In Search of Absolute Truth

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Being raised as an atheist, I had too many questions that atheism simply could not answer.

One of the examples: Why am I me? Why do I feel myself as I? Who am I? I was not asking about the personal details such as name, gender, nationality, talents and character traits, family relationships etc. I was asking about the ability to feel the universe as myself. Who is that I? Why was I created altogether? Why was the universe created?  Science could not answer these questions. As the world-renowned physicist Brian Greene states in his article in Scientific American: “Science is very good at answering the ‘how’ questions. How did the universe evolve to the form that we see? But it is woefully inadequate in addressing the ‘why’ questions. Why is there a universe at all?” Also, since I love science I knew that our world is a very harmonious and orderly place. For those who are not familiar with science, it will be easier for me to bring a quote from a scientific authority such as Albert Einstein on the matter: “Your question [about God] is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.”( From an interview published in 1930 in G. S. Viereck‘s book Glimpses of the Great)

The only creature who is capable of bringing havoc into this harmony is a human. This quality is not his physical characteristics but his perception of the world and actions that follow this perception. The great Jewish sage Maimonides stated that humans are the only representatives of all living things that are themselves learning good and evil, and are choosing what to do from that study without obstacles.

Having all of these in mind, I was looking for the answers everywhere. If everything is so harmonious in the physical sense in the universe, it seemed logical to me that if I had a question there should be an answer. However, understanding how unimportant, though very complex we are compared to the universe, I had enough humility to realize that we could not possibly possess the knowledge of it. We don’t even know how to use our brain 100% (This one actually casts many doubts on the theory of evolution since the capacity of the human brain significantly surpasses the need of survival. But this should be in a different post).

The only possible answer that was given from without is religion. Yet there are so many of them! Which one to choose? Being raised in a completely assimilated environment, I first turned to astrology and to a church as a leading spiritual influence on the culture in the country I lived in then. Astrology satisfied me to a certain degree. Although being very structural, it still did not answer the WHY questions. Christianity appeared to me as a beautiful fairy tale that had little to do with the complexity of human nature and expected the not so perfect people to behave as angels. Plus both Islam and Christianity are trying to claim the truth that was already stated before. And surely a secondary source loses to a primary one – Judaism. Jews, on the other hand, still survive and flourish spiritually nowadays despite all the persecutions, whereas the mighty empires who tried to destroy them vanished. So the choice was made and now I practice Orthodox Judaism.

So what about the question of evil that exists in the universe? Why is it needed? I already hinted at it above. Humans are given the important role to be partners in creation and that’s why we have freedom of choice. All of these choices have meaning only from the human perspective as I already stated. However you can’t change people around.  You can only decide for yourself and maybe influence others, but you can’t make decisions for them.  For example, there were people who in incredible circumstances of social pressure in Germany during the Holocaust went against the rulers and made their choice by saving the Jews, risking their own lives.  They were in the minority, but this shows exactly that we do have freedom of choice.  There are many more examples but I will limit myself with one here due to the extensive length of the post.

As for why G-d needs evil in the universe, I can only tell you that even though I sincerely believe I was created by Him, I definitely will not claim that I can understand Him and read His mind. It says in Torah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” To understand such a difficult concept to a certain degree, I can refer you to the great piece of science fiction “Solaris” by Stanislav Lem.

I will also quote here from Leonard Susskind, the co-founder of string theory. He suggested getting rid of the term” reality” altogether. Because, he says:”The problem is that what people tend to mean by “reality” has more to do with biology and our neural architecture than it has to do with physics itself. We’re prisoners of our own neural architecture. We can visualize some things but can’t visualize other.” So the inability to understand G-d simply lies within our boundaries and limitations while for Him there are no such things. He gave us laws to follow so we will be able to choose the right path. However, we do believe that the ultimate time of pure harmony and absolute good will manifest itself here soon with the coming of Messiah, the king of the final redemption. It states in Mishna: “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the entire life of the World to Come. And one hour of bliss in the World to Come is better than the entire life of this world.” That basically means that yes, we all waiting with anticipation for these moments of the Messianic time since it is very painful to see bad things happening in the world. However, we also will miss this time because now we are partners in creation through choosing good or evil. Then there will be no choice anymore, since the choice can’t be made when everything is pure and only good .

Now this is Judaism and my own perspective on the matter. I am not trying to persuade anyone to follow me. I am simply answering a request from an acquaintance of mine to explain myself on this topic. I am open to questions on this subject.

P.S. And yes, people from  religious community are still people therefore have freedom of choice as well.  It implies that they also can make mistakes. The difference between them and people from secular world is that they have easier access to the laws that help to make a right choice.  However  what kind of choices people make  is solely up to them.

