Thursday, September 29, 2005

Quote of the Day 2: Chazal*

Do not seek to follow in the
footsteps of the Masters;
seek what they sought.
-- Zen saying

I've often wondered what Maimonides would have believed if he grew up in the late twentieth century. Surely, being a man inclined to science, he would have accepted evolution and the age and size of the Universe, but how would that have affected his religious views? What if he had studied the great philosophers of the last few centuries instead of those a millennium earlier? Would a post-Enlightenment Maimonides have been an atheist?

What about the writers of the Talmud? Those fine, inquisitive, argumentative minds? What would they have done with Darwin and Nietzsche?

For my Christian readers, what about St. Augustine? Wouldn't his body of work be different if he lived today. What if the authors of the Bible had known the real "Creation" story? How then would Genesis read?

Conversely, would a 12th century Richard Dawkins have been a religious fanatic? (Yes, yes, he's currently an areligious fanatic, don't comment about it.) Would I be writing seforim** like my ancestors instead of blogging as Jewish Atheist?

* "Chazal", according to Wikipedia, "stands for Chachomim Zichrono Livrocho which is Hebrew for 'our sages may their memory be blessed,'" and generally refers to the great Rabbis of the past.

** Books of Jewish learning.


Ben Avuyah said...

There are some rare examples of resisting the philosophy of your time and community. Take my namesake for example.

DNA said...

Surely we all would have been religious scholars back then; that was the only scholarship around. It's slightly more questionable what the characters you mentioned would be like today. Personally, I have no doubt the rambam would still be frum. Sure he talks the talk of going where your intellect points. But if he were again to have a father who was a dayan with a rebbe like the ri migash or the rif, there's no way he's leaving the fold, he is simply too emotionally invested. We all know the same people today in our lives. The intelligent ones, who think deeply and can almost rationalize (as in make rational) the incredibly irrational (even charedi judaism). Yet these people don't doubt for a minute. Ask them if the lack of a flood or the age of the universe bothers them. It generally does not. The outcome, frumkeit, is never in doubt; it's just an intellectual game getting there.

JC Masterpiece said...

What if the authors of the Bible had known the real "Creation" story? How then would Genesis read?

My answer would be that it would not be any different. Genesis would read the same since the true author is the one who made the "real Creation" story come to be.

The follow up question would be; What if the "scientists" of today knew the "real Creation" story. How then would the textbooks read.

Anonymous said...

I guess this is the wrong place to discuss C.S. Lewis. Sorry . . . I wonder what C.S. Lewis would have said if he hadn't been religious?

JC Masterpiece said...

Actually, C.S. Lewis was an atheist and a critic for a long time. He came to Christiantiy because he tested his faith and realized that atheism was hollow and did not have the answers.

Science and Religion said...

Id like to think that Maimonides would have answered the challenge with a higher level reconciliation of religion and science a la Ken Wilber or Robert Godwin.

Maimonides confronted as great a challenge as we do today intellectually. He had all of the Greatest of philosophers on one side and tradition on the other. He made a monumental attempt to reconcile the two approaches and one would hope that he could do the same today. As you are all aware, his works were widely considered heretical at the time and only with the passing centuries did they become established.

Is such a reconciliation possible? Why not find out?