Columbia University, doctors, Geoff Huntting, God, Jewish Theological Seminary, Neil Gillman, prayer, rabbis, Randi Brodsky
Had an interesting conversation with my friend Geoff Huntting today, aka Rabbi Huntting. We were commenting on the conundrum of not believing in God and yet being comforted by God-talk. I’m always happy to talk to a like-minded person, who isn’t uncomfortable with the seeming contradiction this poses.
It reminds me of a comment by my teacher at JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary) Rabbi Neil Gillman, who said that he is capable of being a rational Columbia University professor on Tuesday morning, and then feeling like he’s standing at Sinai with the Children of Israel on Saturday morning. (My apologies to long-time readers if I’m repeating myself.)
Note that I’ve now cited not one but TWO rabbis. Thus, I hope, strengthening my case that it’s OK to have a complicated relationship with God and with God-talk. If you ask me whether I believe in God the answer will always be “no.” But if you ask me if I’m comfortable with prayer that talks directly to God, or anthropomorphizes God, the answer is “yes.”
My friend Randi Brodsky (not a rabbi, but she is a physician so that should count for something) commented on my recent post called My Lucky Day, and said something very profound:
Seems silly that I will ascribe good things that happen to me to God, but dumb things I will ascribe to bad luck, not that God is punishing me. If I think about this too much, my head spins!
I’m with her all the way on this, especially the part about it making my head spin.
It’s true — we call it bad luck when things go wrong and thank God when things go right. And despite its confounding nature, I think this is both perfectly natural and absolutely correct.
I, for one, do not want to walk around blaming the Deity for the bad things that happen, whether they’re big (such as explosions at airports or 9-year-old girls getting shot and killed in Arizona) or little (such as why does my left elbow hurt and why won’t it stop). I’m perfectly happy with seeing those as people-driven rather than God-driven. (I think the elbow thing has a lot to do with texting and typing, meaning that it’s my own damn fault.)
But I also think it’s great to thank God for the good things, like my dog Xander being such a cutie (he’s snuggling the aforementioned elbow – I wonder if he can tell that it hurts), or the fact that the 12th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is just a couple of days away.
Who cares if there’s a God Who’s listening? Certainly not I. Doesn’t matter if my gratitude is directed to a specific Someone or just the cosmos in general. As long as I remember to be grateful.
Thus I will blithely continue to insist that I don’t believe in God while I continue to be perfectly happy with prayer.
Whoo hoo!! I rate a mention!
You are so right! When my niece was killed in an auto accident, almost my first thought was to thank God my in-laws weren’t alive to feel the pain of that loss,but I never blamed God for the accident.
Ronni Blumenthal said:
I love reading these posts because I am pushed to pay some attention to my own ideas about God-ness. When people ask me if I believe in God (including my kids) I tend to say “no” but that is because of the ways I think people tend to interpret the answer I worry about context. I do think there is something – “thing” being the important part of the word – an energy or essence that is just at the periphery of my understanding and is greater than the sum of my parts. I have felt this in places like the Kotel, Mayan ruins, Rudolph Steiner communities, Hippocrates Health Institute, and at an ashram that was close to my workplace in New York. I also feel this same essence when I look at or read about nature. It’s the carrot that, when sliced, looks like an eye and is good for the eye. It’s the color of fish in the sea and the designs on a butterly wing. Sometimes it is the absurd battle of a dung beetle, a little film called Microcosoms. or the intelligence of an octopus. Birds flying in pattern and the sight of the full moon or it’s rosy hue during an eclipse elicit the same feeling. I call this God. Whatever it is, it isn’t something I expect to know (not even at the moment of transition when my breathing stops and whatever happens next unfolds) or even feel a need to know. To me, the concept of God has always been an annoying “need to know” aspect of our thinking that trips us up. We just don’t seem to be able to get comfortable with the idea of not knowing. Well, most of us. So – I believe in something I intuit, don’t understand, won’t understand, and do not relate to any kind of human emotion or behavior. It’s in a place called “other” but I like the feel of it. I believe in the miracle of existing between two great darknesses – before birth (the one we don’t think about much) and the one after life ( which we tend to obsess over). To me, they are equal and there is mystery and wonder just in the flicker that is our collective energy in the moments between. Or something like that.
Roscoe George said:
Once upon a time, almost long ago, on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, USA, the Lubavitcher Rebbi told me that if you stick at it long enoiugh you will come to believe. He contined, that if you observe and follow the rules and rituals and precepts as best you can, you will eventuially come to the end of the tunnel and will see the light. A bromide? Maybe? A plan for life? Perhaps. Sound and sage advice based upon exerience? Probably.
At anyrate, as I have stated before, keep up what you are doing and you will achieve success! It is acceptable to question. . .keep it up! It is when you don’t question that you become lost!
Judi from Ocala said:
It gives me great comfort to believe that Someone or Something out there is listening. I do too much talking to myself! I like to think I have Someone to be grateful to and this gratefulness is a form of faith. Now, Jennifer, let me hear you sing the “I am Alive Song”!