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Perfectly Rational Faith

The Case For God

Scott Shay is a Jewish entrepreneur and the son of Jewish parents. His late father was a holocaust survivor from Lithuania who weighed only 60 pounds when he was liberated at Dachau by the U.S. Army. Scott lost several family members during WWII. 

He grew up in Chicago as an only child. While his parents weren’t overtly religious, they held fast to their Jewish identity. Scott also noticed that his dad was angry with God and didn’t pray. He explains, “He knew that there had to be a God because it took a miracle to get from Sveksna, Lithuania, to Chicago, to have a wife and a son. On the other hand, what kind of God would let his father, his brothers, his uncles, and just about everybody he knew back home be murdered by the Nazis as neighbors looked on and did nothing?” 

During college Nehama Leibowitz, whose class Scott audited as a year-abroad student at Hebrew University, greatly influenced how he reads the Bible (speaking of the first five books) and relates to God. Scott learned from her to closely interrogate every word, story, and contextual allusion for discrepancies, inconsistencies, and parallels elsewhere in the Bible, in ancient literature, and in modern thought. She made the philosophical, ethical, and psychological dimensions of the text come alive for him. Rabbi David Silber, of the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education [Institute for Jewish Education, an inclusive beit midrash (house of study) in New York City], his teacher in the Wexner Heritage Program also taught him to read the Bible critically and to take a close look at the ethical dimensions of each story. Scott learned from him not to fear tough questions or contradictions in the text and that reason is not the enemy; it is essential to reading the text and wrestling with God.

Scott continued studying Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as leading atheist teachings. He explains, “The many years of Torah study I have undertaken with amazing teachers have shored up my view that the Bible is a relevant a text as ever and that it is perfectly rational to believe in God. Yet, I have felt increasingly alone in this view.” He continues, “The so-called atheists have come on the scene, and they are having a profound influence on skeptics and believers alike. They question how anyone could believe in God in good faith.” Scott continues, “They incorrectly equate monotheism with idolatry. Their criticism of religion as being irrational and immoral should be aimed instead at idolatry, which places super authority or power in the hands of finite beings and things. Idolatry is the true root of evil because it promotes lies in the pursuit of selfish and unjust ends.” Scott explains in his book that monotheism emerged as a revolutionary rejection of idolatry, replacing its irrationality, deceptiveness, and injustice with a rational and just view of God and the world. In Scott’s view not practicing The Golden Rule leads to idolatry.

When Scott searched for books for non-believers countering the ideas of the New Atheist movement--a more militant version of atheism--he couldn’t find any. So, he decided to write a book himself. It took him five years to finish In Good Faith which targets two main groups of people: Those who think believing in God is fantasy, like believing in the tooth fairy, and for college students who are labeled as being naïve for believing in a higher power. They are taught that atheism is the only logical and scientific conclusion. He explains, “With all we know about science, the Bible and morality, the evidence proves that it’s rational to believe in God.” 

Scott also believes that faith in God means to accept that life has a sanctity that no human agency has a right to impair. This is not only a Jewish message but it’s the foundational idea of what he calls the three Abrahamic faiths. The biblical God beckons us away from worship of mere humanity with all its terrible consequences. Rather than being a stumbling block to science, the biblical God is its supporter and ally. Yet, there is a dimension to our humanity that transcends science, which the New Atheists place on a pedestal. Nothing in evolutionary biology constrains us not to be cruel. That dimension of the biblical God is the one that Scott wants to show his readers.

Free Will

The number one question Scott gets from nonbelievers is on the issue of suffering. He explains, “Atheists argue that they have an even stronger moral allegation against the notion of God—namely, the question of how an omnibenevolent God, the source of all love, could let man inflict so much suffering in the world?” He responds, “The existence of evil is the means by which we humans can have free will and therefore to decide to become partners with God in perfecting the world.”

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