November 18, 2005

Does Judaism Need G-d?

I pose this question to my Jewish readers. Does Judaism need G-d. Do you have to believe in G-d to be Jewish?

What do you think?

21 comments:

fsgsf said...

Well, Judaism is both a religion and a race. For the religious aspect I think you definitely need God. What is a religion without a God?

Peace!

NJ from NJ

Ezzie said...

Normal Jew nailed it. I would have used "culture" not race - to be a part of Jewish culture, no; to be a member of the Jewish race, which by definition is the Jewish religion, yes.

respondingtojblogs said...

I don't actually believe this (at least not at this point in time), but is it possible the Jews musybderstood the nature of God?

On one hand, you have all the stuff about God not being physical and OTOH, you have sacrficies, Godly tefilin, judgment and other very anthropomorphic stuff. I believe reconstructionsim reduces God into the natural.

Jewish Atheist said...

Is this aimed at me? ;)

Judaism has a long tradition of skepticism. There are probably more atheists of Jewish heritage than of any other in America.

There is also a great tradition of Jews who believe in a God not far removed from atheism. Obviously Spinoza comes to mind, but so does Einstein. Probably even some of the great scholars of the past who are retro-considered "Orthodox" believed in a God so far removed from the anthropomorphic God of the Torah that they're really Deists or pantheists.

Then you have your not-just-atheistic, but anti-theistic Jews like Marx and Freud.

Irina Tsukerman said...

Well, of course Judaism needs God. Otherwise, it would lose its meaning. As for God being Jewish... LOL, funny. No, God is not a creature and has no religion or ethnicity. (At least I don't see it that way)

Stacey said...

I think Judaism needs G-d, but you can still be Jewish and not believe.

Jewish Atheist said:
There is also a great tradition of Jews who believe in a God not far removed from atheism. Obviously Spinoza comes to mind, but so does Einstein.

Yes, this is so true. And there are others of us who believe G-d is a metaphor for the highest and best aspirations of mankind.

Sweettooth120 said...

It is a question that I often ponder. To be Jewish is be part of the Jewish Race, whose religion is dictated by the Torah, but the only reason the Jewish Nation exists is based on G-d and Abraham; G-d and Moses. (please correct me if I am mistaken on that?) For those of us who have a great Jewish identity, a knowledge of our history and customs, but are uncomfortable with reciting blessings and prayers, observing the laws for the sake of G-d, or just being comfortable with a relationship with G-d, this question is a real problem. Can you cross post this on Jewish Connection. I would like to hear more opinions.

Jack's Shack said...

NJ,
There is some validity to that.

Ezzie,

Can you be one and not the other. I don't think so.

RTJ,

It is possible, but how would it be determined.

JA,

Nope, not aimed at you. It is a question that I ask every so often, but I did have you in mind as someone who would probably have an answer to offer.

Irina,

G-d is or isn't. That is kind of how it feels to me.

Stacey and Jaime,

There is a lot to consider.

Daled Amos said...

I recall reading somewhere:

How odd
of G-d
To choose
The Jews.

Supposedly as a response, someone wrote in return:

It's not so odd--
They chose G-d.

I don't know if Judaism needs G-d, but Jews do.

Orthoprax said...

Judaism as it is traditionally followed does seem to require a God. If the laws are considered commandments from God, then how exactly can there not be a God which commanded them?

But there is a growing movement of people who may have lost faith in God and the divinity of the Torah's commandments and the unquestionable authority of the Talmudic rabbis but who see much to value in Judaism regardless and act in many traditional ways. For them Judaism need not include God. And thus there is a clear argument that in a wider sense outside of traditional thinking where God need not play a necessary role in Judaism.

But in any case, even outside the religious spectrum, the Jewish People are the Jewish People and the rights to claim being one of the tribe does not necessitate a belief in God.

Jack's Shack said...

Hi DA,

I rather like that. I think that questions like this are important. It is part of trying to understand who we are and why we believe what we do.

Orthoprax,

So basically you are saying that the moral and ethical tenets are enough, regardless of whether you believe in G-d or not.

elf's DH said...

The question I would ask is: which God?

Judaism has a sneaky way of adapting itself to current trends, while at the same time presenting itself as a continuous tradition from 3000 years ago. When it went out of fashion to believe in a corporeal God who lived above, our God became an invisible, ideal entity who was everywhere. When it went out of fashion in some circles to believe in the supernatural, God was redefined as the natural world (Kaplan). So, I think that our tradition has sidestepped the issue by being more-or-less willing to tinker with the idea of who and what God is. We define God as much as God commands us.

Jack's Shack said...

So, I think that our tradition has sidestepped the issue by being more-or-less willing to tinker with the idea of who and what God is. We define God as much as God commands us.

Elf's DH,

That makes a lot of sense to me. I think that one of the great challenges of Judaism is being able to ask the hard questions and to be open to the harder answers and to suggest that Judaism continues to evolve is heresy in some eyes.

But IMO it is a very important challenge.

Orthoprax said...

Jack,

"So basically you are saying that the moral and ethical tenets are enough, regardless of whether you believe in G-d or not."

Not necessarily, I even could include the ritualistic aspects. Take Reconstructionist Judaism, for example. They don't require the belief in God while they do appreciate a strong connection to tradition. Humanistic Judaism even more so disregards a belief in God but keeps a strong Jewish identity.

If I define Judaism as "what the Jews do while staying a recognizable and retainable group as Jews" then the door is open for many forms of non-traditional Jewish philosophies which need not include a God. This form of Judaism does appear to have the capacity for long term survivability.

If you are going to limit Judaism to "Orthodox Judaism" or other more dogmatic types then taking away God is like removing a large foundation of the belief system. But I think that Judaism is larger than a series of dogmatic beliefs.

Jack's Shack said...

Interesting.

joe said...

There are 613 commandments in the Torah, "Thou shalt believe in G-d" is not one of them.

Joe

Jack's Shack said...

Joe,

That may be true, but it doesn't dig into the meat of this.

MC Aryeh said...

You do not have to believe in God to be Jewish, just be born to a Jewish mother. As to the other question, at least at this point in time, Judaism is a religion centered around God, and so does need God as its focal point. I would argue that Judaism is not a culture, but only a religion. If someone is a non-believer they may say they are a cultural Jew, but they would not say they are an adherent of Judaism.

The Jewropean said...

Obviously Judaism is monotheist in its character. And the Torah definitely requires you to love G-d and fear G-d. Kind of hard to do for an Atheist.

Still, not believing doesn't make a born Jew unjewish, as converting to Christianity or whatever would.

Ralphie said...

Joe -

There might not be a commandment to believe in God* - but that's just because His existence is taken as a given. It doesn't make sense to command someone to "believe" in something that is, well, real.

That's why I myself don't really cotton to the concept of "believing" in God. In Western culture and language, at least, we only talk of believing in things that, well, aren't real. Do you believe in Santa Claus, for example. God is real - what does belief have to do with it?

I realize I'm being a bit of a hair-splitter here, since normally people speak of belief when it comes to intangibles in general - Do you believe in love. But I stand by my original position.

*Or there might be... the first of the 10 commandments is "I am the Lord your God." I think this has been taken by some as a defacto command to believe.

Jack's Shack said...

Works for me.