Sunday, July 29, 2012

Malakhim V'Shadim


I just finished reading Dan Brown's book "Angels and Demons". I found a lot of this book rather fascinating, but there were a couple of things that really bothered me. The first was the "science vs. religion" argument and the second was the obsession with "belief" as an entity unto itself.

I have always been puzzled by the attitude many modern scientists have that science and religion are antagonistic. G-d created science; how can they be antagonistic? I think the issue is "belief". When you value "belief" as an entity unto itself (not as a means to leading you to being a good person) then science can be the "enemy". If you think that there is goodness in the act of "believing" (which isn't really an "act", now, is it?) then seeing scientific proof of G-d or G-d's creations removes something from that "belief".

Rabbi Moshe the son of Maimon (also known as "Maimonides" and Rambam -- the initials of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) said that it was not "belief" in G-d, rather knowledge of G-d that we should strive for. That makes sense, because as you see the wonder of G-d through nature or science, you begin to know G-d better. Your level of "belief" is irrelevant.

Christianity is a religion of "belief", of faith. Judaism, on the other hand, is a religion of deeds. In Christianity, if a person is evil all his/her life, but believes that "J" died for his/her sins, Christian doctrine states (s)he will end up with "J" in heaven. Not so with Judaism. If a person believes in G-d, but lives an life of evil, that person has not lived a good life. If, in the other hand, a person doesn't believe in G-d, but lives a good life, helps others, is kind and generous, that person does earn a place in the "World to Come".

Because I was brought up in this "belief" system, and because I grew up in an Orthodox community where a large percentage of the working people were in the sciences, I've always seen science as part of G-d's set of creations.

I also don't feel the need to convince anyone that G-d exists. You either see it or you don't. I feel more concerned about convincing people to live a good life. As long as we treat others with respect, as long as we help others, as long as we are kind and considerate, G-d will be happy. And, to be honest, when we treat others with respect, that's how they treat us.