I read Russell D. Raskin’s reaction to “10 Commandments of the Religious Reasonable” (Oct. 13) with great interest, albeit not agreement. Just like the millions of people of faith he mentioned, I am most sincere, thoughtful and serious in my religious beliefs – which surely cannot mean accepting them without question. I strive to follow Jewish moral principles such as respecting the dignity of every human being, avoiding cruelty to animals and giving charity whenever possible; I observe ritual mitzvot such as fasting on Yom Kippur, studying Torah and observing Shabbat. Yet I absolutely reserve the right to oppose traditional commandments, which violate my God-given sense of right and wrong. I refuse to discriminate against LGBT individuals; if I ever saw anyone try to apply the literal, explicit teaching of Leviticus by murdering gay men with stones, I would fight that person to the death; would any Jew do otherwise?
Throughout history, blind faith has brought about countless atrocities: when colonial Salemites hanged “witches”; when the Inquisition tortured suspected “heretics”; when medieval Christians burned Jews alive inside a synagogue – all claimed to be following their religious teachings. Don’t we wish those people had been willing to “reject [those] tenets” because they “[did] not pass [their] personal ethical code”?
Whether we admit it or not, none of us really follow “the Judaism of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (and the unjustly unmentioned Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah), whatever that might have been: ours is, thankfully, a living, evolving, and therefore ever-relevant faith. As for creating God in our own image, we all do that, every time we speak of Its “strong hand and... outstretched arm,” limit the infinite, disembodied Deity with a male pronoun, or confidently crown ourselves the pinnacle of Creation over, say, the delightful dolphin or endlessly loving and innocent Golden Retriever. It’s just our nature, our path to approaching and loving the Divine.
And my message? Only a hope that we can unite faith and reason, soul and brain. Finally, Mr. Raskin, thank you for your thoughts; I appreciated reading them.