Without God, There Is No Why

After reading yet another editorial on the evils of belief in God and religion, I tossed the paper down in … Continued

After reading yet another editorial on the evils of belief in God and religion, I tossed the paper down in fury. I began to write a response that day and one year later, I hold in my hand a completed book. The day I turned in the final pages, I said to my wife “You know, it all began the day I read that editorial.” She looked at me sweetly, “No, David, it all began the day you were diagnosed with lymphoma. Right after you finished chemotherapy, you began the book.”

She was right. “Why Faith Matters” is about religion’s place in the world, in our lives; does religion breed violence (ultimately, no), can it be reconciled with science (ultimately, yes). But each page is shadowed by the struggles both my wife and I have had with cancer. True reckoning with faith is about faith in the dark cloud, how it touches not only society, but the individual and the family.

Nine months after our daughter was born, our only child, my wife was diagnosed with reproductive cancer that left her unable to have more children. A few years later, I suffered a grand mal seizure and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Three years after that, I was in treatment for lymphoma.

Throughout our trials, we were embraced by others. The warmth of community, the prayers of those around us – this is religion as it is lived. Religion is less in grand theological declarations than in everyday kindnesses; in hymns and help and hope.
Sometimes the journey to faith begins in a journey away. When I was twelve I lost my faith. I had seen a movie documenting the horrors of the Holocaust and decided God could not exist in so tragic a universe. But it was the constant questioning of deep faith that led me back. I can explain with a story:

In Primo Levi’s masterpiece “Survival in Auschwitz,” Levi recalls that while suffering from thirst he broke off an icicle outside a barracks window. When a nearby guard “snatched” it from him, Levi asked “Warum?” “Why?” The guard responds in German “Hier ist kein warum” “Here there is no why.” The greatest terror is if the universe presents to us a blank face.

Without God, there is no why.

The book opens with a story of my standing beside the bed of a man dying of cancer. We had both endured chemotherapy; mine was successful, at least for now. His had failed. He wanted to know why. I could not answer why, but I could tell him there is a why. God is not the automatic solution to all questions, but the assurance of meaning. Is the world spinning in a void, or is there a purpose to the pageant of life and death? I believe that we do matter, that our faith matters, and that turning our souls to God can improve our lives and help to heal the world.

Both my wife and I are reminded each day of what we cherish. Our experience with cancer led us not to doubt but to gratitude, not to question God’s goodness but to affirm God’s love.

David Wolpe is a Senior Rabbi at the Sinai Temple of Los Angeles, California. He has previously taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and Hunter College in New York, and currently teaches at UCLA.

Written by

  • razzl

    Rabbi Wolpe, since you choose to make public comments here I would expect not to be considered as mocking your tragedies by disagreeing with you, but your statement that “without God there is no why” is simply feel-good sloganizing, something which props up a hurting person when salving pain is more important than seeking truth. (Buddhism, by the way, is a non-theistic religion which posits that the purpose of religion is to ease pain, not to answer the question “why”; so there you have it, 2/3’s of the world’s religious people already disagree with you). Science might very well be able to answer all the “why” questions there are if given a chance, but the answers wouldn’t satisfy someone such as yourself who is in pain; you’ve been indoctrinated to look for the wrong question. It isn’t about “why?”, it’s about “how can I feel good again?”. If that deflates some of the grandeur of your grief I’m sorry, but fact tends to do that to faith…

  • Weenina

    So what you’re saying is that there is no God? Because there’s obviously no “why.” Thanks for providing Primo Levi’s experience as a case in point. There is an incredible freedom and responsibility in ceasing to pose this metaphysical “why” question to the universe. It is what it is, and we can enjoy it as such.

  • sparrow4

    I think there are several points I would like better answers on.1. I have never been able to ascribe the doing of good and evil to G-d. I know its people, not G-d. Nevertheless, I disagree that there is no why without Him. Good people do good works because they wish to, because their sense of compassion and empathy makes the golden rule an answer in and of itself.If without G-d there is no why, you’ve not only ascribed all good to Him, but all evel. Even evil has a “why”. It may be mindless, it may be unfathomable, but the idea of even thinking the “Why” of the Holocaust is somehow related to G-d is a concept I can’t abide. Rather what you’ve done is taken the responsibility off of men and women and onto the shoulders of a Being not everyone believes in, and whom no one in their right mind would want to believe in based on the above.You wrote:”does religion breed violence (ultimately, no), can it be reconciled with science (ultimately, yes).” History doesn’t bear you out on the first, and the second is still pending. If you truly believe this, may I ask you to explain?You also made a very disturbing reference to a man whose chemo failed, with the implication that his lack of faith was the reason. I find that unfeeling and arrogant in the extreme, and not far different from the fundamentalists who believe nonbelievers- good people or no, will burn in hell. I’m very disappointed because as a Jew I have never valued a belief in G-d as greater than the good deeds you perform in this life. No would a just G-d do so either.

  • Nevermore53

    While I can emphasize with your pain and that of your wife, let me assure you that your god had nothing to do with either of your recoveries, nor with the deaths of those in the German Concentration camps. “Why” is a natural question people ask when they can not explain what is happening. When I was still somewhat religious I asked god many times “why?”, but he never answered, so I quit asking. He never explained the mysteries of the universe nor the human suffering that exists world-wide, be it from war, disease, famine, tsunamis, etc. So what is the point? I don’t miss him one bit.By the way, that does not mean that I don’t have any faith at all, it just means that the god of the bible and the koran is about as meaningful as the gods of the ancient Greeks, Roman, or Norse.

  • sparrow4

    I guess it’s a matter of expectations. Why should we believeG-d has nothing better to do than listen to each and every one of us? Weren’t we given free will? weren’t we given law to live by?Maybe G-d expects us to do the best we can and the reward will come in His time, not ours. Maybe living a life well (or badly) is the real proof of how worthy you are. Charity to Jews comes at different levels- the lowest (if I am not mistaken) is giving to charity because you want something in return. the highest is to give anonymously, with no thought of recognition or return.Do it because its the right thing to do. Do it because we are all G-d’s creatures, and if we’re not, do it because life is the amazing unfolding of the universe and we are all in it and you will never see a more magnificent reality.

  • Carstonio

    “yet another editorial on the evils of belief in God and religion”What paper was Wolpe reading? I’ve never seen such editorials in mainstream papers. Unless his hometown paper was running op-eds by Sam Harris.”Religion is less in grand theological declarations than in everyday kindnesses; in hymns and help and hope.”Why have the theological declarations in the first place? None of those laudatory things that Wolpe named require beliefs in supernatural entities.”God is not the automatic solution to all questions, but the assurance of meaning. Is the world spinning in a void, or is there a purpose to the pageant of life and death?”I understand and appreciate the longing for meaning and purpose, particularly in light of the travails that Wolfe has endured. However, since there is no evidence for inherent meaning or purpose in the universe, it’s a mistake to hope for these things like receiving an inheritance. Instead, meaning and purpose are what we create as humans through our life experience. That meaning would be infinitely deeper and richer. I cannot understand why someone would want the meaning and purpose of his own life to be wholly decided by someone else or by the course of events.

  • CCNL

    A better view of God’s/evolution’s interactions with the human race:From Father Edward Schillebeeckx, the famous contemporary theologian in his book, Church: The Human Story of God, “Christians (humans) must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history” . “Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings. For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women.”

  • ravitchn

    It is commonplace by now to say with Dostoyevsky that without God anything is posssible. But with God, and there were plenty of Christians among the guards at Auschwitz, anything is not only possible but has taken place. There is no evidence religion makes people better and there is at least some evident religion makes them worse.

