I Am Not Open-Minded
Rabbi Rami Shapiro
The author is the director of the One River Foundation in Murfreesboro, TN.
a talk on Judaism delivered at a
synagogue last week, I
nonchalantly mentioned that I
thought of myself as a humanist.
I went on to define this as
someone who assumed that all
systems of belief were of human
origin reflecting human biases,
concerns and limitations, and
that religion told us more about
worshippers than about the
object of their worship. I said
that this is why I am so
comfortable in interfaith
settings -- not because I
believe all religion is true,
but that I believe no religion
congregation froze at this
remark, and the host rabbi
leaped up to say how wonderful
it was that I felt free enough
to share my thoughts, and by
doing so proving just how
welcoming Judaism is to a wide
range of opinions. As the rabbi
put as much distance between my
ideas and his as possible, I was
once again surprised at the
seeming rarity of what is to me
During the question-and-answer period people sought to reject (as opposed to rebut) my humanism and reaffirm their theism, and I did my best to honor their beliefs. I am always happy to clarify what I believe and inquire with real curiosity into what you believe, but I never argue. And because I donít argue many people complimented me on my open-mindedness.
didnít say anything at the
time, but the truth is I am not
open-minded. While I rarely get
upset when someone disagrees
with me, the reason I donít
has nothing to do with being
open-minded. Put it this way: I
am convinced that the moon is a
rock. If you insist it is made
of green cheese, I wonít argue
with you, but the reason for not
arguing has nothing to do with
my willingness to entertain the
possibility that you are correct
in your assessment of the moon.
I wonít argue because arguing
with someone who believes
something so outlandish is
simply a waste of time.
Applying this to religion, I do not for a moment imagine that any book is divinely revealed; that any religion is anything other than a human creation serving the socio-economic and political desires of those who created it and gain power and authority from it; or that any idea about god is God.
Do I believe in God? God for me is Reality, the IS-ing of things: that intrinsically creative process that manifests as everything and nothing. God is neither to be feared nor worshipped, but wondered at and marveled over and lived with deep humility, courage and chutzpah. God is an ever-surprising, irreducible, uncontrollable, celebration of creativity worthy of the deepest respect, awe, reverence, humility and even love.
isnít anywhere or anything;
God is everywhere and
everything. God doesnít
choose, reward or punish. God
isnít conscious of me. On the
contrary: I am a way God becomes
conscious of God. Is any of this
Jewish? Not exclusively so, but
the language of Judaism works as
a way of articulating my
For example, I am convinced that Reality is an intrinsically creative process (In the beginning God created, Genesis 1:1); that Reality is a multi-pronged evolutionary experiment in life creation (I will be what I will be, Exodus 3:14), with a penchant for sentience (Let us make humanity, Genesis 1:26); that consciousness pervades all reality (the whole world is filled with Godís glory, Psalm 72:19); that some sentient beings are capable of discovering and consciously participating in the moral nature of Reality as humans perceive it (Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly, Micah 6:8); that the religious geniuses of all time have discovered and articulated the same ethic: Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18); and that over time such people continue to expand our understanding of neighbor to ultimately include all reality (Love the Lord your God, Deuteronomy 6:5).
also believe that just as birds
build nests, and beavers build
dams, humans make music, art,
literature, science, ethics,
philosophy, religion and
contemplative tools that sharpen
our awareness of the grand play
of life. This is why I love what
I do, and am blessed to be able
to do it.
Just donít imagine my joy at learning the myriad ways we humans make sense of reality has anything to do with being open-minded.