He says he thinks we are all truly agnostic, which demonstrates a lack of understanding in regards to the differences to the two stances~ agnosticism is a philosophical position of possible knowledge~ "a god cannot be known by man" whereas to be atheist is a statement of belief~ "I do not believe there is a god."
He tries to attack an argument from authority that atheists, as far as I know, have never made. 'Our' great thinkers, he says, have counterpoints on the religious side; I say, "so what?" I have heard no one say that they are atheist because this smart person said so~ in fact, if they did, I suspect that they would face great scrutiny from their fellow atheists for lack of depth and perception when coming to their conclusion.
In his article is a link to this article which he considers a "great rebuttal" and shows instantly how ignorant he truly is on matters of biology and the arguments against 'design.' It is full of pandering and words that are used to bully the reader into accepting the claims presented. I might post about this article itself in a separate piece; but I digress. When reading this 'open letter' (which really strikes me more as what would be described as 'open idiocy') you will also see the fabled "argument from morality" which makes mention of the great "secularist" dictators in the past. Its obvious at this point that not only does Rabbi Jacobs not have an adequate understanding of the arguments against religion, he actively does not care. He is willing to regurgitate whatever asinine argument that crosses his mind without searching for the retort~ He presents them, like so many before him, as though they are the real conversation stoppers in the matter of faith.
Interestingly enough, the good Rabbi states that he spent many years as an atheist! That would surprise me, because from his relatively weak diatribe so far he has come up immensely short in understanding any of the popular ideas that atheists commonly subscribe to. He thinks that the reason atheism is becoming more vocal is only because religion is making the worse worse and hindering progress (which it is) but seems to ignore the fact that atheists have been marginalized (as have his ilk) in modern society for centuries. He also asks that atheists recognize the historical contributions that religion has provided, and then quotes Paul Johnson.
"To them (the Jews) we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of human person; of the individual conscience and so of personal redemption; of collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without Jews it might have been a much emptier place."
Yes, equality before the law (if you subscribe to their religion.) Sanctity of life (if you were a Jew, and the right kind of Jew), the idea of personal redemption (sorry, but that was around much longer than judaism), of social responsibility (again, around much, much longer) and peace and love as the foundation of justice. Yes, if that were the case, I would expect many more people clamoring for laws derived from the old testament. Maybe, Rabbi, you could spearhead that movement? He then goes to address Empiricists (apparently every atheist bases every aspect of their world view off of only those things that can be measured) and make the point, and I'm paraphrasing here, that while they [we] only "know" those things that we can prove, they look at things 'carefully' and "know" there is a god (unprovable as he is)~ somehow that is supposed to make us jealous. He talks about multiverse theory being untestable (and therefor "unscientific") and that subscribing to that is just as much a matter of faith~ despite the fact that it has been born of mathematica proofs based on the very real and observable laws of the universe. I half expected him to bring out the "if there are laws, there must be a law maker" argument while reading this. Then there is this appeal~
Maybe we can at least agree that forces unseen, however we conceive of them, seem to be playing a major role in our lives?
Sorry Rabbi, but the forces we are talking about can be explained. We don't personify them, worship them, or try to enact legislation based on what they supposedly think is "moral" or "right." We seek to understand them, not follow them~ for following them is not an option for us, it is a condition of existence (which in reality makes your believe or not believe god look rather silly, eh?)
He then quotes Charles Darwin (praise be to him!) and invokes a rather inverse argument from authority~ if your guy believed (Darwin claimed to be agnostic) then isn't there room for you???
After reading this, I realized that I had ultimately wasted five minutes of my life on absolutely nothing of consequence. The Rabbi Jacobs has proven himself to be whole-heartedly ignorant (and purposefully so) on the issues of which he wrote this letter. He apparently has no real concept of rationality, skepticism, or of atheism in general~ but could that be our fault? Are we really not doing our best to get our message out there and to make the religious understand? It seems to me that this letter should be the impetus for us to get even more vocal! Lets shout it from the rooftops, so that there will be NO misunderstanding!
But again, I must feel sorry him. Clearly we are observing the Dunning-Kruger effect first hand, and for that, my good friend has only one thing to say.