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The gap has grown January 1, 2014

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Evolution, Science.
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flat-earthImagine discovering that your neighbor, a seemingly intelligent, well-adjusted member of society, believes that the sun orbits the earth, or that diseases are caused by demons. Presumably, your first thought would not be “Let me get the relevant evidence and convince him he’s wrong about cosmology and medicine,” but rather, “How could a sane person in today’s world believe such things?” Believing ideas that were scientifically discredited long ago betrays a serious problem with one’s process for forming beliefs about the world.

There can’t be many people so out of touch with reality in our modern society, though, right?

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”

As embarrassing as that is, the situation is actually even worse:

About half of those who express a belief in human evolution take the view that evolution is “due to natural processes such as natural selection” (32% of the American public overall). But many Americans believe that God or a supreme being played a role in the process of evolution. Indeed, roughly a quarter of adults (24%) say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”

— which is like believing that the earth is carried around the sun on Atlas’s back, or that diseases are caused by germs controlled by aliens. So really, only a third of Americans accept scientific, non-magic evolution.

Remember that rejecting evolution is just a symptom: the underlying malady is the rejection of scientific, evidence-based reasoning. Where is that attitude coming from?

It will be no surprise that beliefs about evolution were found to differ strongly by religious affiliation (with evangelical Protestants bringing up the rear). However, there were sizable differences by political affiliation as well:

Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).

The size of the gap between partisan groups has grown since 2009. Republicans are less inclined today than they were in 2009 to say that humans have evolved over time (43% today vs. 54% in 2009), while opinion among both Democrats and independents has remained about the same.

It is essential that we confront and defeat the enemies of reason — by unequivocally insisting on the value of intellectual honesty and reality-based thinking, and by showing no tolerance or respect for bad ideas. Success on that front will not only undermine disbelief in evolution; other irrational ideas will inevitably erode as well.

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Have always and will always December 1, 2013

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Law, Religion.
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It is often argued that beliefs (especially religious beliefs) are a private matter, and that it’s wrong to criticize people’s deeply-held faith. The problem with “let everyone believe whatever they want”, however, is that our beliefs inevitably influence our actions. If, for instance, you believe that doing X is extremely important, you’ll naturally try to get others to do it. In extreme cases, you might even try to force people to do X for their own good — or for the good of their children. For example, I believe that saving children from disease and death is extremely important; so if a parent were withholding lifesaving medication from their child, I would advocate using the power of the law to override that parent and medicate the child. Most people would presumably agree that such action is reasonable — but it’s only reasonable insomuch as the underlying beliefs (e.g., regarding disease, death, and medication) are themselves reasonable.

On the other hand, consider this:

The Supreme Rabbinical Court for Appeals in Jerusalem has upheld a ruling demanding that a mother pay NIS 500 [$140] every day until she agrees to have her son circumcised…

The panel of three rabbinical judges of the Supreme Rabbinical Court said in their decision on Monday that the mother was objecting to the procedure as a way of gaining better terms in the divorce settlement and dismissed her appeal…

The mother said, however, that after looking into the matter she decided she did not want the boy to be circumcised on ethical grounds.

“I don’t have the right to cut his genitals and wound him, and the rabbinical court does not have the right to force me to,” she told Channel 2 news…

“The Jewish people have always and will always see in the brit mila [circumcision] the completion of the act of creation,” [the judges] continued.

More:

“This matter lies within our purview because the minor’s educational experience will be defined by the decision on circumcision,” the rabbinical judges wrote in their ruling…

In Israel, rabbinical courts are entrusted with the marriage and divorce of Jewish couples. As such, they can rule on a wide range of issues when they hear a case.

The woman appealed to the Great Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem but the court refused to overturn the lower court’s ruling. “If the issue of circumcision is now left to every individual to decide, how will the rest of the world view this? It would be unthinkable to have authority in this matter stripped from the rabbinical sages of the people of Israel.”

Authority in this and all legal matters needs to be immediately stripped from rabbinical sages, priests, mullahs, and all others who value faith and adherence to tradition over reason and evidence; while the irrational belief systems that motivate them need to be treated with the same scorn those “judges” showed a mother and her son.

Angels December 16, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Superstition.
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There are many things we still don’t understand about the Connecticut school shooting that left twenty small children dead; and some questions may go forever unanswered. Dealing with such a tragedy, and consoling those who lost loved ones, is one of the hardest things any of us could ever have to do. But one thing we should not do is pretend to know things we do not know.

Olivia Engel had a part in a nativity play at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. “She was supposed to be an angel in the play. Now she’s an angel up in heaven,” Monsignor Robert Weiss told a standing-room-only crowd at the church before the play on Saturday.

I’m sure some grieving people are comforted by that idea (without thinking through its implications) — but there is absolutely no reason to think it’s actually true. Tempting as it may be, false consolation is the easy way out: instead of dealing with reality and teaching our children (and ourselves) how to grieve, we imply that it’s OK to deny the facts and believe whatever makes you feel better. This is not a harmless “white” lie: disconnecting from reality has a price. Specifically, believing that people go to a better place when they die cheapens our lives here on Earth. Beliefs have consequences, and beliefs that take the “sting” out of death are especially dangerous. In fact, such beliefs do a lot of work for those who wish to rationalize killing children.

The Easter Bunny, Jesus, and other mythical figures April 7, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Education, Religion.
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In The Washington Post, pastor Mark Driscoll shares his strategy for explaining the subtleties of holiday traditions to children:

My wife, Grace, and I choose to tell our five kids that the Easter Bunny, while fun, isn’t a real, magical bunny that hops from house to house laying colored eggs, candies, and toys on Easter morning. That’s a make-believe story, and we have no objections to fun and imagination so long as the kids also know that the Resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact and not a fanciful myth. With the overt commercialization that comes along with the Easter Bunny, and consequently Easter, as parents we don’t want to lose sight of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But that doesn’t mean those things are bad in and of themselves. We simply want to enjoy them in their proper context. We are for fun. We are for Jesus.

As with many things, we redeem the idea of the Easter Bunny. We tell our kids that the Easter Bunny is a make-believe character from a non-Christian holiday. We tell them that years ago in Germany children would build a nest for the “Easter hare” to lay her eggs in, and that it wasn’t until Germans immigrated to the United States that this tradition was widely accepted and practiced here. We stress that Easter is a time for us to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that the Easter Bunny is a make-believe character who has been adopted as the official Easter mascot.

We take the same approach to the Easter Bunny the way we do with Santa Claus at Christmas.

Yup, Driscoll has a Santa policy, too:

Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don’t feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.

… We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.

We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.

What we are concerned about, though, is lying to our children. We teach them that they can always trust us because we will tell them the truth and not lie to them. Conversely, we ask that they be honest with us and never lie. Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters. So, we distinguish between lies, secrets, surprises, and pretend for our kids.

Driscoll is so unaware, his writing reads like satire. Sadly, though, it’s not: he really believes this stuff. He really is comfortable asserting that Jesus’s resurrection is historical fact, as if it were a well-established truth that no sane person could doubt. He’s oblivious of the fact that to those who haven’t been indoctrinated by Christianity, Jesus is a mythical figure just like Santa Claus. After all, flying reindeer from the North Pole isn’t more ridiculous than walking on water and coming back from the dead.

I think Driscoll is right to be concerned about lying to children, and about the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction. But the crucial question is: How do we know what’s true? Driscoll seems to think the answer is: Whatever our parents tell us. But the fallacy of that approach is obvious. If Driscoll had happened to have been born in Saudi Arabia, for instance, he would be teaching his children that Allah’s revelation to Muhammad is historical fact, while Jesus’s resurrection is a lie.

The only way to gain reliable knowledge about our world, and to correct the mistakes of previous generations, is by using the tools of the scientific method: evidence, reason, skepticism. We should teach children to evaluate claims critically and to think for themselves, not to unquestioningly believe whatever their parents believe. The stakes could not be higher, because our actions are motivated by our beliefs: people really are killing each other over disagreements about mythical characters and fictional books.

Superman could totally kick Jesus’s ass, by the way.

(via Why Evolution is True)

Love is all you need March 25, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Reason.
6 comments

People laugh at me, but I don’t care: they can’t feel what I feel. It’s easy to always be cynical and dismissive — but faith is hard; love is hard. And my faith tells me that Angelina Jolie loves me.

Whenever I see her beautiful face, I can feel it. And when I close my eyes and look inward, I know it’s true. My relationship with Angie is the most meaningful thing in my life — I’m nothing without her. Though we’re apart for now, I know we’ll be together eventually, if only I have faith in her. As Angie said in Original Sin: “You cannot walk away from love.”

Some people tell me I’m out of touch with reality, that I need to face facts: Angelina lives with Brad Pitt (curse him) and is raising his children, while I’ve never even spoken to her in person. But so what? That doesn’t prove she doesn’t secretly love me. I trust Angie completely, and I’m sure she has good reasons for everything she does, even if I don’t understand her plan right now. To doubt her would be to disrespect her.

