Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pascal's Wager

Recently I got in  a short but heated argument with abele derer on Baruch Pelta's blog post "The Kuzari Principle (Proof from Mass Revelation), Rationalist Judaism, and My Defense of Being an Atheist Jew" over Pascal's Wager.

Here are some very well made videos that on how the wager is a poor reason to become a theist.

Here is a second video aimed at countering the rebuttals made to the original video.

The major point I was trying to make in my argument with AD is that you definitely do give up something if you decided to become a theist based on Pascal's Wager. You give up integrity and self respect. Those are things I am not willing to give up on a wager such as this.


  1. Liked your videos alot. I also shared some thoughts on Pascal's Wager at my blog, Occam's Aftershave. Check it out.

  2. I watched the first video, and it was utter, utter nonsense. I will focus on a couple of points.

    1. There are an infinite number of religions. Response: Ok, so pick the one with the most evidence, or the one you think has the most evidence.

    2. God will punish you for not believing in the right God. Response: Is there any evidence of this? The video is ready to supply a verse from the Bible (!), but fails to realize that the verse is only proof that the biblical God hates those who worship false Gods. Second, Maimonides is clear that God will punish atheists more than pagans.

    3. Maybe we are in a large video game. Response: Please show me evidence that we are part of a video game and we will compare it to the evidence to Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

  3. 1. The point is that the fact that there are an infinite number of religions possible and the failure to pick the correct one can lead to infinite amount of torment and pain undermines the entire wager.

    2. If you are a Christian, Allah will send you to hell forever. If you are not a Christian, Jesus will send you to hell forever. Thus by not picking the "right" god you condemn yourself to eternal torment. If you are a Jew you are still subject to both eternal torments. Thus simply believing and following one particular religious sects god will ultimately send you to hell forever.

    3. The same amount of convincing and testable evidence exists. None. Also the point of the wager is that the amount of evidence for either side is totally irrelavent. The fact that even if there was a slight possibility of atheists getting eternal gain vs. a theists eternal suffering results in a net benefit to being an atheist, assuming there is only one possibility. The reason the wager breaks down is because there are multiple conflicting and contradicting possibilities.

    Even if one was more likely than the other is inconsequential, which Pascal himself admits, because that is the whole point of the wager in the first place. The wager is used to ignore all and any evidence for rejecting Christianity since even if there were a small possibility that it was correct, smaller than Judaism even, you would have everything to gain by choosing Jesus and everything to lose by choosing Judaism.

    The fact that there are even remote possibilities that the exact opposite could occur shows where Pascal's wager falls apart and ceases to be convincing at all.

  4. 1. Your post is based on the assumption that allah would rather you be an atheist than a Jew. I see no evidence of that. (In fact, specifically regarding islam's allah, the reverse seems to be true. Allah seems to like "People of the Book" more than atheists.) To repeat: What evidence do you have that allah, or baal, or amun, or asheira, or etc. etc. would give you an easier time as an atheist than as a Jew.

    2. Your post is based on the assumption that there is no evidence for Judaism. Hence, one would admits that there is some evidence for Judaism (e.g., he is 1 percent sure that Judaism is the true religion, you admit that pascal's wager would demand that he follow the Torah.) That's a pretty big statement -- that there is literally "zero" evidence for Judaism (or for the other major religions, for that matter).

    Do you have anything smart to say, because what you said till now makes me yawn?

  5. 1. That is not an assumption I made at all. You are the one making the assumption that there is no deity or reality that would or could ever allow for atheists being rewarded with infinite gain over a theists infinite torment.

    I am saying that is a possibility. Thus there is no reason to assume that atheists can never receive the sort of reward or avoid the sort punishments you are describing.

    2. You clearly don't understand the point of the wager. The wager doesn't support one religion over another or even over atheism based on the amount of evidence of the religions validity, the wager meant to argue for an acceptance of a worldview regardless of the evidence for or against it.

    Pascal would argue that even if there was zero evidence to support Christianity it would be more economical to be a Christian over being a Jew, even if Judaism was 99.9% likely to be valid, and that would be correct assuming only three options exist, Judaism, Christianity and Atheism, since although Judaism promises infinite rewards for Jews and Noahides, it doesn't promise infinite torment for non believers like Christianity does, so the best bet would be to be Christian rather than Jewish any day of the week for purely economical reasons. The problem is that a multitude of conflicting belief systems and worldviews could and do exist, which totally breaks down Pascals argument.

    I would like to ask you this. If you actually believe as you said on Baruch's blog that the most fundamental reason you believe in Judaism and Hashem is because of Pascal's wager, which is essentially a mercenaries bet, how do you reconcile that with Pirkei Avos:

    1:3 Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.

    Do you think that Hashem will respect your decision to follow him if it is based mainly on the idea that He will promise you more rewards if you were a Jew than if you were not one?

  6. 1. I never claimed that its impossible that atheists will receive an afterlife. All I am saying is that there is either "zero" (or close to it, depending on whether you consider a sudden prophecy about an atheist-loving god who shows up during pascal-wager debates) evidence that atheists will receive an afterlife. HOWEVER, there is evidence (you might claim that it is a weak form of evidence) that Judaism is the true religion (and there is evidence for a couple of other religions as well.

