Trekkie Religion and Secular Judaism: What If Religion Really Were Just a Metaphor?


This piece was originally published on AlterNet.

Jesus storybook bible If religion really were just a metaphor, just a comforting and inspiring story that gives shape and meaning to people’s lives… what might it look like?

One of the most common tropes among progressive religious believers is Religion As Metaphor. “Religious beliefs don’t have to be literally true,” the trope says. “They’re just useful metaphors: stories that give shape and meaning to our lives.”

I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it for one simple reason: If religion is just a story, then why does it upset people so much when atheists say it isn’t true? Any more than it would upset a fan of “Alice in Wonderland” if someone told them it wasn’t true?

I’m seriously not buying it. I think the “metaphor” trope is just a disingenuous way for believers to slip away from hard questions about their beliefs. But it’s got me thinking: If religion really were just a story — a story that people found comforting and inspiring, a story that people sincerely knew wasn’t true but still enjoyed telling and re-telling — what would that look like?

And would atheists have a problem with it?

I was debating the other day with a believer who was getting bent out of shape about how religion was just a story people found comforting. People didn’t have to believe religion was literally true for it to make a difference in their lives, he insisted. So why was I being so intolerant and mean and trying to take it away? And it suddenly struck me:

The version of religion he’s talking about?

Trekkies It’s Trekkies.

Think about it. Trekkies are devoted to a story that they find entertaining and inspiring, even though they know it isn’t factually real. And there’s great diversity in their devotions, similar to those among religious beliefs. Some Trekkies are intensely dedicated to the story, to the point where it takes up a substantial part of their lives: going to conventions, making costumes, buying memorabilia, watching the shows again and again. Others are more casual followers: watching the shows when they happen to come on, maybe taking in a convention or two. And different Trekkies follow different variants of the story. Some are more interested in the original show with Spock and Kirk; others care more about The Next Generation. Some weirdo fringe cultists even follow Voyager.

But they all have one thing in common: They know that “Star Trek” isn’t real. Unless they’re certifiably mentally ill, they know that the story they’re devoted to was made up by people. And they act accordingly. Avid convention-goers don’t treat casual fans as apostates; Original Showians don’t treat Next Generationists as sinners and blasphemers; and none of them write editorials lambasting people as immoral sociopaths if they prefer documentaries to any sort of science fiction. And they — okay, fine, we — don’t insist that “Star Trek” is just a story… and then get bent out of shape when people point out that it is a story, and hence that it’s not true. Trekkies have a good time trying to fit the inaccuracies and inconsistencies into some sort of continuity (that’s half the fun); but we understand that the show is a fictional story, with all the flaws that fiction is heir to, and we don’t treat it as a divinely-inspired guide to reality and life.

That’s what “it’s just a metaphor” religion would look like.

And if religion looked like that, I would have no problem with it at all.

Now, if you’re a religious believer, maybe you think this analogy is trivializing your faith. Maybe you think it’s insulting to compare centuries of serious religious practice and thought to nerds wearing Spock ears at convention centers. So let’s take a different example.

Dickens fair Let’s take historical re-creation societies. Not re-enactors of real historical events like the Civil War, but re-creators of historical fiction. Let’s take communities who like to act out the characters and worlds of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shakespeare. Let’s take communities who find these stories beautiful and inspiring, and who devote a significant portion of their lives to reading them, studying them, discussing them, re-imagining them, dressing up like the characters in them, and attending ritual and celebratory events dedicated to them.

You don’t like that analogy, either? But those are wonderful stories! Rich, complex, highly respected stories! Stories with decades and even centuries of tradition behind them! Are you saying that historical re-enactors are giant nerds and that you resent being compared to them? How dare you insult my faith! I declare jihad!

I kid, of course. I do enjoy some occasional historical fiction re-creation events; but I’m not going to start a war, even an Internet flame war, defending them. (Although this kind of proves my point: if believers get offended at their religion being compared to other stories — even if those stories are serious literature — then the “religion is just a story” trope can’t be very sincere.)

But I’m off on a tangent. Let’s come back to the main point. And let’s get a bit more serious. Let’s look at a genuine, religiously- themed example of my Trekkie model of religion.

Judaism without god Let’s look at secular Judaism.

