Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Atheism, observance and orthodoxy
This is something written elsewhere, but as it is on my heart, I thought I'd reproduce it here, for my own readership to ponder. The context is about how atheist Jews in the orthodox community continue to observe Judaism, for community and family reasons, but no longer believe in God (albeit the atheism isn't public).
This was my response:
I don't feel I fit into the categories mentioned, but I would say I'm a Jew first and foremost, of the Sephardic tradition, who believes in God and specifically the God of the Tanakh. I do have theological issues with taking all of the bible literally, such as a talking donkey, a talking serpent, a flying and talking scroll, a six day creation et al. I have had personal issues from the past where I have often questioned the almighty and been somewhat estranged from him, but I do see this questioning as part of the Jewish tradition.
I've come to appreciate that one can never fully understand God, I believe a rabbi one said "if I knew him, I would be him"(Judah ha Levi) and as it is written:
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how life enters the body being formed in the mother's womb, so you cannot understand the works of God, the maker of all things"(Ecclesiastes).
I also understand atheists who are observant for cultural or family reasons. That's a distinctive feature of Judaism, a nation and a community, fused into a religion which permeates every aspect of oneself and life. We are more than a group of religious believers, but a global family. And to me family and community are key aspects of Judaism. We don't turn our back on family and therefore we shouldn't turn our backs or force them out, that those who struggle with God, with beliefs, but who wish to still be in the tent. I think one of the US presidents, Lyndon Johnson made a quip about tents and people shouting out, rather than into the tent.
A concluding thought to ponder. Does God prefer the most pious person, who observes the rituals and believes with dogmatic precision, but acts in a shameful fashion or the one who just tries with all of their heart?