I am not surprised by the level of commitment that skeptics have with respect to their views. In my post Keeping the Faith there are 249 comments as of this writing. Much of it has been a back and forth between Rabbi Bechhofer and those who challenge the traditional beliefs of Judaism: some from atheists; some from skeptics; some who do believe at some level but have decided that the events described in the Torah could not have happened since there is overwhelming evidence that they did not… and instead are allegorical.
I must admit that these issues have troubled me as well. I believe that some of them have simple answers; others have complex answers, and some have no apparent answers at all. But I also believe that the Torah is telling us the truth. How is that possible for a rationalist like myself? First because I do try to find rational explanations where-ever I can. But second is a reason that skeptics will probably not accept.
There is no one reason for me to hang my hat on. There is no definitive and clear proof that I can point to and say: this is it. None of the ‘proofs’ – stated by themselves are convincing. I am just as skeptical as… well frankly… the skeptics! I am by nature a skeptic.
But when one takes the totality of all the evidence and arguments in favor of the truth of Judaism which includes its long history of survival against all odds – my intuition takes over. I believe because my intuition compels me to do so. My rational nature which would normally succumb to all the evidence against Judaism succumbs instead to my intuitive senses.
(I am not going to go into detail about the evidence and the arguments. I have written several posts on that subject in the past. But they are mostly well known and there is no mystery about them. I am not trying to hide them or mislead. They are just not the point of this post and I don’t want to spend any time on those details.)
One may ask why all the evidence against the truth of Judaism doesn’t lead my intuition in the other direction. After all science doesn’t lie. Bible criticism makes a lot of sense. Archaeological finds makes things even more difficult… as does many other clear contradictions to our beliefs.
I believe because in every single case these contradictions have resolutions and questions have answers. Some are clear and some are only possible or even implausible. But in most cases they are at least possible. And in those cases where I can’t even see a possible answer – that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I am therefore not forced to conclude that because of all the science and bible critics – that Judaism isn’t true. I have a choice to believe and my rationalist mind does not prevent me from using my intuitive mind.
Some might call this Emunah Peshuta – simple belief. Perhaps. But it is not blind belief. I am not a blind believer. However, I can understand why someone would call my belief in the truth of Judaism blind.
I suppose that at some point one does have to take that “leap of faith.” But it is not a blind leap. It is not a giant leap. It is an intuitive belief based on evaluating two conflicting sets of criteria, one that requires a conclusion based on the rational and difficult questions which do not seem to have satisfactory answers. The other is the totality of other perhaps unrelated evidence of Judaism’s truth. That evidence that does not necessarily address all the problems. Questions may remain – and they do for me. But at the same time it is hard to deny all the evidence in favor of Judaism. My own intuition impels me to believe rather than deny.
As I said – I realize that this will probably not satisfy the skeptics. They would probably refute every single piece of evidence that I would posit in favor of belief. But they cannot refute the totality of all that evidence. Nor can they successfully turn me into a skeptic.
I’m not even sure what will be accomplished by this post. Skeptics will continue to be skeptics and believers will continue to be believers – I suppose. I guess that I just wanted to explain my own personal perspective on my beliefs. For whatever that is worth.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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