Why Believe in God at All?
(Belief in God in a God-denying Age)
by Michael E. Dallen
One day, people will look back on history and wonder how anyone could not believe in God, HaShem.
As science advances, people encounter a constantly accumulating array of facts bringing more knowledge of God to man. Most scientists, contrary to popular opinion, are not godless. (Some of them also have a better idea than most people of how confident, but wrong, people have been in the past.)
The "best minds," for thousands of years, rejected the concept of God's creation of the universe ex nihilo - from nothing. They had other idea. But perhaps he biggest thing to come out of modern science since World War II is the scientific validation of God's creation of the Universe ex nihilo (in Hebrew, yesh me-ayin, "something out of nothing"), or "the Big Bang."
This item came out much more recently:
Two "very well-conceived studies," reported in the journal Science, that a "brain-building gene" which plays a crucial role in giving us all human intelligence first came on the scene "approximately 5,800 years ago." That was as close as they could date it. See The New York Times, Sept. 9, 2005, p. A-14.
The Torah teaches that the first true man, Adam (and his spouse, Eve), arrived on the scene 5,769 years ago. (2009 corresponds to the Hebrew calendar year 5769).
Scientists believe the gene has something to do with language, improving man's ability to process language and symbols. They are calling it the "Adam gene." See our newsletter: Covenant Connection, February_2006
The "best minds" in physics and chemistry long believed that there was "no room in the universe for God to act." Now, from studying quantum mechanics, the marvelously strange forces affecting subatomic particles, they know otherwise.
There is no god but He in Whom the people of Israel believe. - Muhammed, The Qur'an, Sura 10:90
See "El, God of Abraham," Covenant Connection, January 2008, about thinkers like Freud and Einstein and some of the "scientific" misinformation which convinced them to reject the God of their fathers.
Astronomy used to teach that the Earth was the center of the universe. Then it taught that the Earth was one of billions or trillions of planets sustaining intelligent life. Now most astronomers believe that the Earth is a very rare jewel - part of a planetary system far away from the x-rays and cosmic rays and interstellar catastrophes that make most solar systems dangerous. We are sheltered from comets and meteors by the gravity of our moon, and the asteroid belt beyond Mars, and then the gravity-heavy gas giant planets, Saturn and Jupiter, beyond Mars. Recently, astronomy found that, even beyond the furthest planets, dense swarms of smaller objects provide further protection, almost like a thick blanket wrapped around our solar system.
From the still-unfolding principles and laws of physics, from the nature of the 95% of the universe that scientists today know only as "dark matter," which we cannot yet even perceive, to the discoveries of archaeology and better understanding of God's Torah, from the principles of quantum mechanics to the facts revealed by astronomy, from submolecular biology to the teachings of the prophets: all of this will eventually help us know Him better.
Just in the last few years, archaeologists came across what looks like the foundations of the palace of David, King of Israel, in Jerusalem. The "best minds" in archaeology - that is, the conventional wisdom of the secular establishment that dominates academia - had been insisting for decades that the David of the Bible is purely a story-teller's invention! That no such place ever existed!
As science advances and people understand the universe better, we will laugh at the idea - the conventional wisdom of scholars, priests, theologians and other "experts" - that God isn't what He is: present and immanent, intimately involved with every human being while He also sustains every particle, force and atom in existence; transcendant, holy, eternal, kind, intelligent, compassionate, fair and just, self-aware, etc.
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the Commandments is Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is One Lord. - Christian Scripture, The Gospel According to Mark 12:29
Biologists have been saying lately that people seem to be created with a "God gene" which makes human beings yearn for transcendance, fills us with awe and makes us feel thankful, and - in general - encourages us to believe in either gods or God.
Since this is my, Michael Dallen's, essay, I get to speak personally here: that gene never switched on for me, as far as I know, until after I had concluded intellectually that the God of Israel is God. Before that, I didn't feel any great lack because I didn't believe in Him, I didn't feel bereft or pointless, I didn't feel any awe-filled tug on my heart from a higher power or powers. . . I began believing in God not out of faith but because logic, as it seemed to me, demanded it.
God reveals Himself to man, in a sense, in many different ways. One often says that the Hebrew Revolution has many "hooks." Torah scholars have long acknowledged that the Torah - God's Revelation to mankind - has seventy (70) different "faces."
The Bible itself teaches that God, HaShem, is the "God Who Hides" (Isaiah 45:15). The King of the Universe first "revealed" Himself to me, at any rate, through His actions in world history. Some people "see" Him" in the wonderful workings of the cosmos. Some "see" His acts in the sphere of biology, through the development of complex organisms (requiring multiple genes to "turn on" simultaneously in myriad creatures all the time - when even one such occurence would be incredibly unlikely).
I "saw" Him principally in the apparent patterns of reward and punishment and good and evil in the annals of humanity. I "saw" Him in the history of the Jews.
God, the Torah teaches, created the people of Israel to serve Him and the rest of the human race as His special "witnesses" in the world - as a more or less dependable central cadre of activists devoted to the truth of His Oneness. One can see God's hand, as it were, in the existence, survival, accomplishments - and the enemies - of the Jewish people.
