As a Deist myself, I must say this Rabbi couldn't be more wrong. In the founding of America and our freedoms both Jews, some Christians, Deists, and Unitarians stood together. Is Deism really a danger to Judaism? It is to fundamentalism, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. Do I as a Deist encourage Jewish conversion to Deism? No I don't. I accept many things in Judaism, but I don't accept the authority of a priest class of any kind.
The claim below of Deism being little more then "G-d went away" and moral relativism is just bunk. Deism doesn't operate by fear and threats. Is the danger of Deism to G-d or to Rabbinical authority? The Rabbis burned the writings of Maimonides, one of greatest minds in Judaism on this basis. I have no problem myself with Maimonides or his 13 Rules.
Purim: The dangers of deism
By Rabbi Yonason Goldson
Jewish World Review March 8, 2001
"Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, as you departed from Egypt: How they ... cut down the weak who trailed behind you, when you were faint and weary ... You shall erase the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens. Do not forget." -- (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)
How is it possible that the Torah commands us to annihilate another nation? And if it does, how are we better than those peoples who have tried to exterminate us throughout our history? Why is the nation of Amalek singled out for this extreme sentence over all our other enemies and oppressors?
In its victory over Egypt, Israel acquired much more than its own freedom: it acquired for the entire world a victory for moral order over moral anarchy, as well as a victory for commitment to the community of m ankind over self-serving oppression. By casting off the shackles of Egyptian domination and embracing its Divine mission, the fledgling nation of Israel symbolized the lofty potential of the human soul and the limitless capacity of human achievement.
This is what it means to be a "chosen people" --- that even when other nations may shrink from the obligations implicit in their own humanity, the Jewish people remain committed to carry the banner high as a reminder to the world of the godliness that resides within every human being.
But it is no simple job serving as the moral conscience of the world. Indeed, many peoples have resented the Jews for setting so rigorous a standard. But only the nation of Amalek possessed such zeal to risk its very existence in hope of tearing down the banner and letting anarchy once again reign supreme.
It was not simply Amalek's attack upon the Jews -- it was the manner of their
attack, how they cut down the weak who trailed behind.
In their opposition to moral absolutism, Amalek understands that the best
strategy is not frontal attack.
In the language of contemporary theology, Amalek is a nation of deists,
asserting that the Creator resides in the heavens, that the human race resides
upon the earth, and that there is no interaction between them whatsoever.
Just as Amalek risked their lives attempting to destroy Israel in the desert, so
too did Haman the Wicked, viceroy to the king and descendant of Amalek, risk his
own life to exterminate the Jews in ancient Persia.
Today, we face Amalek not as a nation but as an ideology, an egocentric belief in relative truth and moral autonomy. And now, just as thirty three centuries ago, it is Amalek's ideology that leads individuals and whole communities to hold corrupt values and make destructive decisions. By remembering Amalek, we remind ourselves that we are never entirely safe from the seductive whisperings of subjective self-interest.
And when we have turned away from moral compromise to stare unblinking into the face absolute truth, then the insidious philosophy of Amalek will be erased forever from the collective memory of all mankind.
Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School and Aish HaTorah in St. Louis, and writes a regular column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
© 2001, Rabbi Yonason Goldson
From a Judaism FAQ site. (edited)
What is God? How far are we allowed to go in asking this question?
Judaism (among other faiths) affirms theism - the belief in God. Since the dawn of rabbinic Judaism, the Jewish people have produced many of the world's greatest philosophers. Showing great intellectual courage, they met the question of "What is God?" straight on, and have produced a voluminous and inspiring literature that proposes answers to this question.
Yet in all these ages, the spirit of rational inquiry prevailed. "Most medieval Jewish philosophers considered intellectual inquiry essential to a religious life, and were convinced that there could be no real opposition between reason and faith. Thus, Saadiah Gaon held that, 'The Bible is not the sole basis of our religion, for in addition to it we have two other bases. One of these is anterior to it; namely, the fountain of reason...' (Book of Beliefs and Opinions, 3:10).
How does theism differ from deism?
Judaism affirms theism as the basis for religion, as does Islam and Christianity. Beyond merely teaching that a god exists - which rules out atheism and agnosticism - Judaism specifically notes that only one god exists, thereby ruling out polytheism. God is conceived of as a creator and a source of morality, and has the power to intervene in the world in some fashion. The term 'God' thus corresponds to an actual ontological reality, and is not merely a projection of the human psyche.
"Deism was still another conception of God that confronted Jewish theology. Deistic doctrine contains two main elements. First is the view that God, having created the world, withdrew himself from it completely.*** This eliminates all claims of divine providence, miracles, and any form of intervention by God in history. Second, deism holds that all the essential truths about God are knowable by unaided natural reason without any dependence on revelation.
On the other hand, Maimonides' rationalist interpretation may well be considered to be a bridge between deism and theism. "Maimonides' grandiose attempt at a synthesis between the Jewish faith and Greek-Arabic Aristotelian philosophy was received with enthusiasm in some circles, mainly of the upper strata of Jewish society, and with horror and dismay in others, imbued with mysticism and dreading the effects of Greek thought on Jewish beliefs.
This is no doubt a reason why his "Guide of the Perplexed" became popular during the Haskalah movement. (Haskalah: Hebrew term for the Enlightenment movement/ideology which began in Jewish society in the 1770s.) "Haskalah, like its parent the European Enlightenment movement, was rationalistic. It accepted only one truth: the rational-philosophical truth in which reason is the measure of all things.
The mainstream of classical Judaism affirms that God is personal. Adonai is a God that not only exists, but also cares about humanity. Rabbi Harold Kushner writes that "God shows His love for us by reaching down to bridge the immense gap between Him and us. God shows His love for us by inviting us to enter into a Covenant (Brit) with Him, and by sharing with us His Torah". One of the ways that we relate to God is through the many names of God; In Judaism, each of the many divine names is indicative of a different aspect of God's presence in our world.
[On the other hand, note that Maimonides rejected the idea of a personal God in this sense.]
*** This was one of four definitions of Deism, the definition Christians often use. The definition that better fits Deism is reason is equal to faith. To quote another Deist' website:
Deism, as we define it, is a belief in a loving creator, an ultimate, eternal being, who is omnipresent and omniscient and perfectly good, but not omnipotent. This definition, with important qualifications, has substantial basis in philosophical history, despite the all-too widespread impression that the deistic creator is indifferent to its creation. The popular analogy for the deistic god is a supernatural watchmaker who may for all we know be fascinated by its handiwork, but is definitely not emotionally involved.
That analogy, however, is a simplistic historical caricature. It has been truly said that history is written by the victors. This is clearly the case with deism, since the popular notion of what it means has been disseminated in a culture dominated by the Christian religion. Let us attempt to set the record straight here. Contrary to popular Christian propaganda, ultimate reality ("god" if you prefer) as conceived by deism is not impersonal at all, merely non-omnipotent, hence non-controlling, and thus not in a position to provide people with the miracles on demand for which they so often yearn. Many Deist' positions are clearly compatible with basic Christian, Jewish, and Muslim precepts.
Religion and History
If using this material on another site, please provide a link back to my site.