  • sparrow4

    ccnl- thank you for that quote. It was beautiful.

  • Jeremiah37

    Thanks for your heartfelt perspective. There is obviously a deep human craving for explanation, particularly when one experiences suffering. But a craving for something does not mean that it is a cure.

  • Carstonio

    Jeremiah37, I cannot comment your post highly enough. Would you explain what Buddhism means by a “direct, practical means of relieving suffering”? I’ve been told in other threads here that some of my thoughts on suffering sound similar to Buddhism. Can you recommend any reading on the subject?

  • ashleybone

    Mr. Wolpe,You state in your post, “Without God, there is no why.”. But the very question “Why?” is simply an aspect of human cognitive biases. In particular, it’s a product of our (evolutionary) assumption of intent in the world. In answering that question by invoking a god, you’re creating a closed loop. We ask “why” because we assume the world has purpose. By answering “god”, you’re simply restating the initial assumption that the world has purpose. So you have a two-box flowchart where each box points to the other. Comforting to some, perhaps, but not very interesting or enlightening.The key problem, of course, is the assumption of purpose and the more general fact that human cognition maps very imperfectly to the facts of the external world as we experience them. Once you discard assumed intent, it becomes clear that purpose and our search for meaning are purely HUMAN concepts. The tree, the rock, the lion have no such concerns. They simply are. To assign meaning is a human activity, one that exists regardless of gods.In your post, you declare community, caring for one another, and so forth to religious belief, while attributing Auschwitz to its absence. But of course endless counter-examples exist. Both abolitionists and slave owners in 19th century America were deeply religious people. Likewise churches and churchgoers battled on both sides of the civil rights movement. Germany today is a peaceful, egalitarian nation. It is also vastly less religious than it was when it perpetrated the Holocaust.It is not religion that is the source of good or evil the world, but human nature. Community, caring for others, and selflessness all exist with or without religion, just as cruelty and greed do. The benefit of realizing that gods are a human conceit is the freedom from the fear you describe. The “blank face of the universe” is not the greatest terror. It’s not anything to fear at all. This life and our choices take on a greater meaning and richness than any god could offer.

  • Farnaz2

    ravitchn Author Profile Page:It is commonplace by now to say with Dostoyevsky that without God anything is posssible. But with God, and there were plenty of Christians among the guards at Auschwitz, anything is not only possible but has taken place. There is no evidence religion makes people better and there is at least some evident religion makes them worse.Indeed, there were Christians and Catholics not only among the guards in Auschwitz but at the highest nazi levels. There were Cs in Babi Yar, among the Lithuanians, Latvians, Poles, Hungarians, Russians, etc., etc., etc., all civilians who took it upon themselves to continue the Shoah on native soil.As for Primo Levi and Auschwitz, he came in an atheist and left the same way. He continued to ask WHY. For him, the answer ultimately went something like this: Under extreme circumstances, many people will act in extreme ways.The Why of genocide continues to be asked. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has been asking why of every genocide since its inception, has sponsored research into Sudan. Questions of WHY will always be asked. With or withoug God, WHy questions can lead to moral and immoral explanations, useful and not useful, etc.

  • CCNL

    “Catholic and Christian” Nazis who guarded Auschwitz and/or who were in the ranks of this blight on humankind were not Catholic or Christian since they violated the basic rule of Jesus and man, “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself”. If there is a Hell, they are in its deepest trench.

  • sparrow4

    Indeed they are ccnl. You can call yourself a religious person, and even believe you are living by the precepts of your religion, but oddly not be living your faith. I think people compartmentalize, too much and they really can disconnect the morality and compassion of their faith from how they live day to day. I think the more fundamentalist you are, the more literally you take your religion, the greater the separation because fundamentalism teaches only those like you are good and will be safe- a very us vs you mentality.

  • bartedson

    “Without God, there is no why.”This is just a word gimmick and has no actual validity. Believing in a vengeful, egomanaical, talking deity cheapens and diminishes the truth of the creative force of energy that permeates the universe.

  • aliuag

    “Without God there is no Why.” Unfortunately, the thought is without merit. There is always a “why”, but there isn’t always an answer. Children ask why almost every day and we as adults usually dismiss their ability to understand the why, but more often than not, are afraid to reply that there just might not be an answer to their “why”. It is no different when asking the question “why am I?”. Regardless of all that has been written and discussed over the ages, there can be no definitive answer to the question, only with myths and conjecture do we attempt to answer the question. With respect to “man’s inhumanity to man”, the brutality of man just happens to be a part of the human psyche. And to the question of “why me?”, it is just “because”. No reason. Luck? That’s also mystical, isn’t it?

  • Carstonio

    Excellent points, Ashleybone. I must be an evolutionary throwback, because I don’t recall ever assuming intent in the world. I reread the part of Wolpe’s article that addressed Auschwitz, and realized that he seemed to be falsely equating godlessness with lawlessness. Wolfe should explain why he sees “blank face of the universe” as the greatest terror. That sounds like the type of thinking that leads to conspiracy theories.

  • ashleybone

    Carstonio,I’d say you possess an evolutionary advantage over the rest of us. Perhaps one day in the distant future genetic researchers will isolate the “Carstonio” gene as they trace the history of the decline of belief.:)

  • sophie2

    I appreciate that you and your familiy have suffered, and that God can be an important anchor in such times.But I too have suffered, without a theistic god to which ro appeal. And I have found a community of support (as you have) and I have found the strength and inner peace to carry on. I don’t know if I have found a “why”; I don’t know if I ever looked for one. Why ask why? Everyone will face misfortune, it won’t be evenly distributed. It will cause pain and it will teach invaluable lessons.If you had not god, you would still live a rich, meaningful life. You just can’t see that now.

  • ravitchn

    The correct reply to Levi’s question WHY? should be WHY NOT?

  • ravitchn

    Any rabbi still practising his profession, should I say rather his trade, after Auschwitz is blind. Richard Rubenstein in a book many years ago, AFTER AUSCHWITZ, told us why one cannot believe in the Old Testament God after the experience of the Holocaust, unless one wants to see the Holocaust as God’s punishment for something. Such a God is a monster.

  • sparrow4

    ravitchn wrote:does that extend to priests and ministers as well, those on the other side of concentration camp walls? I also have to say I think you misunderstand the role of a rabbi, which is “teacher.” And I think your statement also depends on whether or not you believe G-d is or should be involved in the day to day lives of human beings. sometimes I wonder if it is not our own egos that make us think we are so important to G-d, forgetting the entire universe is His realm.The power of creation is not overridden by the lack of intervention. For those who believe in the vast and mysterious omnipotent creator, why would you assume that you can understand that being in human terms and motives?

  • khote14

    “Our experience with cancer led us not to doubt but to gratitude, not to question God’s goodness but to affirm God’s love. “What a crock.

  • ravitchn

    Rabbis, priests, ministers, mullahs and all the rest: THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND.

  • edward9

    Rabbi Volpe states in part “… does religion breed violence (ultimately no), … can religion be reconciled with science (ultimately yes)..” What is the meaning of ultimately in this context? Does he suggest that in the short run religion does breed violence and is not reconcilable with science?

  • Farnaz2

    Why’s are socio-historically determined. They do not arise in a vacuum. To get answers that are honest and ethical, that can preclude the next Why-this-horror-or-disaster question, they must arise in contexts in which those who ask share a constructive ethics, sense of agency, and access to the means to implement preclude subsequent disasters.This holds true for hurricane disasters, genocide, starvation, etc.

