We need God. But we also need more than God.
Before dismissing this as some heretical statement, the reader
should know that I have spent much of my life -- in speeches, articles,
books, and on my radio show -- making the case for faith in God. I am deeply
religious and have a traditional theology rooted in the Bible. I have been
teaching and recording a verse-by-verse commentary on the Torah for 10 years
at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.
I know that God is necessary for morality, that without positing
a transcendent objective source for good and evil, these terms are no more
than personal, subjective descriptions of actions that we like or dislike.
There are, of course, moral atheists and evil theists, but that is unrelated
to the question of whether morality actually exists as anything more than
personal opinion if there is no God.
I also know that faith in God is necessary in order for life to
have ultimate meaning, that without the Creator, there is no ultimate
purpose to the universe, let alone to our lives.
However, as necessary as faith in God is for our ethics, our
emotional and psychological well being, our sense of purpose, and our
ability to stand firm in a world that pulls us in every direction, God is
not enough. We also need people.
Two relatively recent events have brought this point home
particularly strongly. One was the plight of the Pennsylvania miners
recently trapped in a mine.
Imagine yourself in a mine in water so cold that it could bring
on hypothermia and death. Imagine that it is dark. Imagine that the water is
gradually rising, leading to a slow and terrifying death by drowning.
That is what the miners experienced. Why didn't any of them go
They were kept sane largely because they had one another. As
important as faith in God was for any of them, the fact that they were not
alone was as important.
The other event was the terrorist attack on the World Trade
Center towers and perhaps the most frightening deaths therein -- of those
people who were forced to jump from a hundred stories above ground. Nothing
quite brings home the horror of 9-11 as does the terror faced by those who
jumped. And yet, I have no doubt that those few who jumped holding onto
someone else, quite possibly a total stranger, suffered less than those who
jumped alone. If they believed in God, that, too, surely helped. But
whatever the jumpers' faith, facing death holding onto another human being
brought more comfort.
It was a Christian pastor (whose name unfortunately eludes me)
who gave the best theological justification for the notion that even God is
not enough. After creating Adam, God makes the critically important
observation, "It is not good for man to be alone," and then He creates
woman. There is much to be learned from this statement; not least that God
Himself is saying that He is not enough, that the human being needs more
than God. We need other people.
At the same time, people are not enough either. We need God.
Many theists and many atheists are so committed to their respective
worldviews that they cannot entertain the thought that their belief does not
answer all human needs. Humanists are so committed to faith in humanity and
to denying God's existence that they refuse to confront the built-in need
people have for the transcendent and that more than people are needed for
inner peace and happiness. At the same time, many religious people mirror
this view when they argue that faith in God is all that one needs, that the
true believer in God needs nothing more than God for a wholesome life.
Both views are wrong. We need God and we need people. That is
the way we are made -- by God, I believe. May we never be faced with the
terror faced by the miners and by the jumpers of 9-11. But if we are ever
faced with such a terror, may we be granted at that moment both faith in God
and people to be with.