The thought that God might not exist probably enters most minds at one time or another, especially after a catastrophe shakes up daily life. This week’s clergy discuss how to address the concerns of congregants who are experiencing a crisis of faith.
Rabbi Mendy Goldberg
Lubavitch of the East End, Coram
The previous Chabad Rebbe, the late Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, commented to one self-proclaimed atheist, “We are all believers in God. It is just a matter of definition.” At times, the small things in life may inspire us to believe in God. At times, catastrophic or miraculous events shift our attention from ourselves and allow us to appreciate the divine providence in the world. Belief in God is not reached through intellectual articulation. God has created this world with humans, giving them the choice to err and even the right not to believe in a Creator. God believes in us. Although humans are inconsistent, God is constant. His faith in us is firm and unchanging, even if our faith in him is shaky. If you woke up this morning to see another day, then give thanks, if not out of your faith in God, then at least out of God’s faith in you. He trusts you enough to give you a precious soul. Use it. Belief in God is about a relationship with the Creator. If we wish to cultivate and appreciate the Creator, we then need to believe we are here for a purpose and reason other than just to serve ourselves. That is the greatest proof of God’s existence. Although there are many logical proofs in the Torah, which any rational, humble person can understand, if you wait for proof of God’s truth you may forever live in a lonely universe. Embrace uncertainty and open yourself up to a real relationship. When you make that choice, you will find proof of God within your own soul.
Board of directors of the Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island, Melville
Many people, both believers and nonbelievers, doubt that God’s existence can be demonstrated. Others believe that an effective rational argument for God’s existence is an important first step in opening the mind to the possibility of faith. The universe displays a staggering amount of intelligibility. It displays an intricately beautiful order and regularity that can fill even the most casual observer with wonder. It is the norm in nature for many different beings to work together to produce the same valuable end — for example, the organs in our body work for our life and health. Either this intelligible order is the product of chance or of intelligent design. I don’t believe it is chance but is the product of an intelligent designer called God. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being, transcendent to the universe. Hinduism profoundly believes in God’s existence. In Srimad Bhagwad Gita (the most revered Scripture), chapter XI, verse 53 and 54, Lord Krishna who is the manifested form of God himself, reinforces that he cannot be seen by the study of Vedas, nor by penance, nor by charity, nor by sacrifice, nor by artificial knowledge, nor by debate, nor by analytical study. He can be seen in the celestial form and essence only through single-minded devotion.
The Very Rev. Christopher D. Hofer
The Church of St. Jude, Wantagh
Proving God’s existence in the midst of personal tragedies, natural disasters, wars and terrorist attacks is difficult to do. The basic argument is this: If God existed, how could God allow such bad things to happen? More often than not, I surprise questioners of God by replying, “You’re absolutely right. I often doubt myself.” Having been a chaplain on and after 9/11 and suffering several 9/11-related illnesses; witnessing natural disasters; and having lived through more tragedies than I can count (burying a 5-year-old victim of a car crash, or living through the hell of a 30-something friend who overdosed, or watching a dear friend die a painful death), I have more than enough reasons to doubt God’s existence. Doubting is natural and human. The Bible is filled with people who doubted, including Sarah, who laughed at the suggestion she would give birth to her son at an old age; Thomas, who doubted the resurrection of Jesus; and even Jesus, who felt abandoned by God on the cross. To discover God, all we need to do is look around and see God’s existence: the birth of a child, the utter beauty of a sunset, the full inclusion of all of God’s people in the life of the Church, and of course, the random acts of love we receive just when we need them. I suggest in these, and in numerous other scenarios, if we look close enough, we will see God.