Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

The suffering of the ethical atheist

Most people seem to assume that religions impose restrictions. And many religions seem to do that in two ways.

The first set of restrictions is that in order to be holy, you need to limit partaking from the pleasures of this world. Idols cannot give you a good life, so idol worshippers preach how one could suffer – that can be done. I won’t say more about this because I don’t know much about such lifestyles.

Judaism only advocates to measure our pleasures, not to go overboard, and to enjoy them in certain frameworks, but Jews are taught that refraining from enjoying this world is a sin. (Some of our drifts must be sublimated. Want to taste milk with meat? Eat udder. Want to murder? Become a surgeon and kill cancerous tissue.) The Creator gives presents and we would be haughty enough to reject them? The second set of restrictions is therefore only a matter of quantity, timing and setting.

Ethical Atheists have another problem. How are they allowed to eat stuff that is available in limited amounts while millions starve? How could they create babies, knowing that pregnancy endangers the mother and the child will suffer untold amounts of suffering? How can we own anything when we see how a concept of ownership makes for so much poverty in the world? How can we justify speaking when we know that every word is only an approximation of the truth, never the whole truth?

In other words: the ethical Atheist can’t live.

The Jew doesn’t have such a problem. The rabbis teach us that G^d wants us to have a good life and what are reasonable compromises and guidelines for good enough morality.

Yes, we may eat but need to make sure others have what to eat too. Yes, we may (must) procreate because life is worth it. (Women may not be forced to have children but most want them from their own free will.) Ownership gives us a possibility to give charity. Human speech is holy and precious and honesty is a good enough approximation of truth.

From this, we see that religion facilitates, enables, rather than restricts.

(BTW: True Atheists may also have a problem being amazed.)

This teaching that Judaism enables rather than limits, I learned many years ago from Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo. I just remembered it when I played a popular game with my granddaughter. She shook her head, I did too. Great fun. I tried nodding together. Fun too, but not as much, so we returned to shaking our heads. And then I realized something.

When we shake our head, we turn to all directions. No, the world can give us. But when we nod, we move our head from above to below. Permission can only be given from Up-High. Poor Atheists.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust survivors in The Netherlands (Westerbork), and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (of young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners, and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many people can't understand or like him because he has such a wide vision that he never fits any specialist's box. But that exactly what others love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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