Religion How Could God Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1795 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Religion

How could God do this, and how have the Jews coped with this question after the Holocaust? Their reactions have been diverse, from denunciation to acceptance - and they linger on today.

The Holocaust and Jewish Suffering

Man's inhumanity to man

Jews "had it coming"

The Denial of God After the Holocaust

Victim's reactions

Acceptance of God's Will

Justification of God even during evil and suffering

Victim's anger

The Denial of the Holocaust

God and the Holocaust

This paper analyzes the Holocaust. Specifically, it discusses the questions about the nature of God that have arisen in response to the Holocaust, and the kinds of answers that have been proposed.

The Holocaust is still one of the most remembered and horrific aspects of World War II. Out of that experience, it is difficult to understand how God could allow such a thing to occur, and how He could create such suffering for anyone, regardless of who they were. How could God do this, and how have the Jews coped with this question after the Holocaust? Their reactions have been diverse, from denunciation to acceptance - and they linger on today.

Of course, the Holocaust and the annihilation of millions of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals is one of World War II's defining moments. How do you possibly explain or rationalize the mass murder of millions of people based solely on their religion? That has been a difficult question for the world, and Jews in particular, to answer. As one historian writes, there were many violent acts in the twentieth century, including the nuclear bombing of Japan, the "killing fields" of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, and the genocide in Bosnia during the war there. He writes, "The endemic suffering that has riddled the entire twentieth century confronts theologians, philosophers, artists, novelists, and poets with the dilemma of orienting human life and thought around the experience and memory of profound negativity and broken cultural traditions" (Braiterman 3). Thus, suffering is a condition known to many, not just the Jews. However, the Holocaust still remains one of the most heinous crimes against humanity, and it has altered the way many people view God, and how Jews themselves view their faith.

Man's inhumanity to man is ultimately the behavior in question. How can those of the Jewish faith accept this inhumanity and forgive God, when He took so much? One historian writes, "The Holocaust was a 'total rupture' in the great Western social and religious institutions, compelling them to reassess their moral standing and the nature of their power" (Raphael 136). For the Jews, it was a defining moment in their history and how they view God and their relationship with God.

Most people know the story of the Jews through history. They have been made to suffer throughout their history, from being banished from Canaan in their early history, to their persecution and banishment in Europe several times during their history. It seems the Jews are meant to suffer, and some use this as a reason the Holocaust occurred. God was again punishing them for behavior or a lack of belief. Some Jews use this rationalization to defend their belief in God, and that somehow, the Jews "had it coming," and have always had to pay for real and perceived affronts to God. In fact, another historian cites a study that indicates this is a common belief. She writes, "Spector's study shows that her mostly Christian participants viewed Holocaust suffering, in some cases, as imposed by Satan, funneled through Hitler, deserved by Jews, and redeemed by God" (Schweber). Thus, belief in God is justified because the Jews erred in some way, and God knew best. Many Jewish theologians follow this same line of thinking. Historian Braiterman notes, "The tradition as they read it advanced the faith that suffering could generate spiritual value" (Braiterman 163). Thus, the suffering endured throughout the Holocaust generated more spirituality and belief in God afterwards.

Many victims who suffered through the Holocaust turned their backs on God after they were liberated from the camps. Elie Wiesel, one of the most well-known Holocaust survivors chronicled his experiences in a book called "Night." It becomes clear God is no longer real to him; He becomes an illusion who allowed His people to suffer in unspeakable ways. Wiesel writes, "I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes were open and I was alone - terribly alone in a world without God and without man" (Wiesel 79). His reaction is similar to many others who felt that God turned his back on the Jews during the Holocaust, and in turn, they turned away from him after they survived.

As reaction to the Holocaust began to appear in writings and historical accounts, scholars, historians, and Jews themselves began to question the relationship between God and the Jewish people, and how such tragedy could ever be explained. Theologians, historians, and experts have debated the ultimate question of why God would allow such a thing to occur, and the question has no valid answer. The Holocaust happened as a result of a variety of events and to blame God for allowing it is to take away the blame from Hitler, who put the plan in motion and saw that it was carried out. Thus, another question could be "why did God create Hitler and allow him to exist?" These are questions that cannot ever be truly answered, because no one knows the mind of God, and what his plan is for the Jews or anyone else. In fact, the question can never be answered, but the Jews' reaction to the Holocaust can certainly be examined.

While many Jews felt God had abandoned them by allowing the Holocaust to occur, others could not make it through the experience without their faith in God. Historian Melissa Raphael quotes another survivor as saying, "In the camps, 'things happen to you, you are completely out of control'" (Raphael 92). Thus, many survivors turned to God as the only sane thing in a totally insane world, and renewed their faith rather than giving it up. Another survivor explains her retention of faith this way:

Yet I saw many internees cling to their human dignity to the very end. The Nazis succeeded in degrading them physically, but they could not debase them morally. Because of these few, I have not entirely lost my faith in mankind. if, even in the jungle of Birkenau, all were not necessarily inhuman to their fellowmen [sic], then there is hope indeed. It is that hope which keeps me alive (Raphael 94).

Thus, the experience of the Holocaust brought some people closer to their religion, because they managed to survive. As the former survivor notes, hope is a precious thing, and it helped many people live through the horrors of the camps. They cannot give up their faith in God because that would be to give up hope, and that would be a worse fate than death.

There has been another general reaction to the Holocaust as a result of renewed interest in the history of what happened. In reaction to such films as "Schindler's List" and others, much of the public (and the Jewish people) have become angered all over again by the ill treatment of the Jews. There is another troubling question that remains unanswered about the Holocaust, and that is how did the world allow it to happen? There has been acknowledgement that people knew about the actions Hitler was taking against the Jews, and spread the word to the West, but no large scale rescue attempt ever occurred. The world stood by and allowed the Holocaust to happen, and that could be a factor in the loss of faith of many Jews, as well. Just like God, the world turned their back on them, and allowed their suffering to continue.

Perhaps the most troubling reaction to the Holocaust has been the minority theory that it never happened. This theory, called "Holocaust denial" by many, uses some of the misinformation first broadcast about the Holocaust as evidence the event never occurred. Another historian states, "While originally an obscure movement, since the rise of the internet in the mid-1990s, Holocaust denial has grown significantly, and new adherents continue to set up web sites dedicated to 'debunking the myth'" (Mathis). While this has been horrific to many, especially those who survived the camps or lost loved ones there, many Jews see it as a mixed blessing, because it has brought increased attention to the Holocaust and created new interest in discovering the truth. Thus, it is another example of God's will and His overall plan for the Jews. He creates naysayers who want to convince others the Holocaust never happened, and in doing so, he creates more understanding and interest in the fate of the Jews.

In conclusion, there are many schools of thought on how God allowed the Holocaust to occur. Some Jews feel they brought it on themselves by trusting the Nazi regime… [END OF PREVIEW]

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