“The degree of evil and injustice on earth has nothing whatsoever to do with God. War, murder, violence, deceit, and oppression are not the result of His will. Rather, they are the result of millions of souls struggling to balance their karmic debt and failing.” – Rav Berg
A few months ago I happened upon an op-ed piece on CNN from a blogger in Texas. The topic of her editorial was why she chooses to raise her children without a belief in God. Her points annoyed me. Really annoyed me. No one can dispute her right as a parent to bring her children up as she chooses, but raising her children to be atheists really hit a nerve with me and I will tell you why.
To clarify, an atheist is someone who disbelieves in the existence of God or a Creator (an agnostic on the other hand believes that the existence of God is unknowable). Lately, and alarmingly, another classification of atheist has arisen — the anti-theist. Anti-theists view all religion as dangerous superstition and classify all people of faith as backwards and ignorant. Anti-theists view themselves as superior rationalists and can be confrontational in their disbelief.
I think that my emotional response occurred because while she as an adult has the free will to live her life any way she chooses, it was painful for me to contemplate what it would be like to be a child raised without God.
I have memories from a very early age of having God over for my tea parties. I took my tea with milk and sugar, and God took His black with a slice of lemon. I never felt alone. I always felt an exquisite presence. This experience I had as a child was not because my parents told me to play with God or even instructed me to believe, per se. If only we could always live our lives looking through the lens of simplicity and certainty we had as children. As children, we possessed unbounded curiosity, and our innocence allowed us to believe in everything. As we get older we seem to lose or displace that simplicity and certainty. The relationship we have with the Creator is the only relationship that remains with us.
(her article: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-910282)
I won’t refute her point-by-point, but there are a few topics that I feel are worthy of discussion. She states that if God is our father, then he is a bad parent and role model. First of all, this is such a child-like approach to the concept of God. ‘Good parents,’ she continues, ‘don’t condone violence and abuse.’ No, we certainly do not, but on the other hand all we can do is guide our children, not control them. I believe that is the parallel — God certainly does not condone acts of violence.
She goes on to say that God does not protect the innocent, that he allows atrocities to happen to children. I disagree. We, individually and as a society, are completely responsible for the evil and chaos in this world. Blaming God for our failings as a society is somewhat akin to grown people blaming their parents for their poor finances or bad health.
We have seen so many tragedies all around the world. I believe that these things occur partially because we neglect to encourage and develop a child’s spiritual nature. Statistics show a rapid increase in the numbers of Americans who identify their spiritual beliefs as ‘none’. This woman is raising her children to join the ranks of the ‘nones’. I am not insinuating that her children are going to grow up to be murderers, not at all! But I know that if we continue to neglect our spiritual health and that of our children we cannot improve or advance.
In Evan Almighty, the movie where Steve Carell plays a modern day Noah, there is this fantastic line said by God (played by Morgan Freeman):
God: Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?
Those are the signs – the opportunities – we need only to remember that everything we encounter in our lives is a means to transform and elevate us. The Creator has set everything up for us in order to fulfill our life’s happiness and fulfillment – from the relationships we have, the people we meet, and the challenges we face. But sadly, we don’t trust the process, thereby neglecting our relationship and connection with the Creator.
When things get us down, when we feel disappointed, or heartbroken we need to remember that the Creator set this up for us in the pursuit of the perfection of our souls – for the perfection of each day. We are not merely creating our own day; we are influencing the day that everybody around us is going to have. We inject our day and people’s lives with energy for the entire world, because our greatest task is to change – to truly make a difference in the world. Maintaining and nurturing our connection with the Creator is one sure way to succeed in that task.
Religious tolerance is central to Kabbalah and as a follower of kabbalistic teachings I am very much in the minority, so believe me when I say that religious tolerance is of the utmost importance to me personally. However, I am impassioned to share the tools and wisdom of the Creator with my children and the world, not because it’s what I believe, but because I’ve seen the profound changes that take place in people’s lives. I cannot imagine a single day without the presence of the Creator and I wish that everyone else felt that level of certainty and connectedness.
David Foster Wallace, acclaimed American writer, gave a commencement speech that I want to share in part:
“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.”
I agree with Mr. Wallace, we all end up worshipping something.
Thought Into Action
Our beliefs are only in jeopardy when we don’t know what they are. Take the time to examine your belief system today. What is it that you worship? Do you know what your beliefs are?
July 13, 2023
June 8, 2023