“Religion is the opiate of the masses… In low doses it is tonic. In overdoses, it is toxic.”

Most quotable comment ever left on this blog:

"Religion is the opiate of the masses (including me). In low doses it is tonic. In overdoses, it is toxic."
                             Yochanan Lavie

I would make it read like this:

"Religion truly is the opiate of the masses. While in extremely low, controlled doses it may be tonic, in anything more than that it usually is toxic."

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28 Comments

Filed under Religion

28 responses to ““Religion is the opiate of the masses… In low doses it is tonic. In overdoses, it is toxic.”

  1. To trot with the “toxicity” tagging a little deeper down harmful highway …… sometimes like an ADHD brain on too much adderall,NumB as a bottle of Bicardi rum and Ritually Robotic are the rusty religion overdose side effects of the week, month or decade.

    The cumulative numb and robotic side effects often lead to subsequent, mindless musings,myopic mindsets and a futile circuitous existence that can best be described as a string of spent Christmas lights strung round and round and round a limp evergreen fir tree the day after new years. Melting snowflakes turning into raindrop tears and forming puddles under the spent Christmas lights. The lights that once knew how to create sparkles of color and passion are now rigidly directed and strung round and round in strict neat circles.And as the holiday season bids farewell in a hazy shade of alcohol flavored cheer and New Years resolutions ,the lights buckle under the pressure of constant – “be a light onto the yard and nation” requirements and succumb in unison with the dripping snowflakes forming a small huddle of lights gone by and snowflakes gone astray in one lump sum of misguided/misspent energy.

    I guess you can always redecorate your life with a whole new set of glittery, sparkly christmas lights. The trick is to know when to stay plugged in ,when to recharge, when to temporarily disconnect …… but most of all to understand that you can choose whether you want to be strung around a rigid outdoor green fir tree on mud , an indoor perfectly pink tinsel tree from Urban Outfitter or just function as whimsical blue twinkling icicles dangling over the porch.Never let cold weather or rigid rules frost bite you into a snowy ice or sleety rain, mind numbing existence.Cuz thats the kind of frigid that cant ever be warmed,not even with the OTC depths of piping hot Saki or Peach flavored Absolute.

  2. Actually, I think opium is the opiate of the masses.

  3. Anonymous

    Looks like opium is still the opiate of some of the masses.

  4. Anonymous

    Dna, that was really scary.

  5. Anonymous

    Oops- meant to read “Dan”. Please stop reading my mind.

  6. Anonymous

    Are you saying that Moshe Rabbeinu would also have been better off if he had religion in lower doses? How about Hillel? Maybe the Rambam too? The more knowledge a person has on how to behave properly and justly, the better. A person with that kind of religion can only benefit from “overdoses.” The downside is when people go against the torah, or misapply its teachings. A person who follows the torah completely in ALL its aspects and details will be a wonderful human being, and will only benefit from it.

  7. I doubt the historocity of your cited heroes. More acurately, I doubt that the written accounts are anything other than hagiography.

  8. Yochanan Lavie

    Shmarya: Thanks for the shout out, dude. I still stand by my original gersa. My life would be empty and meaningless w/o religion. I know I’m not alone. (Maybe I’m a loser.) At any rate, I love you, dude. Don’t be such a farbisseneh.

    Jaded: very poetic!

  9. Anonymous

    Regardless of hagiography or whatever, the point still stands

  10. Are you saying Torqemada would not have been better off with less religion?

    You’re arguing from an extreme, and doing so based largely on hagiography.

  11. Anonymous

    I’m saying Torqemada would have been better off with more Torah observance.

  12. Illogical. What you’re saying is my belief system, perfectly followed, is better than your belief (or non-belief) system imperfectly followed.

  13. Anonymous

    No I’m saying the Torah’s belief system perfectly followed is better than any other system perfectly followed. That’s what most religions say. The only difference is that Judaism has the history, prophecy and uniqueness to prove its point. I personally have researched many other religions, and cannot find anything near the fulfilled prophecy, the uniqueness or the history that the Jewish people have.

  14. Anonymous

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006
    Lakewood, NJ – Cheder Settle School Lunch Overcharge Case
    Lakewood, NJ – The Lakewood Ceder School, a private Jewish school, has agreed to pay more than $1 million to the federal government in connection with allegations that it provided false information as part of the National School Lunch Program, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced.

    According to the settlement agreement, Lakewood Cheder School submitted false information and statements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the department’s Bureau of Child Nutrition, with having more than 1,100 pre-school age children claiming for lunches at the ineligible and unapproved sites.

