Sunday, January 01, 2006

Yad Vashem

So for vacation, I made a religious "pilgrimage" of sorts to Israel. You can't really go to Israel and avoid Yad Vashem ("The Memorial of Names") or more literally, Jerusalem's spectacular Holocaust memorial. You walk through a long gray corridor and watch personal testimonials of Holocaust survivors and German soldiers. Although I'm a pretty emotional person myself, I don't cry unless I've got a good reason to cry, i.e. the Children's Memorial.

Visitors walk inside a cave where five candles are reflected millions of times over in a hall of mirrors to represent the souls of one and a half million children who died in the Holocaust. A voice states the name, age and birthplace of each dead child. This overwhelming sorrow consumed me, keeping me stationary in that one spot. Think about it. Among those kids, we may have found the cure for cancer, a great world leader or a loving parent.

Now I know that an event like the Holocaust draws a line between the theistic and atheists. I've heard both sides argued quite convincingly and it makes me wonder: how many modern atheists are so deeply affected by world traumas versus their own inner questioning? In my case, the Holocaust didn't confirm my belief in any sort of deity.

So my question is: How did the Holocaust (or other similar events such as the Rwandan Genocide or the Darfur Crisis) affect your view on theism?

22 Comments:

At 1/02/2006 12:17 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

How can a theist possibly justify his belief in a good god when the Holocaust happens ? That's doubly atrocious - because it justifies the Holocaust, and because it trivializes it. Those people should be more villified than Neo-Nazis.

 
At 1/02/2006 6:03 AM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Well, if a theist is a believer in the watch theory (namely, God created the watch and left it to run on its own without any kind of intervention), the Holocaust can be looked at more as a human fault. It certainly can be attributed to the corrupt minds of Hitler and the Nazis.

 
At 1/02/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger Advocate of the Browns said...

Some idiotic extremists might say that the Haulocast was done to show Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies that their way was not the way of the Lord. Which is stupid. But lots of Neo-Nazis would say that.

The Haulocast didnt effect my views on theism. I never really related it to theism, because at the time I learned about it, I was too young to care beyond the fact that lots of people were killed and that was outrageous.

Genocides are things that don't affect my beliefs much. I do think that it is truly sad that so many people are dying for political/religious beliefs. It seems like people will find a reason to do anything these days.

 
At 1/02/2006 1:06 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

It's spelled Holocaust Rohan.

And just in case you were wondering. The Holocaust was definitely not an event where people were trying to be martyrs. They weren't dying for a cause, they were murdered. Thrown into gas chambers, shot in pits and starved to death by people with racist, homophobic and discriminatory views.

So don't say they died for a cause. A cause resulted from their death because humanity at the time was too self-absorbed. Still are.

 
At 1/02/2006 1:12 PM, Blogger seth said...

But many Nazis risked their lives for the reasons Rohan mentioned.

 
At 1/02/2006 1:15 PM, Blogger Advocate of the Browns said...

Sorry about the gross misspelling. I never said that i thought they were killed for a cause. Some extremist or Neo-Nazi might think that that's why they were killed. They were murdered as you said.

 
At 1/03/2006 8:19 AM, Anonymous El Penguino said...

all the genocides and nazis and stuff i think are all human fault, it doesnt affect my beliefs of god because if god intervened on human choice, humans wouldnt do anything for themselves and they wouldnt ever learn from past mistakes

 
At 1/03/2006 2:05 PM, Blogger Beowulf said...

Enil Edam,

I have a question:

Do you say the holocaust is bad because it’s bad?

Or

Is the holocaust bad because you say it’s bad?

 
At 1/03/2006 7:24 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Bad is a relative term.

To me, murdering 6 million Jews and 5 million homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and gypsies is bad.

So sure, I'm saying the Holocaust is bad, but that's something that one has to accept verbatum in order to even understand my point.

 
At 1/03/2006 7:27 PM, Blogger seth said...

But what makes it bad?

 
At 1/03/2006 8:17 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Seth, if you will volunteer for a little ... experiment ... I think I can show you why it's bad. I think I could suspend my empathy long enough for such an object lesson, and I promise not to kill you or do any permanent injury.

Seriously, what is done by one person to another against their will is a trespass. If I take your life, it is theft because I cannot return it, and you didn't give it to me. There is a reason that all civilized societies have a severe penalty for murder. Mass murder is no more wrong (although more horrible to contemplate) than a single murder, but it is no more right, and all the justifications in the world are really just lame excuses.

The problem with human culture all through history has been that it is exclusive, not inclusive.

