Is There a God?
Whenever I go into a bookstore or pick up a publisher’s listing, the thing that most hits me in the eye are the declarations, “God is dead”…”The Death of God”…and so on.
What I find most ironic about these announcements is, that if God is dead, or someone can describe how God has died, then, even for these people, there had to be a “living” God before. The other and more consistent approach to expel God from the realm of acceptability, are those who pose questions intended to be a testimony to the “nonexistence of the Almighty”, stemming from unanswered questions like these:
“How could God allow the wanton murder of millions of innocent children?”
“Look around you, this whole earth designed in such way that a species must devour another one in order to survive.”
“Does it seem to you that such cruel system of a dog-eat-dog world is the creation of a Supreme Being? Nonsense, this whole thing is an accident.”
Accident? Wow...some accident.
What is surprising about these dismissive statements is that while we live in an age where mankind creates an increasing array of new elements including even new life (not only cloned animal/vegetations; but new, never before seen bacteriological existence) how can we not concede the possibility of a more advanced, far superior creative force in the universe?
When discovering a new archeologist’s site, we never yell, “Hey, look at this beautiful accident site!” Instead, we all know that somewhere in the past there were some beings that created what we just discovered recently. So why is it so difficult for some people to look at this magnificent, perpetually-mobile, self-sustaining universe, and credit its Creator with at least a nod of respect? Especially nowadays, when our vision of this marvel is getting closer and closer to our scrutiny, why is it so difficult to acknowledge that there is at least as much design and order in the universe than in anything that man designs…Einstein did!
So many tributes and accolades were put forward by the greatest scientist of our era towards the accomplishments of God; that it would be nearly impossible to keep silent about it, and not to count Einstein the greatest scientific genius of our times, to be on the side of God. To the modernist … “I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice,” meaning that the Creator knows what He is doing and leaves nothing to chance, and latter he added that, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” There is no clearer testimony than when according to a true man of science - as Einstein - one states there is no conflict between the scientists and the Creator. Since science in its own clumsy ways is imitating thinking and searching to find the meaning of the gift bequeathed by God to mankind.
Yet, even with his frequent declaration on the existence of God; a variety of religious organizations were steadily accusing Einstein for of preaching atheism. Why? Because he never defined God within the boundaries of the “religious” definitions.
Here we come to the crux of the matter, for the clergy of the religious world there was a need for a more formal testimony to God’s existence. This need to know what was Einstein’s true feelings about God came best expressed when Herbert Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue, New York, confronting Einstein with a direct question; “Do you believe in God?” Einstein reply was, “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, and not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”
This idea of the disinterested, detached God was not known by Spinoza and even less original by Einstein; but originated by the Greeks over twenty four hundred years ago in the era of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other great thinkers from the golden age of Greece. What is missing from the total picture that these disinterested gods, were family members of another venue of gods, instead of the one and only invisible and portable God of the Jews. “I am alone and no one stands besides Me”, says the Only God. Our God is not a family man, with children and wives, whose spirit impregnates mortal women.
On the other hand, He is the God that both of these original two great thinkers Spinoza and Einstein has no problem instantly recognizing His greatness to the point that both bent their knees and bowed their heads in front of the creative grandeur of God.
Einstein points to a unity in creation; Einstein views God’s creations as one he can recognize by its unity. He uses the reason for his recognition factor that one finds the unity of similarity in the style and approaches a fellow creative artist or a composer. Imagine yourself walking through a great museum, and without having to look at the signature, yet able to recognize fully, “Oh, that is a Rembrandt”, “a Rubin’s”, “a Leonardo de Vinci”, “a Van Gogh”. Imagine listening to a radio, hearing a Mozart, or Beethoven creation or a Gershwin piece and having no problem recognizing which is which. No big mystery, if you think about it. Why? Because all of these creative people are repeating what is in their own inner universe. That is why Einstein feels comfortable in the unity; in creation and that all he sees…is the creation of One.
Rabbi Herbert Goldstein - the man who posed the question to Einstein whether he believes in God or not - after hearing his answer concludes: “Einstein’s theory if carried out to its logical conclusion would bring to mankind a scientific formula for monotheism. He does away with all thought of dualism or pluralism. There can be no room for any aspect of polytheism.”
Of course, I can respect and even admire the God of Spinoza and Einstein, since it is easy to sympathize with such detached yet reassuringly perfectionist God. On the other hand there is no way we can agree with Rabbi Goldstein who so neatly packages the image and unifies the inner reflection of these men and presents it as a formula that fits all of mankind and cures everyone.
Logic is a wonderful gift from the Creator, but even a well working logic does not have what it takes to substitute for enthusiasm, only for benign admiration. It is as if a beauty contest judge looks at a great looking young woman, versus simply a young man who he praises for reasons, that while include her looks, it is only part of the equation: her walk, her smile, her deep warm voice, her sense of humor, and her compassion that bring her value to the point when admiration turns into love.
