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What If God Is Just A Controlling, Abusive Monster?

What If God Is Just A Controlling, Abusive Monster?


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Dear Jew in the City-

If I told anyone I was in a relationship with someone that really, really loved me and I was happy in my relationship, and I’d even die for it, people would be really happy for me. If I told them I’d never met him, but he’s always watching me, they’d get concerned. If I told them he gave me a set of rules that I must follow and if I don’t, then he’ll hurt me and the people I love BECAUSE he loves me, and he tells me what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, what to wear, where to go, what to say, think, and feel, they’d call it abusive and tell me to leave the situation immediately. If I told them there was no way out, and once I was forced into this relationship there’s no leaving, and that I was made to feel like a bad person if I didn’t do what I was told, and my family wouldn’t support me from leaving this abusive situation, and I’d have to rebuild my whole life on my own with the entire community looking down on me, they’d call this man a monster and put him in jail. So why is it ok when God does it?

Sincerely,

J

Dear J-

Thanks for your question. Your perception of God is very painful to read about, but I get that this is where you’re coming from because of how you learned about Judaism. Please understand, though, that God is not abusive. The way you learned about Judaism is abusive. Yes – there is schar v’onesh (reward and punishment), but we do NOT know Hashem’s cheshbonos (calculations). We do not know why there is suffering in this world or what (if anything we did) caused it, and we do not know how schar v’onesh works in the next world. Prophecy no longer exists, and the Talmud says that the only ones who have prophecy in our day and age are children and crazy people.

I know it is hard to see Hashem in a new way since the abusive perspective was drilled into your head your whole life, but as someone who only learned about Hashem and Torah and mitzvos in a positive way, my understanding is so different. And since this disturbing perspective seems to haunt you, I would invite you to consider a more positive way to approach our Creator.

I see Hashem as a loving parent. Perhaps you can’t relate to that with your own parents (as many times our relationship with our flesh and blood parents affects how we see our Parent in Heaven), but I hope you at least know of a relationship somewhere where parents are warm and loving with their children. Parents who raise their kids with values, so they have consequences for their children’s mistakes, but ultimately would never cause any serious harm or abandon them because hurting their children would mean hurting themselves.

That’s how I see Hashem. He has a way of life He wants us to follow – not for His sake, but for our own good. But when we’re not perfect (and we never will be!), He is not standing there waiting to zap us. He is patient and understanding and gives us chance after chance after chance. Just think about what Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy say: “Hashem, Hashem, Compassionate and Gracious God. Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Cleanses…”

So the god you describe is terrifying, and as you noted – an abusive monster – but that is not my God, and I hope you can learn from people who can teach you about a loving God. If you want to learn more, you can sign up for Project Makom which is a division of Jew in the City for people who learned negative ideas about Judaism that turned them away from it.

Sincerely,
Allison (aka Jew in the City)

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  1. Danny Frankel : August 24, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    Allison, you sound just like Iyuv’s friends. (If you haven’t yet read the Book of Iyuv, I urge you to do so & then you will know exactly what I mean.) Basically, the book describes a God who is EXACTLY like the God in J’s letter above: capricious, sadistic, punishing people for no other reason than to win a bet with Satan. And this is coming NOT from some benighted yeshiva teacher in Brooklyn, but from the Bible itself! It was very easy for Iyuv’s friends to believe in a just & loving God because THEY did not experience any suffering on a par with Iyuv’s. Everything went well in their comfortable lives. But let the shoe be on the other foot, then what would their reaction be? That is why the book criticizes them for their smugness & complacency. I believe that the moral of the book is that people should be cautious when dealing with those who are suffering and not give them the kind of pat answers that don’t stand up to real-life experience!

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : August 28, 2018 at 10:06 am

      Thanks for your comment, Danny. Yes, I have read Iyov, but I respectfully disagree that I sound like Iyov’s friends. His friend told him that he had brought about his suffering through some misdeed. I said nothing of the sort. I told the letter writer that his educators gave him a sick understanding of God. If J had told me he had suffered, I would have approached the topic differently. His understanding of God is that He is an abusive stalker. That comes from a twisted understanding of God. I have met many people who were educated in disturbing ways. It is a separate issue from suffering.

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Allison Josephs

Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.