‘No Religion Is An Island’ – Abraham Joshua Heschel :. Convo about Heschel

***All comments taken from the Abraham Joshua Heschel pamphlet ‘No Religion Is An Island’ (from Jan 1966 – 42 years ago)

“Horizons are wider, dangers are greater … No religion is an island. We are all involved with one another…Today religious isolationism is a myth. For all the profound differences in perspective and substance, Judaism is sooner or later affected by the intellectual, moral and spiritual events within the Christian society, and vice versa” (Heschel pg 6) 

– What I like about the comment is that it is directed towards religious inclusion – and we religions do not exist alone in a bubble – not anymore in this world (we all dialogue with one another now). Each religion does effect one another – the actions and ideas they put forth. This is very true in this ‘day and age’ – with each religion having a ‘light shined upon it’ via media or the internet. I, for one, like this inclusion.

“To meet a human being is an opportunity to sense the image of God, the presence of God. According to a rabbinical interpretation, the Lord said to Moses : “Wherever you see the trace of, man there I stand before you”…When engaged in a conversation with a person of different religious commitment I discover that we disagree in matters sacred to us, does the image of God I face disappear?” (Heschel pg 7-8) 

– I like the perspective that our faith(s) afford to us – the focal point concerning the uniqueness of humanity – our importance. Whether in the same faith or not – it is still the ‘image of God’ – that image is humanity.

“To be sure all men are sons of one father, but they have also the power to forfeit their birthright, to turn rebels, voluntary bastards, “children with no faithfulness in them” (Deut. 32:20). It is not flesh and blood but honor and obedience that save the right of sonship” (Heschel pg 10) 

– I like this term ‘voluntary bastards’. No one is not a ‘child of God’ – but we can choose to bastardize that relationship. God may be faithful – but we can choose not to be.

“A Christian ought to ponder seriously the tremendous implications of a process begun in early Christian history. I mean the conscious or unconscious dejudaization of Christianity, affecting the Church’s way of thinking, its inner life as well as its relationship to the past and present reality of Israel – the father and mother of the very being of Christianity. The children did not arise to call the mother blessed; instead, they called the mother blind.” (Heschel pg 11-12) 

– This is something dear to my heart – the connection between Judaism and Christianity – and this breaking away from Judaism. I think this is a clear fact from current practice of Christianity as compared to early Christianity. As Kanye would say ‘I guess I should of forgot where I came from’.

Religion is a means, not the end. It becomes idolatrous when regarded as an end in itself.” (Heschel pg 13)

– Religion/faith is a means to God – not the end of it. If one does not consider the fact God has revealed Himself to all faiths on this planet – then they are making their religion an ‘idol’ (this is the end of faith).  

“Perhaps it is the will of God that in this aeon there should be diversity in our forms of devotion and commitment to Him. In this aeon diversity of religions is the will of God…It seems that the prophet proclaims that men all over the world, though they confess different conceptions of God, are really worshipping One God, the Father of all men, though they may not be aware of it” (Heschel reference to Malachi 1:11 and Genesis 11:6 – pg 14) 

– I love this point. God has shown Himself to the planet – from times past to times not yet known. What is being known is that the scope of that is widening – and the world is getting smaller. There is a known diversity within the faith sphere – which was once frowned upon – is now not to be. Heschel points out ‘we do not know God’s ways’ – and this inclusion of all may be His will.

“My life is shaped by many loyalties-to my family, to my friends, to my people, to the U.S. Constitution, etc. Each of my loyalties has its ultimate root in one ultimate relationship: loyalty to God, the loyalty of all my loyalties. That relationship is the covenant of Sinai.” (Heschel pg 17) 

– This is what faith is all about – the centre of one’s committment. I love country, my neighbors, and playing fantasy football – but in the end – they exist in those forms for me because of my personal committment to my faith.


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