Tears for Mecca

The contrast is provocative. On the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, a rainbow appears over Ground Zero, and a bolt of lightning strikes a crane above the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing over 100 people.

The rainbow was beautiful and made for a moving natural memorial for the victims of that horrible day. 

But it pains me to think that some people might take a dose of schadenfreude at the deaths in Mecca. It is one thing to take relief in the demise of one’s enemy: even the Psalmist does so. It is another thing altogether to be cheered by the deaths of what appear to be innocent human beings in the act of peaceful worship.

We must mourn the dead of Mecca as we mourn the loss of refugees crossing the Mediterranean or the dead in the blast in India: as innocent victims of a tragedy. 

G-d has his reasons for everything. It is not for us to presume to know or understand his reasons.

Science is Becoming a Religion

Those of you who do not yet see science drifting inexorably into the realm of religion need to clear their minds of prejudice and read this brilliant essay (“Hawking contra Philosophy“) by Christopher Norris in Philosophy Now.

Norris takes on Stephen Hawking’s recent writings in particular, but in so doing points up a growing – and disturbing – tendency for science to become as much about credo as it is ego obseruo.

Yoga and Faith

Apparently a retired Roman Catholic bishop has caused a stir by sending a letter to Women of Grace, a Catholic women’s group, condemning the practice of yoga as dangerous practice and “a pagan religion based on heathen beliefs and false doctrine of revelation involving such things as transmigration of souls, and so forth.”

I am not certain of the source of the bishop’s ruling, but I can say that I know an Orthodox rebbetzin of impeccable moral standing who does yoga with a group of equally devout Orthodox Jewish women (complying of course with with the Tznuit, the Jewish Laws of Modesty.)

Abrahamic faiths do not respond to the practice of yoga with much consistency, but it appears that the practice of yoga as an exercise can be divorced from the kinds of “pagan” beliefs and doctrines that caused the bishop such concern.

 

Fundamentalism and Abrahamic Faith

Despite the fervent hopes of some of the more radical atheists, if “bronze-age religions” were really in danger of dying, none of the Four Horsemen (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, and Sam Harris) would have expended so much passion in their crusades against those faiths. The fear among the more vocal of the New Atheists seems to be quite the opposite: that somehow fundamentalism in the Abrahamic creeds are threatening to throw the “Enlightenment” into reverse.

What this implicit fear obscures are the voices of moderation within each of the faiths that quietly fulminate against the social destructiveness of fundamentalism. I see Jewish thinkers like Jonathan Sacks and Joseph Telushkin (and the late Lubavitcher Rebbe) waging a gentle war of wisdom against religious extremism within my faith. There are Christians and Muslims engaged in the same effort.

A theologian explained to me once that “religion is man’s response to his ultimate concern.” That places a burden of relevance upon all faiths that demands their evolution or their extinction. Regressive forces like fundamentalism inveigh against evolution.