Monday, November 07, 2005

Potential Ba'al Tshuva's Required Reading List

One thing that happens quite often with BT's is they know they have questions and yet want the benefits of OJ enough to overlook the questions for now. Kiruv clowns know this and, as discussed below, tell them the na'seh v'nishma story to inspire them to put aside their doubts for now.

Some kiruv organizations, Aish in particular, try to actively engage the BT in a discourse. They use certain arguments and literature to spin the BT's head around enough to distract him and make him feel that answers are out there.

Well, I think it's time for a compendium of references to counter-arguments to the classic aish-style arguments. At least then, you can judge for yourselves. Also, if you are not a scientist, you may feel overwhelmed by scientific debate. You may feel that you have no basis to judge.

Well, this is important. It is not tangential as your kiruv rabbi is telling you. Take a day and print out the articles from the web that I am about to show you. Read them thoroughly if you have been swayed by Kelemen's Permission series or Gerald Schroeder's stuff or Rabbi David Gottlieb's unpublished works which are posted on the web (he can't seem to even get a publisher).

Once you've read through the articles I've taken the time to sort out for you, and you feel reasonably confident, take them to the kiruv rabbi who's "working on you." Ask him to answer. He may say "oh I don't know about that, but it's not important enough to me, since I'm thoroughly convinced of the truth of "torah" (whatever that means) through my extensive yeshiva learning."

When you get that line, ask these questions if you like:
1. Why didn't you learn anything about the answers to the standard questions about orthodox judaism in yeshiva? Is this just a leap of faith after all?
2. Why didn't you learn about it before meeting with people like me for a living?
3. Are you a fundamentalist? That is, do you believe the earth really is under 6,000 years old? Did Noah really build an ark and bring two of every animal on his boat? Were adam and eve the first people? Ask whether the Sun goes around the Earth. (Chabad rabbis still believe this, by the way).

Don't be ashamed that your questions come from someone who has articulated them better than you in the internet articles which I will show you. Don't let the rabbi dodge answering your questions. If he does, then he's just a used car salesmen.

And trust me, you'll be saving yourself a lot of internal conflict later on. "Look before you leap," as the saying goes. There are many benefits to becoming religious, it's true. But ask yourself how you can possibly attain most of those benefits without living a lie.

Now, here goes:

1. Bible Codes:

2. Kelemen's books Permission to Believe and Permission to Receive (should be titled Permission to Deceive)

3. Schroeder's "Genesis and the Big Bang"

Note: Schroeder's credibility comes in part because he has a PhD from MIT. However, his backgound is vastly exaggerated by his desperate followers. In fact, he is not a physicist, but rather a geologist and he was never a "professor" at MIT. That's a lie. He was at most a teacher's assistant while pursuing his PhD. In other words, he has no credentials in physics as a theoretician or an "expert" in Einstein's theory of relativity. He just knows enough to be dangerous or is an outright fraud. "Charlatan" fits the bill even better.

4. David Gottlieb's Living up to the "truth":

Gottlieb is another ba'al tshuva Rabbi, but with a twist. He has a PhD in philosophy. He claims to have been a professor of mathematical logic. However, I sincerely doubt this. I don't think he was ever a full professor at Johns Hopkins. He is didactic and pedantic. He uses logical terminology to seem logical. However, back him into a corner, and he resorts to the same tired "proofs" of orthodox judaism. He'll argue the world is under 6,000 years old and that god either made it look old to fool us, or that the Flood changed nature, thus negating Carbon-14 dating! Yes, real old-time Avigdor Miller stuff (that they incidentally got from Christians fundamentalists in the first place).

This should give you a good place to start. By far, the most difficult kiruv rabbis to deal with are the nice, gushy ones who don't argue whatsoever. They'll make you feel more guilty than your jewish momma! Fortunately, the kiruv business is such a tough, competitive one these days, that more and more kiruv rabbis are out for blood and numbers count. Better to be armed with some discerning questions than to ship off to baal tshuva obedience school, er... yeshiva unarmed.

Of course, don't forget to visit godol hador's blog, too.


Anonymous hayim said...

Good list of links.

11/07/2005 5:07 AM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

I'm actually nt going to read the links until I read Schroeder and Keleman.

11/07/2005 11:34 AM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

For any lingerers, Observant Astronomer does a thorough scholarly analysis of geocentrism. His conclusion is that even geocentrism is not geocentric.

