I’ve been reading a book on Judaism (on which more later) when I came across a paragraph I found particularly interesting for its parallel to today:
“As Moses Mendelsson achieved fame, he acquired the admiring acceptance of many of the leading intellectuals of Germany. They were ready to befriend this extraordinary person despite his Jewishness, but it bothered them that he clung to his Jewish ways and would not become a Christian like them. In 1769, the philosopher Lavater published an open letter to Mendelsson, stating that now that Mendelsson had been accepted in Christian society, it would only be proper for him to return that acceptance and be baptized. Lavater implied what many ‘enlightened’ Christian intellectuals were to say, that in a modern society Jews should not stick to the ‘medieval superstition’ that was Judaism. In other words, the spread of Enlightment ideas was to be accompanied by the assimilation of the Jews into general society. The Jews were expected to prefer a modern enlightened Christianity over their own traditional religion.”
Substitute Christian for Jew and humanism/athism for Christian and that paragraph reads like something out of today’s op-ed page. Can’t you just hear it — “in a modern society, Christians shoud not stick to the ‘medieval superstition’ that is Christianity. . . The Christians were expected to prefer a modern enlightened humanism over their own traditional religion.” The more things change . . .