  • AustininDC

    Considering the post by Rabbi Wolpe says very little and does not attempt to support his claims, it should be considered merely free marketing for his upcoming book.

  • amachefert

    I really like this quote from Umberto Eco:

  • raschumacher

    The book is one more example that the root of religion is the fear of death and the desire for meaning. Fear and desire do not constitute truth.

  • officermancuso

    “The greatest terror is if the universe presents to us a blank face.”Atheists will portray this as the root cause of religious irrationality.It certainly does not offer a *reason* to believe in God, only an emotional motive for doing so.On the other hand, science is premised on the optimistic assumption that the universe is orderly, and that its order can be discerned and described. That premise is not a *reason* to believe that science is worth pursuing, it is something you must believe without evidentiary support in order to formulate coherent scientific hypotheses.Belief that the universe is orderly and that, therefor, science is worth pursuing, is not itself either rational, or irrational. It is not capable of tending to be supported or contradicted by evidence. It is a *stance* which makes the pursuit of science possible.Belief in God, I would argue, is similar. It is not itself either rational or irrational, not subject to confirmation or refutation by evidence. It is a *stance* toward life which embraces life as a good thing, and based on that stance, rejects belief that the universe presents a blank face to us. That rejection is no different, logically speaking, from the presupposition which makes science possible – rejection of the belief that the universe is disorderly and not capable of description in terms of lawlike regularities.

  • bhuang2

    Ah yes, the Inquisition, the Crusades, the witch-hunts never happened.Or if they did, we’ll excuse it as conservative people’s fear of the unknown which is not religion.Oh wait, that’s what religion ultimately is (and it does provoke violence irrespective of what some modern day rabbi argues).

  • blueball

    I don’t agree with the premise. God does not give us the why. What we seek is beyond our knowing. If you want, you can call the ultimate

  • officermancuso

    BHUANG2 wrote, “Ah yes, the Inquisition, the Crusades, the witch-hunts never happened.”Stalin and Pol Pot might be more timely examples of inhumanity, and I don’t recall religious faith among their motives.The debate whether religious or anti-religious people are kinder is one I have studied and found myself incapable of solving. There is good and bad science, good and bad religion, and good and bad people.I suspect that a lot of the animus folks like BHUANG2 bear against religion arises from a disappointed expectation that people who profess to believe in God should be more humane that people who do not profess that belief. To the extent that people of faith have proffered the notion that they behave better than people with no religious faith, the animus is deserved.That, however, is an extent limited to a small circle of the obnoxious.

  • officermancuso

    BLUEBALL wrote, “I am for blind faith in the beneficence of the unknowable, and don’t worry about there being an abyss of “nothingness”. Yet, I am not bound up in religious strictures. It’s ok to trust without having holy books or priests.”I like that perspective very much. There is one place where I differ.I find it beneficial to find hard limits in a text I regard as sacred, for instance, “Thou shalt not steal.”Just recently, for instance, I was tempted to use a sign on name and password offered to me by a friend to get in to a pay-only research site that is of tremendous interest to me. My respect for a sacred text held me back.I can’t believe that I’m the only person on earth who is called back from self-interested, self-excusing behavior by having some hard limits which come, not from my own thinking, but from something I regard as morally authoritative.

  • Billy1932

    I am very happy for both you and your wife and wish you health and continued happiness.Nevertheless, if there is a God the bigger the why. Why does he do nothing about, suffering, and evil, which are different. He is omnipresent, omnipotent and all powerful; therefore is is guilty of and endless sin of omission.

  • redneckinnyc

    while im glad that Rabbi Wolpe’s faith helped him cope with cancer, does his argument make sense?

  • officermancuso

    BILLY1932 wrote, “Nevertheless, if there is a God the bigger the why. Why does he do nothing about, suffering, and evil, which are different. He is omnipresent, omnipotent and all powerful; therefore is is guilty of and endless sin of omission.”All that’s needed to get past that argument – and it is a powerful argument no matter how you look at it – is belief in a creator who created morally free agents, and regarded that creation as a greater good than a creation full of automatons.

  • redneckinnyc

    simply stated, “God” was created by man in his own image, not the other way around. and even if “God” exists, and is all powerful and omnipresent, free of time and space, “He” is responsible for all good AND all evil – past, present, and future – therefore cancelling “Himself” out. of course, circular logic can be a very comforting pastime, we’re only human.

  • officermancuso

    Redneckinny wrote, “simply stated, “God” was created by man in his own image, not the other way around. and even if “God” exists, and is all powerful and omnipresent, free of time and space, “He” is responsible for all good AND all evil – past, present, and future – therefore cancelling “Himself” out. of course, circular logic can be a very comforting pastime, we’re only human.”Redneck, how do you know that? Why should I prefer to believe things you say to things a person says who is now trying to right their moral compass by celebrating the Days of Awe?Can you give me a *reason*, rather than an emotion?Is it possible you’re just enthusiastic about Feuerbach?

  • rkhalona

    The tile of the original comment (“Without God there is no Why”) is absurd. It diminishes the author’s good wishes and any sympathy one could intellectually have for him. Best wishes, but please be a bit more serious when you choose to write about this topic next time.

  • jdn502

    I don’t mind people finding meanings in things they encounter in life, but it isn’t God. This thing about not being able to understand God’s way is full of baloney. If God created the human mind and that mind is not allowed to ask a simple “why” and receive a half-way comprehensible answer, then the fault lies with the creator and not the questioner. Why God would find someone find a job or win a tennis match or get an Emmy but stand by in incomprehensible silence while murders, tortures, and genocides take place in the world is an asinine paradox even a child could recognize.Even with God, there is no why. Welcome to the human race.

  • evangel7

    The following clip from an episode of ER powerfully illustrates what you have written about:

  • officermancuso

    RKHALONA wrote, “The tile of the original comment (“Without God there is no Why”) is absurd. It diminishes the author’s good wishes and any sympathy one could intellectually have for him. Best wishes, but please be a bit more serious when you choose to write about this topic next time.”For what reason is it absurd?How do you decide how to allocate sympathy?

  • redneckinnyc

    officer, forgive me, i dont know what the “Days of Awe” are but i can assure you a human being came up with that cool title. and i also dont know who fuerbach is.

  • sparrow4

    officer mancuso wrote:”I can’t believe that I’m the only person on earth who is called back from self-interested, self-excusing behavior by having some hard limits which come, not from my own thinking, but from something I regard as morally authoritative.”For others the idea of do unto others is an innate belief- probably the basis of every selfish and unselfish act we do. But it covers every commandment. the difference seems to be that the underlying premise of do unto others implies that you do good because it is also good for you, the 10 Commandments you obey because you were ordered to. One is based on mutual self-interest and empathy, the other on fear. I don’t steal because I wouldn’t want to have something stolen from me. But if we only abstaining from fear, that implies given the opportunity I would steal.I very much like what BLUEBALL wrote and your comment as well:”All that’s needed to get past that argument – and it is a powerful argument no matter how you look at it – is belief in a creator who created morally free agents, and regarded that creation as a greater good than a creation full of automatons.” Hear hear!

