Oh God. I need to write a God post.
I want to set down, soon, while I am still at the very beginning of the Bat Mitzvah process, what I think about the idea of God.
Maybe my ideas will change during this process. Maybe some of you will respond in ways that challenge my thinking. (Yes, that’s an open invitation. Especially to the Episcopal priests among you, ahem, Jim!) In any event, I’ll have a record of what I thought at the beginning and it will be interesting later to look back and see what, if anything, has changed.
But how do you write about something like God in a blog? When every convention of the medium calls for you to be short, sharp and snarky?
I’m going to try and do this in multiple posts. So I may not be sharp and snarky, but at least I can be short. Or short-ish.
In a nutshell: I don’t believe in God.
Let me list the concepts of God that I don’t believe in, which will probably deeply offend half of you along the way:
- I don’t believe there is an old white man with a long white beard sitting on a throne up in the clouds, chatting with angels and running the universe.
- I don’t believe there is a super-powerful being who decides whether it rains on the night of the Julia Morgan School auction or whether someone’s child gets cancer.
- I don’t believe there is a being that listens to and answers people’s prayers.
- I don’t believe there is a being that judges us and sends us to heaven or hell when we die.
- I don’t believe there is a being that had one-to-one conversations with Abraham, Moses or any other Biblical figure. (Nor a being who set desert bushes on fire or parted the Red Sea.)
- I don’t even believe there was a being that created the universe, then stepped back and left us on our own to muddle along and sort out good from evil.
(Maybe I should create my own radio show: Instead of NPR’s “This I Believe,” it could be Ilana’s “This I Don’t Believe.”)
Now, I accept that there might be some kind of cosmic life-force or spirit that sparked the universe and resides in all living matter. It’s plausible to me that people may have “souls” or some kind of intangible essence inside them that is part of this cosmic thingamajig. I know there’s more to the universe than we were taught in 1970s Newtonian high school physics, and the little bit I know about quantum physics (which is so little as to be virtually non-existent) leaves a lot of room for mysteries.
So I’m totally open to the idea that out there, amidst the dark matter and theoretical strings and hypothetical multiple universes, there might be souls. Or a force. (May it be with you!) Or something along those lines.
Does that make me an agnostic rather than an atheist?
Maybe. But “agnostic” seems to me like a wimpy cop-out. Frankly, the kind of life-force I’m imagining is so broad and impersonal as to be a “what” rather than a “who.” It’s not something with a mind or a will or a purpose. It’s not something you can talk to or petition. It’s not something that cares about us, one way or the other. It would be kind of like gravity, or the wind. So even if it exists, it doesn’t fit the common conception of “God.”
So I’m an atheist.
Next post: Why?
P.S. I started discussing this on the way to synagogue tonight with Sam and totally missed our freeway exit. “More driving, less quantum physics,” he said.