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The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







Lionel Blue's Non-Conversion

I’ve just visited your web page and read Lionel Blue’s account of why he did not become a Christian.

As I am an atheist (albeit married to a Christian wife), I see the matter from a more detached point of view than most of your readers would, I imagine. At least I don’t suffer from any religious bias! The article was interesting in that it confirmed some of my thoughts about religion.

First, the Rabbi’s reaction was emotional, and religion is an affair of the emotions, as Pascal pointed out.

Secondly, the Rabbi saw the situation through the tunnel vision that religion seems to produce. He is right, of course, to point to the hatred of some Christians towards Jews. Maybe Doris Lessing was right when she called Christianity the most intolerant religion the world has ever seen. But doesn’t he see that too many adherents of the three connected religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam are guilty of the same attitudes? As I said to my Christian wife when she showed me photos of Jerusalem after a visit, "You can tell how holy it is by the number of armed police and soldiers on the streets!"

Then there’s the treatment of Palestinian Arabs by the Israelis - perhaps caused primarily by politicians, but intensified by religion. And, nearer to my home, consider the relations between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. People say that these conflicts are not religious but ethnic or political. That is true of their origins, but religion is what makes them so savage and difficult for men of goodwill to influence. Indeed, the Protestants were first put into Ireland in the knowledge that relations between them and the Catholic population would be vicious.

My own rejection of Christianity is mostly a matter of temperament - I think one either is or is not inclined to religion, and if one is, one normally takes what’s on offer locally, Christianity, Judaism or whatever. But there also seems to me to be something objectionable at the heart of Christian belief. Would any Creator worthy of respect, let alone adoration, demand a human sacrifice, and provide his own victim, as the price of forgiving His creatures for being as He made them?

At least the Jewish God, in the story of Abraham and Isaac, didn’t let the sacrifice of Isaac actually happen. But God’s motivation is open to criticism. I think. I would respect both Abraham and the Deity here if Abraham had refused to kill Isaac and God had congratulated him on that response. God’s satisfaction at seeing that Abraham would have murdered Isaac makes the Deity as imagined in Judaism seem a monster, like the Christian one.

As Lucretius said of the sacrifice of Iphigenia by her father, such are the evils to which religion leads.

Why should adherents of different religions hate one another so readily? I think maybe it’s because they are in fact insecure in their beliefs, but so dependent on them emotionally that they have to pretend to themselves that those beliefs are incontrovertible. And such certainty, as Michel de Montaigne said, is the surest mark of unreason.

I must say, by the way, that from hearing Rabbi Blue on the radio, and seeing his writings occasionally, I have the impression of an admirable person. What a pity he needs to saddle himself with religion, of whatever kind!

I’d be interested to know what other visitors to your website think about these things, but would ask that if anyone wants to comment on this message, they do it through your website, or via yourself, and you do not divulge my e-mail address.

Alex Ritter



The truth about the sacrifice of Isaac is this:

Human sacrifice was practiced by the Canaanites as the ultimate proof of their devotion and obedience to their God. They challenged Abraham to prove his own devotion and obedience to his God by sacrificing Isaac. The story that was enacted was to demonstrate to the Canaanites that human sacrifice was repugnant not only to Abraham but also to the God of Abraham.

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