I want to leave Judaism. Let me explain why:

In the past year I was diagnosed with a condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This condition makes me extremely nervous and causes terrible panic attacks. I have extremely strong prescription medication to control the anxiety, and I have to carry tablets with me at all times. However, even the drugs don't control the anxiety.

More recently, things have worsened, and my problems with anxiety have progressed into depression. I have to take antidepressants as well as anti-anxiety drugs every day, and I see a psychologist regularly. None of this has helped. If anything, I'm getting worse, rather than better.

This makes me question the existence of G‑d. If there is a real G‑d, then He cannot possibly be just, as Judaism claims. I have never harmed anyone. I have never done anything that would make me deserving of such bad health problems. I have never killed anybody. I'm not a violent person. I help people when I can. Basically, I'm a good person. I've done NOTHING WRONG.

This leads me to one of two possibilities:

1) There is no God.
2) There is a God, but His moral compass is so screwed up that He would have trouble locating a parking lot. In which case, I don't want to follow him.

So, back to my original question. I want out, I don't want to be part of the Jewish religion anymore. It's done nothing for me. How do I get out?



Dear -D_____,

I know what anxiety and panic is. It's ugly. I have seen it wreck promising lives. I have also seen it conquered and vanquished. And I know that to win against anxiety, psychotropics are not enough. Anxiety can only be overcome with a deep and mighty sense of faith.

Faith has become a dirty word. Perhaps we should use another: Conviction. A deep, inner conviction that a howling arctic wind could not sway. It is a gift we have by inheritance, passed down since Abraham, selected and honed over hundreds of generations. It has carried us on eagle's wings through the worst of times to be the proud, indestructible nation we are today. For you to reject that conviction now is equivalent to a sick man refusing to swallow his medicine because of an ache in his throat.

Let's separate two issues: G‑d and your faith in Him. G‑d does not need your approval to be who He is. Abandoning Him changes nothing—just as a created being cannot fathom its Creator, so it cannot affect Him. Whether or not you have faith in Him can only change you, your state of health and where your life is heading.

You especially need to hear this, because the words you write to me are those of the passive victim. Nothing is more conducive to anxiety than a sense of helplessness, as though you were riding the passenger seat through life. The first step to conquer anxiety must be to take the reins of your life back into your own hands.

Reaffirming your own inner conviction does just that. It says, "I don't care how things look and what the world appears to be doing to me. I know with all my heart and soul that there is a Director of All Things who holds my hand, who knows my soul from the inside and leads me through life in the way that is best for me. I may not have the slightest inkling of how any of this is for my benefit, but I do not need to understand for it to work. I only need to hold tight and keep moving ahead."

As soon as you have done that, you have taken the driver's console into your hands. You leave the highway up to Him and deal sensibly with each incident as it comes along. You have a partnership; you are not alone. And when the panic swells, creeps or jumps out at you , you smile back and say, "This too shall pass"—and it does. And then you keep trucking along.

Of course, you can always choose to go it alone. You can believe the universe to be a big, hostile monster with you, the lonely and innocent victim swallowed up inside. But if you want to survive and make good of all the talents and opportunities G‑d has given you, pull out from under the covers the faith you have in your heart, inherited from the generations before you: That the Essence of All Reality is good, and that you are intimately related to that essential good, and that therefore, whether you can perceive so or not, everything that befalls you is for the good.

Choose life.
—Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for