For plenty of Jews, Judaism is much more of a cultural/ historical/ familial identity than a religious one. In fact, for many Jews, Judaism is entirely a cultural and historical and familial identity, and not a religious one at all. The phrase “atheist Jew” has a non-absurd, readily- comprehensible meaning… in a way that “atheist Baptist” doesn’t. Many Jews cherrypick the Jewish rituals and stories that they like, and reject the ones they don’t — not as a slippery way of trying to shoehorn an obsolete and untenable faith into a modern worldview, but entirely openly and without shame or pretense, in an “I don’t think God gives a damn about this, I don’t even think God exists, this is all just mangled history at best and totally made-up at worst, so I have no qualms about picking the parts I like and ditching the rest” approach. Questioning the tenets and texts of Judaism is part of the rabbinical tradition, and many secular Jews view their selective observance, not as a rejection of the Jewish tradition, but as part of it. They treat sacred Jewish texts the way we all treat philosophers and political writers who aren’t purportedly passing on the divine word of God: they read them critically, they embrace the ideas that make sense, they actively oppose the ideas that are barbaric, they ignore the ideas that seem silly.

Exactly the way “Star Trek” fans ignore and reject “Spock’s Brain.”

I guess I’m saying that secular Jews are the Trekkies of religion. And good on them. I’m totally serious. If I could convert to secular Judaism and not feel like an idiot, I’d seriously consider it. Secular Jews have found a way to (mostly) take what’s good about religion and (mostly) leave what’s bad about it. And that way is to not treat it as religion. That way is to not treat it as the divine word of God. That way is to treat it as a story: a fascinating story, a story with a powerful tradition behind it, a story worth telling and caring about and getting involved in… but a story. A story with parts that are inspiring and useful, and parts that are gruesome and ugly, and parts that are just plain batshit.

Now, there is, of course, an important difference between secular Judaism and Trekkies. And that’s the deep, intense connection many secular Jews have with family and history. It’s not just about being invested in the story, and the rituals connected with it. It’s about the fact that the story and the rituals are ones that their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and so on were invested in.

They tried to kill us 1 And of course, much of that investment has to do with how Jews and Judaism have historically been treated by the rest of the world. As a friend pointed out when I ran this piece by her: Plenty of Jews in Germany were very secular, didn’t even particularly think of themselves as Jewish… but that didn’t change how the Nazis saw them. Practicing the rituals of Judaism is a way of acknowledging this reality. And it’s a way of defying it, a way of saying “Fuck you” to it: to Nazis, to pogroms, to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to ghettos, to forced conversions, to being barred from all professions except money-lending and then being vilified as money-grubbing usurers, to expulsions and massacres, to the blood libel, to the Spanish Inquisition. Secular Judaism isn’t just about the fact that your great-grandmother practiced these rituals. It’s about the fact that she was put in a concentration camp because of them.

So that’s an important difference from Trekkies. But my basic premise still remains. Which is that secular Judaism is a way of preserving religious tradition, without needing to believe in God or the supernatural. Secular Judaism shows that you can take religious observances seriously, as a connection to family and history… without believing that you’re doing it for God.

Judaism may not be alone in this, either. I’m beginning to hear of secular Catholics, too: Catholics who are following the “we think these rituals and images are beautiful, and they’re an important part of our family history handed down through generations, but it’s not like we actually believe it” pattern laid out by secular Judaism.

Ocean_beach_xmas_tree And, of course, there’s one of the most classic forms of secularized religion: Christmas. Christmas is ostensibly a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; but for many people, it’s simply a celebration of the fact that the days are dark and cold, and we need to feast and light lights and give presents and generally schmooze with the people we care about. It’s becoming a secular holiday for many, and hard-line atheists from PZ Myers to Richard Dawkins have spoken cheerfully in favor of it.

And you know what?

I love this.

Secular I would love to see more of this. I would love to see a secular Catholicism that preserves the soothing ritual and rich pageantry, without the sex-hating dogma and the authoritarian hierarchy. I would love to see a secular Baptism that preserves the wild oratory and soaring music, without the hateful obsession with hellfire and judgment. I would love to see a secular Hinduism that preserves the magnificent imagery and generous diversity, without the rationalization for the caste system. I would love to see a secular Wicca that preserves the passionate love of nature, without the dismissive contempt for science that is so contradictory to that love. I would love to see a secular Methodism that preserves the Jello salad. (Actually, I could do fine without that… but if other people want to preserve the grand tradition of Methodist Jello salads, more power to them.)

