It seems odd that some Jews argue that the belief in G-d is not necessary to be Jewish. While I understand the genealogical aspect of the religion and that many cultures derived from the original Hebrews, the thing that holds Jews together, the thing that binds Jews as a people is the belief that G-d gave the Jews the Torah (bible) and the lifestyle associated with it. Without G-d and the Torah, there is no Judaism and in turn, no Jews.
The argument forwarded is that Judaism is more than a religion, it’s a nationality and to be part of the nation, the belief in G-d is not necessary. This, of course, is contrary to logic and is insulting to the intelligence of any believer in the religion.
Where did the nation come from? The only origin story of the nation is the Bible, removing the bible from the equation, there is no definitive history of the Jewish people nor is there much archeological information that allows a traceable history to the original Hebrews. The trail is cold. All the information we possess comes from Bible sources and the archeological information gathered to confirm the history is compared to biblical accounts, therefore, there biblical sources are essential for the legitimization of the Jewish people.
So, we’ll re-add the Torah to the equation, but remove G-d. Assuming that the Torah was an accurate history of the Hebrews and their creation and transformation eventually to the Jewish people, the story makes no sense whatsoever without the inclusion of G-d. Without the shared Hebrew experience at Mount Sinai, where the Lord revealed himself, without the burning bush that Moses got the order from G-d to liberate his people, without the parting of the Sea of Reeds or the plagues or any of the thousands of interactions G-d had with his people, there would be no Jewish people and no Judaism. The Hebrews were the first nation to be monotheists. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, Monotheism is “the doctrine or belief that there is but one God”.
Unfortunately many missionary groups and websites run by such groups, try to attract atheists and agnostics to the religion by watering down the concept of G-d, trying to not alienate their target market. Many Jewish liberals as well as the Reform Movement and the Reconstructionist Movement have rejected the concept outright. Their argument is that there is no empirical evidence of G-d so G-d does not exist. Spirituality, however, must be maintained because G-d is “the mystery within us, inside very soul, in the love that inspires generosity and compassion.” It’s an interesting concept, but even though it attempts to remove the movements from the belief in G-d, it cites “spirituality” another concept that should be logically rejected by the modern free thinkers. If you believe everyone has a soul and there is spirituality, how can you deny that G-d exists?
Another common argument is that The Holocaust and the horrific things that happen to innocent people prove the non-existence of G-d. While I understand how some people may come to that conclusion, a closer look at the argument, to me, proves the existence of G-d.
The Holocaust was the defining event of the 20th Century. The systematic massacre of Europe’s Jews highlighted the level of evilness that people can sink to. With the factories that were set up for the roundup and murder of the Jewish people, there was little chance of Jewish survival. It seemed that Jews were done.
If you visit a Holocaust museum, the life of Jews before the war is minimized and a substantial amount of floorspace is devoted to cattle cars, gas chambers, crematorias and piles of ashes. Picture after picture is shown of starving, enslaved, dying Jews. Little time or floorspace is devoted to Jews who fought back or to the fact that Jews survived the war, against all odds, the Nazis were defeated, and Judaism lived on.
Generations of Jewish children were raised with the explicit message that Jews were the victims, not the victors of the Holocaust. In reality, they were both, but each one is not mutually exclusive and minimizing the Jewish victory has fueled the movement that G-d, if he ever existed, abandoned the Jews at that time. If one was to flip the argument and look at the concrete fact that there was no way possible for Jews to survive the Holocaust and survival was against all odds, one cannot but see the miracle of the situation and deduct that there must have been some higher power that saved them.
What about the State of Israel? Does the existence and continued survival of the State not prove the existence of G-d? Why is the State located in the Middle East and why does it exist at all?
In the late 1800s, Theodore Herzl stood with Mark Twain and observed the trial of Alfred Dreyfuss in France. The Anti-Jewish attitude that he saw compelled Herzl to write the pamphlet “Der Judenstat” where he argued that after centuries of persecution, Jews needed self-determination. Herzl didn’t care where Jewish self-determination happened, he was just concerned that Jews would govern themselves and save themselves from experiencing any more oppression from anti-Jewish governments. When Uganda was suggested as place for the Jewish country, Herzl was excited to try and accept it. He also accepted the suggestion that upper-Canada be put aside for the Jews. At the end of the day, it was the religious Zionists that insisted that if Jews were going to have a country of their own, it should be in their historical homeland, the Land of Israel in the Middle East. That is exactly where Israel was created and named after the ancient Jewish country.
The Dreyfus trial also inspired Mark Twain, who in 1899 published an article in Harper’s Magazine called “Concerning The Jews”. In a fairly long essay he outlines the history of the persecution of the Jews. He concludes with “He has made a marvellous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
It’s a great question, how does the Jew continue to exist, against all odds, after inquisitions, expulsions, massacres in Europe, mass conversions to other religions, pogroms in Russia, Communism, a Holocaust and assimilation? The answer is quite simple, they have survived holding on to their belief in G-d and their love of both G-d and Torah. The stubborn belief that G-d chose them to carry forth a mission, to live by the rules dictated by the Torah and to teach their children the tradition of the belief and fear of G-d, the lifestyle that G-d gave them exclusively and the lifestyle, Torah and G-d that when given the choice to give up the belief or die, they would and did die.
In today’s “enlightened” society, religion has become an evil concept and G-d has become a bad word. The war against religion started with the liberalization of society, how can the 10 Commandments exist if we are all decadent? If there is no morality in society, how can there be a higher being demanding a moral society? If I break the rules and there is no lightning bolt from heaven dropping me immediately as a heretic, G-d must not exist.
On the surface, the argument makes sense, if G-d isn’t punishing people for breaking the rules, why should anyone believe that he exists? If someone doesn’t believe in G-d shouldn’t we respect their opinion and accept them into the tribe? Why hurt someone’s feelings, we must live in a kumbaya society, peace and love, everyone.
A deeper look at the situation, however, tells a vastly different story. One has to only look at the various natural disasters, sickness, bad luck and all the other things that happen on a daily basis to realize that G-d is orchestrating everything. I like to use the example that the chemical compound that creates air is the same around the entire globe, it doesn’t change a molecule no matter where you travel. That kind of accuracy cannot be replicated by humans, neither can the functioning of a human body, the complex design of nerves and neurons that work seamlessly (in most cases) to allow basic body functions.
Say it’s science, that’s fine, but G-d and Bible and science are not really diametrically opposed (no matter what your scientist friend tells you). Think about the big bang theory and the creation story. Assuming that one day in the bible was not a day as we understand it today, can “let there be light” not be the big bang? According to the bible, after light, came life, I can’t think of anything more compatible with the theory.
The last argument is that the person’s birth mother is Jewish and that automatically makes that person Jewish. Sure, if you believe in Judaism and G-d’s rules that applies. But once you negate Judaism and G-d’s rules, do they still apply to you? You can’t be selectively Jewish, either you are or you’re not and rejecting G-d logically removes you from the religion and the people.