Now, before you fall over, allow me to explain. This whole debate in our society between the “religious zealots” on one side and the “religious atheists” on the other is a “red herring” of the utmost degree. And the irony that we learn from political science is even more undermining of both sides. That is that the farther right or left one moves, one eventually finds himself, coming full circle right or left. The more insistent we are that our point of view is the only way to see a complicated, multi layered series of issues imbedded within thousands of years of a verbal and written interpretation of an ancient text, the more we entirely miss the point.
The point of Torah (or Bible) is to invite us into an ages-old conversation about what it means to be a human being, not what it means to be God. The fact that the Torah includes two completely different version of the creation of human beings isn’t as the Bible fundamentalists would insist, something we must blindly accept as one of the mysteries of God and neither is it, as the extreme atheists would demand, proof that the Torah is a flawed and meaningless document. Rather, each individual story of creation of human beings is part of our wisdom tradition’s attempt at discerning what it means to be “e pluribus unum,” “one of many.”
Each of us is confronted at different times in our lives with yearnings for meaning and purpose and connection. We want to know where we end and others begin. We want to know what it is that connects us, that draws us together, that pushes us apart. We want to better understand the gut feeling of the uniqueness of our place on this planet and at the same time the smallness of our existence.
So don’t be foolish! Stop your petty fights over whether or not the text is Divine. Don’t be ridiculous of course it is! But do you really believe that God wants us to believe literally in the magic of creation by words when every other aspect of our lives stands as a testimony against that premise? “Famous” atheists declare that if it turns out there is a God, when they find themselves in Heaven, they will demand justice from the Almighty One. “How could you allow children to get sick and die!? How dare you call yourself good and allow evil to inflict itself, onto the innocent? Again I say, don’t be so foolish as to allow a literal, unimaginative, fundamentalist perspective on God, Bible and religion to imprison God! That is the craziest part of all. Neither the fundamentalists nor the extreme atheists wish to free the other from their one-dimensional presumptions of each other’s beliefs. But we know that when we leave the political rhetoric behind and two people begin listening deeply to each other, we discover that their stories, their deepest fears, their questions and their journeys don’t look so dissimilar at all.
So yes, I believe we need more religion in schools and the public spheres but lived out ONLY through the agency of each individual human being in how they live, how they treat each other and how they learn to discover the unique, preciousness of each one’s existence.