Sunday, November 26, 2006

Resurrection of the Dead without "Heaven"- Proof there is No "Heaven"


Thought that would get your attention.

I was think aloud to someone today and this thought crossed my mind (also out loud):

Whatever flimsy evidence there is in Torah/Tanach/Talmud that Judaism believes in some kind of life after death, relates to tekias hamesim (reviving of the dead bodies). Belief that god will somehow revive all the dead bodies of Jews (apparently not the other 99.98% of humankind) in the "end of days" when moschiach (the messiah) comes is in fact an article of faith as far as Maimonides was concerned. The 13th Principle of his 13 Principles of Faith reads as follows:

"I believe with complete (perfect) faith, that there will be techiat hameitim - revival of the dead, whenever it will be God's, blessed be He, will (desire) to arise and do so. May (God's) Name be blessed, and may His remembrance arise, forever and ever."

Umm, ok. Note, there is no reference to "gan eden" or some sort of paradise. You'll often hear rabbis of the Talmud or even your local fanatic referring to "Olam Habo" aka, the World to Come. There is no such reference in the Torah or Tanach to any such divine, eternal place outside of this world, and perhaps not even outside of Israel!

It seems to me that a lot of people have taken up "Pascal's Wager" (i.e., "I might as well follow this religion in case it's true and I'll go to 'Heaven') and ought to take a closer look.

At best, you are wasting hours and hours in shul over something which is purposefully vague in few instances where it is actually discussed. Of course, you might want to be equally wary of one who refers to heaven in great detail without any evidence whatsoever, as religious nuts are wont to do.

Ask yourself, is Orthodox Judaism simply belief in fairy tales? Better yet, why not take a close look at what you've gotten yourself into (if you're a BT) or what your parents got you into (if you're FFB) and ask would I sign a contract that was this vague?

Imagine buying your house (or any other incredibly major purchase or decision) online. Imagine what you got was described in terms as vague as the Torah/Tanach's*** regarding raising of the dead. Would you wire your life savings? Would you risk the rest of your life's wages on it?

If not, why would you spend hours and hours on praying and going to yeshivas, based on pie in the sky?

Serious aside:
I don't look forward to my death, or that of anyone I care for. My own innate instincts to survive and to avoid pain make the thought of death an extremely unpleasant one that I've spent a portion of my adulthood coming to terms with. However, intellectual honesty requires that we acknowledge our own blind faith and what kind of a crooked path it leads us on. Those who would gladly break the law here because they've learned it won't jeopardize their "portion in the world to come" are abusing themselves and others.

Just a quick look at Islam would make it plain as day the evils involved in religious focus on the world to come. However, what did Jews do on the misguided basis that they would go to "heaven?" Why is the story of Rabbi Akiva gladly being flayed to death by Romans (with an inspired centurian throwing himself on the burning body of the rabbi to go to heaven) so celebrated? What does this teach our kids? Also, if the whole world is going to be thrown asunder and then revived somehow, why even bother stopping war or greenhouse effect destruction? After all, Yahweh will fix all that in the "end of days" right?

Worst of all, are the religious Jewish nuts who gladly risk their lives and those of thier kids living formerly in Gaza and still in the West Bank, figuring even if they die, they'll all go to paradise together eventually. That might be an acceptable thought under the extreme duress of having just tragically lost a loved one. However, it is not rational or moral to teach nonsense about heaven to kids, especially to drill it into them or put them in harm's way figuring God will sort it all out. I shudder to think of the Jews who let their kids perish rather than convert based on the teachings of narrowminded rabbis throughout the eons.




*** Mesopotamia and the classical world
In the literal sense of the word, resurrection refers to the event of a dead person returning to physical life. Thus it is not to be confused with things like Hellenistic immortality in which the soul continues to live after death, "free" of the body.
"Centuries before the time of Christ the nations annually celebrated the death and resurrection of Osiris, Tammuz, Attis, Mithra, and other gods" [1]. A cyclic dying-and-rising god motif was prevalent throughout ancient Mesopotamian and classical literature and practice (eg in Syrian and Greek worship of Adonis; Egyptian worship of Osiris; the Babylonian story of Tammuz; rural religious belief in the Corn King).

