Sunday, March 12, 2006

Nation: With G-d On Our Side

In the latest issue of The Nation, Eric Alterman tackles the conservative hijacking of religion in American political discourse. Amongst many interesting issues, Alterman raises the idea that liberals are to blame, in part, for giving conservatives the field by abandoning traditional economic and political radicalism for what he calls the "politically suicidal" cultural radicalism of the 60's. I think it goes further than that and will be going into greater detail soon. At the moment, however, I am reminded of my own foray into explaining religious liberalism and the response I received. From religious liberals themselves, an outpouring of gratitude that someone had finally acknowledged their existence. From the "secular" or atheistic left, an attack on my ideas (fair game, of course) and on me personally as a "supporter" of the "oppressive" agenda of religion (I'll link to this soon if it's still up, but haven't been able to find it yet. I'm virtually "evil incarnate"!). It seems to me, and this is all just a preliminary rant, that the vocal minority who take the virulently anti-religion stance a.) know very little about religion and b.) are the left's version of the religious wackjobs that plague the right. Extremism is extremism. Should we liberals be clearing the crazy relatives out of our own attics? More soon.


Anonymous dreamwalker said...

Good article.

While I do agree with you that more credit should be given to religious liberals, I think that the statement.."They do so because their religious beliefs demand it." is perhaps unfair to them?
I am an agnostic and I do not need anything to demand good deeds of me, and I dont do good deeds out of fear of a 'hell' or whatever. I think that those religious people doing good deeds would probably (hopefully) do them without a religion demanding humane acts. I imagine that they do them because they are intelligent, fairminded people and are the type of people who would behave the way they do simply because of who they are?

I also agree that religion tends to be the scapegoat people use for past wars, and I think it is a gross oversimplification.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

When I speak of religious beliefs demanding good deeds, I'm not speaking of the heaven/hell issue. After all, my own religion, Judaism, has neither heaven nor hell. What I mean is that religion teaches a set of moral principles that guide the person's decision making. Religion teaches the innate connectedness of human beings, what is right/wrong, just/unjust and what should be done to combat the wrong and unjust. When it "demands", I don't mean the do this or else kind of demand (which I personally find to be spiritually immature) but the idea that your religious feeling about something is so strong that you have to act. Not doing so becomes unbearable.
Is it possible to come to a principled life through non-religious means? Absolutely. However, in the case of most religious liberals, their morality is, in many ways, inextricably linked with religious beliefs.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous dreamwalker said...

I got this at in reply to the question:
"I've often wondered what Judaism has to say about hell?... or Heaven for that matter?...

Answer(Rabbi Simmons)
The afterlife is a fundamental of Jewish belief!"....
"For anyone who believes in a just and caring G-d, the existence of an afterlife makes logical sense. Could it be this world is just a playground without consequences? Did Hitler get away with killing 6,000,000 Jews? No. There is obviously a place where good people receive reward and bad people get punished. (see Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith)"

The answer is actually a lot longer. I suppose the question of heaven and hell is open to interpretation? I don't know much about Judaism, ex-Catholic here, so I am reading up on the subject at Is it a good source? If not could you recommend one?

I would appreciate it, thanks.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

It's very complicated. Go here: for some answers. Although there is a standard belief in some sort of afterlife, there's no official version of what that will be and Judaism doesn't really focus on that. The afterlife is not taken into consideration when living a moral Jewish life. We're not earning final reward or avoiding ultimate punishment. Most Jews consider eternal damnation an impossibility. Most agree that all people (with the possible exception of the truly evil) will have a place in the afterlife. Some believe that all people will go to hear Moses read Torah. For the good, it'll be heaven. For the wicked, it'll be hell. There's a book called Judaism for Dummies that's actually quite good at explaining the complexities of the religion. The idea that there's a heaven and hell like that of Christianity is very rare in Judaism and is completely rejected by my sect, the Reform.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous dreamwalker said...

Thanks for that. I have recommended the library buy Judaism for Dummies, and I hope they do as it will save me quite a bit :).

10:20 PM  

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