Come to think of it, the skeptics who deny my love are being extremely disrespectful (and offensive). Who are they to question my heartfelt convictions? Why do they want to take away my source of joy and comfort? Anyway, “facts” are irrelevant when it comes to feelings; “reason” has nothing to say about love and happiness. Just like Angie told us in Playing by Heart: “Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.”

By the way: the skeptics always seem to ignore the fact that my relationship with Angie has made me a better person. In all things, I try to do what Angie would want me to do — to make her proud of me. I used to smoke, but I gave it up for her. Just yesterday, I was about to take some money from a homeless guy’s cup, but then I thought of how Angie sacrificed herself in Wanted, and I didn’t do it. If that doesn’t prove Angie’s love for me is real, what could?

I don’t care if no one believes me. No one believed Angie in Changeling when she said her son was an imposter, but she followed her heart and she was right.

You’ll have to excuse me now: every day at sunset I watch both Tomb Raiders back to back, and then I write another love letter to Angie. After that I’ll probably go fight with my neighbor Billy — that deluded weirdo thinks Angelina loves him more than me!

Stupidity regarded as wisdom March 13, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Reason, Religion.
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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a keynote speaker at the “Living the Catholic Faith Conference” in Denver last week, where he argued that his Christian faith is not irrational:

… Scalia today told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 Catholics to have “the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity” by society’s sophisticates…

The 75-year-old Scalia said that today one can believe in a creator and the teachings of Jesus without being the brunt of too much ridicule, but that to hold traditional Christian beliefs that Jesus is God and He physically rose from the grave is to be derided as simple-minded by those considered leading intellectuals.

Traditional Catholics, Scalia said, are seen as peasant-like in their saying the Rosary, kneeling before the Holy Eucharist and indiscriminately following the teachings of the pope.

“(Yet) the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight,” Scalia said, quoting the Bible…

In Washington, Scalia said, the pundits and media couldn’t believe in a miracle performed under their noses.

“My point is not that reason and intellect need to be laid aside,” Scalia said. “A faith without a rational basis should be laid aside as false. … What is irrational is to reject a priori the possibility of miracles in general and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in particular.”

Nice try, but Scalia demonstrates exactly why his beliefs do deserve to be “derided as simple-minded.” Non-Christian “intellectuals” don’t reject the possibility of Jesus Christ’s resurrection a priori: they reject it due to lack of sufficient evidence — just like Scalia rejects the miraculous claims of Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, etc. Stories of miracles occurring “under people’s noses” are a dime a dozen; one would expect a judge to know that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Of course, even if there were good evidence that Jesus is God and that he physically rose from the grave, it would not follow that we ought to kneel before him and follow his teachings indiscriminately. That’s not wisdom — it’s servility. Indeed, we all pay the price for Scalia’s reverential adherence to stupid Iron Age teachings which he believes to be the will of God.

So it’s good that the irrational beliefs of Scalia and his church are coming under pressure. Instead of hunkering down and insisting that folly is wisdom, I hope the faithful will have the courage to examine their beliefs critically, so that one day our public policy will not be constrained by ancient miracle stories. As a wise man once said: “A faith without a rational basis should be laid aside as false.”

(via Thoughts from Kansas)

The weak link March 5, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Superstition.
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Dear friend,

Let me begin by assuring you that this letter is COMPLETELY LEGITIMATE, and everything in it is 100% TRUE. I can wholeheartedly vouch for this based on my PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. I implore you to read this letter carefully in its entirety, and follow its instructions exactly.

This letter will change your life! But whether your life changes for the better or for the worse depends on how you proceed. One man from New York ignored this letter, and six weeks later he got CANCER. A woman from Chicago couldn’t be bothered to follow all of the letter’s instructions, and subsequently lost all her life’s savings. I’m sorry to report that my very own cousin decided she “didn’t believe” this letter, and sadly she has been DIVORCED three times.

Don’t let this unique opportunity pass you by: all you have to do is follow the simple instructions in this letter, and you are GUARANTEED to receive UNLIMITED GOOD LUCK! One woman from Texas won a $50,000 lottery. A man from Los Angeles saw his tumor — declared INCURABLE by doctors — disappear. I myself found the love of my life shortly after committing to the system detailed below, and we are now happily married.

So what do you need to do? It’s easy. First and foremost: You must BELIEVE it will work. Push all negative, skeptical thoughts out of your mind. The system only works if you BELIEVE — this is the power of POSITIVE THINKING.

