David Plotz: Why Is Judaism Such a Failure?

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In his last blog, David Plotz, author of Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible, noted how perturbed he was by the idea of alienation in Jewish religious practice, and asked the question: “Is it time to start worshiping idols?”

jewish book council my jewish learning authors blogAuthor Robert Wright is too polite to ask directly, but The Evolution of God poses an awkward question for Jews. His book goes to great lengths to highlight the contributions each of the three Abrahamic religions have made to the development of monotheism: Judaism for inventing it; Christianity for turning it into a global business model; Islam for refining that model. What Wright never quite grapples with, but we Jews must, is the question: Why is Judaism such a failure?

OK, it’s true that we’re here and all the assorted Molechites, Baalites, Edomites, Canaanites, and other wicked -ites who bedeviled us in the Bible are nowhere to be found. So we can feel pretty good about that. But God told us we would be more numerous than the stars in the sky. We aren’t! If you believe the census data in the Torah — though I don’t — the Jewish population has grown only sevenfold in the last 3,500 years, a period during which the global population has multiplied more than thousandfold.


david plotz the good book
And just compare us to Christianity and Islam! They’ve got a billion-plus adherents each. And they’re growing like crazy, whereas if you can add a single Jew to the global roster these days, you’re practically hailed as a hero.

So where did we go wrong? (Incidentally, I’m doing my part: Three kids! All with nice Jewish names.) The Evolution of God gives a few hints, more about what the Christians and Muslims have done right than what Jews have done wrong. In the case of Christianity, for example, emphasizing brotherly love, piggybacking on the communities of the Roman Empire to expand, and ditching unpleasant entrance requirements (circumcision, dietary laws) all grew the business.

Posted on July 17, 2009
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