Friday, February 27, 2009

MH"M part 2

Now that I think about is, that last post was sort of lame. I guess what I really think is that pretty much all religious leaders fall into the "asshole" category.

I guess what I want to convey is how my relationship to the Rebbe has evolved. First he was my unerring and all-knowing savior. Then he was just a good man and a really smart guy. Now he's just one of the myriad liars and swindlers that religion breeds, who helped spread an immoral and false philosophy that should have been extinguished by the enlightenment.

This post is sort of lame too. I need sleep.

Melech HaMoshiach

I recently had a conversation with one of my old friends from yeshiva about my religiosity. He remarked that even if I no longer believe in god, I must surely admit that the Rebbe was (is?) a great man.

Was the Rebbe a great man? I don't know.

He was responsible for the religious indoctrination of thousands of children; isn't that a bad thing? Does it make it any better if he truly believed it was the right thing to do? Is it evil to do an evil thing if you think it's the right thing to do?

You have to understand, that when I was growing up, we pretty much considered the Rebbe to be almost a god, perfect and infallible. My religion was all about the Rebbe: the Rebbe wants you to go on mivtzoim, the Rebbe loves you, etc... My parents and teachers talked about the Rebbe more than they talked about Hashem. So it's probably understandable that I started to harbor bad feelings towards the Rebbe once I began to realize that my religious beliefs were (probably) false. I thought that the Rebbe had lied to me about everything, so how could he be considered a good man? It's hard not to feel betrayed by someone who you idolized all you're life.

I guess I'm not really qualified to answer the question objectively, since my emotions are so deeply entangled in this matter.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


It's official! The Republicans are anti-science. First McCain mocked the Adler Planetarium ("3 million dollar overhead projector"), Palin mocked fruit-fly research (one of the most fruitful areas of biological research in the last 100 years, "I kid you not"), and now this from the "new face" of the Republican party:

"Something called volcano monitoring","Magnetic levitation." He is clearly trying to make science sound silly and stupid, as were McCain and Palin. Well, volcano monitoring is important, and magnetic levitation is a real technology (which uses superconductors to allow for more efficient locomotion). I don't know if they should be included in the stimulus package, but Jindal reveals his disrespect for science by mockingly dismissing them.

It seems the GOP is quite happy to be the party of the dark-ages.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I remember reading somewhere (I think it may have been in Christopher Hitchens' book God is Not Great) that the word apikores, which is the Hebrew (Aramaic?) word for heretic and the name of this blog, comes from the name of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. I don't know much about ancient philosophers, but according to wikipedia:
[Epicurus] taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and bad, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.
I guess then that it is indeed appropriate to call myself an apikores, since I think Epicurus was pretty much spot on, especially for someone who predated modern science.

In particular I generally base my morals on the idea that we should minimize suffering. For example, I'm pro-choice, since a fetus can't suffer before it develops a nervous system, and the mother will suffer if forced to incubate against her will. (The issue is more complicated if the fetus is further developed, but I'd rather let the mother and her doctors decide, since we don't usually allow the government to force person A to go out of their way to help person B, especially when person B might not even really be a person. vihamayvin yavin.) It should be noted however that our morals are products of a complicated combination of evolution and environment (i.e. the society we are raised in), but I thing the "do no harm" approach is a pretty good way to go. Maybe I'll elaborate on this some other time.

I obviously agree with Epicurus that there is no life after death, since there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. Of course I wish there was an afterlife; after all, who wants to stop existing? But wanting something to be true doesn't make it so. It seems best to assume that this is the only life we have, so we should try to make the most of it. (sorry about all the cliches)

Similarly, I obviously agree that the gods don't reward or punish us, since they probably don't exist. (I'll definitely have to elaborate on the existence of gods in a later post, but for now it should suffice to say "flying spaghetti monster")

I'm not sure if he's right about the universe being infinite and eternal. We're pretty sure the universe as we know it had a beginning, but it's still an open question if there is anything "outside" our view of the universe (if there is, then maybe that should be included in what we call the universe. Is that infinite and eternal? I don't know, and I'm pretty sure you don't know either). Finally, I guess Epicurus lucked out in believing in atoms, since there was no available evidence to him that atoms exist.

Pretty impressive for someone living more than 2000 years ago, if you ask me.


I remember this story told by one of my rabbeim in cheder:
While doing mivtzoim, a bocher asks a yid if he'd like to put on tefillin. The yid says, "No, thank you. I'm an atheist." To which the bocher replies, "The god that you don't believe in, I don't believe in either."
The moral of the story is that if the atheist had a better understanding of the TRUE God, then there would be no possible way he could be a non-believer. I guess the rabbi thought he was pretty clever in spinning this tale, and as a kid I thought it was pretty clever too.

Well, rebbe, I was given a top-rate education about the TRUE nature of God and His universe, and yet I no longer believe. Now your story just sounds childish, not clever at all. But it's easy to indoctrinate children. I just don't get how rational adults are convinced by this bullshit all the time.

Why do, when you can pray?

So the governor of South Carolina won't accept stimulus money for the people of his state, but he'll offer his prayers. Wow, thanks Mr. Governor.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sean Penn

I usually think Sean Penn is an annoying sanctimonious blathering asshole, but I was impressed by his acceptance speech last night for the best-actor Oscar:
"I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone."
Many times, supporters of gay rights will tiptoe around the issue, because they don't want to "offend" the religious bigots. It's nice to hear someone say candidly in such a public situation that the gay-marriage issue is an equal rights issue, and not just a disagreement over the "definition" of marriage.

Penn makes a good point about the shame in our children's eyes. I think it's quite obvious that we will eventually allow gay marriage. No matter what your position, you would probably agree that we are moving in that direction. So would you rather be thought of by your descendants as the last generation of discriminators or the first generation of the enlightened?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hello World!

This is my first post on my first blog.

I've never felt that I'm a good writer, and I'm not sure that I have anything to say that anyone else is interested in, but I've nevertheless decided to start a blog.

I used to be a full-on Lubavitcher, and now I'm a full-on atheist.

Maybe someone will read my blog, maybe not.