Friday, September 12, 2008

Responding to Religious criticism - Maharal in Be'er HaGolah

Maharal(Be’er HaGola #7): [Concerning the questions raised by those of other religions concerning Judaism and in particular the Talmud] This is also true concerning what they have written regarding religion also. It is not proper to hate their words but rather they should be brought close. If this is not done and the words of those who disagree are not accepted lovingly but rather are simply rejected – it definitely indicates that one’s religious views are weak and that is the reason criticism is rejected. That is because someone with a weak indefensible position can not withstand opposition. Consequently it is not correct to reject out of hand any views which are opposed to his – especially those which are expressed not out hostility but out of genuine interest in his religion. Even if these question are against his faith and religion he should never say, “don’t speak!” or “shut your mouth!” If he did so than there is no clarification of religion. Rather his reaction to these types of religious questions should be “Say whatever you desire to express.” He should not leave the opponent saying, “If I could I would say more.” Because if he simply silences critics and questioners he is simply showing the weakness of his religion. Thus what I am advising is the opposite of what some people think. They believe that when they refuse to speak about religion this strengthens the religion and gives it greater power. This is simply not true because avoiding the words of one’s religious opponents is simply nullifying and weakening his religion especially when he says “shut your mouth and don’t speak about these matters!” Thus the ancient sages, even when they found things in books which were against their religion they didn’t simply reject them. The intellect requires that one not react to criticism – especially concerning religion – by simply silencing the opponent. One needs to keep in mind that what is published in a book is typically for the sake of knowledge and is not meant to destroy. Therefore don’t reject and block out criticism. We do not find that in previous ages that people prevented and rejected discussion of religious issues at all and there was no dissent from this attitude.

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