Sunday, January 20, 2008

Religious Search

The question sometimes arises whether a Jew, in his honest search for truth, must examine every religion to see which one is true. Should a Jew simply pursue his own religion or must he also examine other religions? If the answer is no, should someone born into an idolatrous cult also not examine other religions?

Click here to read moreR. Yosef Albo (Sefer Ha-Ikkarim 1:24) addresses this question. He makes the point that if everyone has to investigate other religions, then no person will ever be certain in his beliefs because there could always be another, truer religion that he has yet to investigate. However, if not, then we are saying that people should be content with their ancestral religions, implying that they are all legitimate. Therefore, a person should ensure that his religion corresponds to the logical boundaries of a true religion (that R. Albo spends a good deal of time discussing). Those religions that do not should be rejected. Furthermore, through various arguments he points out that Judaism is clearly truer than Christianity and Islam.

In today's day, when the religions that we know about are much more numerous than just the big European three, it is harder to sustain R. Albo's arguments. This is particularly so because he relies heavily on the other arguments throughout his treatise, which may not be able to withstand modern criticism. Which leaves us back with the original question of whether a person should examine every religious alternative before settling on one.

I would suggest, and perhaps R. Albo actually intends this, that a person should examine his own religion. If he finds it wanting then he should examine other religions. Otherwise, he should be content with his religion.

In other words, accept your ancestral religion unless it can be factually, logically or morally disproven.

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