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A theist struggling with doubts

Hello: I live in the New York area. I am an orthodox jew with a wife and children. Over the past year and a half or so, I have been struggling with doubts I have about God and religion. I am NOT yet ready to abandon my religion and contemplating giving up my family for the sake of my doubts and questons. I was wondering if there is anybody out there who might have some insight into what I'm going through and might have some suggestions as to how to continue a religious life while dealing with serious questions. The reason I ask is that orthodox judaism is a demanding lifestyle. It's not just a question of going to church once a week. We pray three times a day, eat only kosher food, observe strict prohibitions as to activity on the Sabbath and Holydays.

Thanks.

Hi Jay. You said, " I am NOT yet ready to abandon my religion and contemplating giving up my family for the sake of my doubts and questons." Just because something about you changed doesn't mean you don't still love your family, or have to leave them. There are alot of Catholic/Jewish marriages out there, why not an Atheist/Jewish marraige? It might be difficult to merge your new beliefs with your family's, but it's worth trying. Also, you can still want to adhere to some of the tenets of your former religion while being an atheist. For instance, I think meditation promotes good health, but I'm not a Buddhist. It might be a little more difficult for you to reconcile your beliefs, because some people think that if you are racially Jewish you are obligated to be religiously Jewish. But don't forget that many of the first ancient Jewish writings were destroyed, and what they believed in we may never know. I am part Jewish myself and am endlessly interested in this subject. Good luck in talking with your family.

Marriage is a legal civil contract between two parties. Many people believe that the "religious ceremony" is more important, but that's not what keeps marriages together. It is the fact that marriage requires a legal contract between two parties. If people really think that being united in a church keeps marriage together, I suggest they try marriage without a license, and see how many people just walk off in about a week. A legal marriage protects everyone involved, which often includes children. Both parities expect certain things when they enter into a legal agreement to form a union.

Bertrand Russell said, "marriage is for women" etc. This might have had some credibility when all the doors were closed to women, but today women have careers (no thanks to men) and contribute just as much to any marriage as the men do. Frankly, I think they always have.

Bill Maher said, "marriage is for women" on a tv show recently. However, I have read that he supports gay marriage. This seems as foolish as what Bush said, "I think that gay marriage should between a man and a woman.

Nobody represents the ethics or thinking of people who are only in agreement about one thing, the non-existence of god/gods. Someone like myself, who was raised by a single widowed mother who was left to support five children alone, would probably disagree.

What is being agreed to when forming a legally binding contract/union is that you have decided to honor an agreement to stay with this person unless they do something that would clearly breach the contract. I assume you were aware of the other party's religion before marriage. Therefore you are the one creating a change in the situation.

I realize that there are people who believe that atheists have ideas like (marriage is for women) and atheists do not take things like marriage seriously. However, atheists have principles and ethics. Many of us have a very strong since of what is right and wrong ethically. I'm sure we don't have all of the details, but (I'm not all that sure about god) is not reason enough for leaving a wife and children. The situation you have described does not warrant leaving a family. It would be wise to find a way to talk and get counseling. I would say the same thing if she were leaving you because you were an atheist.

It is interesting to know that atheists have the lowest divorce rate of any group. Maybe that's because they know it is a legally binding contract so they deliberate more seriously before they get married.

The first Atheist I've met were Jews. Being Jewish is a culture & a religion. There's no reason why giving up the faith should stop you from observing Jewish culture. Of the three Jews I know, all three are Atheists and one of them observes the behavioral codes...out of respect for tradition.

But, giving up on supernatural beliefs will free up a lot of your time for your own selfish pursuits...making yourself happy...which is healthy for you and your family.

What do you mean, "contemplating giving up my family for the sake of my doubts & questions"?

Theories & doubts are healthy. It is very wise to question the nature of things. But theory & doubts are exactly what they are. Don't let the theories & doubts rule your life. Let God rule your life as you are letting him do so now. Let him see that you acknowledge His presence and that you have a completely open mind. Don't let man interfere with your relationship with God.

Imagine you are a two pan balance. In one pan is a belief in God and the other pan is your intuitive mind questioning the nature of things. Keep it balanced and don't become one sided like atheists. Atheists follow a belief of "power and those without", but we believe in God and we acknowledge "good & evil".

