Thursday, August 23, 2007

So if All Comes Down to the Golden Rule!

I made it to the bigtime today when Godol Hador created a post out of a comment (and then proceeded to hammer away at it like an innocent little white harp seal).

But I agree with my comment, wouldn't you know? The amazing thing, is you really don't have to go to yeshiva to be a righteous person after all (or do you, see below)Here's what I said:

Dawkins actually has a few thoughts on this in the end of his Virus of Faith video. In short, we are all so fortunate to be alive. Clearly anyone who is blogging isn't terminally ill, or brain dead or some other horrible circumstance, e.g., dead.

We are alive! Consider how many unsuccessful combinations of genes never made it and never will make it to life. Think how many animals live a life span thousands of times shorter than ours. Think of how lucky we are to experience the feelings of love, beauty, music, poetry (and for those who like it, religious inspiration).

If you won the lottery today, you would feel incredibly happy because you would feel lucky and taken care of for life. Well, I bet most of you have homes and computers and cars, health insurance, ample food and fresh water, families that love you, etc. How lucky you all are!

A tremendous portion of the world suffers on the edge of poverty, famine, sickness. They watch their children die, succumbing to parasites or common illnesses. They are truly unlucky. No matter what god they believe in or pray to, their lives will be "nasty brutish and short".

You don't need religion to be inspired, take it from me, take it from Dawkins. You are not one of the 10,000 people in china put to death each year for unknown "crimes." You are not suffering from cholera or starvation.

You can celebrate your life. And yes, you can follow the G-O-L-D-E-N R-U-L-E.

If you were one of those less fortunate souls, you'd want someone super wealthy (any one of us by comparison) to help you.

Follow the Golden Rule, people. Don't do to anyone what you would not want done to you. It's really that simple.

Toss the Shulchan Aruch in the garbage. Hang up your tefillin for good.

Go for walks with your kids or elderly relatives. Spend quality time because, yes, we only go around this crazy marble just once and when you come to the end of your life, you'll no doubt wish you'd spent more time with your kids, not wishing you could have made it to just one more mussar shiur or minyan.


Now, XGH had this to say:
All very nice and inspiring. But does it work? No it does not! Sure, if you're a healthy, happy 21st century Western person it sounds fine. But healthy, happy 21st century Westerners are the most privileged group of people ever to live on this earth. What if you are in a concentration camp? Or starving in Africa? Or any one of a gazillion other not so nice situations? Then what?

Someone else pointed out Hillel's statement of the Golden Rule was the essence of the Torah. I agree, in theory, but of course this was perverted by the Rabbis over the years.

I also went a bit further:

Take the most "righteous" mitzvahs in Judaism (or any religion) and you will find they always boil down to the Golden Rule.

It's really that simple.

However, I do have a confession to make. When I used to be religious, a non-religious person whose logic and opinions I respected posed the Golden Rule to me.

My counter to him was that the mitzvas train a person to have the discipline to actually act on the Golden Rule. IOW, it takes a measure of work on oneself to do the right thing in a lot of circumstances.

So, through a dialectic process, I came back to the Golden Rule, acknowledging that there was some "work" involved (being observant for a few years raised my awareness and developed the discipline to do the right thing). However, that "work" can be found in any respectable religion and in my opinion, but for the few true tzaddikim, all of the non-Golden Rule mitzvas in the Torah lead one down a road that is ultimately less moral.

A road of bigotry, mindless anachronistic rituals, emphasis on form over substance and all the other well-trodden arguements against orthodox judaism.