Here’s a quote I found that is attributed (I hope rightly) to the Jewish/French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas:

“Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God.

It is believing that love without reward is valuable.”

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality. For the purposes of this post let’s say that spirituality and faith are related concepts, deeply related.

Something I’ve found, which some of my fellow Jewish educators struggle with, is that spirituality needn’t have anything to do with God. It can be all about a personal relationship with God but it can also exist completely independently of Deity. Levinas clearly understood this.

The idea that “faith” isn’t ultimately about the Ultimate, but instead the belief that there is value in love with reward, is something I find very affirming. What is spirituality? It is connection. It is either the desire to connect with another person, the natural world, or something intangible, or the recognition that this connectedness is an essential part of the human experience.

The love that Levinas describes is an expression of this connectedness. Love cannot exist without connection. Connection is the foundation of spiritual experience. Love is a heightened form of spiritual experience, a connection so deep that it falls into this profound relational category.

While I am persuaded and enamored by Levinas’ clear emphasis on the idea of love I’m not prepared to say that faith isn’t about God. After all, we can love God without expecting a reward. Faith can be a loving relationship with God just as easily as it can be a loving relationship with another person. But liberating faith from adherence to dogma is a good thing and I’m in favor of that for sure.

Love without reward