Project of IISHJ


Celebration (1988) 

The experience of our people through the centuries of constant assault tells us something about ourselves and others. 

In modern times a view of human nature arose which challenged the pessimism of the past and kindled the revolutionary passion of young imperialists. Many philosophers announced it. Many reformers proclaimed it. They declared that human beings were basically good, that love and cooperation were the essence of human emotional temperament, that cruelty and barbarism were simply due to ignorance and faulty training. With enough education, with enough material plenty for everyone, social evil would vanish. Utopia would follow. 

The horrors of this century have rescued us from this naïveté. Human cruelty is not a passing effect of a passing condition. Genocide is not an expression of ignorance and imperfect social conditions. There are deeper roots, and they live in the very depths of the human soul. 

We are divided beings, ambivalent creatures. Part of us wants to love and nurture; part of us wants to hurt and destroy. Ending war and bigotry is not easy, because the fury is not only outside of us, but chiefly within us. 

We must be realistic about our enemies. We must also be realistic about ourselves.

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Note on sources: The Jewish Humanist  was the monthly newsletter of The Birmingham Temple. The periodical Humanistic Judaism was the quarterly journal of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. The Center for New Thinking was Wine’s adult learning program beyond Humanistic Judaism. Selections from Wine’s books are appropriately cited.
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