I probably wouldn’t practice any of this myself. My own familial religious tradition is “boring Middle-American Protestantism” from my grandparents (hence the Jello salads), agnosticism and atheism from my parents. The former isn’t interesting enough for me to preserve (except for Christmas), and the latter I’m already running with. So no secular religion for me.

But I could totally see it. I could see it as a way for humanity to preserve the cool stuff about religion — the ritual and the tradition, the narrative and the imagery, the community and the connection with family and history — without the active disregard for reality that causes so much trouble.

And as an atheist, I could be totally happy with it.

So what’s the difference?

What’s the difference between this secular Trekkie Judaism that I respect, the secular Trekkie Catholicism that I’m encouraging… and the “Religion is a useful metaphor” trope that I’ve argued against so hotly?

The difference is this:

Slip n slide Progressive religion says, “This is simply a story”… but it isn’t sincere. You can tell that it isn’t sincere by how bent out of shape it gets when people point out that it’s just a story, and therefore isn’t really true. Progressive religion uses the “metaphor” trope as a slippery way of avoiding hard questions when engaged with skeptics… and as soon as the skeptics turn their backs, it slips right back into actual, non-metaphorical, “belief in immaterial entities or forces that it has no evidence for” religion. Progressive religion is ultimately just as willing to ignore evidence that contradicts its comforting story as hard-line conservative religion.

Truly secular “religion,” on the other hand, says, “This is simply a story” — and means it.

The difference is this:

If you say to a “Religion is a useful metaphor” believer, “Your religion is a story, it isn’t factually true, a lot of the history is mangled and some of it’s flatly wrong, and all the God stuff is totally made up”… chances are they’re going to get seriously defensive. They’ll tell you how intolerant you are, how you’re just as dogmatic and proselytizing as religious fundamentalists, how disrespectful you are to point out the flaws in religion and try to persuade people that it’s mistaken, how close-minded you are to reject ideas just because they’re not supported by dumb old evidence.

If you say to a secular Jew — a genuinely secular, non-believing, atheist Jew — “Your religion is a story, it isn’t factually true, a lot of the history is mangled and some of it’s flatly wrong, and all the God stuff is totally made up”… they’ll say, “Yeah, I know. So what? So are you coming to Passover or not?”

Comments

  1. says

    I was at a conference once, hobnobbing with some folks at the hotel bar, and the conversation turned to celebrating the Jewish holidays. “Wait,” said a woman to the fellow who’d raised the topic. “I thought you were an atheist.”
    “Well, yeah,” he said. “It’s called multitasking.”

  2. Nemo says

    The one thing that bothered me about “Galaxy Quest” was the fan character who, when told that it was all real, exclaimed “I knew it!”. Fans don’t think that way.
    Cultural Catholicism has a certain appeal to me, but in the end, I have to reject it. I can’t see a way to adequately separate the pretty bits from the centuries of oppression and terror.

  3. Josh says

    I think the problem with your formulation of the atheist jew is that while people do consider themselves culturally Jewish, they are only really “atheists” and still “jews” because of their tradition of being other-ed by centuries of anti-semitism. Although yes, the history and family are nice.

  4. says

    While reading the part about the different Star Trek series, I hit upon something.
    Original Star Trek = Judaism
    TNG = Christianity
    Voyager = Mormonism
    Enterprise = the Gnostic Gospels
    The original ST started it all, and created a fan base. Later advances and culture changes created a need for a more updated version so TNG was born. Then someone came up with an idea that they thought could take away some of the fanbase from the previous two and Voyager became a cult classic. Finally, someone wanted a different version and created Enterprise. Unfortunately, many ignore Enterprise because they don’t consider it canon, so it’s not included in the Trekkie Bable.
    Okay, I’m kidding… sort of.

  5. says

    Regarding Star Trek, there are two bits of fan fiction you may want to check out:
    Visit to a Weird Planet
    http://www.fanhistory.com/wiki/Visit_to_a_Weird_Planet
    Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited
    http://www.fanhistory.com/wiki/Visit_to_a_Weird_Planet_Revisited
    One story involves Kirk, Spock, and McCoy arriving on a Star Trek original series set due to a transporter mishap.
    The other involves Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley arriving on the “real” USS Enterprise due to a transporter mishap that wisks them from the original series set to the actual ship.

