> when I’m asked “Do you believe in God?” the implicit question question is ‘Do you feel this magic man is part of your life and do you talk to him?’

I can imagine this is probably what most people believe, and I share your dismissal of both this idea, and the dismissals of it. It also seems like you still think there's _some_ unanswered question, which is kind of important, although in your case, you seem content to shrug and say "i don't know, and we probably can't know." I think this is more sane than 99.9% of the writing on this topic, since it's clearly more qualified than 'i haven't thought about this at all'. You're perfectly willing to rule out both _some_ hypotheses (a loving god who intervenes in the world actively, and lets kids get murdered because of ... reasons), but you also seem open to the idea that it may be worth it to explore more here. So that's what i'll prod you to do here :)

I thank this idea of "nematodes to people is so massive, and thus we must be that far from god" is fundamentally wrong because of (pause for bong rip) turing completeness. Once you have the ability to create words and bind them to arbitrary symbols, i think you begin the first steps of a dance with the divine. To see why this is plausible, imagine what would happen if nematodes COULD use words and language. Then we could, very slowly, over very long periods of time use words to communicate with them, right? They could ask us questions, and we could do our damndest to answer them. The thing that makes this scenario implausible is that if paramecia had the ability to use language, they would be so wildly different that it's almost impossible to wrap our heads around.

If there's a being that has a brain the size of several galaxies, it should _still_ be able to communicate with me using words, if such a thing is important to it. Maybe its' answers would be like "this will only make sense if you have some context", but a sufficiently patient human could response "sure, i've got my entire life" - and a sufficiently motivated galaxy-brain should be able to come up with some pretty clever shorthand ways of saying, maybe not _the whole story_ but a helluva lot more than we could think up on our own. So, no, I don't think we should give ourselves short shrift. This isn't an anthropocentric perspective, it's an argument that turing complete languages are some powerful shit.

So, yes, i think we possibly _could_ understand a better answer to the question "does the word god, that many people use to mean many different things, actually point to something which does, in fact exist, and can be understood to have _at least some of_ the properties that people have ascribed to it?" - THIS feels like the more interesting question, not "do you hear a voice in your head that you believe is attached to some omnipotent benig.", but "does that word point to anythign real?"

And this is where your next line is great:

> Ultimately, at our level of technology, God is no more true or false than ‘democracy’ or FICO scores or oil futures, and look how many humans run around like agitated ants because of those concepts.

So if the word 'god' actually DOES point to something that is real, powerful, and complex, then, yeah, i'd expect most people would understand it the same way they understand their FICO scores or democracy. But that doesn't mean that any one individual couldn't, if they so wanted.

These examples are beautiful, btw, because they are clearly man-made. But what about, say, prime numbers? The moment you agree that there is no highest prime number, you've now transcended the faith of materialism, which is just as (if not MORE) deeply engrained than christianity in the modern mentality of the world. The idea that there is no highest prime number doesn't map onto any prediction you could make about the material world; at best you could say something about a computer set to prove such a thing would never succeed. But where does _that_ belief come from, unless you're open to the idea that ideas and concepts have some kind of existence which is prior to materialism. Then your questions about 'why these laws of physics' are trivially answerable by Max Tegmark's level 4 multiverse concept: the laws of physics are just an address describing your location in a mathematical structure that consists of all valid mathematical structures.

And lest we think this is all just jerking off, why are the jews still around? Why didn't they get wiped out like the elomites, the caannaites, and the bajillion other tribes that ran around with their own myths at the time? The jews say they are god's choesn people as a kind of humble answer to this question. But my take is that their faith embodies something like the idea of 'collecetive responsbility' - when they'd get smashed and conquered, instead of adopting the gods of the people who conquered them, or giving on their own god, they said "we must have done this ourselves by violating gods laws", and thus they _looked at what went wrong_ and then developed notions of justice and fairness that look explicitly designed to prevent, say, massive economic inequality because of debt. Exodus reads like a _progressive_ set of rules, as long as you view them from the perspective of people of that era. Where the hell did tha come from? My guess is that after they'd get carted off to slavery, people all realized that hey, we were being really shitty to each other just before we got invaided. Maybe we lost god's favor?

That attitude is the cultural equivalent of a human being who owners their shit, and takes responsibility for their own choices in live, and tries their best to live a good life rather than bitching and moaning about how they are a victim. That is a powerful, effective way of living. So if you ask me, 'why are the jews still alive', i woudl say "they used their faith as a survival tool, and if The tool works, there must be some truth to the beliefs that the tool requires its operator to maintain."

I feel like i live in a world dominated by adherents of the Church of the Little Red Hen. Try imaginign that in place of christianity - it isn't even that hard! Cultural hennists insist that the hen WAS real and DID bake break and if you live a good life and work hard, you too can partake of the everlasting bread of heaven. The ahennists point out that, look, we never see animals form coalitions to manufacture baked goods, or really, to form any coalitions at all! The whole story of the little red hen looks like it's made up to control people, and really, if you think very carefully, is a theinly veiled defense of both capitalism and financial inequality. Both of those perspectives are so childish they aren't worth the time - we need more people willing to go further, like your post does. Thank you.

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Hi Antonio, always enjoy you're writing, but I suspect the 20 year old you (and 20 year old me) wouldn't find this convincing. I've got an undergrad degree in physics, but never went to grad school, nonetheless, I know the physics mindset and vibe.

You say: "who has the burden of proof here? The religious in a universe we assume to be godless, or the atheists in a world we assume has some something driving this order-out-of-chaos we see? " The materialist reply is of course, what would a world without god look like? Ummm. out of order chaos sounds about right.