These same . . . folk, from time almost immemorial, have been the chief dreamers of the human race, and beyond all comparison its greatest poets. - H.L. Mencken
The leading geographer of the ancient world was a Greek, Strabo. He was no friend of Israel. He wrote, near the start of the Common Era (that is, near the year one of the common era, at the end of B.C. or B.C.E. (before the common era)." These Jews have penetrated to every city, and it would not be easy to find a single place in the inhabited world which has not received this race [sic], and where it has not become master." Now:
1) the Jews are not a race - they are a people, a national or ethnic group, as well as a sacred society, but Jews are black, white, yellow, brown, red; the Jews include people of every race and from every nation (more or less).
How odd of God to choose the Jews - Lewis Browne
It's not so odd. The Jews chose God. - Leon Roth
2) People often speak of the great power of "the Jews." In Strabos' time, the Jews in the land of Israel lived under Roman tyrants. Jews elsewhere lived under every sort of legal disability. On the other hand, they tended to be good earners. More than nineteen centuries later, "the Jews" had risen to the very heights of world power, it was said, but they still couldn't help their brothers - one out of every three Jews in the world - from being murdered in Europe. With all that power, "the Jews" couldn't get even one country in the world to open its borders to their own relatives, people who were about to be murdered. Today, despite all "world Jewry's" mythic power, it doesn't seem to be sufficient to get exclusive possession even of the land of Israel, a piece of real estate smaller than New Jersey. Neither is it capable of keeping the Jews who live in Israel, particularly including the most helpless, civilian women, children and babies, safe from being maimed and killed by vicious zealots who want to create a world without Israel.
The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. - John Adams, second president of the United States
Despite persecution, the Jewish people have given the world quite a bit. If one includes some people who had only a Jewish father and not a Jewish mother (who therefore are not Jewish, unless they converted to Judaism) as well, of course, as people who converted to Judaism, no less than 22% of all winners of the Nobel Prize, for instance, come from Moses' "people of priests." 22% is quite a remarkable figure considering that the Jews number no more than 1/4 of 1% of the human race.
When checked against clear Bible prophecy, the peculiar role played by Israel in history and the accomplishments of the Jews among men since the invention of the alphabet (possibly including the invention of the alphabet) stands out. Moses declares that it's meant to. He tells Israel to carefully keep God's statutes and judgments:
For this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, that shall hear all these statutes and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. - Deuteronomy 4: 6
Which leads us to those statutes and judgments, the sublimity and utter righteous consistency and goodness of the Torah. The current conventional wisdom of the professorate insists that it was committees or a committee of men who gave us the Torah, that it was written by different people at different times and pasted together so as to present the Torah to the people of Israel, as part of a long-kept secret, deliberate fraud, as a supposedly God-given whole.
Academia posits that a a mysterious "Redactor" did the work, putting the various strands together and got his or her colleagues to ratify the whole, all while keeping the big secret. I accepted all that thinking but then I became an adult. I had watched committees deliberate and had served on committees - endless committees, as one recalls. No committee that I'd ever seen, no committee that I could imagine, could ever have done what academic orthodox opinion claimed it did. Never mind the impossibility of keeping the work - again, orthodox opinion holds the work to be a fraud, the passing off of a wholly man-made paste-up job as Moses' and ultimately God's - secret for generations.
One must consider the fundamental goodness, the amazing correctness, the depth and myriad different facets of the Torah and of the Bible generally. (One must approach it on its own terms. One must give it a chance. If you do give it a chance, if you go through it as you should, with a good rabbinic commentary. . .Other very great works, including Shakespeares' and Dante's, even if one approaches them with all sympathy, don't offer anything comparable to Torah.) And then, look at every other human attempt to speak in the name of the ultimate, of God or gods - the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, the Japanese, the Babylonians, the Hindus, the Persians, or even America's "Christian Scientists," not even getting into the scriptures of the Mormons, the New Testament of the Christians or the Quran of the Muslims - one sees the Torah's sublimity and recognizes the great difference.
The Jews were the only ones whose sacred Scriptures were held in ever greater veneration as they became better known. - Archbishop Jacques Benigne Bossuet
To have bound this New Testament, so completely rococo in taste, with the Old Testament into one book, as the Bible, is perhaps the greatest piece of audacity and "sin against the Holy Spirit" which literary Europe has on its conscience. - Friedrich Nietzshe
I wondered why the soldiers of Israel, according to the Torah, must be at least 20 years old. Surely that was a mistake, I thought: 17, 18, 19, why waste those good years of health, flexibility and aggressiveness? But the Torah teaches holiness, even in the context of war. Soldiers must often serve both day and night, and must stay awake since lives depend on it. A piece by George Orwell - not a big fan of the Torah or Bible - cleared up the mystery. The best age for a soldier began at 20, he wrote, because men younger than 20 fell asleep too easily. They needed sleep so badly that they fell asleep even while standing up, and sometimes even while marching. No discipline could prevent it, they simply had to sleep and would, he said. Once they reached the age of 20, one could generally count on them to keep awake.
