Beyond the Cusp

September 24, 2014

Why Religion Has Started to Die in Society

Almost three-fourths of those Americans polled by Pew Research agreed that religion is losing influence in American life. This is reported to be the highest this subject has ever reached and thus begs a number of questions. The most evident question is what have these nearly three out of four Americans done to bring religion back into their lives and the lives of those around them. Religion cannot retreat from its place in society all by itself; it has to have accomplices who no longer incorporate religion into their daily lives. It is probably a fair statement to say that if only half of those who polled lamenting the loss of religion in the public square would make a personal effort to bring religion into the square that this would be sufficient to bring about the start of reversing that trend. The other truth is that there has been a concerted effort by a small but vocal and bothersome minority which have aided the retreat of religion from the realm of the American society, and they will need to be fought tooth and nail if their nefarious deeds are to be slowed and eventually thwarted and reversed, but it will take most of that almost three quarters of America. If in the words “Under G0d” could be added to the Pledge of Allegiance by President Eisenhower on Flag Day, June 14, 1954, by a Joint Resolution of Congress, then religion can be restored to its rightful place in our society if the majority of Americans wish and act in a manner that assists rather than neglects the place of religion in their daily lives.

Of course there have been other forces at work beyond the control of the average person as an individual. These are mostly societal pressures which often react to the concerted pressures made by smaller groups which are better organized and financed thus giving their views weight beyond that of any number of individual citizen even should they be part of the majority, even should that be a vast majority as long as that majority has not mobilized uniting together and financing concerted efforts to push their views before those who control the establishment of laws or their enforcement. One can place blame on those in high office who permit or even encourage such regulations and laws which work against religion but before doing so there are a few items within their own lives which they would be better served by addressing them if their efforts should prove less than helpful. Before claiming that the powers that be have acted irresponsibly they need to review whether their own actions have properly portrayed through their lives the importance of religion. The most important single item one can do to show their support for religion and their desire to have it reflected through the society in which they live would be to regularly attend weekly services and being active in the organized religious activities related to their particular religious beliefs. Nothing sends the message to those in high office that religion no longer matters to the citizenry louder than empty pews in the nation’s churches, synagogues, temples and other religious services. Holders of political office are not so well tuned and sensitive that they can divine the thoughts of the people by some extrasensory means allowing them to form opinions and impressions of the people’s beliefs in some way other than drawing conclusions from the activities of the people. Short of making decisions formed by the actions of the people they can only respond to what it appears that the people are demanding of them and that is where a small minority can sway these lawmakers simply by inundating them with calls, e-mails, letter and other forms of lobbying. The regular citizen rarely writes their representative and believes that simply by voting for a person to represent them is sufficient to have that representative actually represent them without any efforts on their behalf. So, if one’s actions such as attending regular religious services or writing and calling their representative’s offices, both in the capital and locally, then they are simply relying on exactly what to assure their representatives understand the importance of religion is in their lives and how important it is for religion to be permitted in the public square. But what are some of the other forces pressing religion into retreat from its former place of prominence in American society.

As already mentioned, there are forces at work here which have as their sole intent to beat religion out of the lives and society no matter what the cost or dangers. One such group is the Freedom From Religion Foundation. This and other related anti-religion and anti-faith based organizations spend millions and concerted efforts to chase religion from the public square by any and all means necessary. Such groups have lobbyists who press their influence personally making themselves friendly and close to your representative, make letter writing campaigns whenever legislation they support or wish to defeat inundating your representatives offices both in the capital and locally even going so far as to assure that these letters no matter where they originate are postmarked within your representative’s district for maximum influence, organize phone campaigns calling your representatives offices not only in the capital but in every community within his district, and know all the other ins and outs of pressing your ideas and opinions maximizing their influence, which is all part of the political game. The problem is that they also are minimizing your ability to influence your representatives and often doing so using people largely who do not reside anywhere near you and share none of your convictions, but they have the clout to silence your desires and press their desires squelching all others. This is the most serious problem with representative governance no matter its form, the ability of a small minority to use potentially nefarious methods and silencing a potentially vast majority in the halls of power. There is an easy and available means by which such groups can be vanquished and silenced their influence without doing anything immoral or underhanded, but it does require good people to take actions and do so under the auspices of a joint effort through an organization to which they all belong and are active in, their religious institutions where they gather and worship together. Unfortunately, the empty pews are evidence to the reason such efforts are so easily ignored; they have few who can be motivated to make the voice of the majority heard.

