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  •  German Enlightment Author On Religious Tolerance (5+ / 0-)

    I am of one of the classics of early German literature I read during my grad school days.

    From Wikipedia article on German writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's drama, 'Nathan the Wise'.

    Nathan der Weise

    Nathan the Wise (original German title: Nathan der Weise) is a play by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, published in 1779. It is a fervent plea for religious tolerance. Its performance was forbidden by the church during Lessing's lifetime and along with another of his works, The Jews (German title: Die Juden), was also banned by the Nazis.

    Set in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade, it describes how the wise Jewish merchant Nathan, the enlightened sultan Saladin and the (initially anonymous) Templar bridge their gaps between Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Its major themes are friendship, tolerance, relativism of God, a rejection of miracles and a need for communication.

    Ring Parable

    The centerpiece of the work is the Ring Parable (German: Ringparabel), narrated by Nathan when asked by Saladin which religion is true: An heirloom ring with the magical ability to render its owner pleasant in the eyes of God and mankind had been passed from father to the son he loved most. When it came to a father of three sons whom he loved equally, he promised it (in "pious weakness") to each of them. Looking for a way to keep his promise, he had two replicas made, which were indistinguishable from the original, and gave on his deathbed a ring to each of them.

    The brothers quarrelled over who owned the real ring. A wise judge admonished them that it was impossible to tell at that time – that it even could not be discounted that all three rings were replicas, the original one having been lost at some point in the past – and that, to find out whether one of them had the real ring, it was up to them to live in such a way that their ring's powers could prove true, to live a life that is pleasant in the eyes of God and mankind (rather than expecting the ring's miraculous powers to do so). Nathan compares this to religion, saying that each of us lives by the religion we have learned from those we respect.

    Now I realize that for the American Taliban tolerance and mutual respect, even though these three major religions are WORSHIPING THE EXACT SAME GOD, is just to much to expect, but I thought I would mention it, anyway.

    "We must become the change we want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HeartlandLiberal on Thu Sep 09, 2010 at 06:42:08 AM PDT

    •  Love the ring parable (4+ / 0-)

      I read that in college. It should be added that (in the story) Nathan the Wise was a Jew who had lost all of his family in a fire--perhaps during a battle in Jerusalem(?) can't remember for sure... Later he adopted a young orphan girl who was Christian and he had her raised as Christian also out of respect for her heritage.

      When Nathan is telling the story of the ring parable, he is speaking to the great Saladin, the Muslim leader in charge of Jerusalem (can't remember his title). Saladin is very interested in Nathan's opinion about religion, and asks him: "How do we know which one is the TRUE religion?" The ring parable is Nathan's answer, and I have to say in the play the parable is a lot more moving and poignant than it sounds in the summary above.

      It's a wonderful play, full of dramatic characters like Saladin and the Knights Templar, great passion and love that transcends religious boundaries, and it portrays a moment in history when there was a balance and some mutual respect among the three great religions. It was a fleeting moment.

      In my opinion, this play is the jewel of the Enlightenment.

      "Grab a mop!" --the President.

      by sillia on Thu Sep 09, 2010 at 07:29:45 AM PDT

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    •  Never heard this story before! Thanks! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeartlandLiberal

      (Parenthetically, it reminds me of a favorite Abraham Lincoln quote:  "I care nothing for a man's religion if his dog and cat are not the better for it.")

      To say that my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

      by Dar Nirron on Thu Sep 09, 2010 at 07:41:17 AM PDT

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