I grew up with a rather relaxed Judaism, with parents who asserted that our own reason and judgment can and should be able to overrule received traditions and rules. They would have agreed with Reconstructionist Judaism cofounder Mordecai Kaplan's idea that "the past should have a vote but not a veto."
For me there was no one single "aha!" moment. A few things that come to mind:
- After synagogue as a kid, thinking that we give God plenty of slack, accepting things that we'd never accept from a president or even a king. (And that the U.S. is proud of having thrown off a king and [theoretically] governing ourselves.)
- Discovering the book Causing Death and Saving Lives by Jonathan Glover, where after discussing moral reasoning in general (and how, if our axioms lead us to unacceptable conclusions, we might need to revise our axioms), he lays out a well-reasoned, compelling, secular, godless framework for valuing life and for considering killing to usually be wrong; all this before examining specific issues like abortion, war, capital punishment, suicide, euthanasia, and lifesaving priorities. (In that middle section he also mentions, as part of considering and rejecting "God's plan" ideas, that knocking aside a rock that was about to hit and kill you could be seen as thwarting God's plan. [Editorializing: yet religious people never criticize anyone for that. Similarly, were medical advances like the germ theory, and antibiotics, and anesthesia, fulfilling or opposing God's plan?])
- Discovering the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. That may have helped me firmly realize that the traditional western idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god is untenable. (Rabbi Kushner came to believe in a limited God who can't prevent or fix the world's outrages and tragedies, and is just as saddened and angered as we are about them.)
- ...and coming to realize that (as Humanistic Judaism affirms) I'm fine without an invisible friend.