Each week we read a portion ("parashah") of the Books of Moses ("Torah"). In this week’s parashah there is a verse you’ve heard before. In Genesis 26:4, God, speaking to Isaac, reinforces the oath He swore to Isaac’s father, Abraham:
... and I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these lands; and by your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed
While researching, I came across a skeptic website. Having nothing better to do, they’ve taken the entire bible, verse by verse, and annotated it with skeptical comments. That they have devoted so much time and effort to their self-appointed task speaks volumes of the power of our Torah.
Has God gone back on His promise to Abraham and Isaac?
You get your genes from your biological father and mother. But there is something else you get from your parents, ... and also from your uncle Joe and your aunt Bertha ...
Well, it’s the cultural equivalent of genes, which are known as “memes”. Memes include things like the language you speak, songs, customs, clothing styles, technological and scientific knowledge, basic concepts of justice and morality, and so on.
Before that meme was proclaimed by Abraham, people believed there were “spirits” in objects like the idols Abraham’s father sold in the marketplace. There was a separate “god” in the wind, the oceans, the planets and so on.
Abraham recognized that God was Universal. That is the core belief of Judaism and we say it twice during our service:
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
(Hear, O Israel! The Eternal is our God — the Eternal alone.)
Does anyone know who came up with the word “meme”? It was Richard Dawkins in his popular book “The Selfish Gene” published in 1976.
Dawkins latest book is “The God Delusion”, published last year. He thinks Abraham’s meme is a delusion, a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. In this book he is pretty harshly opposed to organized religion. You might call this book an atheist manifesto.
I agree to a point - some ultra-fundamentalists have misused religious organizations. But, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I think, in general, synagogues, churches and mosques have had a positive influence on society and civilization.
Today, the three Abrahamic religions together constitute more than half the world’s population. There are billions of people alive today who have inherited the “seed” of Abraham, the meme of a Universal God!
And, who knows, when human life is sent to colonize space, they may read Genesis 26:4 as “… I will multiply your seed on the stars of heaven.”