For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



Difference and indifference

God, and the right to be Different

A Talk at the Kaslik conference on


The right to be different, upheld at this conference, often is understood as indifference to the difference. Our civilisation proclaims this indifference; by the name of ‘political correctness’ it is elevated to the enlightenment paradigm level. We are supposed to be indifferent to the race, sex, physical abilities, and first of all, to the faith. The religion was considered the most important feature of Man, but now it is relegated to a question of personal choice, like the choice of a tie. This change was supposed to usher us into the world of no wars, for religion was considered a strong reason for confrontations. But wars are still with us, while religion is marginalised. Anti-religious leaders of the World War Two killed more people than all religious wars from Crusades upwards.

In the Byzantine Empire the great confrontations were caused by differing views on the nature of Trinity or on Divine Energy, as in the crisis caused by St Gregory Palamas. In the West, the confrontation between the mainstream church and breakaway movements – Albigensians, Lutherans, Calvinists – caused great upheavals. Though one regrets that these discussions were solved by administrative or military means, still one can’t but feel envy towards a society that cared so much about a way of man to God.

Religious indifference is a greater enemy than the fight over difference. If we fight over our differences – and such a fight does not have to lead to bloodshed – we still recognise the importance of faith; we recognise our communality of one people under God. When we embrace indifference, we slide into disintegration, into ‘each man for himself’.

Even as a war-limiting device, religious indifference failed, for it brought in unmitigated wars for resources, for domination, for trade privileges. But its more profound failure was the promotion of crass materialism. A Jewish joke tells of a man who had met a wife of his acquaintance whom he did not see for a long time. How is he, he asked, and she replied: he is niftar, that is ‘rested in peace’, in high Hebrew. The man did not want to show he did not understand the word, and laughingly replied: “niftar, shmiftar, who cares? But he makes money, does not he?” This is what happens in our world: we are dead, but still make money; and some people try to convince us this is the only thing that matters.

But even that is not the end of our failure. A godless world is impossible like an airplane without a pilot, engine or fuel. By removing God into the sphere of unimportant and irrelevant differences, we enthroned Mammon, His opponent. The priests of Mammon try to convince us that their god’s reign is more benevolent than that of God, but we witness daily it is not so. Mammon is a form of Domination Drive, and he is devastating our material earth as much as he devastated our spiritual world.

That is why I am not sure we should promote the right to difference unless we promote a free discussion of the differences. We may and should open the grand debate stressing the difference between those who believe in God and those who choose Mammon.

Here we should note a special position of our Jewish brothers. As a highly organised world-wide religious community, or a church, they have a very unorthodox position on God and Mammon. While they are divided on the question of God for them, and some believe and some do not, both fractions are actively against God for others. Those who do not believe, their position is clear. But even the believers, for complicated theological reasons, doubt, or outright deny accessibility of God for the outsiders. “So do we”, many of you will say. But for you, every outsider may become insider, and you want it. In the One Thousand and One Night, whenever a good Muslim wins an argument with a Jew, he converts him into Islam. In the West, Antonio baptises the Merchant of Venice who tried to kill him. Even in the days of high religious intolerance, there were many stories of women converted, either to Islam or to Christianity; while in the contemporary Jewish stories, a righteous man preferred to die rather than to cohabit with an outsider woman.

Their position was of no importance for centuries, but now, with their spectacular rise to prominence, this view provides a great ideological support for Mammon. That is why, while recognising the legal right to be different, we should augment this recognition by vigorous dispute, by stressing the difference instead of eliminating or hiding it.