  • eashley12

    One thing that is hard to understand is the why some seem to go through life with no problems while others are inundated with trials.One simple thought to express would be that we often see other people as not suffering through trials but that is based on our perspective of their life not their perspective.However, there is an even better way to look at it. Life here on this earth is but a minute in time compared to the eternities. Yes, I believe there is an eternity; a better place we go when we leave this earth. Once where God reigns.God gives us free agency while on this earth so that when we leave this earth we will freely as exemplified by the choices we make on this earth go to heaven having been proved.I will quote a famous person from my Church, Spencer W. Kimball, as saying, “Should all prayers be immediately answered accroding to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death; and if these were not, there would also be an absence of joy, success, ressurrection, eternal life, and godhood.”So when we hold to our beliefs of God in faith we will find joy in the morning.

  • officermancuso

    redneckinnyc asked, “where does “moral authority” come from?”Each of us must answer that as an individual.I find it here, and it’s enough to keep a person busy (and sometimes repentant) for a lifetime:6 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;7 you shall have no other gods before me.8 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me,10 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.11 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.13 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.16 Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.17 You shall not murder.18 Neither shall you commit adultery.19 Neither shall you steal.20 Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbour.21 Neither shall you covet your neighbour’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbour’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

  • am214t

    The universe is 13 billion light years in every direction with no center. It is filled will billions of galaxies whirling within a cold dark space time fabric. Why should there be any why to any of this? The only reason for a why would be a human need to find some comfort in this cold dark void. The why must come from within each of us. Some will construct their lives around God. Others will find another why for their existence, and it will be their own why. Ultimately, the meaning of existence must be constructed within each human being. If religion and God makes it easier for any particular individual, so be it. But there need not be a universal why as the universe continues to expand.

  • redneckinnyc

    thanks officer, who knew there were so many commandments?

  • officermancuso

    Sparrow4 wrote, “Maybe G-d expects us to do the best we can and the reward will come in His time, not ours. Maybe living a life well (or badly) is the real proof of how worthy you are. Charity to Jews comes at different levels- the lowest (if I am not mistaken) is giving to charity because you want something in return. the highest is to give anonymously, with no thought of recognition or return.Do it because its the right thing to do. Do it because we are all G-d’s creatures, and if we’re not, do it because life is the amazing unfolding of the universe and we are all in it and you will never see a more magnificent reality.”That is beautiful.

  • officermancuso

    Redneckinnyc wrote, “thanks officer, who knew there were so many commandments?Redneck, I presume the question you refer to, which I have not answered to your satisfaction, is “where does moral authority come from?”As a person who embraces the stance that life is good, I presume that moral authority comes from valuing that which is valued by its creator. I regard not only myself but also my neighbor as non-accidents. This entails a certain duty to treat my neighbor as well as I treat myself, which goes against human nature.Allow me to ask you a question.What are the morals of science?

  • Farnaz2

    Of course there is “why” without God and speaking with respect to the Jewish/Hebrew tradition without Job et al. Further, R. Wolpe knows this. I wish him and his family well, but his essay is neither theology, nor philosophy, offering no substantive arguments. It is “rhetoric,” to which I have no objection, but only the wish that we call it by its name.

  • sparrow4

    “The universe is 13 billion light years in every direction with no center. It is filled will billions of galaxies whirling within a cold dark space time fabric. Why should there be any why to any of this? The only reason for a why would be a human need to find some comfort in this cold dark void.” -AM214TBut I don’t see the universe as a cold dark void- I see it as a place of wonder. I’m not afraid of it- I want to know about it- it’s breathtaking.redneckinnyc- but he did answer. Even if you don’t believe in G-d, somehow everyone has a moral compass. Not everyone’s is good- but somewhere, somehow we find one.

  • CanadianME

    I find those who can spend time to find some nonsensical reason why there is a GOD seem to be the privilege of the well off in the world. Much of the world lives in abject poverty and daily suffering, where is this supposed God for them. So you had some of the best treatment a Scientific community has developed, where is God in any of this. I find it disgusting that God is ever brought up when Medical Science is to thank. We live a very privileged life, we have what most of the world could not even imagine. An Atheist knows this is all we have, why we hold on to life and cherish so dearly. We are not looking for reward in the after life but in the here and now. I am kind, I believe in being just, I love now and with passion because this is all there is. Once we can educate the world we may be able to finally get over this cancer they call religion. Science can also cure that as well as it help cure yours.

  • redneckinnyc

    sorry officer, but the question is meaningless, as “science” is a field of study and a process involving experimentation, logic, trial, error, etc. and “morality”, in your case, is a set of fixed, unchanging tenets (donkeys? slaves?).

  • officermancuso

    CANADIANME wrote, “I find those who can spend time to find some nonsensical reason why there is a GOD seem to be the privilege of the well off in the world.” Do you find this on the basis of some inner feeling, or on the basis of some evidence?

  • gradice

    I’m happy for you that you and your family that you survived your cancer scare. How wonderful for all of you! Enjoy every day you have. But your article is meaningless gibberish.A brush with death surely makes most people ask why. But let’s be clear: gods are concepts that people invent to explain what is otherwise inexplicable. What, exactly, is wrong with recognizing that these events have no ultimate meaning?When my father died of a heart attack at 39 because he had a blood clot in a cardiac artery. The clot was, possibly, because of his diet and lifestyle, or perhaps random, or perhaps a genetic predisposition. I’m not sure, but I certainly don’t ascribe any cosmic/religious meaning to his demise. It was sad and horrib le for my family, but there you are. When my sister died of leukemia at age 36, it was because she acquired a mutation in a gene that regulates cell division. Same thing: no religious significance. Her death was painful to those who knew her and the support of those who supported us in our tough times was wonderful. Evidence of god? Surely you are joking.

  • sparrow4

    officermancuso- “what are the morals of science?” Very interesting question.On the surface it doesn’t apply to science because science is about objectivity in the pursuit of knowledge. Scientific method is founded on the objectivity, accuracy and soundness of how data is gotten. But in another sense the demand for truth is the morality of science.The morality of scientists is a whole other story.I guess I really stand betwixt and between- whether we believe in G-d or not, with or without a reason we know, it’s still an incredible concept and we should all find what good where we can. I may not think Rabbi Wolpe beliefs make sense for me, but they do for him, and we can disagree without belittling him.

  • officermancuso

    Sparrow4, I certainly agree with you on this: “I guess I really stand betwixt and between- whether we believe in G-d or not, with or without a reason we know, it’s still an incredible concept and we should all find what good where we can. I may not think Rabbi Wolpe beliefs make sense for me, but they do for him, and we can disagree without belittling him.”My challenges to science are surely not meant as challenges to Rabbi Wolpe, they’re challenges to atheists – and I’ve tried to offer them in good spirit, not running anyone down. Your voice has struck me as an especially good one so I am listening carefully to you.

  • observer12

    Farnaz2, you write:”Why’s are socio-historically determined. They do not arise in a vacuum. To get answers that are honest and ethical, that can preclude the next Why-this-horror-or-disaster question, they must arise in contexts in which those who ask share a constructive ethics, sense of agency, and access to the means to implement preclude subsequent disasters.This holds true for hurricane disasters, genocide, starvation, etc.”AND”Of course there is “why” without God and speaking with respect to the Jewish/Hebrew tradition without Job et al. Further, R. Wolpe knows this. I wish him and his family well, but his essay is neither theology, nor philosophy, offering no substantive arguments. It is “rhetoric,” to which I have no objection, but only the wish that we call it by its name”*******************************Agreed, the rabbi knows this. What, then, is the purpose of his post?

