Saturday, October 1, 2011
The Essential Skeptic
This article in Moment magazine reveals there are a lot of Jewish atheists, and many even belong to synagogues--like I do. I was thinking about this at Rosh Hashanah services on Thursday, for the billionth time. Why am I so comfortable in that setting, despite being a non-believer? Well, I like the music (that's critical), the history and ancient texts, the shared liberalism, the beauty of the place, the solidarity with people throughout history who were persecuted for being Jews ... lots of things. But here's the surprising thing. I'm comfortable there partly because the goings on give me a lot to be puzzled and skeptical about. In fact, that's allowed. A couple of years ago one of the rabbis proposed that the story of Abraham and Isaac, the Torah reading for the new year, gives us the perfect start to the year, precisely because it's disturbing and puzzling, and so makes us think for ourselves. Skepticism is a part of the tapestry of Judaism. I've toyed with joining communities where unbelief was more the norm, or at least more open--the Unitarian church, or my local fellowship of free thought. But no--I'd miss the music, history, solidarity, and so on, but ironically, one of the things I'd miss most is the feeling of being a skeptic and a dissenter. That's just maybe 5% of the experience, but it's an essential 5%.