    2. Now, you claim, pascal's wager wasn't about evidence. Why not? Pascal's wager weighs the rewards versus the sacrifice for following a particular religion. Most secular people who I speak to, especially after telling them the Kuzari proof, are willing to admit that there is a 5% chance that God shows His face at sinai. A cost-benefit analysis tell us to follow that 5% chance, since the rewards are infinite, and the sacrifice is quite small. Do you really think that there is a 5% chance that there is an atheist-loving god? And, if so, can you show me the evidence for that type of God?

    3. I am not jewish because of pascal's wager. I am 100% sure that the Torah is from sinai. But I use it to frighten atheists.


  7. 1. Now you claim there is zero evidence of a G-d that would reward atheists with an afterlife. I find that a pretty tough claim to make.

    I am sure that there are many faiths that believe atheists will make it into a heaven. Just because your particular faith doesn't believe it, that doesn't mean no faith does.

    2. That wasn't my claim, it's Pascals, and it is the whole basis of the wager.

    From Pascal's Pensées:

    "Who then will blame Christians for not being able to give a reason for their belief, since they profess a religion for which they cannot give a reason? They declare, in expounding it to the world, that it is a foolishness, I Cor. 1. 21. ["For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."]; and then you complain that they do not prove it! If they proved it, they would not keep their word; it is in lacking proofs that they are not lacking in sense. "Yes, but although this excuses those who offer it as such and takes away from them the blame of putting it forward without reason, it does not excuse those who receive it." Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions. "

    The wager is if you believe in the Christian G-d and he exists, you can gain everything. If you believe in the Christian G-d and he doesnt exist you lose nothing, so the option everyone should choose is to become a Christian. It has nothing to do with the likelyhood of Christianity being true or not. It is a bet made on false assumptions.

    3. Trust me you aren't scaring anyone. Even as a theist I thought that Pascal's Wager was always a foolish argument.

  8. 1. Which religions claim that atheists will receive an afterlife, and, if so, do any of those religions have equal or greater evidence than does, for example, Judaism?

    2. I don't care what Pascal himself held. Respond, if you can, to my point: If I am 5% sure that the Torah is from heaven (or even 1% sure) why isn't it worthwhile for me to remain Jewish (chas v'shalom that I am only 5% sure; I am 100% sure; I am just saying this for the sake of the argument).

    3. Even as a theist, you never debated pascal's wager (or, if you wish, "abele's wager," with anyone who agrees with the wager.
    I hold that debate with someone who you disagree with is very, very important. People live their lives based on some simple, stupid mistake simply because they never attempted to bounce their ideas off anyone else who disagrees with them (Spinoza would be a perfect example of this; since he should have met with the great sages of that era; if the sages in Amsterdam could't answer his questions, he should have traveled to Krakow, Vilna, Tzfas, or Jerusalem, where the great sages lived.)

  9. 1. Liberal forms of Judaism and Christianity believe that atheists can get into Heaven. Many eastern religions also don't deny atheists the possibility of attaining a Heaven like existence. Again amount of evidence has no bearing on the wager.

    2. If there were only two options Judaism and Christianity, and the evidence for Judaism is close to abosulute, around 99.999% likely to be true, and the evidence for Christianity is close to zero, around 0.001% likely to be true, following Pascals Wager you becoming a Christian is the most economical option. Since in either case you could miss out on an eternal blissful Heaven by choosing wrong, but only Christianity claims that if you aren't following Jesus then you suffer an eternity of suffering. So you risk far more (an infinite amount) of suffering by choosing to be Jewish, so much so that being Jewish is not the best wager over being a Christian.

    Also if you are 100% sure of your version of Judaisms validity then you are saying you have an absolute proof of your beliefs. One that is totally undeniable. This I highly doubt.

    3. No true scotsman fallacy. You have no basis to say with whom I have debated and on what. I could just as easily claim that the only reason you believe in Yiddishkeit is because you have never debated with anyone that disagreed with Pascal's Wager before, or spoken with Darwin, or you never lived with Dawkins to learn from him, etc.

  10. abele derer,

    What I am really confused about is why you keep on arguing as if for Pascal's Wager when your arguments for being Jewish have nothing to do with a wager at all.

    What you are essentially saying is that you should choose a worldview that has the most evidence. That I totally agree with, which is why I am an atheist. The point of Pascals wager is to argue that even if there was more evidence for atheism you should still be a Christian (assuming only two worldviews exist Atheism and Christianity) since it would be more economical. Why then do you claim amount of evidence has any bearing on the wager? What is the point of the wager at all if all you are saying is follow the worldview with the most evidence? If it is about making sure you can get an infinite amount of reward, why do you ignore that by not being a Christian you are putting yourself at risk to being punished with eternal suffering? If no amount of evidence in favor of atheism should convince them to be atheists due to the risk of missing out on eternal rewards, then why would any amount of evidence in favor of Judaism convince you to be Jewish due to the risk of eternal suffering?

