Some Thoughts about God
The popular view that God is ever
present and meticulously involved, such as making detailed decisions about and
controlling every raindrop and every falling leaf, and counting and recording
the good and bad deeds that humans perform, is so well known that it doesn’t
bear repeating. So too is the notion that people can connect with God by means
of meditation and prayer, that God responds to prayers and can be persuaded to
change nature. So also is the idea that people need God’s help to rid
themselves of past mistakes, and that praying especially during special
occasions will draw God’s aid to cleanse them of misdeeds.
Most Jews and people of other religions will reject my views on this subject, but I
understand them to be the teachings of Moses Maimonides and others:
- God created or formed the universe to function
according to certain rules that are good for the universe, what we call the
laws of nature. Having done so, He no longer interferes with or changes nature
or people in any way. He is not an insufficiently trained plumber who has to
return from time to time to repair his former work. (The rules of nature, while
perfect for sustaining the universe may result in harm to individuals and
groups. For example, a hurricane is good for cleaning the air, but it kills
people. God is also not involved in two other ways that people are hurt. One is
when people hurt themselves, as when they jay walk across the street into
traffic; also when another person or group hurts others, as when a nation
attacks another nation to take over their oil resources.)
- People have a duty to study and develop themselves
intellectually, to understand how the world functions, and to improve
themselves and society, without depending on divine assistance. By people, I
mean individuals of every kind, every religion, every sex; for God created all
people; we must not distinguish.
- We have no way of knowing anything positive about
God. At best, we can know what God is not; such as God has no human body. We
can also not fathom what God is doing.
- It is impossible to connect with God, as mystics
think, or even by prayer. Prayer is an activity where individuals should
connect with themselves. It is a time of reflection, of judging one’s self.
People cannot even connect with God after death. Maimonides felt that only the
developed human intellect survives death, but he was careful to say that it
does not connect with God.
- Saying that God is not involved with the daily
activities of the universe should not be misunderstood as a declaration that
God does not exist. It should also not mislead Jews to conclude, “therefore, we
need not observe the Torah as understood by the rabbis.”