Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The News

Today I am officially Jewish. The Rabbi of the temple I attended in the days of my youth has put it in writing.

I don’t practice the religion, yet I can appreciate it as a form of knowledge. This is what Santayana has to say about religious knowledge:

"But in whatever manner the natural world may have evolved, it is found and posited by us in perception and action, not, like infinite Being, defined in thought. This contrast is ontological, and excludes any derivation of the one object from the other."

We cannot see god among the things of the world, we cannot see the relation of an infinite god to those separate things in the world. We know nothing about it. Stories of god are ways of organizing our perceptions, not facts about the world. They teach us to look for better and worse, and when and where good and bad arise in the world.

Besides expressing their own kind of truth, I can also appreciate the particular Jewish religious practices as useful both to those who practice them and to people like me who don’t. They save us from other, proven to be destructive religious practices, a category that includes just about all other religious practices, by taking their place, and they have been shown to be in many ways themselves positively productive. These are good houses for people to live in, and even though I might choose to stay in a hotel next door, I know my neighbor’s house is not likely to fall on mine.