Psychology explains almost everything. How else to account for my brother and I, children of a Christian evangelist, having the same relationship with our father and with God? I think most people relate to God the same way they relate to their father.
My father avoids emotions as much as he can because he was raised by parents who displayed little emotional interest in him. This creates a deep feeling of worthlessness. Raised by such a preacher daddy, I grew up to fear emotions and to similarly feel worthless. I’ve never had a sustained emotional connection with my father (nor with my mother, she died before I was four) nor with God.
My brother’s an atheist and I’m an Orthodox Jew, but we have the same lack of relationship with God and with our father. I believe in God but only on the rarest of occasions have I felt Him moving in my life. Whether I was Jewish, Christian or atheist, it didn’t much shift the way I related to Him.
When I was a Christian, I took my father’s preaching for granted that what God most cared about was how you felt about Him. During my teens, this belief started to diminish for me. TV became more real to me than God. When I first became an adult, I rejected God for a few years but felt a longing in my heart for Him at times, a longing for a path to transcendence that made sense.
In August of 1988, when I was 22, I heard Dennis Prager on the radio for the first time. His vision of ethical monotheism was appealing — that the Creator of the universe most cares about how His creation treats each other. That made rational sense. I embraced it and converted to Orthodox Judaism, but along the way, I never developed much of a relationship with God. When in trouble, whether as a Christian, atheist or Jew, I cried out to God but that was about it.
It’s taken 12 Step work over the past two years to open up for me new pathways to God. I’m stepping into them gingerly as I face the fact that when I run my life, I make a mess of things. I step on people’s toes and they retaliate. When I try to direct my show, it doesn’t work out so well. I have to accept that God is the director, God is my boss, and thereby I can stop living out my habitual tendencies.
Thinking, talking and feeling about my relationship to God is not natural to me. The way I relate to God is more profoundly influenced by my relationship to my father than by all my efforts to revolutionize the way I relate to God. My attachment habits may be stronger than my will power.
When I grew up a Christian, I believed that God knew me, that He monitored my behavior, and that He would reward and punish me according to my obedience to Him. When I became interested in Judaism in my early 20s, I reclaimed these beliefs though my understand of what God wanted most changed (Christianity stressed belief while Judaism stressed behavior).
As a Christian, I believed that God was one, eternal, righteous, and holy. As a Jew, I believe the same things.
As a Christian, I believed that God manifested himself through Jesus of Nazareth and that Jesus was a part of the triune God. As a Jew, I have no such beliefs.
But these differences in my beliefs about God may be largely theoretical rather than experiential. I’m not sure that I experience God differently as an adult than I did as a child. I’ve always been at a remove from God, and only on occasion have I had a passionate visceral sense of God’s presence.
I feel much more at peace intellectually and morally with the Jewish approach to God (that He primarily demands ethical behavior) rather than the Christian approach (that He primarily demands submission to certain doctrines). God didn’t make a lot of sense to me growing up as a Seventh-Day Adventist. God makes sense to me through the prism of Judaism. That’s nice but it hasn’t helped me become God intoxicated.
My most visceral experience of God and of my father over the years has been when I’ve done something wrong and I’ve felt their (real or imagined) wrath. When I deliberately hurt someone or do a form of cheating, I sense the disappointment and anger of my father and of God, even though neither may saying anything to me. I just take it for granted they will be upset if I steal and do bad things.
In childhood and adulthood, I’ve written reams of material. I’ve often kept a diary or journal. God has played little role in what I write for my private papers. Neither as a child nor as an adult have I felt compelled to spend 1/10th of the time thinking about God as I have about girls.
I think my diary is probably the truest reflection of my thoughts. And you won’t find much about God there. Nor much about my father nor my family. But you will find a lot about girls who I want.
* This hot woman in a tight dress and pumped up assets hobbled by on crutches. My heart filling with compassion, I asked her what happened. She said that her foot had been run over by a car in a parking lot but thank God she was going to be OK. I immediately thought she was Jewish. Do non-Jews say “Thank God” like that? I remember asking this Sephardic pornographer how his business was doing and he said, “Thank God.” I don’t remember the goyim speaking like that, thank God.