Monday, December 31, 2012

Perhaps now more than ever, organized religion must defend the faith. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s argument, like most of these attempts, falls short.

The Moral Animal?

I believe the author of the article below is overly naive as to his illogical conclusion! The utter failure of "good people" to grasp the world beyond their own tiny community, is mind-numbing!

Global hunger persists as the world's population grows - latimes.com Jul 22, 2012 ... Nearly 1 billion people are malnourished, and a child dies of hunger every 11 seconds. ... More people die of hunger-related causes every year than succumb to AIDS, ... Today, with nearly twice as many people on the planet, his words seem sadly prescient. .... It is called "The stork is the bird of war".

www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/population/la-fg-population-matters3-20120726-html,0,2752228.htmlstory   *

 IT is the religious time of the year. Step into any city in America or Britain and you will see the night sky lit by religious symbols, Christmas decorations certainly and probably also a giant menorah. Religion in the West seems alive and well. (Is there NO world beyond the West? -UOJ)

But is it really? Or have these symbols been emptied of content, no more than a glittering backdrop to the West’s newest faith, consumerism, and its secular cathedrals, shopping malls?

At first glance, religion is in decline. In Britain, the results of the 2011 national census have just been published. They show that a quarter of the population claims to have no religion, almost double the figure 10 years ago. And though the United States remains the most religious country in the West, 20 percent declare themselves without religious affiliation — double the number a generation ago.

Looked at another way, though, the figures tell a different story. Since the 18th century, many Western intellectuals have predicted religion’s imminent demise. Yet after a series of withering attacks, most recently by the new atheists, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, still in Britain three in four people, and in America four in five, declare allegiance to a religious faith. That, in an age of science, is what is truly surprising.

The irony is that many of the new atheists are followers of Charles Darwin. We are what we are, they say, because it has allowed us to survive and pass on our genes to the next generation. Our biological and cultural makeup constitutes our “adaptive fitness.” Yet religion is the greatest survivor of them all. Superpowers tend to last a century; the great faiths last millenniums. The question is why.

Darwin himself suggested what is almost certainly the correct answer. He was puzzled by a phenomenon that seemed to contradict his most basic thesis, that natural selection should favor the ruthless. Altruists, who risk their lives for others, should therefore usually die before passing on their genes to the next generation. Yet all societies value altruism, and something similar can be found among social animals, from chimpanzees to dolphins to leafcutter ants.

Neuroscientists have shown how this works. We have mirror neurons that lead us to feel pain when we see others suffering. We are hard-wired for empathy. We are moral animals.

The precise implications of Darwin’s answer are still being debated by his disciples — Harvard’s E. O. Wilson in one corner, Oxford’s Richard Dawkins in the other. To put it at its simplest, we hand on our genes as individuals but we survive as members of groups, and groups can exist only when individuals act not solely for their own advantage but for the sake of the group as a whole. Our unique advantage is that we form larger and more complex groups than any other life-form.

A result is that we have two patterns of reaction in the brain, one focusing on potential danger to us as individuals, the other, located in the prefrontal cortex, taking a more considered view of the consequences of our actions for us and others. The first is immediate, instinctive and emotive. The second is reflective and rational. We are caught, in the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s phrase, between thinking fast and slow.

The fast track helps us survive, but it can also lead us to acts that are impulsive and destructive. The slow track leads us to more considered behavior, but it is often overridden in the heat of the moment. We are sinners and saints, egotists and altruists, exactly as the prophets and philosophers have long maintained.

If this is so, we are in a position to understand why religion helped us survive in the past — and why we will need it in the future. It strengthens and speeds up the slow track. It reconfigures our neural pathways, turning altruism into instinct, through the rituals we perform, the texts we read and the prayers we pray. It remains the most powerful community builder the world has known. Religion binds individuals into groups through habits of altruism, creating relationships of trust strong enough to defeat destructive emotions. Far from refuting religion, the Neo-Darwinists have helped us understand why it matters.

No one has shown this more elegantly than the political scientist Robert D. Putnam. In the 1990s he became famous for the phrase “bowling alone”: more people were going bowling, but fewer were joining bowling teams. Individualism was slowly destroying our capacity to form groups. A decade later, in his book “American Grace,” he showed that there was one place where social capital could still be found: religious communities.

Mr. Putnam’s research showed that frequent church- or synagogue-goers were more likely to give money to charity, do volunteer work, help the homeless, donate blood, help a neighbor with housework, spend time with someone who was feeling depressed, offer a seat to a stranger or help someone find a job. Religiosity as measured by church or synagogue attendance is, he found, a better predictor of altruism than education, age, income, gender or race.

Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history and, now, evolutionary biology. This may go to show that God has a sense of humor. It certainly shows that the free societies of the West must never lose their sense of God.

Jonathan Sacks is the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and a member of the House of Lords.


Not One Religious Person In The Entire Group:



Nosson Scherman said...


Artscroll would never print this!

Vos zogt UOJ? said...

Is that Pinny's imagination run wild or did this week's Yated correctly report on the visit by R' Sender Linchner to the Chofetz Chaim? According to the Yated, a series of nissim got him through a blizzard several miles on foot to Radin just minutes before Shabbos.

Bakshish said...

Bakshish is an Arabic word used in Israeli slang for bribes.


Former chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron was indicted for fraudulent receipt of goods or services under aggravated circumstances on Monday ...

The rabbi was also indicted for attempting to fraudulently receive goods or services under aggravated circumstances and breach of trust.

Anonymous said...

Schnitzler's Famous Fish under Satmar hashgocho


A Brooklyn fishmonger was indicted for allegedly throwing a cup of bleach in the face of a Chasidic rabbi who had accused the man's father of being a sexual predator.

Meilech Schnitzler, 36, of Williamsburg, a member of the Satmar Chasidic sect, was charged Wednesday on two counts of attempted assault, two counts of assault and criminal possession of a weapon. He could face up to 15 years in prison.

Schnitzler on Dec. 11 allegedly threw a cup of bleach in the face of Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, who advocates for victims of sexual abuse in the haredi Orthodox community.

Rosenberg, 62, also of the Williamsburg neighborhood, was treated for burns on his face, around his eyes and in his left eye. The rabbi runs a website and blog for sex-abuse victims, as well as a telephone hot line, and made the accusations against Schnitzler's father on the blog.

Rosenberg reportedly had recognized his assailant.

The incident came a day after Nechemya Weberman, a Satmar leader, was convicted on 59 counts of sexual abuse of a now-18-year-old woman when she was between the ages of 12 and 15 and went to Weberman for counseling. Rosenberg supported and assisted the victim throughout the judicial process.

Munkatcher Ferd said...

I think the tatteh Shulem Schnitzler is 1st cousin of molester Burich Lebovits.

Old Torah Vodaas said...

The mayseh with Rav Lincher was in the hespid for 102 year old R' Shachna Zohn who according to the story was together with him on that trek to Radin.

The Yated also says something that I was wondering if it's revisionist history. It's commonly believed that R' Nosson Wachtfogel started BMG in White Plains, NY, in 1943 before the arrival of R' Aron Kotler. The Yated claims that it was actually R' Shachna who started it there a year or two even earlier and then passed it off to R' Nosson so that he could leave to become a rosh yeshiva of YTV. I believe R' Shachna was in White Plains but it's not clear if the same guys learning under him stayed under R' Nosson.

UOJ said...

I heard some version of the Chofetz Chaim story from Rav Linchner z"l, I do not remember clearly the details, and I also do not remember him mentioning that Rav Zohn was with him, but that does not mean that he was not with him.

Rav Zohn was in White Plains before he came to YTV -- This is the first time I hear that he was instrumental in starting BMG, but it is very possible that he had a hand in it. He was a very "braiter" person -- tremendous "havana" on the needs of the American zeitgeist at the time, i'ts not any wonder RSFM z'tl snapped him up.

Shmarya groupie said...


It was an ecstatic feeling to watch this but the Lubavitch angle fort put a damper on my sense of simchas chosson vekallah

BIG Doctor said...

UOJ was right all along with his theory of mental illness / molester gene that runs in families. When will he start getting credit in medical journals?


Tendler Trinity of human Garbage

3 generations of Shapiros



Rav's Daughter said...

