Minister’s forum: Community comes together after fire
Over the last few weeks so much has happened, that I must cover at least two different topics in this space.
First and foremost, the Angora fire: Temple Bat Yam sends its deepest sympathies to all those who suffered as a result of this awful catastrophe to our South Lake Tahoe community. Whether a family lost everything, or merely faced the terrible possibility of everything being lost during an evacuation, we know that we as a community need to come together to support one another. TBY will be participating in funding the recovery efforts in a variety of ways, including donations to Tahoe Businesses that Care. A TBY member came up with the idea for the Photo Drive, to help people reclaim memories, and we will continue to work to find other ideas to help out. Everyone in South Lake Tahoe is a member of the TBY family, and we won’t rest until all are taken care of.
Next, I must address religion and science and atheism. In the pages of the Tahoe Daily Tribune an atheist published a piece seeking equal time with the religion pages, and one of the reasons was because religious people seem to reject science. Science and religion are entirely compatible! Jewish people do not reject evolution, or the Big Bang Theory, or the Theory of Gravity for that matter. Judaism cultivates academic and scholarly perspectives and has no problem living in a world with both a sense of the Infinite, and science.
Critics of religion in today’s media criticize the extremists and call it everyone. That’s not very scientific. There are many different types of religious people, even within religious groups, and to lump all of them into one category would be a hasty generalization – something scientific- minded people might call a mistake in logic.
Furthermore, we ought to compare the best of science with the best of religion, not the best with the worst (this was an idea pursued by a Marilynne Robinson, in an essay about Richard Dawkins’ latest diatribe against religion, “The God Delusion,” in the November 2006 issue of Harper’s Magazine). After all, scientific perspectives supported the ideas of ethnic persecution of African Americans, Native Americans, and minorities the world over, and of course, a scientific perspective was behind the ideology of the Nazis that claimed that Jews were a subordinate species. No one would trot these ideas out to represent all of science, any more than people ought to trot out the minority of religious people who quibble with the conclusions of contemporary scientific method as representative of all religions, in all times and places.
In a time when religious figures in Mississippi are claiming that prayer brought rain to their drought-suffering lands, those of us, religious, atheist, and otherwise, who believe that the advances brought upon by rational and scientific evaluation of the world around us are worthwhile, need to stick together. We know that our local tragedy struck people regardless of their faith or creed – we need to work with each other to use the best of our moral, mental, emotional, and scientific faculties, to build a better world, something which I know most of us in our South Lake Tahoe community work to do.
– Jonathan Freirich is rabbi of Temple Bat Yam in South Lake Tahoe and the Valley Region Jewish Community.