  • officermancuso

    Let me clarify something. To my mind, science is incapable of answering moral questions.If I want to know, “What should I do”, and I can’t provide more information, science can’t answer.Science solves problems of this kind: “If what you want is fewer deaths from cancer, based on the evidence, you should reduce the number of people who smoke cigarettes”, that sort of thing.Science stands silent before the adolescent contemplating suicide, who asks, “Should I choose life, or death?”That’s what I’m saying. Religion can answer that adolescent. Science simply cannot.

  • Farnaz2

    Hello Observer,I don’t know his purpose. I’m afraid to me it all seems like “Religion Lite.”

  • sparrow4

    oops- my bad, officermancuso. That comment wasn’t in reference to anything you said but to other posters who seem angry at Wolpe for his opinion.

  • observer12

    Farnaz-“I’m afraid to me it all seems like “Religion Lite.”More and more that seems to be the case among the panelists.

  • sparrow4

    officermancuso:”Religion can answer that adolescent. Science simply cannot.” I completely agree. Science’s “strength” as it were is exactly that it can’t answer the question. Because it is supposed to be objective, its conclusions can only relate to facts. And in that sense it should be seen as a balance to faith. We need both- fact and mystery. we just need to learn how to integrate them better in our lives, know what part each has to play.

  • Methereusa

    This is a wonderful article. Although a Catholic, one of the most, if not the most, spiritually influential books I ever read was “Man’s Search for Meaning” by another Holocaust survivor (and I am sorry by I cannot remember the name of the author — age!). The author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” does use a quote from the gospel of John: “And a light shines in the darkness.” So to affirm what the author of this article says, there is a meaning, a light, and a why….

  • robertjames1

    I was diagnosed with Cancer last April. The doctor gave me two years.I was lost and in my moments of desperation I turned to the bible. It has been wonderful. It exudes hope and kindness. In my darkest moments it gave me hope and a belief that God could save me. I asked God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit to save em. The treatment is working. Once I had trouble walking. Now I can walk and do the ordianry things of every day life. The bible has helped me to believe and to become a kinder person. I am thankful for the wonderful words that Jesus gave us.I can understand why many people do not like religion. Until I became sick and felt that I had no hope and would not be around to care for my family I felt the same way. However, I know that I have to put aside all of the irrationality that surrounds religion becuase inside it I can find beauty. It took me 15 years of attending church to get ot htis point. It has been a long and slow road. It was only when I opened the bible and prayed for help that I found help.

  • Billy1932

    OFFICERMANCUSO stated that God had no intention of creating a world of automatons.Man has a great deal to do with evil.Most of man’s suffering is not caused by man.All of this and more is created by our creator, if there is one. I still stand by the argument of God’s sins of omission

  • Farnaz2

    Methereusa The author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” was Victor Frankl. But I don’t think God answered the question “Why” for him. Rather God was one of several possible answers to How, how can I survive this or that. I think he was close to what one might call an existentialist. Choice was what concerned him most, if I recall correctly.

  • officermancuso

    Sparrow4 wrote, “Science’s “strength” as it were is exactly that it can’t answer the question. Because it is supposed to be objective, its conclusions can only relate to facts. And in that sense it should be seen as a balance to faith. We need both- fact and mystery. we just need to learn how to integrate them better in our lives, know what part each has to play.”Yes!

  • Farnaz2

    robertjames1,I am very happy for you, both in your getting well and in your finding hope through religion.I cannot help but wonder about all those wonderful people, excellent specimens of humanity, who have done great things with their lives, practice their religions, etc., and do not recover from grave illness, or are shot in the street, or are killed by a dictator, etc.

  • officermancuso

    Billy1932 wrote, “….Most of man’s suffering is not caused by man.All of this and more is created by our creator, if there is one. I still stand by the argument of God’s sins of omission”Yes, these are hard questions for believers. You’ve summarized them well.

  • observer12

    FarnazI cannot help but wonder about all those wonderful people, excellent specimens of humanity, who have done great things with their lives, practice their religions, etc., and do not recover from grave illness, or are shot in the street, or are killed by a dictator, etc.Still, like you, I will not judge those who find faith or comfort in faith and relgious texts in times of personal crisis. It would do us no harm, though, to consider what Levi’s take on the matter.

  • officermancuso

    In the end, no one survives their last grave illness. We are mortal, but capable of discerning immortal values.

  • observer12

    officermancuso Author Profile Page:In the end, no one survives their last grave illness. We are mortal, but capable of discerning immortal values.Religion tells us why we die. If we work it enough we can “answer” why God spared Jack and not John. The answer: God has a plan. We were not with Him when He created the universe. His ways will be revealed at the end of time.Whatever gets you through the night, and I mean that seriously. I’m not into judging. However, the rabbi’s essay doesn’t say very much to me.

  • pies2go

    Ashleybone: Your 11:08 a.m. post from 10/04 was the clearest, most cogent, least emotional, objective and well-stated comment here. Thanks for it!

  • observer12

    Ashleybone;I second Pies2go. Yours is a thoughtful post. However, I’m not certain how hardwired we are to ask why. We’re hardwired to attempt to survive, that is, without any civilization to drive us on. I think our initial Why questions go to basic needs. With this, I agree with Maslow. After those needs are met and culture sets in either the right or wrong Whys are asked. To say that God is both the cause and the answer of Whys is circular of course.That is WHY I can’t quite see the rabbi’s point.

  • Billy1932

    Faith and doubt are two sides to the same coin. If there where no reason to doubt, there would be no reason for faith. The answers would be unquestionable.Absolutism that there is no creator is no less questionable than absolutism that there is.Perhaps we would all be better off being agnostics.Whatever works is fine with me. But to force your answer of this burden on anyone else is wrong. Life is a journey, and in my 76 years I have learnt that there are no permanent answers, all of life human and other wise is change.

  • RudeIsraeli

    Like any other living thing- we come into being, live for a while, and then disappear forever. Why angst over it since it seems to be the way it’s always been?

  • bjerome

    While I sincerely appreciate what you have been through and have great empathy for you and your wife. I nevertheless feel your need for meaning can only be fulfilled by a belief in a diety is misplaced and fundamentally limited.I do not need to believe in a God to find meaning in my life. I find meaning in my life everytime I look into the faces of my kids. I find meaning in my life everytime I am able to bring a bit of Joy to someone’s life.No, I find meaning in truth. And that truth is that the God of the bible does not exist. What we know does exist is that our “mind” is the result of our brain chemistry. And it is very likely that when we die that everything about us dies also. Except, the one thing of greatest importance which is the legacy of kindness that we leave behind. So, you see…it is not essential to believe in God to find meaning in one’s life. Instead you need only find meaning in the acts of kindness you extend to others.

  • BlueTwo1

    There is no doubt that religion is a comfort to many, perhaps most of us on this planet. It binds people together who can unite in good works. It also justifies human nonsense like unwarranted agression, pre-emptive war, unfair treatment of fellow humans on account of their sub-species, sexual preference, and beliefs. Religion is presumed to provide an excuse for bad behavior because the Great Spirit forgives everyone who pretends to be repentent. Religion is presumed to teach moral behavior because humans are too stupid to conclude what is and what is not moral without years of formal instruction. Religion is about faith and faith is about belief. Do YOU believe in God? That’s a loaded question. If you say yes then you are lumped in with regular church goers, some of whom speak in tongues and have delusional thoughts of a personal relationship with a Supreme Being who is interested in their every move and thought. If you say no then you are lumped in with Godless Communists for whom The State is a conceptual wholesale replacement for God because that makes the ruling elites more powerful and more permanent. It is impossible to win a religious argument, because the facts at issue can neither be proved nor disproved. Perhaps that is the allure of religion. It substitutes for rational thought in those places where rational thought provides no answers.

