Rabbi Sacks Takes on the Atheists

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10 Responses

  1. Ori says:

    So when they offer paradise,
    Ignore your ears and trust your eyes.
    For human nature will not fail,
    To lead such seekers straight to hell.

  2. Gershon Josephs says:

    “Chief Rabbi Sacks, apparently, decided to be machmir me-safek (take the stricter position). He takes on the lot of ‘em.”

    He’s clearly taking on the Chareidim too. He constantly equates the atheists and the radical religious, as in this sentence:

    “Somehow, somewhere, people are going to have to step back from the simple-mindedness that has seized religions and secularisms alike”

  3. dr. william gewirtz says:

    “He’s clearly taking on the Chareidim too. He constantly equates the atheists and the radical religious”

    Comment by Gershon Josephs — September 16, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

    I had the pleasure of listening to R. Sacks give a drasha at Marble Arch on a related subject almost nine years ago. His examples of the continuous need for balance and perspective were insightful, taking on not the chareidim (who happened to be applauding him for his decision that week) but heroes of Tanach, who might have on occasion lost that balance. (I would add this is a sub-theme of Yonah addressed by the Midrash comparing three prophets only one of whom consistently maintained the balance.) Of course when that balance/perspective is lost on a more regular basis, then you become the subject of this article. If you think that he includes chareidim in that category that would be your judgment. His comments only describe the sin; they do not identify the sinner.

    On a related topic the Chief Rabbi writes: “We are, says Genesis, a handful of dust, but within us is the breath of God.” The Rav zt’l made this point dramtically as R. Sacks mentioned with Adam I and II; the Rav also mentioned that it is highlighted in the YK service: “uMoser haAdam min haBehamah Oyin, ki haKol Hevel” is followed in the next line by “Attah Hivdalta Enosh miRosh.” Man can be either or both; the ideal is the latter while recognizing we are all a bit of the former. Absent that recognition, the latter can become the former.

  4. David N. Friedman says:

    Perhaps Rabbi Sacks could argue that we need to make our point of view known to the world in a much more significant way. I don’t wish to dialogue with the atheists and if victory is their goal, I really wonder how and why our goal should be any less.

    On the other hand, he is quick to point out that they are “darkness” and we are “light.”

    As light, we need to take off the dark covers and let the light shine forth in the world at large. This is a world going in the wrong direction in so many ways and lacking the willingness to speak out has the same effect of not having a compelling and important message in the first place.

    David N. Friedman

  5. michoel halberstam says:

    I know that not everyone agrees, but it appears that the argument of books like those discussed here is not just that there is no virtue in belief in God, but that there is no notion of virtue itself which can be deemed immutable. The issue is not belief or disbelief, so much as it is whether peope should seek paths in their lives which have the imprimature of being divinely inspired. It may be true that religious believers, ot those who profess such belief are not obviously better people, At the same time it seems to me that ultimately how good one is depends on the notion that there is a clearly defined notion of morality which proceeds from the Divine. After all does not the Torah begin by telling us that Hashem inroduced himself to Adam and gave him rules?

    What our “enlightened” friends really want is the freedom to live as they wish and feel good about themselves. This is the essence of paganism. The real question for them is not whether one should believe, but what one should believe in. When understood this way, it is clear that the answer of the Torah has never changed. A truly religious person lives as one would who really believed that our lives play themselves out in the presence of our Creator, (in other words, a “yoreh shomayim”)When defined this way, we come to understand two things 1. very few people are really religious; and, 2. these kinds of religious people do not have the defects that bother Hitchens and company.(

  6. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “He’s clearly taking on the Chareidim too. He constantly equates the atheists and the radical religious.” (Comment by Gershon Josephs — September 16, 2007 @ 8:34 pm).

    Gershon, you are assuming that Rabbi Sacks basically considers Chareidim simple-minded bigots, guilty of perverting a faith whose essence they fail to grasp. I think you owe him an apology. He is far to intelligent to be accused of subscribing to such asinine views.

  7. Larry says:

    How refreshing to read Rabbi Sack’s view that there are tensions, dualities, and contradictions in Jewish tradition, that these exist even in the Biblical text and canon, and that this diversity of emphases and views is not only Jewishly normative but indeed valid, positive and sacred. Is this view in accordance with that of the contributors and posters on Cross-Currents, many of whom seem so ready to characterize as inauthentic those whose understanding of Judaism deviates from that of Orthodoxy’s most rigid Right flank? Of greater importance, is there a line beyond which differences of opinion are invalid per se, and where is that line to be drawn?

  8. Mark says:

    Gershon Josephs,

    “He’s clearly taking on the Chareidim too. He constantly equates the atheists and the radical religious, as in this sentence:
    “Somehow, somewhere, people are going to have to step back from the simple-mindedness that has seized religions and secularisms alike” ”

    Words are superfluous to describe my feelings at this statement.

  9. dr. william gewirtz says:

    “is there a line beyond which differences of opinion are invalid per se, and where is that line to be drawn?”

    Comment by Larry — September 19, 2007 @ 10:45 am

    I like you appreciate R. Alderstein posting R. Sacks’s article.

    Larry beware of a few of the respondents; you might hear wonderful rhetoric about respect for a diversity of opinion, coupled with an agenda that draws lines whose rhyme and reason are based on a political schema in whose honor even traditional sources and behavior can be denied / distorted for the sake of “correctness.”

    In the main, to answer your question, reasonable people can judge where to draw a line that includes everything that is a consistent extrapolation from a long-standing tradition within the orthodox community. However, once you are permitted to rewrite our past, the anchor that tradition provides is lost; lines become arbitrary and often overly restrictive.

    Without any rigor, here are four potentially effective screens. Keep the line drawing out of the hands of those who 1) have a narrow view of the compatibility of contemporary science and perhaps other disciplines and religion, 2) insist on the “accuracy” of ancient and recent history as presented in many Artscroll related publications, 3) are prone to declare new cardinal principles of faith or 4) have a tendency to “explain” how haShem and history interact. Even though they tend not to reciprocate, and despite my views of their positions, I recognize they are inside the line, a part of a long tradition (of book-burners) within our orthodox community.

    Drawing lines is conceptually hard but practically a great deal easier. Do not ask for principles, just examples.

    A gmar chatima tova to those even close to the line!

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    If I had my way, I would invite Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens to learn Chumash with the classic Rishonim, Talmud-but especially Brachos, Seder Moed, Nashim and Nezikin and then Siddur and Machzor. I am confident that the average elementary day school, yeshiva ktanah and BY student knows about Judasim 101 and its hashkafic fundamentals than any of these authors.

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