What happens when people need to choose between money and principles? Let’s try the following theoretical experiment.
Imagine you put Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist, in a sealed room all alone, with no one watching, no recording devices or CCTV’s, and you offer him a deal: “I will give you ten million dollars if you will make the following statement right here and now: ‘G-d most certainly does exist, He created the universe, and atheism is a delusion.’ I will never tell anyone that you said it. There will be no record of this one off event. Just make the statement, get the cash, and it will all be forgotten.”
Does anyone have any doubt that Richard Dawkins would go for it and take the money? Can you think of any reason in the world for him to refuse that offer? Would he even hesitate to accept it? I think clearly not.
Now imagine you put the rabbi he debated in that same sealed room, all alone, and made this offer: “Rabbi, you will receive ten million dollars cash, no strings attached, but on one condition – you eat this piece of bacon. No one will ever find out, it will not go beyond this room, it will be forgotten forever. Just eat and take the prize.”
What would the rabbi do? Would he too sell his principles for ten million dollars? After all, it’s just once, and no one will ever know.
Let’s be honest. Rabbis are humans too, and some rabbis may find the temptation too hard to resist. But I would say that the overwhelming majority of rabbis would refuse this offer and walk away. And not just rabbis, but many observant Jews, including those who could desperately use the money, would be able to withstand the test and not eat the bacon.
I am not suggesting that religious people do no wrong. I am saying that a religious person has reason to stand for their principles even when they can get away with it, and reason to regret it when they fail. It makes no difference that no one will find out or no one is looking. G-d is always looking. An atheist doesn’t have that restriction. I doubt that even one single atheist in their right mind would refuse to abrogate their atheism when there is something to gain and no one will find out.
Money is indeed a powerful corrupter. But in a choice between money and G-d, at least G-d has a chance. Between money and atheism, there is no contest 🙂
Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming is a community leader in Potomac, Maryland. Credits for this article also to Rabbi Moss