    The Assistant U.S. Attorney Rudolph A. Filko, Deputy Chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “This is an abuse of government funds that takes money away from other children who are truly in need and deserving of these resources,” said Christie. “It is wrong, and we will continue to look for such misappropriations and recoup that money so that it can serve the intended recipients.”

  15. “I’m saying the Torah’s belief system perfectly followed is better than any other system perfectly followed. That’s what most religions say. The only difference is that Judaism has the history, prophecy and uniqueness to prove its point…”

    If one continues to reinterpret said prophicies, rewriting and editing them to acheive fulfillment, one can look pretty good – after the fact.

    Saying my religion is better than yours doesn’t make yours true.

  16. Hey, Shmarya, nice quote.

    I’ve got a new post showing just how “high” people have to be to believe this. The premise is that the Torah’s “Unintelligent Editing” is evidence enough of its non-divine origins.

    Small doses, indeed! Very small.

  17. Anonymous

    “If one continues to reinterpret said prophicies, rewriting and editing them to acheive fulfillment, one can look pretty good – after the fact.”

    There are plenty of fulfilled prophecies in the torah that definitely occurred after everyone agrees that the text of the torah was finalized(for those who say that the text underwent changes). The prophecies were not self fulfilled, and they were not inevitable occurrences. How do you explain worldwide diaspora (which no other nation experienced, let alone survived, until the 20th century with the Armenian diaspora), antisemitism and a policy murder and sometimes attempted genocide in every generation, the general emtiness and desolation of the land of Israel during the Jewish worldwide exile as predicted in the torah, especially given what an amazing and beautiful land Israel is(the population never exceeded 300,000 people total during the exile, and this was only for a short period under the turks before a large earthquake ended this). How about the return of so many Jews to the land of their ancestors (a land that was not sovereign from the time the Romans conquered it until 1948), or the worldwide fame of Jews who have achieved in all areas of academia, politics and entertainment in a vastly disproportional way given their numbers (and who are 25% of the nobel prize winner!). How about the revival of the Hebrew language which is known as one of the truly amazing socio-linguistic events of modern time (accomplished in large part by secular Israelis.) The list goes on. No other nation can claim uniqueness as the Jewish people can. And no other religion has any fulfilled prophecies like the Jewish people have.

  18. Find and cite each of those prophecies. Then we’ll talk.

  19. Ilan

    If I recall correctly, Anonymous’ arguments are similar to those made in Aish’s Discovery program and in the book “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.” I’ve thought a bit about this in the past so here are some random thoughts on the issue:

    1. The prophecies made are incredibly vague, and the evidence offered to show they were fulfilled is also incredibly vague.

    2. The main thrust of the prophecies are that the Jews will be in exile and will come back to Israel. One does not need to posit a supernatural intelligence to predict this, though. It is consistent with modern scholarship’s view that the Torah was written after the return from Babylonia – when the Jews had been expelled and returned to Israel.

    3. If the predictive validity of the Torah is our criteria for judging whether it is true, then what about the many things which it got wrong? Like the world being created in six days, 5700 years ago?

    4. What happens if you were living in the year 1800 or 1500 or 738, before many of the alleged prophecies were fulfilled? Using anonymous’ methodology, there is no basis for belief.

