`Don’t Talk To Me About God’
06/18/2010 - 15:25
Gary Rosenblatt

 After Rabbi David Wolpe wrote a thoughtful column on the Huffington Post website this week about how to talk to children about God, he was astonished by the volume and vehemence of the response.

“I never got a reaction like this to any article I’ve written,” the popular author, columnist and rabbi of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles told me. “It was overwhelming how angry people are about religion.”

More than 1,000 people commented on the article, almost all of them expressing deep hatred of religion, according to the rabbi.

The column noted how uncomfortable parents are in discussing God with their children, and suggested that families should provide a “spiritual education,” just as they do an intellectual education, for their sons and daughters.

The rabbi wrote that every child should feel he or she is special, created in the image of God, and he encouraged parents to ask children about their perceptions of God, tell Bible stories to them, bring God into everyday life, don’t be defensive at challenges, and try not to give “facile answers” that may soon be outgrown.

While the tone of the column is gentle, the responses have been anything but.

Rabbi Wolpe said comments asserted that instructing children about God should be illegal, and compared it to child abuse and the “rape of a tender mind.”

Almost everyone commenting was an atheist, and “there seemed to be very little reaction from religious people,” said the rabbi.

It’s hard to know how representative the negative response was in demographic terms, but it’s clear there are a lot of people out there who vigorously oppose any form of discussion of God, even in a mild and non-judgmental tone.

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@Shel Haas -- You're asking a rabbi not to speak about rabbinic thought? What reality are you living in? Last I heard, rabbis are all about God, and rabbinics, and ought to be. Why be sarcastic at a rabbi for doing what rabbis do? And as far as "made in the image of God" is concerned, not everyone takes that phrase literally; there are many ways to interpret it. Some religious authorities say that being made in God's image means that humans are capable of moral/ethical choice; that they are creators and artists; that they are stewards of the Earth; and so on. Maybe you could use a little understanding of rabbinics yourself. Your knowledge of ancient Israelite history also seems a bit askew. The patriarchs and the prophets who came before Ezra all condemned polytheistic worship. Ezra certainly didn't originate monotheism. He just made it stick better than anyone had been able to do previously. And even he wasn't completely successful. (Even granting your argument, who cares if it was Ezra who mandated the belief in one and only God? Ezra's not ancient enough?) Teachers of religious traditions need not conform to the rules of science and history in order to help us make meaning in our lives. I support the rabbi's call for parents to give their children a firm religious foundation. The children can accept or reject it later, as they wish.
Oh my. I suppose the religious people have been cowed into silence by the non-judgmental tones of those whose faith is in other entities: scientists, bankers, politicians, amoebas, sticks, or rocks? This is a sad state of affairs. The tolerance of those who teach tolerance for criminals, have no tolerance for bothersome little infants. Those who preach tolerance for intellectual dishonesty show none for those who speak sincerely of their faith in a loving creator and sustainer. Those who have no tolerance for hypocrisy seem to be caught between the Rock and a narrow place. Anyone for turning the land back over to the giants, and going back to slavery - I mean required volunteer service? Anyone for trading dates and honey for cucumbers and leeks? But the most tolerant people will have no idea of what I am talking about, because they would not tolerate learning from the world's oldest best seller.
Nothing new under the sun. God has always been rejected, is now, and always will be. I for one have faith, hope, and love for those who have no faith, no hope, or love. Thank you rabbi.
No human is born in the image of God. Rabbi Wolpe should deal in reality not in rabbinic thought. Let the esteemed rabbi describe God's appearance. A study of Judaism reveals that until the reign of King Josiah, Jews had many objects of worship, real and/or imaginary. Ezra later on, during the reign of the Persians, made the belief in the one God the major premise of judaism.
"vigorously oppose any form of discussion of God, even in a mild and non-judgmental tone" In a non-judgmental tone was not what was proposed. What was proposed was discussing God in a 'judged very good' tone.