Judaism Unbound Episode 52: Nothing Sacred - Douglas Rushkoff


Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist, writer, and graphic novelist, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation reflecting on the decade since he published his book Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism, in which he advocated for "open source Judaism." [1] Rushkoff argues that that 21st Century Judaism should be based on contemporary interpretations of the traditional pillars of iconoclasm, abstract monotheism, and social justice.

Image Credit: Rushkoff.com

Image Credit: Rushkoff.com

(0:01 - 15:02): Rushkoff looks back on his book Nothing Sacred, published about a decade ago. [2] He discusses elements of his thinking that have shifted since publishing the book, along with ideas he presented in the book that continue to resonate today. In particular, he focuses on the "open source ethos" of Judaism, which he found to connect very effectively with his work advocating for a more open source present and future on the internet. Rushkoff criticizes the Jewish communal focus on counting Jews [3] and also calls for Judaism to treat all issues as "arguable" and open to conversation. [4]

(15:03 - 33:25): Rushkoff presents his framework of iconoclasm (what he terms "the killing of false idols"), along with his take on the concept of abstract monotheism. He also talks about some of the projects he has helped launch in the Jewish world, which were designed to resonate in a deeper way with a group he calls "lapsed Jews" (a term with which he himself identifies). After first presenting the term, he elaborates on how he understands this group and the relationship of its members to contemporary Judaism. [5]

(33:26 - 48:14): The conversation pivots to the question of Jewish atheists. Rushkoff argues against those who believe that monotheism is a requirement of Judaism, instead presenting the idea that atheism is consonant with Judaism. [6] He also elaborates on a variety of Jewish teachings and rituals that help ensure its deep connection to social justice work. Rushkoff closes the episode by arguing that Judaism is not most accurately understood as a religion, but instead as a "process through which human beings get over their need for religion." [7]

[1] To learn more about Douglas Rushkoff and his writings, you can visit his website by clicking here.

[2] To purchase Nothing Sacred, Rushkoff's book on contemporary Judaism, click here.

[3] To hear more from Rushkoff about why Jews should avoid judging Judaism "by the numbers," read his 2002 piece in the New York Times on the subject. 

[4] Dan and Lex share Rushkoff's critique of the counting of Jews, and you can hear more from them on that issue in two early episodes of this podcast. Episode 7: Numbers (Featuring Barak Richman) and Episode 8: Numbers II

Image Credit: Vertigo

Image Credit: Vertigo

[5] To read a short excerpt from Nothing Sacred about "lapsed Jews," click here.

[6] For more on Jewish Atheism, read this Haaretz article by Benjamin Cannon, entitled "You Don't Need to Believe in God to Believe in Judaism."

[7] Learn more about Rushkoff's other books and comics, including TestamentOpen Source Democracy, and his most recent -- Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus -- by clicking here.