Sunday, July 12, 2009

Four Views on The Kuzari Principle of Faith

The Kuzari principle of faith is the basic answer any Jew will give when questioned as to why they believe in G-D. The answer goes like this: The Bible says that there were 600,000 male Jews at Mount Sinai (roughly 2.5 million people) that saw and heard G-D's revelation directly. This occurrence has been handed down orally and through the Bible. This causes a Jew to believe in the veracity of the Jewish religion because if G-D spoke to the Jews and told them He was G-D then He must be G-D. Also, it was a national revelation, this means that every single Jew heard it and, therefore, they all kept the commandments and the religion. It would take another national revelation to change the religion and the belief system and this is why the Jewish people have never accepted Christianity or Islam, because they believe in private revelations to Jesus and Mohammad respectively.

On the surface this proof seems pretty good. There is a historical event where G-D revealed himself to the Jews and told them to follow the Jewish religion. Logically, all Jews should follow this religion since they have an oral tradition and a written tradition that tells them that this event occurred. Just like we know George Washington lived, so too we know that G-D talked to the Jews.

However, is this the only proof that one really requires to believe in Judaism? Doesn't it seem a bit flimsy? In truth, there are several different answers to this question. 1) I trust my ancestors and I don't think they would lie so this is all the proof I need. I believe in the validity of the Bible and the oral tradition, end of story. 2) Well, it does seem a little flimsy, but since I believe there must be a G-D Judaism makes the most sense as a religion. 3)There are no triangulating sources or scientific proofs for this event and therefore I do not believe in it. 4) This event is false, the archeological evidence proves that it never happened.

Let's address each of these issues and how the four different types of people would address the Kuzari principle.

1)This person seems like the basic Jew. There is a simple faith and they don't want to rock the boat. They believe in G-D and do not care what anyone else has to say on the matter. In truth, what causes a person like this to believe is that they were raised in a Jewish home and were told that these ideas are true or they just don't think about the questions. There is nothing wrong with that, but what if they had been raised in a different religion?

2)This is a very broad idea. What first must be understood is why does this person believe G-D exists and then why does he believe that Judaism is the most logical religion? There can be several reasons why a person could believe in G-D. One could be the big bang theory as it exists now seems to indicate that there was a starting point of our universe. This seems to indicate that there must have been some entity that started it. Also, the complexity at which living organisms exist in the universe seem to tell us that there is some kind of intelligent creator. To say all of these things are random is like saying a monkey could write any one of Shakespear's plays randomly, or better, it could throw paint against a wall and create the Mona Lisa (This is an exaggeration, I know how gradual natural selection in the theory of evolution brings the randomness down, but it is still random). Also, if everything is random we still need to account for where everything came from. These ideas seem to point to a creator. However, why does Judaism seem to be the most logical religion? This now points us in the direction of the Kuzari argument. Just considering the major three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we can answer this question. Christianity and Islam both claim that the revelation at Sinai happened for the Jews. It is part of the Koran (in Sura 2 I believe) and it is part of Christianity's belief. That means that both of these religions think G-D spoke to the Jewish people and made a covenant with them. The Jews were the original chosen people according to both of these religions. All of the Jewish nation saw G-D and heard Him say that they were the chosen people, keep the Jewish religion. However, according to both Islam and Christianity, G-D came to one man and said, "I, the Lord, have changed my mind, let's make up a new religion." That does not seem so logical. If G-D created a religion by telling everyone in that religion, doesn't it seem logical that, to change that same religion, He would tell everyone the new plan? It is similar to the CEO of Honda saying that they were going to make the Insight. Later, a car mechanic comes along and tells everyone that they should stop making the insight and focus on a car that is like the Ford Excursion. Would anyone listen to this mechanic?

3) This question seems very reasonable, how can we verify the Bible? Why should anyone believe that it speaks the truth? Just like Judaism, Islam and Christianity are not compatible with one another and therefore at least two are false, why should anyone believe in any of them? This is the weak atheism claim. There is no proof of G-D's existence so there is no reason for anyone to believe in Him. Just because we don't know where the first atom came from, or how complex organisms came into being does not mean there is a G-D, it simply means we do not know. Unless you can prove that this revelation happened, there is no reason to believe it is not made up. However, it is possible that it happened, we just don't know.

4)This is the strong atheism answer. All religions are false, G-D does not exist. There is evidence that proves there is no G-D. The revelation at Sinai is an impossibility because of the archeological evidence. The archeological evidence shows that there was no mass exodus from Egypt and that other stories in the Bible are false. Therefore, since all monotheistic religions are based on these ideas, all of them are false. Also, since evolution is a fact, and it is random, there is no need for G-D. Although, I can not tell you where the first atom came from, this does not mean there is any possibility that G-D exists.

In my opinion, the first and fourth answers seem to be a bit hasty. The first answer relies too heavily on sources that could have possibly been falsified. This answer relies on one or two sources that are not strong proofs. The main reason that this person believes is most probably because they were raised thinking it or they like the religion and the values it contains, but they did not dig too deeply into solid proofs. However, the fourth opinion is also a bit rash. This relies too heavily on archeological evidence or lack there of. If G-D does exist then there would not need to be archeological evidence for the exodus. G-D supported them through miracles, how do miracles fit into archeology? Furthermore, who says that absence of evidence is the same as evidence of absence? Also, believing that complex organisms occurred through complete randomness seems a bit far fetched. It is a possibility, but how can we call it a certainty when the odds are so unlikely? The main problem with both of these positions is that they contain certainty without compelling evidence.

The second and third answers seem to be a little bit more honest. Neither is absolutely certain of their position, but through their research have come to basic conclusions. Each one admits to their bias and says what pushes them closer to one ideology as apposed to the other. The third answer, weak atheism, needs absolute proof before they are willing to believe in G-D. The second answer, belief in G-D through probable logic, admits that there is no absolute proof, but that it seems logical that a G-D does exist.

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