Can Religion Be a Force for Good?

Question: How can we work towards making religion a force for \r\ngood?
\r\n

Abraham Foxman:  Well, the irony, the tragedy is, that’s \r\nwhat religion is supposed to be.  It’s supposed to teach us the \r\ndifference between good and evil, and yet it’s been used so frequently, or abused, for separation, for hate, for rationalizing so much hurt, I’m\r\n one of those that believes there needs to be a separation between \r\nreligion and state.  And yet, at the same time, if the spirit of love \r\nwhich comes from religion doesn’t inspire our leadership, it could be \r\nvery, very dangerous and counterproductive.  So it’s a very difficult \r\nbalance. 

Look, you have Iran, it’s a "religious" country, and look how \r\nmuch hate there is there.  In Israel there’s a lot of religion, it \r\nhasn't resolved all the problems.  In our country we’re struggling with \r\nit.  Some of the most... some of the most, I’m trying to find the word... \r\nsome of the most polarizing elements in our society come from religious \r\nleaders.  When... I think when the Jewish community... when we found out \r\nthat Billy Graham was an anti-Semite, it sort of... you know, so what’s \r\nreligion all about?  Here is the spiritual guide to so many presidents, \r\nhere is the guy that presidents would go for spiritual council and \r\nadvice, and here we find out he’s just a pure, simple, ugly classic \r\nanti-Semite.  So how do you deal with that?  I’ve been raised in faith, \r\nI’ve been raised in faith during the war as a Catholic, and then when I \r\nreturned to Judaism I’ve been raised in faith.  I think it has a role, \r\nbut frequently it’s abused.  It’s abused by temporal powers, by \r\npolitical institutions for its benefit.  And sometimes it is seduced by \r\nthe political, by the secular.  I think... I think the judgment is still \r\nout whether the promise of the faith, and love, and understanding and \r\nsensitivity that religion promises is maybe more counter-productive \r\nbecause some religions teach exclusiveness.  I think the most important \r\nelement for faith and religion, to be positive instrument and love, is \r\nthe difference between "a" and "the."  As long as we teach that we have the \r\ntruth, the only truth, it will only undermine understanding, and \r\nrespect, and love.  If we can teach that all we do is have a truth; I \r\nhave a truth, you have a truth, Catholics have a truth, Muslims have a \r\ntruth, it’s their way to salvation, it’s their way for their people to \r\nachieve tranquility, love, future, whatever.

Recorded on June \r\n11, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

The ADL National Director says judgment is still out on whether the positives promised by religion are outweighed by the negatives.

Why American history lives between the cracks

The stories we tell define history. So who gets the mic in America?

Videos
  • History is written by lions. But it's also recorded by lambs.
  • In order to understand American history, we need to look at the events of the past as more prismatic than the narrative given to us in high school textbooks.
  • Including different voices can paint a more full and vibrant portrait of America. Which is why more walks of American life can and should be storytellers.
Keep reading Show less

Juice is terrible for children. Why do we keep giving it to them?

A glass of juice has as much sugar, ounce for ounce, as a full-calorie soda. And those vitamins do almost nothing.

Pixabay user Stocksnap
popular

Quick: think back to childhood (if you've reached the scary clown you've gone too far). What did your parents or guardians give you to keep you quiet? If you're anything like most parents, it was juice. But here's the thing: juice is bad for you. 

Keep reading Show less

Orangutans exhibit awareness of the past

Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club

(Eugene Sim/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
  • It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
  • This ability may come from a common ancestor
Keep reading Show less