Oct 9, 2007

Two Jewish guys walk into a publishing house

One, Shalom Auslander, writes a book about how much he hates religion.
He tried ignoring God, and also compromising with him. As a teenager, he writes in “Foreskin’s Lament,” which goes on sale this week, he once rode his bike to Caldors on Saturday but then found himself unable to further violate the Sabbath by activating the electric-eye door opener. In the early-1990s he was married and living in Teaneck, N.J., working in an ad agency and just getting started as a writer. One Saturday he walked all the way to Madison Square Garden to see a game during the Stanley Cup playoffs. God punished him by making the Rangers lose.

“It’s ridiculous that I feel the way I do,” he said at the end of his drive in Monsey. “That I have this cartoonish view of God as someone who rewards and punishes. I feel like a fool when I read someone like Richard Dawkins,” he said, referring to the British atheist and evolutionary biologist. “But let’s trade childhoods.” Intellectually, he said, he understood Mr. Dawkins, but “emotionally I’m not there at all.”
The second, AJ Jacobs, writes a book about the year he spent trying to live by all the precepts in the Bible.
Oddly enough, Jacobs does not attach himself to a synagogue or church. Like Martin Luther, he opts for a relationship with Scripture that is unmediated by any institution.

The spiritual loner does, however, make a field trip to Israel, where he visits with the one person of faith in his family, the black sheep and cultish Uncle Gil.

There are trips to see snake-handling Pentecostals and Jerry Falwell's mega-church, and there is no condescension and a good deal of tenderness in some of these encounters. After long talks with creation-scientists, Jacobs regrets an article that Esquire published on them, "Greetings From Idiot America." "I'd wager," he concludes, "there's no difference in the average IQ of creationists and evolutionists."

Prayer is, of course, an important part of the program. There are some who would argue that it is no use praying to God when you do not believe in God, or worse yet, have nothing approaching a yearning for God. Throughout the book, Jacobs prays many times a day. Though he has his epiphanies and mystical moments, he is never converted from his agnostic state.

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