My last blog got a bit of email regarding my assertion that I would not die for Judaism. Here are four selections worthy of further comment:
1. A life is not worth living without beliefs worth dying for. Honestly I cannot think of a single belief for which I would die. Given the right circumstances I would die to save the lives of family and friends and even strangers, but I wouldn’t die to save an idea. Why? First of all because I am not sure my ideas are right. Why die to uphold something that is false? Second, if all the people who thought some great idea were killed for thinking it, there would be no one left to think it and the idea would die. Ideas are only good if they are embodied in living bodies.
2. You insult millions of Jewish martyrs by not willing to be martyred yourself. Why is that true? How does my choosing differently than others insult them or their choice? And if choice isn’t allowed then martyrdom is meaningless.
3. When push comes to shove, you really aren’t a Jew if you aren’t willing to die for being a Jew. Given this logic there is no way to know if you are really a Jew unless someone threatens to kill you for claiming you are a Jew. Honestly, though, if someone put a gun to my head and threatened to pull the trigger if I claimed to be a Jew I would most likely claim to be a Rotarian.
4. You insult every brave American soldier in Iraq who was willing to die for their country. This argument, while totally tangential to my own, just bugged me. First of all the country wasn’t in danger from Iraq. Second, soldiers aren’t willing to die for their country, they are willing to kill for it. Dying is a risk not a reward. If dying were the point they could stay home and shoot themselves. On the contrary, soldiers do everything they can not to die for their country.
But I can top all of these critics by saying that while I may not being willing to die or kill for Judaism, I am willing to suffer eternal damnation on its behalf. After all there are many more millions of people who believe I am going to hell for being a Jew than there are people wishing to send me there sooner rather than later. Of course that fact that I don’t believe in hell may make my choice a bit easier, but still this has to count for something.