Sunday, November 29, 2009

"We do indeed believe in thousands of things--some of them pure nonsense"


"The decades or centuries of belief come and go, to be replaced by periods of skepticism or indifference, and then, by a profound change in the attitude toward faith.

In an age of faith, it is easy to believe.

In fact, in such an age, faith does not even require any belief.

In certain times and places, one could not even speak about belief in God; it was a simple, self-evident fact.

Not believing in God was a little more bizarre than doubting that the earth is round.

Generally, we accept the dictates of society almost without noticing.

We take things for granted, we jump to conclusions, and we accept common knowledge and every­day realities unchallenged.

None but the most abstract philosopher would doubt the existence of his own nose. However, when it comes to Faith with a capital F, things become more difficult; many people just cannot accept it.

Our times are clearly different. Our fin de si├Ęcle is not an age of Faith.

Incidentally, we are not in an age of ratio­nality or skepticism either, but rather in a time of credulity.

We do indeed believe, or half-believe, in thou­sands of things—some of them pure nonsense—but not in Faith, in the capital F sense.

There is a Jewish anecdote about two students who went for a walk in the woods, and happened to be in the line of fire of a hunter.

When the shots whizzed over their heads, they were frightened and fell down, imagining that they were hit.

After some time, one of them raised his head cautiously, saying, "It seems that we are still alive."

To which his friend responded, "And what is the basis for this assumption?"

Surely, most people would not go that far.

The difference between the two levels of faith—faith in conventional wisdom, and faith in God—is not grounded in any psychological disparity, but rather in societal norms.

When a person says that he is a nonbeliever, it is not a very accurate statement.

A real nonbeliever would not get out of bed.

If he did get out of bed, he would not take a step, because almost everything that we do depends on hundreds or thousands of beliefs, from believing that the sun will rise tomorrow to believing that salt is still salty."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


From
Simple Words by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz