On Friday, June 22, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for making shocking public statements, was giving a televised speech. Someone asked a question about Original Sin: why would God create Adam and Eve only to allow them to succumb to temptation that destroyed the purity of all humanity? “Who is this stupid god?” he said. “This son of a bitch is really stupid. You were not involved but now you’re stained with original sins? What kind of religion is that? That’s what I can’t accept; very stupid proposition.”
Mr. Duterte has a point there: the doctrine he’s denouncing is Christian doctrine, a very weird version of the Adam and Eve story; Israel starts every day declaring, “My God, the soul You placed within me is pure.”
Later, the Philippines president emphasized that “his God” isn’t like that God whom he criticized. “I did not say my God was stupid,” he said, the following Monday. “Your god is not my god because your god is stupid. Mine has a lot of common sense.”
Possibly Mr. Duterte’s God resembles HaShem in other ways as well, besides the quality of not being stupid. These comments of his are, at any rate, a good example of 1) the difficulties inherent in the different “names” or identities that people assign to Deity, prior to the day foreseen by the prophet, “When HaShem will be one and His Name one.” (Zechariah 14:9); and 2) how NOT to make friends and influence people.
Why cause people bad feelings unnecessarily? Even when we consider the tenets of their religions to be idiotic. The idea, based on Eve’s and Adam's sin, that people are “utterly depraved” and doomed to “conscious torment for all eternity” if they don’t accept a dead Jewish man as their Savior, is fundamental to Christianity. As ridiculous as it is - as Mr. Duterte points out – we don’t, as a rule, mock it.
One reason to not deride others’ religions is that, when it comes to certain desirable qualities, their followers may often be better than we are. So we see a great prophet, for instance, blessing the Rechabites, based on their dedication to their ancient folkways (Jeremiah 35:19). Or a great sage of the Mishna, Rabbi Jose of Galilee (c. 150 CE), praising idol-worshippers for their love for and fidelity to their [false] gods (Midrash, Sifre: Deuteronomy 87).
Lots of us do a better job fearing God than loving Him. Even though the black letter Commandment to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall LOVE HaShem your God”) matters every bit as much as the mandate to “fear” Him (Deuteronomy 6:13, “You shall fear – yirah, to see and understand, recognize and worship – HaShem your God”). By limiting Him, in their minds, and deforming His Name – His identity, the quality of Who and What He is – they bring Him down to human size, as it were. Instead of the mighty, unimaginable, incomprehensible Deity that He really is, they make Him more like a person, and therefore easier to love.
On this subject, we also need to recognize that the crazy conceptions that people have about God – that He is harsh and His Torah is harsh and that He loves harsh and bloody penalties, for instance; or that He requires us to believe things that are nonsensical – hardly encourage love for Him.
Eventually, when things become clearer – soon, we hope; in our time – the Lord’s followers’ loving feelings for HaShem shall surpass and greatly exceed the shallower affection that others, the followers of “stupid” gods and man-made religions, have for their deities. Because the love of HaShem has its foundation in reality, instead of the illogical, contradictory make-believe of the gods who aren’t God: the “stupid” gods.
By Michael Dallen