Shmuley Boteach is an American Orthodox rabbi, radio and television host, and author. He rose to prominence with the publication of his international bestseller Kosher Sex. He received his rabbinic ordination in 1988 from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement in New York City, as a disciple of its leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He frequently appears as a guest on television and radio discussing politics, religion, society and morality. He also now hosts a reality television program entitled Shalom in the Home which involves facilitating conflicts between family members. He has authored many books since Kosher Sex, the latest of which is The Broken American Male.
Question: What is the future of religion in America?
Shmuley Boteach: Well religion has a very bright future in the United States – very bright. America is becoming more and more religious. In fact when we speak about, you know, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus – this incredible cultural divide between the two continents – it’s really a religious divide more than anything else. Europe was once the most religious place, and now it’s utterly secular. Religion has been repudiated. The churches are empty. But America is becoming more and more religious, and it’s America’s religious convictions that are dictating the political discourse. I mean let’s face it. You have a devoutly Christian president who believes strongly . . . He believes . . . and I think he believes authentically in human freedoms. He goes to Iraq because he sees these tyrants slaughtering his people. He’s not just going to turn a blind eye. So religion is having a huge impact on the direction America is going. And I think that will continue and I think it will be positive. However, the underbelly of religion . . . the dark side can also grow, and that’s worrying me. And we have to nip it in the bud. See there’s two kinds of religion. One is religion is an “all or nothing” sum game. Either you’re religious or not. If you’re gay, to hell with you. If you’ve had an abortion, to hell with you. You don’t believe what I believe? To hell with you. Well that’s pretty damn intolerant, and that’s an abomination before God. The other kind of religion is where you say religion is a collection of ideas, and principles, and practices to make us into godly people. And even if you don’t keep all of them, well keep some of them. So you may be doing things that I don’t believe in because of my religion, but you’re doing other things that I can really respect and applaud. That’s not what we’re hearing in America today. We’re hearing, “Because you are X, therefore I have to reject you and your entire . . . reject you in your entirety.” If we can get away from that, the future of religion will be not only bright in America, but it will really illuminate so many people’s lives, even the lives of many secular people.
Recorded on: 09/05/2007