Letter | People who don't believe in God have a lot to say about the subject, too. by the Forward

Letter | People who don’t believe in God have a lot to say about the subject, too.

Image by iStock

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on your “Still, Small Voice” initiative to explore varieties of Jewish beliefs about God. I am sure you will find some interesting perspectives on this issue.

However, you are missing important Jewish voices by only including those who believe in God. Pew’s 2013 A Portrait of Jewish Americans gave respondents three options. It asked if they believe in God or universal spirit with absolutely certainty, if they believe but are less certain, “on the fence,” as it were, or if they do not believe at all.

Even with available options of “universal spirit” and “not sure,” almost one in four chose “do not believe.” Another way to think about it: Twice as many American Jews say they do not believe in a God (23%) as identify as Orthodox (10%)!

Letter | People who don’t believe in God have a lot to say about the subject, too.

If you want to explore the question, “What do Jews miss without belief?” you really should ask some “non-believing Jews” (or differently-believing Jews, since even secular people have positive beliefs) for their views.

Would you pose the question, “What do Jews miss without binding halacha [religious law]” without asking Reform or Reconstructing Jews to comment? Or only ask Israeli Jews, “What do Diaspora Jews miss by not being in Israel?”

In 2011, Moment Magazine ran a cover story and essay contest on “Can There be Judaism Without Belief in God?” Their initial contributions did not include any voices involved in Secular or Humanistic Jewish communities or national organizations. As I wrote in my submission,

Perhaps this is beyond the scope of your project. But if one theme of the moment is including marginalized voices in conversations about them, then a complete spectrum of Jewish perspectives on God should include those of us who celebrate their Jewishness focused on people, not prayer.

Letter | People who don’t believe in God have a lot to say about the subject, too.

For us, that “still, small voice” of conscience and inspiration comes from within ourselves and from each other.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Adam Chalom


Dean of International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, North America

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Letter | People who don’t believe in God have a lot to say about the subject, too.

Author

Adam Chalom

Adam Chalom

Rabbi Adam Chalom is the Dean for North America of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism and rabbi of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in north suburban Chicago.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Letter | People who don’t believe in God have a lot to say about the subject, too.

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close