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A Humanistic Jew, Controversial? Nope, not at all. In fact it makes perfect sense. Judaism is more of a culture and a way of life than a Religion. So it would make sense for a Jew not to believe in a God. But if there is no God, is the Universe an empty void? Or, are we a part of it just as it is a part of us, each dependant on the other.

A humanistic Jew probably follows at least one or more belief systems. These can include naturalism, the scientific method, free will, etc. And, add to that a moral base and Jewish identity-culture. Now, what about a regular plane old humanist? Well, a humanist believes in what human being can do to understand and improve the world around them. These include improving health and medical care, providing a constant, uncontaminated supply of food and water, and of course comfortable living conditions.

One famous individual who indeed reflected many humanist beliefs in order to save his own country and people was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was a man that promoted non-violence and human equality. He made sure to strongly express to all of his followers that “An eye for an eye only leaves the whole world blind.” He made sure to express that the caste system would not bring peace to India; that people need to accept their differences and appreciate each other. He was a humanist with a Hinduistic view. All he wanted was the world to see that men of different social positions and different backgrounds could live together. Unfortunately, in the end he was killed by men who would not situate well with other common people. Sadly, the world still sees an eye for an eye and that is what has left us all blind.

Gandhi was a Hindu.  His belief system included an idea of God and the creation of the universe. However, this did not prevent him from considering how humans could interact with the world and make it a better place. According to some of the ideas of Hinduism, Mok’sha (the greater Self or God) is in the highest sense One and nondifferentiated from the world.  So the idea of God and the idea of self, or human, can be looked at as one in the same.

Let’s go back to one of those belief systems that can be considered part of humanism - naturalism. This planet is the only one that holds life for us, and this is the only life we will know. Now, what is the point of slowly choking and suffocating our only source of living?  We all know that some day the sun will go red giant and destroy half the planets in the star system. Earth is one of the planets in its range. Are we only meant to survive through this span of time before everything just collapses and reality ends up ripping itself apart, leaving only a space of nothing?  Would there be absolutely nothing? It is difficult for most humans to contemplate and it hurts me to even try and comprehend such a thing. Consider how the universe began, not the physical Big Bang, but the beginning of perception and reality.. How did these things come into existence?  Was there only a blank space with nothing in it, no rules, no nothing, just a span of infinite nothing (farther then the eye can see)? Now, my question is, how can something spring forth from totally nothing? My answer to that is that it was an accident. A Hindu might conjecture that some unknown force brought the world into existence. Hinduism recognizes that, in Brahman, all reality is a unity. That the universe can be considered one divine entity that is simultaneously at one with the universe and beyond it. Perhaps, instead of Mok’sha, reality itself had a dream and from that dream came forth a being known as the universe. The universe was the perfect living being. It was immortal, intelligent, able to think and comprehend. It was THE perfect being. But of course, now all you had was this empty space and this universe. Of course it would be lonely. That is why I believe it went to sleep and started to dream. It started to wonder, “What should I do with all this space?” Well if it was all lonely, why not bring another living being into this universe. So it went to sleep into this dream state and is now running scenarios in its head to create a perfect living world.

Pardon me if I digress, but this whole idea came to me in Perspectives class, and I just started to look out the window. I saw the sky, the clouds, and the parked cars. Then I started to wonder, “If the universe started with an explosion of molecules and atoms, then how did those come into existence.” I constantly repeated it in my head. “If this started, that then how did that begin?” I finally got to the point of a blank space of reality. Each day I constantly thought how I could expand on this idea throughout many of my classes, especially Bio, and started coming up with my own “Genesis of reality as we know it.”

I believe the universe has already finished one phase. It went through and put together all these basic laws that must be followed and that can’t ever be broken. The laws of gravity, inertia, evolution, etc. The universe created these laws so that life can work at its level and be at a level of equality with the universe. Then it created a suitable living place for this life form when it was created, Earth. Now all it needs to do is complete this living being. Now this living being would have to be the closest to itself so it can actually come in contact with it. So I guess the first life form it came up with was bacteria. It was a very small thing that had no thinking capability or really any other systems. It was nothing like the universe. Soon it moved onto insects. Aha! They had arms legs heads and organs! But they didn’t think; they reacted on pure instinct. So this animal did not suit the universe. Soon the universe created dolphins. Wow! They could think and communicate! They were intelligent life forms. Yet they did not resemble what the universe was. Finally it created humans. The humans were able to think and comprehend, and we were able to communicate. It was perfect! Almost. Humans are part of the universe, but as in Hinduism, like Brahman, they are also beyond it.  We as humans are in conflict with the universe when we see ourselves as separate from it, and often we end up in conflict with each other because we see ourselves as separate from others.

Gandhi once said, when asked what he thought of Western civilization, “I think it would be a good idea.” Maybe what he was referring to was the conflict and struggle that we as humans experience all the time, particularly in our modern culture. Eventually, as humanists, we may find that place of “civilization” where we stop the violent struggle. Perhaps, as Jews, we can use our cultural knowledge to provide a comfortable base from which we can venture into the unknown. When that time comes, this form of reality may well have come to its end. Then the universe will take all the knowledge of what it was dreaming about, which is also what we have dreamed and created, and create a new Earth, and on it the perfect life form. And, perhaps, the universe will be happy, and it will finally have someone to communicate with more perfectly, more peacefully and with the potential for even greater things.

Tue, March 28 2023 6 Nisan 5783