  20. Anonymous

    To provide passages from the torah for each of the prophecies mentioned above would take too long for one post, so I’ll first do the worldwide dispersion prophecy, and mabe provide pesukim for other prophecies later. Before I begin though, you can’t deny that even if there were no prophecies in the torah for the above mentioned facts, they are all still amazing, unique aspects and accomplishments of the Jewish people that no other people or nation can compare with, and no complete explanation has been provided yet to explain these phenomena.
    The torah says in Devarim 28: “And the Lord will scatter you among ALL the nations, from ONE END OF THE EARTH TO THE OTHER, and there you will serve other deities unknown to you or your forefathers, [deities of] wood and stone.
    65. And among those nations, you will not be calm, nor will your foot find rest. There, the Lord will give you a trembling heart, dashed hopes, and a depressed soul.
    66. And your life will hang in suspense before you. You will be in fear night and day, and you will not believe in your life.
    67. In the morning, you will say, “If only it were evening! ” and in the evening, you will say, “If only it were morning!” because of the fear in your heart which you will experience and because of the sights that you will behold.”
    Jeremiah 29:18 -And I will pursue them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and I will make them a horror to ALL the kingdoms of the earth, for an oath, for astonishment, for hissing, and for a reproach among ALL the nations where I have exiled them.
    Zechariah 7:14 And with a whirlwind I will scatter them among ALL the nations whom they did not know (this prophecy was said while the Jews were already in Babylon, and speaks of a future exile).
    There are plenty of other pesukim speaking of this, and especially when dealing with the return of the exiles, it speaks of gathering the Jewish people from among all the nations, like Devarim 30:3 “then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you. (which by the way, this is the 5708th pasuk in the torah (1948 secular calender)”
    In answer to Illan’s first point “The prophecies made are incredibly vague, and the evidence offered to show they were fulfilled is also incredibly vague.” I would say these pesukim are rather detailed, speaking of being exiled among “all the nations” and “all the kingdoms of the earth.” And the evidence is clear that the Jewish people have been spread everywhere among all nations and peoples of the world, unlike any other people until most recently in the 20th century.
    Point 2 “It is consistent with modern scholarship’s view that the Torah was written after the return from Babylonia – when the Jews had been expelled and returned to Israel.” The Jewish people at the time were not spread over the entire world, and the ten tribes were lost and no longer heard of by then. Furthermore, only a small remnant of the Jews returned to Israel, while most stayed in Babylonia and never returned. There was still no worldwide exile and grandscale return to the land that had occurred. Also, Amos 9:15 speaks of the a return that will involve no further exiles-“And I will plant them on their land, and they shall no longer be uprooted from upon their land, that I have given them, said the Lord your God.”
    3. “what about the many things which it got wrong? Like the world being created in six days, 5700 years ago?” I think this point has been covered in a number of ways, both by rabbis who say that the torah wasn’t literal on these points, and also by those who point out that as much as we think we know, the world could be 5767 years old. Science and archaeology are constantly changing and updating theories, so who’s to say.
    4. “What happens if you were living in the year 1800 or 1500 or 738, before many of the alleged prophecies were fulfilled? Using anonymous’ methodology, there is no basis for belief.”
    For some prophecies, like the founding of the state of israel in 1948 maybe so. But worldwide dispersion, antisemitism, and surviving among the multitude of nations, among many other prophecies, could have been shown even during these times. The Ramban himself deals with some of these prophecies and points out their fulfilment.

  21. Do you realize the number of nations, tribes, etc. who went through exile, scatering, etc.? This is some type of chidush?! It was a major fear of all peoples, that a stronger tribe or nation would do that to them, sell them slaves, etc. And every nation felt that if that happened it would be because of their gods losing favor or themselves losing favor with their gods.

    Really, this is a very weak argument.

    And what exactly is a worldwide exile? Please. Is it the same as that worldwide flood that never happened?

  22. Anonymous

    Shmarya, I think you missed my point. Yes everyone was afraid of exile, and yes, it was almost always an inevitble occurence for nations throughout history to eventually be exiled. But, the Unique aspect of Jewish history and the prophecy that described it, is that it speaks of the Jewish people surviving this exile and amazingly, ending up among every nation and inhabited location, all over the world. First of all, look at the majority of peoples throughout history who are exiled from their land, and track their survival. The vast, vast majority intermarry and disappear within a few generations. I’m sure you’ve heard how the Dalai Lama visited with a group of Jewish leaders to ask the secret of how they survived the diaspora, and how he could learn from them. Survivng a diaspora, especially for almost 2000 years, is not something that just happens in history. The Romans in their conquests swallowed hundreds of smaller countries and tribes that are gone now. Look at how the Zoroastrians were almost completely destroyed by the rise of Islam. They lost large sections of their important holy texts forever, destroyed by the Moslems. Where they were originally in the tens of millions, if not more, now estimates put them at somewhere around 1-2 million.
    Look at a list of ancient civilizations and peoples, and see which ones are left today. There has been no nation that experienced what the Jewish people did and survived. No nation ended up in every area of the inhabited world like the Jewish people did. And the amazing thing is the torah predicted this. Had the torah said, “you will all end up in one area of the world and will not leave there, and in that area, your neighbors will show you kindness, and you will survive then,” that is a believable environment that a people would survive in, and a prophecy that a man living 2500 years ago might come up with. But the torah says something completely different and unique and unlikely, and something that never occurred before. Even Mark Twain asked the question, “All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

  23. The “secret” is rather simple. Vanquished nations adopted the gods of the nation who vanquished them. Jews could not do that because, unlike the rest of the world, we have an exclusive God. That being said, 99.9 % of Jews did assimilate and disappear. What is left is only a tiny remnant.Hardly a major “return” in numbers. And the actual return to Israel? Secular.

