Gershon Hepner

Religiously Relying upon Doubt

The test of any good religion is that you can joke about it, said G. K. Chesterton, but, humbly, I would modify this opinion and suggest the test is that we are allowed to doubt it, with humor humanizing what it tries to godify. A keyword of Shema, in Deuteronomy six seven, is veshinantam, usually translated “Teach with diligence,” implying that the Torah teachings don’t just come from heaven, but need to be interpreted with great intelligence.

The root of this important keyword, I hereby propose, is sheni, which translated, in case you don’t know, means “second.” The Torah’s word implies that everything that we suppose to be religious truth should not as certainty be reckoned.

Veshinantam  tells us that we all should always realize that there is more than one opinion, so that then to doubt the so-called truth is vital, since, surprise, and more surprise, its spirit needs to be by means of doubt fleshed out.

As G. K. Chesterton explained, religious, thinking folk should all know how to joke about religion— being woke is dangerous. That’s why we’re told to say Shema before we sleep. Don’t doubt what I’ve just told you about doubt—it’s very deep!

In “Why the Woke Can’t Take a Joke,” WSJ, 11/9/21, Kyle Mann, writes:

‘It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it,” G.K. Chesterton observed more than 100 years ago. The Laughing Prophet, as he was known, pointed out that people who are secure in their beliefs need not fear mockery. It’s those with shaky doctrines who can’t tolerate laughter. Today’s political radicals hold their views with the fervor of a religion, and by Chesterton’s measure they’re rather weak creeds.

Deut. 6:7 states:

ז  וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ. 7 and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at