Jonathan Sacks on religion, politics and the civil war that Islam needs

The former chief rabbi’s arguments for religion start from questions of community and identity, rather than theology

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

Jonathan Sacks has an impressive track record for predicting the age we are in. In his 1990 Reith Lectures, ‘The Persistence of Faith’, the then chief rabbi pushed back against the dominant idea that religion was going to disappear. In the early 2000s, he predicted a century of conflict within Islam. And he was one of the first religious leaders and thinkers not only to critique multi-culturalism (‘the spanner in the works for tolerance’) but to try to think of a path beyond it.

We recently talked over some of this at his house in London, where he lives during gaps in a busy teaching schedule that also takes him to New York. ‘I realised religion is going to come back and it is not going to come back as a post-enlightenment,-thinly–sliced-cucumber-sandwiches vicarage tea party.’ What was the giveaway? ‘De-secularisation.’ It was a phenomenon he noticed first as a rabbi.

People were returning to synagogue or church because they wanted their children to attend a faith school. Not because they believed, but because ‘faith schools have a very strong ethos and they think that that strong ethos will give the kids the kind of virtues they need.’

This, in Sacks’s view, points to a flaw at the heart of the atheist worldview. Faced with the question ‘How do we raise our children?’ — perhaps the most serious question we must ask — non-believers began to flunk the answer. And Sacks reckons that this failure indicates a wider relativistic vacuum in our society.

‘Clearly people are searching for something,’ he says. ‘There is definitely a search for spirituality. Yet spirituality per se is not going to get us where we need to be because spirituality is what happens when religion goes bowling alone. It is very self–focused.’ In lieu of traditional morality, he sees today’s morality as being centred on issues which would once have been seen as political, rather than moral.

‘The real issue is community. That is what market-economic, liberal democratic societies don’t always understand — the community, which is one way of saying the need for identity.’ Secular attempts to found such communities and identities are, he is adamant, doomed to failure. ‘There is now empirical research on that — on communes set up in the United States. Religious ones lasted four to five times as long as non–religious ones.’

None of which, however lucidly and learnedly expressed, demonstrates that God exists. Does it? ‘I think it is a peculiarly Christian predilection to say, “First get me over the hurdle of belief.” In Judaism our biggest heroes tended to have arguments with God. That’s what Abraham does, it’s what Moses does, it’s what Jeremiah does and it’s what Job does. You get 37 chapters of Job asking questions of God and his comfort is he gets to see God, who asks him four chapters of questions of his own.’

Sacks, too, is very good at answering questions with questions. But it is through community and identity that he speaks of ‘belief’.

‘There is a huge attempt right now to find out if we can ground a morality in something other than religious faith. I think the question is on what can we ground a shared substantive ethic strong enough to inspire young people? No society that has no shared ideals on morality will survive for long. The current mania really — it’s a flood of works — is to try and base ethics on Darwinian biology. Some of this is very engaging. But you try and base morality on the mating habits of alpha-male chimpanzees and you are not going to get very far.’

Isn’t it a problem for him and other religious leaders that the world since 9/11 has been caught up in one religion’s very visible troubles? Among the challenges of our time is, as Sacks puts it, the fact that ‘people have found a different way to be modern than the western way’. While he is rarely paralleled in his predictions, he is nevertheless careful in his prescriptions.

‘There is no way that one religion can prescribe for another. I think that change of heart has to come from within a religion. Judaism went through that crisis in the first century ad. Josephus, who was an eyewitness to those events, said that the Jews inside the besieged Jerusalem were more intent on killing each other than Vespasian and Titus and their forces outside. Within two centuries, Jews and Judaism had become a pacific religion — not a pacifist religion but a pacific religion — so that in the third century or around then, when faced with a verse about military virtues, they could no longer understand the process. You can trace it. The same thing happens with Christianity in Europe between the 16th and the 17th centuries and then you get sincere believers like Locke saying “How come Christians are murdering Christians?” Out of that emerges again a formal or substantive separation of the religion and power. Religion moved from power to influence. It follows that it takes a civil war within a religion in the broadest sense to make that religion realise that it must divest itself of power.’ One thing needed in order to do this is for Islam to wrestle with what Sacks calls its ‘hard’ texts.

‘People want to be able to say I am religious but I feel that my faith, the leaders of my faith, have done that hard work in taking us from an age where most people lived in close proximity to people who are like them and have done the hard work in translating that to an age where we have to live with more difference in one mile of a walk along a main city street than a 17th-century anthropologist would have seen in a lifetime. So I think we have to do that work. Jews can’t do it for Christians, Christians can’t do it for Muslims, but I think the sight of people wrestling with those hard texts and trying to make space does actually involve other people in other faiths.’

And where is Islam in that process? ‘My guess is that this happens 15 centuries into the history of Judaism and roughly 15 centuries into the history of Christianity, which explains why it hasn’t happened within Islam yet.’ But since we only have two other mono-theisms to use as a guide, would he concede that this time the good guys might lose?

‘It may be that the founders of Judaism and Christianity, Moses and Jesus, ended on a note of failure. Moses seeing the land from afar, not able to cross the Jordan, and Jesus saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mohammed ended with success so this is an unknown.’

So this one could end differently? ‘It could.’


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  • Grace Ironwood

    He’s right about parents and schools. They see nothing but vacant multiculturalism and environmentalism as a pap substitute for communal ethics and an uncontrollable, uncivilised site for learning. The conclusion is that the pap isn’t enough. And so the atheists send their kids back to the church.

    Mary Eberstadt has some very thought provoking work on the intertwined fates of religiosity, family and birthrates.

    • Treebrain

      Grace Ironwood,

      Your views hardly relate to the reality of life in the UK today, British schools have been hugely successful in ensuring that ‘vacant’ multiculturalism has ensured that one of the greatest periods of mass immigration that has seen the population rise from fifty million to over sixty million people has been accomplished peacefully and successfully.

      The UK can be very proud of this accomplishment, it is now one of the most diverse and thriving societies in the world.

      There is no place for the views of the likes of Jonathan Sacks in such a place and rightly so!

      • Grace Ironwood

        Wow Treebrain, you say more than you know.
        reading that back to you :
        “Multiculturalism” has “ensured” that the population has been disciplined to accept transformative mass immigration ” peacefully”
        Well, you said it !

        and that’s about the size of it really.

        • Treebrain

          Grace Ironwood,

          Multiculturalism is nothing new to Egnland or the UK, there have been successive waves of mass immigration for centuries, you could include the Normans, the Huguenots, the Scots who started moving south after the first Stuart kings and the Germans who arrived with the Hanoverian monarchs, amongst others.

          The single largest group would be the Irish who arrived in huge numbers after the tragedy of the Irish Great Famine in the mid 19th century.

          All of the above were absorbed fairly successfully and without any need for legislation as mass immigration was not considered to be a problem until the end of the 19th century with the arrival of the Jews from Eastern Europe.

          Such were the problems that they caused that for the first time the UK felt the need to set up immigration controls and so passed the Aliens Act of 1905.

          As stated, the willingness of the British people to accept and absorb several waves of mass immigration over the centuries speaks well of their tolerance and the result is the successful and mutli-cutural society that exists today.

        • Rupert_Napier

          I think Treebrain is quite obviously a provocateur, and a good one.

      • lmda

        Ah, so UK society is so happily diverse and multi-cultural that it can no longer cope with the ideas of Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi – and you honestly don’t see the contradiction there?

        Your comment is beyond parody.

        • Treebrain


          Yes indeed, there is no place for the divisive, exclusionist views of the likes of Rabbi Sacks.

          What is more, the vast majority of the Jewish community agree with me because they have ignored him and continued to follow their own path including ‘marrying out’, have they not?

          They reject the rigid fundamentalism and traditions of the orthodox community and prefer to wear normal clothes and ignore the bizarre and arcane rituals associated with the orthodox community.

          Of course, in a country where free speech is not only practised but the tradition cherished, he is perfectly entitled to continue to attempt to appeal for followers but the numbers speak for themselves.

          People do not even bother to respond to his pleas and entreaties, they simply ignore him!

      • Rupert_Napier

        No place for the views of a former Chief Rabbi in a diverse and tolerant society? Well of course not.

        • Treebrain


          He is perfectly free to express his views, the problem is that the Jewish community are simply not listening.

          They reject his dated, isolationist and gender-orientated view of society and prefer to be part of the diverse and tolerant mainstream where they can wear the clothes that they want, the women are accepted and treated with equality and full inclusion and both men and women can marry who they please.

          Not too hard to understand why the choose that modern lifestyle rather than one based on life in 18C Eastern Europe?

          • Rupert_Napier

            It’s one thing for Jews to abandon the customs and practices of Judaism; it’s another to say that a respected leader’s views have “no place”

          • thomasaikenhead


            Of course Sacks can speak out on any topic he likes but his misogyny and similar views simply do not reflect current values in the UK, hence my comment that there is ‘no plce’ for them.

            As for being a ‘respected’ leader, what grounds are there for him to be granted such status?

            Even within the UK Jewish community he was widely regarded as arrogant, elitist and aloof.

            It was for those very reasons that his successor, Ephrain Mirvis, refused to move in the grandiose ‘home’ that Sacks inhabited as a ‘grace and favour’ place in St. John’s Wood.

            Like the current Pope, Mirvis wants to take religion back to its roots and identify with ordinary people, a total contrast to the approach of Jonathan Sacks.

  • Dr. Heath

    A move away from wingnut expressions of, and vicious loyalties to, Islam [I could say “a growing detestation of Islam” but that would be harsh] is evident in many of the world’s nations where people are blessed by being conscripted into the Religion of Peace the moment a little prayer is whispered into their ears moments after birth. Iran. Turkey. Political culture in the West could assist this necessary step in the furthering of world civilisation by abandoning policies of special pleading here for Muslims who choose to emigrate away from the Daar as-Salaam.

    Could, of course. But “won’t” in reality. To grasp what it means to conscript people into medievalist groupthink is something beyond the abilities of citizens living freely outside the House of Peace. The real horror is best understood by finding out what people in Teheran, say, have to endure.

  • Badjumbly

    Religion is going to come back? Strange. I don’t recall it ever going away.

    • William_Brown

      Oh, but if it would…

      • Cooper1992

        …we would still be arguing over something else. Politics, sexuality, wealth, opportunity, race, nationality, freedoms etc.

        It’s human nature my friend.

  • Badjumbly

    The morality shared by atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc. already IS grounded in something other than religious faith. It is grounded in a common distaste for being murdered, raped, assaulted, kidnapped, enslaved, robbed and swindled. No religion needed.

    • Dr. Heath

      I think that the Chief Rabbi’s view will resonate, as they say, with many Christians here, that view being that whether one is a believer or merely pretends, membership of a church leads to a more moral life and a sounder set of principles – and loads of wonderful things to teach kids that the dumbos just wouldn’t take on board any other way. As Douglas pointed out, by failing to answer this sensibly [and before everyone else involved in the debate nods off], non-believers fail to play their vital part in the debate. As you rightly say, people of all faiths and of none have as much common ground as our species will ever need. Morality is about neither belief nor its lack but about civilisation, about constructing a flexible modus vivendi in which individuals and communities enjoy total freedom from violence and oppression from other people while co-operating wherever and whenever necessary.

      The fabulously counter-intuitive idea that religion is our only shield against these curses is what all theocrats and would-be mullahs believe in, and they often tend, where argument fails, to resort to violence and oppression to make this point. [But God’s always somehow fine with this.]

      • tolpuddle1

        Different people have different moralities. Islamic State, like the Communists of yesteryear, aren’t cynical, unprincipled people – they’re highly moral.

        The problem is that their moral code is savage and merciless (like Lenin’s).

        How can you prove them wrong ? Only by showing that their underlying beliefs are wrong.

        And that’s a matter where only religious faith can help – you can wean the Islamists off violence only by showing them that Islam (or at least, their brand of Islam) is wrong. No secular arguments can do this.

        • John Croston

          ISIS are devout Muslims who follow the barbaric instructions that Allah as revealed in the Koran and emulate the appalling behaviour of Mohammad – so it’s going to be pretty difficult for anyone to get them to believe they are doing anything wrong. And anyone who tries to criticise their beliefs will be killed, of course. They don’t seem to like blasphemers.

    • Retired Nurse

      Absolutely Badjumbly!

    • tolpuddle1

      That’s a practical, not a moral, objection to murder, rape, assault, etc.

      Why are these things wrong on principle ? – presumably because they’re unkind and unjust.

      But why should human beings be kind or just ? Nature isn’t, after all.

      No secular morality can answer that question.

      • Pat Conway

        You don’t need religion to have morals. If you can’t determine right from wrong then you lack empathy not religion.

        • tolpuddle1

          In private matters, people can distinguish right and wrong; everyone has a conscience. But unless conscience is the voice of God, what is it ? – presumably mere social training or some evolutionary imperative; in which case, why obey it?

          After all, modern, secular Britain isn’t a very scrupulous place; it isn’t full of people craning to hear the voice of conscience then obeying it.

          • Badjumbly

            Why obey an evolutionary imperative? Err, because it’s an imperative?

          • tolpuddle1

            An evolutionary imperative upon short-sighted persons like myself is to blunder into a ditch or under a vehicle.

            I defy this imperative by wearing spectacles.

            We all constantly defy evolutionary imperatives, e.g. the imperative to have sex with anyone we fancy.

          • Badjumbly

            We humans have evolved as social animals and are also swayed by a number of evolutionary imperatives which we do well NOT to defy, e.g. the imperative not to cause social conflict by having sex with someone else’s mate, despite any opposing selfish urge; the imperative to do a fair share of communal work; the imperative to take care of other humans when they’re young, or sick, or pregnant, and to rescue other humans from dangers.

            We obey evolutionary imperatives because they tend to result in survival advantage. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have evolved. Some of these imperatives are linked more to individual survival and the continuance of one’s own genes, while others are linked more to group survival and the continuance of social harmony. Imperatives might sometimes conflict with each other, so that we feel two simultaneously but can obey only one. When we defy the imperative to have sex with someone else’s mate, we obey the imperative to preserve communal peace.

          • Badjumbly

            Incidentally, your short-sightedness is not an evolutionary imperative. It’s just a physical flaw.

          • tolpuddle1

            It’s an evolutionary flaw that I choose to defy.

          • Badjumbly

            Yes, a flaw: not an imperative.

          • tolpuddle1

            You limit human free will to choosing between imperatives.
            But it isn’t limited to that.

            For example, two people (both good swimmers) on different parts of our shoreline, each see someone struggling in the waves.

            One risks his life saving the person struggling; the other good swimmer doesn’t.

            You and the evolutionary biologists will obviously come up with some hokum to explain the different choices biologically (one can prove anything, however untrue, if one is clever enough).

            What you and your evolutionist friends cannot do is face the truth; that we have individual free will between good and evil, that such choices are spiritual ones unrelated to survival or companionship etc, that choosing kindness is often unwise from a common sense point of view (good guys often finish last) and being (reasonably) evil or uncaring is often (from a biological, common sense point of view) advantageous.

          • Badjumbly

            I did NOT limit human free will to choosing between two imperatives. I wrote that two evolutionary imperatives sometimes clash so that we can’t obey both, but I never at any point suggested that choosing between them was the limit of human free will. Nor have I claimed that all human behaviour results from evolutionary imperatives.

            If you’re reading sentences I haven’t written, your eyesight might be even worse than you supposed.

        • Zanderz

          You imply ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are global constants. Yet without an external morality there are only human ideas of morality. How many ‘civilisations’ embraced child sacrifices, temple prostitutes, slavery, racial warfare, objectification of women. They were all ‘moral’ to that culture. Your ‘right’ may be my ‘wrong’. An external (religious) morality at least creates a framework for humans morality to exist within. The only issue then is which religious morality does one choose.

          • Pat Conway

            Yet those civilisations who embraced child sacrifice, slavery etc were often god worshippers.

          • Zanderz

            Indeed, but when has it ever been different (apart from Communism). Like I said, the question is which god do we choose, as that will provide the framework for our morality. Without an external framework we get ‘whim’ morality. And however much people disregard it, the basis for our current morality has been forged from our Judeo Christian past. I would personally like to see us re-embrace it.

          • Badjumbly

            When has it ever been different? It’s been different in my life and in the lives of all atheists who display a tendency towards moral behaviour. It is not to please any god that I refrain from attacking and robbing people, and nor is it on a whim. It is because (a) my parents taught me, without invoking any god, that such behaviour is wrong, (b) I’ve been attacked and robbed, and I know how unpleasant it is; and (c) I just have no urge to do such things. Anyone who needs an external framework in order to refrain from assault and robbery seems to me to have little confidence in their innate predispositions, in which case they can probably find the most effective external framework in the judicial system, which really does exist.

            Nothing that I regard as morality was forged in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which did not invent such rules as those against assault and robbery. Judeo-Christianity has been a transmitter of moral rules for many people, but not for me, and if I and an increasing number of other people can get by without religion and not end up in prison, religion is not needed.

          • Zanderz

            You say your morals come from your parents, your experience and your personality. We’ve all heard of the abused becoming abusers because they have been brought up that way. Read the biographies of Saddam’s sons, Gaddafie’s children etc. They are all messed up because of their upbringing, their experience and their personalities. Their morals are ‘wrong’. An external check would at least set a framework in which their own personal morality could been seen as either good or bad.

            Additionally, faith has nothing to do with keeping out of prison, just look at Jesus and the apostles.

          • Badjumbly

            By pointing to the bad upbringing of Saddam Hussein’s sons as an key factor in their bad moral development, you support my emphasis on the importance of parenting, which can be good or bad regardless of whether or not religion is involved.

            I agree with you that faith has nothing to do with keeping out of prison. That’s precisely why I wrote that my having no religion has not caused me to end up there. Some Christians, however, appear not to agree with us, as they visit convicted criminals and try to persuade them that embracing Christianity would help keep them on the right side of the law.

          • SPW

            What if I disagree with your moral code? What right do you have to impose your code on me? How will you impose it? By force? What if I am stronger? Will it not then be “Survival of the Fittest” – the name of your god surely? Is this why you reference power-shifts later on, feeling that the power is on your side?

          • SPW

            Quite agree…

            Jesus Christ in Matt 12 says:

            “how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.”

            Christ was this Nation’s ‘strong man’. In rejecting Him for secular sexual promiscuity we have opened our house to spoil by Islam. Secularism is no ‘strong man’. It is Christ or Muhammad – choose whom you will serve.

      • Badjumbly

        Can an objection to crimes not be both practical and moral? For me, morality means not doing things to people that they don’t like, unless there’s an unselfish reason that trumps their dislike, e.g. rapists don’t like being locked up, but if we don’t lock them up, they’ll carry on raping. (In fact, we lock them up partly BECAUSE they don’t like it.)

        My three secular answers to the question “Why should humans be kind or just” are: firstly, that they might like a bit of kindness and justice in return; secondly, being kind and just can make them feel good about themselves; thirdly, that kindness and justice don’t need to be justified by a reason anyway, and the question doesn’t need asking.

        What are the religious answers to the question “Why should humans be kind or just”? Because God desires it? Then why should God be kind or just enough to want humans to be kind or just? The question is merely displaced; not satisfied. Is it because God will reward virtue in Heaven? That would depend on there being a God and a Heaven, of which we have no evidence. I prefer a morality that doesn’t depend on such unsubstantiated speculation.

        • tolpuddle1

          It is always easier to be selfish than generous; and when one is up against it (e.g. badly short of money) the pressure to behave badly rather than well is difficult to resist – which is why secular, liberal countries aren’t well-behaved (though their modern police forces prevent things getting out of hand).

          Altruism is self-evidently good on paper, but involves sacrifice. Hence really altruistic people (as opposed to skimpily and intermittently altruistic people) are hard to find. In the Noughties, there was lavish charitable giving – but it was spare cash, costing nothing to give, and the supply has dried up since 2007.

          The questions remain – Why be good as opposed to merely law-abiding ? Why be law-abiding if you can get away with it ?

          And is the Britain of 2014 kinder or more law-abiding than the more Christian Britain of, say, 1954 ? In most respects, no.

          Regarding God – those who choose good experience goodness; those who choose evil receive evil.

          • Badjumbly

            In secular, liberal countries some people are well-behaved, some are not, and most show varying qualities of behaviour, just as in any country. I see no evidence that people are nicer in countries where religion is a powerful social controller and freedoms accordingly restricted.

            Why do you even need to ask the question “Why be good”? It’s not a question that has ever nagged at me.

            Was the more Christian Britain of 1954 kinder or more law-abiding than the Britain of 2014? Have unkindness or crime increased in proportion to the decline of religious belief? It is easy to see the past through rose-tinted spectacles, when you’re not there.

            Those who choose good often experience evil: we frequently read about murder victims who were good and lovable people. Those who choose evil often get away with it, as Savile did. If your chosen deity has a system of rewards and punishments to correct this injustice, implementing it on Earth does not seem to be part of the plan. If it is in working order in some other place, it would better serve as a moral incentive if we could have some evidence of it.

          • tolpuddle1

            Socrates prophesied that if a truly good person ever appeared on earth, humanity would do him to death.

            A few centuries later, a truly good person – Jesus of Nazareth – did appear on earth and (surprise, surprise) humanity did him to death. In this world, God is nailed to the Cross, the good and innocent likewise – it’s a war zone.

            It’s common sense to behave in a reasonable way – most people are reasonably civil and respectable; few are good.

            I have clear memories of England from 1955 onwards – and yes, despite its many faults and bigotries, it was a kinder, gentler, stabler England than today’s is. It was only notionally Christian, but that semi-Christianity did make a difference.

          • Badjumbly

            If you think few people are good, your judgement is a lot harsher than mine. I think MOST people are good, though fallible, but then, not being religious, I’m not in the habit of comparing people to any imagined moral perfection.

            Even if your 1950s England was kinder, gentler and more stable than today’s, it does not follow that Christianity was the reason. England has been a far nastier, more violent and more unstable place than it is today in centuries when Christianity was the common culture and nearly everyone was religious. If you wish to present a correlation between the social strength of Christianity and the pleasantness of English society, you should look at the whole history of England since Christianity arrived. Comparing 1954 with 2014 isn’t enough.

            Besides, you are looking at that 1954 England only from YOUR perspective. To a homosexual man the same age as you, the England of today might appear a much nicer place.

          • tolpuddle1

            The Catholic Church and other Christian groups were among the first non-homosexuals suggesting that homosexuality be de-criminalised.

            Today’s secular England stands on the shoulders of the Christian England of past centuries; if those medieval peasants (with their nasty, short, brutish lives) hadn’t been Christians, they’d have gone under (or become Moslems).

            No one will stand on the shoulders of secular Britain – it is going under; and Rape Crisis (or the child protection charities) will tell you just how nasty and violent it is beneath the smooth surface.

            Stability ? – we’re heading for political, social and economic meltdown.

          • Badjumbly

            I am glad The Catholic Church and other Christian groups were capable of having a guilty conscience regarding past persecution of homosexuals and of acting upon it, but it’s a pity they weren’t more honest about their motives.

            If you’re weak in the present, you can always celebrate your strength in the past and call down future doom upon those who have grown to be stronger than you. Perhaps that is your preferred strategy, but I prefer to observe, analyse and aim.

    • global city

      It is not so much the ‘having done to’ that concerns people, it is checking the instinct to ‘do unto others’ that demands a moral/spiritual boost and incentive.

      • Badjumbly

        I think the possibility of having crimes done to you is of GREAT concern to people, but that is not incompatible with wanting to do good for its own sake.

      • newname

        I don’t know when I first heard the phrase “enlightened self interest” but it still seems to sum it up: we treat others fairly and justly because (a) as human beings we can empathise with how others feel, but perhaps even more, (b) we know that it will make them more likely to treat us the same way, and (c) it gives us justification for demanding such treatment.

  • Rowland Nelken

    How fatuous. Where is the evidence that non believers flunk the answer as to how children should be raised? All communities need common values in order to survive. The only resource we have now, and ever have had, for determining what those values should be, is ourselves. Why Dr. Sachs imagines that ceremonially venerating as do the Abrahamic religions, ancient texts which contain much primitive and barbaric morality, he fails to explain. I cannot believe, anyway, that Dr. Sachs would prescribe most of the weird and primitive rules of his sacred Torah as a suitable guide to raising children, or indeed to anything else. Ascribing sets of man made rules to an imaginary God lends legitimacy to those who actually try and live by those rules. Would anyone try violent Jihad or behead apostates were these practices not demanded in the Koran and Hadiths? Who would think of mutilating the penises of baby boys were it not prescribed in the Torah? Would any of us sacrifice the here and now for a mythical post Judgement Paradise were it not so clearly demanded in the Bible?

    • tolpuddle1

      You’re jumbling together the three Abrahamic faiths as if they were all pretty much the same. They aren’t.

      As for sacrificing “the here and now”, moderate religious believers are happier -and better citizens – than their secular counterparts.

      The saying of Jesus that “He who loves his life shall lose it” was praised by the atheist poet AE Housman as the truest thing ever said. Self-sacrifice is the most basic necessity of human life (it is imposed on us by bringing up children and by the ageing process, for example) and those who reject self-sacrifice shrivel up in their souls – they lose their lives.

      • Rowland Nelken

        I like Jesus’ phrase ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’. The New Testament, however, has inspired, not surprisingly, with all its warnings of imminent apocalypse, many movements and individual lives that have presumed ‘The Kingdom’, the only real and worthy life is ‘The Kingdom’ that will only appear on Christ’s return.

        Is there any evidence that ‘moderate’ religious beleivers are happier and better than the rest of us, tolpuddle 1? What manner of ‘moderate’ Christian are you? Do you have any guidelines as to which Bible bits to take seriously and/ or literally, and which bits to file as old hat? Have you binned Hellfire for unbelievers? are Angels real? Should women wear hats in Church? Should we believe Jesus when he says he has come to fulfil the Law (whatever that means)?

        Please explain the basis for your moderation and its results, that we may all enter the Kingdom and know how to be happy and to raise our kids.

        Is it OK to be a moderate Jew or Muslim? Only afew Messianic Jews accept Jesus as Saviour. Are they doomed? Can they be happy or bring up kids properly?

  • Damaris Tighe

    Speaking about how a religion may become peaceable Rabbi Sacks says: “It may be that the founders of Judaism & Christianity, Moses & Jesus, ended on a note of failure … Muhammad ended with success so this is an unknown.” As usual he hits the nail on the head.

    A religion needs a strong dose of humility to make it house-trained. Islam lacks that house-training. So when it reforms it simply remembers military success, conquest & empire. The Koran can’t stomach Jesus’s death by crucifixion so makes him survive it.

    Muslims have a visceral antipathy to that key icon of pain & despair, the cross. There is something lacking at Islam’s heart – the human experience of failure, ‘crucifixion’, that makes us check & question ourselves.

    • anotherjoeblogs

      Very profound and worth a very long ponder. Excellent post.

    • greggf

      It isn’t just that Islam lacks humility, it doesn’t Damaris, but most of all Islam is confident, certain and assertive – to say the least. And its continued and gratuitous encroachment into Christian Europe fuels its certainty.
      It’s confident in the prophecies that Rome, aka Europe, will fall to Islam. (Note the word “fall”, I don’t know Arabic but such a verb must be significant.) And Europe in its humanity, humility and hubris paves the way for an assertive Islam to attain its prescient forecasts.
      Their belief does not include human frailty, human venality nor human betrayal as reasons for God’s mercy as Jesus did, thus Muhammed’s success and the absolutism of the Koran.

    • John Croston

      “the human experience of failure, ‘crucifixion’, that makes us check our arrogance & question ourselves.”
      ISIS are actually pretty keen on crucifixion…and all the other barbaric punishments Allah sanctified in the Koran.

      • Damaris Tighe

        ISIS & muslims generally have no understanding what the biblical story of the crucifixion means in its deepest sense.

        • John Croston

          They do understand that it is a just and proper punishment for “evil-doers,” though – as recommended by Allah himself.

          • Damaris Tighe

            The fact that they still use the cross while others shun it should tell us where they’re coming from.

        • Catherine Waterman

          On the surface though, it’s a gory symbol of Christianity. It’s certainly open to cultural misunderstanding…which puts me in mind of something my son told me about Japanese culture. He lives and works in Japan.

          The Japanese have adopted the celebration of Christmas, probably to demonstrate their openness and friendliness towards their Western trading partners.

          However, according to my son, one company got its stories in a twist. They held a Christmas party for a group of visiting Americans, the room decorated with paper chains, sprigs of holly, a Christmas tree bedecked in tinsel and baubles, the lot.

          However, taking pride of place on the wall – a huge plastic Santa crucified on a wooden cross, the words “Merry Christmas” emblazoned beneath…

          This is probably an urban legend, but symbolic in many ways!

          • Damaris Tighe

            oh dear …

          • Catherine Waterman

            The Japanese have a weird and macabre sense of humour, so if this story is true, it might well have been a Japanese style prank. Imagine a similar type of ‘cultural misunderstanding’ done to please a group of Islamic guests…during the fallout, the table staff would need to gather up the chops sticks or knives and forks and hide ’em quick!

          • Jonathan Levy

            I’ve read stories of Jewish business guests being presented with elegant editions of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’.

            These anecdotes were always presented as an example of cultural misunderstanding, but after reading your post I wonder if they were not intended as a prank.

          • Catherine Waterman

            You may well be right Jonathan!

            My daughter-in-law is Japanese, still lives in Japan, and my granddaughter is half Japanese, So I’m getting to know something about the Japanese psyche. I know this is a generalisation, but there are certain traits common to many within any given culture. Japanese TV game shows, for example, which specialise in candid camera style pranks, are often truly shocking to the Western mindset – too cruel even for the most ruthless of British comedians!

          • rick hamilton

            Hardly an urban legend, more likely a myth.

            Japan has not adopted Christmas other than as a commercial opportunity and a bit of fun for the kids. Rather like Halloween. Dec 25th is not even a national holiday.

            As a long term resident of Tokyo I know no Japanese without foreign family connections who eat turkey and exchange presents as we do, let alone sing carols or go to church.

            Having said that I was once wished ‘A Very Xmas’ by a department store in mid-March, but that was in Shanghai…………..

          • Catherine Waterman

            I know it’s not a national holiday and that Christmas is regarded as a good commercial opportunity. It’s certainly not a religious celebration.

            The Japanese have also adopted Halloween – the over the top American version, not the bobbing for apples type of Halloween I knew as a child. And certainly not the Celtic Samhain version which almost everyone in the UK has forgotten.

            I know this because my Japanese granddaughter went to a Halloween party in Tokyo a few days ago, earlier having sought my advice about her costume! My son has lived and worked in Japan for the past 15 years and is fluent in the language. He used to be a book translator (translating from English to Japanese) prior to his current teaching job. He understands the Japanese mindset inside out.

        • Jim

          It seems to me they willfully misunderstand many aspects of Christianity, it’s a tool they try to use. That’s why you’ll often hear them claim that Christianity is a polytheistic religion, they are deliberately misunderstanding the trinity.
          The only reason they say that Jesus is a prophet is so they can claim legitimacy by association with the other Abrahamic religions.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Islamic teaching also wilfully misunderstands the idea of the Son of God, by saying ‘God doesn’t have a son’ as if Son & son are the same. I tried to explain this to my muslim taxi driver who raised this as he had been taught. I said that ‘Son’ has meanings which aren’t physical but ‘spiritual’ & shouldn’t be equated with, say, his own son. This was a completely new concept for him.

          • Jim

            I knew wilfully was the correct spelling. Disqus is really winding me up.

          • Damaris Tighe

            I didn’t even notice Jim! Disqus spelling is American btw.

    • Terry Field

      There is in addition the enduring Jewish tradition of introspective analysis of texts. That is missing in Islam, The original texts cannot be questioned.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Yes indeed.

        • James Lovelace

          Islam’s foundation is as a rejection of christianity and judaism, and the commitment to turn murder into an act of piety in order to subjugate those moderation of Bronze Age values to those Bronze Age values.

          Islam is not a return to the 7th century AD but a return to 3000 BC. It is a religion from the Bronze Age.

    • Jonathan Levy

      “There is something lacking at Islam’s heart – the human experience of failure”

      I would suggest that this is because the honor/shame culture of the Arabs rejects the admission of failure because it is shaming. This trait has come down through the centuries virtually unchanged.

      Thus the Palestinians insist on a right of return as a way of denying their defeat in 1948; Hussein and Nasser concocted a tale of American intervention to explain their defeat in 1967; Egyptians consider the war of 1973 to be a military victory even though it clearly was a defeat (initial successes notwithstanding); Saddam Hussein rushed to declare victory in 1991, Hezbollah in 2006, Hamas, countless times.

      Incredibly, in the most recent conflict in Gaza, Hamas officials blandly assured Israeli Arabs that they would not be hit by their unguided, inaccurate missiles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBkazXb0wCg)

      That didn’t work out so well (http://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-group-provides-bedouins-with-mobile-bomb-shelters/)

      Contrast that with a Western society (Israel) which tends to reflexively apologize even when accused by known liars with very little supporting evidence.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Very good points here Jonathan. Israel has even apologised for an incident & then been exonerated afterwards.

    • Thaddeus lovelock

      That’s what I would have said, if I had thought of it.

  • rtj1211

    One of the pathetic things that really amuses me is this fallacious need to claim superiority through ‘faith’.

    Every Jew who claims that they are superior because some book written by humans over 2000 years ago claims that to be true is a racist. I know you can’t understand the concept of Jews being racist, Mr Murray, but when they say they are ‘God’s chosen people’, that’s precisely what they are. No ifs, no buts, no arguments. Racist.

    It is the same with Catholics, other christians, Muslims or any other ‘faith’ which claims that adherence to that signifies ‘superiority’. It signifies nothing of the sort.

    You don’t need to believe in God to love children and I have met many so-called believers who actually hate their children, despite preaching loudly and widely to all and sundry that they do. They love themselves.

    All religion is is another form of hierarchy telling those at the bottom to submit to those at the top. Handing over their money or else. Oh yes, you have to try and dupe them into feeling good about doing that, but that’s what religion is about. The Pope is infallible, the Jewish elders must be bowed down before, ditto the Imams etc etc.

    In olden days it was a way for humans who didn’t understand the complexity of the earth to quell their fears through transposition of those fears onto ‘God’. Now there is an alternative which involves addressing your ignorance where possible and accepting humanity’s own ignorance in other situations.

    The last 2000 years of ‘God’ hasn’t stopped wars, it hasn’t stopped famines and it hasn’t eliminated the driver for all that, namely human greed and the primitive dominance complex, all of which are decried by religions in public but practiced with aplomb by the vast majority of religious elders. More subtly than by the yobboes to be sure, but assiduously practiced, nonetheless.

    There are plenty of ‘frameworks’ to ground children on this earth that don’t obsess about ‘God’, the Bible’, ‘the Koran’ if you want to use them. It is the aim of poiiticians to continue the infantilsation of the oiks below through ensuring that it is either ‘God’ or ‘atheism’.

    It is perfectly possible for christians to tell Muslims gently but firmly that, whilst they are never going to eat pork and consider it unclean, we Christians do not agree with them and we ARE going to continue to eat pork. We are not an Islamic state, so that is not going to change and if they are at the stage of their faith that requires conformity and uniformity, then they had better emigrate/return to where they came from. You can say exactly the same to the Jews about any of their arbitrary views about diet.

    Diets evolved as healthy in the regions and the cultures where those diets probably WERE healthy. If you work underground in a mine for 8hrs a day doing backbreaking work, eating fat and loads of calories is healthy. It’s not if you work behind a desk in the City. It’s not the diet that’s wrong, but its application in the wrong situation.

    The Peruvians thank ‘God’ for the potato harvest because traditionally, that was what kept them from starvation. However, they didn’t put their trust in God to the extent that they only grew one variety. They weren’t going to blame God for droughts or frosts by only growing one strain of potato, they grew a wide variety to ensure that ‘whatever God threw at them’, they would survive. It’s called self-sufficiency you know. You don’t need to invoke God to think that surviving climate variabilities is a good idea. You just need to want to live, have children and feed them. It’s not rocket science.

    I have a very simple philosophy to life: teach children the things that they absolutely need to know as core curriculum.

    They absolutely DO NOT need to obsess about ‘God’, ‘Allah’ or anything like that. They need to learn how to eat healthily, relate successfully, create stable, functional and efficient homes and then they need to find the niches in society which allow them to do that. No point obsessing about finding the niches if they can’t actually live successfully once they have found one, is there?? No point at all.

    If children aged 9 have learned how to grow food successfully, to cook it healthily, to engage emotionally and with enthusiasm, have learned to handle the emotional responses to stress successfully, then they can move on to learning things of higher value: technology, other languages, science and engineering, music and dramatic arts etc etc.

    But if they haven’t, all that ‘higher level education’ is a pointless pile of timewasting, because the question not of God, but of individual healthy living, will return again and again until it is resolved.

    All the God Squad crap is just that: crap. Brainwashing, imposition and control.

    People will come naturally to understand the wonder of the earth’s complexity if they actually focus on it for a decade first.

    But if you force it upon 6 year olds, then you have the recipe for more of the past 500 years of wars, totalitarian religious claptrap driving the people to drink, drugs, violence and anarchy.

    Tough love is not what religious elders need to dish out, they need to receive it…….

    • Richard

      Is racism bad, is the question you must ask yourself. And, what do you actually mean by racism? Does the recognition of difference between races equate to racism? Does the recognition of, say, Neanderthal genes within non sub-Saharan people equate into racism? Or, say, noticing that blacks win in running events but are invisible at, say CERN? When I go to museums and art-galleries, the only blacks I see either work there, or are children in school-groups on an outing. Similar with bookshops. If noticing that races are different and have different strengths, weaknesses, and genes, then I would guess that most of us are racist. If, however, by racism you mean that we would wish to see others in chains, I then suspect that most of us are not. It is important to get beyond BBC-type Leftist name-calling, if that is what you were doing.

      • alfredo

        Excellent post. Needs saying. Again and again.

    • RaymondDance

      Jeez, if straw men (eg”Every Jew who claims that they are superior …”) were soldiers you could conquer the world.

    • tolpuddle1

      I’ve never been brainwashed or bullied into religious faith; I can think of nothing that would better lead me to stop going to church.

      In the Soviet Union religion was banned; with the consequence that the ordinary people turned to vodka instead. Drink, drugs and lawlessness are worse in secular societies; Sweden isn’t a paradise.

      No secular ideology can provide Hope – which is what human beings most deeply and desperately need.

      That’s why all the ballyhoo in favour of atheism, secularism, etc will fail.

    • jjjj

      Two points where you are wide of the mark: 1. Not ALL Jews as you seem to believe say that they are the ‘chosen people’. More to the point, you’ve misunderstood the phrase as it is meant. And considering the hatred shown to the Jews from other religions and secularists, one has to ask ‘chosen’ for what? To suffer persecution and by doing so to make others feel more superior?
      2. Your idiotic comment about Jews and pork. You equate Jews and Muslims here. Jews are not telling others how to live inc. not to eat pork.

  • jeffersonian

    “he [Dr Sachs] predicted a century of conflict within Islam.”

    We’d better add to that, ‘a century of conflict *with* Islam’….or is that an inconvenient truth too far?

    • John Croston

      Well, the conflict has been going on for 1400 years and shows no sign of an end – which is no surprise because Islam teaches its followers to fight the non-believers until they convert, are subjugated or killed. To infinity and beyond!

      • Treebrain


        Well said, he appears to have failed to notice the Sunni-Shia conflict that has been going on within Islam for over a thousand years?

  • Retired Nurse

    The Prime Minister effectively elects ‘our religious leader’ in the UK…http://www.independent.co.uk/news/church-bends-knee-to-blair-1142193.html – its all about power frankly.

  • John Matthews

    What is it with the Spectator this week, every article is having a dig at Atheism. Parents send their kids to faith schools because in the most part there is very little choice.

  • Seat of Mars

    Sacks is on the money when he says: “The real issue is community. That is what market-economic, liberal democratic societies don’t always understand — the community, which is one way of saying the need for identity.”

    However in the West it isn’t religion that will fulfill this requirement. Increasingly it will be met by returning to the bonds of ethnicity, culture and nationhood. And this is why the next 50 years will be riven with strife as Europe convulses to try and return their nation-states back to ones with majority indigenous populations with a very small side-dish of “diversity”. It is not going to be pretty.

    • tolpuddle1

      Almost nobody in Europe wants to go back to ethnicity and nationhood; which were the things that caused the two most appalling wars (and accompanying massacres) in history.

      And – even if the will to turn the clock back was there – it couldn’t be done.

      • Linda Smith

        You’re spouting nonsense! Every Frenchman, German or Italian knows who he is first and foremost – a Frenchman, German or Italian….

      • Cooper1992

        “Almost nobody in Europe wants to go back to ethnicity and nationhood;”

        So what do people want to go (back?) towards?

        People need a sense of identity. They require it.

        Identity is potent and causes conflict.

        In fact when there is difference living in such close proximity there is a case for saying that people become even more tribal.

        It’s fair enough to note the negatives in ethnicity, nationality – and no doubt also religion, sexuality, political views etc – but in my opinion all human beings must construct some form of identity that they strongly believe in.

      • English Majority

        What, you backwards imbecile? I’m going to presume you’re black or Muslim, as you really don’t get the native English/European people.

        The majority of native Europeans and English DO want that.

        And, yes, it CAN be done, and WILL be done.

        Mass Deportations.

        • tolpuddle1

          By you and whose army ?

          • kittydeer

            These people opposing you tolpuddle1 do not seem to understand that the UK and most European countries have sold their very souls. Nationhood? English Majority walk the streets of London, Bradford, Paris, Dublin, what nation are you talking about?

      • Richard

        Africans by-and-large reject multi-tribal states. They keep to themselves, and kill others. It is only in the West that capitalism, searching for ever-cheaper labour, trumps every other bond.

    • English Majority

      Well put. And absolutely correct. And, of course, as inevitable as a thing can possibly be.

      And it certainly isn’t going to be pretty. It will surpass the horror of all wars combined.

    • Richard

      Europeans and Brits are far too degenerate for anything of this sort to happen. They have no identity, no sense of purpose, no real idea of their histories, just nothing at all, excepting the desire to have money and get drunk. That’s why my family left the UK between the Wars. They could see what was happening. Returning to see the progression of the rot is always shocking. People’s eyes glaze over if you try to talk to them about it, they rush for the platitudes, turn up the volume of the trash music, have another laugh, and reach for the booze. That’s my experience.

  • The numbers show how many Muslims prefer the path taken by Muhammed Nimr al-Hawari, and Shahpour Bakhtiar, to the path taken by the Haj Amin al-Husseini.

    The fewer of the latter is better, and frankly necessary.

  • cestusdei

    Jesus ended with success. He is risen.

    • Chris Morriss

      His rising or otherwise has little or nothing to do with it (and may well be illusory). He fulfilled His purpose in his suffering and death on the cross.

  • Eudaemonia71

    Anyone that rationally and objectively rejects faith as a guide to life but then fails to find the suitable philosophic framework within which to achieve a successful, happy, moral and peaceful life only has themself to blame. You don’t need evil fairy tales to steer your life, and you certainly do not need them to help raise your children.

  • TNT

    Mohammed ended with success? Mass-murdering pedophiles really go to heaven on winged horses?

    Of course they don’t.

    That’s why every ‘evolutionary’ step described by the rabbi in this piece was entirely man-made.

  • Paddy Kilshamus

    I really don’t think Christ was a Jew. I cannot square it. He was opposed every step of the way by the Scribes and Pharisees. All his condemnations in the Gospels are directed toward them and not to Caesar or people who break the sabbath or publicans or Samaritans etc etc..See John Chapter 8 and explain to me, Mr Sacks, what they have against him? Yours sincerely, Paddy.

    • gelert

      Is that what your paedophile priest told you ?

      • Paddy Kilshamus

        No it was a Rabbi in a sauna.

        • gelert

          Must have been in a brothel run by the Poor Clares. They have their own version of happy ending.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            He was a strange guy. Told me he was expert in the Kaballah and used to have sex with the Shekina or something. Usual f-ed up type of self-ordained leaders.

          • Chris Morriss

            Since Shekinah means something like “the divine presence of god”, I doubt if he said anything like that. As an expert in the (decidedly weird) Kabbalah, he may well have talked about the Sefirot, though such things are not normally spoken of to all and sundry.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            I honestly can’t remember what he said precisely. I was squeezing the blackheads on my nose and cutting my tonails and he started taliking about rabbis casting a spell by stealing the toenail or hair clippings of a person. I scoffed at that and he launched into a tirade against Jesus, that he was the son of a Roman soldier and was in hot excrement in Hell and I just thought the guy was nuts. Then he offered me a bag of ecstasy pills and i was like wtf? Seriously messed up situation. Last time I ever go to a squash club and sauna room in Golders Green. No wonder people are anti-semitic if that is the way the rabbis behave.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Kabbalist rabbis are very marginal & weird. There’s no central control of the ordination process so, to use a cliche, ‘anyone’ can become a rabbi. Mainstream Judaism avoids Kabbalah like the plague. (Anyway, It’s not supposed to be taught to anyone under 40.) Even the hassidic sects leave Kabbalah alone – except the Breslovers who, again, are considered very marginal.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            He was very odd. I suppose he is the type of Jew who equates with the fundamentalist Christian (Jimmy Swaggart) or the fanatical Muslim. They feed stereotypes in the public perception.

          • Damaris Tighe

            More like snake-oil sellers. They’re often peddling amulets & spells to the credulous. There’s nothing fundamentalist about them as that would imply closeness to Mosaic Judaism. They are truly marginal, in other words a horizontal rather than vertical analogy more appropriate!

          • Damaris Tighe

            It may have been the Shekinah as it as seen as female. But Kabbalistic rabbis are considered to have dubious provenance & are no part of mainstream Judaism.

    • Jonathan Levy

      Nothing is more firmly in keeping with Jewish tradition than to oppose wicked practices of the community in the name of morality and piety. The careers of Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha, and Samuel (against Saul, at any rate) are a consistent tale of opposition to their impious and immoral rulers.

      Even Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:2 – “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. Every stone will be thrown down to the ground.”) follows a precedent of Jeremiah’s (Jeremiah 26:4-6 “If ye will not hearken to Me, to walk in My law, which I have set before you…then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.’ )

      Incidentally, the only reason Jeremiah was not executed for that prophecy was because of an earlier precedent, quoted in Jeremiah 26:18: “Micah the Morashtite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah… saying… Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Zion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.”

      • Paddy Kilshamus

        Yes I like the Prophets. They are the ones killed for truth telling, Jesus talks of ‘the blood of the righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias’. A to Z of murdered wise men. I know there are different strands of thought in the Jewish narrative. I am just aware of the complexity of Jewish-Christian relations and I don’t like to see that complexity effaced by our modern clergy, Jewish and Christian. The Prophets are tremendous to read and they find an echo in Jesus. I think he challenged the very notion of the Jews that God was their property alone. I know there is a profound and complex area here and my somewhat flippant remark was only to provoke response. I do however believe the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders is pushed out of the narrative when it may be a fundamental part of the Christian position.

        • Damaris Tighe

          I’ve come to see Jesus as coming from the Jewish prophetic tradition.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            Yes I see him coming from that strand far more than the Orthodox tradition which is a dead hand. The letter of the law killeth but the spirit (of the Law) giveth life. In some ways he may have been a forerunner of the Revolutionary Jews but the latter were atheists attempting to create an earthly kingdom. I keep coming back to the fact that he was so unorthodox ( I am sure you know how many examples there are in the gospels) that he could be said to have severed the link, or gone so far from the tradition to have rendered it obsolete. He being the ultimate sacrifice and initiating a new relationship of God to Mankind. In that way his Jewishness was nullified as an identity and the Chosen people had fulfilled their purpose, to bring forth Jesus. I think that is close to the Catholic position theologically. I can understand why the Jews would reject it .

          • Damaris Tighe

            Paddy, some learned & profound thoughts here. I want to apologise for being aggressive on another thread.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            That is OK, Politics and Religion are the two subjects most likely to cause a fight as my Uncle used to say.

        • Jonathan Levy

          I see your point. I suppose it is a case of changing perspectives. The gap between Judaism and Christianity which must have seemed like a huge chasm 200 years ago starts to look much less significant in a secular, multicultural age – especially when compared with the challenge of Islam. I suspect that theological precision is being sacrificed on the altar of diplomacy – an act which is not always an unmitigated evil.

          I hope you will not consider it too flippant if I point out that in the Hebrew and Aramaic scripts with which Jesus was familiar, the letter Heh (which is the first letter of Abel’s name – HBL) comes in the 5th position, and Zayin (which produces the sound Z) comes in the 7th position.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            Thanks. You are not being flippant, it is a good point. I have heard the same remark regarding the pun Jesus makes on Peter and stone (petros and petra, I think) which only works in Greek and not in Aramaic. So it may be an invention of the writer. Then again there is the argument that Greek was the lingua franca of that time and place. I don’t know, it is a huge field of study.

          • Chris Morriss

            Peter was almost certainly a nickname, a bit like calling someone “Rocky” today.

  • Richard Ferguson

    The last civil war Islam went through began in 632 AD or thereabouts. That’s not worked out terribly well has it?

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  • TDrowry

    Israelis who celebrate Mohammed being the most common name in UK at 4:30 on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v47lNHJAYP4

    • Richard

      Likely a finger-in-the-eye to extreme Loony-Leftie UK constantly telling them how wonderful Islam is? Can you blame them? We are reaping what we have sown by our Leftist proselytising. Maybe a bit like South Africans and Rhodesians rubbing their hands in glee as murder and violence soar in black-dominated areas of the UK. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear, you know, and the UK is deaf and blind.

  • Treebrain

    ‘The real issue is community. That is what market-economic, liberal democratic societies don’t always understand…’

    Oh, really?

    These are the very societies that are the richest, most stable and most inclusive in the world.

    It is the religious-based societies that currently suffer the most conflict, poverty and inequality Mr. Sacks and there is a very good reason for that, quite simply these societies lack the tolerance and resilience required to function when members are required to live alongside others who are different from them.

    It beggars belief that this man is still able to peddle his divisive and insulting nonsense despite a long career that has been an abject failure. Just look at the direction adopted by the Jewish community in the UK over the last few decades.

    Its members have comprehensively rejected the narrow, harsh and intolerant views of Jonathan Sacks and his colleagues and embraced a multi-cultural lifestyle in a modern, pluralistic society best exemplified by their related actions in rejecting Orthodox judaism and in so often doing so in the strongest fashion, by ‘marrying out’.

    They have looked at the belief system and lifestyle advocated by Jonathan Sacks and refused to be defined by it and thus be condemned to a life of exclusion in an isolated community and decided instead to opt-in to the wider society embraced by the vast majority of the population in the UK.

    • Richard

      “It is the religious-based societies that currently suffer the most conflict, poverty and inequality…” India and Africa, for example?

      • Treebrain


        Israel and other Middle Eastern countries too!

  • English Majority

    To be honest, Douglas, I and most other people don’t give a sh*t what Rabbis, Priests and Imams say.

    Lets keep it fresh, modern and political: Muslims have to be deported. They’re not an ethnic minority; they’re a global brown horde majority. They’re destroying our dying nation, and they’re destroying our children and futures.

  • I hold Rabbi Sacks in very high esteem, and yet, the thought occurred to me that, both the founders of Judaism and Christianity, Moses and Jesus, ended in success with regard to their fundamental missions: Moses freed Israel from the bondage of Mitzrayim and Jesus, by his death, the world from sin, as he himself predicted. Which puts a bit of a different spin on his comparative conclusion…

  • The Blue Baron

    This is a good article but the notion that all religions are proceeding along the same linear path is dangerous, complacent and entirely unsubstantiated. Why should religions with very different founding texts, which have been subject to very different historical, political, theological and philosophical influences be expected to end up in the same place? This is a daft presumption and people need to start questioning it.

  • edlancey

    The idea that there is some form of historical inevitability about Reformation is too stupid for words.

    Apart from anything else the muslims have got the precedent of the Christian reformation to see what could happen – in any case, to use the Christian reformation as a parallel – the Jihadis would be the equivalent of the reformers – wanting to go back to the original texts and wrest them back. Except in their case they nail kuffars to trees instead of edicts to doors.

    On top of all that, when people talk about post-Reformation they wrongly conflate it with the Enlightenment.

  • Patrick_Blankfein

    Islam is a punk rock religion that races to the bottom. Anyone can be a punk; anyone can be a muslim – hence its popularity amongst the degenerate and insane

  • John 8:37 – John 8:44

    Here we find Obama talking about his self-proclaimed Muslim faith: http://youtu.be/bMUgNg7aD8M?t=6s

    • Grace Ironwood

      He’s Marxist atheist ex-muslim.

  • Catherine Waterman

    As an alternative to religion, the philosophy of humanism is based on the moral principle – never do anything to others that you would not wish to be done to yourself. This is a near perfect starting point. However, the philosophy of humanism does not appear to recognise that we’re not all born with an equal measure of emotional and intellectual intelligence.

    I’ve become wary of all forms of religion, which I regard as cults to varying degrees. In our present era, Islam is the most dangerous cult of all. It has spread too far and is encroaching on our basic freedoms – the freedoms we’ve come to accept as givens within Western democracy.

    I also recognise that for many human beings, some form of religion or spiritual belief provides a sense of purpose and meaning, without which there is a sense of emptiness.

    Sadly, it appears that the humanist way of living is too advanced for the majority of human beings alive today. Indeed, with our propensity for warfare and other evil and ‘spiritually immature’ behaviours, I can only conclude that our minds are still evolving. We are still in the early stages of our development as a thinking species.
    Furthermore, not all human beings are evolving at the same speed. Some are lagging a few centuries behind in their development. So it will be a long while before the whole of humanity attains an equal level of awareness and becomes capable of living in a state of peace.

    • Icebow

      Humanism in the sense you convey is the quasi-spiritual aspect of ‘scientific materialism’, and beneath even the contempt you would seem to have for us all. What a stupid posting.

      • Catherine Waterman

        Eh? The first sentence described humanism in essence – certainly nothing wrong with that as a code for living. It’s just that few of us can live up to it, that’s what my post was about.

        And when ideologies clash on a national/cultural scale, this can result in warfare. Indeed, we seem to be incapable of living in peace.

        The rest was a pondering on the nature of the human mind/spirit. This is not what I would describe as ‘scientific materialism’, nor even quasi scientific materialism. It ain’t even science as we know it Jim.

        On the contrary, the nature of mind is something over and above the material brain. Mind is the essence of a person’s unique self. For this reason, the nature of mind remains one of the greatest mysteries of life.

        If you think this is a stupid thing for me to think, then that’s your prerogative. Your reaction is also a perfect illustration of the very thing I’m talking about – that is to say, until such time humanity as whole is capable of functioning on the same wave length as that envisaged by humanists, only then will we be able to live in peace.

        • Icebow

          …’the nature of mind is something over and above the material brain. Mind is the essence of a person’s unique self”…. On this at least we are agreed.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Humanism has degenerated into moral relativism and nihilism.
      Why is the West in a demographic death spiral ?

      Why does religiosity go with a birthrate that sustains society into the future ?
      Look at Israel with the highest birthrate in advanced world.

      Just sayin’ – I’m an Atheist/Cultural Christian

      • Catherine Waterman

        I’m not a signed up humanist, as stated. I’m not anything to be labelled. However, I do see merit in the basic tenet of humanism, which is (or certainly was when humanism came into being as a philosophy), of never do anything to others that you would not wish to be done to yourself. Absolutely nothing wrong with this – except that it’s a big ask for most humans!

        I’ve already said in different ways that the flaw with humanism is the assumption that all human beings are humane and have attained an equal level of emotional and intellectual intelligence. Sadly, some people appear to be born to make life as difficult as possible for themselves and everyone else.

        I certainly disagree with moral relativism – for example, the Law Society here in the UK giving Sharia Law an air of respectability. I’m sure that even signed up humanists would see this as a threat to human rights, a threat to free speech and a threat to democracy. But I’ve written about this in several other posts and don’t really want to repeat myself too often.

        • Chris Morriss

          The “never do anything…” philosophy is exactly what libertarians have been saying for centuries, usually resulting in being criticised by most other people.

          • Catherine Waterman

            Strange isn’t it? A simple statement of good intent is perceived as something different and gets shot down. This is why I feel we’ve a very long way to go – perhaps millions more years development of mind – before we can truly describe ourselves as ‘humane’ creatures. I’ve not given up on humanity, we certainly have the potential to be something very special indeed!

        • Grace Ironwood

          Well Catherine, “labels” -well deployed- help us to think. In fact I’d go further and say we *cannot think* without categories.

          I fervently agree re the Ninnies and Advanced Thinkers in the Law Society- led by a woman no less. A Traitor to her sex, the Law, our society. A few more Labels for you (with me wearing the label of an ex-lawyer, ex-Advanced Thinker of this type !)

          The human rightist/moral relativist crowd have thrown away the skills to discern right from wrong – except in placing moral relativism at the top of the heap in moral values.

          • Catherine Waterman

            Flippin ‘eck Grace, next time I need a lawyer to fight for my cause, I’ll employ someone like you! Full of fire. Today I ask for nothing more than a walk in the woods, followed by a nice cuppa tea and a purring cat on my lap. xx

      • Chris Morriss

        I may be an unwitting conspiracy theorist, but perhaps there’s a reason why Israel has such a high birth-rate. Perhaps the “Protocols of the Elders…” isn’t quite so fictional after all.
        (Exactly the same can be said for all the Islamic states as well of course).

        • Grace Ironwood

          Sorry chris, youll have to spell it out for me.I know the protocols, so beloved of the islamic world, are a famous tsarist hoax but dont actually know the substance of them !
          Israel’s birthrate is not entirely attributable to orthodox religious Jews it is also well spread across society with many fairly secular people having three or more kids. Caroline Glick has suggested Israeli society is far more cohesive, even though actually more multicultural than it used to be. Social morale and belief in the future is high. And, obviously, there are the surrounding, hostile Muslim hordes to concentrate the mind.

          It makes me think about the high level of social cohesion and patriotism the English famously felt during the years of WWAR2.

          These days, in advanced western societies, obviously, patriotism is deprecated (racist, naff)

          Having children is clearly a vote of collective self-confidence looking to the future. Again, the author Mary Eberstadt has looked in a very insightful way at the social devastation wrought by The Pill in the West, the sexual revolution and it’s various identity politics revolutions – including the greater emancipation of women, that has resulted in the loss of the primal articulation between sex and life.

        • Damaris Tighe

          Adding to Grace’s reply about Israel’s high-ish birth rate (it isn’t that high): half of Israeli Jews are descended from midddle-eastern Jews (sephardim & mizrahim). These will tend to have larger families even if they’re not very religious. Interestingly, the Israeli Arab birthrate is now only slightly above the Jewish one. This has been attributed to their westernisation.

          • Grace Ironwood

            On convergence between Palestinian/Israeli birthrates:

            Damaris, in addition to “Westernization” birthrates are also attributed to higher Palestinian emmigration rate (lucky recipients!) and higher Jewish immigration from Europe/France (obvious reasons)
            the PLO is said to hide the numbers leaving as well as exaggerating their overall numbers by a significant percentage.
            There is quite an argument on at present re Israeli vs Palestinian demographics as lately Caroline Glick has drawn attention to United Nations, Palestian Arab & Israeli figures that demographers have re-examined & found the huge over-estimation ,in the last year or two. Glick goes into detail in her Israeli Solution Book. This book advances a bold but risky solution in favour of simply applying Israeli sovereignty over West Bank/Judea and Samaria Arabs that offers them residency (equal in all but voting) and a path to citizenship (voting rights) for non terrorists. Notes this has worked out in previous smaller regions where this has been tried (Golan Heights)
            With a couple million Palestinians added to Israel’s population a Lot Depends on demographic trends to ensure Israel retains its national jewish character with such a move…she argues the alternative, a Palestinian State, offers the prospect of hundreds of thousands of jihadis moving in close to centre of Israel via new indefensible borders at invitation of Palestinians- so if they get a state Israel is dead. (which would make jihadis and leftists
            happy) But obviously, getting those demographics right is crucial to her project.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Demographics has been central to much of Israeli political thinking for some time. The political right argues that the Arab birth rate has been exaggerated – because they want to incorporate parts of the West Bank. Personally, I think Israel need a higher muslim population like a hole in the head. There is an interesting solution based on evidence that many Palestinian families were once Jewish & converted to Islam: google The Engagement by Tsvi Misinai.

          • Grace Ironwood

            i agree – millions more muslims ? ? But I can’t fault her argument about Palestinians and a million jihadi friends is a poor, perhaps the worst outcome for Israel. Not great choices.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Indeed, not great choices. I think that’s why Netanyahu tries to hold the status quo in all its provisional uncertainty because any final settlement would be bad for Israel.

          • Grace Ironwood

            Challenge for Bibi- hang on at least until Obama leaves for goodness sakes !

          • Grace Ironwood

            Maybe they’ll have to wait generations for civilisational change to come upon the Palestinian Arabs. Certainly no prospects for peace even if they give everything up but Tel Aviv.

    • Grace Ironwood

      “do unto others” is the so-called golden rule and appears all over, including the Bible, which bequeathed it to the humanists. Not an atheist invention, sorry !

      • Catherine Waterman

        Grace, you are projecting otherness into my words. I’ve never thought of it as an atheist invention. Where did I say this? Of course it’s a Christian concept too. Indeed, it spreads further than Christianity. It’s called being humane – a way of being which is available to each and every human being, no matter what their creed or non-belief. Clearly, too few people are capable of living up to this ideal at all times,which is why humanity is in a constant state of conflict on every conceivable level.

        • Grace Ironwood

          Sorry, Catherine, if I come across to you as aggro.
          I see it as an opportunity to discuss and debate issues of concern to me. Sometimes I’ve learnt things, especially on threads concerning religion ironically. I may have misinterpreted what you were saying re The Golden Rule -possibly you needed to be more specific.I would be unlikely to suggest you think you are better than others as I find Ad hominem attacks on interlocutors a weak mode of debate. Go well 🙂

          • Catherine Waterman

            No problem! xx

  • Icebow

    I used to rate Peter Oborne, but have found him problematic for some time. Did anyone read him in the Telegraph on Thursday? He is rightfully critical of Saudi Arabia, but seems to have gained the impression that the Muslim Brotherhood are into democracy. He should read their ‘project’ (their aim is the same as that of Al-Qa’ida and ISIL). This is rather a high-profile taqqiya victim, though of course not as high profile as David Cameron seems to be.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Well said.

      The Brotherhood are pernicious, operatives of stealth jihad for world domination. The difference between them and ISIS is ways and means, not ends.

      • Icebow

        Softly softly….

  • Liberty

    Seems to me that in one sense Islam is having the war – against ISIS. ISIS is showing Muslims what Islam would become if taken to its logical conclusion. Until now, the tradition in Islam has been not to question the koran so it has been hijacked by extremists and ISIS [plus Boko Haram or Hamas] is the result. Moderate Muslims who want to live in peace with those of other religions must be asking themselves – at least in private – what is Islam? Is ISIS right? And the answer must be that it is not. so what is right? The answer requires critical study of the koran. I hope people are doing it.

    • Richard

      That would require rationality, which is rather lacking, sadly. This will simply turn out to be another bloody conflict in a long line of bloody conflicts in Islam. Africa is full of meaningless and endless wars, leading to nothing but new tribal leaders and new, temporary hegemonies. The closest Islam has ever come to peace was during the Ottoman days. The idea of war and conflict leading to some better settlement with faddish notions such as “human rights” and such (they are also temporary, and require a particular political order within which to operate) is a very modern concept. Don’t have too much faith in “progress”.

    • Grace Ironwood

      I believe there *was* an earlier, more flexible tradition of Islamic interpretation and then the door slammed on it and became more schlerotic as now. There are people more literate in the history of this time in the tradition than I who could expand upon this point.

      A stumbling block is said to be that koran (unlike the Torah and the Bible) is considered the direct word of Allah. Amusingly, Allah was clearly a god who contradicted himself or made Mistakes in that he corrected his material, mainly in a more violent, imperialist direction when Mo got to Medina and became a power in the land.

      Many suggest the religion needs a Reformation like the Christian revolution so the it can successfully engage with Modernity & tolerate others. Unfortunately, the recent fundamentalist reorientation of jihad towards an Islamist World Revolution, whether violent (including ISIS) or creeping (Muslim Brotherhood)n seems to have been it.

      The fact that there is interpretive jurisprudence at all would seem to offer a chink of opportunity to moderate & live with others if there was a will to do it.

      Currently, Islamist imperialism seems to be supported by doctrine. Democratic, modern reformers seem not to be supported very directly/literally by koran and hadith.

      Pity for all of us.

      • Ortega

        I believe there *was* an earlier, more flexible tradition of Islamic interpretation and then the door slammed on it and became more schlerotic as now. There are people more literate in the history of this time in the tradition than I who could expand upon this point.

        I think there’s a fundamental mistake in thinking that a lot of the anti-modernist movements seen in muslim countries is based on “literalism”. It is more to do with just being the opposite of whatever the “West” is. Take drugs and pornography for example. Those things were popular in the muslim world way before they were widespread in Europe, and even as a means of religious expression in the sense of “theo-erotic” poetry and hashish use promoted by many of the Sufi orders/movements. Now though, those things are presented as part of a Western conspiracy to corrupt muslims. This is more a problem in the Arab Sunni world because they’ve seen themselves as a great power for so long, now that they’re not they have to agree in these symbolic displays of power to make themselves feel better.

        Many suggest the religion needs a Reformation like the Christian revolution so the it can successfully engage with Modernity & tolerate others.

        I think it needs to be emphasized that the Protestant Reformation was not an EVENT. It was a movement, and a movement that failed. Most of the countries that were Catholic in Martin Luther’s time, still are today. Likewise, linking Protestantism to modernity is a very Protestant-centric way of looking at European history ie Catholics = Conservative/Backward, Protestant = Liberal/Progressive. Descartes, often claimed to be the first enlightenment thinker was a Catholic living in a Catholic country. The French Revolution happened in a Catholic country.

    • Chris Morriss

      I don’t think that Muslims want to live in peace with the rest of the world. Islam is a supremacist religion after all. Judaism was also a supremacist religion 2000 years ago, but for all my worries about a resurgence of this view in modern Judaism, in general, outside Israel, they do co-exist peacefully with everyone else.

      • Damaris Tighe

        I don’t think Judaism was a supremacist religion even 2000 years ago, Chris. They thought of themselves as a nation bearing witness to the one God, a ‘nation of priests’. Apart from a brief episode when Jews proselytised they believed that for other nations some basic ‘Noachide’ laws were sufficient.

      • Grace Ironwood

        I don’t think Judaism is supremacist in the sense that Islam is. The Jews don’t want to conquer the world, they don’t even want to convert. Only supremacist conceivably in the quiet confidence that they are the Chosen People- guaranteed to infuriate the rest of us !
        And so the rest of us claim to be the New Chosen People.

        • Chris Morriss

          Well it doesn’t infuriate me, mainly because my belief is that the god of Judaism (and also of Islam) is not the God of whom Jesus spoke, but some powerful but amoral and possibly malevolent discarnate entity who somehow has taken control of this world. This is a view that has been held in one way or another by various people in the past (Supposedly by W Gladstone and probably CS Lewis in his dark phase after the death of his wife). It would of course have earned me a starring but brief role in an Auto da Fe in the past!
          No Judaism is not supremacist today, but the way that the Israelis a few years ago publicly defaced an important early Christian site uncovered while building a bus station (or possibly a car park) rankles. Official mealy-mouthed apologies of course for the deliberate damage, but like so many things that happen in modern Israel, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

          • Grace Ironwood

            No, it doesn’t infuriate me either Chris, but it obviously has rather stung other religions and peoples over the millennia. Look at early America – The early Great Awakenings, when the the New World took on the mantle.

            The jewish philosopher of the fate of nations, Franz Rosenzweig, goes to town on this.

            Bigots all over the place.

      • Grace Ironwood

        I suspect the Jews of Israel would love a chance to live peacefully with their neighbours. Just that the neighbours want them all dead and the region to be free of all but Muslims.

  • “In the early 2000s, he predicted a century of conflict within Islam.”

    But as a Marxist operative he didn’t predict the fake collapse of the USSR…

    Take a look at the following photo from 2013, and note what’s still appended to the bows of Russian naval vessels (enlarge picture)…


    See the Soviet era Red Star still attached to the port bow, near the anchor!

    Now, take a look at the Soviet nationality roundel on a Russian military aircraft in 2009:


    Take a look at what’s still on Aeroflot aircraft…


    Note the Communist emblem of the hammer & sickle stenciled on the Aeroflot aircraft’s fuselage! Imagine the Swastika still on Lufthansa commercial aircraft!

    Take a look at what the Russian government ordered the Russian Ministry of Defense to keep on the masthead of its official newspaper…see if you notice something odd…


    “Krasnaya Zvezda” is Russian for “Red Star”, the official newspaper of Soviet and later Russian Ministry of Defense. The paper’s official designation is, “Central Organ of the Russian Ministry of Defense.” Note the four Soviet emblems next to the still existing Soviet era caption titled “Red Star”(!), one of the Soviet emblems including the image of Lenin!

    The Soviet Air Force Base outside the town of Engels (Saratov Oblast District, Russia) named Engels Air Force Base (the only Soviet Air Force Base named in honor of Engels; none were named after Marx nor Lenin), is STILL called Engels Air Force Base, and the adjacent town is still called Engels. Both town and air base were named after Marx’s colleague Friedrich Engels…

    Engels Air Force Base:


    Also, notice the modified Soviet Red Star roundel, created in 2010, 19-years after the collapse of the USSR (people were talking about the inexplicable continued use of the Soviet roundel, so instead of creating a new roundel for the new Russian nation, which was supposed to have occurred in 1992, the Duma instead merely modified the Soviet roundel!). Here’s the Soviet roundel, for comparison…


    The only difference between the two roundels is the addition of the narrow blue trim bordering the red star. Imagine today’s German Luftwaffe using a modified Nazi Swastika on its aircraft! Even so, the unmodified Soviet era roundel remains in-place on most military aircraft, meaning Russians, who were 94% non-Communist Party members in late 1991, have fond memories of being persecuted under the nationality that that roundel represents! Imagine if Germany had been 94% ethnic Jewish during World War II, and after the Allies’ occupation the Jewish German population used the Swastika roundel for the new Luftwaffe!

    Engels city:


    In fact, Engels city still has Lenin Square…


    …and Saratov city (right across the Volga River from Engels city) still has its massive statue of Lenin…


    In fact, approximately 97% of Lenin’s statues that stood in Russia before the fake collapse of the USSR are to this day still standing (that 97% statistic constitutes thousands of statues)….


    The only statues taken down were in those locations where foreign tourists would travel the most, and those statues were lovingly disassembled and placed in museums or parks, waiting there for their planned resurrections–after the defeat of the West…


    In fact, in other “former” republics of the USSR statues of Lenin weren’t toppled and destroyed either, they were carefully removed from their foundations and relocated to new locations, such as in the backyard of the Estonian History Museum at the Maarjamaë Palace.


    …and in Lithuania, statues to Lenin and Marx are located at Grūtas Park, which also incredulously has, now get this, a Soviet theme park, replete with “…a mini-zoo and cafes, all containing relics of the Soviet era. On special occasions actors stage re-enactments of various Soviet-sponsored festivals”!…



    Rabbi Sacks failed to predict that the so-called “War on Terror” is a USSR & Allies-tasked operation being carried out by the co-opted governments of the West, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending “War on Terror”; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union “From the Atlantic to Vladivostok”; which will (5) see the end of NATO.

  • Y. Mattos Rosenmann

    אחד מהרבנים הטובים ביותר.

    • Grace Ironwood

      sorry Y. my knowledge of Hebrew is limited to the alphabet.
      Could you deign ? I’m interested in your point.
      Not boycotting or anythin’ 🙂

      • Y. Mattos Rosenmann

        One of the best rabbis.

        • Grace Ironwood

          Disqus Settings

          A new comment was posted on The Spectator

          Y. Mattos Rosenmann

          One of the best rabbis.

          12:17 a.m., Sunday Nov. 2

          Reply to Y. Mattos Rosenmann

          Y. Mattos Rosenmann’s comment is in reply to Grace Ironwood:

          sorry Y. my knowledge of Hebrew is limited to the alphabet.
          Could you deign ? I’m interested in your point.
          Not boycotting or anythin’ 🙂

          Read more

          You’re receiving this message because you’re signed up to receive notifications about replies to disqus_QV8miSR2AM.
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          • Damaris Tighe

            Grace, I don’t understand, what’s all this about?

          • Grace Ironwood

            Seems to have been generated by disqus because i answered the wrong person. Appalled, just appalled to see it. 🙂 Pay it no mind.

    • Chris Morriss

      Something like “He is one of the best rabbis”?

      • Y. Mattos Rosenmann


        • Grace Ironwood

          Well done Chris !
          I agree. Very sane man and a great leader for Britain.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Wow, Chris, you can read Hebrew?

        • Chris Morriss

          A tiny bit, going back a very long time when I was interested in Alchemy. (Don’t gasp, I was peripherally involved in the “Cold Fusion” saga in the early 90s and there was speculation that early Jewish alchemists may unwittingly have performed low-energy transmutations.)
          I now find that my effort in a translation was not needed. It seems Google translate can cope with Hebrew!

          • Damaris Tighe

            I’m not gasping! I did a little reading on alchemy & concluded that Jung’s take on it as a metaphor for the inner life was most likely. But I know people have taken it literally. What was the Cold Fusion Saga?

            PS: With Hebrew I’m lost without the vowels.

          • Chris Morriss

            This started back in the late 80s when two British electro-chemists claimed that low-energy nuclear fusion could occur in a flask at room temperature. It caused an almighty stir at the time. I knew some of the people involved in replicating (or not) the results, and there’s still a lot that hasn’t been made public. Research is still going on, some of it in the very highest level of scientific establishments, but you’ll never hear anything of it. If someone can get it to work in a way that produces controllable energy, it’ll be the biggest scientific breakthrough for hundreds of years.

          • Grace Ironwood

            So did anyone conduct the great marriage in a flask ?

          • Chris Morriss

            I have to admit that I never thought of the similarities to the Alchemical Wedding! The similarity to the concept of Sol and Luna merging in a flask had escaped me ’til I saw your comment.
            The electrolysis of heavy water with Palladium electrodes had to be kept going slowly for many weeks before anything out of the ordinary was observed, and any knocking or vibration of the flask resulted in the adsorption of Deuterium into the atomic matrix of the Palladium being disturbed. So, quite closely mirroring the medieval alchemist’s solitary labours!
            The scientific consensus is that on balance, proof to support the cold-fusion hypothesis was lacking. There was more heat generated by furious conventional nuclear scientists howling insults at Fleischman and Pons than was observed in their experiments.
            Work still goes on though around the world, but the press interest of a couple of years ago when an Italian scientist claimed genuine proof of energy generation seems to have been a carefully constructed hoax on his part.

          • Grace Ironwood

            Wow. Hilarious.
            The description you give sounds a little like the early idea of the electric battery. (I have to state up front I’m a science illiterate) I have a friend who’s a “new media” artist and one of her installation pieces was a very primitive battery with many jars full of metal filings (?) in liquid hooked up together which gradually began to store electric charge. I think the idea was repeated more recently in dramatic form in Breaking Bad when Walt & Jess were stuck in the desert with a flat battery & Walt used his chemistry wizardry to make a battery.

            The Great Wedding is THE central trope isn’t it ? I used to enjoy reading Jung and he wrote more than 20 books of historic studies on Alchemy, though, as Damaris pointed out, he saw it more as an extended metaphor of psycho-magic the practitioner performed on his self. (I prefer Jung over Freud despite Jung’s magical thinking because he held out some hope of development, maturity and “individuation” for the poor silly human)
            Alchemy is fascinating, one hears that Newton wrote more on the subject than real science, presumably trying to put the laws of the universe, humans and god together (I’m guessing) Do you know much about Newton’s alchemical works ?

            People are funny,arent they ? I hope no one was injured in the dispute 🙂

          • Chris Morriss

            But it is a magnificent script isn’t it? You can imagine Rabbi Loew in Prague writing the sacred words down in it to inscribe on the head of the Golem he created.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Unique I’d say. Although modern lower case script looks a lot like arabic.

    • Jack the Russell

      ‘cor blimey mate, don’t speak the lingo, me.

  • ilPugliese

    Douglas Murray peddling his usual Judeo-Christian religious line. Religion is fantasy. If we still may want a spiritual dimension, we will get it ourselves without having to sell our souls to a church. As for the need for communities and identities, this is just tribalism and religions and dictatorships love these, as they provide a mechanism for control.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Good luck with starting your own religion, Ill.

      • ilPugliese

        Thank you, but I think everyone has to follow their own individual paths to whatever meets their spritual (for want of a better word) needs. Organised religion is more a social/cultural experience at best, or with certain religions a control mechanism, and at worst a tool for psychopaths.

      • Chris Morriss

        I’m sure starting a new religion is possible if someone is pig-headed enough. Look what Joseph Smith started! And he was only semi-literate. A look in the Book of Mormon confirms that.

        • Damaris Tighe

          Mormonism always reminds me of Islam (or vice versa).

          • Chris Morriss

            It does me too. There’s the same teenage fantasy drivel about both of them. It’s as if the sorry hordes that frequent Games Workshop decided that their playground needed a religion. (I guess it probably has one, and that my comment is hopelessly naïve)
            I may be wrong about the language in the Quran. It was written in early Arabic, and for all I know, the English translations may not capture the essence of the original.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Muslims often say that the Koran in the original language is magnificent & this isn’t carried over in translation. To me the text in English sounds laughable, crude & bombastic. But the Bible can be translated into beautiful, uplifting English & much of it was also originally written in semitic languages. I’ve therefore concluded that the ‘magnificent’ Koran is a case of the emperor’s new clothes.

          • Grace Ironwood

            We hear this translation apologetics every time Muslims get caught out by the naked hostility of their religion. Only a minority of Muslims know Arabic, especially the little known dialect and Archaic Arabic the book was written in. Are these teeming millions not muslims ?

  • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

    Good grief it is surely self evident that religion is pernicious . European christians have a deep hatred of people they define as Jews. The European Muslims are now joining the christians in Jew hating. Humanity will not become compassionate until it rejects superstition.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Muslims have their own deep theology of rabid jew-hatred. Maybe religion-wide inferiority complex as the new kids on the Monotheism block with the obvious but denied derivations from the two previous ones. And to speak plainly, the obvious brilliance of the jews & success and strength of Israel compared to their own civilisational failure must be humiliating.

      Europeans were losing their anti-semitism until post-colonialism came along and entranced the left which, as we know, has now linked up with the hordes and Islamism.

      Perhaps there’s also something in the idea that we’ll never forgive them for the Holocaust.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Re your last sentence, I think that’s why ‘genocide’, ‘n*zis’, ‘Warsaw Ghetto’ etc are epithets regularly thrown at Israel. Those doing this must know how deeply offensive (& monstrously untrue) it is. I suspect they get a semi-org*smic delight in doing so.

      • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

        My impression from history is that the Muslims have been more tolerant of Jews than the Christians. The holocaust was perpetrated by European Christians and the current anti-jewish sentiment of Muslims is the strife about what is called the holy land by both peoples. I also cannot see anything in Muslim theology that would lead to Jew hatred. It would still seem self evident to me that religion is pernicious.

        • Grace Ironwood

          Gosh. Well I can only recommend you read the Koran and have a look at the Hadith. (The Bukhari collection)
          Note the actions of Mohammed. As an aside, a sense of humour does not appear to have been one of his virtues.

          • Grace Ironwood

            The “strife” about the Israel is fueled by the traditional Jew-hatred & Islamic Imperialism rather than the other way around.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            Well Mohammed was a man and some lack a sense of humour. Jesus is of course God and showed a sense of humour when he cast a spell on 2000 pigs who promptly drowned themselves. It was a hoot although the local folk didnae laugh. The continued hatred of Jews by Christians has nothing to do with theology. The bottom line is, religion of any shape or form is pernicious.

  • StupidWhiningMen

    Great. Another round of: man becomes prophet of supernatural man, man relegates woman to subservient, debased spiritual role, man thinks it can be improved, man has civil war, carnage ensues, woman relegated to subservient debased spiritual role. Man becomes prophet. The Ego Cycle.

  • StupidWhiningMen

    “Jesus saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ‘

    Because he isn’t there? Just a thought.

  • StupidWhiningMen

    “My guess is that this happens 15 centuries into the history of Judaism”

    The 1st century AD, how do you figure 1500 years from that?

  • Bonkim

    As an atheist that thinks all religions are superstitions I agree with Sacks that –
    “Clearly people are searching for something,’ he says. ‘There is definitely a search for spirituality. Yet spirituality per se is not going to get us where we need to be because spirituality is what happens when religion goes bowling alone. It is very self–focused.’ In lieu of traditional morality, he sees today’s morality as being centred on issues which would once have been seen as political, rather than moral.”

    Intellectuals often fail because they assume all others have similar reasoning powers, confident, but ambivalent on most issues and can work out their own ethos and world view. Regrettably most people need support and feel powerless to think for themselves.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Re your “We Intelligent people go it alone” argument :Many intellectuals are attracted to religions such as Judaism and Catholicism precisely because these traditions offer so much for the intellect and the soul to engage with- To imagine that what one individual can come up with in his vacuum can rival these deposits of a huge depth-many great thinkers contributing to their civilisational learning throughout the millenia – is absurdly hubristic. But good luck with it Bonkim!

      • Damaris Tighe

        Have you ever looked at the Traditionalist School (Rene Geuenon etc) Grace?

        • Grace Ironwood

          No, but I will now 🙂
          By the way, was Williams ever a member of The Golden Dawn ? They were of great interest to me when an anklebiter.
          I know he ran with The Rosy Cross for a while…

          • Damaris Tighe

            He was a member of an offshoot of the Golden Dawn. What’s an anklebiter?!

          • Grace Ironwood

            Aussie for kid

          • Damaris Tighe

            Wow, you were precocious 😉

          • Grace Ironwood

            (proudly/betraying vows) Youngest ever member. But teenager not really anklebiter.
            Kicked out.

          • Damaris Tighe

            I find esoteric Christianity fascinating, but it’s a bit like the pied piper – lures into byways I think. I suspect that’s what CW concluded.

          • Grace Ironwood

            We (most of us) simply don’t have the education in ancient languages these days to be good at recovering or synthesising new mysticisms from old manuscripts. I understand that the GD purported to have early members recovering ancient rituals from museum manuscripts in dead languages. On the other hand I felt some of the individuals I came to know were self-deluding/charlatans.(Has to be said from a much later generation)

            Look at the fantasies about the ancient provenance of wicca!

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            May I interject and ask if you ever looked at Gurdieff and Ouspenky? I found they have some remarkable insights. Also a pretty down to earth common sense.

          • Grace Ironwood

            Confess I don’t know very much about Gurdjieff, grouped him with Steiner & then those Americans doing their EST in the seventies ! And on and on until you end upo a scientologist !! 🙂 Perhaps haven’t done him justice . I have shied away from the several modern individuals synthesising their own contemporary systems especially if they take in snippets of Eastern traditions – when I was engaged in looking at such things I was much more interested in western esoteric traditions. Many moderns, since the theosophists seemed to be engaged in forms of syncretism.
            Recently I’ve become much more interested in mainstream Catholicism, especially ethics. Reading Islamic texts for political reasons. But forced into agnosticism fairly early in life. So away from the magic !
            Nevertheless,I do retain an interest, especially as background to some of my fav fiction writers.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            Yes I shy away from these pick and mix synthetic creations too, The whole realm seems tailor made for charlatans and dupes. Gurdjieff claimed to bringing in ideas that predated Christianity and even Judaism but informed both, Possibly stemming from the Egyptian and greek Mystery schools. Regardless of the provenance the world-view contained casts a remarkable light on modernity, The notion of human beings as being nothing more than unconscious machines reacting to stimuli may seem at first to be a form of behaviourism but there is also the notion of potential awakening, There is an aphorism he quotes ‘When a man awakens he can die. When he dies he can be born.’ The same notion is in the Gospels and the esoteric reading of the crucifixion is that it takes place in the mind Golgotha The place of the skull. I have found it very hard to forget this reading and there seems to be an awful amount in the Old and the New Testaments which can sustain the interpretation of an allegory of the souls search for connection.

          • Damaris Tighe

            The ‘place of the skull’ is intriguing isn’t it. One more mainstream interpretation is that the skull is Adam’s & the person crucified at that place is the New Adam. A ‘new creation’ & a ‘new man’. A Theosophical Society member of the 1930s, Geoffrey Hodson, published many ‘inner’ interpretations of the bible. I found that in works like this the events described become transferred from the outer to the inner world, become more subjective than objective.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            It is intriguing. Also very subjective. There is a comment on Shakespeare somewhere claiming that his work is open to multiple reading because, like Life itself, it is multi-dimensional. Only when it comes to religion different readings can lead to civil war. Which indicates that religion is not just some fairy tale but has deep roots in the nature of humanity and society. Nobody is going to kill or go to war over interpretations of Shakespeare. Other than angry academics.

          • Bonkim

            Not all that shout Lord Lord will find the Kingdom of Heaven. Don’t be misled by passing fads or esoteric belief systems that come and go. You are proving the point that man/woman is looking for answers to the origins of nature and the very reason for its existence – and how we fit in the grand scheme – a creator is the logical focus – but then who created God and what for? Best to accept that human brain and all around us have their limits – in some religions you are taught that life is an illusion or a self perpetuating view of I – since each one of us are at the centre of that illusion and capable of creating the one God that we believe is the eternal divine being.

            As one gets old one has to accept our physical limitations – and as we live we have to come to the conclusion that rationality has its limits too unless you believe in a given axiom of God and the religion/faith you have been brought into – questioning beyond the given axiom is meaningless as you have accepted it as the fundamental principle of your faith.

          • Grace Ironwood

            A more nuanced presentation than your last one !

          • Chris Morriss

            A valid, though eccentric view in modern science is that any massively large collection, such as the universe we are in, will become sentient over time. This would certainly produce a universal god.
            And no, I haven’t a clue how either!

          • Bonkim

            Although balance of all matter and energy in the Universe will remain constant, and despite frictionless motion through space, energy balance will shift over trillions of years and the whole Universe cool down to a null energy level – Now if there is a God he/she will be might cold and die too. Unless you are a Hindu in which case your God will dance and belch out fire and wind to get everything moving again. Perhaps to convert to Hinduism – but sorry you can’t convert – you have to be born into it. What an unequal and unfair universe we live in.

          • Chris Morriss

            Of course the idea of evolution on this planet goes against the idea of ever increasing entropy in the universe, though local perturbations seem to be allowed!
            I first came across the basic idea as a very small boy, in astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle’s novel, The Black Cloud. It sometimes comes up in the discussions of quantum mechanics “multiverse” ideas. What these normally don’t state is that although new universes where such intelligence might evolve are branching off ours every few nanoseconds, they nearly all re-merge in the same time frame as something equivalent to resonance pulls everything back together.
            As Terry Pratchett said, back in the days before the cruel form of Alzheimer’s got hold of him: “It’s all quantum”.

          • Bonkim

            Need for a new unified theory of the universe I suppose but we are both out of our depth. On the one hand entropy change is coupled with an ever expanding Universe so maintaining a relative temperature difference and energy flow. Regardless of quantum physics and whether we can solve the energy/mass balance – where does God an omnipotent entity feature in all this.

            I asked that question when I was ten but was asked to shut up and not be an idiot. Also where does all these fancy rituals and chants come in to wake up the omnipotent God so he can continue to help his creation and mankind. I must be missing something there. Equally if one has to be a Quantum-Physicist to understand God – not many will reach him unless all these chants and rituals are the key and most on earth have forgotten the right combination and hence stuck with global warming, climate change, overpopulation and fast depleting resources which going by simple back of the envelope calculations will see the end of man on earth within a century or two if not decades.

            The Climate change scientists are overoptimistic on our future suggesting that if we make a start to reduce emissions now, there is a chance of mankind’s survival beyond the end of the century and that the process is sustainable.

            The good point for me is that I will not be there to test the theory. I have a theory that man does not alter behaviour because of wise words by experts – a lobster will stay put in the pot if you increase temperature gradually – until it is cooked. Man will only change when hit really hard and there is no other option but then it will be too late.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Exactly. There is a sincere & grounded christian esotericist I do like – he calls himself Gareth Knight. But even then, it’s a byway.

          • Grace Ironwood

            Ok. You’ve given me some things to look at!
            I’m more interested in Catholicism – ethics and Natural Law Theory at present. But the Inklings need some background reading I think. Aleister Crowley creeped me out.

          • Damaris Tighe

            The best background work is still Humphrey Carpenter, ‘The Inklings’. The chapter on CW mentions the GD & A E Waite.

          • Catherine Waterman

            I have a couple of books on the Kabbalah by Gareth Knight. At one time I felt I’d a basic grasp of such things and was also a fan of Dion Fortune. I’m afraid I’ve long since given up trying to make sense of such occult systems. I’ve gone back to basics with my life. Thrown all the intellectual stuff down the proverbial lav. My god/dess (or whatever you want to call ‘it’) is in wild nature, including gazing into the night sky. Such simple things provide me with all I need nowadays. I’m a simple soul with a simple mind. Truly, I’ve forgotten everything I thought I used to ‘know’. I count my blessings too.

          • Chris Morriss

            Yeats was a member, and so was Arthur Machen. Yeats was a clever writer but it seems, a very strange person.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Now I have read some Machen. Enjoyed it.

          • Chris Morriss

            I know the short story, “the Bowmen”, that started off the whole Angels of Mons thing. The only other story I have read by Machen was “The Great God Pan”, which quite honestly I found a deeply unpleasant book.

          • Chris Morriss

            And what a lot of byways there are! That shows the essential liberal nature of Christianity though. Judaism has a few odd offshoots *, but Islam really only has Sufism as a heretical (if actually fairly unthreatening) alternative way. I guess cutting the heads of any modern Muslims who might wish for a gentler way is a fairly effective deterrent.
            * I guess you’re someone who has read it, but Umberto Eco’s long novel “Foucault’s Pendulum” might be of interest.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Thanks Chris, but no, I haven’t read Eco’s novel. Unfortunately there’s too much I haven’t read …

          • Ortega

            Islam really only has Sufism as a heretical (if actually fairly unthreatening) alternative way.

            There’s no such thing as “Sufism”. This is a term created by European historians. Muslims who have been labelled (or labelled themselves) as “Sufis” have been hugely diverse historically. They don’t represent one coherent doctrine. It’s also not a fringe section of society. They could be (and are) found in the fringes, the masses and the elite.

          • Grace Ironwood

            Ahmadi Muslims.
            They get regularly blown up in Pakistan. Regarded as heresy, quite modern. Amongst earliest immigrants to Britain last century.
            I’m no expert but they are positively oriented to modernity and appear not to want to rule others.

          • Chris Morriss

            Reminds me of the informal society at Oxford that preceded the Inklings. I believe they called themselves “Coalbiters”, because in those unheated days, everyone tried to get as close a possible to the fire.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Yes, the Coalbiters but they had to go one better so used the Icelandic form! That was Tolkien I expect …

        • Bonkim

          The Devil speaks in many tongues!

      • Bonkim

        The three main Abrahamic religions believe in one and only one God – Jehovah/Allah/Elohim.

        So listening or reading ancient philosophical interpretations is meaningless – All three religions start from the basic axiom of one God and acceptance of the pronouncements of their Prophets as the given wisdom – if you then start to debate the teachings/holy scripts and pick and choose the bits you like and reject what you don’t you are going against the grain of their fundamental beliefs.

        Catholic brand of Christianity has deviated most – it was founded as a replacement of the Roman Empire with all its administrative trimmings and the infallible Pope as Caesar. However the teachings have over the centuries been altered and new truths added by the ancients as they went on through history.

        Your mind appears to be grappling with the same questions that the ancients were struggling with and will continue unless you recognize that certain things cannot be analysed by logic as we understand – and best consigned to a belief system – you cannot argue with one’s belief by definition.

        • Grace Ironwood

          I’m a sorry-assed agnostic with a profound respect for Judeo- Christian civilisation and the religions themselves. All religions are most certainly not the same.

          • Grace Ironwood

            And I agree there are limits to reason 🙂

          • Bonkim

            I fully agree – my God is stronger and better than yours any day! Will beat you up if you don’t submit. My God is great!

          • Grace Ironwood

            Weeell not to be humourless, but Jews and Christians dont currently approve of and practice slavery paedophilia, rape, beheading…. and on ad nauseum. So turning me into a blood puddle won’t change the fact that some religions have a huge ethical…shall we say “deficit”?

          • Bonkim

            Difficult to define ‘current’ within the span of history. I suppose Christians and Jews had their fill of slavery, and blood-thirst – not to be outdone late comer Islam has to make up for lost time and the other religions are now in the race.

            Get serious – Muslims did not design and manufacture the ovens of Dachau or the leg-irons that were standard issue to the blacks sweating out in Southern plantations or dying in ships’ holds on the tedious and long journey from Africa.

            Regards paedophilia (a polite term for child rape/molestation) look up the history of this in British homes before the ‘current’ period in history and continuing and not just in Rochdale or Manchester in recent years. Slavery too is alive and well – look up the back-streets of British and European Cities and the white slavers or gang-masters on British farms exploiting Eastern European and Asian labour.

            – not many Muslim slave drivers there.

            Regards Judaism and human values – an eye for an eye equates to hundreds of men, women and children for a handful of ignorant idiots lobbing fire crackers into Israel, one often wonders if the Israelis have forgotten their recent past where they were the object of hatred and persecution in Christendom and when those they are massacring in Gaza and Lebanon gave them protection from the savagery of Christendom – the catholic Church was in the forefront of Jewish persecution throughout history and including the period of the two world wars and later decades. The Holy Fathers are also well versed in the arts of Paedophilia and protection rackets

            I suppose you can say there are no angels in heaven or on earth – all in man’s imagination. As said before my God is stronger, more loving and kinder to me and also the most just of all Gods – what he does to others is however not my business.

          • Grace Ironwood

            Disingenous of you.
            The actions of people are not the same as the precepts of religion. There are no precepts of Christianity and Judaism that teach their adherents to enslave and to rape and that pedophilila is permissible. The same cannot be said for Islam.
            To describe Hamas as”idiots with firecrackers” is to dangerously mislead and minimise their genocidal intent towards the Jews and their abuse of their own people.
            Now why would you do that?

          • Bonkim

            I bet you would not think kindly of foreigners invading and taking your land to set up their state and making you a refugee. It is natural for Palestinians to want to eliminate Israel – that was set up on their land and continuing to set up new settlements – Legally Israel is an invader and only there because of western powers that helped its setting up as atonement for the sins of Christian Europe that persecuted Jews for two Millennia culminating in Hitler’s final solution. Jews were persecuted in the US and Britain too pre WW2 – but were largely protected in Islamic countries as long as they paid the non-Muslim’s tax. The post WW2 anti Israeli mindset developed only when Israel was set up – forced upon the region by the colonial powers following WW2. The Arabs were considered ignorant savages and to be trodden upon by the Colonial Powers – little wonder the region is now hell on earth.

            Rape and murder, etc, child marriage became illegal even in Europe in recent centuries – child trafficking and abuse is prevalent even today and Islam does not condone such practices but most of the Islamic countries are still in Middle-Ages mindset – Superficial Western morality, etc, etc you mention is recent history – murder, rape, etc, as political and military strategy prevalent until recent decades – look up recent – Yugoslavia, etc. Don’t make holier than thou comments – first examine history and recognize that man can be beastly to the extreme once you consider other groups not human.

            Check what the Holy Fathers were engaged in Church Schools, etc, and how the Vatican helped cover up their illegal acts.

          • Grace Ironwood

            As I said, Bonkin. Limits to reason.

          • Bonkim

            Good – rationality dictates one to play Devil’s Advocate and not be swayed by ones inner beliefs, biases and personal circumstances.

    • SPW

      superstition: “a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief”

      Christ, according to this definition, is no superstition.

      • Bonkim

        God producing an earthly son via virgin birth (adultery?) and then sacrifice to atone for mankind’s sins is superstition. Girls having extramarital sex were thrown out at the time and with God – now that takes some believing – unless you have faith – which is superstition.

        • SPW

          The virgin birth is posited as supernatural and is entirely consistent with the canon of scripture:
          – the promised deliverer was to be of Eve’s seed not Adam’s (Gen 3:15);
          – the virgin birth was predicted 800 years before it occurred (Isaiah 7:14);

          – it also deals with the curse God places on the Davidic line (Jeremiah 22:30) i.e. if Jesus was born of Joseph He would have been disqualified. He was legally the inheritor of King David by Joseph’s marriage to Mary and He was actually the son of King David through Mary (I take it you are familiar with the two genealogies of Christ?).

          As to faith/superstition etc. what about your faith in cold dark matter?

          “All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just 4 percent of the universe. The other 96 percent is made of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect or even comprehend.” http://tinyurl.com/faith96

          As a Christian my universe does not need cold dark matter. You believe in the invisible, and undetectable, too. Is this not also superstition?

          • Bonkim

            You believe in superstition – just accept that – I have no problem with people who have a faith and believe in anything they want – they are welcome to theirs. But don’t claim that to be rational and not superstition.

          • SPW

            I shall assume you believe in the 96% of the universe that is required to make the big bang theory work. Scientists infer this missing 96% by looking at the behaviour of celestial bodies. I infer the validity of Scripture by looking at the behaviour of earthly bodies – the propensity to failure, the need of acceptance, the hatred of death etc. etc. My faith is reasoned, as is yours.

            On a personal note, in your original post, you implied that those with a religious faith somehow needed it to cope with life. Believe you me, my life would be easier in many ways without being convinced of the Scriptural Christ. He requires me to take up my cross daily, to deny self. His ways a peaceful and joyous, but they are far from easy!

          • Bonkim

            Easier to have faith in your religion than struggle with dark matter or Quantum Physics. I don’t hate death by the way. Death is a release from pain – as in the Bible. I also don’t need acceptance or to belong to any group.

            It is also fruitless to argue about some one’s personal faith which by definition does not require a reason or acceptance by others.

          • SPW

            Dear Bonkim. Yes I live by faith, but it is carefully reasoned. What I believe most closely matches what I see. I hear of cold dark matter and irreducible complexity (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1e4FUhfHiU), of punctuated equilibrium (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QiRoO8af7s) and the mind bending complexities of DNA. I see design everywhere, ergo I deduce there is a designer.

            Being convinced there is a designer I engage in the teachings of the world’s religions and find truth only in Christianity. I don’t need to defend my position to anyone but I do exhort everyone to search openly for themselves; either there is truth or there isn’t. Call Christianity superstition, it changes nothing.

            As to your reference to death and the Bible – I don’t know of such teaching outside Christ (I assume you are). Rather:
            “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” Heb 9:27 or…

            “How [much more] severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Heb 10:29

          • Bonkim

            I have no problem with believers and their faiths – freedom of faith/religion is one of man’s fundamental rights – it is the politics behind Faith that I detest and much of formal religion is Politics. Most conflicts across the Globe have Faith as one of the elements. High Priests accompany soldiers to the battle front proclaiming their Gods is the one and only true God and will overcome their enemy.

          • SPW

            “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

            “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

            Truth is not relative, it is absolute, it is Christ. Incontrovertible proof has been given of this in His resurrection. Apply your mind to the evidence.

          • Bonkim

            Amen! or not Amen! That is the question.

            I suppose I am damned and a goner, no hope of resurrection in the coming heaven on earth – so make the most of what is there of the pleasures of the flesh for now. Can see the Nine Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping my way and no place to hide. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH- it is hot here. I should have listened to you.

          • SPW

            My post was in response to the points about reasoning. Christians are persuaded by many witnesses. Amongst these are:

            1) The World (‘God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,’ Romans 1:20)

            2) The Resurrected Christ (‘He has given proof [of this] to everyone by raising him [Christ] from the dead.’ Acts 17:30)

            3) The Conscience (‘they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.’ Romans 2:15)

            These are but three of many. This does not amount to superstition. Superstition is an irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck.

            I deduce and infer through reason that the Bible is true and I put my trust in it. You deduce and infer through reason that the Big Bang theory is true and you put your trust in it. I see a contradiction in that last sentence.

          • Bonkim

            Hope you feel secure and comfortable in your faith – equally others are happy and secure in their religion or non-religion. Reason is based on your faith.

          • SPW

            If others are happy, as you attest they are, bril. I am secure because Christ is. I rejoice because Christ does. I hope in Him, love in Him, rest in Him.

            Nulla in mundo pax sincera
            sine felle; pura et vera,
            dulcis Jesu, est in te… as said Vivaldi (amongst others).

          • Bonkim

            Don’t understand Latin!

  • English_Independence_Movement

    What is this’God’ thing?

    • Bonkim

      The Symbol you use!

  • SPW

    How on earth can Sacks say that Christianity ‘ended on a note of failure’? Christianity has at its centre the risen living Christ and the expectation of His return!

    To quote Job back at Sacks: ‘”As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.’ (19:25)

    • Grace Ironwood

      That’s a Jew talking about Christianity remember !

  • artemis in france

    Sacks is the most impressive religious leader I’ve ever read or listened to. His intellectuel grasp of realpolitick and the many problems facing the world today is so strong and his analysis of our lack of commitment to solving them so succinct that I wonder how he can bear to speak to most other religious leaders who simply trot out the usual shibboleths and glib rhetoric.

    He loves Britain and it must be very difficult to see what has become of it. And what must he think of Milliband, a Jew who seems ashamed to be Jewish unless it suits him to drag out the anti-semitic label when he’s criticised.

    I think the abiding différence between Islam and the other gréât religions is the sensé of fear prévalent among its believers. There is now so much extremism within its ranks, not only in the middle and far East, that moderate Muslims about whom we hear so much but from whom we hear so little, appear to be cowed into silence. Their continuing to dress inappropriately when they live in Western countries doesn’t help one bit, and I think that those Muslims who dress as they should in Western nations should speak out about this. We don’t want to live in the Souk. If we did, we’d move to where they come from and dress accordingly.

  • IAintNoPushOver

    I have learned that a religion, any religion, is only as good as those who practice it and purvey it. When the dominant religious leadership and tone of the society is violent then the religion will be violent. This, as Sacks points out, was certainly the case with Judaism in the Second Commonwealth period–it was a very violent religion indeed. But as he points out, Judaism endured a devastating civil war that destroyed its violent tendencies. The same thing happened with Christianity, though it took one war after another until it all culminated in World War One, where different Christian powers sought to conquer the world e.g. the white man’s burden. World War Two had no Christian overtone, but was the fallout of World War One. After these world wars, Christianity knew it had to change.
    I don’t think there is anything that can prevent Islam from undergoing the same process and the three way civil war taking place in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, will spread. The remnants who remain Islamic will reform the religion for good.

  • Ben

    It certainly looks like there will be civil war. I’d not bet much on any internal conflict within Islam though. It’s going to be ‘them and us’.

  • charles.hoffman.cpa

    Moses’ immortality is evidenced by his book which is read every Shabbat in full view of a congregation

  • HY

    Have not the various sects of Islam have been butchering each other for centuries? History suggests that an outbreak of tolerance within the RoP toward the adherents of other religions might be a triumph of hope over experience.

    Meanwhile HRH Prince Charles is still hoping for the best:


  • Katness Everdean

    Meanwhile, cultural Bolsheviks like Arie Perlinger have worked to obstruct retired Lt. General Jerry Boykin from speaking at West Point.

  • Callsign Viper

    One has to wonder — if today’s liberals will callously murder the unborn, who won’t they attack?

  • tigerlily

    I don’t think there is a pattern with the 15 centuries thing. The reformation happened in Christianity as a direct result of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into European languages. People were able to read it for themselves in their own language rather than blindly following tradition and the instruction of others.
    The life of Jesus as described in the New Testament was exemplary, not harmful for someone to copy, there are no awkward nasty parts to explain away. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Mohammed in the Koran. It’s hard to imagine how Muslims are going to get around this fundamental problem without cutting out sections of their book – something they probably believe will earn them a place in hell….

  • Bruce Coyle

    Christianity did not end on a note of failure…”Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3