I started questioning G‑d around the time of my Bar Mitzvah. I identified as
an agnostic shortly after, an ideology that I still hold today. But I still
feel Jewish. And this leads me to my question: Would you consider a self-proclaimed agnostic Jewish?
Let's start with this idea that you are an agnostic. This is a term coined
by Thomas Huxley in the middle of the 19th century. It is the "doctrine that
humans cannot know of the existence of anything beyond the phenomena of their
experience." Bertrand Russell wrote a sort of manifesto of the agnostic in
That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they
were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves
and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that
no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an
individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the
devotion, all the inspirations, all the noonday brightness of human genius,
are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the
temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of
the universe in ruins-all these things, if not beyond dispute, are yet so
nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only
within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of
unyielding despair can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.
Is that really what you believe? I guarantee that Russell himself never
believed it -- because he was a champion for human rights and ethics to his last
day. Neither could any human being truly believe it and continue to breath for
even a moment. We are, all of us, creatures of hope. We live, we work, we marry
and have children because we all believe there is purpose -- also those of us who
overtly deny holding to such a belief.
As the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), told one self-proclaimed atheist, "We are all believers in G‑d. It is just a matter of definition."
You need to come to a deeper understanding of what exactly it is that you don't
believe. And more importantly, what it is that you do believe. Not
through philosophy or introspection, but by simply examining the way of life
towards which you are naturally moving and determining the implications of such
a life. Why do you love your spouse? Why are you so concerned about your children's
identity? Why do you hold this conviction that there is more meaning to life
than making another buck and buying a bigger house? More than any course of study or spiritual searching, this will tell you who you are and in what you truly believe.
And I believe you will discover that you believe in your heart all that every
Jew inherently knows and believes.
May G‑d be with you as you return your father's heritage to its rightful