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.