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Monday, January 31, 2011

Religion Fear and Insecurity

The Tyranny of Too Much Choice.
Judaism is not an easy religion to follow.  There are no tangible, readily identifiable gods to worship; there is no duality of good and evil. Man (and woman) is responsible for his (or her) own reality. There is no automatic absolution for our sins and there are often too many safe-guards around the laws obscuring the logic or the moral purpose of the original intent.  For those unable to face the harsh reality of a hostile environment there is belief in a messiah and blind obedience. Too often faith permits the fearful to abdicate responsibility for their conscience.

Increasingly, we assimilate out of social expedience.  At a time in history when humanity needs more than ever an attachment to “roots” in order to accommodate a rapidly changing and increasingly uncertain world the choices are often between complacency and farce. If the Catholic Church is run by celibate middle aged men in dresses (as was described by one broadcaster), the Orthodox Synagogue has been too often in the news for its reactionary bigots whose actions are more likely to be a consequence of legacy than theology.

Language and perception are the two most dangerous weapons in any arsenal. Dysfunctional narrative by peripheral figures within Israeli society has been Israel’s greatest gift to its enemies.  Separation of Synagogue and State is the only way that the Left is going to be able to once again reclaim its cultural heritage and it will save the State of Israel from self destruction.  In ‘The March of Folly’ (Barbara Tuchman) writes “the religious alternative in the form of response to the persistent cry for reform was difficult to achieve owing to the vested interest of the entire hierarchy in corruption…”  Sadly, it sounds far too familiar.  The language of Israel’s religious priesthood too often feeds the wholly negative perception of Israel’s secular ‘ministry’ alienating one from the other. And in the global marketplace of ideas this battle of the inepts is viewed with the negative reinforcement that only the truly prejudiced could celebrate.

That one religion (Islam) takes as its name the act of willing submission is theologically frightening. It means that so many people just want to be told what to do, when to do it and even more scary; to whom to do it. Recently it was reported that in the UK in 2010 - 5,000 people converted to Islam. That is 5,000 people who want to be told how to live their life, who to hate and when; 5,000 individuals who have rejected individuality. We should be urgently questioning why our society has failed to pass on the values that protect us all from fear and why some of us have the necessity to renounce our individuality.

Humanity has rarely experienced security in any form. We have religion and law to provide us with the guidelines that shape our existence, not to demand unquestioning obedience. Prosperity, education and the confidence to think for ourselves has finally, in the last few decades of the twentieth century, given much of the human race the ability to make informed choices that impact on their security.

But we suffer from economic mismanagement, terrorism and fantasy. Fantasy (read hope) fed to us by the media, not to manage our expectations but to justify the failures of society without resolving the question of why.  Inflated expectations rule our hearts and minds and befuddle our reality.  Journalisms’ penchant for hyperbole and incitement are the product of an arrogant self-assurance followed religiously by a public that is interested less in truth than in self-justification.  Incredibly we have permitted our media to become our conscience and in their arrogance they believe it to be theirs by right.  And information overload is the bastard progeny of irresponsible journalism. One day the General Medical Council issues an advisory telling us that carrots will kill us, the next day we are advised to eat a dozen a day to get our quota of Vitamin A.  And fashion rules our heads and our pockets.  Clothes, cars, holidays and food are but a few of the multiplicity of variables to which we must decide between!

Too much choice can be as bad as not enough choice, the latter creating even more stress than the former. According to the World English Dictionary ‘Consumerism’ is the “advocacy of a high rate of consumption and spending as a basis for a sound economy.”  It is also bankrupting societies and nations.  To covet is the tenth and final but also arguably the most serious of the 10 commandments. It has created a society that is only able to live beyond its means through the availability of cheap credit and there is only a finite sustainability to this dysfunctional economic model.  Unless that is, we are willing to return to ultimately unacceptable levels of unemployment and human slavery.

Idolatry has always been part of the mechanism through which the upper classes of society enforced submission to authority. Today we have ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ (and Sister) fulfilling that role except that we aspire, through the Press to the lowest common denominator and not the perceived ‘highest’. If this age is remembered for anything, it will be society’s desperate worship of fame and the disreputable.  It is the folly of unrequited avarice.

All this has contributed to the return of global insecurity.


  1. automatic absolution does exist in the Jewish religion....and that is in the fasting a repention of the day of atonement...
    People who opt for any conversion to any religion, whether it be islam or Judaism, Catholism or Buddhism, do it out of their inability to cope with their individuality and need to be told what to do. They need the guidance, a yes man (or a no man) and the dominance that religion offers.

  2. The Book of Genesis begins with "in the beginning". The usual exegesis for this simple start is that we are enjoined to look forward and not backwards in the living of our lives. There is no automatic entrance to heaven; we are expected to live a life of giving, of goodness. Tikun Olam (literally repairing the world) is not a Modern Hebrew statement of high minded secular intent. If one repents at Yom Kippur there is still no automatic absolution for past failures - contrary to other religions - it is God that judges the deeds of the individual, not man or woman