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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Foundation of Belief

Since my visit and discussion with my hairdresser, who expressed her disbelief in G-d due to her father's death, I've been thinking a lot about the nature of belief and what causes people to have faith in G-d's existence. I always believed in G-d. I don't think it was because of what I was taught growing up, because I distinctly remember the Reform rabbi whose Temple I attended in high school telling us that it was fine to be both an atheist and a Jew. I knew plenty of people who were agnostic, questioning G-d's existence, including my family members. But somehow, it was never much of a question for me. I looked around at the world and just couldn't imagine how it could all be without a G-d. That's not to say that my belief always extended to feeling that G-d watched over every thing that happened, and had a hand in every event and life. Before becoming religious, I often questioned whether G-d cared about my personal life or whether He put the world in place and then left it to spin out of control. It's funny, because writing these words now seems odd. My beliefs have changed dramatically, I realize. I certainly understand those who question or have their beliefs fail them in times of hardship. When life seems completely out of comprehension and we have an inability to understand what's going on, I think it's easy to assume that G-d doesn't know what is going on either. When looking at tragedy, it's extremely difficult to reconcile the belief that a G-d who cares could also let these things happen. But, interestingly, my most difficult times are when my faith is strengthened the most. When I am stressed and on edge, or dealing with personal hardship, I call upon G-d to help me. My prayers are ten times as intense, and He is who I turn to. So what is the factor that determines whether hardship will turn someone towards or away from G-d? That's what I can't figure out. Is it a foundation of belief upon which to deal with those hardships? Once in place, incredibly difficult to crack, and what is left to fall back on when everything else is gone? As they say, the foundation is the most important part - so if it's not strong, maybe it's easy for everything else to fail. But why would my faith be so strong, when it's not what I've grown up with? And why would someone who did grow up with a strong tradition (and I know of those in this situation) be able to let go of their roots and put their belief in G-d behind them? I don't know the answer to this one. I feel fortunate to have my faith, because it certainly is something that gives me strength through difficult times, and I can't imagine if I didn't have it; how much more difficult life could be without the reassurance that there is something, someone who cares.

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