse
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        Careful, Ant…I’ve got a rock.

        • Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          Good job no-one’s got a whistle…

          /@

          • Posted March 7, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

            But you said Jahovah…!!!

      • Draken
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        You’re referring to this, I guess?

        *throws stone*

        • Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          Of course!

          /@

    • Darth Dog
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      “Really, Rabbi, who gave you a pipeline to the divine?”

      I think it was the guy who sold him those bad drugs. That would explain his personal experience of “pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything, or the Ultimate Reality”.

      • Marella
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

        They sound like pretty good drugs to me!

  12. Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    If not believing in woo is mental illness then I’m in no hurry to be cured!

  13. Myron
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    “God, for example, has a kind of brain that thinks, a set of emotions that feels love and concern, and an ability to store information in a kind of brain.” J. Coyne

    Being bodiless and brainless, the pure mind/soul/spirit called God cannot store any information, because due to his lack of any objective internal mechanism or structure (such as a nervous system) he doesn’t and cannot have any memory where his mental dispositions (knowledge, beliefs, preferences, interests, desires, etc.) are nonconsciously stored while they aren’t occurrently manifested in his consciousness.
    The fact that spiritual beings couldn’t have
    any memory and thus couldn’t have any dispositional mental states is a very strong
    reason to believe that such beings cannot exist in reality.
    If God existed, he wouldn’t be a know-all but a know-nothing!

    • Philip
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      God is Millard Fillmore?

    • Christian
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      This also regularly gets my goat. It’s usually the proponents of divine simplicity that make this claim. According to them their god does not consist of parts but at the same time this god is omniscient.
      This, however, would make him more complex than the universe he is supposed to have created. Thus this spirit substance should be able to assume different states so it can store and process information.
      But this means it is made up of parts, which contradicts their original claim.
      For some reason this doesn’t seem to bother them much, so they’re still convinced that anything goes since this whole spirit-stuff is supernatural and that they just found a clever way how to have their cake and eat it, too.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it’s brainless, and not at all antropomorphized, and yet it is intelligent, according to the rabbi, and feels love, according to the rabbi.

        So God is beyond our comprehension, and yet it happens to do two things – think and feel love – that humans do. Things that seem to require brains.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 8, 2012 at 1:28 am | Permalink

        I think that was probably the start of my agnosticism (at quite an early age). ‘God sees every time a sparrow falls’ or some such. And I thought, ‘how many million sparrows are there in the world? And how many other creatures?’ (Even at that age I appreciated that ‘sparrows’ was metaphorical language for ‘every creature’). And I decided the logistics were impossible, God would need a databank bigger than the Earth.

  14. Myron
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    “Even ‘sophisticated’ theologians like Alvin Plantinga experience God as having human emotions and qualities, even if He is disembodied.” J. Coyne

    “[T]heism is the belief that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing perfectly good immaterial person who has created the world, has created human beings ‘in his own image,’ and to whom we owe worship, obedience and allegiance. …God, according to theistic belief, is a person: a being who has knowledge, affection (likes and dislikes), and executive will, and who can act on his beliefs in order to achieve his ends.”

    (Plantinga, Alvin. “Religion and Science.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-science)

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Can we get Lurie and Plantinga to debate this? It could be fun… or will at least keep them out of our hair for a while…

      /@

      • Don
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        +1

  15. truthspeaker
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I guess I’ll subscribe. I commented at HuffPo too.

  16. Sajanas
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Does he bring this stuff to services? Does he tell children that they worship an amorphous entity of pure love? I doubt it. Its just goalpost moving, claiming that God is Love when arguing with atheists, yet its still bible verse after bible verse at Sabbath services. He even has an article about why the Jews are God’s Chosen people. But the God he describes in this article doesn’t need work free Saturdays, pork free meals, and ritually killed meat. And its funny how he weighs personal experience against dogma, yet his entire income is predicated on people needing him to dispense dogma and wisdom for them.

    Its a shame he can’t admit to the hypocrisy of his stance, and instead has to inflict this paint by numbers religionist nonsense on the interwebs.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      They actually have an answer for that.

      God – that amorphous experience of pure love – doesn’t care about eating pork or observing the Sabbath. Those are things humans invented because they help us feel closer to God.

      People raised in other faith traditions have different rituals that help them feel closer to God. They all work, because God is the same.

      But don’t you dare marry one of those shiksas.

  17. Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Every God that has ever been conceived of has some set of attributes, ranging from the concrete to the completely ineffable. Apparently the Rabbi thinks that it is childish to describe God in any of these terms, that God is somehow beyond all of them, and is not in the set of all gods that have been conceived of. Thus from the Rabbi’s side, he and Richard Dawkins disbelieve in exactly the same set of gods, but somehow Richard is childish. From Dawkins side, his statement is exactly accurate, since he also disbelieves in the Rabbi’s god, because his God has been conceived of by the Rabbi, and is thus included. So, somehow the Rabbi considers Richard Dawkins as childish for disbelieving in the same gods as the Rabbi, or for telling the truth.

