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Judaism & Atheism

7 Jul

At 16, one friend gave me Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Place” and another questioned why God would punish his kind and caring mother with so much pain, losing many family members over a few short years, each death unrelated to the others. He also questioned why God would punish innocent children, starving them to death in poor countries, and so on.

About 5 years later, I wondered in the same vein why I was being punished, knowing I’d done nothing worthy of the harsh, even brutal life I lived. For strength, I turned to anger, and for safety, I aimed that anger at God. I could not aim it at the individual humans involved, but God supposedly created them, so He was ultimately responsible.

I broke from Judaism. Despite or because of a comparative religions course, I felt zero attraction to any other religion. Eight years later, missing mostly the prayer melodies, I gave Judaism another try. Twenty years more, and I came to appreciate that Judaism was a culture worthy of keeping, God was not. My rabbi accepted this without argument and welcomed me same as ever.

I think Jewish culture, which praises good argumentation for its exercise in critical reasoning, just might naturally mature its bravest followers into non-belief. The disproportionate numbers of scientists, writers, philosophers, etc., along with my growing appreciation for the historical numbers of Jewish atheists, not just coming out of the Holocaust but even centuries before, are good signs.

Perhaps the legendary Abraham truly meant to destroy all idols and gods, but found the change too radical for others. Perhaps he compromised on one invisible god, just to help others transition.

XSince then, Christianity has added two back: Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Islam has effectively added back Muhammed, since Muhammed is treated like a god. Judaism at least hasn’t done that, and I am hoping, despite the few extremists on its right fringe, that the tiny population of world Jewry finds a way, in addition to science, to lead the world out of superstition.

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