Monday, May 1, 2017

"our way of living revolves around one principle, self-interest... This is a fallacy according to religion..."

The interview between Carl Stern and Rabbil Abraham Heschel I transcribed a while back continues in this interesting set of issues.   I'm posting it today because I won't be around until tomorrow night. There is a lot to say about it but I'm going to post it, today.   I think the most important thing in it is Rabbi Heschel's discussion of how we have been told that needs and interests are the real goals of life, something that springs from a materialistic ideological holding about human life, all life, really and a pseudo-scientific, psychological and economic as well as a Darwinian model of life.

You might read it considering how it might help someone to understand what makes Donald Trump and those around him tick.  When Rabbi Heschel asks, "Can you imagine humanity without love?   If love is only self-interest, then love is a fake, a pretense."  I dare you to not think of Donald Trump and his personality, his celebrity, his career in both real estate and TV, his regime.  I'll not comment on his marriages.

Apropos of some of my posts about Darwin, I ended with Rabbi Heschel's statement that people are to have purpose, ends, in life, that we don't merely exist as consumers in a neo-malthusian, Darwinian scheme of material existence.  I doubt that animals do, either, though we can't have access to their understanding their ends.  Instead of demoting people into a degraded animal, I would elevate animals.  As it says in Genesis God made covenants with them, so I would think that idea is implicit in that declaration.

If you want to hear it instead of in my transcription (flaws and all) it begins on the video at about 23:40.  Again, I can't convey the Rabbi's inflection that carries a huge amount of his meaning, especially when he's characterizing the thinking of other people and when he's conveying irony.  

Carl Stern:  You believe that organized religion is in a weakened condition

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:  I think so.  But we have to put the blame not only on the religious people and [the] religious establishment but also to the people who belong to the establishment, on the members, on the plain people.   You see, actually, the role of religion has declined as a result of countless assaults from all directions.  So what is the outcome?   In the past a hundred years ago two hundred years ago, a parent who had a gifted boy* had a great dream, the son should be a Rabbi, a minister, priest.   Today, a man with a gifted boy [would] like him to be a doctor of medicine, a banker, a lawyer, so the gifted boys are being kept away by many people – blame the people.  But the religious leaders are to blame there is a decline in religious thinking in religious passion, a detachment from the real problems.   

Let me say to you the following:  the central problem in The Bible is not God but man.  The Bible is a book about men, rather than mans' book about God.  And the great problem is how to answer. to response to the human situation and somehow religion religious leaders have often become petrified in their own traditions and understandings and couldn't relate to the burning issues of the day.

Carl Stern:  How is it responding today?

Rabbi Heschel:   How is it responding today?  Not too well.  A great many religious leader have given up faith altogether.  They are deluding themselves.  I have told you before.  Self-deception is a major passion in human life.   There are a great many people who use the word “God” and don't believe in him.  Let me give you an example.   One of the most popular definitions of God common in America today was developed by a great Protestant theologian [Paul Tillich, I believe], “God is the ground of being.  So everybody is ready to accept it.  “Why not?  Ground of being, causes me no harm, let there be a ground of being ….  not causing me any harm… I'm ready to accept it…. It's meaningless.   Is there a God who is above the ground?   Maybe God is the source of qualms, of disturbing my conscience.   Maybe God is a God of demands…. Yes, this is God, not the ground of being.   The result is we have the religious institutions without the religious belief.  We have a wave of non-belief.  I have suddenly discovered that William James was not right when he spoke about  – he was right, by the way.  I'm saying it rhetorically.   There is a will to believe but today there is a will to disbelieve.   And that will is very powerful.   To this very day our young people are craving for some deeper meaning, our young people are craving for religious outlook, what they get is stone and not bread. 

Carl Stern:  You said, though,  that there was something more than relevance needed – that's an overused expression – you use the term, in your writings, “validity,” that religion must have validity.  What makes a religion valid?

Rabbi Heschel:  If it is true.  If it corresponds to real urgencies and questions and problems.  Let me give you an example of what I (alluded?) to before.  Our entire civilization revolves around one idea.  Interest or need.  And we are taught the greatest thing alive is to satisfy ones needs and interests.  Actually, our way of living revolves around one principle,  self-interest.  Self-interest.  There's nothing else but self-interest.  This is a fallacy according to religion and religion is right,   Well, because if everything is self-interest then there is no love.  Can you imagine humanity without love?   If love is only self-interest, then love is a fake, a pretense. 

Carl Stern:  You're telling me of the nature of man not the nature of God, aren't you?

Rabbi Heschel:  Yes, the nature of God is that man should have ends, not only needs... 

* His daughter  Susannah Heschel is a well known and scholar and thinker who is well worth listening to and reading.  I am planning on going over some of her ideas in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment