April 30, 2004


The Divine is present where He is welcomed (Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, 4/30/04, Jewish World Review)

Committing a sin is not necessarily a denial or rejection of G-d. A person may simply have been overwhelmed by an urge that he did not suppress, or may not have realized that a sin causes him to be distant from G-d. However, a vain, egotistical person is one who is his own G-d. Inasmuch as there cannot be two G-ds, if a person thinks himself to be G-d, he cannot believe in the true G-d. There is no form of idolatry as absolute as the person who worships himself.

In my writings on self-esteem, I suggested that vanity and conceit are desperate defenses whereby a person tries to cope with a sense of unworthiness. I was thrilled to find that no less an authority than Rabbeinu Yonah validates this concept. ''The vain person seeks to compensate for his feeling of defectiveness by means of grandiosity'' (Rabbeinu Yonah al HaTorah, p. 156). A person with healthy self-esteem does not seek the praise and recognition of others to remind him that he has value.

If a person truly believes that he possesses a Divine neshamah (soul), he will realize that he has great worth, and even if he may have gone astray in his behavior, he is nevertheless worthy by virtue of his Divine neshamah. Anyone with a profound feeling of unworthiness must be in denial that he has within himself the breath of G-d.

That psychological abnormality is why atheists deserve pity and love rather than anger or hatred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2004 10:13 AM

I'd prefer the anger and hatred.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 30, 2004 12:35 PM


Very well-played.

Love, Peter

Posted by: Peter B at April 30, 2004 12:48 PM


You're our special project.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 3:41 PM

OJ: I thought that was Harry.

Posted by: Chris at April 30, 2004 4:09 PM

No, Harry is beyond redemption. Jeff just needs a Father figure & he'll straighten out. Robert believes in everything that derives from God, just can't accept it all requires God. He's reasoned his way to faith, just can't take the plunge. Folks like that tend to be prisoners of social expectations--"I can't be one of Them, can I?"

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 4:15 PM

Not everyone who suffers from feelings of low esteem has rejected God. You all would agree that human psychology is much more complex than this: think of happy childhoods versus difficult ones, or rejection by one's parents, or even abuse. I assure you, there are many souls (people) out there struggling with low self esteem who DO NOT seek or need the approval of others, who are nevertheless too hard on themselves. Mental health can be equally elusive to the sinner and the saint. Thank you for listening and I'm v. interested in hearing what you think.

Posted by: george at April 30, 2004 4:42 PM

PS - "The Apostle," an excellent film and I believe Robert Duvall's first as director, portrays a southern preacher who cannot be said to be "mentally healthy" and does struggle with low self esteem. And he keeps trying. It is a brilliant and frightening film (frightening in a positive way.) I recommend it.

Posted by: george (post script) at April 30, 2004 4:46 PM


First, the film is great:


Second, if men fit into too neat formulas it would be a denial of free will. Thus there's the other post today about Georges Simenon, who was loved by his father but spurned by his mother and so became an "obsessive copulators". The reverse is also common enough, men smothered by mother love becoming gay. But obviously these are not simple equation: Take A, add too much love from B, an insufficient presence of C and get AC/DC.

Rather, the point is that such people are psychologically damaged and need healing. They are not just making bad choices about their lives in a vaccuum.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 5:00 PM

"He's reasoned his way to faith, just can't take the plunge."

No, I've reasoned my way out of faith.

"Folks like that tend to be prisoners of social expectations--"I can't be one of Them, can I?""

OJ, you should write a book entitled "Reading Minds with Strawmen in 10 Easy Steps". Be careful what you do with strawmen, some people might mistake it for witchcraft.

My social expectations are pretty low. I'll socialize with anyone who isn't being actively pursued by law enforcement or who hasn't issued a death threat against me in the last year. I befriended the geeks & nerds in high school that noone else would talk to. That would explain why I hang out here so much.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 30, 2004 5:37 PM

See, you know where you belong. I do have a gift, no?

