Yoram Hazony, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says He does! I suppose that’s good news for someone like me, but the basis for Hazony’s argument strikes me as a bit dubious. Here’s the opening:
Today’s debates over the place of religion in modern life often showcase the claim that belief in God stifles reason and science. As Richard Dawkins writes in his best-seller “The God Delusion,” religious belief “discourages questioning by its very nature.” In “The End of Faith,” his own New Atheist manifesto, Sam Harris writes that religion represents “a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible.”
We already have some problems. Hazony started by talking about belief in God, but he then quotes Dawkins and Harris referring to “religious belief” or “religion.” Surely these terms were meant to include far more than mere belief in God. I’m sure Dawkins and Harris regard deism as a bit silly, but I doubt they consider it a great threat by itself to reason and sanity. Moreover, regardless of God’s view of the matter, it is certainly true that religion’s earthly authorities have a poor track record of encouraging openness of thought and a disposition towards challenging authority.
Let’s skip ahead to the main part of the argument:
Some will want to object that the biblical heroes exhibit such
independence of mind only with respect to other human beings, and that they become pushovers when God enters the picture. But that isn’t right either. Many biblical figures dare to extend their arguments and criticism to God himself. Abraham is famous for challenging God over the fate of Sodom: “Will not the judge of all the earth do justice?” Moses repeatedly argues against God’s intention to destroy Israel. David is outraged over what he sees as God’s unjust killing of one of his men, and similar arguments with God appear in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Havakuk, Jonah and Job.
Nor do these biblical figures stop at just arguing with God. They also disobey God. Abel disregards God’s instructions to go work the soil, while his brother Cain obeys—yet it is Abel whom God loves, not Cain. Moses, too, directly disobeys God’s command to lead the people up to Canaan after the sin of the golden calf. Aaron refuses to conduct the sacrificial service as commanded after God kills his two sons. The daughters of Tzelofhad even demand that Moses alter God’s law because they deem it unjust. And in all these cases, the biblical narrative endorses such resistance.
This seems like a mighty selective reading of the text. Abraham did, indeed, argue with God, but he was also perfectly willing to murder his son just because God told him to. Moses was denied entry to Canaan precisely because he disobeyed God. Recall Numbers 20:9-12,
So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’
It’s admirable that Aaron stood up to God on the subject of the sacrificial service, but let’s not forget why his sons were killed in the first place (Leviticus 10:1-3),
Now Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his censer, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as he had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord meant when he said,
“Through those who are near me I will show myself holy, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron was silent.
I’ll just bet Aaron was silent!
Perhaps we should recall what happened to Lot’s wife when, such a small thing really, she disobeyed God command about looking over her shoulder at the ruins of Sodom and Genorrah. Or what happened to Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Or, for that matter, what happened to every human being on the planet except for Noah and his family when people got a bit too rowdy for God’s liking.
This doesn’t seem like a God who appreciates disobedience.
But let’s see how far Hazony is willing to take his own argument. I have so absorbed the message that God loves independent thought, that I honor him daily by refusing to keep kosher, or to wear a yarmulke, or to study Torah, or to accept the terms of a covenant supposedly entered into with God by my forebears. Heck, I pay Him the greatest honor of all by refusing to believe He even exists.
I guess I’m a good Jew after all!