  18. Stonyground
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    whether I see God as a childish anthropormorphic being or a sophisticated deist type being depends upon what king of godidiot I am addressing. Both kinds of gods exist in the minds of differing believers, so when adressing god beliefs I have to consider both, and sometimes all the variations in between. I also don’t go around trying to prove that gods don’t exist. Not only is it impossible to prove a negative, until theists provide some credible evidence there is no need.

  19. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    But what about those who have a personal, direct encounter, in which God is experienced, often as pure insanity, pure destruction, endless cruelty, the killing energy of everything, or the Ultimate Heat Death of Reality?

    It’s easy to like only the good stuff.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Those people are obviously suffering from some kind of mental delusion.

      Completely different.

    • josh
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like Azathoth, Who slumbers fitfully in the heart of celestial chaos to the eternal piping of blasphemous flutes! Pray that your mortal mind is blasted by madness before it can comprehend the merest iota of the truth!

  20. Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The childish concept sees God as some kind of being — perhaps with a white cloak and long beard — who somehow made the world according to a “sacred text.”

    How is that any less childish than an invisible friend who loves you? Lots of children have invisible friends that love them.

    It’s part of being a child.

    And while I didn’t have an invisible friend, more children do have invisible friends than don’t. Somewhere around 65% if these people are right:

    http://tinyurl.com/7a84skl

    • Christian
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Yeah isn’t it remarkable that even these sophisticated gods can be quite anthropomorphic?
      It’s only when this god concept is a bit more antropomophized than that of the sophisticated believer that it gets childish and you get accused of strawmanning god by creating a big man in the sky.
      The anthropomorphizing of the sophisticated theist on the other hand is just OK, no problem there.

  21. phhht
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    “For many, the belief in a Creator is rooted in a personal, direct encounter…”

    You strangers probably don’t realize that I am the luckiest man alive, because Lady Gaga is secretly in love with me! Yes it’s true! We have a personal relationship! I know because the spirit of the Blessed Lady appears to me in dreams and tells me so! And you can’t prove that isn’t true!

    Do we go out on dates? Well, no, because she is very busy with her career. Does she send me love letters? She doesn’t have to! I have faith in her love! Do we have sex? Well, we both want to, but we’re realistic
    adults. I understand how an open affair could hurt her professionally. Have I ever even met her? Well sure. In my dreams.

    So you can’t tell me the Blessed Lady’s love doesn’t exist! My sensus attractivitis (we’ve all got one!) can’t be wrong! After all, the heart has its reasons which reason cannot know.

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Gaga. Definitely gaga.

      /@

    • Tulse
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Do we go out on dates? Well, no, because she is very busy with her career. Does she send me love letters? She doesn’t have to!

      That sounds like a really bad romance.

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      And you know this because you frequently have to wash your sheets? It must be a sign…

    • PB
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      Very good!

  22. Veroxitatis
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Lurie may be in love with God, but his diatribe clearly demonstrates that he has never been in love with a human being.

  23. ZenDruid
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Any god with true potency, foresight and self-respect would have writ his eternal wisdom into the brains of infants, thereby rendering that ancient Hebrew snuff porn (and its purveyors) completely superfluous.

  24. eric
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I think this one is actually worse than his science argument. Admittedly, that one was hard to top on the ignorance chart. But claiming the mind cannot feel things such as compassion or love? Thats a chart-breaker. I believe even most bronze-age cultures were correctly able to locate the seat of emotions in the brain.

    In this respect, he appears to be less well educated than the geocentrist, moon-gives-light, striped-sticks-yield-striped-calves believing authors he is supposed to have studied.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      “I believe even most bronze-age cultures were correctly able to locate the seat of emotions in the brain.”

      Actually, no. The Egyptians for instance thought the brain wasn’t used for anything, they just threw it away while carefully saving other organs in jars. And there’s that Greek fella who thought it was for cooling the blood.

      Many people even today think the seat of emotions is the heart. Pumps blood AND radio receives messages from god.

      • Sajanas
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        And it wasn’t always just the heart. The Persians thought the liver was the source of strong emotions.

        • FootFace
          Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          My spleen is making me angry!

  25. John K.
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Then the mind eliminates anything that challenges its supremacy. And for such a tyrannical mind the concept of a Creator God — an ultimate intelligence that dwarfs its own — is completely intolerable.

    I suppose being more mindless does aid in a belief in gods. Shut up brain! I need to believe in gods!

    For those who have developed strong connections to body, emotions and Spirit, the mind can be managed and used properly.

    “I” am not connected to my body or emotions? I would like to see an example of emotions without a mind, or a human body that can function without a “human mind”. I suppose we would need a mind without emotions or a body as well.

    Who knows what the heck a “spirit” is supposed to be.