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8 thoughts on “In Search of Absolute Truth

  1. shirah malka says:

    Really beautifully articulated and well thought out. I think the analogy of the child is spot on. I too can relate relate to the thoughts of the atheist since I too was one….or so I thought. Apparently the definition of an atheist as I found out later on, is one who has studied all there is to learn and after all that has concluded that they don’t believe it. I realized I had not studied all there was but once I began, it became clear to me that there is definitely a bigger picture to consider.
    I would also continue upon your thought of the purpose for the laws as given by Gd for us to choose the right path. As you mentioned above, our limitations are a result of our neural perception and this can be altered by the ‘work’ we put into it. These laws, as explained in Torah, which govern and sustain the universe are in fact precisely ‘the path’ by which Gd has illuminated for us to pass out of our boundaries and limitations in order to come out to a much bigger playing field-namely where G enables us to know Him on His terms. How? Because we are of Him and therefor just as we can know and be responsible for the creatures of this world, as it is stated Adam (the first man) KNEW the name of all the creatures and named them, since within him, lay all their characteristics and therefor he could totally identify with them. So too lay within each man/woman Gdly characteristics. Therefore once we begin to pass out from our created limitations we begin to identify and intimately relate to Him Who has given these laws and created everything in the universe, Not only to make the ‘right choices in our limited fragmented life but In Order for Us to Know Him.

    .

    • Thanks, Shira, for you evaluation and input! I just wanted to note the right choices are right when we do His Will! Not what we want but what He wants from us! ))

  2. I have added a new post on my thoughts on some things you touched on. Apologies for the delay but it is now up.

    Sam

    • I picked at your post. Didn’t read it thoroughly yet. I’ll do it when I will be available and it might take for a while as we are in the end of school year that usually very hectic time. The impression from your post that you are very compassionate person and you have good questions)) However I need to read the whole article. Regards)

    • Thoughts as I am reading
      First of all when you start your argumentation on the topic with ridiculing your opponent it mainly says about you more then about your adversary. Second, with this manner to talk, you sound no less intolerant and fanatical than members of religious communities you are fighting against. They are at their war you are at your. That’s the only difference between you and them.))
      You are treating G-d as a human being, this is your another great mistake that is coming from arrogance, excuse me. Read the book I recommended to you if Einstein was not sufficient enough:” Solaris” by Stanislav Lem. This is science fiction book. Besides the great plot it gives lots of food for thought.
      One more problem I found while I was reading your post : your approach to the free will.
      The free will you are given in order to decide how to behave in certain circumstances you find yourself not that you are waking up in the morning looking at today’s menu and choose your portion for a day.
      Finding among your quotes the name of Sam Harris tells a lot. I might be wrong but my impression is that you found a guru for yourself and blindly following him as even your style reminisces his.
      I’ll continue to read and let you know about my other thoughts on your post.

      • My main concern with this comment is that you feel there is little difference between my ‘war’ and their/ your ‘war’. My arguments will always be non violent, as I am sure are yours. But this cannot be said for all religious followers.

      • The person can be violent verbally though. I hope you agree. That’s what I meant: you are trying to fight religion and who said it always will be not violent physically ? Often it is opposite. One leads to another.
        Also in reality I do believe that when you need to protect and defend people’s lives you can be violent in response. I am talking only about the situations when it was direct violence and aggression towards people. Then I think not only you could but should be defensive. Look, animals do learn how to kill from a young age BUT only for two reasons: to obtain food and protect themselves, their young or their territory etc. ONLY humans have a freedom of choice: to behave as they’ve been created (in the image of G-d) or behave much lower than animals. Animals don’t have freedom of choice. They don’t kill others and themselves because of hatred.This is what Torah teaches us when says that the man was created the last: from one hand he is a crown of creation, if he will choose to be, or he is lower than the smallest and the most insignificant creature because he was created after it, again if it will be his choice. All evil in this world can come only from humans as I already stated many times. Not from religion though from the very human nature no matter religious or atheist. There are two ways to choose from as I already mentioned above and we see the results. The evil still exists and it mixed with good in our world that’s why it is often difficult for people to see clear what is right and what is wrong. I believe that only Torah can help people to see and hold onto the Truth.

      • What about those who are carrying out terror attacks, whilst thinking they are doing good? Some people who have the potential to be moral are brainwashed by religion and various verses to carry out violent attacks because they feel those who don’t believe are the enemy. This is religions doing, although like you said it’s down to humans, and humans created religion. So I guess we agree there.

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