QUOTE: "Theories & doubts are healthy. It is very wise to question the nature of things. But theory & doubts are exactly what they are. Don't let the theories & doubts rule your life."

Theories and doubt are very different things. THEORY - an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. Testing a theory comes not from the individual who proposed the hypothesis - but from their peers. Theories are constantly open to potential falsification. There are no absolutes in science absolute certainty exist in religion and fascism. DOUBT: is uncertainty about the truth, facts, or existence of something or the absence of any reliable evidence about what is there and what is not there.

QUOTE: "Let God rule your life as you are letting him do so now. Let him see that you acknowledge His presence and that you have a completely open mind. Don't let man interfere with your relationship with God."

An opinion can be questioned by anyone when its truthfulness is doubted. Then the method to test the truthfulness is verification with further relevant facts. So long as the opinion stands the test of further facts an opinion stands as a truth. When an opinion fails in verification, it falls as a falsehood. So every truth is relative to the facts of verification every time.

QUOTE: "Imagine you are a two pan balance. In one pan is a belief in God and the other pan is your intuitive mind questioning the nature of things. Keep it balanced and don't become one sided like atheists. Imagine you are a two pan balance. In one pan is a belief in God and the other pan is your intuitive mind questioning the nature of things. Keep it balanced and don't become one sided like atheists."

The possibility of existing should apply to every possible god, but theists only try to use it for their own god. A "god" presumption should be applied equally to Zeus and Allah etc. as it does to the Christian god. Along the same rationale, we should believe evil gods exist as much as we believe in good gods. You can not limit deliberation to the possibility of your god, and ignores every other random religion's god. Why don't you put reality in one of your pans and crap in the other and see which one gets full first.

QUOTE: "Atheists follow a belief of "power and those without", but we believe in God and we acknowledge "good & evil".

Most people do not do things that are wrong because of the laws of man not god. Atheists are no more likely to do wrong than any Christian and that is a proven fact. Do you acknowledge deception? Atheists do not try to reward or threaten anyone they try to inform them. Free will means the freedom to choose without coercion of any kind (threats or rewards.) We all know that's not Christianity. There is no need to threaten with hell and lure them with heaven and call it 'free will'. The fact is that an abstract claim can not be subjected to verification, it is to be believed in. However, for something to be useful for common understanding, it should be verifiable. It is indeed a big stride from superstitious faith to rational understanding.

Linda,

You have some very good points, just keep in mind that Jay is not a Christian, but rather an orthodox jew, so arguments against Christianity may not be particularly compelling showstoppers for him. There are theists that are not Christian! Just saying.

--Mike

Since not one mention was made that was directed at Jay and all of the QUOTES came from the post above mine it's clear I'm not addressing Jay what so ever.

My comments were about using words incorrectly and mixing up what atheists do with what are obviously the actions of Xians.

I thought the (altar call remarks) were outside of the parameters of acceptable because of the misrepresentation of atheists.

And frankly I wouldn't care if the altar call had been about the 'great yellow bird god' because my remarks are about what all people have the right to do. Certain religions also teach people that they are superior to others when it is obvious that they are not. But thanks I'm sure your remarks are much more on the mark than anyone else's.

Mike:

It's clear that Linda was answering Mr. T. I just read your long commentary (my comment is better than yours is)!

It's clear that a former Baptist does not have the same situation as a Jewish non-believer. Actually the Jew is not as bad off since the situation for Jews is much better. Jews are usually more educated than most Baptists.

Traditional Judaism maintains that a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew, regardless of who his father is. A person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox.

Many people who call themselves Jews do not believe in that religion at all! More than half of all Jews in Israel today call themselves "secular," and don't believe in a deity or any of the religious beliefs of Judaism. Half of all Jews in the United States don't belong to any synagogue. They may practice some of the rituals of Judaism and celebrate some of the holidays, but they don't think of these actions as religious activities.

The most traditional Jews and the most liberal Jews and everyone in between would agree that these secular people are still Jews, regardless of their disbelief.That's why juxtaposing your situation with a Jew is pointless. Emily made the most intelligent remarks on that particular subject. Just saying…..