  26. Sunny
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The Scandinavians should have their heads examined for not believing in God.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Incidentally, psychoanalysis isn’t very popular here.

      We do have a slightly high suicide rate* here [Sweden], we place as nation #30 with ~ 13 suicides/(100 000*year) compared with US as #41 with ~ 12. Seems us males off ourselves a bit less than in US, while females more than make up for the difference. The downside with an egalitarian society.

      ————-
      * Usually blamed on the huge rate of SAD.

      • josh
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        It’s darkly funny that suicides are attributed to ‘sad’.

  27. Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I used to embrace a loving amorphous God that filled my heart with joy and was that great and non-childish God, better than what the Christians worshiped but didn’t do me any favors and was not an interloper in the affairs of the world but rather a great effulgence of raw existence. Then I realized it was still imaginary, so I grew up. Isn’t it fun to imagine such things? Believing they are real is called a delusion. I believe they have therapies for that, perhaps even a little psychoanalysis.

  28. FootFace
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    “The ego knows only fear, and it will fiercely fight anything that threatens its survival. And nothing is more frightening to the ego than sharing or ceding control with another, because this feels like death.”

    I see, yes. Of course.

    And it’s atheists who are motivated by this fear of something that feels like death, is it? And so they dream up all these ideas of an afterlife so they never have to face the thought of their own deaths?

    Weird, because that sounds more to me like the, um… You know… The ones who aren’t atheists?

    • Sastra
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that struck me too. And claiming that the Ultimate Reality is in love with you and you know this because you’re more sensitive than an atheist doesn’t sound like a lack of ego.

  29. Gordon
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Let’s introduce some science here. Of course you US atheists are all mad. Apparently (I only saw it second hand but on a reliable website) the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines personality disorders as an enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture.

    We atheists down here in New Zealand and Australia you will be pleased to know all remain remarkly sane – and Skippy looked real to me – and he can revolve his head 360 deg

  30. Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    This is the same type of god that deepak chopra seems to believe in…and some theists i know. It is this amalgam of an undescribed deity/creator god with the descriptions and attributes of the abrahamic god. Its mashing 2 things together…the idea of believing there is a being/force etc that created everything bc something had to create it, but then making the next leap to, and its the god of the bible. It is 2 completely separate ideas that (like the NT gospels) are smashed together and presented as one cohesive story.

    It makes me think of a usa article i read yesterday where a lady said thank god we had enough warning that a tornado was coming. NO NO NO. Not thank god…thank science…thank meteorology. The shortsightedness of a naturally occurring weather pattern (unless it was something gawd sent to punish the gays or whatever as some nuts claim) which IF you believe there is a gawd, is certainly either responsible for the tornadoes existence, or its path, that instead of their gawd not stopping, preventing, or steering elsewhere, “he” “gave” warning in the form of 20th century technology to identify and predict, etc etc…AAAHHHHH!

  31. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    For those who have developed strong connections to body, emotions and Spirit, the mind can be managed and used properly. But there are those who, for a variety of reasons, have weak connections to body, emotions and Spirit. For these, the mind has free reign, dominating their lives and seeking to eliminate anything that it cannot rationally comprehend.

    The main problem with this is that statistically intelligence is correlated with physiological, emotional and social health. Whether intelligence is tied to atheism or not is irrelevant here, what Lurie claims is completely backwards: if you are adept at using your mind you would “have weak … body” et cetera.

    The other problem is that there isn’t an observable “Spirit” any more than we can observe Lurie’s gods.

  32. Karl Withakay
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Please don’t pshycologize and theologize, or this can happen.

    “For many, the belief in a Creator is rooted in a personal, direct encounter, in which God is experienced, often as pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything, or the Ultimate Reality”

    As soon as he gives me a good, reliable way to differentiate such experiences from temporal lobe seizures, psychedelic drug experiences, and other naturalistic explanations, I’ll at least consider taking him seriously.

    “The childish concept sees God as some kind of being — perhaps with a white cloak and long beard — who somehow made the world according to a “sacred text.””

    I’m really sick of sophisticated theists claiming that this is not the dominant view of god. If this is a childish view of god, it is the theists that have this childish view of god, not atheists. Atheists actually don’t really have a view of god of their own as they don’t believe in gods.

    “The human mind is a powerful tool, but can also be a cruel tyrant. While it is skilled at storing and analyzing data, it cannot feel, and so there is much — such as art, music, compassion, love, sex or Spirit — that it cannot truly know. ”

    The only explanation I can give for this unsupported and absurd assertion is that the author of these words must be a pure dualist.

    ‘But the refusal to even consider that a creator may not exist — often accompanied by the adamant desire to “prove” otherwise and to ridicule those who do — especially in the face of much blatant evidence, is an indication that a psychological mechanism is at work.’

    There, I fixed that for him.

    Such sophisticated theists seem to think if an atheist does not completely reconsider their understanding of the naturalistic nature of the universe every time someone mentions god, it means they are close minded and haven’t objectively considered the concept of a god.

