Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Discussion with a Christian Friend from Tucson -

I'm having an e-mail discussion with a Christian friend from Tucson. Depending on his pending response, if he says it's alright I'll post the whole conversation on here, which has only gotten to three e-mails so far. This is my latest response to his latest e-mail. I know that it makes less sense without his original e-mail, but you'll probably do fine until then. Peace, Yaniv...

I'll respond to the things in order.

People are smart enough to make up anything; Communism, Socialism, Darwinism, Atheism, that religion that Tom Cruise practices, because the human mind is incredibly dynamic. That the human mind can conceptualize (to limited degrees) the wonder of G-d is dangerously close to being able to "inventing" the existence of G-d Himself. You should hear the arguments for that, which ultimately cannot stand but at least they sound sophisticated. I once heard a saying, "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it with my own mind." The point is that you can see anything you want in the "Old Testament" whether it's actually there or not.

It would be basically pointless for us to talk about what the prophets actually meant if we hold that subjectivity is the prime factor in our decision making, which is what I'm reading from you. Most of what you're saying to me in the first paragraph doesn't seem very thought out, such as "Daniel even goes so far as to predict the exact day G-d will show up on earth, which happened with Christ." If you and I are having an intellectual discussion, you won't change the way I think about things by simply telling me something that you believe or that your Bible says. I don't believe that "G-d showed up on earth" with Christ, and I certainly don't believe that Jesus was the Messiah. You have never tried to live your life by the Law, or by a type of religious law, so your understanding of the Law of the Torah is insufficient to comment on the way it affects man. One of the most fundamental Torah lessons is to internalize the Law and to become a "pnimi," a person who is trying to condition himself with it.

As a Christian you need to believe that the Law of the Torah cannot penetrate into the heart of man and fill him with joy and devotion and compassion, because if it did, what would be the point of Christianity? If that is what you really believe then you are sadly mistaken. In other words, you need to believe that your religion provides something that Judaism doesn't, but that's not true. "My G-d" certainly does hold everybody accountable for their every sin, thought, or deed, both good and bad and everywhere in between, because He is the perfect Judge. If you have not gotten this message from reading "my Bible" then you haven't been paying attention or you've been hearing the wrong thing.

Deception needs to be deceiving if it's going to work. The people who make Coca-Cola make sure that it tastes really, really good, but it's pretty bad for you. If they made it taste as bad as it was for you, then you wouldn't even dream of drinking it. The Satan is a deceiver and it has been endowed its powers by G-d Himself and so the illusions with which it tempts humanity are incredibly effective, even on people that are equipped to deal with them. It doesn't have the powers of G-d but there is a source in the Torah (Talmud) saying that demons have the ability to create small illusory worlds. I don't know exactly what that means, but if you have ever seen a person completely lost in a certain way of life, it is as if they are indeed lost in a small world. So yes, that is the power of a demon, and it will lace a bad thing with good things so that you do not see the bad in it.

All of the religious books present their message as a positive one; why would they do otherwise? Would it make sense to have a religion that allowed the follower to know that it was to deliberately harm people? That would not be very deceiving.

In the Tanakh we see all kinds of idol worshippers and star worshippers telling the future, and they did not do it through prophecy. The reality of the world is that they were able to tap into elements of truth through these things, but not absolute truth. There's a source in the Torah that says that when Potiphar's wife went to seduce Joseph that something else was actually going on. She had told Joseph that the stars inferred that they were to be together, and Joseph checked the stars (astrology) and found that she was right, and just as they were about to commit the deed his father Jacob appeared to him in a window (also in the stars) and told him that it was not the right way, so he stopped. Jacob himself used a form of divination when he made Lavan's sheep give birth to only speckled sheep, which he kept for himself. The way he did that was by having them look at striped pieces of wood when they were mating and then they gave birth to speckled sheep (does that make any sense to you? It was divination). The Egyptians also used loads of black magic and were actually able to simulate the things that Moses was doing through the Hand of G-d, such as turning the staff into a snake and making the water turn into blood, which is written in the text of the Torah. Bilaam, the prophet of Midian, was able to achieve a level of prophecy as well through very questionable means, which the Torah explains was through having relations with his donkey, which the text specifically mentions was a "she-donkey." The Torah has a commandment not to communicate with the dead and not to partake in the rituals of the pagan nations. But why not? If their gods aren't real then why does it matter? The answer is that their gods aren't real but that their rituals worked because G-d made the world with those things accessible. However, He also intended for those things to be off limits to humanity and so He commanded us not to do them. Only the wisest and most discerning people who are thoroughly steeped in Torah study and living should touch on those things because only they will use them for the right purposes and the right way.

The core religious experience provided by every single religion in the whole world is that it provides the follower with the ability to reach something outside of himself. However, being taken outside of our core is not how we measure the truth of a religion because every single religion in the world is designed to take a person out of himself. So does music, sex, drugs, and even violence, which explains why people speak about those things in spiritual terms (and why, to a degree, religion utilizes these things for spirituality). Again, I can't make judgments on your personal spiritual experiences, but all I can say is that everybody is capable of spirituality and that in and of itself is not self-validating.

I also tried to make it short. Peace, Yaniv...