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Heschel: Blame Religion for its Own Defeats

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel

It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.

— Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

HT: Fr. Ted Bobosh.

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  1. James Lung February 26, 2015 / 9:19 am

    John Wesley: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

    Lest we get all puffed up and sneer at those with whom we disagree, we must remember that doctrine, spirit, and discipline bring life, not death. Jeroslav Pelikan reminds us that Tradition can be either death or life. We must seek, practice and preach the “living faith of the dead”, which is the well-spring of faith with power. The dead faith of the living is a form, but no power.

    As a the Native American Chief noted, after participating in endless religious gatherings and observing fad overcoming fad: Many lightning. Much thunder. No rain.

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