  11. A dear friend and I read your post and watched the videos together, and they sparked some very deep conversation. You're very good at giving me things to think about. I wanted to recreate some of that dialog here, but unfortunately it was very in-the-moment, and I can't seem to put the pieces back together. Nonetheless, please continue sharing your thought-provoking ideas and discoveries! It always exciting to see a new post from you on my blog roll!

  12. That is very kind of you, Thanks!

    Please feel free to try to post any ideas you have about this subject or you can e-mail or skype me tonight if you wish. I plan to be on from 6:30 ish to about 8:30 ish tonight.

    Take care.

  13. 1) Yes, liberal forms of Judaism say that atheists won't lose their share in the afterlife (although most forms don't believe in an afterlife in the first place). They don't present any evidnece, however, how they know that atheists will get a share in the afterlife. More importantly, even those forms of Judaism admit that orthodox Jews will ALSO recieve an afterlife. So you would be increasing your chances by accepting upon yourself to follow Jewish law.

    2. You claim that if I take evidence seriously, then why not accept atheism. Answer (other than the fact that atheism is so silly, relying on Hume's silly argument against miracles - i.e., avoiding EVIDENCE for God): Because atheism, even if it does have have evidence, does not have evidence FOR AN AFTERLIFE. That's the whole point, silly. We are trying to find a religion which has the greatest chance of providing us with an afterlife.

    3. Your constant invoking of christianity is pointless. Atheists will burn just as crisply as Jews -- so refusing to become Jewish because of Christianity is dumb.
    Also, the evidence for Christianity is much, much smaller than Judaism.
    How small? a) we have to believe reports of a FEW dopes who were biased towards spreading their religion, more biased than the Baal Shem Tov's students who all report their master performing miracles; b) we have to spontaneously decide that the Sanhedrin's authority is not binding regarding Jesus (after all, even if Jesus did perform miracles, Jews believe that the Sanhedrin must be followed even if they make an error); c) we would have to decide that the Rabbis' authority regarding Jesus isn't binding -- despite the fact that Jesus himself said that "the Pharisees are in the place of Moses"; d) we would have to decide that, even if Jesus is the messiah, he somehow had the authority to add the "mitzvah" -- which is conspicuously absent in the Torah -- that one must believe in the future messiah; e) we would have to decide that the quote of Jesus claiming that those who don't believe in him "are toast" wasn't inserted later by scribes, who have been shown to add verses based on their moods.
    If you are really worried about christianity, I will sign a "shtar" accepting all your hell that Jesus will give you for being Jewish.

  14. 1) Great, so why should I be worried about missing out on an eternal blissful afterlife by being an atheist? The more liberal forms of religion are already more evidence based since they don't believe in falsehoods like 6,000 year old universe, the exodus of 3 million Jews, and the flood story. So therefore more evidence and I can still be an atheist without worry, even though evidence certainly has nothing to do with the wager, otherwise there is no point of the wager at all.

    2) Well if most of the evidence is in favor of atheism then there is no reason to assume an afterlife in the first place.

    I think your logic is greatly flawed, since you clearly have no knowledge about how why basing one's faith on a wager is even done in the first place. Let's try this:

    Why must we find a religion with the most amount of evidence for an afterlife?

    If atheisms evidence is not taken into consideration because they don't claim eternal bliss for believing in their worldview, why is Judaisms evidence taken into consideration when they don't claim it will save you from eternal punishment?

    3) Good, now apply this amount of skepticism to Judaism and where do we get, that it all a bunch of nonsense.

    I am not worried one bit about being burned in hell forever, just as I am not worried one bit about missing out on an eternal reward by some sky daddy. I am confused as to why you are somehow worried about not getting the reward, but aren't worried about being sent to hell forever. If it is because there is little to no evidence for Christianity, that is my response to Judaism.

    The whole reason you can dismiss the evidence for atheism because there is no eternal reward, why can't you dismiss the evidence for Judaism because there is no claim of avoidance of eternal punishment? This is the question I have asked repeatedly of you with no response so far.

  15. 1. Everyone reading this post knows that evidence has everything to do with the wager -- except you. If we present, e.g., 5% evidence that Jews will recieve an afterlife, that is surely very relevant to whether we should follow Judaism, despite the fact that there might be 95% evidence for atheism. This is a simple cost-benefit analysis, simple enough for even an atheist to follow.

    2. When presenting this wager I am not "assum[ing] an afterlife," to use your words. I am merely claiming that even if atheism has more evidence than Judaism (which it does not), it is worthwhile to be Jewish. Follow the evidence for an option that can provide you some benefit.
    Since you seem to be having trouble with this concept, I will offer a simple example: Let's say you have a pounding headache, and you have a "5% aspirin" in front of you, and a "100% suger cube." Which should you take, if your goal is to remove your headache: The one with the most evidence, or the one that is most likely to provide you relief?

    3) Yes, Judaism may not fully save me from eternal punishment, while Christianity may. However, a cost-benefit analysis tells me not to go to Christianity because, if Judaism is indeed the true religion (as suggested by the evidence), then by becomeing a christian I will most-likely be increasing my punishment in the "Jewish hell." So it is simply worthwhile to ignore the Christian claims.

    4. Your response that there is "little" evidence for Judaism is thus exposed to be pointless. You have nothing - or close to it - to lose by becomeing a Jew. I have something to lose - an infinite amount of happiness in the Jewish afterlife - by becomeing a christian.

    5. How do you know that God didn't take 3,000,000 people through the sinai desert?

  16. 1. Maybe I will make a poll to see if your claim that "Everyone reading this post knows that evidence has everything to do with the wager" and I won't vote in it. It's a pretty bold claim to make since the creator of the orginal wager says it has nothing to do with the evidence.

    In simple tersm you are very mistaken and your claim holds no weight without reason to back up why the wager needs evidence to support the proper choice at all.

    2. Your example is totally ludicrous. 5% aspirin vs. 100% sugar. Are you being serious?

    With regards to atheism vs. theism the evidence points to neither leading to an eternal afterlife since the concept of an afterlife is basically self-contradictory (much like as you point out Christianity is, as well as Judaism in general).

    Seriously, are you serious? What does something being composed of various amounts of substances have to do with evidence for its effects?

    It makes sense to say the evidence that sugar will cure headaches is probably 0 whereas the evidence that aspirin will cure headaches is very high, so based on the evidence you should take the aspirin. The problem is headaches are real and testable, the afterlife is a self-contradictory notion and is non testable.

    3. Which is worse limited punishment in a Jewish hell or unlimited punishment in a Christian hell?

    It is the unlimited factor of both your claims for eternal bliss and the Christian claim of eternal hell that makes the wager work at all.

    It makes no difference if you might get some kind of punishment, since that punishment is limited it is effectively immaterial to the punishment threatened by the Christian G-d. No amount of evidence should pursuade you to take that sort of risk, no?

    4. Nothing to lose? Really? What if you are wrong and Jesus or Allah is right? Then you lose infinitely. You might as well hedge your bets to avoid that, no?

    Also I lose my dignity, my self respect and my intellectual honesty, as well as my freedom to do as I wish (to eat what I want, date who I love, go to other religious services if I want, wear what I want, etc).

    Not only that, lets say that this world is all that there is in life, and that there is no afterlife, and you wasted living it to the fullest, you haven't "lost nothing" you've lost Everything. You've wasted your entire life, the only time you have on this planet. That to me seems like an awful lot to lose on the unlikely chance that some unobservable claim from a text with many contradictions and blatant falsehoods might be true.

    5. See this and this

  17. 1. By becoming a Christian, I will lose my entire afterlife. That means that the "punishment" for becoming a christian -- losing an ETERNAL afterlife -- is just as bad as what Christianity claims.

    2. Your "testable" nonsense is, well, nonsense. Many things aren't testable; it is report, and we simply have to decide whether to trust the report or not. The holocaust, or the existence of a person by name of "Rabbi Akiva" may not be testable events -- but we believe them because we trust reports. You invoke the scientific method only when it suits your style (and how is an afterlife self-contradictory?)

    3. Yes, YOU have nothing to lose by becoming Jewish. Allah or Jesus will fry you just as quickly for being an atheist -- so your point is pointless.

    4. "Everything" -- your entire life -- is "nothing" when compared to an eternal aftelife. Let's say you only have five minutes to live, and I tell you "for the next five minutes say Shema and vidui." Would you respond, "well should I give up Everything (five minutes of pleasure eating pork) for the sake of an afterlife?" Yes, Everything is sometimes Nothing. All you have in this world is silly, and transient. Your lust for this world, your inability to become in-touch with the reality that you will one day die, forces you to illogically ignore the evidence for God. Funny and sad at the same time.

    4. Regarding your point about Egypt, it just shows you have bizaare your method of thinking has become. Do you know that it was only recently that they bumped up the population figures of ancient Egypt? They used to think that only 50,000 people lived there. All of a sudden they bumpted it up to 3 million -- its all very, very fallible and speculative CIRCUMSTANTIAL evidence. When we have an actual EYEWITNESS report, it outweight all the substantial evidence against it.

    For example, nothing (unless they found something recently) has been found of Damasacus that existed before 900b.c. Yet all scholars ignore the circumstantial evidence for the inexistence of the city before that date because much earlier texts mention the name of city as early as 1600b.c. Why? Why do they trust the report of the Egyptians? Why don't they assume that the Egyptian report is an archeological fraud or that it was an Egyptian typo? Because the weakest form of eyewitness evidence outweighs circumstantial evidence. But we, we Kuzari enthusiasts, have not a weak form of eyewitness evidence: we have infallible eyewitness evidence.

  18. 2. Do you really think that the evidence for the Holocaust is based entirely on reports? There is a tremendous amount of physical evidence.

    I don't care whether Rabbi Akiva, Jesus or even Aristotle lived or not. Why should I care enough to make a statement whether or not I believe in them?

