Is smoking a
NEIL SCHULMAN: Smoking is a perfect place to
Why would God consider smoking to be a sin? Because
it's calming and pleasurable? Or because it
increases the odds of getting sick?
We on earth live in bodies that decay and die. Our
souls are immortal but our bodies are mortal. They
get sick, break down, eventually cease their ability
to contain our souls.
Smoking is at worst something that contributes to
the breakdown of our bodies. But so does a thousand
different things. The difference is that smoking,
for some people, compensates by giving small
pleasures in return.
I can't see how God could possibly see smoking as
sinful. If it is sinful, so is cheesecake ... and I
don't know any religion that condemns that!
dietary laws important; is it a sin if you don’t
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: If you feel you need to do
these things to keep yourself centered, go for it.
I've never been one for regularity in my life, and
that has up sides and down sides. I sleep odd hours
-- sometimes going to bed early and sometimes going
to bed late, sometimes getting a good night's sleep
and sometimes being dog tired. I don't eat at
regular mealtimes, and have had days where I eat
five meals and some where I eat one. I've spent
years as a vegetarian and years where I ate mostly
meat. Some days I'm productive, some days I just
screw around. The idea, for someone like me, that
one day out of seven is a regular Day of Rest from
the other Six is absurd to me -- who says I worked
the other six and deserve a day off?
I figure if I eat something and it doesn't poison me
or make me fatter than I already am, that's more
important to me than whether I'm eating a bacon
cheese lobsterburger during Passover on a leavened
low-carb bun, and I don't think God cares one way or
the other. And I don't eat anything smart enough to
be bothered by the fact that I'm eating it.
I have two Dietary Laws in my home. I don't have the
right to make my daughter eat anything she doesn't
want to eat, and she doesn't have the right to tell
me what I shouldn't be eating. I keep the Law better
than she does.
What is a
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: A spiritual sin is one that
transcends and outlives the physical body. Being
cruel to someone or murdering them may follow them
into their next life. All the serious sins are
felonies against the immortal soul, as opposed to
waste of the body’s potential – gluttony or
self-neglect, a sterile sex life, which can include
both homosexuality and celibacy, spending one’s life
getting drunk or stoned – which rates on the sin
scale somewhere between a parking ticket and a night
in the drunk tank.
To the extent that sexual behavior is harmful to the
soul -- breaking solemn oaths, being callous to
someone's feelings, putting someone else at risk of
harmful consequences, molesting children, creating
new life without taking responsibility for that new
life or destroying life carelessly -- sexual
behavior can include spiritual sins. But merely
engaging in sex-play outside of traditional marriage
– even if it’s gay sex-play or the pursuit of other
harmless fetishes -- isn't in and of itself sinful.
The one thing that
strikes me about conventional religion is that it
spends more effort preventing people from violating
its sexual code or eating things not on its menu
than it does with the important sins. But then
again, the secular moralists these days seem more
outraged by smokers than by murderers.
Do we exist
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: If we don’t do destructive
things that rate a real death sentence, then yes –
we can live forever ... if we can become strong
enough to endure it.
God will render a
judgment on whether the soul is recoverable or
whether it must be isolated or destroyed to protect
the rest of existence. And I don't assume that even
the most evil among us is necessarily a throw-away.
God may know where the damage is and where the
hidden keys to recovery are. Remember, with all of
eternity at his disposal, God can afford to be
Gary York's interview with J. Neil Schulman