“Except the Lord build a house, they labor in vain who build it.”
In this sermon, delivered on October 15, 1967, Rabbi Olan directly addresses the question, what difference does it make whether or not you believe in God? He acknowledges that “most people today live their lives as if God does not exist.” True, he says, there can still be some kinds of progress, such as scientific progress, in a world without God. But there is also the ever-present risk that morality will lose its grounding, and self-interest will become the only standard for our behavior.
However, Rabbi Olan ends on a more hopeful note: he brings together science and what he calls the “God faith” and asserts that many scientists have come to believe that the universe “is an organism, not a mechanism”. For him, organic process implies order and purpose rather than randomness and a moral vacuum, and his name for that purpose is God.
“If there is no God, there is only fear.” The “God believer” does not deny the reality of evil (for Rabbi Olan, always exemplified by the Holocaust). At the same time, the believer “lives surrounded, invested by a power that directs the universe towards the good.”
As you read this sermon, think about how believing or not believing in God makes a difference in your own life.
*Written by Lionel S. Joseph & Frances M. Olan*