Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Fortune Cookies and Fortune Tellers, Same as Judaism and Christianity?

Woody Allen, interviewed by Dave Itzkoff, in today’s New York Times was a bit uncomfortable when wished a happy Jewish New Year by his interviewer, responding “That’s for your people”. However, he went to say some very interesting things about faith and religion.

“To me,” Mr. Allen said, “there’s no real difference between a fortune teller or a fortune cookie and any of the organized religions. They’re all equally valid or invalid, really. And equally helpful.”


Is he wrong or is he right? Of course, the answer is yes. In many ways there are no differences between any of the faiths and practices which help us in our lives, especially in the most significant sense – that they help us. But in other ways, there are profound differences.
Fortune cookies and fortune tellers help only the individual who avails themselves of their respective insights, or is that “insights”? – you decide. The organized religions to which Mr. Allen compares them, should also connect us to things beyond ourselves and our own immediate needs.
It may be God, it may be other people, but when they do their job properly, that too is the work of genuine religion and religious experience. If they are not accomplishing that, if they are not helping us to reach beyond ourselves, then I am with Woody – there is no difference between fortune cookies and faith.
Speaking about his about-to-be-released film, “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger”, Allen commented:


“I was interested in the concept of faith in something. This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t.”

But are those who believe really deluded? If the faith they have keeps them going and makes them happier, why is not real? Must something be scientifically true to be real? Is love real? Is compassion real?
On this point, I think that it is Mr. Allen who is deluding himself, or at least using pejorative language to soften the blow to his materialist self about the reality of religion. Of course, that’s a motif with which Woody Allen has wrestled for decades.
At the end of Annie Hall, Allen’s character shares the story of a man who tell a psychiatrist about his disturbed brother, an man who thinks he’s a chicken. Asked by the psychiatrist why they don’t get the brother some help, Allen responds that they would, except they need the eggs.
In the end, whether religion is a grand illusion or an image of a far greater reality, if it helps us and helps us to help others, it’s pretty wonderful – in whatever packages it comes.

  • Andre John

    Woody Allen, is he of jewish descent? hope not, because if he is, he could represent Jewish people in a bad example.
    no wonder Clint Eastwood is still more appreciated by the critics, his movies really have deep spiritual meanings and moral lessons.
    we hear OSCAR awards buzz again…
    I’ll watch ClintEastwood or GeorgeClooney’s films more than Woody Allen’s.
    Read more:
    CAPTCHA: farler Policy

  • bill holston

    It made me sad. To say, that age does not produce wisdom and that what you gain with age, you’d trade to be 35 is just so sad. I see someone who sees the benefits of belief, but can’t overcome the idea that it is implausible.
    As far as delusion, I still relate to Paschal’s words, if its not true, the cost is minimal, if it is true and you bet against it, the consequences are dire. Mr. Allen proves that the cost can be dire in this life.
    I do not know for a fact that my faith is not a delusion, but based upon my own experience and the experience of others, I’m betting it is not. And he’s right, it helps on those dark nights.

  • kenneth

    The difference between fortune tellers and cookies and religion is several decimal places worth of income, and a tax exemption for all of it, for the latter.

  • Hector

    > “In the end, whether religion is a grand illusion or an image of a far greater reality, if it helps us and helps us to help others, it’s pretty wonderful – in whatever packages it comes.”
    I’d say that in the end, it really matters whether a rabbi takes such a neutral position on such a crucial topic.

  • Alicia

    Woody Allen’s movies are hit and miss, and mostly miss, with me, these days. But, I’ll stack “Annie Hall,” “Sleeper,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Husbands and Wives,” and a few more of his films against any other filmmakers.
    As for his philosophy of life, I think he painted himself into a corner years ago, which I think has hurt him creatively as much as the Soon Yi Previn affair did. But, the idea that “people need their illusions” was also one of the great themes of “The Iceman Cometh.” The main character tries to rid everyone in the cheap hotel he visits of their illusions, but it turns out that he suffers from the greatest illusions of all.