    I think that a single report, from thousands of years ago, for which the original document isn't even avaible to know if the current one is even accurate is very weak evidence to base your entire life on.

    Also we aren't talking about a historical event or even a historic personality, we are talking about an event that apparently occurs hundreds of thousandas of times every single day and that is so extrodinary and so central should be based on more than a mere guess and should be testable in order for a rational person to accept it as true.

    3. My whole life is not nothing. You have plenty to lose by not switching according to your logic.

    4. I would spend those five precious minutes with my family or doing one more good thing that helps me feel fullfilled. I wouldn't waste it on utter nonesense. That would be sad, pathetic and wasteful. If seeking fulfillment is lust then so be it. Again I think you are the one that can't handle the fact that one day you will die and nothing of your existence will eventually be left, you lust for eternal life so much that you seperate yourself from reality and delude yourself into believing fairy tales.

    4 (again). What is your source for that?

    Why do you expect people to ignore archeological evidence and written records, while you fail to apply the same skepticism to the Torah?

    A book isn't an eye witness.

    If you want to get into Kuzari please see this:

  19. I will get back to the points you mentioned about Pascal's Wager. Regarding my source, I forgot where I saw that the population estimates were increased, based on how many people the Nile was believed to have been able to support. Regarding Damascus, see "Damascus" in Encyclopedia Judaica.

    I would rather focus on Kuzari, specifically the article you cited. If it made me doubt the strength of Kuzari, it is only because it showed me how stupid some Jews can be. I will extremely briefly point out his first-grade logical errors.

    1. He presents a "plausible" scenario of how the false national-history presented in the Torah could have evolved. The problem with his scenario is his: How do you know? How do you know that national-history can evolve? Has it ever happened anywhere else? It has not. If he can't provide one counter-example, I have no reason to disregard my evidence, based on what he guesses is plausible -- without any regard as to how rational nations act. Empirically, we see that rational nations do not accept false national-histories.

    2. He presents a case of genital disappearance as proof against Kuzari. There is no need to discuss this, because it is not an example of a national event.

    3. He presents a case of Irish mythology -- but he cunningly fails to produce the number of people who were believed to have experienced the myths. Therefore, it is entirely irrelevant (maybe only 100 people were believed to have seen the gods? Is 100 comparable to 2,500,000?).
    Furthermore, the Kuzari proof is merely based on the fact that it was a national event. Rather, it was much, much more than that: it was an nation-changing event. God didn't merely appear at Sinai. He was believed to have commanded everlasting commemorations of that event, such as Sabbath, Sabbatical years, Yovel, etc. The Irish myth does not present a nation-changing event, it is therefore silly beyond belief. Shame on the author of that post for trying to fool his readers.

  20. 4. He cites verses which show that the Torah was forgotten. First, he presents the case of King Josiah's Torah. There are seven flaws:

    1) Nowhere do the verses imply that the miraculous history was forgotten; it merely says that the Torah was forgotten (for example the national miracles if manna and the splitting of the Red Sea were recorded in Joshua as well).

    2) The text does not imply that the Torah was forgotten by the entire population. It was merely forgotten by King Josiah (indeed, Hilkiah said, "Look, I found a Torah scroll").

    3) The text does not imply that King Josiah forgot that a Torah was given to Israel; rather that he was merely unaware of its content;

    4) Even if the Torah was forgotten, it was only because it was burned and eradicated by Menashe (Menashe's father was Hezekiah who was Torah-observant) -- Josiah's grandfather. If so, once the Torah was found there were still many people who were from the days of King Hezekiah, so the chain was never broken. King Josiah could have quickly asked the elderly people: "Is this the same Torah from the days of King Hezekiah?"

    5) The same book of Kings (and Chronicles) that your are relying on says that King David, Solomon, Joshafat, and Hezekiah all had Torah scrolls. These people all lived way before King Joshiah. So if you accept the Book of Kings, you have to accept that those great Kings also had the Torah.

    6) The Samaritans broke off from Judaism about 150 years before the days of King Josiah (II Kings 17). It is unlikely that they would have accepted the burdensome Torah from the Jews subsequent to that split. Not surprisingly, they share the same Torah that we do. If so, the same Torah we have today MUST have been written way before the days of King Josiah.

    7) The Book of Psalms, which has King David's name at the start of 73 of the Psalms, records ALL OF THE MIRACLES mentioned in the Torah and the fact that "the Torah was given to Israel" and many other praises to the Torah.

    Each one of these seven flaws is enough to show how cruelly sly the author of the link you posted is.

    (There is no need to elaborate about his verse from Judges, since Pinchas was still alive at that time (Judges 20:28), so the verse could not have meant that the population forgot about the miracles.)

  21. If you have time to read this
    I would recommend you do so.

    quick points which larry tanner addresses as well on his blog.

    The Kuzari is a proposed argument (NET stories are always true) While it seems you argue that there is only one NET story ever, Sinai, so to say that all NET stories are true is effectively saying Sinai is true without any real evidence to support it.

