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In God’s name October 24, 2015

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Religion.
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Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the UK, has written a book named Not in God’s Name (excerpted in The Wall Street Journal), in which he provides his recipe for defeating religious violence:

Yes, there are passages in the sacred scriptures of each of the Abrahamic monotheisms that, interpreted literally, can lead to hatred, cruelty and war. But Judaism, Christianity and Islam all contain interpretive traditions that in the past have read them in the larger context of coexistence, respect for difference and the pursuit of peace, and can do so today. Fundamentalism—text without context, and application without interpretation—is not faith but an aberration of faith…

We must raise a generation of young Jews, Christians, Muslims and others to know that it is not piety but sacrilege to kill in the name of the God of life, hate in the name of the God of love, wage war in the name of the God of peace, and practice cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.

Now is the time for us to say what we have failed to say in the past: We are all the children of Abraham. We are precious in the sight of God. We are blessed. And to be blessed, no one has to be cursed. God’s love does not work that way. God is calling us to let go of hate and the preaching of hate, and to live at last as brothers and sisters, true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith, honoring God’s name by honoring his image, humankind.

Aw, that’s nice. Though I can’t help but wonder: How does Sacks know all that? How does he know God’s love works one way and not another? How does he know what God is calling us to do? I realize Sacks is a member of the House of Lords, but he admits that a literal reading of the sacred scriptures supports the fundamentalists’ interpretation of God’s will rather than his own. While I’m glad Sacks has found a way to cherry-pick and “reinterpret” the texts such that he doesn’t feel obliged to kill anyone, wouldn’t the fundamentalists be justified in judging his faith an aberration?

The truth is that Sacks is committing the same fundamental error as the fundamentalists: speaking in God’s name, identifying life’s meaning with obedience to God’s commandments, and glorifying faith. That is the real cause of religious violence — and in order to defeat it, we must raise a generation of young people to be wary of claims to knowledge not supported by evidence; to value life, love, peace and compassion for rational reasons, not because “God said so”; and to understand that no scripture is sacred and that faith is not a virtue but a vice.

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio

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What the lord said to the queen November 25, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Economics, Religion.
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The UK Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has discovered what’s wrong with modern society:

Speaking at an interfaith reception attended by the Queen this week, Lord Sacks said: “People are looking for values other than the values of a consumer society. The values of a consumer society really aren’t ones you can live by for terribly long.

“The consumer society was laid down by the late Steve Jobs coming down the mountain with two tablets, iPad one and iPad two, and the result is that we now have a culture of iPod, iPhone, iTune, i, i, i.

“When you’re an individualist, egocentric culture and you only care about ‘i’, you don’t do terribly well.”

He went on: “What does a consumer ethic do? It makes you aware all the time of the things you don’t have instead of thanking God for all the things you do have.

“If in a consumer society, through all the advertising and subtly seductive approaches to it, you’ve got an iPhone but you haven’t got a fourth generation one, the consumer society is in fact the most efficient mechanism ever devised for the creation and distribution of unhappiness.”

Help us, Rabbi! Tell us what to do!

In an attempt to highlight the link between faith and happiness, Lord Sacks pointed out that on the Jewish day of rest, the Shabbat, the devout spend time with their families rather than spending money in shops.

The Chief Rabbi, who has represented Britain’s 300,000 Jews since 1991 and is due to step down in 2013, said: “Therefore the answer to the consumer society is the world of faith, which the Jews call the world of Shabbat, where you can’t shop and you can’t spend and you spend your time with things that matter, with family…”

You might have thought that people could independently decide to spend time on things that matter, even without faith in invisible super-beings and infallible holy books, but apparently not. The Rabbi’s God will tell you what matters and when to spend time on it, and you will obey; that is the straight and narrow path to happiness. And don’t forget to thank God for everything he’s so generously given you — I hear there are children in Africa who can’t even afford an iPod Nano!

By the way, just to be clear, the Rabbi didn’t mean to imply that we’d be better off without all those “i, i, i” consumer gadgets:

A spokesman for Lord Sacks said later: “The Chief Rabbi meant no criticism of either Steve Jobs personally or the contribution Apple has made to the development of technology in the 21st century.

“He admires both and indeed uses an iPhone and an iPad on a daily basis. The Chief Rabbi was simply pointing out the potential dangers of consumerism when taken too far.”

I’m sure the Lord’s iPhone is an older generation one — and his faith helps him resist the urge to upgrade.

(via Butterflies & Wheels)