Respect All Religions? II
Reader: Dear Editors; I've read your article on "Respecting Religions" in Jewish Times Vol. 11 #16 and your other postings on proof that Judaism is the only true religion and have this to say in response:
Your proof for Judaism's truth lies exclusively on the validity of the Torah, that is, the events at Sinai occurred exactly as they were described in the Torah. But how can you know this? The Torah was not written contemporaneously with the Sinai events but rather was written hundreds of years later. (I believe the oldest existing copy of a full Torah was made around the time of the Essenes, though I'm not sure of that). The point is the Torah was written centuries after the alleged eyewitnesses to the events died. There is thus no way to know for sure whether the Sinai events really occurred as described or whether the Torah writers could have embellished a simpler story or even have simply recorded folk legends and myths. There were no living eyewitnesses who could have objected to any inaccuracies appearing in the text. Also, unlike most other historical events, the only source of what happened at Sinai is the Torah and there is no other source to verify it.
The bottom line is that the only way to accept fully the Torah description of
the Sinai events is to have FAITH that the texts are accurate. There may be good
reasons for this faith, but it is faith, not proof as understood in a scientific
or mathematical sense, that supports this position.
This faith is indistinguishable in type from the faith one could have that Jesus is the Messiah or that Mohammed is the Final Prophet. That's not to say that faith in Torah may be better grounded than faith in Jesus or Mohammed, but still, it is faith, not proof, that sustains belief. Accordingly, your position that only Judaism is true because only Judaism can be proven true cannot stand.
Mesora: First of all, Moses did give the Torah at Sinai. But according to your reasoning, all historical events which were documented post-era must be based on faith. Thus, we have no "proof" of Caesar, Alexander and other figures and events if we find these accounts were written after the fact. Your principle is that we only believe a story if written by an eyewitness. But I ask you, what additional knowledge does an eyewitness possess, of which an intelligent person is bereft? This is your point. Seeing is believing. I disagree. Second hand knowledge too is something which can be verified equally to firsthand knowledge. Sinai was orchestrated to include enough evidence to satisfy as proof for all generations. See our article "Torah from Sinai" to read the proof. The proof, in short, is that events wherein masses witnessed easily perceivable phenomena must be true events. But events which have one or a few witnesses could have been fabricated, and therefore are not credible. Masses can not share a common motive to lie, and easily perceivable phenomena removes all chance of ignorance. When there is no lie, and no ignorance, the story must be true.
Additionally, the date an historical account is committed to writing plays no role in the veracity of the story. Historical truths are based solely on the presence of proof. If I were to write down Washington's presidency accurately, today, my delay in documenting his life does not detract from the truths of which I write. What must be proven are the events, not the date of writing. Again we argue whether firsthand knowledge is equal to second hand knowledge. Second hand knowledge validates truth equal to firsthand knowledge.
Reader: Furthermore, without proof, it is impossible to say that only
one religion is true and all others false. It is more accurate to describe all
religions as having some truth, e.g. forbidding murder, rape, stealing, lying
etc. and commanding that one do not do to another what one would not want to
have done to himself, and as for those beliefs which conflict, which are mainly
theological, not moral, since all is based on faith, it's impossible to prove
which of them is true.
Mesora: Does not reason come into the picture? Can I not use my mind to determine what is harmful, and thereby determine objective truth? Of course we can. I must also state that when we speak of religion, we speak of a complete set of tenets and laws. We cannot take one element such as murder, and suggest that a 'religion' which prohibits murder, is a 'good religion'. The act of murder may be prohibited by a religion, but if their central tenets promote idolatry, then prohibiting murder to enable one to live and serve idols is then not a good, but an evil.
Reader: After all, if only Judaism is true, then only 13 million out
of 6 billion people are following truth (you would probably say it's even fewer
than that, since many Jews aren't Torah-observant). This could mean that God has
done a very poor job of presenting His truth to have so few of us accept it, or
it could mean that the overwhelming majority of humans are too stupid or corrupt
to accept and follow truth, which doesn't say much for God as our Creator.
Mesora: If only a handful of people follow the right life, we do not say they the majority of wrongdoers are no longer wrong, as they outnumber others. Numbers of adherents to Christianity in no way validates the Crusades, or the rest of their blunders. It is poor thinking to validate ideas based on anything but the content of that idea.We also do not say that God made a mistake. Perhaps you have the wrong idea of what are God's goals. God wiped out civilizations more than once. Does this mean God made a mistake in creating them? How absurd, as if there is some other power or system to which the sole Creator must answer. No, God created man with free will and this will always be the case. Yes, many people, even large majorities are presently following falsehoods. But this is not a poor reflection on God, as it is not God's goal that there be "X" number of clear thinkers. His goal than all mankind have free will. This of course will result in many who subscribe to hollow emotions instead of intelligent thought.
Reader: On the other hand, if Judaism contains truth, and so do other
religions, and if all religions agree on some basic principles like the ones
stated above, then it could be that the whole truth is too great to be
encompassed by any one religion and that, like scientific knowledge, spiritual
knowledge and understanding can increase and develop over time. People ARE
different, and there is every reason to accept that different religions can
appeal to people of very different temperaments.
Mesora: You say the "whole truth is too great to be encompassed by any one religion". That translates as "God cannot give a complete set of ideas addressing all mankind's needs". This idea is absurd. Nothing limits God from doing so. Certainly, as God says in the Torah, He has done the exact opposite of your supposition. He has given a law which must not be added to or subtracted from - teaching that His law is complete. These are God's words.
Regarding your second point, I won't rely on my own opinion, but I will demonstrate with proofs: People are not different. There is one surgical procedure for anyone who punctured a lung. There is one procedure for any person who has cancer. There is one treatment for specific psychological diseases. Just as all physical natures of each man are the same, so too in regards to mankind's philosophical nature. There is only one "man". His happiness will be achieved with one lifestyle, whether he is black or white, Russian or Japanese. There is only one "man". There can be only one best life for man. There can be only one religion, and Judaism remains the only religion which bases itself on proof of its Divine nature.