    Here are some major flaws with the Kuzari argument from the blog above:

    1. I would think something labeled as a "principle" would have many examples illustrating it. Kuzari is the only principle I can think of without such real-world instances. However, I could easily be persuaded to see Kuzari as a full-fledged principle: Just show me examples of nations that refused to believe NET stories which were introduced to them as real history.

    2. The case of the atomic bombings reveals the gaping weaknesses of the Sinai story. The eyewitness accounts of Hiroshima, like first-person testimonies in many momentous events, are visceral and immediate. People understand where they were in the critical moment, what they were doing, how it felt to go through what they did. These people talk about their confusion, their fear, and their concern for fellows. The Sinai story, in contrast, reads as craft. It bears all the hallmarks of artifice. It's a detached, omniscient narrative story that is less about national revelation than about a claim to power by self-appointed political and filial descendants of both Moses and Aaron.

    3. Kuzari proponents do all they can to avoid discussing current historical knowledge, biblical scholarship, and archeological science. No wonder, since the convergence of data in these disciplines tends not only to diminish whatever a "real Sinai" might have been but also to highlight the brute fact that we have no empirical data to suggest that there ever was a "real Sinai" at all.

    4. Ultimately, Sinai is a historical question. To date, the answer is a very strong no. No faux principle is able to circumvent this reality.

    5. Even if the principle were more solid than it is, one central fact of the religious claim for Sinai is that a true divine revelation, a full-blown miracle, is by definition the absolute least likely thing that could ever happen. Sinai is supposed to be utterly unique in human history, meaning that it's in a category of one. There's not another event that could even be remotely like it. Now I ask you, if we have no evidence today of the single most extraordinary thing that's ever happened in the history of the universe, how much credence is appropriate for me to give?

  22. 1. The Torah being forgotten is the whole point. If there was any time where the chain of tradition was broken or diminished it doesn't matter what Joshua says, since that text was also written before everyone forgot the Torah which was later "rediscovered" by the few who found it.

    Even if it was just the Torah that was missing, why would the Jews believe in a Text that would have been transfered by their parents had it really existed before hand? They should have rejected this text out of hand according to the Kuzari argument. The idea that a fundamental text, given to the Jews at Sinai, with the Jews being commanded by G-d to teach their children this text, and then the Torah being forgotten by the Jews and then that text being accepted by the Jews even though their parents never taught it to them is a clear example how the Kuzari argument fails to hold water.

    2. The king of the entire nation doesn't have a clue about the sacred history and most fundamental religious text that the Jews lived by and was the foundation of their lives and culture? If that sounds reasonable to you, then you clearly have some flawed critical thinking abilities.

    3. See 1.

    4. And now you can answer your own question "but [you] cunningly fail to produce the number of people who were believed to have [known about the Torah]. Therefore, it is entirely irrelevant (maybe only 100 people were believed to have [known about the Torah]? Is 100 comparable to 2,500,000?)."

    The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
    How do you know how many people still believed in it? How many do you need for the story to be reliable? How do you know that they had that many people still believing in it? How do you know that the Irish didn't have at least that many people?

    5. And if you accept the Koran then you believe in all of those stories as well, circular reasoning at its best.

    6. Why wouldn't they accept it? Maybe they wanted to claim to be real Jews and rival the authority of the other Jews?

    Also the Samaritan Torah is NOT the same as the Masoric Torah. They have at the revelation of Sinai G-d saying different things to the Jews. So they clearly did not accept the Jewish story of Sinai. And you have two seperate and contradicting accounts of the same event. They both can't be true, and according to the Kuzari principle both groups wouldn't have accepted it unless it were true, so there you have a NET story that was accepted by a group of people and is clearly not true. Thanks for proving my point there. :)

    7. Again circular reasoning.

    Please, free your mind.

  23. As for Judges, it seems pretty clear that the vast majority of people forgot the Torah. The chain of tradition is only as strong as its weakest link, so lets assume that Pinchas and a few others may have claimed to know about it, then it could have been they who "rediscovered" it for the people.

  24. I will point out the silly points mentioned by Larry, a very sad argument. Maybe later I will deal with your points, which are even worse.

    1. Here, Larry misses the entire point of the Kuzari principle. We are presenting a level of evidence: nationally commemorated, national history. There is not a single case of a false nationally commemorated, national history. If there isn't one false case, it MAY be that it is a false national event.
    So, Larry says: Show me one case where a nation refused to accept such a belief.
    But why do we have to? Why? We aren't claiming that the evidence is infallible; we are merely saying that there is no reason to assume that it is fallible. Why does he assume that it is fallible?

    2. His point about atomic bombs is so funny that I couldn't help laughing. There are two major flaws. First, the case of the atomic bombs was a short-term, sudden flash. And for that very reason, there are differnt accounts about what happened. However, the manna was a long-term event.
    Second, we are talking about a miracle. God is at the controls, here. So, Larry asks, if when natural events happen we have conflicting events, then how dare God make it that everyone agrees to the event. Do you see how childish his level of reasoning is?! He is making conclusions about a miraculous event based on what happens by a natural event?
    Third, Larry hasn't shown that EVERY national event will leave conflicting accounts. Just one. So what does that prove about our national event? Silly, indeed.