    Been there, done that already. We’ll reconsider when you bring something new and compelling to the table, but we don’t feel the need to rehash the some old tired BS over and over every time someone bring it up.

    I understand he’s Jewish and not Christian, but still this is heavy new age deism/ postmodernism/ chorpawoo.

  33. David Leech
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Well at least I understand the motivation, please believe this bullshit or I lose my job:-)

  34. Gabrielle Guichard
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Why would the belief in an anthropormorphic being be more childish than the belief in any other form of god?

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      That’s my question too.

    • Posted March 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Simple. Because it’s not the God he believes in.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        For some reason this approach to apologetics makes me even crankier than usual. They start off with “Sure, you’ve refuted all those other kinds of gods, but the one I believe in is different and your arguments don’t apply to it,” and then go on to describe a god that isn’t much different than all the other ones.

        Maybe it’s because they get my hopes up that they’ll come up with something I haven’t heard before.

        • footface
          Posted March 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          Exactly. His god isn’t anthropomorphic. He just thinks, feels, communicates, and expects and desires things from humans. The way humans do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  35. Kevin
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow. So much wrongness all wrapped up in one megawrong ball of wrongitude. It’s the Platonic Ideal of Wrong.

    1 is argument from personal experience. We know how reliable personal experience is. Hare Krishnas, $cientologists, est purveyors, and the like have been using it for decades to centuries.

    2 is a corollary…argument from emotional manipulation. I feel “something” when I hear nice music or see a puppy — ergo Yahweh. I just threw up a little in my mouth — ergo no Yahweh.

    3 is pure strawman. As if practically every atheist I know didn’t arrive there via intense study. We know theists’ arguments better than they know them, because those are the arguments we’ve rejected in order to reach the conclusion that there are no gods.

    And even if we reconsidered the concept of a god — then what? What if we reach the same conclusion as before? Does that make our conclusions more valid? This guy would probably say “you need to study more” until you reached his conclusion.

    It’s a demand to convert. Nothing more. You’d think a Jew would be wise to such things.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      It’s not so much a demand to convert as a way to reassure the faithful that believing in God makes them wiser, nicer, better, and more sensitive than atheists. And oh yeah — more humble, too. Because atheism is arrogant.

      I find these psychological apologetics more dangerous and insulting than the bad empirical arguments. At least those are forced, by their nature, to accept the assumption that the issue is one of reason and thus put atheists on a shared common ground. They try to convince us, to persuade us using ordinary tools of reason, logic, and evidence. They suck at it, but you could say the ‘heart’ is in the right place.

      This approach has no heart — while pretending to be about the heart. It’s only a scold, a divisive insistence that atheists have a deep-seated problem with their humanity.

      We’re not wrong because we’re mistaken. We’re wrong because we, ourselves, are wrong. We are wrong in essence, as part of our invisible underlying structure of personality. We fight against God.

      Might as well accuse us of being witches.

      • Gluon
        Posted March 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        “Might as well accuse us of being witches.”

        Don’t tempt him.

  36. Steve Bowen
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Atheist: No, sorry! Can’t believe in some sky fairy, beardy guy. Definitely no God.

    Theist: That’s naive, God is ineffible and unknowable. I don’t believe in beardy God either.

    Atheist: Oh I see, so I misunderstood the kind of God you believe in?

    Theist: Absolutely!

    Atheist: Well then, now your kind of God…I don’t believe in That one either

  37. Greg Peterson
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    While I’m sure this kind of drivel is offensive (or at least off-putting…or maybe merely hilarious) to all atheists, I can’t help thinking that it’s especially obnoxious to those of us who were dovout religionists, very happy with our faith, and who only gave up our faith after a prolonged and often painful struggle. And there are a fair number of us. The rabbi’s riff seems to assume that atheists are born, or become atheists by some kind of tantrum or through fiat or something. But no. THAT was how I converted to Christianity, in a momentary act of radical conversion. My DEconversion took a few years, was accompanied by a great deal of prayer, seeking, reading, study, meditation, and hand-wringing, and only concluded in my becoming an atheist when I realized that if I ever wanted to represent myself as a sincere person of integrity again, I could not claim to believe things that made less than no sense to me.

    • Gluon
      Posted March 6, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. His article is profoundly insulting and not a little ignorant. I was raised a Christian and took it very seriously. It was a very long and painful journey out. I was a decent Bible scholar before I started to lose that faith but on the way out I studied even more intensely, and for years, in ever expanding circles. And even a decade or more after I knew I could not claim to believe it any more, I still could not bring myself to leave precisely because everyone I knew, my family and friends, had all bought into this idea that if you’re an atheist, you must be immoral and probably defective. It is precisely like confessing to them a murder.