You say theodicy is a problem. Well, for the atheist, it's the expected. Only the religious view it as a problem. Which is fine, but it's not an argument *for* god.

You say: "To discard any notion of God in the universe, you have to enthrone humans and their grand intelligence in that role instead". Of course you don't.

You say: "Nihilism, true existential nihilism, is something most of us can’t really live with for any length of time." Here we go. That's the heart of your essay. We've evolved social creatures who are biologically programmed to follow norms (cf Joe Henrich gene-culture evolution). As such, norms need justification. And god is norm justification. And our lives are empty existentialism, but if you make your own meaning, norms are meaningless, so it's almost impossible to avoid the logical drift into nihilism.

I guess my point here is that I do think parents need to follow norms greater than themselves, if nothing else, for their kids to have some bedrock to avoid the harshest winds of cultural insanity. And while that justifies orthopraxy, which to me as a materialist is obviously a fine and good thing, it does not justify orthodoxy and belief in god.

Anyway, go luck on your continued journey, and hope the writing sheds more light than heat on the world.

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Haha, perfect. You post about Jewish theology and the first two responses are argumentative. ברוך הבא to the family, I guess?

Also, here's hoping your conversion is with (or at least in dialogue with) a Sephardic rav. You're Spanish, we should get to keep you

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I don't agree with this practical approach to religion. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, you are simply a middle aged man letting the world find its place in you, not the other way around. When your religion is only an adjective that's useful, borgeois, or Puritan, etc, you are still living in the smudges of language without spiritual responsibility. Neither the Devil nor God want you.

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I find it surprising that you find it surprising that faith doesn't factor much in studies of Judaism. If I may, I wanted to shed some light on faith from the other side of the Bible. The OT is basically written from the point of view of an assumption that God 1) exists, 2) is omnipotent, and 3) is one, and that's about it. Sure, He's all for Israel's success in general, and loyal worshippers in specific, but God didn't have a personal relationship with many people in the OT. He only spoke to a handful, and mostly priests at that.

Judaism doesn't acknowledge Christ as divine. Jewish leaders nailed Him to a cross for saying he was. So it discounts the entirety of the NT. But the "magic" of Jesus wasn't that he was the Messiah; it was that His death opened the door to a personal relationship for anyone who wants it, through the gift of baptism of the Holy Spirit. All of modern Christianity is, of course, based on the concept of the "new birth" experience, but most of Christendom only believes this in a passive way. I happen to be someone who subscribes to a literal translation of this, and, for 30 years, have had a very active and personal experience with it.

The entirety of the issue of "faith" is summed up well, in this context, in Hebrews 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." In one place, this ties the old covenant with the new, with the glue to do so. Jesus promised that the power of God -- to move mountains! -- would be available to BELIEVERS through prayer and faith. It was a big part of Jesus' teachings. We believers see and hear about miracles on a weekly basis. As the "end times" draw nearer, I believe that there will come a day when miracles start making national news, and everyone will be forced to confront what to make of them.

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I very much enjoyed the essay, but I do have a couple of thoughts in response.

1) I suppose I take some exception to your malleable description of Jewish theology. There is a distinction between what Judaism propounds and what individual (or groups of) Jews believe (i.e, a distinction between Juda*ism* and the Jewish people). I realize that you are trying to avoid calling balls and strikes between the various modern "movements" (reform, reconstructionist, conservative, orthodox, etc.), but in an essay like this I don't think you can stand above the fray. If you're talking theology, where you stand indeed depends on where you sit!

2) I've never really understood the problem of evil in the context of Jewish theology. The problem only exists if you assume that G-d is "good" (whatever that means). I am not sure that Judaism makes that assumption. Isaiah 45:7 says "I create light and fashion darkness, I make peace and fashion evil, I the L-rd do all these things." And it's not like this is some random verse . . . it's right there at the very beginning of the morning liturgy! (Although euphemistically changed to elide the issue.)

3) Interestingly, the Holy of Holies in the Second Temple was not *exactly* empty. It's true that the Ark was long lost by then. But the mishna (Yoma 5:2) says that "a stone was there from the time of the early Prophets" called the Foundation Stone (evn shetiyah), which the gemara explains was the stone that G-d first created when he formed the world. (Probably it's the same stone now at the heart of the Dome of the Rock.) Anyway, I think it says something about how some things can be lost, but some things can't. Some holiness is transitory, but some is intrinsic.

4) Regarding the existence of G-d, have you looked at all into natural theology? It has waxed and waned in popularity (particularly since Kant), but even if you can't *prove* the existence of G-d, there is more than enough to argue that His existence is probable.

Anyways, thanks for the essay!

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Love virtually all of this; kol hakavod. Your writing continues to be an oasis.

The only somewhat dissonant note, for me, was your presentation of Judaism's G-d as more or less lacking in the sort of personal investment and love that characterizes the Christian flavor. I'm not sure this is complete. I read R' Shai Held of Mechon Hadar as arguing for a while now that the modern Jewish allergy to the notion of a personally loving G-d is at least in some measure a reaction to Christianity. I.e., they picked it up, and it became so thoroughly identified with Christianity that we put it down. To this he responds, in part, that the anger of the G-d of Torah is only comprehensible in the context of a great (and frequently disappointed!) love. The real opposite of love being, of course, indifference.

Whether or not you personally have an experience of G-d, of course, is a different question. Often I don't, and then tefillah pretty much becomes a mix of self-reflection and trying to evoke the other times when I do. But I wanted to offer this addendum nevertheless.

Hazaq uvarukh!

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