Why not believe in Judaism?

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Judaism is only one of many religions

There are thousands of contradictory religions, and far more denominations with contradictory theologies. And although it is possible that one of these thousands is true, it may very well be that no religion-giving god exists at all. Even if it could be proven that there is a god and that there is a true religion, it is incredibly unlikely that any given religion is that true religion. Statistically, this starts any analysis of whether a religion is true with a low prior probability and a correspondingly high standard of evidence that would be needed to justify belief.

To give an analogy, imagine that hypothetically an artifact collector confides in you that he has found a famous lost artifact. You may have reason to be skeptical, but with an explanation of how he acquired it and his familiarity with artifacts, you may consider this enough to treat this claim as plausible. But then you hear of a museum which announces that it has the artifact. In fact, you hear of thousands of current and past claims of finding the artifact.

Let’s say you discover that many of these claims are made by untrustworthy people, while others are made by more respected sources. Some claims are older, some claims were made recently. Some claims are baseless, or they refuse to reveal the artifact to the public, while some sound like they legitimately could have found it, and produce experts that vouch for the artifact. Suddenly, the claim of the artifact collector you originally spoke with becomes one of many, and as far as you can tell the chances that he or anyone else in fact has the lost artifact is greatly diminished. Now, with the knowledge of how readily such false claims are made, your artifact collector must produce much more definitive evidence to unmistakably distinguish it from all other claims.

So too with Judaism and religion. There are thousands of religions, each with their own adherents who are confident that it is their religion which is uniquely true. Some religions are younger, or older, more successful or less successful, more implausible or more impressive. It may be argued that some religions are significantly less plausible than Judaism and so Judaism’s statistical probability should not be as diluted by such religions. Even granting that, the variety of competing religions does increase the amount of evidence that would be needed to justify belief, lest Judaism be another ordinary religion which just happened to benefit from a few more coincidences or impressive stories.

Judaism’s claims need evidence

So with this, the net evidence for Judaism would need to show not just that Judaism is probable in a vacuum, it would need to show it’s probable given the prior probability that a god-given religion is real and that Judaism would happen to be this true religion. In other words, without a substantial weight of evidence clearly demonstrating that Judaism is true, a belief in the religion would not be warranted.

Investigating the claims

Yet we have no such weight of evidence. Every proof or argument made for Judaism by apologists can be revealed as flawed upon investigation. Often, claims that Judaism is unique are incorrect, and many common reasons that lead individuals to their belief are the same as those used by members of other religions, such as seeing coincidences as divine providence in their lives, experiencing or hearing personal miracle stories, prophetic dreams, near death experience stories, experiencing a strong feeling of joy or comfort from prayer services, a feeling that the religion just makes sense or is an ideal way to live a good life, an idea that there’s something about the religion that a charlatan wouldn’t fake, an idea that the holy book has never been shown to have a mistake, and so on.

Similar claims are made for other religions

When the same reason is used across religions, that suggests it is not reliable, and exploring them can also reveal that they are not well founded or that they are naturally explainable. Other, more developed arguments for Judaism used by Kiruv rabbis, may come across as more sophisticated and so deserve a deeper analysis, but even these ultimately boil down to misinformation and logical fallacies. As such, the arguments for Judaism cannot overcome Judaism’s low starting probability.

Arguments Against Judaism

What’s more, there is significant evidence that argues against a divine origin for the Torah and Jewish religion. This evidence ranges from the extensive scientific and historical errors made throughout Tanach and the Talmud, to archeological finds ruling out the Torah’s exodus narrative, to anachronistic statements in the Torah demonstrating a later authorship, to contradictions within Tanach showing the texts to be unreliable, to failed prophecies, to the morally unjustifiable laws and actions in the Tanach, to qualities of Judaism clearly derivative from older cultures in the region, as well as various other issues that demonstrate Judaism to be anything but true and divine. These are not traits that a true religion would be expected to have, and so Judaism becomes an incredibly unlikely possibility.

The Arguments Against Judaism page is a collection of some of the most popular arguments given for Judaism. Each argument is described briefly, along with explanations why these arguments are mistaken, and a summary of some of the most significant problems with Judaism itself.

Other sources

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