Mr. T said, "Atheists follow a belief of 'power and those without',"

Actually, I think you're confusing Atheists with Voldemort; in the final confrontation with Harry Potter, in the Sorcerers' Stone, when Voldemort is trying to convince Harry that there is no 'good & evil.'

Jay,

I understand somewhat what you're going through. I grew up very enmeshed in the church (Baptist). When my doubts began, I initially felt guilty over them. This is what is ingrained in so many of us from our religious teachings. But one thing that helped get me through was realization that TRUTH can withstand any questioning, any investigation, and any doubt. After all, the truth is the truth, right?

If it's true, then it's true no matter what I believe, and if I truly seek the truth, then either my investigation of the truth will either take me back to what I originally believed, or it won't. If I do find my way back to that, then it will be with a newfound confidence and certainty. But if not, then how can a God who created me and the universe punish me for sincerely seeking that truth and finding it lacking any evidence? Did he hide from me the very truth he demands? If so, then he must not be the loving, caring God that religious texts claim, especially if the stakes are everlasting punishment versus eternal reward.

Once I settled this in my mind, a great burden seemed lifted for me, and I became a happier, better-adjusted person. And in the 25 years since, I have not regretted that decision. To the contrary, once I was removed from the propaganda and peer pressure and the obligation of feeling bound to my religion, I was soon able to see just how manmade and self-serving it all seemed to me. I still seek the truth, but unless some great proof or evidence appears, I no longer feel the need to continue the search for a being that probably does not and possibly cannot exist. (All powerful consciousness without physical form that can manifest anything and everything?) Eventually I allowed myself to listen to my doubts, and question things. It didn't happen all at once, though.

If you wish to continue a religious life while dealing wiht these questions, then it may be best for you to "play along" and continue the appearance until you decide to leave, if you do indeed decide that. If you go to the church with this, a powerful pressure will likely be put upon you, and it will be very difficult to sort things out with all this going on. Personally, I recommend taking a hiatus from religion and just being with your thoughts. That was the only way I was able to sort things out, once I decided to allow myself to question. I had been in my religion for quite awhile with doubts, but it was hard to give myself permission to think about them. When I allowed myself to go out on my own and sever the link with the church, only then was I able to slowly let my true thoughts express themselves without guilt or fear. It was very freeing.

If it helps, just remember this--no matter what religion you choose (or which chooses you, if your family raised you in it)--there are hundreds of others which you presumably DO NOT believe, and therefore would be found lacking in if any of the many others were correct. I can hardly believe that a benevolent God would punish truthseekers that accidentally, and through no fault of their own would be punished eternally because--without evidence or proof--they chose the wrong one. How horrible would that be? And wouldn't you feel a fool in the afterlife for toiling your whole life for a religion that was "the wrong one?" And isn't it much more likely that none of them are right, even if there is a God? I deeply believe that if there were something like what we call a God, that Mankind knows nothing of Him, or Her, or It, or Them.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion (for myself) that the whole idea of religion is a manmade creation to control people's behavior, to enrich or give power to certain people, and coerce others into believing the way they do. Nothing I have seen has ever persuaded me otherwise. People believe because they want to avoid death, and dread the concept of their own mortality, or they want to belong to something, or they want everything answered for them so they don't have to choose (and risk choosing wrongly), or they cling to it in hopes of seeing their deceased loved ones again, or because they've been taught religion from childhood and feel impotent to challenge that authority.

And yes, I want there to be an afterlife where I live happily forever. But wanting or believing that cannot make it true. I believe that accepting one's own mortality is the final step in achieving maturity.

Best wishes for your journey in seeking answers to your questions. I hope that you find them to your satisfaction. Just know that you are not alone in having these questions. Many of us have been there, and we know how solitary that journey can be.

Good Luck,

Mike from Shreveport

There was nothing tutorial about your post Mike, and the only remark you took exception to was a remark about xians' assertions. The three major religions in the world Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all born in the Middle East and are all inextricably linked to one another. Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, and Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all recognize Abraham as their first prophet, they are also called the Abrahamic religions.

