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Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 219 by Rob W.

One Christian minister to whom I do enjoy listening is Michael Dowd. His wife is a science writer (and an atheist). Together they go to churches and lecture about reconciling these seemingly contradictory ways of looking at life, the universe, and everything (r.i.p. Douglas Adams). Dowd wrote a book about this called Thank G-D for Evolution. I'll admit that I haven't read the whole book yet, but I've listened to some of Dowd's lectures and discussions about it, and I really appreciate what he says. He talks about "Night Language," which is that subjective, symbolic, mythic, mystical dream stuff which is part of the human mind where religion takes place. There's another kind of thinking which might be called Daytime Language or something like that, and that's the practical, logical, scientific, objective, factual stuff which of course we need as well.

So do I believe that there's a Big, Bad Boogie-Monster in the Sky (or whatever the hell people think G-d is) who appreciates it when Jews recite Psalms, and who is displeased when Jews order clam chowder and drive on Saturdays? Of course I do. I believe it with all my heart. But literally?! Are you kidding?! Would I ever assert that as if it were some kind of objective fact which ought to be taught in a science class? If I did, I ought to be locked up in a mental hospital with Fred Phelps.

I get high worshiping G-d. Does that mean that G-d exists? Who knows? Who cares? It's got to be safer than using actual opiates. The funny thing that I've noticed is that all this fuss about whether G-d exists or not is far more important to the militant Atheist (and to the Fundamentalist) than it is to me. I discussed this with my friend, Rabbi Yisroel Altein, the Younger.

I said, "Rabbi, you exist. I exist. Bacteria exists. The galaxy exists. I'm not saying G-d doesn't exist, but to say that G-d exists per se would be putting G-d in the same category as you and me, as if G-d were just another being subject to space and time, and that doesn't make any sense. Do I sound meshuge to you?"

He said, "No, Rob. Actually, you are absolutely right."

I said, "Really?!"

He said, "Yeah. Because of the limitations of human language, we use these figures of speech so that we can relate to G-d in terms which we can understand. So when we say that G-d exists, we don't mean in the same sense which you and I do."

Religious language is often highly poetic, mythical, and metaphorical. It can include all kinds of riddles, paradoxes, ironies, fables, legends, and parables. It's not always clear what is fact and what is fiction. For years, I neglected Torah in favor of Arthuriana. Though I'm not Catholic, my fascination with Camelot was so intense, one might have thought that it was my religion. History, fiction, and mythology are all jumbled up in the Matter of Britain. Archaeology has been able to shed light on some of the real-life aspect of it, but there will always be some mystery to it -- kind of like the Bible.

You know what an Atheist is? An Atheist is someone to whom G-d has revealed His lack of existence. There was a brilliant rabbi -- possibly Mordechai Kaplin, I'm not sure -- who stuck up for Atheists. He said that Atheists aren't rejecting G-d; they're rejecting the anthropomorphic conceptualization of G-d which is actually idolatrous. So if you really think about it, the Rabbi reasoned, Atheists are doing the world a favor, and making the world a holier place by ridding the world of idolatry.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 08:27:06 UTC | #950924