    3. No need to respond to this, since it isn't relevent to Kuzari. If you want to talk about archeology, we will talk about it.

    4. Why are miracles the least likely? But even if it is the least likely, if I am presenting evidence which we have no reason it is fallible, then it is sufficient to prove a miracle. I don't run away from evidence.

    Larry Tanner presents one of the weakest cases against Kuzari that I have ever seen.

  25. Most of your points about Kuzari don't even warrant a response. The few that come to mind will be mentioned.

    1. I don't know how many people were in the chain; nor do I know whether there was a chain in the first place. THAT IS NOT ONE OF THE ELEMENETS IN OF THE KUZARI. Rather, I am merely claiming that national beliefs about a national event have never been wrong. Therefore, I have no reason to assume that it was wrong here either.

    2. Again, you aren't meeting your burden of proof. You are merely claiming, "Despite the fact that I have no evidence that the chain was broken, it might have been broken." But, my dear skeptitcher, that isn't nearly enough.

    3. What you said about the Samaritan text is a complete lie. Yes, some of the commandments are different. But do they contain an alternative NATIONAL EVENT. They do not. Therefore, you have no point to make. Of course, over the years people can add a sentence here or delete a sentence there. BUT SHOW ME WHERE IT CONTAINS A DIFFERENT NATIONAL "EVENT."

  26. 1. Because the burden of proof is on those making the ontological claim.

    2. To your first point, what about the revelation at Sinai, that was a one time event which didn't occur over a period of many days or months, so the point still stands. Also having something happen over a long period of time I would assume this would lead to even more stories rather than one story from one perspective.

    To your second point, what difference would it make if it were natural or miraculous? A natural event is still only one event. Are you saying that G-d forces peoples minds to all see the same event in one way? What basis do you have for making this claim?

    To your third point you haven't shown that every national event leads to only one single account. He has shown how it occured with one, so now the burden of proof is on you to show why it doesn't have to apply to all. I think it would be rather absurd to assume that a diverse group of people who apparently have argued over so many things for so many centuries, including during their supposed wanderings in the desert, would only come up with one story of this one time public event without conflicting stories.

    3. If you can't see the relevance of this issue then you clearly have no motivation to actually discover the truth of the origins of the Jewish people, but would rather ignore all evidence that contradicts your preconstructed worldview.
    That being the case, this effectively brings an end to the discussion.

    4. Your inability understand myth formation or to even see how gullible and irrational people can be doesn't prove that your fairy tale story is true.

  27. "Rather, I am merely claiming that national beliefs about a national event have never been wrong."

    Do you have anything to back up that claim?

    What about the Aztech national belief of national miracles? Are those also wrong?

    The problem with your reasoning is you claim "all NET stories are correct" but you reject every other NET story with the exception of Sinai as being an NET story, so even if Sinai was the only NET story then all you are essentially saying is the Sinai story hasn't been proved false so it must be true. If this is the extent of your critical thinking abilities, then I am very sorry for you.

    2. I am not the one making the ontological claim, and not only that but the ontological claim of allegedly the single most important event history. I don't have to prove anything. The burden of proof is on you.

    You propose a question, why would anyone believe in this event if it didn't happen. That is not evidence of anything nor is it proof. It is a proposed argument without any evidence backing the event or even why the argument should be true.

    3. Why would they believe G-d said something to everyone that He didn't say? That is the kuzari argument. You give a reason, the story can evolve. Aha and now you have answered your own question and disproved the Kuzari. Stories evolve over time and given enough time you can come up with all sorts of crazy stories.

    Just because you have a story, that isn't proof that the story is true. That is the whole point.

  28. Going back to the book of Kings, even these commentators agree that the Torah was forgotten:

    "Manasseh was king for a long time, for he reigned 55 years, and he did evil in the eyes of G-d, following the disgusting ways of the gentiles. He built altars to idolatry in the house of the Lord and he made the Torah be forgotten by the Jews. None turned to it, for all turned to other gods and the laws of the gentiles, and in 55 years the Torah was forgotten... so the Torah scroll was a surprise for them."

    (Radak on II Kings 22:8)

    "In our sinfulness, it had already happened in the days of the evil kings of Israel, such as Jeroboam, that most of the nation completely forgot Torah and the commandments."

