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Is Religion a Crutch?

Is Religion a Crutch?

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Question:

I think religion is a crutch. G‑d is for the weak and the needy. Don't you have the independence to get through life on your own?

Answer:

You're right. Religion is a crutch, a sign of human weakness. And to be honest, religion is not my only crutch. I am so weak, I need a whole array of support mechanisms to prop me up and keep me going.

I need food. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I am totally dependant on eating. Without food, I would probably not have the strength to do much at all. My body does not nourish itself. It needs outside help. So I eat.

I have an emotional crutch too. I need other people. If it weren't for the support of my family and friends I certainly wouldn't be where I am today. And while we are on the subject, I am also quite dependent on my shoes. My feet would be really sore without them.

The human is a fragile being. We are not self-sufficient. We depend on external sources for our survival. We need to be fed, we need to be loved, and we need shoes. I thank G‑d every day, for it is He who provides me with food, family and footwear.

But above all, I thank Him for giving my life purpose. Just as I can't nourish myself without resorting to the outside, I can't give my life real meaning without seeking beyond myself.

Maybe that makes me weak. But I think it gives me strength. Even if I'm hungry, lonely or barefoot, as long as I have divine purpose, I can face any challenge.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous toronto February 13, 2015

walk A child does not learn to walk till his walker is taken away. When the excuses of the people are taken away . Then they will learn to walk step by step. Reply

Anonymous Not Heaven April 2, 2014

My thoughts: "With regards to the “little tribal god” you mention; the atheists say that Man evolved from a “primordial soup” at the odds of 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,etc…etc…etc….

If only I had as much belief as the Evolutionists!"

The odds of a magic man in heaven controlling everything we do each day...are? Wait there aren't any odds for that. It's not 1 in a billion or trillion. It's nothing. We can literally LOOK at things happening the way evolutionists explain things. You can literally test it. Black and white. But no, it was a magic man in the sky. That's way more plausable because it's in a book that was written by people who were told to write it by God that only talked to them. Not to everyone mind you. Just to them. That's definitely WAY more plausible than any mathmatically, scientifically, biologically, and physically proven and testable odds. Obviously
Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 10, 2011

Literally, if your leg is broken, You need a crutch. Physically, my own mom said she would NEVER use a crutch, a cane, a walker or wheelchair because she'd rather be dead than crippled. So, when she got old and in need, she hobbled around the house, holding onto walls, chairs, tables and falling. She broke ribs, etc. She KEPT saying she doesn't need anything to help her. Finally, in the end, she ended up in a rest home in a wheelchair and was so angry that she and another wheelchair patron who was bitter had a fist fight in their chairs. So, do we need a crutch? Yes. If you think you don't, you are sadly mistaken. You may be able to get by for a WHILE on your own (with Go-d helping you, without you knowing it), but there will come a time you need help. It may be a 9-1-1 call, or a call to a neighbor or family member. But, you will ask for help one day. ORGANIZED religion is an easy way to have automatic help (depends on where you go). Just don't get brainwashed anywhere by anyone. But, accept help from everywhere Reply

Anonymous Rochester April 13, 2010

It is a crutch, necessarily? Or is it a walking stick? Perhaps that depends on whether you think it will take you anywhere worthwhile. I suppose the irreligious would say no; for my part, I think yes. Reply

ILee ny April 13, 2010

Dear "Wonderful ... but" Mystical reasons are not excuses; it appears as an excuse to those who don’t understand mysticism.

The Judaic mystical infrastructure is an amazingly complex, yet truly orderly and understandable system. It just takes some learning.

Please find yourself a teacher and learn, learn, learn ….. there more 10,000 Judaic works on mysticism so you’ll have plenty to learn.

Wishing you all the best, Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA via jewishriverside.com April 10, 2010

It depends on your definition of Religion. How do you define religion? The NAME of the religion people have devised or WHAT is IN YOUR HEART? I know people who use religion to RUN AWAY from facing their problems and dealing with them. Using places of religion to FIND STRENGTH is using religion as a "crutch" in a GOOD way. Reply

Philip Sheldon, Esq. Irvine, CA via chabadoflaguna.com April 9, 2010

Is religion a crutch Dr. Lester, I think your characterization of religion as an "ancient myth" puts the cart before the horse. Prove to me that it is a myth, your statement was conclusory and lacks foundation. Furtther, you again generalized that you need food to live but not religion. Well, that may apply to you but how many lives have been lived on a moral basis because of religious beliefs? Others unequivocally DO need religion to live. Not you of course because you require empircal proof of what is commonly called "faith." But what harm comes from living life with a crutch and giving one a moral compass as opposed to a rationalization of your stealing, cheating, killing and other random acts of evil? Imagine a society in YOUR world. No thanks. Reply

sol ny, ny December 30, 2009

dear Dr Janice Lester You say that religious people say "I never said I was perfect but at least I am saved".
This is misleading because:
1. Judaism doesn’t hold of the Christian “I am saved” concept – on the contrary each person is responsible for their actions
2. This logic is not only prevalent among atheists – it’s fundamental to their belief; i.e. for they don’t believe in any Divine reward or punishment hence they’re always “saved” from their wrongdoings.

With regards to the “little tribal god” you mention; the atheists say that Man evolved from a “primordial soup” at the odds of 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,etc…etc…etc….

If only I had as much belief as the Evolutionists!

G-D bless, Reply

Dr Janice Lester Harkifix, NS December 30, 2009

Parsimonious Unfortunately, the words of Plonker will be hotly denied by those who are frightened by their truth. You need food to live. You don't need to believe in ancient myths to live. I'm not an atheist - and all religions think the very recognition of right and wrong somehow proves their little tribal god - but I still see religion as mainly a crutch and also a valuable excuse when people are going to do something undeniably wrong. "I never said I was perfect but at least I am saved" etc. Reply

lori hsb, id via jewishidaho.com November 13, 2009

Better than a kick stand! A crutch is evidence of being broken and "still mobile", at least its not a kickstand. Answer to some comments... Religion is not a good word, I like denomination. I feel if someone washes one hand before the other is their business! It is petty pointing and bottling faith for examination. I am just happy knowing one washes his hands. These are splinters in the eye. You can't pick out the splinter in ones eye, if you have a plank in your own first remove the plank in order to see ones splinter. I am perfectly happy with the Rabbi's answer I read. I don't completely agree thats how I would put religion. But I know that all is broken and we need God to put us back together and if that means I have to walk with crutches its better than bedridden."Religion a word that describes a race where God is the finishline and everyone runs backwards looking at each other getting farther away from the goal." Kinda like a finger pointing match but no one wins. "Just love thy neighbor." Reply

izzy ny, ny September 29, 2009

dear “Captain Kirk” The Torah is not a simplistic work.

Please, dear “Captain Kirk”, don’t think that G-D created the universe in the most wondrous and intelligent fashion and then created His Torah with no wisdom G-D forbid.

Enter into the orchard of Torah and taste its bliss; have you already learned and lived the literally millions of Jewish books of wisdom? Chumash, Nach, Midrash, Zohar, Mishnah, Talmud, Geonim, Rishinom, Acharonim, Kabbalah, Chakirah, Chassidus, Sha’alos Ve’Teshuvos, etc……. etc… etc…

I don’t mean to G-D forbid be “holier than thou” on the contrary my knowledge of Torah is less than an ant’s egg compared to the universe. All I’m trying to say is give an honest open minded look at the Torah; learn learn learn …… you’ll love it!

(….keep in mind it might take a year itself just to finish one tractate of Gemara …)

Wishing you all the best, Reply

Plonker captain kirk, eutopia September 29, 2009

Nothing new under the sun Wow. Some pretty delusional replies here. Please do not confuse belief in a fantasy with the very real needs we have to live. If you have no food you will die. If you have no emotional connections you will not die but be severely psychologically damaged. If you don't believe ancient myths which served to explain what people didn't understand, you will not be missing out on anything (except for the feelings of superiority which are displayed by several posters here). Of COURSE religion is a crutch, but a crutch which is defended by those who are afraid of life without it. Reply

izzy ny, ny September 3, 2009

Short and sweet! G-D bless you Rabbi Moss Reply

alkduliuwyiwu terre haute, in April 17, 2009

You've compared spirituality to all of our material needs. Your analogy is so broken that it can't even be argued with, but that's the case with most statements that attempt to support religion. Reply

Karen Joyce Kleinman Chaya Fradle Bell Riverside, CA via jewishriverside.com March 29, 2009

SOMETIMES religion is a crutch... We can view religion as a SUPPORTIVE entity but too often it becomes only a HABIT and a way to make an EXCUSE for our not being able to function among other people not in our religion. So, the term "crutch" does have both a positive connotation AS WELL AS a negative one. It's all in how we look at it individually. Also, in some religious PLACES, the LEADERS create a climate of dictatorship, and the target religious group became a CULT or a sect, and the term CRUTCH would be much too light. CHAINS would be more like it. We have to INDIVIDUALLY beware of the negative aspects of adhering to a religion, not just for ourselves, but because through our example, we can cause our religion to have a bad reputation. We don't want that. Regarding Judaism, it is TERRIBLE if people speak badly about us, but if their comments are based on something we individually did to make them dislike us, shame, shame shame! Reply

Anonymous montreal, quebec, canada June 21, 2008

strength and weaknesses as propaganda I love your article for it really goes at the hearth of a widespread hypocrisy of the liberal order. But you could take it even further on that road. We live in an order, the liberal order, that values personnal autonomy, accomplishment, strenght, merit a lot. So, whenever some guy wants us to do, think, say or disire something, he will tell us that this (what he propose) is "strong" and the alternative is "weak". But is it "stronger" and more "independent" to avoid mariage and seduce some girls who love big cars ? I do not think so. Is it "stronger" to beleive in "popular will embodied in democratic State and the Law" than in "mere superstition such as religion" ? And when they fail that way, then they tells us their option is a more "natural", more "understandable" expression of weakness (e.g. money, power, lust). In the end, "strong/weak" and "natural/imposed" are persuasive devices. Reply

Anonymous May 2, 2008

Thank you. I needed to read this. Reply

Patsy June 23, 2007

Who needs G-d? Mostly those who know themselves with unvarnished honesty. Reply

Anonymous Fort Collins, CO June 22, 2007

Which hand first As Rashi put it:

Chukim are Chukim...Ordinances not presented for discussion, but presented for the observance thereof.

This becomes understandable by our so-called infinite human wisdom, if and only if, we acknowledge that we, i.e. humans, are not the creator, but that G-d is. Then they become understandable and acceptable....try it on for size. Reply

Jeremiah Duersch Mt. Pleasant, Utah June 22, 2007

Religion as a Crutch Amen to Rabbi Aron Moss's answer Reply