WILLIAM EDELEN: Jews Without God


The Contrary Minister

Several years ago I lectured to a sold out auditorium at the University of Southern Colorado on the subject of “Redefining God.” It was about a movement today that is sweeping through Protestant churches all across this country. In this age of quantum physics and breath-taking discoveries in Astronomy, Archaeology and Biological evolution, intelligent and enlightened people are realizing that the archaic Gods of the bible are the most primitive superstitions. And nothing more.

My recent readings have been about a similar movement that is a fast growing phenomenon in Judaism. It is known as Humanistic Judaism.

Rabbi Sherwin Wine said he realized that he was “not being true to himself” in still talking about a biblical God that he no longer believed in. He started the Birmingham Temple outside of Detroit, the world’s first Humanistic congregation, which today has grown to a congregation of over 1000 members. There are now more than 40 Humanistic congregations across the United States with over 30,000 members. There are 12 such international organizations including one in the Jewish homeland of Israel.

Those involved say that humanistic Judaism is the only form that makes sense to rationalist Jews in this age of science and technology.
They are attracting non-theistic Jews who still want to celebrate their cultural roots without superstition and primitive supernatural images. It is Judaism without the God of superstition.

Humanistic Jews say that humans alone are responsible for their lives. They celebrate holidays with human language and ideas. Modern works of poetry and philosophy and literature have more value than two and three thousand year old documents.

“We don’t thank God anymore with a prayer over wine. We celebrate the fruit of the earth, and the harvest, and man’s role in planting that harvest…a harvest that would not come about if there was not a man there doing it.” said Rabbi Wine.

My good Rabbi friend on the staff with me at the University in Tacoma, WA often told me that many of the Rabbi’s he knew were Humanistic but had to move slowly with congregations in evolving away from superstitions. Many of my own Jewish friends are completely humanistic, including my most humane patron for ten years, Walter Annenberg.

In this age of contemporary knowledge it takes courage to quit speaking, like a ventriloquist, of a 3000 year old age in which they never lived.

A thought for all of us, regardless of religious orientation, is this: the inability to say good-bye to an outdated, archaic and superstitious past means that we awaken one morning and realize that we are hugging a corpse.

One Comment

Tolstoy wrote that there is no such thing as a Jew who does not believe in God. I modify that statement by the words, “who does not have faith in a unitary existence, the ‘All.'” Yes, the ancient prayers and supplications may wear on our sensibilities and rote practice does smack of superstition. But humanistic Judaism is a continuance rather than a departure from the path that seeks harmony with the Infinite principle, which is reflected sufficiently in the rhythms and cycles of infinite Earth. Judaism is like an iceberg, 99% of it is out of sight in the Unconscious’s knowledge, born complete at the beginning and extending to the end.