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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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You’re Jewish – But Do You Believe In God?

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For example: The universe exists; everything in the universe – space, matter, time – came out of nothing; there is harmony in the heavens; there is intelligent life; all the resources people need in order to live and advance on this planet just happen to be on the planet; there is a general spark of goodness in human beings; we are greater than the sum of our parts; belief in God has been timeless and universal; there are laws of nature; there is a logic to the universe.

I realized, of course, that any of these ideas could easily be shot down, but I don’t think that matters. In contemplating the existence of God, I think one must step away from science and consider everything metaphysically. All the brilliant findings of science that support the notion of a world born and developing on its own may be true but inconsequential – because it could all be God’s handiwork to begin with, part of a divine plan. In a world where a deity would want intelligent life to have free will and be a partner in building that world, wouldn’t that supreme being want to remain scientifically undetectable or make things appear to be a certain way? The blinding intelligence of a supreme being should never be underestimated.

God may be incomprehensible and therefore not detectable scientifically or empirically, understood only through signs or ideas. We humans have intelligence, but we have our limitations when it comes to perception. Like a bird perched on a street sign that cannot read the sign, we may be incapable of perceiving God because we can perceive only in human terms.

* * * * *

Alternatively, approached from an aesthetic viewpoint, evidence for the existence of the deity may be seen everywhere, from oceans and mountains to flower petals and butterfly wings. Indeed, nothing is too small to carry the imprint of God; as the famous saying goes, “God is in the details.”

As I contemplate our world, certain questions arise as to why things are the way they are. To me, the nature of the questions themselves validates the existence of a supreme being. Why should there be a universe? Why should there be forces that keep the stars and planets on their paths or that prevent us from flying off the earth? Why should there be resources on our planet that not only sustain us biologically but also enable us to realize our imaginings?

Why are we so much more than pounds of flesh, bone, and tissue? Why do love and art and beauty and music exist? Why do we fight evil at all costs? Why can diseases be cured? Why is there a logic to the universe? Atoms, cells, evolution, laws of thermodynamics, string theory, our expanding universe – why? Indeed, the why of anything and everything with regard to space, time, and existence can be asked ad infinitum.

Those who insist on nothing short of direct proof that God exists should be open enough to realize that our inability to see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Even our earthly perceptions are acutely limited (perhaps for good reason). The earth moves in two directions at the same time – around the sun for the seasons and on its axis for day and night – and yet we feel no movement. The powerful force of gravity draws us to the earth, yet we feel no pressure. The main mass of an atom is the infinitesimal proton, so an atom is almost all space; yet though we are composed of innumerable atoms, when we see other human beings we see not ghosts but visible people (because the atoms are compressed together so tightly). Tangible proof is not always needed to confirm something’s existence.

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About the Author: Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of thirteen books including “Lucy’s Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein’s Brain,” which was adapted for the long-running History Channel series "History's Lost and Found". He is also a lecturer at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.


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2 Responses to “You’re Jewish – But Do You Believe In God?”

  1. I think you are oversimplifying it, Mr. Rachlin. An orthodox Jew must make three, not one, leaps of faith. The one you cover is the easiest to make: the belief in God. One must also believe that having created this wonderful universe, God still cares what is happening here. More difficult, but still easy. For why create a universe only to abandon it to its own devices. The third leap of faith is much more demanding: That the Torah we have is actually the word of God. That the commandments we have are given to us by God. I have met many people who accept the first two, but balk at the third leap of faith…

  2. Len Moskowitz says:

    Harvey Rachlin wrote:

    > According to halacha, anyone born of a Jewish mother is Jewish. Period.

    This is not quite correct.

    A valid court of national stature can revoke Jewish identity (k'dushat yisrael). Two examples are the Kutim (Samaritans) and the "lost" ten tribes of Israel.

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