An inspiring reflection from a secular philosopher on some of the unique contributions that Judaism has made to the world:
"That the Old Testament must be read as a story of progress is not one of the results of the Higher Criticism but one of its dubious presuppositions. What is at stake is the question to what extent the conception of progress is applicable to religions.
In the case of the Hebrew Scriptures we do not know, to begin with, what is early and what is late; but, if there were overwhelming evidence in the case of other great religions that they rise gradually from humble beginnings and slowly get better in some sense, it would be reasonable to ask whether this same pattern might not be found in the Old Testament, too.
What we find in other great religions, however, is the very opposite of all this. Where we have data, we often find a towering figure, possibly never equalled since, in the beginning, and it is therefore entirely reasonable to suppose that some of the most impressive ideas of the Old Testament might have originated with Moses...
It does not detract from the glory of the prophets if we suppose that they meant it when they said: 'You have been told, man, what is good.' To have insisted so uncompromisingly and with such an utter lack of egotism on what their people had been told before and to have grasped so clearly the moral and social implications; to have insisted on them to the point of disparaging in no uncertain terms the cult and ritual - much more unequivocally than Jesus ever did - that would be original enough. The idea that war is evil, that nation should not lift up sword against nation, that swords should be made into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, though it is implicit in the old idea that all men are brothers, descended from a single couple and made in the image of God, appears in any case to have originated with Micah and Isaiah; and to have seen and forcefully stated this implication, untutored by the horrors of two world wars with poison gas and atom bombs, shows as much moral originality as is to be found anywhere in recorded history."
(From Critique of Religion and Philosophy by Walter Kaufmann, Section 90, "Religion and Progress.")