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 5:53 PM

Um, Orrin, I think Robert just called you a geek or a nerd, or both. Which reminds me, anyone want to help me update the firmware on my DVD-ROM drive?

Posted by: Joe at April 30, 2004 6:54 PM


No one who's cross-eyed and wears bifocals at age five has any illusions about his geekiness.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 7:11 PM

We're all complex to Orrin, except women who are naturally dependent; atheists, who hate their fathers; etc.

I don't care what Christians think about me. Nothing could matter less, here or hereafter; but I do hope not to have to spend eternity with them.

Problem: do I then strive for Heaven or Hell?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 30, 2004 7:39 PM


People aren't generally complex.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 7:48 PM

Maybe some people just don't believe in a huge invisable man who lives in the sky. They'd like to, to know that you'll live on after deathand all that, but it just seems silly.

I mean, do you believe in Zeus? Quexicotyl? Krishna?

Why not?

Posted by: Amos at April 30, 2004 9:14 PM

They may be predictable in herds, but that does not mean they are not individually complex.

It's true that after a lifetime of indoctrination in the Christian doctrine of antiindividualism, some of their contours get rubbed down.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 30, 2004 10:10 PM


Why do you believe in yourself?

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 11:46 PM

Relax, the universe needs a Harry. Otherwise it would not be complete.

(Antiindividualism in Christianity?? Priceless.)

Posted by: Gideon at May 1, 2004 2:21 AM


"Jeff just needs a Father figure."

Just in case I haven't made the point clear before, that strawman of yours is an offensive application of Freudianism at its most simplistic. Never mind being flat wrong and internally contradictory (if I needed a Father figure so much, that would incline me to devout religious belief, wouldn't it?)

So do me a favor, and knock it off.

Just to make it clear: I'm an agnostic because I find all explanations regarding our ultimate origins equally self contradicting. And areligious because I find all claims to absolute truth equally offensive. And dangerous.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 2, 2004 8:22 AM

No divorce, no atheist.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2004 8:47 AM

A classic example of the post hoc fallacy.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 2, 2004 10:57 AM

Except that it's a predictor, of your brother's sexuality too.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2004 11:01 AM


Another example of post hoc fallacy. I know plenty of people who are religious and straight, whose parents are divorced. I know plenty of people who are atheist and gay, whose parents are married.

You should stay away from ad hominem attacks. They serve to illustrate the bankruptcy of your argument, and are open to immediate contradiction.

Additionally, it is astonishing, considering your belittling of it, how you can invoke rank Freudianism without the merest hint of irony.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 2, 2004 11:15 AM

Jeff, OJ is both a Freudian and a Darwinist, he just won't admit it. And his love of social engineering makes me think that he is a closet Marxist as well. Given that the bearded ones are obviously his intellectual father figures, you have to wonder what kind of daddy issues he is repressing.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at May 2, 2004 11:30 AM


Freud and Darwin were geniuses, but both overextended their theories. Darwin's brilliance lay in recognizing that change occurs within a species in the wild pretty much as it happens whjen Man has species in captivity. His overextension lay in thinking that speciastion or true mutation would ever occur as a result of either.

Freud's brlliance lay in describing common pathologies. His overextension lay in believing that they applied to everyone.

Our parenbts divorced when we were kis too, but I had a readily accessible father figure in our grandfather, the best man I ever knew and a devout Christian. My pschological predilection is to believe as he believed if for no other reason than that he was smarter than I and better.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2004 12:22 PM


Yes, a predictor not a determinor. Human will is a variable thing. Some are stronger than others.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2004 12:53 PM

Human will is a variable thing and expresses itself in unexpected ways -- hence, complexity.

Gideon, you may think you are an individualist, but as Orrin says, Christianity requires all believers to surrender their opinions to the greater wisdom of the priests.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 2, 2004 6:34 PM