  • jhherring

    You state that “without God, there is no ‘why.'” Fair enough- but you also state that we cannot know the WHy of God. So, how are you not simply creating a God to whom you impute the ability to create a Why? Your reasoning seems terribly circular.

  • fake1

    Without God there is no why?What if with God, there is a lie? True, when you learned Santa Claus didn’t exist you may not have gotten as many presents… but didn’t you gain a bit of maturity? To paraphrase Paul, perhaps you should put childish things away.

  • pierrejc2

    “Does religion breed violence (ultimately, no).”

  • Potter2

    What’s that you ask? You want my opinion on belief in God and personal tragedies such as cancer and other life-threatening illnesses? Why, I happen to have a book right here which is available now for only $29.95!

  • drum_sing

    Mr. Wolpe says,

  • spatula

    Sorry Rabbi, but a lot of wishful thinking on your part. You don’t know, I don’t know, and frankly, nobody knows if there is anything more to the universe than its existence. But the probability is pretty high that the universe just exists without any divine hand creating or guiding it (certainly not at the level of our daily lives). Thus I would rather not waste my time here believing in something for which I have no evidence. I guess I do waste my time on other things, but usually try to make them things I enjoy! Very sorry to hear of your health problems and I hope science will continue to help you and your family to survive them.

  • sparrow4

    With all due respect to to everyone here, Rabbi Wolpe posted his honest feelings and belief. I don’t see the need to beat up on him for it- we’re all entitled to do what works best for us. There are those people who have faith and those who don’t- it’s ridiculous to insult each other for differing. Our real problem is that neither side wants to accept that each other is being honest about what they believe. We don’t even know one another- it’s an anonymous blog, folks. Just seems to be getting a little out of hand here.

  • rhmabbutt

    I’m puzzled by Rabbi Wolpe’s claim –“does religion breed violence (ultimately, no)”. Did the publishers of Rabbi’s copies of the Tanakh omit the storming of Caanan? Does the beating of a woman and an IDF soldier in Jerusalem because they were seating next to each other on a bus cease to be violence because it was executed by an ultra-orthodox gang acting as self appointed morals police? What about bullets fired at Israeli police cars by the supporters of ultra-orthodox gang when the police responded?Perhaps it depends on what Rabbi Wolpe means by “ultimately” or “religion”. Would Rabbi Wolpe be so kind as to explain his claim.

  • langs13

    Sheri Sheppard said it best: To believe in God you have to ignore logic. Who wants to get on that train with Sheri Sheppard

  • observer12

    rhmabbutt:You ask interesting, though rhetorical questions. Here are my contributions to the pointlessness.If religion doesn’t ultimately cause violence, how can we explain the murder, in cold blood, of a six-year-old girl by a Muslim in Jerusalem? Reason? She was alive.If religion has no ultimate bearing on violence, how are we to explain the assault on a teacher and seven children in Haifa by a Muslim, leaving the teacher in a coma, and two children probably crippled for life?If religion has no ultimate bearing on violence, how are we to explain 9/11? The Harriot? The Red Mosq? Christians imprisoned in Pakistan for the crime of being Christian, etc., etc.Just wondering….Religion “ultimately” doesn’t cause violence only in the sense that in some cases it may be a necessary although not sufficient cause of it.Let us move on, shall we?

  • observer12

    rhmabbuttTo put it another way, there is a difference between ultimate and proximate cause. I don’t agree with the Rabbi, but understand that he assumes a certain level of education among readers.Btw., That should have been the Marriot.

  • steviana

    I don’t want to belittle other people’s faith but it is just not true without religion there is no why. If the why is referred to why are we here, then there is an anwer, or no anwer, with or without believing in a God. To say religion does not breed violence, please explain the whys in Northern Ireland, the Muslim vs. Christian wars, the Christian persecution of the Jews, the bombing of abortion clinics by the Christian right, and the brutality of the Talibans and the Saudis against certain elements of their society.Even if it is true that religion does not breed violence, may I suggest monotheistic religions do breed violence. When you, and you alone, have the ultimate truth, why bother to listen to anything else of anyone else? Or perhaps it is not monotheistic religion, but religions that think they have a responsibility to “save” or “convert” others to their only truth instead of just practicing their truth themselves.

  • observer12

    Steviana-Of course, religion causes violence. R. Wolpe’s nice, even facile, distinction is between ultimate and proximate causality.From Wikipedia:In philosophy a proximate cause is an event which is closest, or immediately responsible, for causing some observed result. This exists in contrast to a higher-level ultimate cause (or distal cause) which is usually thought of as the “real” reason something occurred.

  • Issa1

    Which god is everyone talking about?They myst be fighting amoung themselvesIsa

  • Issa1

    Which god is everyone talking about?They myst be fighting amoung themselvesIsa

  • kunino

    Without at all denigrating the writer’s faith, I still think his argument is shallow virtually to the point of bigotry. Like him a believer in one God, I have lived intimately in Asian societies without this belief, and found families there just as noble as any in Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities. They care for others, care for their societies, care for their families, care for the environment, all pretty much the same as we do. And in my experience, they’;re extremely tolerant of people who like me, believe differently. I value highly their expression for being Christian. Christians are those who follow Jesus.I recall the day a pair of young children came home abubble with excitement because some foreign Christian missionaries had given them small paper bags that included coloring-in books telling Bible stories, crayons, and some candies.Their grandfather expressed displeasure about this, explaining to me that if Christians believe they have a story to tell, they should tell it. Strangers offering candy to small children are a different breed of person entirely.Grandfather and family could all be described accurately as godless. This grandfather did not deny the young girls the joy of their unexpected gifts — but he warned them carefully of the dangers of taking candy from strangers. I felt humbled. The young girls are now kiddle-aged mothers. Decent persons, and not Christians.

  • remarkjd

    Ironically, some Christian believers are certain that Rabbi Wolpe is going to burn in hell for eternity if he continues to deny Jesus as his personal savior. Likewise, some Muslims sincerely believe Rabbi Wolpe is destined for damnation for being an infidel. What if their version of God turns out to be the correct one? I think Rabbi Wolpe would much prefer oblivion and the “blank face” of the universe to perpetual fire and brimstone. Be careful what you wish for.Some may argue that God would never punish a nice fellow like Rabbi Wolpe for mistakenly choosing the wrong religion. However, God did permit the Holocaust to occur (and He did a lot of horrible, vengeful and capricious things in the holy books), so we can’t be so sure of His benevolence, fairness and mercy.As for me, I’ll take the blank face of the universe. Relgion is a comfort to many, but wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so.

  • Farnaz2

    Oberserver:”Of course, religion causes violence. R. Wolpe’s nice, even facile, distinction is between ultimate and proximate causality.”There you have it. Thee are, of course, all kinds of religious beliefs, and it is true that if one looks at some countries that have warred with each other, she will find a couple in which religion, as we define it, didn’t figure. Aggression was justified on the basis of something akin to race, akin to. Was whatever factor this was the ultimate cause of the conflict? No, of course not. Religion is an ism in a complex of isms. It can be wedded to patriarchy, economy, nationhood, etc. Alternatively, it may not be. Each sociohistorical situation is different. What, therefore, is the point of all this? Religion lite.

  • barbnc

    God is an imaginary friend for adults.

  • ShalomFreedman

    I am surprised at the anger and often the abusiveness of many of those who comment on Rabbi Wolpe’s thoughts.

