Doug Taylor and Rabbi Morton Moskowitz
"So what do you believe about God?" I asked.
The momentary din of the ferry horn drowned out our discussion for a few seconds. The King of Rational Thought and I were taking a late afternoon round-trip ferry from Mukilteo just for the fun of it. With the warm July sun comfortably set at slow roast, we were walking and talking on the upper deck.
"Why is that important to you?" he replied.
I wasn't sure quite how to answer. "Well, uh, because I'm interested," I said hesitantly.
"The truth is, I have no belief about God," he said.
"What?" I couldn't believe my ears.
He smiled. "I suspect you're jumping to conclusions too fast," he said. "Tell me. What is a belief?"
"A belief? Well, it's, uh, something that you believe," I said, struggling to come up with a good definition. "It's having faith. It's believing something when there's no evidence."
"I see," he said. "So you think there's no evidence for God?"
"I didn't say that," I replied, backpedaling quickly. "There's lots of evidence. I mean, all you have to do is look around."
"At what?" he said.
"Well, at the trees, the stars, the sea, everything around us. It couldn't possibly have happened by accident."
"So you've done a scientific analysis to prove that?" he asked.
"No, but I know it's true. I believe it."
He smiled again. "Let me offer another definition of belief," he said. "Belief is a conviction you have concerning something about which you are ignorant."
He paused to let that sink in. Then he went on.
"Think about it," he said. "People only have 'belief' about something that they don't know about. Otherwise, they wouldn't need belief about it. Have you ever heard someone ask, 'Do you believe in gravity?' Of course not. A question like that is absurd. Why? Because you know gravity as a fact. Just like you don't have a 'belief' about electricity."
"Belief, in and of itself," he continued, "proves nothing. No offense, but your saying that you believe in God, as if your belief makes it true, is no more valid than a small child saying he believes in the tooth fairy. Lots of people 'believe' things. That doesn't make them true."
"So you don't believe there is a God?" I just couldn't let that point go.
"You misunderstood me," he said. "I said I have no belief in God. What I mean is that I don't have a belief that is based on ignorance. I have studied that issue thoroughly, answered all the questions, and have proven to myself that God does exist. It is possible to prove that. Once the idea is clear to your mind and all the questions have been answered, 'belief,' as I defined it, ceases. The truth is, I know God exists. Not because of some emotional experience, but because I proved it rationally to myself in the same way that you prove a mathematical formula to be true."
The boat docked and we headed up the ramp. My mind spun like a fishing reel out of control. I believed lots of things that I didn't know how to prove. So where did that leave me?
"Don't let this bother you," he said, reading my mind. "You won't change your whole approach to life overnight. Just think about the ideas. And the next time someone tells you that something in the religious realm is too complicated to understand, or that you need to just 'have faith,' remember something. God didn't give you a brilliant mind capable of abstract thinking just so you could trash it when it came to religious matters and believe things you would otherwise consider nonsense. Ask questions, ask questions, and keep asking questions. Don't accept an idea unless you've answered every question and the idea is completely clear to your mind."
I heard what he said, although my mind was already somewhere else. I was thinking about all the things I had been told all my life that I should believe and not question. I was thinking about all of the party lines I'd been told to swallow, even when I knew they didn't make sense.
I was thinking that I was going to be making some changes in my life.