Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Good Do We Have to Be?

Written by: Harold S. Kushner

First lines: I have been thinking about the ideas expressed in this book for a long time. Even as a child, I was bothered by the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. A God who punished people so severely for breaking one arbitrary rule was not a God I wanted to believe in, especially since the story seemed to suggest that Adam and Eve had no knowledge of what good and bad meant before they broke the rule.

Why you should read this book: Drawing on biblical stories, classic literature, personal anecdotes, and other sources, the acclaimed rabbi confronts the persistent Judeo-Christian belief that human beings ought to shoulder the massive burdens of shame and guilt for the crime of being imperfect. Reframing the events in the Garden of Eden allows him to cast the divine creator as a loving and accepting being who wants humanity to rise to a level of consciousness beyond that of mere animals, and the taint of original sin as no more than the human belief that there is not enough love to go around. Instead of wallowing in shame and condemnation, he argues, we must accept that we, and those around us, can never be perfect, and should not be expected to live up to an unattainable standard, but rather can only do our best, with the understanding that we only have to be as good as we can be.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Religious guilt got you where you are today.

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