Innocence of Religion

September 21, 2012 11:07 am 11 comments

Anti-American riots in Yemen. Photo: Screenshot.

The pathetically incompetent film “Innocence of Muslims” has sparked off the usual and predictable riots and murder around Muslim streets and illustrates perfectly the cultural chasm between Islam and the West. It is not an issue of democracy, as is often suggested. After all, Hitler was elected democratically. It is the evidence of a culture that has simply never faced an “Enlightenment”. It has never had its Voltaire, or indeed its Spinoza. It blames everyone else for its own misfortunes. America and Israel are the sole agents of its own incompetence, and with its millions of uneducated unemployed the only way it can keep them occupied is by paying them to explode at others. It reminds me of the Crusades. Too many unemployed laborers causing havoc at home were shipped off to the Middle East to cause as much slaughter and mayhem as they could in someone else’s backyard. In those days, of course, the Muslims were more cultured than the Christians. Sadly, the roles have now been reversed.

It seems a Copt living in California was responsible, although I notice French news, still a week later, called it an Israeli film, and of course nothing will convince the yahoos that Jews were not to blame, because it seems most of the Muslim world believes Jews caused 9/11. One can sympathize with the way Copts in Egypt are being bullied, humiliated, and murdered; that’s par for the course. In many Muslim countries Christians are subjected to such constant barbaric assault it is hardly surprising that some of them want to retaliate.

Give a thought to the poor Mormons. “The Book of Mormon” is a hugely successful musical on Broadway that lampoons and laughs at them and their religion. But no Mormon has killed anyone over it or asked for a ban. On the other hand, Salman Rushdie, in his latest book, “Joseph Anton: A Memoir”, writes about how he was abandoned and disowned by much of the Western intelligentsia when the Muslim fanatics sought to kill him for writing “The Satanic Verses”. The culture of appeasement thrives. Politicians everywhere rush to apologize, to announce that it is only a small minority that is violent, and anyway it is our fault for provoking them with novels, cartoons, films, and other manifestations of that evil Western notion of “freedom of expression”.

In a similar vein, BBC Channel 4 decided to withdraw an excellent, respectful but academically rigorous documentary on Islam. It dared to challenge the Muslim fundamentalist narrative and the presenter’s life was threatened. So the BBC ends up censoring and supporting intellectual dishonesty and giving in to religious bullies.

At this time of the year when in our religion we are at our most intense level of spirituality I am bound to ask what’s wrong with some religions or religious people that take themselves too seriously? For hundreds, no thousands of years, Judaism has been criticized, vilified, and made fun of in Christian and Muslim cultures. We put up with it. Sometimes we kicked back. But we haven’t killed anyone in response. Though sometimes I wonder what our lunatic fringes who are often short on tolerance might have done had they not been forced to live under oppressive regimes for so long.

The fact is that Judaism, too, treats God and his prophets with respect. We go further than Islam in that we do not even use the “proper” name. Sometimes it is excessive, as with the dash in God’s English name one often sees that takes it far further than was originally envisioned when only the Hebrew really mattered. It is one of the Ten Commandments not to take God’s name in vain. And the Bible itself records how someone who cursed God in public was put to death. But over the years we have come to realize that actually it is human life that God wants us to respect. We have to respond violently only when we are threatened physically, in self-defense. But we are not to respond violently to perceived slights, even of our Deity.

Once upon a time we, too, reacted as if Divine wrath was constantly hanging over our heads. But most of us have matured. So it is with Yom Kipur. Once we might have associated the Days of Awe with Days of Fear. We were literally fearful. Would we live or would we die? Would we be punished with death for what we had done wrong religiously? Would we be smitten with thunderbolts when we did the wrong thing?

