It’s the spook or nothing, punk

I should at least read to the end before I throw a verbal punch, but you know sometimes it just can’t wait. Rabbi Adam Jacobs, ornamenting the Huffington Post with his wisdom.

He just doesn’t get it about non-believers, he confides. They keep making him jump with surprise.

 Often, I’ve inquired of non-believers if it at all vexes them that nothing that they have ever done or will ever do will make the slightest difference to anyone on any level?

Stupid man. He thinks because we don’t believe in the omni-god, we believe nothing makes any difference to anyone on any level. He thinks either there’s an omni-god, or nothing makes any difference to anyone on any level. On any level. If only he’d had the wit to leave off the “on any level” he wouldn’t look so dumb! But he just had to add that, thus underlining that he really was talking unmitigated nonsense.

After all, one random grouping of molecules interacting with another has no inherent meaning or value. I still await the brave soul (or neuron complex if you prefer) who will respond that I am quite correct; that no thought, deed, action or impulse is any more significant or meaningful than any other, that statements like “I would like to enslave all of humanity” and “I would like a chocolate bar” are functionally equivalent, and that their very own thoughts and words are intrinsically suspect as they are nothing more than some indiscriminate electro-chemical impulses. Until then, I will carry on believing that most “non-believers” actually believe a bit more than they generally let on, or are willing to admit to themselves.

Nooooo, you dope – we believe that things do matter on the level where we live, and that belief in a magical spooky omni-god is not necessary for that belief. It’s really not that difficult!

H/t Ezra Resnick, who does a more patient and meticulous critique on his blog.



  1. fastlane says

    Some things require nothing more than a ‘bollocks, bugger off ya twit.’

    I think the Rabbi’s inanity qualifies.

    Of course, you have to be able to do an exaggerated Brit accent to pull it off properly. 😉

  2. 2-D Man says

    I still await the brave soul… who will respond that I am quite correct

    So do I, but no one has given me a goddamn Nobel prize!

  3. says

    I looked at his little questions. I would propose that he ask what he would answer to those if he didn’t believe in God. Can he come up with any reason why he wouldn’t bash in his hated companion’s head in the scenario in #2? If he can, then he’s on his way to an answer as to why I might not. If he cannot, then for the sake of the rest of us, I truly hope he maintains his belief. I don’t think I’d feel safe around him otherwise.

  4. Stewart says

    It all completely falls apart at:

    “Often, I’ve inquired of non-believers if it at all vexes them that nothing that they have ever done or will ever do will make the slightest difference to anyone on any level?”

    He claims: “I still await the brave soul (or neuron complex if you prefer) who will respond that I am quite correct,” without ever mentioning what kind of response he has gotten to his “inquiry,” which he has made so “often.” A verdict of lousy writing is the most charitable response, because everything else that suggests itself is downright chicanery.

  5. says

    This gives a clear view of the hyperliteralistic concrete thinking that underlies most supernaturalism. The idea that abstract concepts can be valuable without a concrete basis just doesn’t occur to him.

  6. JFK says

    I hear these things all the time from people in my family and I can never understand them.
    If you don’t believe in the invisible spirit world, it doesn’t make any sense to care about anything in the real world. If you don’t believe your life will go on forever then it’s nonsense to think anything matters that happens in the limited time you do have. If you don’t think moral rules are objective aspects of reality, independent of any human wishes or concerns, then you have no basis for giving a damn about anything at all. This all seems so completely obvious to a lot of people that they can’t even begin to question or give an explanation why it should be so. I guess it’s like a joke. If you need to have it explained then no explanation is possible.

  7. fastlane says

    “Often, I’ve inquired of believers if it at all vexes them that their leaders are such shameless liars?”

    They generally make bad excuses that all too often involves the phrase ‘sophisticated theology’…..

  8. Stewart says

    The abridged and punchy version of one of the points JFK just made:

    What’s the point of living at all if it’s not forever?

  9. Fin says

    The first two questions were run of the mill stupid, but the last one is a whole gish gallop in one sentence, which I have to say, I did stand up and applaud.

    “Is love, art, beauty or morality intrinsically significant?”

    None of those four things are necessarily related. An emotion, an object, a property, and evaluation of actions. In addition, the term “intrinsically significant” feels like he’s left a word off the end. Significant in what sense? For some property of something to be considered significant, there has to be a comparison with other things that are similar, or it has to stand out within a field of things. Namely, it has to be evaluated, which, in turn, makes its significance subjective.

    Or, as an example, what stands out for me may fade into the background for you, because you’re looking for something completely different, or vice versa (so the evaluation can be an empirical one, and still be subjective). 10μm is small enough that I wouldn’t know it was there, but to the designer of a microprocessor, it’s a significant amount of room.

    I mean, I could ramble on further about this, but that’s what I mean about the question being a gish gallop in a single sentence, it’s so confused and tangled up that it’d take a serious concerted effort to extract and deal with each concept.

    So I’ll just say, consciousness attributes value to things, so even without god, there’s still consciousness attributing value to things in the world, even if different consciousnesses disagree as to what those things are.

  10. Stewart says

    Actually, it’s such an annoying point that I have to add another thought. Surely all of us can come up with comparative examples of people who achieved marvelous things in lives cut off in relative youth and those who grew old without having left much of a mark anywhere. And we’re faced with an attitude that not only privileges quantity over quality, but goes so far as to say it’s all meaningless unless it’s utterly infinite. I guess the real punishment for someone like that would be to be half-right: he dies and begins a new existence as a spirit, but is then tormented by fears it may not be eternal – eternally.

    It’s all so silly.

  11. says

    And then the item about being stranded on an island with someone you dislike: tsunami coming, hour to live, should you spend that hour in amity with the disliked one or murder the disliked one.

    The joke is that it’s god who is likely to murder the disliked one, not you the wicked atheist. God plays that kind of joke all the time, along with every other kind of “haha you’re dead” joke.

  12. Glodson says

    Wow. That’s moronic. And it is counter to reality. Because I don’t believe in a god to put shit right for me if I fuck up, because I don’t believe in an afterlife, I know what I do right now is fucking important.

    So fucking important that I make an incredible effort to make sure I’m not fucking things up for others. If there is an afterlife, and all of our existences stretch out into infinity, then what we do now is of no importance at all. It cannot be when compared to the much longer existence we would have in the afterlife.

    But because our lives are finite, and because I try to act on reason, I know that I have to treat my loved ones, work hard, and be good to people now. I imagine because of that point of view, most of us non-believers have a greater impact(and a more positive one) on those around us. On every fucking level.

  13. Pierce R. Butler says

    “Often, I’ve tried to provoke non-believers into fulfilling the stereotype of the angry atheist with the dumbest-ass obnoxious aggravation my little mind can produce…”

    I can’t help but wonder if other rabbis, when they gather in their members-only rabbi club, call Jacobs out for the backlash his stupid schtick generates against their whole profession.

  14. Svlad Cjelli says

    Huh? There’s nothing more important than me, is there? If there is, I want it caught and shot.

  15. says

    Huh? There’s nothing more important than me, is there? If there is, I want it caught and shot.

    Now wait a minute, I thought there was nothing more important than me? Where do you get off?

  16. barbrykost says

    Question #2 is one reason why religionists scare me. They frequently insinuate that the only reason for not murdering another person is because god doesn’t like it. Never mind that the good book has a lot of episodes that imply he does like it–I do not think hurting people is fun.

  17. chigau (---...---) says

    There’s no IQ requirement to be any kind of priest.

    This time-travel stuff is exhausting.

  18. Trebuchet says

    The “non” before the first block-quote is still missing, as I see it. However:

    He just doesn’t get it about believers…

    is pretty well a true statement!

  19. Cuttlefish says

    I’ve often wondered about those who think something must have some objective, god-given intrinsic value, or must be worthless. No other options.

    You can’t eat money. Its value is purely a human construct; it has value because we agree that it does. Does that make it “worthless”? By the good rabbi’s logic, it must. (Unless “in god we trust” is a magical phrase.)

    Human constructed values are sufficient to fight and kill or die for; indeed, they are all we have. Our “objective” and “absolute” truths have this quirky tendency to disagree with one another ( )–with god prohibiting murder and commanding genocide; supporting both freedom and slavery, and different gods finding different animals sacred or profane, delicious or sinful.

    The rabbi doesn’t see–his god is a human-constructed value system. The fact that he sees meaning in life (and that other religious believers do as well, even as they disagree with one another) is evidence to me that his thesis fails.

  20. Gwynnyd says

    I have never understood how believing in god(s) gives “meaning” to life anyway. Can anyone explain what “meaning” god-belief gives to a life that it doesn’t already have just by being, you know, alive? Every time I try and think about it, I get caught up in a Douglas Adam’s bit. What does it mean? 42 IS as good an answer as any.

  21. Sastra says

    Yes, that “on any level” got to me also. He obviously doesn’t understand the concept of ‘levels.’ It’s all black and white, one or the other, like comes from like. Greedy reductionism on steroids.

    Maybe we ought to call the rabbi’s tactic that of inciting a “Fear of Reductionism.” I’d also like to borrow a term you once used against I think it was Haught — “babyish.”

    This essay was really babyish.

  22. cmv says

    statements like “I would like to enslave all of humanity” and “I would like a chocolate bar” are functionally equivalent

    Of course they are! How else am I to ensure my supply of chocolate bars, but by enslaving the planet?
    From the original:

    Does it make any difference whether you spend your last hour alive comforting and making amends with your (formerly) hated companion or smashing his head in with fallen, unripe coconuts?

    I have read in a few places that atheists should not make the claim that by believers’ logic, the only thing stopping them from killing people they don’t like is their belief in a god. Then this guy comes out and basically states exactly that! He can’t see any reason beyond a belief in god (ore getting caught) for not killing.
    Great guy, this rabbi.

  23. Ing says

    Ummmm why is that the only two options for the Island question?

    I could wind up killing him and myself to spare us a more painful death from the tsunami.

    And why do I hate the person? If it’s a personal grudge that matters more than say a war criminal.

  24. dirigible says

    Often, I’ve inquired of non-believers if it at all vexes them that nothing that they have ever done or will ever do will make the slightest difference to anyone on any level?

    This is your classic divide by zero error.

  25. Shatterface says

    As an atheist I think my ability to make a difference is far greater than some theist who’s actions are subject to the whims of an omnipotent being.

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