Thursday, October 21, 2010

Soft Atheism II

My previous post was (renamed) a defense of soft atheism. By that I mean a not religious thinker who sees the value of religion and what it has to offer society. This is the type of thinking that engages me. I wanted to present another example, this time from a Jewish perspective. (In the future, I intend to post examples of the same approach from the opposite perspective)

Below is part of an essay by Aaron David Gordon. Making Aliya at age 47, he was a relatively ancient chalutz. (pioneer) His thoughts on Jewish labor defined the zeitgeist of the second aliya. Below is from an essay where he argues that Judaism has value, even to the "new" to secular Jews of modern Israel. Are his comments less relevant today?

Yom Kippur (1920)
I ask myself, and I wonder whether I am alone in this question: What is Yom Kippur to us, to those who do not observe the forms of religion? Facing me are a fact and a possibility. It is a fact that for many generations it was a day which the entire people dedicated to repentance, prayer, and the service of the heart. It presented a possibility to spiritually sensitive people to make their inner reckoning on the loftiest plane.
I ask: Is this day for us merely a heritage from the past, a remnant of antiquity? Do we really need such a day, especially as part of the national culture we are creating? If this day ceases to be what it has been- if it becomes an ordinary day like all others- will this not represent a great national and human loss, a spiritual disaster from which none of us, neither the people as a whole, nor we, its individual children, can ever recover?
…During all our long exile we existed by the by the strength of our religion. Is sustained us in our grave and prolonged suffering and inspired us to live- often to live heroically. Is it possible, can the mind entertain the possibility, that such a force is the mere figment of the imagination, of the ramblings of an ignorant soul, and that it possesses no elemental and lasting core? Has the accepted idea been sufficiently examined and analyzed critically- is it sufficiently founded in logic and the human spirit- that with the loss of the basis for blind faith the basis for religion has also been destroyed?

A.D. Gordon

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