• Rabbi Wolpe, Me, and Theodicy

    Rabbi David Wolpe was named the most influential Rabbi in the country by Newsweek Magazine in 2012. He is also no stranger to high profile debates with atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Recently he posted an interesting meme on his Facebook page which inspired me to make a comment. Wolpe responded and I want to share our brief exchange and my thoughts about it in more detail. Here is the meme:
    Wolpe Meme
    Drawing wisdom from Captain James T. Kirk and Epicurus, I asked the Rabbi these questions:
    wolpe1

    Why does God need us to do anything? Isn’t he God? Can’t God fix all the problems of this world with a thought? Come to think of it, why are there any problems in this world at all if a perfect God created it? Think about it.

    In essence, I want to know why God needs a starship and why a just God would cause or allow evil to exist. In my opinion, these are the two issues religious believers struggle with the most. My questions were so damaging to Wolpe’s meme that one of his Facebook follower who had previously praised the meme demanded that Wolpe answer my questions… and answer he did:
    wolpe2

    Rabbi, will YOU answer Staks Rosch please.

    it is not about what God needs, but what we do — how do we grow? The world is an arena for moral growth and we are the ones tested, loved, encouraged.

    First, I want to say that it really is an honor that someone of Wolpe’s stature would address my questions directly. While I certainly have many disagreements with the good Rabbi, he is arguably the most influential Rabbi in the country and for the most part I do believe he has his heart in the right place. Believe it or not, I admire the man greatly even though we obviously have many disagreements.

    With that said however, his answer here was dreadful. Well skilled rhetoric, but still dreadful. I can only assume he had Job on his mind. I am not sure my response was as well-crafted as it could have been, but I think I got my point across nonetheless. Here is my response:
    wolpe3

    Thank you for addressing my questions, but with all due respect the insinuation that the suffering and death of billions of people is to test our moral courage is itself an injustice. If there is a God and he designed such a test, then it would be a moral duty to oppose him. Such a test would be highly immoral. People’s lives are not mere pawns in a celestial chess game. My questions above still stand without satisfactory answers.

    Quite simply, the problem of Theodicy cannot be solved by treating human beings as pawns needing to learn some grand moral lesson. What about children starving on the streets or infants who die before they have any opportunity to experience “moral growth?” Maybe those unfortunate infants and children are just props for the moral growth of others. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to make the situation any more ethically tolerable.

    If God is playing the “long game” then he is leaving a lot of suffering and death along the way. Is that really necessary for an all-powerful deity? In a perfect world, there really wouldn’t be a need for such suffering. It detracts from the perfectness.

    Category: Arguments Against ReligionAtheismFacebookfeaturedJudaismReligionSuffering

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    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.

    8 comments

    1. I’m going to assume that the good Rabbi chose not to respond to your last … like he could actually come up with another answer to the original question and/or rebuttal to your second statement.

        1. Firstly, as an atheist you have no logical foundation to say anything is “evil” outside of a transcendent moral law giver which ultimately states it as such, because history has shown people who do and justify those exact acts. So how, logically and consistently is your view more correct than theirs. Any act must be considered morally neutral because…. what gives u the right?

          Secondly as horrific as things are we may not have all the facts as to why an evil act happens, and this is not a cop out, we simply cannot logically comprehend the myriad of historical and future events which taken together might give us a reason. Logically all we can do with our finite view is surmise and again thanks to atheism’s blanket neutrality my ”surmission” is as valid as yours

          1. LMAO. Seriously Ron you know that there is a whole field of philosophy called Ethics, right?

            You put me in a tough spot here. I could go through the comment and refute every point, but tomorrow someone else will post something nearly identical and demand that I rewrite a custom response to them. That is why I have written articles and blog posts on all this stuff… so I wouldn’t have to answer the same thing a million times. At the top of this page there is a link to my Atheism 101 series. Most of those articles were on Examiner and that site is gone now. But some of those articles were moved and you can check them out. Also, This blog and my older blog @ DangerousTalk.net has tons of articles on various topics. You can category search them or just type in a key word in the search box. But don’t come at be with bullshit like this. The fact is that with God there can be no morality. According to Christianity, all of morality is merely God’s whim. If God decided that slavery is fine, then you would have to concede that slavery is perfectly fine. I don’t have to concede that. But now you got me going again. lol.

            1. Occam’s razor pal, bs baffles brain cells. You can talk forever on ethics expounding in every minute detail but without a moral foundation superseding everyones whim as is the case with atheism no one can conclusively say this is good or that is evil, simply a matter of taste. If you’re argument is so airtight according to Occam you should surely give me a sentence to give me pause to think.
              Also with regard to Krauss, quantum bubbles in space potentially creating the conditions for the Big Bang; explain where said bubbles come from when something cannot arise from nothing. Nothing means nothing even quantum bubbles.

    2. Really dude? That’s what you got? Like I said before. I have written quite a lot about ethics and you can search my pages for that stuff. You could also Google it. While you are at it, you might want to Google Occam’s Razor too, because I don’t think it means what you think it means.
      As for a moral foundation, I don’t think Christianity has one. If they was a Christian moral foundation, then we would see every Christian agree on every moral issue. But we don’t see that at all. I can find Christians who both support and oppose gay marriage, euthanasia, abortion, women’s rights, etc. Hell, if you go back to the civil war time period, Christians were even divided on slavery. Thankfully secular morality squared that one away permanently. Yeah, that’s right Ron, secular morality was the foundation for why we no longer allow human beings to own other human beings. It’s not like God put that one in the Ten Commandments or anything. No, the Bible says slavery is fine. So what is secular morality briefly? Well, ethics is a large field of study, but I will simplify it this way. Humans evolved a sense of empathy. This helped us work together and fight off larger predators. Now that sense of empathy serves as the foundation for human compassion. That is the true foundation for morality.

      As for the origins of the Universe, I will once again tell you to read Krauss’ book or watch a youtube video where he talks about the book. I mean the book is literally called “The Universe From Nothing.” He couldn’t make that shit any clearer.

    3. So I don’t understand Occams Razor, but then you simplify your ideas for me, thanks it’s appreciated.
      Not entirely sure how different people’s thoughts or ideas however intentioned have any bearing on what truth issue is being discussed, it’s either right or wrong independent of their views or ideas. As for slavery, William wilberforce is the leader of a group of men that started (Clapham Sect, I think) abolition. Again whole heartedly Christian. Name one Atheistic person or group of people alongside Wilberforce that I can research for their contributions to that cause from THAT time or earlier. And I’ll try again, nothing comes from nothing, so using your obviously extensive knowledge distill how something comes from nothing. You’ve already read the book, paraphrase, copy and paste his summary, anything.

    4. And yes I just used Occams principle for a figure of speech requesting a simple discussion. Not the best or most concise forgive me. I recognize this conversation would be best in person.

      It’s almost futile in this method, but I appreciate ur responses nonetheless and hope to hear something I haven’t come across before

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