[edit] Judaism

[edit] The Hebrew Bible
See: Jewish eschatology: Biblical verses
The Torah rarely plainly addresses the issue of bodily resurrection. When Jacob dies, he says "I am about to be gathered to my kin. Bury me with my forefathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite." [Genesis 49:29] All the Jewish patriarchs (except Rachel) were buried in the family cave, and so were many other biblical personalities, including King Saul and King David.
The Hebrew Bible refers to the term Sheol, which in traditional Judaism is translated simply as "grave" and is perceived as a transitory state. Critical views (see below) interpret it as a referring to a permanent, shadowy underworld. For biblical references to Sheol see Genesis 42:38, Isaiah 14:11, Psalm 141:7, Daniel 12:2, Proverbs 7:27 and Job 10:21,22, and 17:16, among others.
Passages in the Hebrew Bible traditionally interpreted as referring to resurrection include:
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones being restored as a living army: a metaphorical prophecy that the house of Israel would one day be gathered from the nations, out of exile, to live in the land of Israel once more.
Daniel's vision, where a mysterious angelic figure tells Daniel, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12:2)
1 Samuel 2: 6 - "he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up"
Job 19: 26 - "after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God"
Isaiah 26: 19 - "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise"
Ezekiel 37: 12 - "I will open your graves, and cause you to come up"
Other passages may be more ambiguous In the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Elijah raises a young boy from death (1 Kings 17-23), and Elisha’s duplicates of the feat (2 Kings 4:34-35). There are a multiplicity of views on the scopes of these acts, including the traditional view that they represented genuine miracles and critical views that they representedresuscitations rather than bona fide resurrections. Other common associations are the biblical accounts of the antediluvian Enoch and the prophet Elijah being ushered into the presence of God without experiencing death. These, however, are more in the way of ascensions, bodily disappearances , translations or apotheoses than resurrections.

(From Wikipedia-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection)

22 Comments:

Blogger Exiled Yerushalmi said...

hmm, so this is it, physical existence is all there is. tell me something what is the essence of a person? what are we really? is a person just a bunch of chemical sensations that urge him to feel "happy", "sad", "tired"....? is life that silly and simplistic? in absence of any sort of higher existence or calling, u have yet to suggest a purpose for existence. i refuse to believe that we are just chemicals randomly generated to produce our random lives. i believe science has the tools to explain our physical existence, but if that is all we are than this is a rather silly and purposeless existence we lead.

11/27/2006 8:22 PM  
Blogger ed said...

>Umm, ok. Note, there is no reference to "gan eden" or some sort of paradise. You'll often hear rabbis of the Talmud or even your local fanatic referring to "Olam Habo" aka, the World to Come. There is no such reference in the Torah or Tanach to any such divine, eternal place outside of this world, and perhaps not even outside of Israel!

Are you arguing that you only believe in Torah Shebal Peh?

>If not, why would you spend hours and hours on praying and going to yeshivas, based on pie in the sky?

3,000 + years of tradition ain't pie in the sky.

11/27/2006 10:49 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Are you arguing that you only believe in Torah Shebal Peh?"

Good one, Ed. Thanks for commenting.

Seriously, do you agree with my main point, that any Jew who believes in a divine ethereal "Heaven" is going on wish fulfillment, but has no real source in the scriptural sources? I'm curious- what is your belief. Do you believe in some kind of movie-like "Heaven?"

"3,000 + years of tradition ain't pie in the sky."

Make that "traditions." The whole religion would be difficult to recognize for Jews of Avroham's time, or Moshe's, hence the aggadata where Moshe sits in on R. Akiva's shiur and has no idea what they're talking about until they say it's a halach l'moshe b'sinai.

11/27/2006 10:57 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

ExYerushalmi said:
"is life that silly and simplistic?"

