Sunday, August 24, 2008

23 ’Av 5768: Vesuvius Day/International Kitchen Garden Day (maybe)

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. I just attended a lecture given by our synagogue by Michael S. Kogan on his book, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity. This lecture was a severe disappointment theologically, and here is why: Kogan correctly noted that since the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican in 1965, Christianity has increasingly recognized that Judaism is a valid religion.  Kogan proposes that Judaism reciprocate and view Christianity as valid.  This frankly makes no sense.  Christianity intrinsically tries to root itself in Judaism, claiming Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.  For Christianity to admit some legitimacy to Judaism is thus natural; refusing to admit it, on the other hand, casts doubts on the legitimacy of Christianity itself.  But the situation is not symmetrical.   The only place Christianity has in Judaism is in some individuals’ Messianic speculations; at the root (and all the way to the top of the tree, as well), Judaism stands on its own, without claiming any legitimacy in any other religion.  Thus Judaism is under no intrinsic obligation to recognize any validity to Christianity.  The burden of proof is therefore upon Christianity to prove its validity to Judaism.  The rational way to go about this would be to give proof that Jesus was a true prophet and that the Christian movement founded in his name actually followed what he preached; this Kogan did not even try to do.  What he did instead was launch into how he viewed both Judaism and Christianity mythologically, extensively and quite irrelevantly.  When he eventually got to truth, he disavowed the notion that religious truth is supposed to correspond with physical reality and embraced a “performance definition of truth”, which essentially boils down to “if it feels good, it’s true”.  He also saw all major world religions as being “true” according to his (mis)definition.  To this I say, “Balderdash!”  His redefinition is completely illegitimate and an attempt to avoid the possibility of “false”.  Kogan correctly noted that “God is one” and “God is three in one” are not statements amenable to direct observation.  On the other hand, religions do make claims about our physical reality, and it is by these claims that religions—all religions, including Judaism and Christianity—can be evaluated.  People who doubt this should start reading Biblical Archaeology Review.  And what, pray tell, is the problem with the idea of “wrong”?  “Wrong” is not the same as evil, so it is not a moral fault.  It is not even necessarily an intellectual fault.  The history of science is filled with ideas which turned out to be wrong; that does not make those who believed in those ideas any worse for it.  The only time “wrong” becomes a problem is when people are aware they might be wrong and ignore the problem rather than facing it, making it an intellectual fault, or they do not consider that information they have may be wrong and act on it anyway and thus do something improper, thus making it a moral fault.  But for someone who does what he/she can to seek the truth and still turns out to be wrong, what fair god could fault him/her for simply for not reaching the truth?  If I am wrong about everything I put in my book, then so be it, for I will at least be wrong while trying to find the truth!  Needless to say, I was rather disgusted, and the only good thing about Kogan’s thinking is that he is not popular (measured by his not having a Wikipedia page for himself or his book), thus limiting its spread.
  2. Further pieces of the pyrite spouted by Kogan:  He acknowledges that non-Jews have a place within the system of Judaism, complete with the Seven Noaḥide Laws and the possibility of an afterlife even without believing in Judaism, but somehow this is not enough for him.  He also mangles statements in the Gospels that the only way is through Jesus (e.g., Matthew 11:27, John 3:35-36) into somehow saying that non-belief in and ignoring Jesus is OK.  His notion of Judaism, even without muddy notions of truth, is blatantly heretical.  He sees nothing wrong with the violation of the festival of Pesaḥ (Passover) by turning off the lights during the Sedher, and he uses the emendation of the excommunicated Mordecai Kaplan (may his bones be ground up) to the prayer “‘Alenu” to remove any reference to thanking YHWH for not making us like the nations. (As opposed to me, who uses the original version prayer by adding back in the censored phrase “that they prostrate themselves to vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who does not save”.)  Kogan also seems to have some idea of morality independent of Divine command, but he did not elaborate on this.  Also:  People wishing to get some ideas of what Jews who know what they are talking about find wrong with the basis of Christianity may find what they are looking for at Jews for Judaism.
  3. Unrelated to the above:  “Measles is back, and it's because your kids aren't vaccinated”: For the zillionth time, piety does not exempt people from the natural order! Thank YHWH for showing us mercy by allowing us to develop the vaccines to prevent horrible diseases!
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Magic Cube 4D”, just for those of you who thought the ordinary 3D Rubik’s Cube was too easy. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron
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