A young Jewish boy was riding home from Hebrew School when his mother asked him, “So how was class?”
“It was stupid mom.”, he said.
“Come on sweetheart”, said the mom, “it couldn’t be that bad. Tell me what you learned today.”
“Well, we learned about Moses“, he said, “and how he motivated the Israelites to rise against Pharaoh and leave Egypt. Then Pharaoh chased them and they were trapped at the Red Sea. Then Moses told the Israelites to build a bridge over the sea. They planted explosives on the bridge as they crossed it and when Pharaoh’s army got on the bridge they blew it up.”
“Wait a minute honey, I don’t think that’s how the story goes.” said the mother.
“I know mom, but if I told you what the Torah really says, you’d never believe me.”
Logic, reason, and science have long been the biggest foes of religion. I have been accused by many of “thinking” too much about things and being overly critical of Biblical accuracy and relevance. “You have to learn to just believe” and “The Lord works in mysterious ways” are the defenses and pleas of my well-intended Christian friends. My all-time favorite is when I posed the question of Theodicy and got the tired old “Sin is the reason bad things happen.” Oh I get it, so because “Eve” took a bite out of a piece of fruit millions of children are starving or neglected and abused. Here is the paradoxical question – If God is in control, then why isn’t anyone blaming God? If God really had control, why did “Eve” listen to the “talking snake” in the first place?
What about intelligent design and the perfection and balance of nature? Is nature really perfect when children are born with cleft lips or dysfunctional organs? Is nature perfect when a tidal wave washes away people who had no idea it was coming? Where is God when people sit huddled in their houses when a hurricane or tornado threatens to destroy them? If he is huddled there with them, why wasn’t he with the family that perished when the roof collapsed on them? Is their really evidence for intelligent design when a woman’s body viciously tries to destroy sperm before it gets to the egg and then continues to try to destroy the embryo until the placenta eventually forms an impenetrable barrier?
All my life I have believed that there is a God. It has been a view that has flip-flopped between Christianity, Judaism, and Deism, but there was always some kind of a belief in a higher power. I have studied scripture tirelessly, not for the purposes of debunking or making cheap shots, but because I had a hard time believing the concept of the Abrahamic God to be true. I truly wanted that “spiritual” connection to happen and I long believed that to be possible when someone sincerely digs into the Scriptures. I studied the cosmological, ontological, mystical, and evangelical concepts of God for the purpose of solidifying my faith. Studying Scripture to me meant more than just the feel good writings of John and the dogmatic and veiled writings of Paul. The Bible, much like the world, contains a lot of violence and pain and suffering and to me reading the many books that are less than happy in their message was an essential aspect of understanding the whole.
I’ve said before that I view the Bible as a collection of writings of men who were just as confused as I am. The Psalms are a perfect example. There are 150 individual poems, songs, and laments that range from praising to doubting and anger to joy. The Psalter (who I believe to be more than one person and not just King David) could not maintain a solid position on whether God was always good and loving or forgetful and forsaking. So after much effort and examination, the results are a weaker faith than when I started. I think what continues to draw me to the Bible at this point has become more of a philosophical exercise than a spiritual one.
What about God though? Well, that is the million dollar question. With all the pain and suffering throughout the world and the glaring an inconceivable injustices against the innocent – mainly children, one could easily reject that God exists. After so much time and study I have, admittedly, grown very skeptical and almost adopted an agnostic viewpoint. I will not be so bold as to say there is no God, but I do completely reject the concept of an all-powerful magical old man in the skies. Perhaps what “God” really may be is an incorporeal cosmic force that interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it. This is a pantheistic view that I have begun to consider as an alternative to the corporeal, personal and anthropomorphic conception of the Divine. Perhaps the time has come for the Quest to shift into a broader exploration of ethics and metaphysics.