  • Gil

    Woody is a humorous philosopher. Statements such as “God is an under- achiever” exhibits both. Or, “there are people who achieve immortality by their works” – “I wish to achieve immortality by not dyeing.” He “plays and toys” with people. He is a highly intelligent boy-man who is a an enigma wrapped up in a paradox. He is multi-talented, and can be appreciated on many levels. Of course no one can be a man for all seasons, but he covers many months of the calendar with wit, humor, philosophy, and entertainment.

  • Gil

    correct typo: dying – not dyeing

  • Jane

    Woody is a narcissist. Of course he cannot believe in God. Not a monotheistic God. He has done so many immoral things, like sleeping and marrying your daughter…….how could he believe in a religion in which that is one of the most abhorrent sins. His first three movies were good, creative and novel, but everything since is the same old, same old. Enough already, we know you like little girls, and we know you do not believe in fidelity. We know you are neurotic. We always knew you were short, and possess a knobby skinny body. No one would have cared, except you keep trying to compensate. And, you can’t!!!! You could be a better man, and then it would be irrelevant, but that is not an option in your pea brain. Woody, schmoody, you have outlived your creativity.

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  • romanscapegoat

    woody is more proof that jews control hollywood and the media…

  • Your Name

    why did woody cut off the berg from his last name… these days jews in hollywood are happy to be out in the open.

  • Your Name

    hector … religion hurts more than it helps… take the cucumber out of your chute

  • Reeve Friday

    Religion may be illusion. Christ is not an illusion. If we hold on to Religion we may help others but not in righteousness. We are sure to get diverted by the false ways. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life :-)


    jesus the jewish messiah that the jews killed…came to free the jews from religion…jesus is not the only way to god…thats a lie the romans made up when the romans created the christian religion…

  • Lenny

    Say, 700 yrs ago when an Inca warrior sacrificed his first son at the temple mount to the moon god he had absolute faith he was worshiping accordingly to the then known dictates and the up most possible. Does this mean as it was not possible he could not remotely fathom Jewish or Christian he was condemned to hell? This same fact is true with billions upon billions of people of the past and present. One god or a dozen of them worshiped however makes no difference. Faith like love never requires proof for if it did it would not be faith but rather only very self limiting belief. Mere secular religion is way to self serving but to the few.

  • Gil

    “Reeve”- Grow up – “Jesus the only way”??? – How come your Jesus murdered Ananias and his wife? – How come he refused treatment for a woman not of his tribe – who chastised Jesus with the statement – “even a dog receives scraps from the table.” There were 16 crucified saviors before Jesus – Check your history and study intensely your bible. “Your name- Berg “mountain” does not signify a “Jewish” name. As to your proclamation that “religion hurts more than it helps” – It’s how you use it – there is nothing in the universe that doesn’t have both positive and negative qualities – from the sun, fire, knives, food, and even the family car. I will not shame you by pointing out the direct benefits and deficits inherent in all.

  • Your Name

    gil no please do…if you can..but I must warn you, it wont happening, your vanity will shine through and you will look like an ass.

  • frank

    If I were a jew I wouldn’t tell anyone I would keep it a secret for as long as I could, how embarrassing. Just as woody allen did all his life.

  • Sally

    Reeve Friday, your comment is one of the reasons I chose to leave christianity. Jesus is the only way….that is probably one of the most arrogant statements I have ever heard. But, I will say this, I believe it may be possible that Jesus’s words may have been misunderstood. Maybe he meant that only through him, a society that was pagan could get to know of God, as a concept or belief system. I don’t really think he meant that only through him would a person actually be able to be in heaven with God. Having said that….Woody Allen…have always loved his movies, his sense of humor. Take him for what he is…..a celebrity with opinions….nothing more.

  • BdG

    “I’m what you would call a teleological, existential atheist. I believe that there’s an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey.” Miles Monroe

  • withyobadself

    bdg… would you believe you were created by aliens

  • Hector

    And the aliens were created by aliens, too. And those were too. And so on and so on forever back in time.

  • Joseph C. Moore, Cpo USN Ret.

    Is Woody denying his heritage? I know he is not a practicing Jew, but you do not have to be Orthodox to wish someone Shanah Tovah or Gut Yahr!

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