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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Essence of My Minimalist Religion

Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law
In order to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom, I believe humanity needs a socio-ethical contract. For most people, such a contract is one of the major organized religions, which people traditionally inherit at birth from one or both of their parents. Mine was Judaism. But Judaism, as most other religions, comprises much more than a socio-ethical contract. It demands, as is the case with other major world religions: the worship of a singular deity; the adherence to an intricate set of behavioral rules; and, the observance of obligations that can be obscure and confusing.

Over the years, I have concluded that my own version of a socio-ethical contract serves me well without mention of a demanding all-powerful God and all the intricacies that this entails. My minimalist belief doesn't, however, rule out some sort of organizing principal. It simply de-emphasizes it, making it an optional feature.

Thus, my religion is a drastically scaled-down version of Judaism. More to the point, it is a scaled-down version of the Decalogue. It encompasses two broad guidelines: one proactive rule and one rule of prohibition.

Here is how I arrived at my religion.

When Moses "transcribed" the Decalogue, he realized he was dealing with a mob of former slaves who were largely undifferentiated from wild animals. So he knew they required stern pronouncements and lots of repetition. Hence, he presented them with Ten Commandments, and the rabbis followed up in the ensuing millennia with much more repetition and elaboration.

The first thing I did was to eliminate the leading stern Commandments having to do with scaring the bejeezus out of the ignorant: "If you do not worship Me like I tell you, I will pulverize you!" Personally, I do not need that sort of coercion. My next step was to recognize that all those trailing Commandments, namely the obvious (to any sane person) "Don'ts" — murder, steal, "covet" your neighbor's wife, etc. — are subsumed by Judaism's version of the Golden Rule: "Do not do to others that which you wouldn't want others to do to you". This then is my prohibition guideline.

That leaves me with choosing an appropriate proactive guideline. As luck would have it, that is the only Commandment left after my distillation of the Decalogue. It is the one that reminds you that you haven't made this journey on your own. In order to be a decent human being, not just another wild animal, you need to acknowledge other humans who have helped you, especially the two who gave you life: "Honor your mother and your father." And by extension, acknowledge any help received from other individuals.

So the essence of my minimalist religion is, "Try not to be a schmuck."

Post 3,767 The Essence of My Minimalist Religion

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