There is yet another problem which may be another facet of the lack of people attending services regularly, or even at all even on the most major of religious days. This next reason, next excuse, may also be a result of lack of regular attendance as by feeling that these leaders stand alone makes them more vulnerable to the malevolent forces. These leaders of our neighborhoods, or at least in better times they were our true leaders, the pastors, priests, rabbis and other clergy, other men of the cloth who have come under attack by forces within our societies. Some of these forces are the same as the ones garnering undue influence over our political representatives and others are the arms of our governance which are simply responding to what they perceive as the will of the society as well as to the dictates of the courts which are influenced by the cases brought before them. When courts see that across the lands there are cases brought demanding the ban of all religious symbols from the public square and the only protesters with numbers are supporting these legal maneuvers, they can only act to support what they perceive is the law as they witness the people interpret the law. The clergy would have a greater standing and voice if their houses of worship were filled weekly by people enthusiastic in celebrating their faith. But when they preach to a small few each week then their strength and power is reduced to a level equal to the numbers in regular attendance.

The United States is approaching the place where Europe has already reached where the clergy fear to speak out against injustices or to oppose those in the government allowing government to stifle and mute their voices. They have fallen in influence so far that they now speak for almost nobody and are thus easily pressed into a corner where they speak solely of those things which are supported by those who appear to have the hearts and souls of the majority of the people. A society is molded and formed by those who have the support and power granted by the ones willing to force their opinions onto the seats of power. That seat of power potentially is the secular governance or it can be the pulpits of the houses of worship, that choice lies with the people. Attend the houses of worship in numbers and the government will notice and adjust to that influence. This has been proven in Europe where the Mosques are vibrant and well attended while the churches in the home of modern Christianity sit empty echoing the silence, providing they have not been sold and converted to Mosques. If people desire to see the future of their communities and in turn nations all one need do is seek where and which religions hold the wills of the people and have the greatest support and there lies your future. It really is that simple.

Beyond the Cusp

April 16, 2014

Israel and America Nations Headed in Opposite Directions

Spend a good amount of time in the malls and midtown shopping outdoor malls in Israel and the United States and simply count the numbers of baby carriages and pregnant women and you will quickly see a glaring difference. In Israel you cannot take more than a half dozen steps without having to sidestep one or the other and in America you can hardly find either in most cities. These are the signs of a healthy society which is growing against a moribund society dependent on immigrations, both legal and illegal, to support the need for workers. Read the newspapers and you will see that in Israel they have built an effective barrier to prevent further illegals coming across the border from Egypt while giving illegal immigrants already in the nation seed money and a plane ticket to get them to voluntarily relocate outside of Israel while the United States political class appears to be earnestly determined to grant as many as twenty-million illegal immigrants an easy path to citizenship making them legal for employment. The United States is willing to take the workers with other illegal immigrants in order to keep population growth positive as without the influx of illegal aliens into the United States the population would be on a slow decline and accelerating. The population in Israel, particularly the Jewish population, is growing at an increasing rate to such an extent that demographics experts are now predicting that even should Israel annex all of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem and grant the majority of the Arab population citizenship over time the Jewish majority would not be challenged by the so-called demographic Arab bomb.