There is great difference of opinion among Israeli Jews over the role Jewish religious law should play in the state. Until recently, Orthodox Judaism was the only form of the religion formally and legally recognized in Israel. Although less conservative branches of Judaism now have partial recognition, Orthodoxy remains dominant politically and legally. Many Israeli Jews describe themselves in terms of their degree of observance of Jewish law. About half call themselves secular; about 15 to 20 percent see themselves as Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox; and the rest describe themselves as traditionally observant, but not as strict as the Orthodox. In the United States, debate over the necessity of observing Jewish law has led to the development of three major movements. Orthodox Jews believe that Jewish law is unchanging and mandatory. Conservative Jews argue that God's laws change and evolve over time. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews believe that these laws are merely guidelines that individuals can choose to follow or not. In addition, there are many Jews in the United States who are secular or atheist. For them, their Judaism is a culture rather than a religion.

Your post might be a good pitch to ex-Baptists but that's about all. Most Jewish people would probably react negatively to your long-winded uninformed opinions. If I am not a Jew I don't make comments about what Jews can do. It would make any comment I made invalid. You don't know what you're talking about. Most Jews know the past atrocities of the Protestants against the Jews; it's only the poorly informed who don't know the history. The history of anti-Semitism, or hatred of the Jews, is part of western civilization. Protestants have quite a history of trying to force their religion on people who are not interested. Protestant anti-Semitism is well recorded in history. The theological basis for anti-Semitism, the account of Christ's crucifixion, is found in the New Testament, St. Matthew 27. In 1546, Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation who initially wanted to convert the Jews to Protestantism, issued a booklet that stands as a treatise on anti-Semitism. It was titled, "Of Jews and Their Lies."

Jay,

I understand your doubts to say the least, however realize that you're posting your message to an atheist forum. What this tells me is that you have already given that line of thought more credibility then it deserves. I dare to say that you are not amongst likeminded people at this point if you are still holding firm to a faith of any kind.

Being an orthodox Jew with so much legalism in a post-modern, liberal, and convenience driven society, with relative morals could drive you insane... Personally, I find a great deal of peace in knowing that I am free in Christ. Your religion offers no freedom; it is without question that you are mad. Your faith speaks of a messiah; I would challenge you to take a walk through history because He came 2000 years ago according to a prophecy of your own holy book.

Regards

Brother in Christ said, QUOTE: "I understand your doubts to say the least, however realize that you're posting your message to an atheist forum. What this tells me is that you have already given that line of thought more credibility then it deserves."

Maybe he took off the tin foil hat and has gotten the message that all religion is based on myth. The Jews already know that Xianity is fake pagan religion that has nothing to do with Judaism.

Brother in Christ said, QUOTE: "I dare to say that you are not amongst likeminded people at this point if you are still holding firm to a faith of any kind."

I think he has the sense to know where he is- do you?

Brother in Christ QUOTE: "Being an orthodox Jew with so much legalism in a post-modern, liberal, and convenience driven society, with relative morals could drive you insane... Personally, I find a great deal of peace in knowing that I am free in Christ. Your religion offers no freedom; it is without question that you are mad."

This is a so typical! Just because he isn't hearing voices and doesn't have any imaginary friends doesn't mean he is mad. And since when was unquestioning obedience to authority freedom? Or being threatened and bribed called "free will"? Brother in Christ said, QUOTE: "Your faith speaks of a messiah; I would challenge you to take a walk through history because He came 2000 years ago according to a prophecy of your own holy book."

Why don't you take a walk through some history from the perspective of scholars that have no a vested interest in perpetuating a belief in the supernatural? The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, date from about 350 B.C. to 68 A.D. They were written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek; they contain Biblical and apocryphal works, prayers and legal texts and sectarian documents. There is no support for Christianity in The Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a copy of the Tanakh and some of the Jewish apocryphal writings. There is no mention of Jesus or his apostles in The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Xians ideas about their religion and other religions have been shaped by the inept distortions of drillmasters. The OT is a Xian text; it has nothing to do with Judaism. No Jew gives the OT any credibility what so ever. It was produced AD. The OT is a version of the Jewish Tanakh - the original Hebrew scriptures. No biblical scholar would say the OT is Xian, and there are no Messianic prophecies in the Torah. The OT is an invention of the "Church" mistranslated versions of the Jewish Tanakh. The misinterpretation in the OT of the word maschiach (anointed one) came from the Tanakh. This is how the Xians got their OT Messiah.

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