  24. Anonymous

    Its not that easily explained. I would say that some “vanquished nations adopted the gods of the nation who vanquished them”, but hardly all of them. The Zoroastrians had an exclusive god. Mithraism most likely did too. Many of these nations were willing to die for their gods or sacrifice their own children to them. The nations and peoples that Genghis Khan conquered did not convert to shamanism or taoism (both of which Genghis Khan was said to have practiced) even though their gods were conquered. Rome accepted the gods of the Greek’s (and just changed the names), rather than the Greeks accepting the ancient Roman religion. Many of the Germanic tribes that the Roman’s conquered continually revolted against the Romans and clung to their pagan practices. Christianity swept the Roman world even though there was no conquering involved, until the religion had already become largely prevalent among the population. There are plenty of examples of conquered peoples who still clung to their gods. Whereas under the Moslems, Jewish populations flourished in their own way, Christian communities faired much worse, and for the most part couldn’t manage Moslem hostilities. “Under the Yoke of Muslim laws against Jews and Christianity, some of the oldest and strongest Chrisitian communities in the world converted to Islam” according to Telushkin’s book Why the Jews? What’s more, we’re not talking solely about religion, we’re talking about culture, rules of conduct, and peoplehood as well. The Romans had a culture, as did the Greeks, and the ancient Egyptians, the Picts, Vikings, and hundreds of other nations. Furthermore , just because the Jews have an exclusive G-d, did not hold them back from adopting other gods.

    I don’t know that 99.9% of Jews assimilated, and even if that was the case, what does it prove? Devarim 28:62 says, ” And you will remain few in number, whereas you were once as numerous as the stars of the heavens because you did not obey the Lord, your God.”
    Finally, i would say that 5 million Jews living in Israel, out of a population of around 14 million Jews worldwide is a major return and repopulation. And the very fact that secular Israelis were so heavily involved in the return, shows that their immigration was not a self fulfilled prophecy that they wanted to happen because the torah said it would.

  25. Every “prophecy” you cite was written after the destruction and exile of the Northern Kingdom, which made up more than 80% of the Jews.

    And citing the Zoroastrians as proof is strange – they still exist, are in worldwide exile, and fit the “prophecies” better than we do.

    Did the vast majority of vanquished nations adopt the gods of the nations that vanquished them? Yes. No question about it.

  26. Anonymous

    Those Northern Tribes are lost, right? So what? You’re avoiding the point by bringing in the 10 tribes; they assimilated completely, so the prophecies clearly have nothing to do with them. They were talking about a group of Jewish people who maintained their identity. In fact, any Jew who, as you believe, would have been editing the torah at the time would have seen the utter disappearance of the 10 tribes, and probably thought twice about writing a prophecy dealing with exile and survival among the nations (if he wanted it to be a succesful prophecy).
    As for Zoroastrians, some say their numbers are more around 150,000. They were even referred to as the religion closest to extinction recently. Whats more, given the many millions that practiced prior to the rise of the Moslems (many more numbers than the Jews ever were) they are tiny today, and barely hanging on for survival. And like the Armenians and many other groups, starting in the 20th century, they became to an extent a worldwide diaspora. However, they were mainly limited to small communities in the middle east and Northern India until the 20th century, and were never spread over the entire world, unlike the Jews who were well on their way to doing so by the time of Mohammed. But I don’t see how they fit in any prophecies from the torah.

    Lastly, did the vast majority accept the gods of their conquerors? yes. But are there numerous exceptions to the rule throughout history? yes. And therefore you can’t explain away Jewish survival and worldwide dispersion as simply, “Vanquished nations adopted the gods of the nation who vanquished them. Jews could not do that because, unlike the rest of the world, we have an exclusive God.” There are plenty of examples in history that contradict this assertion. So I still don’t feel you’ve answered my above posts. Like I said, its not that easy to explain. And this is only one prophecy among very many in the torah. I don’t expect you to provide a full explanation of this, because I have had this conversation many times, and have never heard a satisfactory answer. Many great minds have struggled with this idea as well, and to my knowledge, no in depth study has been done on explaining Jewish survival, and the unique history of the Jewish people.

  27. They didn’t “utterly disappear.” A large number moved SOUTH to Judea. Get it?

  28. Anonymous

    Being exiled among your fellow Jews in the South? I would hardly call that an exile. Anyway they did disappear in the sense that they lost their tribal affiliation among the Judeans.

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