 

But that is not the full extent of the differences between the United States and Israel. Where religious service attendance and open practice of religion are on the decline in the United States it is rapidly growing in both numbers and percentage of the population in Israel. Religious observance is being attacked by the government in the United States as is evidenced by the current hearings in the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act’s demand that employers provide birth control and other reproductive health services without copay including all abortifacient drugs. In Israel there is a growing movement to provide any necessary assistance, medical care, adoptive options, and support for mothers deciding to keep their child after birth providing viable options for those women who are considering turning to abortion believing they have no other real alternative. These efforts have been received and greatly appreciated with some of the mothers who were aided and had their baby saved by the efforts of these private organizations turning around and joining them in seeking out women in distress and giving them alternatives to getting an abortion. There are those in Israel who claim the trending away from abortion as a solution to pregnancies is due to the great love and respect for life that is a central theme in Judaism. They credit the increasing religious observance with being somewhat responsible for the movement away from abortion and the increase in people and organizations providing assistance and alternatives to abortions.

 

There is a general feeling of optimism accompanying the growth in faith and religious observance in Israel which is almost palpable. The Synagogues, Churches, Mosques and Temples are filled for weekly services and a growing number of Torah and Bible classes with some even being offered in languages other than Hebrew as there is a relatively large immigrant population responding to the call growing in Jews worldwide to make Aliyah and return home. There are signs that the numbers of Jews returning home to Israel will continue to increase as the world situation devolves further with growing anti-Semitism throughout the world including the Americas and Europe as well as other regions where such has long been a serious problem. Meanwhile, there has been evidence that the numbers of immigrants crossing the southern border of the United States have decreased over the past decade with some evidence of some of those who had already come into the United States, often illegally, are now returning south of the border as they have been unable to find the employment and better life they had sought. The difference between America and Israel is one is growing and vibrant and the other not so much. Perhaps this may be part of the growing troubles between the two nations who have experienced great relations that recently have turned troublesome. Such an end is sad to see, but perhaps these two friends will find a path to rebuild their relations in the near future.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

January 13, 2014

Synagogue Desecration Draws Little Outrage

Adjacent synagogues in Ezer, a town located between Ashdod and Ashkelon, were broken into and vandalized. The damages included ripping the doors off of the ark which held the Torah Scrolls, tearing of Torah Scrolls, leaving uncovered Torah Scrolls on the floor, damaging other holy books tossing them strewn about on the floor and treating other holy objects in a destructive manner. This desecration comes only a week after a similar desecration of a synagogue in Tel Aviv where Nazi graffiti had been painted on the walls and floors along with “Death” spray painted on the front wall of the building, and a crude drawing of a devil painted on the floor. Other such crimes have occurred within the last year including the desecration of King David’s Tomb during the recent massive snowstorm. Newly donated religious holy books were stamped with the fictitious name “Academy – King David.” In all of these instances the response, if there was even a response, was muted and no official denunciation by high government or religious figures was released to the public or the press.

 

This is exactly the opposite as the reaction to a recent desecration of a Mosque in Israel coming from Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as the both Chief Rabbis all of whom echoed the original charge that the unholy act was perpetrated by Jews as a means to victimize the Muslims residing in the town. The subsequent intensive police investigation into the Mosque desecration revealed that the vandalism was most likely carried out by the Muslim Arabs residing in the same town as the Mosque in order to cast blame on Jews and rouse additional hatred towards the Jewish residents in the neighboring areas. The investigation into the Mosque incident was a full-force effort with nothing spared under the supervision of highly placed officials while the synagogue vandalisms are often not given similar efforts nor do they involve as wide an interest by politicians and high officials. Is this really the image the Israeli authorities wish to convey that Jewish holy sites and items are not as protected or whose desecration is of less importance than are Mosques, Churches and other religious holy sites. One would hope that any such desecration would garner equal importance and investigation and if any should raise more alarm, it should be Jewish holy sites, which is not to claim that Jewish sites are more holy, just that presumably as Israel is the home of the Jews, it would only stand to reason.

