Thursday, July 08, 2010

To Believe or Not to Believe that is the question: I subscribe to a Jewish newspaper. There is within it a section for questions. Here is a question and response from a Rebbetszin which is the wife of usually an orthodox rabbi. Why she is an the authority on issues I have NO idea but, I suppose, some think her as wise as her husband may be. Does she have academic credentials is anyone's guess. I had, naturally, a response to her response. The question and answer is as follows:

Question: My son recently took a class at high school on philosophy that made him question his belief in G-d. He now declares himself an atheist, much to my dismay, after raising him to be an observant Jew. I know that directly challenging him is exactly what he wants because he’s rebelling, so I don’t want to do that. Is there any way I can talk to him about honoring the Jewish tradition without causing a huge argument?

Rebbetszin's Answer: Don’t do it. Everyone has questions about G-d and has struggled with it, at least at one time or another.
If you have raised him as an observant Jew, then he has received the background and foundation that will stand him in good stead as he goes through the normal soul searching and questioning. Encourage him to read theological works written by other observant Jews who discuss the subject.

I took issue with her answer and sent the following to her:

Dear Rebbetzin: In my opinion your response to the woman who was upset about her son "coming out'" as an atheist fell short. It reminded me of parents, when their children come out as homosexual, telling them to read a book about sex between men and women and if the parents gave a solid heterosexual upbringing to the child they should not worry. I think your answer evaded the issue.

When an older child questions and then states that he/she is an atheist reading "theological works by observant Jews" as you suggest begs the entire question nor will the fact that the woman raised her son as an observant Jew address the issue either. In truth, in my opinion, NOTHING written by a theological scholar Jewish or otherwise will convince a non-believer that a god exists. Why? Because nothing anyone can say offers proof of that fact and usually contains personal observations such as the grandiosity of life and that there must be a "creator" for the created. Still, that those writers may believe that offers no proof to the non-believer because there is NO proof.

The substance of Judaism or for that matter ALL god-based belief systems have as their fundamental pinnacle FAITH and that is all they have. Faith and nothing but faith if one has a belief, will be the only explanation that child will find. I think you avoided the question like some parents avoid their children's questions about sex because they themselves find it UNCOMFORTABLE to talk about it.

I think you, as a believer, find that subject uncomfortable so you trivialize it by saying go read a Jewish theological book. There are, of course, many evolutionary biological texts based upon solid evidence which support Darwinian facts to explain the origin of life on earth and, indeed, the universe.

The value of Jewish tradition cannot be argued. It can be honed and rationally reinforced but an atheist, in my opinion, will find little persuasion or consolation in religious texts, modern or otherwise by great Jewish or other theologians which will persuade an atheist to believe in a god because there simply aren't any since FAITH is the operative religious word. Either one has faith and believes or one does not OR one can find co-existence with both religion and science -- two UTTERLY DIFFERENT entities -- living together side by side, decidedly separate, but in peace. Just my opinion.