Michael Benami Doyle's Reviews > Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism

Nothing Sacred by Douglas Rushkoff
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's review
Jun 16, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: judaica, conversion-journey

I am of two minds about this book. It's a very Jewish work--it questions and struggles with Judaism, God, and everything related in order to find meaning, which is at heart of Jewish scholarship. But it's also not about what it purports to be. Rushkoff calls the book "The Truth About Judaism." What it really amounts to is a thinly veiled call to turn Judaism into humanism.

Rushkoff's main idea is that the irreligious, largely humanist "lapsed" Jews of the 21st Century are really the most "Jewish" Jews, and that organized Judaism in all its movements has lost sight of Judaism's central tenets of monotheism, iconoclasm, and social justice. This is in diametrical opposition to works like "The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism," and "God Was Not in the Fire," which point out the dangers of not having a universal ethics (which humanism cannot provide) and the value of ritual and myth as promoting a sense of community.

At variuos points, Rushkoff expresses derision at observant Jews (in fact, he scorns all Jewry that isn't part of the highly humanist Reconstructionist movement), says that the concept of God is irrelevant, and announces that the end justifies the means as if it is an accepted tenet (ignoring that it was this very tenet that allowed every dictator in history to commit mass murder).

Rushkoff want Judaism repackaged as humanism, with God relegated to humansim's "quiet inner voice" that whispers right from wrong and derides everything else. He thinks that doing so leads directly from the Torah being a myth-laden document. He completely ignores that anyone could ever come to believe in God on their own, or that the "inner voice" of which he writes could be a subjective sense of God. If it isn't scientifically proveable, it's not part of Rushkoff's world view.
He also contradicts himself many times (are the Jews a people or aren't they? It depends on the point Rushkoff is trying to make), and draws sweeping, occasionally ludicrous conclusions from tenuous "evidence" and then reports those conclusions as incotroverible fact.

To subtitle this book "The Truth About Judaism" took a lot of chutzpah. That is not what this book is about. This book is nothing more than one long rant from a lapsed Jew who can no longer conceive that others might actually believe--or have a right to believe--in God. There are spiritual homes which share his worldview. But mainstream Judaism doesn't have to throw God out with the mikvah water just because Rushkoff is disappointed that the Bible isn't factual.
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