Why I Choose to Be an Orthodox Jew – The Alternatives [Part 2/3]
In a first post, I wrote I chose to be an Orthodox Jew, focusing mainly on belief in a Creator. How does that get me from Creator –> this particular belief system?
In part 2 below I will discuss which alternatives do not fit this criteria – they either do not provide a positive purpose for this world in which I am in and/or do not fit with observable reality where I find myself.
In part 3, I will discuss why Judaism fits into the criteria I used as my basis for part 2.
First, I think it’s true that belief in a Creator does not fully satisfy an answer to a question of “then what? Isn’t there also some sort of end that way?” The physical world ends in heat death … if I survive on forever with my soul or return to the infinite … then what? For this I refer to things I’ve heard in the name of the Ari Z”l, a kabbalist, and the RamChal, a would-be kabbalist who died at 39 years of age.
In order for the infinite to truly be infinite, that infinite needs a finite part. The physical is that finite part and has within it all sorts of very big and complex things … the concept of hate and the concept of suffering being some of them. One cannot perfect oneself if one is never given the chance to do so. We are part and also the same as the Creator, in different senses. One can spend one’s life dedicated to a certain profession or study, and that’s fine, but even better is to couple and connect back.
An atheist once argued to me that this is no different than the physical world … one goes around in circles. Maybe true, but I’ll choose the biggest and most meaningful circle – the infinite one and not the limited duration timeline one.
Referring back to the first sentence of the earlier article on What to Live For, I choose to live for something positive. This rules out arguments like the “reverse Pascal wager” which posits that maybe the Creator created us with a test not to believe and those who do will see punishment. No one actually believes such a thing … they just use it to try and win arguments.
As a starting point we also have to look at how the world is. If you want to start with, “If there was a G_d, then X would be different…” you lost me. You are pre-supposing that G_d wouldn’t create the world this way. I don’t pre-suppose such things, and again, such arguments are academic. I want to make a choice how to live my life based on what I observe and what gives meaning within the observable system I call my life.
This also involves intellect which says there is something more in order to achieve greater meaning and purpose. Even evolutionary theory points to this – evolution states that things get more sophisticated … we seek intellect and the majority of humans seek out and believe in a Creator. Animals, as far as we know have no such ability.
As amply covered already, scientific inquiry and discovery not in the context of a world with a Creator is meaningless and purposeless. I want better than a Camus-type answer of something along the lines of learning to like pushing a rock up a hill to watch it come back down. Where is there meaning beyond working to eat food have the energy to work again? Further, where is this a positive way to live.
Buddhism was out for me pretty quickly. It’s founded by someone who, the story goes, engaged in flagellation and sat under a tree deciding that the world is suffering and he most escape. Nope – this is a negative world that I’m living in and the best I can hope for is escape from it? Not for me.
Hinduism actually holds a bit of appeal to me … if one finds a very monotheistic version.
Then there are the Judaism-descended beliefs. Christianity was supposed to supplant Judaism. Islam and Mormonism were supposed to supplant Christianity. Ba’hai was supposed to supplant Islam. Each of these has factions and sects and the like. All this proves is that Judaism has a really, really good foundation for which a whole lot of people and beliefs can use to try and claim some legitimacy. Further, it’s not really logical for the Creator to give an eternal instruction book that gets replaced with another one saying to do different things.
Yes, I know, each replacement theology will have it’s arguments … second coming, man corrupted the stuff before, or that sort of thing. Even if you say that, you still have to contend with things like most people being destined for eternal suffering, the ability to do terrible things and be “saved” because you say you believe the right thing, and so forth. Each of these, not coincidentally, also thinks that the rest of the world is supposed to believe like them. If so, then why don’t you see that in the observable world? I’m just supposed to believe this other guy because he tells he has faith in iteration 2, sub part 33 of the replacement theology and not the other guy with faith in iteration 4, sub part 5? No thanks. None of this fits either of my requirements – a) positive, b) fits with the observable world.
This brings me to why Judaism fits the test – it’s positive and fits with the observable world. It is positive in this world, here and now. It provides the ability and guidance to live within this world. It also provides a spiritual existence with meaning transcending this life alone.