I wondered about the Torah's prohibition of abortion, except in cases to save the life or health of the mother. Then I learned that the prohibition starts only 40 days after conception; before that the fetus-to-be is regarded as "mere water," or little more than a hairy egg. And a new study came out, which I read about in the papers: modern radiological imagining shows that a fetus acquires a neural network and its gender approximately 40 days after conception.
I wondered about the date the Torah gives for the creation of the first true human beings, 5,766 years ago (this is written on the 25th of Tishrei, according to the Hebrew calendar, in the year 5766, or October 27, 2005 CE). Then a new genetic study came out, tracing an important anti-microcephalic (anti-"pinhead") gene, which apparently has a lot to do with making human beings human, back "approximately 6,000 years ago."
I wondered why certain animals were kosher or fit to be eaten by a holy people while other animals weren't kosher. Then I read an article and book by a Dr. Temple Grandin, whose specialty is designing animal chutes, pens and the facilities for animal slaughter.
She shows - although she's Christian, not Jewish, and doesn't keep kosher herself - that the kosher land animals are not frightened or bothered by the smell of blood or death. She says that, as herd animals, they aren't bothered by being penned up with their own kind, nor frightened by being herded through chutes, so long as the chutes are reasonably well-designed. They can be slaughtered for food on an industrial scale without terrifying them, in other words. Further, as one sees from the mechanics of kosher slaughter, if they are slaughtered as the Torah commands, with a razor-sharp blade swept across the throat, severing the main arteries and causing instantaneous unconsciousness from the loss of blood pressure in the brain, they suffer almost no pain, or probably no pain at all. So a kosher animal, if killed in a kosher way, can be turned into food for human beings to eat in a truly kindly and even holy way.
Further, the procedure removes as much blood as possible from the body and tissues of the animal, since the heart keeps pumping even after the animal loses consciousness. This is good for someone who wants to avoid eating blood - the Torah telling Israel and anyone else who cares about this, not to eat or drink any blood at all. Further, the meat itself will stay fresher longer, because blood is a growth medium for bacteria.
One could go on and on about the Torah's endless virtues. If one simply approaches it on its own terms. . .
Torah gives us God's great revolutionary Plan, which makes so much sense (See If You were God): after creating all existence including all humanity, He cultivates a people and embodies His Law in them, so they keep it as a nationalist and a family and a religious duty. As a result, they produce people who challenge other people, who help move humanity along, to raise us all up, and to impress upon the whole world certain fundamental truths - the First Covenant and the Universal Law itself, of course, along with such inherent basic spiritual and moral principles as:
Or take the sheer sublimity of the Torah - if you realize that no one today, no matter how great one's knowledge of the Bible's original ancient Hebrew, can read the text without the help of commentaries . . . Consider how many of its ancient prophecies have already been realized, and how none of its prophecies has ever failed yet. . .
One of the aspects of Torah that "got" me early on was the prophecy that, should Israel fail to keep the Torah, "a non-nation, a vile nation" would rise up to be "pricks in the eyes and thorns in the sides" of the Jews in the land, possibly resulting in yet another spell of exile. The repeated Biblical promise that the land of Israel, as small as it is, cannot and must not be divided between the people of Israel and any other people who claim sovereignty over the land is striking too.
Another vindication of the Torah that constantly recurs in history is the remarkable, amazing absence of character and unscrupulousness of Israel's enemies, of every generation. There has been so much evil and so many enemies: Nazis, Communists, pogromists, inquisitors, the Aryan Nations and White Aryan Resistance and the Klu Klux Klan, Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Ghaddafi of Libya, Black American racists, Arab and Muslim tyrants and jihadists of every stripe. . . such enemies tend to hate each other but they all fiercely hate the Jews. They often even make common cause with their detested enemies in order to attack the Jews because they hate Israel more. . . If it's true that a man can be judged by his enemies, it's all the more true of a nation: if a people can be judged by its enemies. . . .
Mankind cannot rise to the essential principles on which society must rest unless it meets with Israel. And Israel cannot fathom the depths of its own Tradition unless it meets with mankind.
(by Rabbi Elijah Benamozegh, 1823-1901)
Naturally, history can be slanted, neglected or forgotten; supposed common sense and human logic can mislead. Further, most people don't know enough to look at the Bible through the eyes of the people who are its focus. One realizes that most Bible translations are organized and shaped so as to lead one away from God! At the same time, they denounce Israel for not abandoning the Torah and directing its worship to a new god! (This new savior, redeemer and champion, the new "Lord," in place of HaShem, is, of course, a Jew himself - as were his mother, his grandmother, and ALL the early founders of the new religion).
When the God of Israel promises the people of Israel blessings, in the Bible, The New American Bible for Catholics that's now at my elbow says that the blessings will go to the Catholic Church. When the same God promises the people of Israel cursing, the same Bible says that the curses will go to the Jews.
Despite all such nonsense, one can see the future building. Sinai has changed people, and the world, and the world keeps changing. The God of Israel promises mankind progress. Often that seems doubtful. But one can also see from the Bible's prophets that the evidence of God's greatness - the greatness of HaShem - will build, through history, until finally no man can deny it. (See, e.g., Isaiah 2:2, 66; Psalms 105, Ezekiel 37:28)