God is a fantasy. That is not to say that a creator is absolutely impossible, but the human ideas of god in their myriad of flavors are all conjectural, bullshit, and superstition. The mix was originally formulated to remove power from the Alphas (the brutal) and give it to the shamans (the sneaks). The formula has been refined over the millennia, and as there was more to go around, more divisions were made in the pack to accommodate the different sects (scammers). As such, religion is a form of mental illness that has been selectively bred into the race to give the power-hungry a handle on individuals that they can then form into groups (power bases). Since that is my long view of religion, it is safe to say that I believe religion caused the holocaust, Nazism being a pseudo-religion that could not possibly flourish without the real thing and its residual effect on the Human race.

To answer your question, it does nothing to affect my view on theism, but it does support it.

 
At 1/03/2006 8:26 PM, Blogger seth said...

Ah, I never thought about morals that way. Thanks.


And to prevent any confusion that may occur, I asked the above question purely for the purpose of discussion. I'm not that crazy.

 
At 1/04/2006 12:49 AM, Blogger Beowulf said...

You still did not answer my question. Is it the first, or the latter?

 
At 1/04/2006 6:51 AM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Here's the thought process:
1. According to my own set of personal beliefs, killing people is bad.
2. The Holocaust killed many people and therefore is bad.

But I guess one could say that the Holocaust is bad because I say it is. Since I'm the one that defined "bad" in the first place.

In our society generally speaking, we view wars and mass genocides as "bad" anyway. So my opinion is also a product of my society and my upbringing.

So you can't really get to the root of "bad"ness because it's always a term defined by environment and personal beliefs. But if you want to be technical, the Holocaust is bad because I say it's bad.

Did I answer the question?

 
At 1/04/2006 12:21 PM, Blogger Beowulf said...

Yes, thank you for answering. I think the question is important. If the holocaust is bad because you say it is (whether framed by society or not), it is merely just your opinion. In other words, the holocaust is not objectively bad.

If there is no objective “bad” and it’s just product of society and upbringing, then what relevance does it have in affecting anyone’s view on theism?

The underlining message I detected in your post is used as a common objection to theism. It goes something like this:

1. If God exists, he is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.
2. If God, is omniscient, he knows when any evil is occurring (or about to occur).
3. If God is omnibenevolent, he would want to prevent all evil.
4. If God is omnipotent, he could prevent all evil.
5. So, if God existed, there would be no evil. (1-4)
6. There is evil in the world.
7. Therefore, God cannot exist. (5,6)

Now, please correct me if I am wrong, but this is what I sensed you were pointing at in Yad Vashem. Or am I completely mistaken?

 
At 1/04/2006 4:22 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

A few months ago, that would have been exactly my point.

But until we all become hermits, we live in a society which believes in good and bad and must somehow identify with those standards and come into our own opinions about them.

And while I was agnostic, I said that well, God wants us to learn from the stupid and evil things we do. That's why God doesn't always make an effort to stop them.

Now, I've come to the conclusion that bad things happen. They always have and always will, but we aren't going to fix them with divine intervention. Divine intervention does absolutely nothing, and if it does in fact exist, would in my mind make the learning process pointless. If God's just going to pick up after us or make us pick up after ourselves when we've screwed up, how does that really help?

It's through other people and through our own experiences by which we learn what's good and what's bad.

If you're at all familiar with my post on how I reconcile Judaism and atheism, I mentioned that I'm a religious humanist. This basically means that I think that people learn from people since people as a collective unit are more "God-like" than any God could ever be.

Clarified?

 
At 1/04/2006 6:11 PM, Blogger Beowulf said...

I am sorry, maybe it just me, but you lost me. BTW, I am not familiar with the post you mentioned. Do you have a link?

 
At 1/04/2006 6:18 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

The Religious Humanism Post

My basic point in a nutshell is:
I've learned all my lessons from people and my own experience.

Until "God" comes and teaches me some great lesson, I'll stick with what I know.

 
At 1/04/2006 6:48 PM, Blogger Beowulf said...

The post did not help. As far as I can tell, you are very, very confused…

Regardless, I don’t follow you, or the purpose of your post. Perhaps I am just not familiar with where you’re coming from.

 
At 1/04/2006 10:43 PM, Anonymous trinki said...

theres an interesting passage in Angels and Demons relating to this argument. One of the Swiss Guard asks the Camarlengo if god truly is benevolent. He goes into a whole story about skateboards which i found interesting. There's a lot of cool stories out there which people use to prove that god does/doesn't exist, but in the end, all of us are entitled to our own opinions.

I like using different pseudonyms

 
At 1/04/2006 11:11 PM, Blogger seth said...

Just like how Islamic terrorists are entitled to believe that killing infidels will send them to paradise?

 
At 1/05/2006 12:33 AM, Blogger Advocate of the Browns said...

Not true. They go to paradise by killing in a war that promotes the cause of islam. Jihad is a dying concept. Not because its underused. Because people are trying to interpret it such that it will always apply to them granting anyone paradise.

And people can have their own crazy opinions. Its their opinion to believe in Jihad.

 

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