Can an agnostic still be good Jew? I'm convinced that there cannot be any compelling proof for the existence of a benevolent creator of the universe. Is there room for me in Judaism?


You're just an agnostic about G‑d. I'm still not convinced about the whole of reality. Which is why, personally, I think G‑d is also agnostic. He sits there perpetually wondering whether He exists or does not exist. Out of His questioning, a whole world is generated—with beings like us that go around asking, "Is this for real, or what?"

Now you're going to say, "That's nuts. Why on earth—or heaven, or whatever it is that does or does not exist—would G‑d (if He exists) be unsure of His own existence?"

G‑d sits there wondering whether He exists... Out of His questioning, a world is generated Well, consider this: Who came up with this whole idea of existence to begin with? Of course, the atheist assumes that existence just is. He doesn't imagine there could be no existence. That's atheism in a word: Things just are. (Okay, three words.)

But since you're asking a rabbi, I'll tell you that nothing has to be. G‑d came up with the idea of existence. That's actually a fair translation of G‑d's name in Hebrew, as I wrote to some-other-poor-soul- who-also-thought-he-could-get- a-simple-answer-out-of-me- and-ended-up-just-as- confusicated-as-you're-going-to-feel- by-the-time-you-finish-this-responsum: G‑d in Hebrew means "The Isifier"--as in we is and He ises us.

G‑d came up with the idea that some things would exist and others would not. Call it A and B. Then He had to determine whether He would be one of those of category A or B. And that's where the whole problem began: G‑d has yet to determine whether He is playing this game of existence and is a part of our world or if He has better things to do with His time. (Actually, time is also another of those category A existence things. But the line sounded good, so I used it.)

If G‑d would "exist" then something would have had to existify Him - which means He wouldn't be G‑d... It's not so far out: Maimonides, the great 12th century codifier of what-we-believe- and-what-we-don't- just-so-everybody- can-argue-about-it- for-the-next-thousand-years writes that G‑d cannot be called an existence. An existence has some sort of definition, as in "exist as what?" If G‑d would exist, Rabbi M says, then something would have had to existify Him—which means He wouldn't be G‑d. So G‑d, by definition, does not exist.1

Neat fact: Did you know that when the Romans would sentence a person to death for becoming a Jew, the crime was called, "atheism"? Since the Jewish G‑d cannot be seen or described, they considered this person to be without any god at all. Turns out that Judaism is closer to atheism than most people's theism. As Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch once put it, "The G‑d the atheist doesn't believe in, I don't believe in either."

Here's more evidence that G‑d is an agnostic:

1) Free Choice. Free Choice means that G‑d does not exist. If He would exist, then—being the all-encompassing, all-powerful being that G‑d is—He wouldn't leave any posssibility for my free choice. There just isn't room for the two of us. Free choice, in other words, means that I exist, I make my own decisions and run my own life. And if so, G‑d does not exist.

But hold on: What is it that I have free choice to decide? After all, there has to be something of meaning to decide in order to make a choice. Meaning, purpose, inherent value—those are just other code words for G‑d. So the choice is whether I do what G‑d wants me to do or not. Which means that G‑d exists. Turns out that Free Choice is very agnostic.

2) Evil. What is evil? If G‑d exists, there cannot be evil. Because evil is the absence of good—and if G‑d is here and G‑d is good, how could there be anything here but good? So the existence of evil means that G‑d does not exist.

But wait: How can there be evil if there is no G‑d? What's evil about it? It just is like anything else. So the existence of evil assumes that G‑d exists.

Once again, G‑d both exists and does not exist. The idea of morality is also very agnostic.

3) Existence. Let's get right down to the core of the quandary: Existence. How does anything exist? Only because it is sustained by G‑d, the great Isifier (as described above). So, for anything to exist, G‑d must exist.

But not so fast: What is it that the Isifier, blessed be He, is isifying? Whatever it is, it is not Him—because if it were Him, then He hasn't isified a thing, has He? Existence must be that which is not G‑d. Reduce that to: G‑d does not exist.

"The G‑d the atheist doesn't believe in, I don't believe in either..." So existence itself is an agnostic state, another one of Schrodinger's cats sitting in the box neither alive nor dead and not even a little bit in between. What the quantum physicist calls "qubit entanglement" or "an indeterminate state." As G‑d is agnostic, so is existence.

Another neat factoid: Take all the radiant energy in the universe (such as light, heat, etc.) and subtract all the negative energy (such as gravity) and what do you get? Zero. So does the universe exist or what?

Now that you're just as confused as the rest of us and know it too, tell me, please: Who will untangle the qubits, open the box, determine the state of the world and of G‑d and relieve Him of His grand conundrum? Who will let Him come into His universe and exist here along with us?

There's only one hero of the story I can think of and that is us. In effect, we are G‑d's conscience deciding whether He should live in this place we call reality or not.

So if we decide that this is a G‑dless place where every man can do whatever he likes, the strong swallow the meek, the conniving consume the naive, beauty is just an artifact of human senses and instinct, things just happen because they happen and eventually the whole place is going to fizz out anyways ever since they enacted the law of entropy—so that's the world we decided to live in and that's the way our world is. Like the Torah (Leviticus 26:23-24) says, "If you go about life haphazardly (meaning, as though there were no G‑d), then I will treat you haphazardly (meaning, I will not be G‑d and things will just be because they are)..."

It's up to us to convince G‑d to believe in His world, in us, and in His own existence But if we decide to be genuinely ticked off with injustice; perturbed by G‑d's lack of presence, obsessed with the beauty by which He shines into His world; fascinated and amazed at every cell of life and being like a ten year old boy on his first visit to Radio Shack; and yearn for an ultimate future where G‑d, purpose, meaning and life will be screaming out from every twig, rock and photon...

...then we will have convinced G‑d to believe in His world, in us and in His own existence. Then our world will be a real world.

That's the choice called Judaism. So are you on the bus, or what?