All of them are right
By Gutman Braun
Little Johnny grew up in an orphanage. As it happened, the orphanage was a little unusual: instead of being run by a community or religious institution – as was so often the case – this was a secular orphanage called, “The Melting Pot.” The Melting Pot was run based on number of fundamental principals that were established by its founders (with some tweaks along the way), but one of the most significant elements was that it had an established separation of religion & institution. As a result, the caretakers, nurses and counselors, were not allowed to provide a specific, form of religious instruction, and the children grew up and entered the world without any personal religion to speak of.
The orphans, however, were not ignorant of religion completely. In their studies, they had encountered many religions and religious ideas, and many of them were familiar with the religious affiliations of their families (either due to visits by extended family members, or based on information found in their personal files that was fully disclosed to them). Not all that surprisingly, upon growing up, a number of the boys and girls did seek-out, or were sought-out by, religious groups. Our Johnny, too, tested the waters of religion: “Who knows,” he wondered, “maybe there is truth there that I missed out on?”
So search he did. He checked out a religion that his parents had belonged to called “Scroll Worship.” He wanted to give it a chance, and he began to see that it really was fascinating. There were many interesting and compelling elements. The message was generally positive and seemed to state a goal of improving the individual and the world, which sounded so nice. There were a number of things that he wasn’t so sure about, but overall, he decided it was worth a shot – so he gave it one. In time, though, he couldn’t get past the reality that the more he looked at it, the more he noticed flaws that troubled him. One of the more troubling elements that ne noticed was that for all the positive talk and content, there wasn’t all that much of it in action and there was plenty of implicit, even overt, hatred of the other religions. So, he decided that he must check out the “hated” others as well.
Some of those “others” shared element of the Scroll Worshippers (although they were quite different). One of them was called “The New Scroll Worship,” another was called “Worship of the More Accurate Scroll.” Since they were large groups, he tried them both out – but, once again, while he saw some nice ideas and positive elements, he couldn’t help but notice the many flaws and the deep hatred for all others that they each harbored and discussed ad nauseam. Actually, all three forms of Scroll Worship contained many sub-groups – too many to list here – and he looked into as many as he could. But after a very long while, he decided that since each one invalidated the other, they were probably all right – and he discarded all of them.
He checked into some of the other religions as well, perhaps a little less enthusiastically at this point, such as the “Enlightened Ones” and the “Epic-ists,” he even looked into the many forms of “Ism” as well as study many thinkers of the “Condescending-wise-ass-know-it-all-schools.”
It was a very time-consuming endeavor (indeed, it had taken up so much of his time that he never did manage to take out the garbage, which had piled up to such an extent that he had to pay fortunes of money in fines for environmental violations), but when finally he decided that he’d had enough of searching through the remaining schools of belief, he concluded that while all of them had some elements worth keeping, the absolute claims and the gaping flaws invalidated each of them. Furthermore, it struck him that he probably could have come up with the good elements on his own without any of the various belief systems anyway. Ugh.
But he was a little sad. He felt that had lost his innocence and become jaded and cynical – yet, he was satisfied with the knowledge that he had put many of his questions to rest. Of course, now there were new and different questions, but he had learned that the orphanage had been right all along: by giving him the freedom to choose, he had been granted the opportunity to realize that he was above it all.
Walking down the street, he met Maimon, an old friend from the “Scroll Worshipper” days. Maimon, greeted Johnny warmly, even excitedly, and offered to share a novel insight into the Scroll that he’d thought of. Johnny asked if perhaps they could discuss something more personal, but Maimon couldn’t think of anything personal or intimate to share – emoting was always a problem for Maimon anyway – so Johnny allowed his old friend to ramble on about oxen, fringes, mixing of fibers, offerings and miracles. When he had concluded his pilpul, Maimon looked to Johnny for approval, but Johnny just shook his head.
“OK, so what was it – why did you leave us?” Maimon asked.
“Maimon, I could ask you the same thing – why haven’t you left?”
“What?” exclaimed Maimon,”Leave? To go where? We have truth!”
“Yep,” replied Johnnie, “doesn’t everybody.”
P.S. If we’re really going to start this multi-member blog collaboration, we need to call the posts something other than Guest Posts. Any suggestions?