Posts Tagged Religion

Friday Flashback — The Public Face of God

“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

This is the wording upon a sign allowed by Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire to grace the state capitol building in Olympia.  The sign rests along side the traditional Xmas season nativity scene.

I find it a little awkward defending public Christian symbolism as a Jew in a country famous for its separation of church and state, but Bill O’Reilly has it right when he brands this kind of moral equivalence (masquerading as respect for the First Amendment) as an attack not upon Christianity but upon the foundations of morality.

It’s with this in mind that I offer a look back on what I wrote concerning the name of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the heart of a matter that transcends religious sectarianism.

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Freedom to Think

It’s truly remarkable how a society that worships so passionately at the twin altars of political correctness and non-judgmentalism can indulge in such unabashed group-think and censorship of thought and speech.

I just saw Ben Stein’s extraordinary documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which chronicles the attack by the mainstream scientific community — not against the concept of “intelligent design” but against allowing any debate whatsoever on the subject.  Stein compellingly demonstrates how today’s amoral and intolerant culture of dogmatic Darwinism mirrors the Darwinian euginics movement that contributed to the rise of Nazi Germany.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel with the mainstream media’s love affair with one presidential candidate and its unapologetic assault against the other.  WSJ columnist Daniel Henninger shines the light of objectivity on the lopsided coverage  (with special attention to SNL producer Lorne Michaels’s unsually candid comments), while Michelle Malkin makes a mockery of the media portrayal of Sarah Palin as a bumbler.

(One snippet:  which VP candidate, in an interview with Katie Couric, praised FDR for his response to the stock market crash?  Answer:  it wasn’t the one in high heels.  Oh, and FDR wasn’t president when the stock marked crashed in 1929.  Bonus points if you know who was; you may also be qualified to run for high office.)

If one side has a 100,000 watt speaker system and the other side has a cardboard megaphone, where is free speech then?  (This is actually the answer to those on the far right who accused John McCain of “trampling on the First Amendment” with his finance reform legislation.)   And if those who try to speak out are ridiculed, censured, or otherwise browbeaten for their minority opinions, how long until even freedom of thought is disallowed.

Case in point:  Joe the Plumber, who had the audacity to hope that he could get a straight answer to a fair question.  Actually, the answer the candidate gave was straight.  But the attack dogs that pounced on him afterwards are bound to discourage other questioners.  On that point, I’ll give Jonah Goldberg the last word.

… except for this:  here we have two striking examples of the culture war about which I’ve already written.

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Parshas Bereishis — Finding Grace

Koheles (Ecclesiastes) tells us what is evident from the narrative of Creation:  that G-d created man yashar — upright.  But man corrupted himself, thereby corrupting the world that was created for him.  Since then, it has been a long, tortuous struggle toward reclaiming the perfection of Eden.

After the first sin of the Tree of Knowledge, mankind began a rapid downward spiral toward destruction.  Kayin (Cain) murdered his brother, Hevel (Abel), introducing a more profound element of corruption into the human race.  For a time, the descendants of Adam’s third and most righteous son, Sheis (Seth), kept themselves apart from the descendants of Kayin and thereby preserved their purity.  But over time, the generations intermingled, until the spark of G-dliness within man became all but extinguished.

Within ten generations, HaShem saw that the wickedness of Man was great upon the earth, and that every product of the thoughts of his heart was eternally evil.  And HaShem reconsidered having made Man on earth, and He felt profound anguish.  And HaShem said, “I will blot out Man whom I created from the face of the earth…”

But Noach (Noah) found grace in HaShem’s eyes.

What was accomplished by Noach finding grace in G-d’s eyes?  He did not stop the inexorable decline of the human race.  He did not convince a single person to repent.  He did not delay the destruction of the world by a single instant.

But Noach achieved true greatness by not allowing himself to become corrupted by the corruption all around him.  By retaining his own inner purity and righteousness in a world of moral chaos, by resisting the influence of a human society that had lost its own sense of humanity, Noach succeeded in a uniquely heroic accomplishment.  By not becoming a murderer in a society of murderers or a thief in a society of thieves, by not allowing the distorted values and mores of his time to erode the values and ethics that had been handed down to him from the Highest Authority, Noach saved himself and, by doing so, he saved mankind as well.

We often feel that we don’t have much impact on the world around us.  Sometimes, as in the times of Noach, it is enough that we do not allow the world to have an impact on us.  As we depart the holiday season and enter the darkening days of winter, it’s a lesson we should all take to heart.

 

More insights into Parshas Bereishis can be found here.

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From this month’s Jewish Observer

An in-depth discussion of Sukkos investigating the essence of physical and spiritual exile.

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