In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2007 / 4 Shevat, 5767

Can we judge religions?

By Dennis Prager

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | From 9-11 to this day, callers to my syndicated radio show have asked: "Is Islam a religion of violence?"

And since 9-11, I have given the same response: "I don't judge religions; I judge practitioners."

It is easy to dismiss this response as a politically correct cop-out, but there are good reasons for this response.

First, in medieval, or even parts of early modern, Europe, many people would have asked, "Is Christianity a religion of violence?" And 2,000-3,000 years ago, people might have asked, "Is Judaism a religion of violence?"

Second, the question is often impossible to answer because religions are almost never unified in their values (and often not even in their theology). For example, most evangelical Christians have almost no values in common with fellow Christians of the National Council of Churches (NCC). Conservative Protestant Christians share far more values with traditional Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Mormons than with fellow Protestant Christians of the NCC. And liberal Jews (not only secular ones, but many Conservative and most Reform Jews) share more values with liberal Christians and liberal atheists than with Orthodox Jews. So when assessing Christianity or Judaism, which Christianity and which Judaism are we assessing?

Third, when groups are violent, how much of their violence is directly caused by their religion — or by their irreligion? Alongside Hitler (who believed in no religion), Stalin and Mao were history's greatest mass murderers, and they were atheists. Could one have asked, "Is atheism a violent ideology?" As for religious evildoers, did European Christians who supported the Nazis do so because of, or despite, their religion?

Fourth, even when a group does attribute its violence to its religion, as in the case of Muslim terrorists, does that mean the religion itself preaches violence?

Many people would offer a fifth reason not to judge religions — that doing so is inherently biased, even bigoted, and outsiders have no right to judge others' religions.

But that objection to judging a religion is invalid.

We judge secular ideologies all the time; why not religious ideologies? Why is it permissible to say that conservatism is selfish and mean-spirited or to say that liberalism is naive and foolish, but one cannot say anything negative about a religion? I believe that the Judeo-Christian value system as devised largely by American Christians rooted in the Jewish Scriptures is the finest value system ever made — and many people label this view "bigoted" and "intolerant." Yet, many of these same people have no problem asserting that secular liberal values constitute the finest value system ever made. Why can one say that without any fear of being labeled "intolerant" or "bigoted"?

The problem with assessing religions is that many who do so are in fact prejudiced; they are often outsiders out to prove another religion false. Or they may have grown up in a religion and for whatever reasons come to hate the religion in which they were raised — some ex-Catholics, for example; or were merely born into that religion — such as some anti-religious Jews.

So, too, anti-Semites' assessments of Judaism emanate from a hatred of Jews and their religion, not from honest questions about Judaism. On the other hand, not every critique of Judaism or Jews is necessarily anti-Semitic. Likewise many contemporary attacks on Christianity and Christians are bigoted — such as when Christian fundamentalists are likened to Islamic fundamentalists and radicals. There are no Christian groups comparable to Islamic groups that routinely murder innocents or seek to violently impose Islamic law on Muslims and non-Muslims. But here, too, not every criticism of Christians or Christianity emanates from anti-Christian bigotry.

There are also people who are prejudiced against Islam. But because in our time the vast majority of violence intentionally directed against innocents is perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam, and because freedom and religious tolerance are rare in countries that call themselves Islamic, one need not be prejudiced to ask challenging questions about Islam and/or Muslims.

So where does that leave us?

One: It is fair — and even necessary — to attempt to morally assess religions just as it is to morally assess any non-religious ideology.

Two: Ideally those criticisms should come from those within the religion being judged. The absence of Islamic self-criticism — relative to Christian and Jewish self-criticism — has been the greatest problem to many non-Muslims.

Three: It is very difficult to judge an entire religion for the four reasons offered above and because those making such judgments must be free of either a religious agenda (to "prove" another religion false) or an anti-religious agenda (to show religion in general as morally inferior).

For the reasons offered here, regarding Islam, I have decided to restrict my critiques to practitioners rather than to the religion itself. But those who offer reasoned moral critiques of Islam are not necessarily "Islamophobic," any more than all moral critics of Christianity or Judaism are necessarily "Christianophobic" (why is there no such word, incidentally?) or anti-Semitic. The word is used to intimidate the most necessary endeavor of our time — non-hostile, non-prejudiced, respectful, open discussion of Islam. And no one needs it more than good Muslims.

JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to comment on this column.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Dennis' Archives

© 2007, Creators Syndicate