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Do I Tell My Dying Daughter That I Don’t Believe in Heaven?

My roommate insists it’s impossible to prove the existence of God. I’m not sure. What’s your take?It all depends on how you define the word “God.” For example, if you define God as a mixture of sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, water, sodium chloride, sodium silicate, magnesium sulfate, and fragrance, then you can prove the existence of God by holding up a bar of Ivory soap. If you define “God” as an invisible, transcendent, and incorporeal being outside this world and beyond our capacity to find with our senses and machines, proof is much more difficult. Rather than engage in this kind of dialogue, why not share with one another what “God” means to you. God’s meaning, rather than God’s existence, may be the more fruitful conversation.My daughter is dying. She isn’t in any real pain, and with proper medication her doctors say she won’t be. She has lots of visitors — her friends and mine — and many of them are filling her head with thoughts of heaven and how she is going to a better place. She keeps asking me what I believe. I don’t believe in God or heaven. Should I tell her the …

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is The World Wisdom Bible.

He has this to say about religion: "To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence."

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