Life experience can influence one’s faith at every step.
I was a devoutly religious young Orthodox Jew, worshipping a way of life that ordained the Old Testament as the word of God. Moses and Abraham were fantasy father figures, whose insights I appreciated with innocent naivety. Indeed, I celebrated The Ten Commandments as moral instruction for the years ahead.
Attending synagogue on the High Holydays, especially the Day of Atonement, I fasted for 24 hours as prescribed, silently confessing my sins to God. Believing in His existence, I prayed for a good life, for myself, my family and friends, never taking his name in vain and writing it G-d as enshrined in Jewish law.
During adolescence, with the world revealed through the books and newspapers I read as tragic, traumatic and troubling for many, particularly The Holocaust, I wondered how a God could inflict such suffering and sorrow on ordinary people.
A holy sense of benevolence, care and compassion was soon usurped by knowing that science and history presented a very different story to The Bible, even though it too contained narratives of malevolence and malice.
Confusion wracked my mind, abandoning my strict, religious behaviours but never jettisoning the enriching Jewish education I had enjoyed. God became a mystery, an ethereal, elusive entity I couldn’t clearly perceive, beyond intellectual comprehension and shrouded by complexity and conflict.
Despairing of the havoc wreaked not just by people, but by nature too that destroyed lives and livelihoods across the globe, I pondered whether God was punishing mere mortals for their errant ways, but there was no glib answer, just a labyrinth of doubts and uncertainty.
Endeavouring to discover some clarity, I delved into other faiths such as Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam and Sufism, among others, but while realising there was some commonality with Judaism, they didn’t satisfy my pursuit of the truth about God.
Finally, after years of searching for answers, I settled on a new faith. It was agnosticism, embracing a sense of God that was comforting in times of distress and joy, but also inspired contentment even in not knowing if He was real.
I continue to feel very Jewish, however inexplicable to some. Perhaps it is my heritage, my knowledge of past happenings and/or my individualism that defies understanding, but faith in the unknown can be authentic. As ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu wrote: “The wise man is one who knows what he does not know”.
Yet, I still believe in The Ten Commandments as a mantra of spiritual meaning and profound wisdom.