But nowadays we have other models. We can be religious because of its benefits and pleasures. I am religious because I enjoy it. I enjoy my conversations with God even though I often wonder if I am talking to myself. They are therapeutic and often help me clarify what I think God wants of me. I enjoy Shabbat and festivals for the different tempos and for the break from mundane, electronically determined life. I enjoy Rosh Hashanah with its sounds and Sukot with its physical symbols and closeness to nature. And in a strange way I enjoy Yom Kipur for the therapeutic self-analysis, and even for the recognition that one can actually survive for 24 hours without stuffing one’s face all day long. There are, of course, disciplines as there are in keeping fit or eating healthily. But the disciplines also can produce benefits; they give long-term pleasure rather than short-term self-indulgence. Mine may not be the only way of responding to God, but it is one of them.

Overwhelmingly, God and religion are pleasures in my life and I only wish others could relax and enjoy them the way I do. And the world would be a far better place if religious fanatics, wherever they are, could really listen to the message of love that God, or whatever you call Him, keeps on reiterating. Enjoy the gifts of Heaven; don’t focus on hate; focus on love. That’s my message for Yom Kipur.

11 Comments

  • A terrific piece – if only because, to quote Orwell, “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”
    A tiny nit-pick – Channel 4 is not BBC.

    • Absolutely right about Channel 4. Been out of the UK so long I forgot! And to quote George Orwell again “We must keep the aspidistra flying!”
      Jeremy

  • Reading Your view of Yom Kippur reinforces my belief that You are simply not a Yirei Shamayim.
    At best you may be conservadox but not orthodox.

  • lol 1.8 billion, the world is over populated as it is, if only there was a way to lower the worlds poulation by 1.8 billion what a peiceful world it would be then

  • Provoking others in the name of freedom of speech is an outright misuse of that liberty.
    Our conscious tells us when it is not right. It is like abetting a wrong cause.
    Perhaps those who do this are having fun, yet to think of it, they spawn more animosities in an already divided world. Brings me to my last comment, do religious entities encourage all this in their own twisted way to cause chaos in the world. After all 1.8 billion Muslims are not going away anywhere anytime soon, so lets make an effort to be amicable after all you have never seen or heard of Muslims insulting any of the prophets
    before Muhammad.(pbuh) actually they are revered.

    • I think you misunderstand the nature of secular societies.If a religious society wishes to impose its standards on its religious citizens that is one thing. But the battle of “The Enlightenment” in Europe and the USA was a struggle to prevent religions from dictating ideas or behaviour to all of its citizens. The Western model is simply different to the Muslim model. I fear there is no chance of reconciliation, only accomodation.
      Jeremy

    • Going on murderous rampages IS an insult to the prophets…. Duh.

  • It is surprising to note that Muslims have never written anything derogatory, made a film, or made caricatures of Prophets of other religions, due to the reverence Muslims have for the Prophets of Christianity and Judaism. Somehow it the followers of these “other religions” that light a spark to ignite the Muslim world by insulting the religion and the Holy Prophet of Islam. They do so under the garb of “Freedom of Speech” not realizing that the “freedom of speech” stops when it offends someone or somebody. That is why there has been so many problems in this world, as people equate freedom of speech with freedom to insult and hurt others. These people preach hate by their so called freedom of speech.

    • Sadly Muslims have been humiliating Jews and Christians living under their authority for over a thousand years. It is true that in Spain there was a brief period of ‘convivencia’ but that soon disappeared after the Berber invasion. Occasionally some Muslim leaders were more tolerant but still Jews were constantly oppressed and treated as second class citizens.Read ‘The Letter to the Jews of Yemen’ by Maimonides to see how badly the Jews were treated and their religion made fun of.
      Nowadays many Television programmes in the Arab Middle East are rabidly anti Semitic. And the Koran is frequently quoted describing them as pigs and monkeys. As with much in Islam today there is a huge gap between the theory and the practice.And sadly current intolerance is directed not only at Jews and Christians( try building a Church in Saudi Arabia or look at how the Copts in Egypt are treated).
      To me the sad fact is that the West apologizes for its cultural aberrations but most Muslims refuse to acknowledge the failure of their religious culture. Jews also have their extremists but in general they do not resort to violence and Jewish voices condemning them are heard loud and clear.
      The only way out of this is for BOTH sides to acknowledge their own failures, not pretend there is no problem.
      Jeremy

    • Yep, muslims revere the dead prophets but not the living humans.
      Fossilized death cult.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.