No One Falls for It
Do you remember when the judge ruled against you in our lawsuit? (All your friends and family were there.) He threw the book at you! Don’t worry, I have a copy of the legal proceedings and I’ll send you a PDF. The gist of it: you owe me $100,000 and you have to get a tattoo on your forehead saying ‘Balaam’s D is Funkee’ (so true). You have 40 days to comply.
The only way you and your family would accept this claim is if it actually happened. Note how this is intrinsically different than me convincing you that I had a revelation that gave me a PDF demanding your compliance (Islam), or me performing signs and wonders and telling you to accept the PDF on my authority (Christianity).
My chain letter contains a different genus of claim. I’m saying YOU were there. YOU and YOUR FAMILY heard the judge and agreed to his terms.
I’m trying to instill a false memory and starting out with a doozie. You’re not wondering if I’m right; you’re not even tempted. Remember the psychiatrist who spent his savings to rescue a Nigerian princess? That was funny. Admit it. But if it had been this chain letter you’d feel pity for a man so mentally-challenged and rage at anyone cynical enough to design a scam targeting him.
What if I say, “I don’t know if your folks ever discussed this with you, but they intended to make some changes in the will. You have a beautiful house. They wanted me to have it. I’ll send you a PDF of the details. Maybe you forgot? Your mom said you were fragile.” Again, it’s a non-starter. (Right? If not, please leave a comment.)
Does my latest attempt to get rich quick fail because I’m not thinking big enough, or because this scam ignores the foundations of what we know about being human. Man is brutally stupid at times, but the Kuzari Chain Letter is like something out of a Don Rickles routine:
“You’re Polish? You might believe this. Remember that time we were at a bonfire at the beach? You, me, Annette Funnicello, those surfers, and your lovely wife?” Facepalm. “And a voice from the sky told you to give me your money? You don’t remember? That’s from all the Turpentine you people drink. Trust me.”
The Torah makes an exponentially more audacious claim and it’s the most successful Kuzari Chain Letter in history. 2,000,000+ people agreed to a legal contract with the non-contingent Source of Reality. There’s an unbroken chain of their descendants who have abided by the terms. Establishing self-authenticating authority, making it absolutely unique among documents claiming revelation status, the “PDF” contains this:
G-d spoke to YOU from the midst of the fire, YOU were hearing the sound of words, but YOU were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told YOU of His covenant, instructing YOU to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets.’ (Deut. 4:9-13)
‘YOU have been shown in order to know that G-d, He is the Supreme Being. There is none besides Him. From heaven He let YOU hear His voice in order to teach YOU, and on earth He showed YOU His great fire, and YOU heard His words amid the fire.’ (Deut. 4:32-36)
Moses called ALL of Israel and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the decrees and the ordinances that I speak in your ears today ― learn them, and be careful to perform them. The L-rd your G-d sealed a covenant WITH US at Horev [Mount Sinai]. Not with our forefathers did G-d seal this covenant, BUT WITH US ― WE WHO ARE HERE, ALL OF US ALIVE TODAY. Face to face did G-d speak with YOU on the mountain from amid the fire.’ (Deut. 5:1-4)
The 613 clauses and threats for non-compliance are scarcely comparable to my modest attempt to defraud you. This either happened or … what? “Cuz the story evolved, like everything.” Okay, let’s entertain that paradigm, but we can’t just wave the magic amulet IT EVOLVED at all complex phenomena and consider it explained. The Kuzari sets serious hurdles, outlined here by Rabbi Lawrence Keleman. (See the flowchart.)
“At no point between the revelation at Sinai and now does it sound reasonable that someone would be able to pull off the lie, ‘the Torah was given to your direct ancestors, they have been meticulously preserving it for centuries, it is the basis of our existing legal system, G-d revealed himself to every man, woman, and child, and this is the first time you’re hearing about it.'” Best Arguments for Judaism
In Breaking the Spell, Dan Dennett calls for a science of religious memes. Here’s a testable hypothesis. According to evolutionary biologists, the eye evolved independently dozens of times. Successful designs tend to repeat. We should expect to see MANY religious memes clustered around the epistemic roots of a national revelation, especially given the fiercely tribal nature of religion. This is a design that worked.
We see no such thing. It’s like discovering that only lions developed claws. The evolution-did-it explanation, as applied to religious memes, makes a falsifiable prediction that happens to be false.
ALL western religions presuppose the Kuzari. They just don’t like talking about it. Notice how William Craig goes from the Kalaam Cosmological straight to what 51% of atheist NT scholars say about an empty tomb. And not only Craig. How often do you hear advocates of other religions discuss the OOMPH of a national revelation? If you’ve never heard of the Kuzari argument before, ask yourself why. Maybe that’s due to what the Ultimate Revelation says about sequels.
Think of the Kuzari PDF as a LEGAL DOCUMENT. That’s what it claims to be.
There is a legal concept called a self authenticating document. This is a document in which the facts were not in dispute at the time of the drafting of the document, and not point in the chain of custody is there suspicion of alteration at any point in time since then. Legal documents and newspapers are prime examples of this, because they are authoritative at the time they are drafted, there are no objections at that time, and they can be verified to be free of corruption. (ShamanSTK has a SATORI-inducing sketch)