I want to close out this topic of emunah with some final thoughts. I have no problem with people offering their own views in comments, but I do have a problem with people misquoting what I say and distorting it to satisfy their misguided ends.
A certain commentator here in response to the Ramban argued that “Rabbi… [editing out the name because I cannot verify the quote] himself told me that you only need to not categorically deny any beliefs.” However, as noted, that interpretation does not fit the words of the Ramban being discussed - “yodeh b’libo, y’heyu emes b’einav, ya’amin”. No response was offered to justify what amounts to a completely implausible reading.
That commentator also claimed, “You can certainly be agnostic and be ok, especially nowadays when according to the Chazon Ish everyone is a tonok shenishbah.” The Chazon Ish explained why we do not apply the rule of moridin v’lo ma’alin, but never chas v’shalom justified agnosticism. No further explanation was offered.
This person argued that, “Also, since when is the Ramban the final word on hashkafah??” and was invited to present alternative theological views found in Rishonim, but offered none.
Finally, this person claimed, “You can't mandate belief. That's a psychological fact.” This assertion is contradicted by the Ramban’s count of emunah as a mitzvah d’oraysa, a mandate to have belief, as well as by a host of non-Jewish philosophers and theologians who argued belief can be mandated; among them, ironically was William James, the father of psychology – so much for psychological facts. The only response offered to this was a re-assertion of the same opinionated statement as “fact”.
Not content to simply avoid answering pointed questions on their misplaced critiques, this person has now done a blog posting claiming I said “If you don’t believe in God, there’s no reason he should let you into Heaven” and “Also anyone can make themselves believe anything”. Anyone who has read the previous posts knows I have said nothing to that effect. I guess it is easier to respond to a straw-man position than to actually address what I did write. I commented there asking that person for quotes - still waiting....
I believe Judaism is defined by Chazal and Rishonim, and all matters of halacha, theology, morality must be grounded in those roots. This other person on the other hand writes, “Why? Chazal believed in Shedim and the Rishonim had no clue. Neither group knew modern science or were exposed to anything like the stuff we are exposed to. They are both entirely unqualified to present opinions on modern issues.”
Is whether Judaism tolerates atheism and agnosticism a “modern issue”? Do Chazal offer timeless guidance and insight into theology, morality, hashkafa, or are we to simply ignore their views a tainted and irrelevant to our modern dilemmas? Is Judaism an opinion survey of what makes sense to you or makes you feel good, or is it grounded in a tradition of ontological truths revealed by G-d ?
The purpose of my blog is not kiruv, justifying Judaism based on external criteria; I presuppose my readers share my belief in the authority of Chazal and Rishonim and value their words. For those who don't, I sincerly hope they rediscover those values, but until then I'm afraid the Judaism they discuss and the Judaism I discuss are worlds apart.