    (Nachmanides on Numbers 15:22)

  29. From here also find a NET story that you probably wont accept:

    The Catholicism has a highly developed tradition of the revelations (apparitions) of Mary, Jesus's mother, to individuals as well as to groups of people, Christians and non-Christians alike, throughout history. These apparitions happened in various places all over the globe, from the 1st century CE until these very days. In most cases, the apparitions are said to have taken place before individuals or small groups of people, but there are reports of mass apparitions, too. The most famous of the latter is, probably, the case of Marian apparitions at the Coptic church in the Cairo suburb of Zeitoun between April 2, 1968, and May 29, 1971. Millions are said to have witnessed the apparitions, which attracted much interest, and reports about them appeared both in the Egyptian and world press, as well as in a number of books written on the subject. Here is the description in one such book:

    "Exactly a week later [after the first apparition] there was another apparition, then another and another at rapid succession. They always took place at night and were generally preceded by mysterious lights, flashing and scintillating silently over the church like a canopy of shooting stars. One witness described them as a 'shower of diamonds made of light.' Minutes later, formations of luminous doves would appear and fly around the floodlight church. Eyewitnesses described them as 'strange bird-like creatures made of light' which flew with astounding swiftness without moving their wings. They always maintained a definite formation and disappeared suddenly like melted snowflakes. Shortly after, a blinding explosion of light would engulf the church roof. As it dwindled, it shaped itself into a brilliant form of Our Lady. Invariably, she would be seen in a long white robe and veil of bluish-white light. The awed spectators below could even see her garments moving in the warm night breeze. A dazzling halo shone round her head... She shone with an overpowering splendour like the sun in human form, bathing the church in a glorious suffusion of light. The vision would glide with effortless ease across the domes, bowing and greeting the beseeching throngs packed and pressed around the church...

  30. The frequency of the visions varied considerably. In the early days she appeared almost every night, sometimes several times in the space of a few hours. As time went by however, the visions grew less frequent. The duration of each appearance was another unpredictable factor. On the nights of 4-5 May and 8-9 June the apparition remained continuously visible from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. enabling hundreds of exultant onlookers to hurry home breathlessly and return with their startled families and neighbours...

    News of the apparition spread like fire across Egypt, generating a wave of intense excitement and attracting immense multitudes of Christians, Jews, Moslems and unbelievers to Zeitoun to see the visions for themselves. Within a few weeks, the crowds reached an estimated 250,000 nightly and the resulting traffic congestion threatened to paralyse Cairo. At each appearance of the Virgin, a deafening cry would ascend from the tumultuous thousands besieging the floodlit church on all sides. 'We believe in you, St. Mary! We witness to you, St. Mary!' Great numbers of Moslems who had been kneeling on their prayer mats reciting verses from the Koran in praise of Mary, would raise their voices in fervent hymns to her... Others would pray in unison with Catholics, Copts and Protestants -- the first time in history that Christians and Moslems had prayed together in large numbers."

    (Francis Johnston, "When Millions Saw Mary," pp. 4-5)

    All this, I repeat, took place only about 30 years ago. Many witnesses to the events are still alive, and numerous testimonies of the apparitions, originating from the time when they took place, are available. On the other hand, we have neither living witnesses nor any written testimonies of the Sinai Revelation (except the Torah itself, and we can't really prove that it was written down not significantly later than 1313 BCE). Of course, there is no reason to believe that Mary indeed appeared to anybody at Zeitoun. Scientists think that all the people present at the site saw was light, in different forms, which appeared due to the existence of tectonic strain in the area (see J. Derr, M. Persinger, "Geophysical Variables and Behavior," Perceptual and Motor Skills, v. 68 (1989), pp. 123-128) -- but many people believe they saw Mary at Zeitoun, just as many Jews believe their forefathers heard G-d speaking at Sinai. So one who says his Judaic faith is based on the uniqueness of mass revelation at Mt. Sinai is simply wrong.

  31. Anyways I am sorry that the posts on this comment have gotten so off topic.

    So for now I think you should post responses to Kuzari and to the historicity of Sinai on my other post about the Exodus.

    I will delete any further posts on the Kuzari here though. Lets try to keep this strictly on Pascal's Wager if we can.

  32. Yes, let's get back to Pascal's wager. I am curious of this point: assuming you were 3% sure that the Torah is divine, would you accept the wager and become frum?

    Second, how sure are you that the Torah is false? 100% sure? 99%?

  33. Again I don't think i would accept the wager if I believed 100% and was orthodox in beliefs. I would live as an orthodox Jew and reject the wager still, as I have my whole life as an orthodox Jew.

    By accepting the wager it implies that I am only a servant of G-d because I want G-d to give me rewards in exchange for my servitude. That to me is contrary to Orthodox Theology, at least Chassidic Philosophy. It is a weak form of faith and is in my opinion an intellectually and morally bankrupt opinion.

    I would become a believing Jew if I was convinced there was convincing evidence for the existence of G-d and the validity of the Torah. As of yet every argument for G-d strikes me as being greatly flawed and doesn't imply a creator whatsoever. Also every argument for Judaism and/or G-d I have encountered were much better explained from an atheistic perspective, and the theistic perspective seemed weak and forced.

    BTW I am a practicing Chassidic Jew. I keep Shabbos and Yom Tovim, Kosher (Cholov Yisroel, Pas Yisroel even), Family purity, etc. I just don't believe they have any spiritual significance.

  34. BTW, I responded to you in your exodus page about kuzari.

  35. I saw that sorry, forgot to respond though. Will respond either tonight or tomorrow when I have some time.


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