It's not really silly, it's poignant, bittersweet, and for some tragic. There are many who live life in relative bliss. Religious folks are among them and atheists envy that.

I'd say the goal is to live a full and fulfilling enough life with enough health so as to make it to your 80's or 90's. By then, people are usually more tired and hopefully more fulfilled and can more easily come to terms with death. Dying in one's sleep helps.

To say that a person who doesn't go to heaven has a meaningless life is patently false. We humans have been injecting meaning into our lives for so long now. It's what defines us. Sure, some tropical islander wasn't composing fugues like Bach, but so much of art, literature is all about adding meaning to life. Think about a monkey strumming a guitar, or hearing a symphony orchestra playing Mozart. We are elevated by the experience. Yes, it is transient. But wanting it to be otherwise doesn't make it so.




"in absence of any sort of higher existence or calling, u have yet to suggest a purpose for existence."

Trigger the "meaning" parts of your brain and body. Those are genetically programmed and should be the most satisfying. having children, breathing fresh air. communing with people whose company you enjoy.

But, again, my post is just saying there is no real basis for believing much is coming one's way in terms of an ethereal wonderful "heaven."

11/27/2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Ezzie said:
"BTA - I read this post when you wrote it. It's a very fascinating post, and I honestly just didn't know where to start in terms of commenting. But it was a good post, whether I agree with parts or not. "

Thank you for saying that, Ezz. It was the least commented-on post I've done, yet I had just about the most hits I've ever had. Thus, my hit:comment ratio was way off. ;)

So, I assumed people are thinking about it not wanting to verbalize, or just don't want to think about it.

We all feel the human condition. We are the only animal that knows years before our deaths that we will one day die. There are many strategies for approaching this, but none are so satisfying. As I said above, the sting of death lessens with a good, full life spent in fulfilling ways.

Even the most religious folks cry when a loved one dies. These are the tears and sadness of feeling loss- permanent loss.

It is overwhelmingly sad, and is difficult if not impossible even for them to believe it will all be sorted out in "heaven." Of course I wish I would be wrong, but if even the religious book that started everything in the west and near eastern religions has so little to say about it, it seems pretty clearly to be pie in the sky, Ed's perspective notwithstanding.

11/27/2006 11:34 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

I should also note that the Dark Ages mentality is one known for deferring all earthly pleasure so as to enjoy paradise after death.

To lead a Dark Ages life nowadays strikes me as tragic waste of life and the almost impossible luck we have as healthy people born in thriving societies, virtually unaffected by wars, plagues, or famines.

11/27/2006 11:39 PM  
Blogger ed said...

>Seriously, do you agree with my main point, that any Jew who believes in a divine ethereal "Heaven" is going on wish fulfillment, but has no real source in the scriptural sources? I'm curious- what is your belief. Do you believe in some kind of movie-like "Heaven?"

And if there was a scriptural source, then what? You would believe? No you wouldn't. You would say its not testable etc etc So the bottom line, its (faith) trust. I trust my parents, who trusted their parents etc all the way back to the people who stood at Sinai. That trust is both for Torah She'bksav, and Baal Peh.

'Trust', is more than wishful thinking. You trust the driver in front of you isn't gonna suddenly slam the brakes. Sure it can happen, and you'll wreck your car. But you'll keep on driving. Life cannot exist without trust.

>"3,000 + years of tradition ain't pie in the sky."

>Make that "traditions." The whole religion would be difficult to recognize for Jews of Avroham's time, or Moshe's, hence the aggadata where Moshe sits in on R. Akiva's shiur and has no idea what they're talking about until they say it's a halach l'moshe b'sinai.

Whatever. Point was, that its hard to say that so many of the brightest minds spanning thousands of years all believed in fairy tales. Take the Rambam. He clearly believed in angels. why?

11/28/2006 12:23 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"'Trust', is more than wishful thinking. You trust the driver in front of you isn't gonna suddenly slam the brakes. Sure it can happen, and you'll wreck your car. But you'll keep on driving. Life cannot exist without trust."

