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Richard Dawkins and the Atheist’s Prayer

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons; Feb 28, 2012 at 01:11:06 AM

Richard DawkinsRichard Dawkins, the worldwide Dean of Atheists and author of The God Delusion, is not sure about all this.

Last week in a public debate at Oxford University, Dawkins clarified that he prefers to call himself agnostic rather than atheist – i.e. he lacks total certainty over whether or not there is a creator.

Though Dawkins may indeed be a long-time agnostic, that's not how the world views him. His recent statement created a big tumult and raises the question: What difference does it make whether someone is an agnostic or an atheist?

A big difference.

An agnostic remains open to the idea that God exists and is willing to pursue the evidence, wherever it may lead.

Indeed, there are very few atheists (is it possible to prove that God doesn't exist?). Those who call themselves agnostic should, by definition, be actively examining the evidence and weighing both sides of the debate. In the absence of this, “ignorant” is a more accurate term than "agnostic."

This all reminds me of the true story that Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l loved to tell about a self-described atheist named Jeff whom he met at Aish in the Old City of Jerusalem.

"Fantastic! A real atheist!” said Rabbi Weinberg. “Tell me – what are you doing here speaking to a rabbi?"

Jeff said he had been in Europe, visiting his Norwegian fiance. And he decided it was now or never: either he would come to Israel or he'll never make it.

So he headed for Jerusalem and figured he would stop by the Western Wall to see some old stones. Yet upon his arrival he was amazed. He felt something heavy. He was moved.

Jeff stood before the Wall, and made up an atheist's prayer. He looked at the stones and said:

"God, I don't believe in You. As far as I know, You don't exist. But I do feel something. So if I'm making a mistake, I want You to know, God, I have no quarrel against You. It's just that I don't know that You exist. But God, just in case You're really there and I'm making a mistake, get me an introduction."

Jeff finished his prayer, and one of the yeshiva students who happened to be at the Wall, saw Jeff and thought, "Perhaps he'd be interested in learning some Torah."

He tapped Jeff on the shoulder, startling him so much that he jumped three feet in the air. Jeff whirled around: "What do you want?!"

"I'm sorry. I just want to know if you'd like to learn about God."

The question hit Jeff like a 2-by-4 right between the eyes. He had just finished asking God for an introduction, and immediately someone was offering to introduce him to God.

Jeff learned at Aish for the next six weeks. He was a very serious student, and went back to the States with a commitment to continue learning. A year later, Jeff came back to Israel and told Rabbi Weinberg the end of his story.

During that previous summer he had been meandering through the cobblestone alleyways of the Old City when he saw a pretty, sweet, religious girl walk by. He said to himself, "Look at the charm of this Jewish woman. May the Almighty help me meet someone like this."

One Shabbat morning during the next year, Jeff attended a synagogue in Boston. Standing there was the same young woman he had seen in the Old City. He made his way over to her and said: "Excuse me, but I believe I saw you last summer in Jerusalem."

She answered, "You're right. I saw you, too."

They’re now married and living in New Jersey.

King David said: "The Almighty is near to all those who call unto Him, to all those who call unto Him in truth." (Psalms 145:18)

The power of sincerity is so overwhelming that even an atheist can get God's attention. If you're in a genuine search for truth, remember Jeff's prayer.

February 28, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 36

(25) Anonymous, March 31, 2013 3:36 PM

Indeed, there are very few atheists (is it possible to prove that God doesn't exist?).

You suffer from a typical logical fallacy. You put the burden of disproof on the non-believer. The burden of proof is on the believer. It's also impossible to prove that Bigfoot and Harry Potter don't exist, that there are no purple creatures with three horns living in the center of the planet Venus, etc...

(24) Steve Skeete, August 29, 2012 3:49 AM

Believing in atheists.

I used to like and respect atheists. That kind of person who when you told them you believed in a "creator" God wished you luck and politely asked you to pass the salt shaker. Then the "Neo" atheist came along, the one who while not believing in gods, "sky fairies" nor "imaginary friends" still screams and shakes his/her fist heavenward, and makes lots of money giving lectures and writing books about someone/something who/which does not exist. Mind you, I still like atheists, mostly of the old variety that is, but now I don't believe in them anymore.

(23) Michael, March 21, 2012 12:16 PM

Road safety

Beverly's story reminds me of the time I stayed stopped (at a green light) just before a truck came through the other way (crashed a red light) with a house on the back.

(22) Beverly Kurtin, March 8, 2012 5:14 AM

What about His angels?

While driving from Dallas to Abilene, a voice ordered me to pull over and stop. I did. Then I saw an 18-wheeler go across the median and cross into the highway EXACTLY where I would have been had I not obeyed the voice. I was shaken, but drove to the truck to make certain that the driver needed help He told me that he normally doesn't wear his seat belt but he heard a voice tell him to pull over, stop, and put on his belt. He was, thankfully, uninjured. I don't believe in coincidences. We waited together until the highway patrol showed up. He said that he was having lunch when he heard a voice telling him that an accident was about to happen and the area flashed before his eyes. A few years prior to that, I won a defensive driving school from a radio station. As I was driving in what is known as the mixmaster in downtown Dallas a Pepsi truck suddenly jackknifed in front of me. There was no way that I could have stopped. I remembered what to do in a situation like that and did exactly the opposite of what most people would have done: I put the accelerator all the way to the floor. The next thing I knew, I was seeing the truck in my rear view mirror. When I won the course, I never thought that I would become a travelling salesperson; I'm sure glad that Hashem knew, the course saved me from being decapitated. One night in Houston I was mugged...or at least the guy thought he was going to mug me. I recalled King David acting the part of a fool. I dropped down on all fours and started barking at the would-be mugger. Like David Melech Yisrael, the guy thought I was nuts and ran away. Now try to tell me there is no G-d. Actually, in Psalm 14:1 it says that there is no G-d. It continues, however with the words, "the fool has said in his heart." I don't think I am a fool.

janice, March 28, 2015 4:14 PM

Hashem prevented death

Wouldn't it have been better if Hashem prevented the accident altogether? I love it when a person gets sick, and is cured, and people thank God for the cure. I wonder why God doesn't prevent the sickness altogether. Plenty of people have been killed in horrendous accidents, including innocent children. Where was God then?

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