Wednesday, June 09, 2004

H is for Heresy

I have no idea who "H" is, but he (or she) has posted some interesting comments to OOSJ's blog.

OOSJ has been arguing that Judaism ought to be more of a "moral force" in Israel:

"The concern of many of our religious leaders (haredi and religious-Zionist alike) is so dedicated to the minutiae of the Halakhic observance of their often closed communities that religion is only used as an argument in the public square when it concerns the "mitzvah performance" of those communities.... [B]y concentrating on the material aspect of Jewish life that is halakhic performance they are ignoring the rich moral and ethical tradition that our non-halakhic literature and history has produced."

H contends that religion is "never a 'moral force:'"

"Morality is independent of religion, since religion can be so easily interpreted to fit your own morality."

In a later comment, H elaborates:

"[W]hen religion goes wrong, as it was (largely) wrong 50 years ago about women's rights and is (largely) wrong now about gay marriage, it's secular thought and basic human empathy which leads the way.... Empathy and religion both say "Love thy neighbor," but halakha for example says that gay sex is an abomination and that marrying a non-Jew is sinful."

H has a point. There are at least as many people for whom religion serves as an incentive for callousness and hatred as people for whom it serves as an inspiration for compassion and ethical behavior. However, based on my limited experience, it doesn't seem that "freethinkers" (as they were once called) are any more apt to be compassionate and ethical than their religious counterparts. Not everyone is empathetic by nature, and secular thought is as often cruel as religious thought(think of Social Darwinism).

In the end, I think, each of us is on his or her own when it comes to morality. (This is not a comforting thought.) However, I also think that those of us who lead religious lives can find positive moral guidance in our religious traditions, or in the simple belief in a just and merciful God. And I think that that can have a positive impact on the way we approach the world.

Take a look at the Heretic. Would she be ministering to the sick right now if she didn't believe in God?

Or maybe not.

No comments: