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Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Crutch Of Belief

Rabbi Hillel the Elder
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. 
That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it.

A very interesting article about the Boston Bomber Tsarnaev brothers:
Family Terror: The Tsarnaevs and the Boston Bombing
A decade ago, a Wall Street Journal reporter happened to befriend the Tsarnaevs. The story of his surprise—and the family's—when the sons emerged as suspects in the attack.

When I first met Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now familiar as the elder of the two alleged Boston Marathon bombers, he gripped my hand like he was wringing out a rag. It was 2004, and Tamerlan had been in the U.S. for about a year, but he already had an outsize American dream. He planned to box for the U.S. Olympic Team one day, and he wanted to earn a degree, perhaps at Harvard or MIT, and to hold a full-time job at the same time, so he could buy a house and a car. I suggested he forget the house and the car during college, as most American students do. He didn't see why he should.


 Tamerlan's options dwindled, he started to take an interest in conspiracy theories, according to neighbors and his former brother-in-law. He saw silent, unseen forces working against him. When the family's landlord allowed me into their old apartment over the summer, I was able to examine Tamerlan's books and a ring-binder full of articles that he had copied and marked up: material from a course on how to seduce women quickly, a manual on how to hypnotize people, some collected biographies of famous Jewish actors, and pages filled with racial theories purporting to explain why Jews were so successful.

Tamerlan's former brother-in-law told me that, in 2008, Tamerlan was fascinated by the cult film "Zeitgeist," which suggested that the Sept. 11 attacks were organized by shadowy financial elites. Around the same time, Tamerlan began searching for a copy of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the notorious czarist forgery positing that the world is controlled by a Jewish cabal. The landlady let me look at Tamerlan's copy, which he had marked up heavily, filling the back cover page with 22 words that he had translated from English to Russian, beginning with "gentile" and ending with "Mason." 


Psychologists suggest that conspiracy theories often serve as a crutch for emotionally needy people, allowing them to feel good about themselves for seeing truth where others don't. They believe the world is being taken over by hidden forces, that an apocalyptic battle is at hand and now is the time for heroes to act.
 The last paragraph is important.

It is my opinion that beliefs which are not susceptible to some sort of empirical method of validation by all people serve as similar crutches.

I have said that I do not believe in God.
Any belief holds within itself the germ of its possible refutation: it was an invalid hypothesis.

I learned to expect God.
There is nothing left of a belief system in my experience of religion, and I think that is the way it should be. If every one were the same way, nothing would change, except we would not constantly badger each other with our own religious blather.
There would still be good people and bad. The millenium would not have arrived.
We would, however, recognize that spreading the good word would no longer be anything but "Love God, then love your neighbor.", and all the pretenses of entertainment religion and its massive meetings would die away.

Beliefs which:

(1) cannot be proven, or

(2) which we refuse to prove or disprove,

are crutches to let us continue in our halting way, and leg casts to prevent us from walking unaided. The second group may be more obvious than the first, for our refusal demonstrates how critical such belief is for our way of life.

The Expectation of  the Divine is the end of a process; it is not a make-shift and jerry-rigged dogma against growth.

That said by Reb Hillel does not mention belief, rather how to act.

Before Action is the Expectation, or the Edge, of Action. That's where we should be, on the edge of creative action, acting good, expecting good.


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