Second: Make a note of today’s date, and mark it prominently on all your calendars. It’s the date on which your new life began! Every year, on the anniversary of today’s date (starting today), make ten copies of this letter and send them to ten new people. This shows your commitment to spreading love and joy in the world. (Sending the letter to children is allowed and encouraged.)

Third: You must pledge to live your life from today onward as a GOOD PERSON. Do not steal, cheat, rape, etc. — doing so may disqualify you from receiving the UNLIMITED GOOD LUCK mentioned above.

Fourth: You must shun people who do not believe in the system. Their negativity could jeopardize your success! Recognize that those who oppose the system are arrogant, egotistical troublemakers. Make it clear that their offensive “opinions” are not welcome.

Fifth and finally: You must immediately send $10 (ten US dollars) to the address printed on the reverse side of this letter. This modest gesture is a symbol of your personal commitment to the system, and honors those who came before you. In most cases, no further payment will be required. Remember: any investment you make in the system will be repaid beyond your wildest dreams!

Above all, remember to always have faith in the system. If you do not immediately see all the personal benefits you had hoped for, be patient: the effects take a varying amount of time to manifest. Also, bear in mind that things which seem bad in the short run often turn out to be good in the long run. And of course, if the system is not working for you, it’s quite probable that your BELIEF is simply not strong enough — try to improve your POSITIVE THINKING.

No matter what, do not quit the system! You are an essential link in an unbroken chain, and many, many people are depending on you (as you depend on them). Together, there is nothing we cannot do. But one weak link is enough to break even the strongest chain. Don’t be the weak link!

The choice is yours, dear friend. Your future is in your hands. I hope that you will have the wisdom to recognize the amazing opportunity that has come your way, and that you will keep the chain strong. After all, what have you got to lose?

The comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought February 28, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Politics, Reason, Religion.
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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said he “almost threw up” after reading John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech in which he declared his commitment to the absolute separation of church and state. Santorum also criticized President Obama for having “some phony theology … not a theology based on the Bible”. Santorum, meanwhile, believes that Satan is attacking America, that evolution is a lie and global warming is a hoax, and that “our rights come from God — not any god, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. And of course, those rights do not include equality for homosexuals or abortion for women.

How is it possible that Santorum is a serious contender for the U.S. Presidency in 2012? How can so many Americans be so deluded? The spell of dogma and authority is surprisingly hard to break. In his 1962 Yale University Commencement Address, President Kennedy (with apologies to Santorum’s stomach) discussed how myths distract us from reality, how our dialog is “clogged by illusion and platitude”:

As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality.

For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

Belief is like an orange, and other fables February 9, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Democracy, Religion.
3 comments

According to a recent study by the Guttman Center, 85 percent of haredim and 49 percent of religious Jews in Israel say they would follow halacha rather than the law or democratic values in case of a clash between the two. And yet, writing in Haaretz, Yair Sheleg of the Israel Democracy Institute insists that believing in God — as 84 percent of Jewish Israelis said they do — is not a problem:

It seems that many people consider this finding to be despairing testimony regarding the inability of Israelis to maintain a rational policy and/or democratic worldview.

Yet it is precisely this reaction that endangers the future of democratic and even rational discourse in Israel, much more than the actual belief in God. This is because anyone who relies on a rational outlook that is not just philosophical, but also considers the human reality with open eyes, immediately understands that those 84 percent are not expressing devotion to any orderly theological doctrine. Rather, they are expressing a psychological need for belief.

This is a need that began at the dawn of humanity, when man first began to recognize the power of forces over which he has no control and the chaotic potential they harness. From that moment on, man began to believe in a supreme power, and he developed the desire to believe there is order behind the chaos. What’s more, he developed a special desire to believe that it is within man’s ability to influence supreme powers through his deeds.

… belief is nearly a part of man’s nature — not his biological nature, but definitely his psychological nature.

It is Sheleg whose eyes are closed to reality. First of all, the claim that those Israelis who believe in God are generally not devoted to any “orderly theological doctrine” is ludicrous, and is contradicted by the Guttman Center’s findings: for example, 65 percent of Israeli Jews think Torah and mitzvot are a divine order, 67 percent think the Jews are the chosen people, and 51 percent believe in the coming of the Messiah.

Furthermore, the claim that belief in God is inescapably built into humans seems dubious when you consider countries like Norway and Sweden, where a majority of the population are nonbelievers. In any case, just because something is in our “psychological nature” doesn’t mean it is desirable. We know of many cognitive biases that reliably cause us to believe things that are wrong and to behave in ways that are counterproductive. That is why we must use the tools of science and reason to figure out what is actually true about our world. Sheleg just doesn’t get it:

Therefore, the key question is not whether to believe in God, but rather what the nature of God is: Is He an inclusive God, a merciful and compassionate God who takes all of mankind created “in his image” under his wing? Or is He an exclusive God, a jealous and vengeful God who demands of his believers that they fight anyone who is different from them and who is perceived as not fulfilling His commands?