      It is such an upside down view of things. In reality, the persistance of religion is, I believe, due to the laziness of believers as much as anything. There is no one I personally know who is as mean a Bible scholar as I am, and I know quite a few believers. This is no accident. The less one truly knows, even about the Bible, the easier it is to believe. It is an irony, but I think to some extent it is precisely because I took my beliefs so seriously, studied so ardently, that I came to abandon them as inadequate.

      • Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:52 am | Permalink

        It is precisely like confessing to them a murder.

        Well, I can quite imagine a religionist saying, “An atheist has murdered God in his [or her] heart.”

        /@

  38. Sastra
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    For many, the belief in a Creator is rooted in a personal, direct encounter, in which God is experienced, often as pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything, or the Ultimate Reality.

    The rabbi here is making 2 major errors.

    First, he’s conflating a direct experience with an interpretation of the experience. That “mystical experiences” exist is not under dispute: people feel as if they have lost the sense of self; or as if they are one with all of reality; or as if there is another presence in their mind; or as if everything is imbued with the most amazing and deep significance; or — other. Indescribable. Intense.

    Yeah, we get that. The bone of contention is not that we don’t believe you. The question is whether or not we need to assume anything outside the brain to account for these experiences. We do not. Thus, the reasonable conclusion is that the likelihood is that you are not a special, special person who had a special, special experience which doesn’t fit into any rational or scientific paradigm and you are justified in your INFERENCE that God exists.

    This has jack all to do with whether or not atheists know what it’s like to feel or experience love.

    And the second major mistake the rabbi is making is to insist that this “pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything” is not “anthropomorphic.”

    Yes it is. It resembles aspects of the human mind. Common, ordinary, normal things we all experience spread out and ascribed to “Ultimate Reality” as a whole. It’s a reflection of you and me. And the only thing different between this God and the “childish” versions is that this one is more vague. It lacks details, but retains the critical human-like core.

    That is not a feature. It’s a bug. And we already KNEW this was what you were going to drag out in hopes to stymie us. It doesn’t work.

    • Kingasaurus
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      –And the second major mistake the rabbi is making is to insist that this “pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything” is not “anthropomorphic.”–

      Correct. As if somehow God having, say, a “desire for you not to masturbate” is less anthropomorphic than God having a “beard” or “ten fingers.”

      People’s gods are anthropomorphic when convenient, and not when not convenient.

      Reminds me of an old church lady who used to call talk radio years ago around my neck of the woods. The skeptical host would ask her things like “Well, does God have a penis?” She would always say “Of course not! Why would he need one?” The follow-up would be “Well, does God have an elbow?”, and she would say “of course he does.” Total facepalm. What would he need an elbow for exactly? But she just couldn’t get it. She had an invented idea of “God” in her mind that looked and felt just like a person but just wouldn’t need sex organs.

      People are strange indeed.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Your first point is very important.

      There’s research in the area of transformative religious experience. I’ve had many conversations with people who have experienced them.

      There are several types of such experiences. The most common is when a person converts from one religion/denomination to another. It’s fairly rare for a person to have such an experience within their own denomination.

      A second major form of transformative experience is when someone uses religion to stop abusing drugs and alcohol.

      I have often counseled atheists that you cannot argue against the transformative experience. It is real. It can even be measured and located within the brain.

      The flaw, of course, is assuming that an outside supernatural agency “caused” the experience.

      No. What happened was that you were emotionally manipulated at a time when you were psychologically vulnerable.

      Now, it’s also often true that people have these experiences alone — but prior to the experience, the pump was primed. However, given the propensity of humans to find agency in any event, ascribing the experience to a supernatural something-or-other is quite natural.

      In short: validate the experience. Invalidate the source of the experience.

      • Posted March 7, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        A second major form of transformative experience is when someone uses religion to stop abusing drugs and alcohol.

        I have often counseled atheists that you cannot argue against the transformative experience. It is real. It can even be measured and located within the brain.

        Agreed, but the danger is that the religious take the credit for it and thereby deprive the person having the experience of their autonomy.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          It’s not merely the danger — religion has been playing this card for centuries to millennia.

          Have an emotional experience, whether manipulated or not by a person near you? God did it!

          This, I believe, is actually the motivation behind the recent spate of “Bring An Atheist To Church” movements. They want to play the emotional manipulation card.

          Might actually work on some who are not. Religion in general is highly effective at pushing your buttons.

          Doesn’t make it true. But give credit where credit is due. They’ve had a lot of practice in this area.

  39. Sastra
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    You know, this rabbi’s article is a beautiful illustration of one good reason why accomodationism won’t work.

    On the whole, this guy is supposed to be a ‘liberal’ — one of those sophistimacated theists who don’t believe in an Old Man in the Sky with a Beard, but who do mystically experience God as ‘pure consciousness, pure creation, endless love, the animating energy of everything, or the Ultimate Reality.’

    And how does he explain atheists? Mentally ill, emotionally challenged, spiritually stunted, psychologically obstinate, aesthetically cold freaks of nature. But please don’t take that the wrong way. I’m sure that if you fawn and swoon sufficiently over how lovely the faith and spirituality you lack is, you will graciously be considered an exception.

