By Shifra Singleton
The core question of our brief existence here on earth is whether God—a He/She/They— did more than create the world? Or did He/She/They create it and, as Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Deists believed, just wound up the universal clock and let history proceed without divine interference. Such a God, born of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, does not call balls and strikes on every issue confronting every mortal person on earth every day for their entire lives. And He/She/They do not hold out the hope for an afterlife, let alone one in a paradise. Nonetheless, it is maintained that humanity was given the gift of “free will,” the power to choose our own path. And it is also professed forcefully by every nation with a “God-fearing” population that “God is on our side.”
We’re all villains in someone else’s story. In the eyes of the “religious” terrorists who perpetrated 9/11, the victims were an evil they had been commanded to eradicate. Their side had been “chosen” by He/She/They. Every modern religion—Islam, Judaism, and the many Christian religions revolving around the figure of Jesus—is guilty of promoting the concept of a god who picks winners and losers. As Katsh’s book points out, human nature is inconsistent with—it effectively precludes compliance with—the Tenth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Covet. Human nature is cursed by a lust for greed and power, responsible for fanatic movements that throughout history have caused unimaginable death and suffering.
Can a true He/She/They have favorites, pickingwinners and losers? Some baseball players make the sign of the cross when they come up to bat and point to the heavens in thanks when they get a hit. Is this religion? Does God really care whether the Yankees or Dodgers win? Or whether my son gets an A or C on his exam? Is this the business of God?
The Bible says, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Ps. 1:6). If only that were the case. The problem is that every time humanity survives an evil monster like Hitler or Genghis Kahn or Stalin, another pops up with a new movement that attacks some group of “others,” whether they are Asians, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Hispanics, African and Native American—take your pick. And millions of people then die, or lose their homes and starve, based on the fear of “others” that the religious zealots have engendered.
Salem Katsh’s book, Alo’el’s Dissent, presents the reader with a fast-paced thriller about the journey of Daniel Ornstein, a young mountain climber, archer, and sometime scholar, searching for meaning in life and the truth about religion, who discovers that our concepts of divine intervention are perhaps not so wrong after all.