Sheleg seems to think that we can just choose to believe in whatever we please. But shouldn’t we want to believe in whatever actually exists? The rational way to decide what gods to believe in, if any, is by examining the state of the evidence. And there is no good evidence for the existence of a creator God at all — much less a merciful and compassionate one.

That doesn’t stop Sheleg from concluding that there need be no conflict between believers and nonbelievers:

It’s like the famous fable about the coveted orange. Two antagonists engage in a bloody struggle over the orange, until finally it becomes clear that one needs the peel while the other needs the flesh. To that end, it is better for the secular person not to define themselves in terms of their decision to disavow religion, but rather in terms of their positive values.

Nice try, but Sheleg’s profound fable is not at all relevant to our situation — apples and oranges, you might say. The conflict between religion and democracy is not just a big misunderstanding: religious people are disproportionally resistant to democratic values, because of the things they believe about God. Their belief in magic books and invisible super-beings is what motivates many of our neighbors to oppose civil liberties and the rule of law. The solution is to replace superstitious, dogmatic thinking with rational, evidence-based thinking. It is dangerous to confuse fables with reality.

Don’t get stranded on a desert island with Rabbi Adam Jacobs November 9, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Ethics, Religion.
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The Huffington Post continues to publish Rabbi Adam Jacobs, who continues to be “startled” that anyone could possibly disbelieve in a creator God and a “grand design to the universe.” Jacobs does not, however, attempt to persuade nonbelievers by presenting good evidence in support of his religious beliefs; instead, he arrogantly claims that those who profess disbelief are either hypocrites or in denial:

… most “non-believers” actually believe a bit more than they generally let on, or are willing to admit to themselves. That, or … they have contented themselves to willfully act out fantasies that bear no relation to their purported worldview.

In attempt to prove his hypothesis, Jacobs offers a test: three questions, which are supposed to reveal that all of us are really non-materialists who believe in “grand cosmic forces” that operate on non-empirical levels. Before we consider his questions, please notice that the rabbi’s entire argument is a non sequitur: even if his claim were true (which of course it isn’t), that would say absolutely nothing about whether God (or any other supernatural phenomenon) really exists. What is actually true is not determined by what people believe. The Earth revolved around the sun even when all humans believed otherwise; witches and ghosts and fairies don’t become real just because people believe in them.

But on to the rabbi’s test:

1. Would you be willing to sell your parent’s remains for dog food?

Ah, the classic moral dilemma that has confounded philosophers for centuries. On second thought — I fail to see how my sentimental attachment to the remains of my parents, and my wish to preserve their memory, entails belief in the supernatural. (And if I had hated my parents, and needed the money, and really loved dogs…)

Next question:

2. You and someone you dislike are stranded on a desert island with a functioning ham radio. One day you hear that there has been a terrible earthquake that has sent a massive tsunami hurtling directly for your island and you both have only one hour to live. 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 always find it strange, not to mention creepy, when religious people imply that the only thing keeping them from murdering and raping and stealing is their belief in God — as if there is no rational reason to want to spend one’s life, however fleeting, promoting trust and friendship and cooperation by treating others with compassion and respect and solidarity. Is it really so mysterious why I would prefer to spend my last hour of existence in the supportive companionship of a friend rather than in violent conflict with an enemy?

One thing’s for sure: I wouldn’t want to be on that island with Rabbi Jacobs — he might try to secure his place in the afterlife by fulfilling his God’s commandment about killing heretics (or sabbath desecrators, or blasphemers)…

The final question:

3. Is love, art, beauty or morality intrinsically significant?

These things are significant to us, because of what we are: conscious, thinking, feeling beings. To claim that the most precious and wonderful experiences in our lives only really matter if they’re part of some superhuman plan is to cheapen them. We don’t need a god (certainly not the hateful, immoral God of the Bible) in order to care about each other and appreciate the beauty of our world.

So the rabbi’s test is a failure, but then his premise was fallacious to begin with. If there were any good reasons for believing in gods and cosmic purposes, Jacobs would be able to present evidence to that effect and make an honest case. Instead, he is reduced to insisting that those who dismiss his fantasies are only pretending: materialists ought to be immoral nihilists, dammit, and if they turn out not to be — then they’re not really materialists! Did someone mention denial?