    And then they’ll still think it behind your back.

  40. dunstar
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Lolz. There can only be a childish concept of any god. That’s how it is by definition. It just comes from the fear of uncertainty and what is not known.

    The sophisticated version simply makes the “childish” concept as vague as possible so that whoever is trying to explain it to children and adults alike can engage in double-speak. The fancier the words, the more elaborate the metaphors and analogies the better. Lolz

  41. Knuckle Pushups
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Well, I feel mentally ill. That’s OK, isn’t it? Gotta go, I think my bush is burning.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      You might want to see a doctor about the latter.

  42. Filippo
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Standing on the surface of the Earth, I – being so special – I, being ME – can let go of my pencil, and it will not fall.

    What? My simply and solely saying so (but not taking the next step and actually DOING it) is not good enough?

  43. unklehank
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Not accepting the unevidenced stories of pre-scientific societies as fact: mental illness.

    “Knowing” that there’s a god who created the universe in a week out of nothing using only words, has a name and wants you to do very specific things such as avoid bacon and not work on the weekend (in stark and irresolvable conflict with the competing and contradictory wants of every other god from every other mythology, religion, cult and idle fantasy ever): blatantly obvious.

    Clueless, ignorant, naive hypocrisy: priceless.

  44. PB
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    When I read the first argument, childish concept of god, I almost think that this is the good kind of rabbi. Only when he meant that for us thinkers, I know how far this rabbi was lost.

    Actually, the semitic concept of god is the most childish. It replace the father figure, a hard-driving father for jews, a slightly better in NT (some commune-love thrown in), and back to the original for Islam.

    All father-dreams of a child in patriachal hierarchical culture (Zeus-pater is another).

    If you compared to Hindu gods, Chinese pantheon, even Manitou, they are different, at least not just a father-alternative (not to say that they’re true or not).

    That’s why, when a rabbi said that his god is childish, I kind of appreciate that (without gratitude of course ..)

    Only it is not so. The opposite.

    The third is a bit interesting too, most of the stubbornness of the religious (including this rabbi’s) against facts of science is an example of ego issue (plus actual benefits like living wages, power and wealth). Of course the rabbi meant otherwise ..

  45. Diane G.
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    Bleah. Why is it that opinions pulled out of nether regions get published? Reading just JAC’s Lurie excerpts, the only impression I get is of yet another arrogant, self-aggrandizing narcissist under the delusion of “if I can think it up, write it down and declare it, it’s obviously true. And you had better agree with me.”

  46. Michieux
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    Lurie’s not the first to look down on nonbelievers with a smug contempt, arrogating to himself an authority he does not possess. According to his reckoning, someone whose “experience of god” told them to go out and kill someone would be just as valid as those whose god equals the “ground of being.” In either case, fatuous codswallop.

  47. Kharamatha
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Ah, yes. Creators. The immortal race of sentient Grounds of Being allegedly waiting in dark space. We have dismissed that claim.

  48. Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    “-Is Tyler my bad dream? Or am I Tyler’s?”

  49. NoAstronomer
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    The childish concept sees God as some kind of being — perhaps with a white cloak and long beard — who somehow made the world according to a “sacred text.”

    So, Rabbi Lurie, all that stuff about keeping the Sabbath holy, not eating shellfish, Jonah swallowed by a whale, Jericho, the Ten Commandments, Adam, Eve, David and Goliath; That’s all bullshit?

    We do agree on something then.

    Mike.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Blockquote fail. First paragraph is Lurie’s quote. Preview function Jerry?

  50. Posted March 18, 2012 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    Rabbie Lurie has written a response, which I promised to publish here. He’s given it in the form of his own comments (in italics) responding to my own comments in the original post (plain type):

    Dr. Coyne writes:
    Now I’m not going to say that Rabbi Alan Lurie has no business pronouncing on science since he lacks advanced degrees in the field, but his “unique background,” as detailed by HuffPo, doesn’t give us much confidence that he’ll be able to show that all evolutionists and cosmologists are wrong about their trade:

    This begins Coyne’s approach of writing in absolutes and stereotypes. Is he really proposing that ALL evolutionists and cosmologists are atheists? According to the latest Pew study, 51% of scientists say that they believe in God, and presumably some of these are evolutionists of cosmologists. Secondly, I am not telling them that they are wrong, but just questioning why some, like Coyne, seem to absolutely refuse to consider a Creator hypothesis in the face of what does seem to be a designed reality. Now, of course it may only “seem” to be designed, but why not at least consider that there may be a Designer. I’m not asking anyone to accept this, but the absolute refusal to even consider it, and the dismissal of those who do as anti-science, does strike me as strange.

    The fine-tuning argument has become the last weapon in the arsenal of apologists. But although I don’t have Marshall McLuhan behind this sign, I do have a smart physicist, Sean Carroll, who, when I sent him Lurie’s piece, told me that the good rabbi knows nothing about physics.

    Again, Coyne talks in absolutes when he says that I know nothing. I am an architect, and took graduate level classes in physics and math. And just because this is the “latest weapon” doesn’t make it wrong. Fine Tuning is a valid hypothesis.

    First, the phrase “vastly less than the scientifically accepted definition of “zero” is just nonsensical. The “scientifically accepted definition of zero” is, in fact, zero. There are plenty of numbers less than zero, but they are all negative.

    I meant the “statistical “probability, which I understand as anything less than 1 in 10 to the 50th power. I think this is implicit.

    Or you can be intellectually honest, and take the predictions of your theory seriously. If God made the universe in order to support life on Earth, the skies should be empty. They are not. QED.

    QED? This is a circular argument that uses the premise, “If I designed the Universe it would look like ‘this’’, but since it doesn’t it must not be designed, or the Designer must be inept.” This is, frankly, arrogance and small-mindedness. We know only the tiniest fraction of how the Universe works, and it’s entirely possible (and plausible) that scientific exploration will find reasons for things that currently seem useless. The point is that the Universe does exist, that it sustains life, and that we are alive and conscious. The idea of a Creator is not inconsistent with this, no matter how many “flaws” one may find, and in fact is a reasonable theory.

    Clearly designed? Maybe to Lurie! The rest of us are working on how the hereditary material and the brain evolved. Lurie’s creationist explanation would have us stop all this work and just fob it off on Yahweh.

    The flat, and completely unsupported, claim that to believe in God is to stop the scientific search is another black and white stereotype that is factually not true (addressed earlier). And where’s the connection? Does recognizing that an engineer designed a car dissuade us from understanding how it works? Believing that the Universe is designed actually spurs more curiosity to scientific exploration. Some of the greatest scientists were deep believers in a Creator, and not because they had to. Copernicus, Kepler, Descartes, Newton, Mendel, Einstein, Planck. To say that belief in God ends science is, it seems to me, a misunderstanding of both. (I’m not sure if the reference to “Yahweh” was meant to offend and provoke, but it shows Coyne’s literalistic views, by assuming that I must believe in one specific super-being with a specific name, and that I’d be offended if this name is “used in vain”. Please!)

    If you read Hitch’s argument, you’ll see that he doesn’t really “disapprove” of the eye’s design, but asserts, correctly, that the human eye is a botch, with the nerves and blood vessels running in front of the retina, where they not only impede vision, but can efface it if a blood vessel ruptures.

    The point is that the eye works! Just because one doesn’t like the design and would
    have done it differently is a ridiculous argument. The eye is a miracle, and I imagine that someone with a deeper understanding of the eye could explain better why it works as it does. Why not give science a chance to figure it our more?

    God is simply a science-stopper, an appeal to ignorance. And, of course, there’s not a shred of evidence for Lurie’s God, but plenty of evidence for natural selection. So which is more rational to believe: the methods of science and naturalism, which have worked and made enormous progress—or the methods of theology, which haven’t helped us understand anything about the universe?

    Again, why is the belief in a Creator a “science stopper and appeal to ignorance”. I truly am baffled. The idea that there is an either/or choice – science or faith – is a fundamentalist position, as are all the black and white assertions in Coyne’s blog, his calling me “wacko” and “crazy”, and his belief that science is the ONLY way to know anything. Coyne’s literalistic vision of God as a being with a beard, looking down from the clouds is certainly a “science-stopper”. But this is not my vision, not that of most religious people (again, according to Pew).
    I often wonder what evidence is needed. If, for example, prayer was scientifically proven to heal, this would only show that there is some energy in the Universe that responds to a certain type of intention. If a huge glowing man with a beard and cloak suddenly appearing on the White House lawn, announced to the world “I am God”, then walked on the Potomac as the waters split, this might only be a great technological trick. And definitive proof that Jesus rose from the dead, that the Bible was received by Moses on Mt Sinai, or that Joseph Smith was led by an unearthly being to golden tablets, would, while profound, would only show the historical truth of ancient documents and tells us that there is more to reality than meets the eye – which we can all agree to. None are evidence of a Creator.
    As I wrote in my blog, Anthony Flew seemed to have found evidence of a Creator’s existence in the intricacies and intelligence of DNA, as do many very credible scientists. Others find evidence of God’s existence in the vast improbability and apparent design of the Universe, in personal encounters, or in moments of transcendence. I am not posing proofs, but just wondering what evidence is enough for some to consider a Creator, as even a remote possibility.

    What is striking here is Lurie’s arrogance—as if he knows what God is like, and anybody who thinks He’s different from that is immature. Really, Rabbi, who gave you a pipeline to the divine?

    There are immature and mature levels of spirituality, just as there are for emotions and intellect. To conceive of the Creator of Everything as a physical being that is accurately described in a human document and that exists completely outside ourselves is in fact immature – like a child thinking that electrons are little balls. Those who have experienced the spiritual realm directly share remarkably similar understandings of God, across many traditions.

    Really? The mind can’t “know” compassion, art, music, love, and the like? These things are perceived in the mind, which generates (along with hormones) the emotions.

    I said the mind, not the brain. Again, Coyne shows little understanding of theology and psychology. Buddhists talk about the “mind” not as a piece of grey matter, but as the human inclination to want to control through rationality. Psychology has a similar approach. If you prefer Freud’s distinctions, that’s fine too. The part of our brain that is moved by art is not what is referred to as the “mind”. Psychology 101

    I’ll thank god when a stack of thousand-dollar bills drops from the heavens into my lap.

    No thank you for a beautiful sunset or nourishing tree? You don’t know what you’re missing. Thanking creation is a profoundly moving and energizing experience. Coyne’s line, “I’ll thank God when a stack of thousand dollar bills” says exactly where he is relative to gratitude.

    And talk about ridicule! Prescribing psychoanalysis—a technique resembling religion since it’s based on wish-thinking rather than evidence, has its own bearded God, and is unable to discover truth—for atheists? Really? Who is being strident here?

    It’s truly shocking that people can rally behind someone like Dawkins who calls believers “delusional”, calls teaching children about God “child abuse” that should be punished, and thinks, like Coyne, that anyone who believes in God must be anti-science (ie, stupid) yet when I suggest that someone who adamantly refuses to even consider the hypothesis of a Creator in the face of what certainly appears to be deliberate design is in need of psychological help, the same people are offended. If you throw a punch, don’t whine when the person swings back in defense.

    And finally, again Coyne’s vision of a “bearded God” tells us of his literalistic view. I personally do not know a single believer (over the age of 5) who thinks of God in such silly terms. If that’s how Coyne think that all believers experience God (and that this is the ONLY way to conceive of God) then no wonder he can not see that science and faith are partners. Dr Coyne, I don’t believe in the same God that you don’t believe in.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Really a bit like whack-a-mole, isn’t it?

      “Dr Coyne, I don’t believe in the same God that you don’t believe in.” Nope, Rabbi, Dr Coyne (as I’m sure he will confirm) doesn’t believe in *all* gods, which includes yours.

      “I suggest that someone who adamantly refuses to even consider the hypothesis of a Creator in the face of what certainly appears to be deliberate design is in need of psychological help”
      Yet another strawman argument. I think most atheists have considered it, and are satisfied that evolution can account for the appearance of design. Having considered it, they’re entitled to say ‘been there, done that’ when someone like you attempts to bring the whole thing up again.

      “The point is that the eye works! Just because one doesn’t like the design and would
      have done it differently is a ridiculous argument. The eye is a miracle, and I imagine that someone with a deeper understanding of the eye could explain better why it works as it does. Why not give science a chance to figure it our more?”
      Oh God! Go read ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ for example. Science can explain *exactly* how the eye works, including its built-in defects. A “miracle” should surely avoid obvious design faults, like having the photocells wired in backwards, or focussing that siezes up at age 40. (In fact everything about this body wot I inhabit tells me it was ‘designed’ for a working life of ~40 years, i.e. till it finished reproducing, and ever since it’s been running on the safety margins like an old airplane. Didn’t God know I was going to live past 40? (Evolution, on the other hand, by definition loses interest after your last offspring leaves home).

      I’ll leave it to someone else to whack the other moles.

  51. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and one I missed.

    “No thank you for a beautiful sunset or nourishing tree? You don’t know what you’re missing. Thanking creation is a profoundly moving and energizing experience. Coyne’s line, “I’ll thank God when a stack of thousand dollar bills” says exactly where he is relative to gratitude.”

    What a steaming heap of blatant misdirection. Who should I ‘thank’ for sunsets and trees exactly? Physics and evolution? Or maybe whoever planted the trees? I get a sense of awe at sunsets, and I love trees, and that tells me we shouldn’t screw up the atmosphere nor cut forests down, not if we want this world to remain inhabitable. It doesn’t tell me I should ‘thank’ some imaginary being. How about ‘observing the natural world is a profoundly moving and energizing experience’. There, fixed that for ya.

    As to Dr Coyne’s one-liner, more misdirection by the Rabbi – Dr Coyne will thank God if and when something happens that is unmistakeably due to God, rather than natural phenomena. It says where he is relative to God, not to gratitude.


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  1. [...] http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/crazy-rabbi-says-that-atheists-are-mentally-ill-f… I would say “thank you” to a waiter who brought me food, or to a chef who cooked a meal, but there’s no evidence that anybody gave us a sunset. Should we say, “Thank you, laws of physics!” A refusal to thank god is not a manifestation of ego, it’s simply a refusal to grovel before a nonexistent being. I’ll thank god when a stack of thousand-dollar bills drops from the heavens into my lap. [...]

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