Skip to comments.Who Needs Religion?
Posted on 09/29/2009 6:00:16 AM PDT by Kaslin
Well, that's one way to look at it. Writing in Haaretz, Orna Coussin praised Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement that began Sunday night and ended Monday night) as the ultimate green holiday. Coussin is a secular Israeli and was expressing her appreciation for the fact that everyone is obliged to travel by foot on Yom Kippur. All traffic stops in Israel. No cars, busses, trains, or taxis clog the streets on that day. The shops and offices are closed and the city is given over to pedestrians. "Last year, on Yom Kippur," she exults, "carbon monoxide levels fell from 205 parts per billion, on the day prior to the holiday, to just 2 parts per billion at its height -- a phenomenon unmatched anywhere in the world."
That's nice. But for millions of Jews worldwide the Day of Atonement continues to exert its traditional power. Coussin may see it as a day for walking the city; religious Jews are trying to walk with God. But even non-religious Jews can find uplift in the Yom Kippur service.
Fierce secularists like Christopher Hitchens deny that religion is necessary for morality. In any particular case, this is impossible to deny. Many highly moral people are non-religious (though, I would venture, less often anti-religious). But people being the way they are -- rationalizing, lazy, self-satisfied, absent-minded, and evasive (to list only some of our milder shortcomings) -- the religious tradition, with its weekly (or in some cases only yearly) kicks in the backside, prods us toward virtue, or perhaps even righteousness.
Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and repentance. This is well known. But the fast -- though severe (it lasts 25 hours and requires abstention from food and water) -- is not the substance of repentance, only a symbol. The whole High Holiday season, which begins with Rosh Hashana, is a period of prayer, self-examination, and repentance. This is a time to give generously to charity -- both for its own sake (the Hebrew word for charity is "justice") and to demonstrate our sincere repentance. We are encouraged to pay our debts during this time, and to ask forgiveness from those we have wronged. If we are rebuffed, we're expected to ask again ... twice. Offenses against our fellow human beings are not forgiven on Yom Kippur unless the wronged party has extended forgiveness. As for offenses against God, worshippers are reminded that God is not interested in fasting alone, only in genuine repentance. The measure of sincerity is altered behavior.
The confession of sin is communal -- and quite exhaustive. For those who might have thought they had a pretty good year, the Al Heyt prayer makes them think again. The offenses listed include, as one might expect, lust, gluttony, envy, cruelty, gossip, and dishonesty. But the liturgy also requires confession of impertinence, foul language, being stiff-necked, and "haughty looks." We ask forgiveness for sins of commission and sins of omission, and for sins committed knowingly and unknowingly. Come to think of it, considering its breadth and comprehensiveness, the Al Heyt could have been drafted by a lawyer. In any case, it stands in stark contrast to the narcissistic spirit of our age.
The concept of communal confession may seem odd to Christians whose traditions tend to stress individual repentance and reconciliation with God. One explanation frequently advanced for this practice is that the entire Jewish community is expected to take responsibility for the sins of all of its members. Peoplehood and nation remain key features of the Jewish faith. But it is also the case, I think, that when reciting that long list of offenses, only the most self-deluded sinner could fail to recognize that he had committed more sins that he cared to acknowledge during the preceding period of self-examination. The ancient catalogue of wrongdoing remains as fresh today as ever -- because however much the outward world has changed, the human soul remains what it has always been.
Even with the best will in the world, we are inclined to backsliding. If we haven't been reminded lately to give generously to those in need, or to visit the sick or bereaved, or to extend ourselves to the handicapped, or to thank a member of the armed services, or in other ways to try to please God, we will fall short.
This reminds me of something I have desired to see for a long time. When crimes are reported in the news, I would like to see as part of the reporting - to the best that can be ascertained from investigative reporting through family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc - if the suspect is known to be a church going Christian or not.
Because it seems to me on the few occasions that a known church goer does commit a serious crime - THAT makes the news - but never the other way around.
Then after a time let's have this debate about religion and morality.
And to the Jewish FReepers among us...Shana tova to you and yours.
Actually to all...;)
I think the ones that need it, already have it.
“If we are truly made in the image of God, why do we have faults?”
Yeah, why do we? We have faults, God doesn’t. Or does being made in His image just mean our bodies look like Him?
It probably rained! And if it didn't, as I suspect was the case, I would wonder what the levels do from Thursday to Saturday, especially around Jerusalem.
Because we had free will like God.
Unlike Him we did not use it wisely.
the other part of that statement is we are CREATED in His IMAGE
Only God is uncreated, we are an image of Him. No one mistakes the painting for the subject that was painted.
Last I heard, the percentage of prisoners who identified as none, atheist or unknown (refused to answer) on the religion question was about 20%.
Of “none” that can include those who don’t identify with a specific religion or Christian denomination, IOW, non-denominational Christian.
Basically, there appears to be no correlation between religious belief and criminal behavior. There is a correlation between adhering to religious beliefs and lower criminal behavior*, but then that’s the same as an atheist who adheres to the moral standards of our society, which in large part consists of following the law.
* Jihadi Muslims excluded, of course.
I wonder what the result would be of a poll asking prisoners if they are innocent or guilty of the crime they were convicted of.
Asking prisoners if they are religious is much the same. The desire is to say they are religious because ultimately they are looking to get back out.
I think that answer would better have been addressed to the other fellow.
Does history warrant the conclusion that religion is necessary to morality — that a natural ethic is too weak to withstand the savagery that lurks under civilization and emerges in our dreams, crimes, and wars? ... There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.
Will and Ariel Durant
Sorry. It appeared to me you were asking an honest question, and the other fellow was chiming in and agreeing. I’m sorry if I misinterpreted.
“Yeah, why do we? We have faults, God doesnt. Or does being made in His image just mean our bodies look like Him?”
We have free will - which means the ability to turn away from God and do bad things. Our relationship with God was damaged through original sin, and, of course, Satan roams the world seeking the ruin of souls.
The world is a machine, a device, through which people can become what God wants us to be. Unless people have the ability to choose Evil, unless bad things can happen to good people for no discernable reason, the machine doesn’t function.
I guess I was expecting people to hear my tone of voice and read my facial expression.
Sorry. I’m a bit tone deaf this AM.
Forgot to turn the Freeper radar on!
Have a good day.
I guess then, If God cannot choose evil, we must not be made in His image.
He doesn't drink coffee either. Strike two.
(Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
Do you seriously wish to discuss the nature of the “image of God” on FR?
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