If you have kids, one of the most difficult questions to answer is “Do you believe in god?”. For many reasons. If you’re a religious person you might as well be prepared to answer some challenging follow-up questions to a person who might not be ready to understand the concept. If you’re not religious or don’t believe in god, you might as well be prepared to do the same 🙂 Plus, be ready to hear about everybody else who tells your child about god.

So, children. Do I believe in god? Well, like the Facebook status says, it’s complicated. I decided to answer this (for myself) by looking back at my life and how my relationships with the creator changed over the years.

By definition I’m Jewish. The only two possible qualifications according to the orthodox are – Your mother is a Jew OR you have converted to Judaism. I’m a Jew by default.

My family was never religious. If you picture black clothes and big hats, you’re thinking of something entirely different. Just your every day unlabeled people who happen to share the same roots as the next one. We celebrated the holidays, went to synagogue every once in a while (Mostly Yom Kipur and Rosh Hashana), celebrated Bar mitzvahs and enjoyed nice family Friday night meals after giving thanks to the lord. I’d guess this would describe the majority of the population of Israel to this day.

I can say that right up until I was about 17 I believed in god, the way it’s been taught in school. The biblical god. The ten commandments, the miracles and wonders and the punishments included. Of course, the concept of heaven and hell. Can’t forget about that one, can one?

I did my best too, to be a good person. Ask my friends, they’ll tell you I was a “good boy”. Respected my parents and in general tried not to piss anyone off with no reason.

When I was in 11th grade, as part of a traditional visit at concentration camps in Europe, we went to see first hand these places where many of our grandparents and millions of others (Jews and non Jews) were held, tortured and killed by the Nazis.

Obviously it wasn’t the first time we learned about the holocaust, but I can tell you from experience – until you stand at the gates of Majdanek and smell the burning of human flesh from decades ago still in the air (due to a mound of ashes in its center). Until you go into the crematoria and see the little bath in which the Nazis enjoyed hot water, courtesy of the ovens used to burn the bodies. Until then, it’s all theory.

So, after I went through Auschwitz as well as Majdanek (The latter was a stronger testament for me), I broke down.

A friend took a photo of me (I can’t find it…) at the exact moment I decided that god does not exist. I sat on a rock and took of my Kipa (yarmulke) – we wore that to show respect – and haven’t put one on my head again for over a decade.

As you might expect, the main reason was anger (some understatement…). The question I had was a simple (and unoriginal) one – If there was a god, how could he have let that happen? If the Jews are the “chosen people”, how could have he let that happen to them?

I think that above the frustration and anger about the terrible fate so many people suffered, I was only beginning to really ask questions. I hardly ever did. After all, why would I? All the answers are in the bible, right? Well, it wasn’t enough and I questioned and questioned and doubted and challenged and by the time we came home I realized there are no answers. No answer that would’ve convinced me that there is a god.

* * *

There is a part 2 for this, so feel free to expect a twist in the plot. But while we’re here, I’ll go ahead and throw out some questions for you:

Were you faced with something that completely changed your point of view about god? religion?
If you are religious, what (if at all) are the things that make you pause?
And the same question for non-religious.

Just to clarify – there is no right or wrong when it comes to one’s belief in god. There are only points of view and they are ALL right.

EDIT: Thank you Karen – I have edited the last line of this post to clarify the somewhat confusing clarification… 🙂 Genocide is absolutely wrong with no exception.

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4 thoughts on “Do you believe in God? (Part 1 of 2)

  1. To quote you from above,
    “Just to clarify–there is no right or wrong. There are only points of view and they are ALL right.”
    Huh?
    What the Nazi’s did was clearly wrong. There is no acceptable point of view on genocide. It’s always wrong. Well, why is that? Is there not something sacred about the human soul? And on what basis can you justify that there is? You cannot dig very deep on the topic without coming up hard against words like “soul.”
    On the other hand. Human beings are by nature small group animals that are fearful of “other” and religions have manipulated mankind for political gains for time-out-of-mind (the opiate of the masses and all that).
    What makes America unique among all countries on the planet, is that we were founded with the ideal of NO state establishment of religion. (Of course, King Henry said screw the Pope cuz he wanted to screw Anne Bolyn, but he still set himself up as a demi-god. He became the state religion.) But we, in America, removed the tool of religious manipulation from our official political process. (Unofficially some Christians would like to change that, but tough, it ain’t gonna happen.)And most of the Western world followed suit. Unfortunately, the middle east got left behind in this enlightenment.
    But if you go all totally existential and relativistic on me, then any atrocity can be committed and justified. As Stalin said, a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is just a statistic. The Godless commies didn’t mind killing millions of peasants to collectivize farms in the name of the people. Happened in China too. If you remove God, you unleash all kinds of evil. There has to be something that reins in the basest of mankind’s instincts.
    I don’t have to follow any particular religion, but I sure hope to hell most people do. (If it makes them behave that is.)
    (:
    K

    Like

    • Oh I absolutely agree Karen!

      I meant there’s no right or wrong when it comes to personal belief in god 🙂

      Thanks for bringing this up as I might have conveyed a confusing message…

      Like

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