This is the old faith vs. knowledge debate.

Taking your example (although I prefer to use the sun rising tomorrow as the clearest one) of the car, I base my choice to drive based on evidence. If I heard that everyone who got in a car in the past year died, I wouldn't get in one. (Hence, I don't ride a motorcycle.) Also, cars have safety features which I can examine and consult with experts/read reviews of crash tests.

You on the other hand have at best a game of telephone based on the multiple (thousands of conversations) hearsay dating supposedly back to Sinai. That isn't much to go on.

Also, how do you "trust" that God is still alive? He hasn't been doing much for a long long time, whereas he used to a lot special appearances before written history became a feature of civilization.

11/28/2006 12:52 AM  
Blogger Mark Louis said...

When you signed up as a BT you must have had doubts; for example you surely wondered how Noah fit all those animals in an Ark. (If you had half a brain you would have questioned this proposition when you were ten years old.) Becoming a BT or a "believer" in anything requires some suspension of disbelief. Wiser men than yourself could surely argue the matter chasing their tails like poor Sambo. It is either in your heart or it isn't. I will not surrender my history to the Goyim. The only way for the Jewish people to survive is to maintain their emmunah. If they all follow your "derech" the Naxis surley win.

11/28/2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

The kiruv rabbis have all the tricks to get a new BT to defer thinking about things while serving up the kugel. It actually takes a measure of intelligence to talk oneself into believing this stuff, ironically enough.

"I will not surrender my history to the Goyim."

You mean goyim like the ones that Jewish men married all the time in Torah and Tanach? Especially Solomon, who married 1000 of them? Maybe you're a goy, and descend from one of Solomon's marriages to a goy.

11/28/2006 5:00 PM  
Blogger Mark K said...

You have reduced 5000 years of struggle to meaningless. That is sad as far as I have concerned. It isn't about "us vs them" but about the survival of our unique heritage. Rav Nachman said something that I feel applies to you;

"If you believe in everything, some of your beliefs may be foolish but you will also believe in the truth. However, when a person is too clever and does not want to believe in anything, he may begin by ridiculing falsehood and folly but can easily end up so skeptical of everything that he even denies the truth."

I have cast aside my doubts because something deep within my soul tells me this is the only way for me. Every day I feel fortunate to have found my way (our way). Undoubtedly this is crazy to you. But for a moment you must have felt the majesty of Torah and Tradition lift you away from the mundane. For a moment you may have felt a connection to God.

Why are you so bothered? Because well meaning folks at Aish Ha Torah sugar coat or oversell our heritage? I have met many secular and religious people and I can say definitively we are all human. I also see religious children (by no means perfect) not consumed by the latest marketing trend hyper materialist culture. Why do they offend you? Are their minds any more closed than an upper west side progressive?

11/29/2006 11:31 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>>"I will not surrender my history to the Goyim."

>You mean goyim like the ones that Jewish men married all the time in Torah and Tanach? Especially Solomon, who married 1000 of them? Maybe you're a goy, and descend from one of Solomon's marriages to a goy.

Is that actually a response to his challenge of the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics etc? Maybe he has a good point, maybe he doesn't, but come on.

11/30/2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Is that actually a response to his challenge of the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics etc?"

Are you joking, Fred? He didn't make a reference to a single one of those areas!

11/30/2006 5:50 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

He just said he didn't want the nazis or goyim to win. That's some justification worthy of debate.

11/30/2006 5:50 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>"Is that actually a response to his challenge of the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics etc?"

What do you think he meant?

11/30/2006 6:15 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

You probably so scholarly that you project entire areas of scholarship onto the infantile statements of others.

Here is everything he said. I don't personally infer any historical, archeological, or linguistic arguments here:

"When you signed up as a BT you must have had doubts; for example you surely wondered how Noah fit all those animals in an Ark. (If you had half a brain you would have questioned this proposition when you were ten years old.) Becoming a BT or a "believer" in anything requires some suspension of disbelief. Wiser men than yourself could surely argue the matter chasing their tails like poor Sambo. It is either in your heart or it isn't. I will not surrender my history to the Goyim. The only way for the Jewish people to survive is to maintain their emmunah. If they all follow your "derech" the Naxis surley win."

