Friday, June 17, 2011

“Less than human” a Rabbi’s Perspective of Atheism





A Facebook friend was rather upset about a video she viewed in which a renowned rabbi implies that atheists are “non-human.” Not willing to post it on her page and lambasting the rabbi openly out of concern for offending her Jewish friends, she sent me the link and asked for my opinion. Here’s the three minute youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGkI87Rx7o8&feature=related

Let me preface this by saying that I am familiar with Rabbi Sacks. A learned Hebraic scholar, he speaks with authority on Jewish history and law, the Torah, and midrash. That said, he is still a believer, still a superstitionalist, still a rejecter of reality.

I reject his basic premise of the need for humans to seek “meaning” outside the “system.” His examples are fraught with all kinds of problems, but hey... it’s what theists do. But I would not interpret his closing comment as a condemnation of atheists as "non-human." What he is saying is that in his opinion those who do not embrace a meaning of life beyond the "system" of nature and the reality of the natural universe, lack a trait /a belief (what Dawkin's calls "the religion meme") which is unique to humans.Now, in the rabbi’s opinion this is a defect and is a diminishing of humanity / “less than human”. But to realists, to those unencumbered by this missing "meme," or who have the ability to suppress it and over come it, substituting reason in its stead - it is an evolutionary advancement.


Look at it another way. Let’s imagine the rabbi as an early ancestor to humans who has seen a transformation among his species. As a dominant pack leader he would be compelled to espouse (if it could reason and talk) that any of their kind who does not walk on all fours and have a prehensile tail is missing something, it's unnatural, and is something "less." From that soon to be extinct ancestor's perspective he's right. The more advanced species that walks on two legs and has lost its tail has something less than its predecessor species. We walk on fewer appendages, and we no longer need a tail to hang from trees. And aren't we glad.



Frankly, as the more advanced species I’ll happily be deemed as “less” than one of our flea infested, tree climbing ancestors. In short, considering the source, being referred to as less than human in this theist’s parlance is the greatest compliment he could pay atheists. This may be the quintessential example of the truth of the old saw “less is more.”

8 comments:

rsalmond2006 said...

Hello Hump,

When Rabbi Sacks speaks with authority on Jewish history, Jewish law, and the Torah; does he support strict adherence to the Law and the barbarities that God instructed his chosen people to perform such as animal sacrifices?

NewEnglandBob said...

"A learned Hebraic scholar, he speaks with authority on Jewish history and law, the Torah, and midrash."

No, the Rabbi is an ignorant xenophobe. This is him saying that those who are different in thinking than him are less than human.

He shows that he is an arrogant, fearful, childish, non-tolerant person who likes to divide the world into "Us" and "Them".

Tribalism rears its ugly head.

Vic said...

Nothing is less insightful than pontification by the superstitious.

longhorn believer said...

What is the flaw in his logic? So if meaning does lie outside human systems (his examples were human systems) does it necessarily follow that meaning lies outside of natural systems. Do humans have to have meaning? In the examples he gave, I don't agree that the meaning was outside. I think the meaning was inside the very complex structures he explained. And who's to say that his examples had any meaning at all. Meaning is very subjective measurement

Dromedary Hump said...

rsalmond... as time progresses the midrash method permits changes in the interpretation of the Torah. I do not know for sure, but i would guess that rabbi Sacks perceives the killing of the non-Hebraic tribes and sacrifices was God's will and right and proper for the times.

Bob...well, he is both. Being a hebraic scholar doesn't negate the fact he's an intolerant xenophibic douche bag. Infact, in his case, the former probably instigated the latter.

Long..religionists always assign meaning to everything. TThe fact that life and the universe just are isn't enough for them. Its as though as a child you wondered how a rock felt, or what a toad thought. Since rocks don't feel, and toads do not think it's a meaningless contemplation born from the human need to project humanistic qualities.
Similarly, religionists need to project "meaning" on everything, because God created all. Thus everything is part of his "plan" everything must have a meaning. Again..religio-think.

Olivier said...

Am I the only one who's a bit disturbed to hear a rabbi speaking of category of people as "less than humans"?
As an educated jew, he should be very well aware that the whole concept of "untermensch" has lead to the dramatic consequences we know, not so long ago...

Dromedary Hump said...

Oliver,
An excellent observation...I totally missed that aspect.

Anonymous said...

Another purveyor of bullshit like all of the other rabbis I had the displeasure to listen to.