  • Farnaz2

    ShalomFreedman:I think many have been empathic and wholeheartedly wished R. Wolpe well. To empathize with him in his illness, to desire the best for him and his family, doesn’t require that we accept his argument, or lack thereof.

  • MarcMyWords

    Every powerful group has it’s spin and the church is no exception. There is a disturbing tendency in America to equate belief in God with belief in religion. The two could not be more different.Religion is an invention of mankind, no ifs, ands or buts about it. It was men who decided the dogma, built the churches, and established that all important organizational chart that puts priests, preachers, rabbis, etc at the top of their self proclaimed spiritual hierarchy, and of course wrote all the “holy” books whether they want to admit it or not.Meanwhile the fact we exist of all is evidence of a creative force that is God.

  • MPatalinjug

    Yonkers, New YorkI can only sympathize with David Wolpe, the author of this essay, for the terrible personal tragedies he and his wife have gone through in their lives.In this essay’s last paragraph, he says:”Both my wife and I are reminded each day of what we cherish. Our experience with cancer led us not to doubt but to gratitude, not to question God’s goodness but to affirm God’s love.”Let David Wolpe be completely free, because of his and his wife’s experience with cancer, “not to question God’s goodness but to affirm God’s love.”I seriously think, however, that this is gratitude that is misplaced.Thanking “God,” who had absolutely nothing to do with anything about their afflictions, instead of these doctors who had everything to do with them, is to me the height of ingratitude–if not delusion.But David Wolpe is not alone in his delusional state of mind. Normally, people who get afflicted with a serious disease appeal to a transcendental power higher than the medical doctors are in a position to provide, through prayers.Let a God-fearing human being with a serious form of cancer or other serious illness refuse to see a doctor, and just resort to non-stop prayers to his “God” for a remission or a cure. Now, tell me, David Wolpe: What are the chances of that human being getting a remission or a cure?Mariano Patalinjug

  • JudgeAlan

    a rabbi is a title for a person who like a priest should have been a better student in school.

  • CHICO13

    The internet is a cold Godless place. Comments like the one from judgeallen and others are here to remind us of that. Priests and Rabbi’s are called to do God’s work by a force greater than they’ll ever understand or imagine. There is another story of the persecuted at a concentration camp in WWII. As two jews in the thousands stood and witnessed German guards killing and torturing one of their brothers one of the men dropped to his knees and began to pray. His friend said “God cannot help us now”. The man said “I’m not asking for God’s help I’m giving him thanks”. The friend said “What can you possibly be thankful for? ” The man said “I am thankful I’m not that German”I’m thankful for my faith and I’ll pray for all of those who choose to spout hate and ridicule here.

  • James10

    Christians that affirm God’s love say you’re going to hell for all eternity because you don’t accept Jesus Christ. Is it God’s love that destines you to eternal damnation? Hanging around a couple of extra years is more important to God than eternal damnation? God must have a very poor sense of “time”.I’ve lost some Jewish friends of late. Actually, I left them. I found that they didn’t care about the Polish Christians that died in the Holocaust; nor the Lithuanians, nor the Romas, nor the 50 million others that died in WWII. They don’t care about the dying in Darfur. They know of Anne Frank but the don’t know the names of those that hid and fed Anne Frank’s family in that factory attic. Israeli law prohibits the use the IDF to protect anyone but a Jew? Does that affirm God’s love? Israel has never supported a UN peacekeeping mission. They’ve been asked; they won’t. They say they could change the law but don’t. Does that affirm God’s love? Read your own article, it’s not about God. It’s about Auschwitz, it’s about you, your wife, your daughter. You think because you and your wife have cheated death for a short time, that affirms God’s love? Re; “…turning our souls to God can improve our lives and help to heal the world. “When Israel dropped a million cluster bombs on the civilian population of Lebanon, what did you do to “help heal the world.”?For tens of thousands of years some men [or women] have died earlier or later than others. That’s the way it is. When you flip a coin, sometimes it comes up heads, sometimes it comes up tails. On occasion, if you flip a coin long enough, you’ll get a string of 14 tails. It happens. There is no big “Why?”, it statistically happens. Why do you feel the need for having anything bigger than that? The Redskins didn’t win this weekend because God loves them better. Why don’t religions have armies that insert themselves to stop the genocide in Darfur. Why didn’t the religions of the world step up with armies to stop the genocide in Rwanda, Cambodia, or Darfur? Perhaps they’re more worried about their collection plates?

  • tbrucia

    The comment, ‘Religion is less in grand theological declarations than in everyday kindnesses; in hymns and help and hope…’ says it all. Atheists (like me) who believe in kindness, song, helping folks, and hoping things ‘work out’ don’t need faith. Charity (the Golden Rule) trumps the emptiness of faith and its theological declarations. Maybe that’s why I feel more sympathy for Buddhism, which is simply a technology for dealing with pain and suffering, than with the monotheistic religions with their paternalistic monarch who watches it all and simply watches, indifferent. I suppose I could have faith in a Grand Tyrant who made and sustains cholera, typhus, yellow fever, malaria, and so on, but I find it more believable that such a horror doesn’t exist, and that we simply are alone here. And then there is the suggestion of Camus and other humanist existentialists that if there is meaning in the world, it is humans who must put it there!

  • ashleybone

    Officermancuso,I apologize if this has been hashed to death on here already, but in response to your first post while I agree that the idea of an orderly universe that can be described is an assumption, there remains a very important difference between that idea and the idea of gods. That difference is, put simply, track record.The very fact that science *has* been successful in describing the universe is evidence that the universe is indeed orderly on some level. Perhaps not all levels – we may hit some wall where science no longer functions. But thus, far no such wall has been found.In that sense, the “scientific assumption” is quite different from belief in a god or gods. You may, as I do, lack belief in any gods and still embrace life and fear not the “blank face of the universe”. If you reject the assumption that the universe exhibits order, then you’re not only rejecting centuries of formal scientific success, but also the “small science” that each of us uses every single day to make sense of the world around us. You should start considering that your dryer may make your clothes wet.

  • stantheman1

    This premise is flawed, or at least badly written. Whether there is objectively a god or not, which no one knows, there can still be a why. Why is a question, not an answer. People have always asked why – Why are we here? Why do we suffer? And in fact the ANSWER they have come up with, in just about every culture in history, is a god, or gods. Mr Wolpe says that the greatest terror is the universe presenting us with a blank face. I believe that the universe DOES present to us a blank face, and that because of their deep need for meaning, humans have projected their own faces onto that blankness and called it God.

  • ashleybone

    A couple of more responses:Officermancuso,I just wanted to say that I hope my last post didn’t come off snarky or belittling in any way. I very much appreciate your tone and respect for other posters. We may not agree on some things, but I’m pretty sure we’d get along just fine.Pies2go, observer12:Thanks for your kind words. To observer12 in particular, I think you and I are pretty much in agreement. I see the assumption of intent as a piece of our basic survival instincts. Assuming that the noise you heard behind you in the bush is some malevolent force that wishes you harm is a much better survival strategy than thoughtfully examining its source. Unfortunately, that same assumption is a lousy way to determine the truth.

  • wj03412000

    The amount of hatred that these little people display on these message boards always amazes me. They obviously put a lot of time and effort into their nasty little ramblings about how religious people are “retarded” or superstitous or whatever.Personally I am somewhat of an agnostic. I don’t have this gnawing insecurity that requires me to belittle believers.Small people indeed.

