Can one be Jewish and not believe in God?


So here I am at age 37, watching more and more of my Jewish peers joining temples … starting their kids off in Hebrew school … etc. The wife and I talk about this, and while we have yet to follow suit, odds are we will. I’m sorta mixed about the whole thing, but Catherine is determined: Our children will have their Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. Period.

What I’ve been thinking about, in relation to this, is: Do Jews have to believe in God? I ask because, while I do consider myself to be Jewish, I’m really at a loss with the whole God thing. Clearly, someone or something created our planet. But do I believe there’s a big man sitting atop a cloud, pointing his magical lightning bolt this way and that, inventing things like geese and water and Danny Wood? No. Odds are it was just some enormous cosmic explosion—a random-yet-fruitful accident that led to the merging of particles, the mixing of Atoms, the … well, you know. Hence, when I hear some rabbi blathering on about Noah’s Ark and the parting of the sea and the burning bush and the Ten Commandments, I just don’t buy it. I don’t. Can’t. I roll my eyes and think, “What the hell am I doing here?”

Truth is, even though I was raised Reform, I can’t really argue with the Orthodox who think the semi-believers are non-Jews; that we pick-our-spots Hebrews have no business considering ourselves part of the Tribe. Because, from my experiences, 90 percent of the people sitting besides me through the years are members of the synagogue for one of three reasons:

A. Guilt.

B. Social network/outlet.

C. Fear of death/reassurance.

But do they really believe? In their hearts of hearts, do they think God is watching over us? Do they pray to him with true conviction?

Or are they merely repeating the words, showing up on high holidays but spending most Friday nights watching Hill Street Blues on DVD?

You be the judge …