Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Thursday, 2 April 2009

This Is Intelligent Thinking?

As Obi Wan Kenobi once asked: Who is more foolish, the fool or the one who follows him?
From the unsubtle mind of one Dickie Dawkins, self-proclaimed intellectual:
Christianity [or Judaism], just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don’t have to make a case for what you believe. If somebody announces that it is part of his faith, the rest of society, whether of the same faith, or another, or of none, is obliged by ingrained custom, to respect it without question; respect it until the day it manifests itself in a horrible massacre like the destruction of the World Trade Center, or the London or Madrid bombings. Then there is a great chorus of disowning, as clerics and ‘community leaders’ (who elected them, by the way?) line up to explain that this extremism is a perversion of the ‘true’ faith. But how can there be a perversion of faith, if faith, lacking objective justification, doesn’t have any demonstrable standard to pervert?
Okay, where to being?
How about: Judaism teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. This is, of course, incorrect. Struggles with one's faith form a big part of one's Jewishness. The person who unquestionable believes in everything he is told is not exercising his free will. For Jews faith is a constant struggle. We are told that a good God oversees an imperfect universe full of evil that contradicts His Will and, chas v'shalom, His existence. Who could not struggle with that? One doesn't have to look very far either to find that even great recent rabbinical minds have struggled with the issue of faith in an imperfect world. So strike one for good ol' Dickie.
Similarly, the idea that announcing that something is part of his faith making his behaviour unquestionable until something really bad happens is also just so much narishkeit. After all, it's one thing to announce "this action is an act of faith on my part" but what Dickie doesn't seem to understand is that saying so doesn't make it so. Judaism, as well as its spinoffs, isn't a vacuum onto which any person including the budding megalomaniac can put his own personal ambitions. It is a well-defined code of religious, civil and criminal rules along with philosophy to guide the application of those rules. To use an example, a chasid from Meah Shearim can say it's an article of his faith to throw rocks at people driving on Shabbos. However, a quick look at the codes and what's considered acceptable by mainstream rabbinic leaders today clearly shows that this guy may have faith, but it ain't Judaism despite his protests to the contrary. Strike two for Dickie.
But this is where Dickie's argument really falls apart:
But how can there be a perversion of faith, if faith, lacking objective justification, doesn’t have any demonstrable standard to pervert?
Faith demands objective justification. It does have demonstrable standards, criteria of what is acceptable as a display of faith and what is not. Dickie's arguments can only work by denying this, hence he does. In this way, he's no difference then Prissy Hitchens who has never quite gotten past Al Sharpton's great line: Yeah, a lot of people do bad things in the name of God but how does that make God bad?

2 comments:

SJ said...

>> Struggles with one's faith form a big part of one's Jewishness.

This is absurd. If you "struggle" with your faith religious women will treat you like you have leprosy.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Only if you wear it on your sleeve like that's the only thing on your mind.
If someone does obsess about religious doubts, then I do think it indicates he is religiously unstable. Unless he is able to sort things out to a reasonable degree, I would not recommend him as having good prospects for a stable religious marriage which any good religious woman is entitled to have.

"Struggling with faith" which is normal and human does not equal a "crisis with faith".