  • xSamplex

    The title of this says it all. Without god, there is no why.In other words, because we are so impressed with our own importance, there must be a “why”, ergo there must be a god.Humans should be humble enough to accept that existence doesn’t owe us a “why”. Let’s grow up and explore our potentials while we are alive. As our species evolves, perhaps the infantile belief in an unknowable, unseeable super being will be properly relegated to the realm of fantasy and superstition.

  • Garak

    Without science there is no How.

  • rudedog46

    Science has answered more ‘whys’ and emancipated more souls than any follower of an imagined god. Sorry that your emotional response is to claim that there is no ‘why’ without faith- but I personally find that conclusion childish at best.

  • bevjims1

    The notion that without belief in God, or any god, there is no “why” is just silly. Do you think atheists have not gone through the dark experience you went through? What you need to consider is how an atheist handles such an experience. They do not start talking to spirits. They usually start reading up on their disease, getting to know it almost better than the doctors. Learning how to fight it. They also experience the love and caring of friends and family, those who believe and atheists alike. The one thing I have learned is that at times of life and death issues you cannot tell a believer from a non-believer. At such times, like at a car accident, the real person comes out, and religious background has little to do with how people act.I witnessed a car accident where a woman with 3 small children, none in seatbelts, slammed into a jerseywall at high speed. I was on the other side of the highway and stopped as did many other people. I got out and ran to the car which was on its side. I could see the driver unconscious and the children laying all which way. I started asking for help to get into the car. No one came forward. Everyone just stood about 30 feet away watching. Were they all believers or all atheists? I assume most were believers since our society is majority believer. But these people stood back. I finally got the back hatch open and a child ran out. One woman who had just arrived ran to catch the child before she ran into the highway. A few others started stepping forward to take the other kids, all in surprisingly good shape. The driver, who we later learned was the nanny taking the kids to daycare, had a large gash on her forehead. I helped her out of the car and sat her next to the jerseywall. Just then a man came rushing over with a medical bag. He was an EMT on his way to work. What luck. Soon afterward the police and ambulance were arriving so I was getting ready to leave and as I was heading back to the car saw the driver shaking her finger at the children saying “next time we all wear seatbelts!”. That and other similar incidents which involve quick decisions have lead me to conclude that religion plays little in how people act or how they face traumatic events. When the Air Florida plane crashed into the frozen Potomac there was a man standing on the shore watching a female survivor trying to reach the shore. She was only about 30 feet away. The man was yelling encouragement to her to keep swimming but he saw her slip below the water. In spite of the freezing water he jumped in and swam to her and brought her to shore saving her life. Later when reporters interviewed him they asked the usual question of what made him jump in the freezing water, risking his own life. He said he simply could not watch her die. Whether he was a man of religion or not I never learned, but what I have learned is that religion plays little in what makes people react this way or not. We recently learned of the heroism in Shezuan provence in China after the earthquake, even among children. We hear about heroism in all parts of the world, from people of all faiths and no faith. It is human to help others and it is also human to show indifference. Religion does little to change how people act or face dispair, show charity or instinctively help others. If it did we would see the results on a large scale. For example christian countries being less violent than say buddist or muslim countries, or showing greater amounts of charity, but we do not see that. The good and bad in humanity is exhibited everywhere by people of all faiths, so atheists have to wonder, just what is the point of religion if it shows so little in the way of results, and, as with the rabbi’s own religion documents, has been used as a reason for starting wars.

  • Carstonio

    “All that’s needed to get past that argument – and it is a powerful argument no matter how you look at it – is belief in a creator who created morally free agents, and regarded that creation as a greater good than a creation full of automatons.”Mancuso, that argument is merely a set of baseless assumptions. We cannot assume that our free agency was the work of a creator, and we cannot assume that such a creator regarded free agency as a greater good.And with respect to Billy’s point, we also cannot assume that a creator is either responsible for suffering or has the power to prevent it.The real issue is that ALL ideas about gods or creators equate to assumptions. While it’s possible that such beings exist, no idea about their natures is any more valid or testable than any other idea.

  • Carstonio

    “One might just as well posit that God created us but for no reason whatsoever. Maybe He did it just ‘because’. “Or maybe there is a god but the god had no role at all in creating humans.

  • ahashburn

    “Without God, there is no why. “Oh, there’s a why, it is just based upon scientific fact instead of superstition, that’s all.

  • Snowjack

    Just one sinner representing for Jesus in this lion’s den. Any other believers out there?How many of you guys debating Rabbi Wolpe’s views have actually read the book?

  • paultaylor1

    So you are saying cancer, and all mankind’s worldly ills, are a measure of God’s love for us? Ummmm… this is certainly one out of the playbooks of conservative self-flagellating “tough love.” It seems to take from the violent ethos of the Old Bible. And it is something I will let the psychologists and philosophers think about. In my own experience it is impossible to reason with others who are adept and stubborn enough at rationalizing their own precarious fundamentals.A thinking person has a lot to understand in this world. There is even the question of why one’s cherished god can or has to exist, since one has also to wonder what created any god in the first place. Not to mention why all mankind’s gods exist in a realm unknown to all human senses except the dimension of the imagination. Which clearly needs rationalizing…

  • DMZ1

    Rabbi Volpe:I can empathize directly with your experience of cancer. My wife of 37 years died in December from ovarian cancer. Since january, I have been diagnosed with and treated for two different forms of cancer. I was lucky and am now cancer-free, my wife is dead.Not once during the 3 1/2 year nightmare that is my recent life did I or my wife ever ask the question why. Merely asking the question is nothing more than woe is me, self pitying crap. There is no why – it is what it is.My wife was stage 4+ at diagnosis – a death sentence. Yet, she endured the unendurable, and she had more than two years of quite good life. Her focus was always on the life she had, not the life she was going to lose. In spite of her illness and my sadness and frustration, they were two years of great joyI am an atheist and my wife was an atheist. We did not need superstitious nonsense to help us deal with our situation. We simply lived each day to the max and accepted that that was the best we could do.In the end, I found your essay mildly offensive, but I do wish you well on your personal journey.DZ

  • tedjulinski

    There is another set of explanations of why someone gets cancer, a child dies, or a country gets struck by a Tsunami. From a Buddhist perspective there are five natural laws that govern the universe from the heavenly to the hell realms. Spiritual laws where for instance good is rewarded and evil is punished. Physical laws which govern the universe. Natural laws which govern natural selection and so forth. The laws of mind, which is the measure of all things. Finally the laws of karma where one is the recipient of the results of their intentional actions. Add to this the laws of man. Only a saint or enlightened being can deconvolve the nexus of these laws which influence a specific cause and effect. Further in the realms of heaven there are vast creator gods, who at the beginning of a world system, awake. Upon awakening they have the illusion that they created the universe. Buddhists do not question a first cause, only suffering, its cause, its transcendence and the path leading to the end of suffering.

  • ashleybone

    Snowjack,I have not read it. I’m posting in response to his article, which is what this forum is for. I don’t think his book was a prerequisite for participation here.Having read many, many apologetics over the years, I’m pretty doubtful that Mr. Wolpe brings anything new to the table. I say this simply because I haven’t seen anything new in an apologetic work in years. If someone here could present from his book a truly original argument for belief, one that hasn’t been hashed (and, frankly, dismantled) over for decades or centuries, I’d be willing to pick it up.

  • vsylvestre

    Somehow the author doesn’t get his point across very well. Claiming that without God there is no why is, well, a meaningless statement. Claiming that the injustice in the world can be explained away with “in God there is a why” also is a rather useless expression, or does it imply the author deserved to survive and another didn’t?

  • ans15

    Rabbi David J Wolpe – “Why Faith Matters”