Hence for the sake of a wider picture, why don’t we separate God, Religion and Clergy from each other since in reality these concepts are unrelated to each other and most time are in serious conflict with most of humanity most of the times?
I don’t think many would argue the existence of God, a supreme being with unlimited power and incomprehensible intelligence. I believe that most people who think or confronted about the subject do believe in the existence of God. Even the most openly declared atheists are unable to erase the influence of God from their person. It is reassuring to feel that there is some purpose for the universe and therefore conversely there is a purposeful reason for the existence of man. It is important to feel that there was something before we reached our current level of awareness, as well to know that where we are is merely a stop in our journey toward our final but so far undisclosed purpose.
Does it require for us to have a deep religious belief before we can accept the premise that there is a purpose for our existence, or is there at least a hint in the process of creation that should make us - if not certain - at least confident about our purpose and future? Can modern man of science postulate a theory of purposeful growth from the multiple eyewitness testimony? Well, let me postulate and you judge it for yourself.
A being from the pre-natal age of at minimum of three months of pregnancy age, to about two years of post-natal age goes through its most active physical and cerebral learning phases. This whole time is spent in an intense and programmed preparation getting us ready to deal with how to survive and flourish through life. During these thirty months we increase our physical being several hundred folds, our cerebral activities grows to an immeasurable change, yet we have no awareness of this part of our life. We have no recollection what so ever about this most important part of our existence, yet it is clear to all of us that we were groomed and prepared in a most cared and protective way to be able to answer the challenges of the life we are about to begin. This is not an exercise in speculative logic, this is a series of events - witnessed events - and also at least a partial answer to the questions that all generations of mankind solicits all through the age, “Where do we come from, where are we going, is there a purpose for our existence?”
The answer to the first one “Where do we come from,” is a thundering yes! The answer to the second one, “where are we going,” while we do not have a definitive answer, but judging from where we came from and where we are, it seems that we as humans and as individuals heading toward yet undefined and so far incomprehensible progressive development. As for the third question, “is there a purpose for our existence?” Since mankind - thanks to it’s Creator has with free will - the answer is up to us.
Moshe Ben-Chaim: While much of what you write makes sense, I disagree on other points you make. Rabbi Reuven Mann read your article above, and offered a rejoinder to the position that God is not involved with man, held by Spinoza and Aristotle. Rabbi Mann asked why God made such an elaborate cosmos baring such undeniable testimony to His wisdom. Why was such wisdom displayed; for lifeless planets, animals and plant life to marvel at?! It is clear, God embodied His wisdom in the universe so that it may be “perceived”…and there is but one perceiver: man. Thus, God must have intended to relate to man, as He created the universe, from which, for man may discover Him.
Furthermore, I add, God cannot create that which he is ignorant of. Aristotle avoids this dilemma by postulating an eternal cosmos: since God never created the universe, one cannot impute His knowledge or interaction with it. It is as His shadow, as they say.
Some other points I wish to address.
You write, “Here we come to the crux of the matter, for the clergy of the religious world there was a need for a more formal testimony to God’s existence.” In fact, the clergy or the Rabbis did not invent fact to cater to some heretofore-undressed need. As you mention Socrates, Plato, et al, you accept second hand knowledge of their existences. Employing this method you utilize to accept these great ones, you must also accept all other similarly proven events…including God’s revelation at Sinai. And at this event, He gave a Torah – both Oral and Written Torahs – a fact from which original Judaism and the Rabbis unanimously never veered. Unless you are misunderstood, you seem to refer either to Sinai as this religious, “formal testimony”, or to “observances”. In either case, both are the works of God, and additionally, no less His works than are the cosmos. Thus, it is not the doings of the Rabbis that Judaism observes a “formal testimony”, but the works of God.
You say Einstein reply was, “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, and not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.” But did or did not Einstein also say what you quoted earlier, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind”?
You write, “On the other hand there is no way we can agree with Rabbi Goldstein who so neatly packages the image and unifies the inner reflection of these men and presents it as a formula that fits all of mankind and cures everyone.” If you take issue with a singular religion for all of mankind, was this not God’s plan? He revealed Himself but once, with laws for all of mankind, be they a minimum of seven for Noachides, or 613 for Abraham’s children. It is clear, there is one system, as there is only one “man”.
You write, “God, Religion and Clergy are concepts that are unrelated to each other and most time are in serious conflict with most of humanity.” Perhaps in action, but in not design, as God wishes all three to mesh effortlessly.
Finally, you asked, “Does it require for us to have a deep religious belief before we can accept the premise that there is a purpose for our existence, or is there at least a hint in the process of creation that should make us - if not certain - at least confident about our purpose and future?” You are well supported by the pre-Torah personality of Abraham, who embodied this very attitude. Religion was unnecessary for Abraham to arrive at a realization and fulfillment of his understood “purpose”. But it is clear: God saw religion as a necessity shortly after Abraham’s time. Abraham was truly one of a kind.
I enjoyed your article and look forward to your answers.