Podcast: Scott Shay

Podcast: Scott Shay

Jeff Allen

Rabbi Rami's guest this week is Scott Shay, the co-founder and chairman of Signature Bank, a long-time Jewish Community activist, and author.

“What does it mean to believe in a monotheistic god?” asks Scott Shay, author of the new book In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism. It in, one of his main goals is to show that it is as rational to be a monotheist as an atheist.

Shay has had a business career in the finance sector, working on Wall Street, with private equity, venture capital, and banking. He co-founded Signature Bank of New York and has served as its chairman ever since. While he has often been a commentator on many financial issues, he is also a lifelong student of religion. He is especially interested in the ways religion can apply to our daily lives when we are outside of the synagogue, church, or mosque.

In his new book, he “sets the stage for a fruitful dialogue between believers and nonbelievers in the discussion of faith and scientific rationality,” wrote Monsignor Tomas Halik, a professor of sociology, Charles University and President of Czech Christian Academy, in one review. He “argues that monotheists and atheists can be on the same side and combat idolatry together. His definition of idolatry as a dangerous deification of finite beings and the ideas clarifies that modern rational critiques of religion can actually be helpful in clearing monotheism of its idolatrous streams."

Shay likes to dive into the deeper meanings behind the stories in the Bible and show the modern applicability. Take the tale of Babel, for example, and how it relates to huge companies like Facebook. In Babel, “People had developed new technology, bricks and mortar. It was only later in the story that they wanted to build this useless tower. ... It went from a useful technology, and humanity took it into an unfortunate direction, and it became tyrannical. There is a beauty in having different streams and not being controlled by one platform. This story is about technology and the dangers of worshiping omniscent, not necessarily benevolent technology.”

Rabbi Rami and Shay also discuss, that when he talks of God, he is including the god of the Old Testament in Judaism, as the same god as in the New Testament in Christianity, and as the god in the Quran, in Islam. It’s not about specific theology, Shay tells Rabbi Rami, as it is to examine how believing in a personal god, a god who cares about us, affects our daily lives.

“Believing in a biblical god is consistent with evidence available to us,” says Shay.

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