 

The problem that is exhibited by not rising to the same level of pique and concern over the desecration against synagogues as officials demonstrate for those other than Jewish holy sites is that Jewish holy sites are less holy and of less value than those of other religions. It reflects that the Jewish leadership of the Jewish State of Israel care more for other religions than they care to give to their own. This has been further reflected in many recent comments from some of the Jewish leadership from within the government including the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Knesset. Recently Finance Minister Yair Lapid came out on Facebook calling for the Chief Rabbis to be dismissed from their jobs. His postings included, “It is insolent and a national scandal, and we will act to have them dismissed, both in the Knesset and in the government and even in the legal sphere if need be.” Further he wrote, “These civil servants who are employed by the State of Israel and receive a very lovely salary are sitting in their comfortable offices with their state-provided vehicles and announce that they do not agree that women should serve in the mud and cold as fighters, in aviation courses, in the Border Police.” Yair Lapid continued, “Does this mean that the female commander of the Eitam combat battalion should resign? And what about Orna Barbivai (the head of the IDF’s Manpower Division)? Or all the female teacher soldiers? And what about the female intelligence soldiers I met two weeks ago in the Northern Command, who prevent the infiltration of terrorists through the fence? Should they also not serve?” He summed his tirade stating, “David Lau and Yitzchak Yosef no longer deserve to serve as Chief Rabbis in Israel.” Like many secular Jews, Minister Lapid honestly believes that Rabbis are supposed to obey the decisions made by the political leadership above and over the teachings and commandments of Torah and related holy works. As a secular Jew, Lapid considers the machinations of men in pursuit of making the secular governmental laws of the land to be superior to Torah and traditions and that in any case of a conflict between the secular and the religious that the Rabbis must bend and satisfy the secular leadership over G0d and Torah and interpreting the commandments as written. He is like so many who hold that science and the presumed maturing of humankind has rendered Torah obsolete. Such a view is also indicative of those who have not studied Torah and the Jewish faith deeply and are unable to possess an appreciation for Torah and its wisdom. As such one would hope that as a secular Jew he would refrain from the pretense of judging the Halachic decisions using secular eyes.

 

Then there are comments made by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who was quoted claiming, “I want to take another approach, an approach that opens Israel to the rest of the world, cracking the glass ceiling and bringing more opportunities, and economic, scientific, and academic cooperation. I want to see a liberal, Zionist Israel, not a conservative, nationalistic one.” Where her comment did not specifically call for a secularly based Israel over a religiously based Israel, one can easily see in her words and from previous statements and actions that Minister Livni desires that Israel embrace secular pluralism over following Torah and Jewish traditions. Minister Livni has also revealed her disdain for traditionalists and the religious Zionists in Israel through what has been learned through leaks and other news which paint a picture of Livni’s willingness to sacrifice Jerusalem, the Old City, Temple Mount, and Mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives Cemetery along with all of Judea and Samaria and other disregards for the positions of the religious Zionists. Tzipi sees Israel as a “modern” secular pluralistic nation which is based upon scientific facts and those proven truths which are the basics of a secular humanist socialist philosophy that idolized the teachings of Darwin, Freud, and the progressive leaders of the Twentieth Century over the Torah, Talmud and three thousand years of Jewish teachings and history.

 

It is looking at the world through secular filters which disregard faith and in place relies upon scientific postulates and proven theories and the sciences of biology, physics, chemistry, sociology, and psychology and dismissing virtually anything predating the eighteenth century as irrelevant and simply erroneous as it does not pass the visions defined by the secular progressives of the past two millennia that leads to the total reliance on science and basically ignoring the depth of wisdom from the beginnings of recorded human history and their expressions at the wonderment of the human soul and the awe of the world and the mysteries hidden from mere human understandings and the commandments rising from sources beyond scientific definitions. That is not to advise that one ignore the entirety of scientific discovery but a call to supplement the science with a reverence that includes the teachings of Torah and related studies. Wisdom comes from more than the test-tube, calculator, protractor, compass and the provable. Much of what is most precious to a full understanding of the self almost demands that one include the understandings of human nature which, in opposition to modernist views, has not changed very much over the millennia since the beginning of recorded human history. There has even been a relatively new trend within the scientific circles which has found renewed importance and appreciation for faith, wisdom and the beliefs from the Bible and Torah. Perhaps it is through the tempering of both approaches which serves mankind best.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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