11/30/2006 7:31 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>I will not surrender my history to the Goyim.

But what does that mean? Which "Goyim?" Is Pat Robertson saying there was no flood? How about Osama bin Laden? Lindsay Lohan?

The challenges that come from "the Goyim" are in the fields I mentioned.

Nevertheless, you may be right. I don't know for sure what he meant. Either way, your response...wasn't.

12/01/2006 9:56 AM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

"It actually takes a measure of intelligence to talk oneself into believing this stuff, ironically enough." Great line and how true, particularly for escapists.

12/01/2006 2:57 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Fred, nevermind him, what about the post. I was hoping you'd chime in on the subject. I'm pretty sure that most OJ's believe in heaven/gan eden totally unsupported by their own scriptural sources.

12/03/2006 1:28 PM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

You might find this strange but I have no problem with 6,000 years of history without evolution, Noah's ark, the 10 plagues (I don't like the violence but I can believe it happened), Har Sinai, and prophecy. What I cannot stand is the arrogance and oppressiveness of rabbis in telling me (or treating me as if) I am not allowed to think. The strange part is that you'll likely say that if I were thinking I wouldn't believe in 6,000 years, etc.

12/04/2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Fred, nevermind him, what about the post. I was hoping you'd chime in on the subject. I'm pretty sure that most OJ's believe in heaven/gan eden totally unsupported by their own scriptural sources.

I don't need to remind you that Tanakh is not the only source of authority in Judaism, nor do Jews perceive it to be any other way.

12/05/2006 1:19 PM  
Blogger Lady-Light said...

I did not know there were so many 'questioning' blogs out there. I found yours while perusing XGH's, through one of his commentors;
I believe we are here for a purpose (I wrote something similar to this in a comment on XGH's blog.)
I believe it is our job to find this purpose (and believe me, I'm as clueless as the next gal, still floundering around searching...)and work towards fulfilling it. I believe in the Torah as a holy book of Divine origin which has a message for our future as Jews.
Even if there are some falshoods, inequities and serious gaps in the rationality of Judaism, I still love being an observant Jew. Look around you-as Dennis Prager says, he judges a religion by it's behavior and actions, not by it's beliefs-and generally speaking (of course with exceptions of some evil corrupt Jews-but they are the exception), Judaism has contributed far more than any other major religion to the positive progress and development of mankind: it is one of the most highly civilized religions out there, and I am proud to be a card-carrying member.
So despite the inconsistencies, I will continue to observe Shabbat, Kashrut, taharat hamishpacha and halacha in general, to the best of my ability, if only because it gives structure and meaning to my life. It makes Time Holy, and is just plain beautiful: there is nothing like deciding-because "Hashem said so"- that Shabbat is inviolate; the outside world justs STOPS. It is an otherwordly, holy feeling. You don't answer the phone because you CAN'T-it is not allowed. You don't have to pay the bills, write a paper or do calculations because you CAN'T-it is not allowed. Such freedom!! I have never felt as free as I do on Shabbat.
And, in my opinion, one is allowed to think: otherwise, there would be no blogs our in the Jewish blogosphere, questioning and questioning. I know, I know-you can't question 'out loud' in your community; there will be consequences. Of course. Every religion/belief system needs to perpetuate itself: serious doubts create 'cracks in the system,' cause confusion, might contribute to its breakdown-so I understand why one can't always discuss this up front in the community. That's ok, too. Look, we have a choice: we can, because of our doubts, leave the system, or we can stay, 'faking it,' or, we can find the goodness in parts of it, and observe those parts. In my estimation, 'those parts' are the majority of halacha. The nit-picking little details are to preserve the whole. That's ok by me. Is it ok by you?

8/20/2007 1:44 AM  

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