January 29, 1935
How little the Seminary authorities have any idea of the religious unrest among the very men who are studying for the rabbinate! Could they imagine for a moment that in a class at the Seminary there could go on the kind of discussion that went on during the hour in Homiletics this afternoon. In discussing the outline I had given them on "Humanism is not enough" I was bombarded with questions as to why I insist upon retaining the name of God in the ethical pattern of thought. The usual arguments about the misconceptions in the minds of those who hear it used were advanced with a great deal of clarity and force by the best men in the class.
In answer to the argument that by using the term God I've only reinforced the anthropomorphic conception in people's minds, I made the point that what I am urging is not merely that the name God be retained, but that we center all our efforts upon educating the people to put new content into that name. That is at present our main function as religious teachers.
In answer to the argument that some of the most worthwhile people are alienated from Jewish life and ethical endeavor along Jewish lines because we insist upon using the name of God I replied, first, they are alienated because we do not engage frankly in the task of putting new content into the term God, and secondly it is not the use of the term God that repels them but rather the whole nexus of legends which most of our people insist upon teaching as factual and historical.
In answer to the argument that it is impossible to retain our prayerbook if we are to use the term God in the sense in which I suggested, I said that I hold no brief for the prayerbook. Why not write new prayers in conformity with the modern conception of God? Why have a prayerbook at all? Why not prayers which can be used at discretion and in accordance with actually felt needs?