REFLECTIONS ON AGUDAH CONVENTION 2012 Agudah chairman Rabbi Zweibel ushered in the weekend with the introduction to the theme which was “Shomrei acheinu anachnu” – “We are our brothers’ keepers!”. He asked what our responsibility is to our brothers in their time of need. While he enumerated many philosophical reasons why we as Jews should help each other, I found myself searching for a “quantifiable” expectation. I was reminded of a dvar torah I had once heard on what was the zchus of the Jews of Mitzrayim that tipped the scale to their redemption. The Torah says that Bnei Yisroel went out “Chamushim” which is translated as armed. Rashi however says that it can also mean one fifth. He elaborates to say that four fifths of Bnei Yisroel were not meritorious of redemption and they died during the plague of darkness. What if each family took on four people to take under their wing and give of their time and/or resources? If you are a lawyer, have four pro-bono cases running at any given time. When one completes find a new one. If you are a doctor, have four patients that you treat for free or at least with accepting their insurance as full payment. If you are not in a position to help financially with ma’aser, give 10% of your time, listening, helping with paperwork, taking them out for coffee once a week or inviting them over for a meal. Every person has something to give to someone less fortunate than themselves. It would also shift the focus from our own issues and maybe bring about a change in our priorities and what really matters in life.
The next speaker was Rabbi Reich who we were told was being whisked off to Lakewood immediately after his speech, to deliver a shiur. What I got from Rabbi Reich was that it was his belief that the reason New York City is having an issue with bris milah, is directly related to our alleged complacency regarding the legalization of gay marriage. I beg to differ. In my opinion, if he is looking for a “below the belt” transgression, I would sooner think our message is about rebbeim molesting yeshiva boys and violating THEIR bris Hashem. While we cannot control an Irish gay in Greenwich Village, we can control the Kolko’s of our chadarim. Hashem would sooner hold our nation accountable for nevalus that goes on with our Tinokos shel bais Raban, than a goy defiling himself in a pub in New York City. Let’s keep the focus on US and not project outwards!
Next came Rabbi Bender who was very effective in firing the crowd up with his “ma’asalach” about Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Pam. When Rav Hutner zatzal was being greeted at JFK following his rescue from captivity later known as “Rescue at Entebbe” Rav Moshe did not allow the band to play. He argued that so long as other Jews were still awaiting release it was not appropriate to go all out with a band. The story about Rav Pam involved a child finding a $5 bill and wanting to buy a game with the money. Rav Pam had the child wait a week, until the loser was no longer as distressed over his lost money. This way he taught the child not to be happy while another suffers. Rabbi Bender then presented modern day violation of feeling along with another’s sorrow with how Flatbush was selling sushi while Sea Gate wallowed in post hurricane destruction. He then hoped for the leap to be made that Far Rockaway was still suffering to recover from Sandy while the rest of the Jewish community went on. Rabbi Bender has a point to expect Jewish brethren to expand beyond their boundaries and perhaps after managing “aniyei ircha” to contribute towards Far Rockaway. However, in the pre-hurricane years, Rabbi Bender had his gevirim beholden to him and his causes, excluding Brooklyn and neighboring communities from sharing in their generosity. Further, Rabbi Bender is known for separating classes by “Lawrence” and “Far Rockaway” and giving the “Lawrence” class the better rebbe. He is also known for holding back on his commitment to talmidim who don’t pay full tuition.

Son of Boog said...

Does UOJ know where Bender stood during that infamous meeting with Moishe Scheinerman that was the beginning of the larger establishment covering up for Kolko?

Anonymous said...

Check it out. Remember Pesach Lerner & Steve Mostofsky being forced to step aside, at least officially, from running National Council of Young Israel like a pair of dictators without elections?

The word is that even the old boys network at the top were furious with Lerner for running his personal agendas like a business at the office, so even if Mostofsky & his cronies are still in charge, Lerner is not.

But as it happens in every corrupt organization from the police precinct in "L.A. Confidential" to Torah Temimah, people that know too much need to be payed off to keep them quiet. Are you familiar with Young Israel running that degree mill from a Nebraska university? It's alleged that Lerner was gifted 100% of the profits as a going away present.

Far Rockaway said...

"Rabbi Bender is known for separating classes by “Lawrence” and “Far Rockaway” and giving the “Lawrence” class the better rebbe. He is also known for holding back on his commitment to talmidim who don’t pay full tuition."

Yankel Bender had an arrangement with that sleazebag Shmuel Hiller who owns Bnos Bais Yaakov.

Hiller is in default on a $7 million loan for his shtatty new building as well as the Hatzolah building on his property.

Where did all the millions go that Hiller's default is "kosher"? Was that premeditated to bargain with the bank for half price or less?

What did you do with all the millions Hiller that you got from Ronny Lowinger, Lloyd Keilson, Alex Edelman and all the generous donors in the 5 Towns?

Tessler writes on his company website that he gave Hiller $10 million for all the general contracting costs of the BBY campus. So why are so many contractors suing Hiller for not getting paid?

Hiller hired a completely non-Jewish law firm to start suing all kinds of heimishe people. They appear to be parents in tuition arrears. Which beis din gave him permission to do that? The law firm recently pulled out presumably because Hiller wouldn't keep current on paying them so he is now representing himself.

UOJ said...

I believe Yankel Bender was on the right side of the Kolko issue, but was bullied by R'Svei into silence.

fact checker said...

When Rav Hutner zatzal was being greeted at JFK following his rescue from captivity later known as “Rescue at Entebbe”

Rav Hutner was released in 1970. Entebbe was 1976.