Jim Richardson (in his blog, Fiat Lux) lists a blog by his friend, Alana DeBare, (Midlife Bat Mitzvah) as one of his favorites, and I can see why.  She’s an atheist in the middle of a changing life who’s attending shul (temple) and studying to be Bat Mitzvahed.  And she has good reasons.  I’m quoting a bit of her third post, I think, on what she does or does not believe, to give you a flavor of her thinking.

Oh God – Part 3 (An atheist in shul)

November 19, 2009 by Ilana DeBare

My friend Melissa in Sacramento has a knack for getting to the heart of things. She wrote after one of my recent posts: 

Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t go to synagogue because I am alienated by a service full of prayers to a God in whom I don’t believe. And I don’t envision a Bat Mitzvah, because it surely would involve worship of same. I wait with great anticipation to see how you reconcile these seemingly conflicting beliefs (non-beliefs?) Carry on!

I’ve spent the past two blog posts more or less talking about what I don’t believe.

So let’s give a little time now to why I in fact love the Reform Jewish liturgy – why I enjoy going to services even if they are full of God God God – and why I’m studying to become a Bat Mitzvah.

Services are a rare place in our modern American world where people talk about the big stuff. Mortality. The meaning of life. Forgiveness. Becoming a more loving, generous person.

Most of the time we run around completely preoccupied with daily life. There’s the whole materialistic drumbeat of buy! buy! buy! But even those of us who don’t buy into all the buying still get caught up in the scramble to get dinner on the table, hold on to our jobs, volunteer at our kids’ school, fix the broken toilet, keep up with the latest convoluted turns of the health care debate.

We don’t talk about death. (Well, except for those famous death panels.) We don’t talk about how precious life is. We don’t stop to remember how utterly long-shot miraculous it is that our temperate, water-filled, oxygen-filled planet with its millions of forms of life even exists.

But in services we do that. And for me, all those “Gods” in the liturgy are a stand-in for life, or for our universe. For creation.

When I say Baruch atah Adonai Eloheynu – blessed are you, Adonai our God – I am expressing my awe that all of this exists.

I am reminding myself to feel awe that it exists.

She has a lot more to say, in this post and in her earlier posts.  If I’ve whetted your appetite, you can read more of what she has to say here.