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When Rabbis Lose Faith: Twelve Rabbis Tell their Stories about their Loss of Belief in God

When Rabbis Lose Faith: Twelve Rabbis Tell their Stories about their Loss of Belief in God

Rabbi Paul Shrell-Fox

The Schechter Institutes for Judaic Studies, P.O. Box 16080, 4 Avraham Granot Street, Jerusalem, Israel.

Email: shrell_fox@schechter.ac.il

ABSTRACT

Religious intuition evolves over time. To the degree that belief in a supernatural God is a derivative of religious intuition, it is safe to assume that over one’s lifetime, intuition and attitudes towards a belief in God is subject to fluctuation. Dennett and LaScola found this to be true with priests and ministers. That study was the catalyst for the current study of rabbis’ shift in religious beliefs in general, and belief in God in particular. Approximately 25 rabbis voluntarily submitted vignettes concerning their shifts in religious belief. These vignettes were solicited via rabbinic list-serves. Those rabbis who denied a belief in a supernatural being were interviewed to explore the evolution of their religious faith and its impact on their religious practice and behavior. In as much as Judaism places a great emphasis on communal deeds rather than cultural creed, the rabbis still feel comfortable functioning in communities, school settings and informal educational roles. We therefore may expect little existential angst; this was found to be only partially true. Some have found other expressions of their talents, while others anxiously await the opportunity to find alternate means of financial support. Specific issues of Jewish dietary practice, Sabbath observance and daily prayer are addressed, as well as an exploration of the rabbis’ connection to the Jewish people, despite waning practice.

 

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Science, Religion and Culture

June

Vol. 5, Sp. Iss. 1 Pages 1-82

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