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Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobeyby Harold M. Schulweiss
Synopses & Reviews
In a world increasingly laden with unspeakable crimes against humanity all in the name of pious compliance, the lameness and lethal silence of the ecclesia are disillusioning. More is expected of religion. Does religion have the capacity, or more poignantly, does it have the will to counter the suppressive culture of obedience with the culture of moral courage and compassion? Can it motivate its disciples to shout 'No ' in the presence of killers of the dream?
from the Introduction
In this passionate meditation on the human condition, Rabbi Harold Schulweis challenges us to overthrow our current religious climate in which conscienceless obedience is honored and moral dissent condemned. He calls on religion to provide the resources needed to resist immoral authority, making way for courage and conscienceour responsibility to justice, compassion, and moral sensibilityto blossom.
Drawing from sacred texts, philosophical writings, contemporary literature and personal experience, Schulweis builds a foundation for conscience rooted in Jewish tradition. He draws on the actions of scriptural figures to illustrate acts of moral conscience not as defying God's will but as confronting divine authority with awe and respect.
Provocative, honest, and wisethese reflections of a great spiritual leader will lead you on a quest to find your own capacity for moral conscience.
"In this articulate and cogent treatise, Schulweis, longtime congregational rabbi and founding chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, argues that acts of disobedience can be appropriate and moral when law violates conscience. Referencing the Midrash, Bible and Talmud, he argues that both the popular understanding of God as a being who cannot be contradicted and of Judaism as a religion that requires uncompromising obedience to authority is mistaken. Throughout Jewish history, he explains, rabbis have created ingenious legal maneuvers to eliminate laws they found unconscionable, such as making capital punishment so difficult to implement that it became obsolete. Furthermore, God's engagement with humanity, most famously his interaction with Abraham before he destroys Sodom, indicates a willingness for confrontations promoting morality and righteousness. Schulweis's broad knowledge is evident as he intersperses biblical anecdotes with philosophical theories, as is his ability to make his thesis relevant by including material on the Holocaust and references to Abu Ghraib. Whether religious or not, readers concerned with the culture of mindless complicity will find this volume revealing and enlightening." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
At this critical moment in our nation's-and the world's-history, we are called sharply but lovingly to think in new ways about our moral and political behavior by Harold Schulweis, one of America's great spiritual leaders. Like the biblical prophets, he speaks to people of all faiths, all backgrounds in this call for renewal of conscience. A provocative book, it examines the idea of conscience and the role conscience plays in our relationship to law, ethics, religion, human nature and God-and to each other. From Abraham to Abu Ghraib, from the dissenting prophets to Darfur, he probes history, the Bible and the works of contemporary thinkers for ideas about both critical disobedience and uncritical obedience, illuminating the potential for evil and the potential for good that rests within us as individuals and as a society.
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