11/07/2005 12:01 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I'm actually not going to read the links until I read Schroeder and Keleman."

Well, not sure what you'd get out of Schroeder- it's been totally debunked scientficially. Without relieable science beneath it, not sure of the value.

Kelemen's books have some individual value as a compendium of philosophical issues. There is some science in there that is also misleading. But again, at least there is some value. Schroeder's whole thesis by the way, is available on aish. I see no reason to give that hack any more money. Just read the essay and you'll see the claims made about relativity and bereishis.

11/07/2005 1:15 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Rebel- that's an interesting link. Yes, the geocentric thing's problematic in many ways froma practical standpoint. Just as an example, all satellites are programmed with relative motion of earth and sun in mind. Satellites can be moved to the distant side of earth during bursts of cosmic rays occurring during sun spots, for example. But just thei regular orbits. If geocentric formulae were programmed in, Voyager would have crahsed, and we'd have no satellite phone linkups.

The rebbe was so full of it on this point, but it proves just how key geocentrism is to the bible.
Do any of us doubt that the gedolim would have extracted a recantation from Galileo if they were in power at the time?

11/07/2005 1:22 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

I disagree that the Rebbe was "full of it" on this issue. His answer is standard topical understanding of relativity for someone educated in that era. He also answered in a Gossean way on spontaneous generation. IOW, just because we have eggs and then later we have worms, that does not mean that the worms came from the eggs. Hini'ach asara u'matza taisha and vice versa.

11/07/2005 2:03 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

This week we observe Mars very bright, due to how close it is to us. According to the Rambam's nongeocentric geocentric model, it can never be closer to us than the Sun. similarly, Mercury and Venus can never be farther away. But all of this happens frequently and we have landed spacecraft on venus and Mars to prove it. They would never have arrived at the target, using the Rambam model.

11/07/2005 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Carbon Shidduchim said...

rebel jew: "I disagree that the Rebbe was "full of it" on this issue. His answer is standard topical understanding of relativity for someone educated in that era."

what do you mean by 'that era'? he wrote it in 1971 - 2 years after Apollo 11- and never retracted it.

besides, it can be proven that we orbit the sun, using only newton's laws [the sun produces measurable tides that affect the earth]. since the rebbe uses the misconception that 'everything is relative' you may be under the impression that einstein's relativity is required. even though general relativity postulates that 3 observers in relative motion at constant velocity cannot determine "who is moving", if you have 3 observers and 1 is *accelerating* [as the earth does around the sun, but *not* vice versa], 2 of the 3 observers will agree that the 3rd is accelerating. however, you don't need relativity to answer this, and even if you did, it was invented 65 years before the rebbe made his statements [so he had ample time]!

that the rebbe would deliberately choose such a painfully absurd pseudo-science example to do kiruv is shameful.

11/08/2005 1:57 AM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

By that era, I meant the early /mid 30s Germany. That is when he got most of his basic secular education. We can presume that he did not keep up with all current discussion of new theories as a professional scientist would. I am not defending his apologetic, but I am defending the intentions of the Chabad Rebbe. In general, he was against apologetics, probably for this very reason.

11/09/2005 11:54 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Rebel, but as carbon points out, the Rebbe had plenty of time for one of his congregants to point out his folly. He wrote it in 1971 and never retracted it. I'd say this one would go down as his biggest blunder, even more than not appointing a successor.

The rebbe lost all credibility forever when he went out on a limb about this nonsense.

Check this out from 1975, where a potential BT called the Rebbe out on heliocentrism (he should have said "bli neder"):

11/11/2005 2:09 AM  
Blogger Menuval said...

I personaly know of two physicists that did point this out to the Rebbe. He did not reply to either of them.

Incidentaly, both became frum (and Lubavitchers!) anyway.

11/16/2005 4:59 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Just goes to show you have to turn your brain off to believe this stuff.

Lubavitch is a cult, it's different than most other BT organizations. While they are quite often friendly people, they have a scary "I know I'm crazy" quality about them.

11/16/2005 5:32 PM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

First bit of advice is to rise above the noise. You don't have to debate the Rebbe or anybody else on non-halachic points. It really doesn't matter how old the world is. It's amazing how many people make a major battle out of esoteric points when there is so much important work to be done.

3/27/2006 2:55 PM  

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