  6. says

    back in Boston, I was a member of a group called, “Goys for Jewish Holidays”. We had no Jewish family tradition, but we loved many of the holidays, and had great fun observing them.
    I am also a member of the Uhuru cult (we believe that the historical Uhuru actually got the chance to act on her obvious skills, and that the “answer the phone” version we see in the texts is sexist revisionism).

  7. anti_supernaturalist says

    Pulp fiction and its true believers
    Theological chatter about ‘God’ is mere scripticism — just like Baker Street Irregulars parsing the holy canon of Sherlock Holmes. The BSI deny the existence of Conan Doyle, preferring to believe instead that Dr Watson is indeed the chronicler.
    They gather together to iron out contradictions in the received Word. They write learned “theological” papers. Like Christ, Sherlock Holmes has taken on a life of his own outside the canon — witness a clever novel, ’The 7% Solution.’ But at least the Irregulars know that the object of their devotion is a fiction.
    The almighty lords of dualism: Yahweh, Allah, Christ are moral equivalents of a comic book super-villain, The Joker. Lurid pulp about them enjoys fanatical cult followings.
    I can have opinions about a fictitious character ’Sherlock Homes’ as presented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in ’The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’. I can also have opinions about another fictitious character ‘Christ’ as presented by Paul’s genuine letters.
    All I can know about these fictional characters is what I can read on canonical pages directly devoted to them. (No one will ever find a genuine autograph of Sherlock Holmes.)
    Theology can add nothing – Theology is fifth-rate fan fiction.
    the anti_supernaturalist

  8. says

    If you’ve seen documentaries like Trekkies, you’ll know there are some people who show a rather frightening level of devotion to Star Trek – completely remodeling their houses so they look like sets from the show, for example. And this is for something that people know is pure fiction. By comparison, it’s small wonder that so many people become so fiercely devoted to the cultural tenets of their religion, whether they believe it’s literally true or not.

  9. vel says

    each religion has what is “literal” and “metaphor” specific to the individual believer, and for a religion to be a religion e.g. worship of the supernatural somethingorother, at least some ridiculous claim must be taken as literal. IMO, that’s why any theist gets their panties in a bunch, they know they’re lying.
    oh, and I love jello salad. probably the only reason I miss going to church and church dinners

  10. says

    In something I wrote, there was a section on Trekkies. I think this explains the devotion:
    A new myth may originate as a story, fictional or with a historical basis, or as a philosophy. Sometimes the myth may depict a utopia, although utopias have something of a bad reputation, usually because they are often advanced as political theories and given the backing of state power. Yet a utopian ideal, presented without the slightest political ambition, may have tremendous power. The most interesting recent example of this is Star Trek. In the early days, Trekkies were generally reviled even by the other contingents of science-fiction/fantasy fandom. The actors involved in the show thought they were nuts; William Shatner coined the phrase “Get a life!” in response to the tableaus of Vulcan-eared, Federation uniformed nerds he met at conventions. But something unexpected had happened. Star Trek presented a utopia in which humanity had not only survived well into the future, but had met their problems head on and triumphed. All races, creeds, and nations would live in peace, advances in technology and social understanding would eliminate need, and humanity would rise into the heavens themselves and ply the stars in mighty ships like gods. And within this gaggle of nerds were people inspired to pursue careers in science and technology to meet the challenges ahead, and others who were resolved to act as if that utopia already existed, and to live by its codes. As the people involved in the shows met these fans, they discovered that they were actually very nice people who had been genuinely inspired to try, in their own lives, to bring that utopia to fruition.
    No one had to tell them to do this. This dream had sufficient power to awaken on its own.

  11. says

    Thanks for your mention of secular Catholicism. I hadn’t known other people were doing that! As I was raised a Lutheran whose faith and knowledge was more important than ritual, I had difficulty understanding my partner’s cultural Catholicism. For me, if God didn’t exist, that was IT. I didn’t understand why he would still feel an attachment to the tradition. It took a lot of talking out and understanding for us to finally settle on the label of “Atheist Catholic” for him, using the Atheist Jews as a model. We are both pleased to see that he is not alone in this practice.
    My boyfriend is of Latin American descent, and though he was born and raised almost entirely in the US, the rituals of the Church are a comfort and reminder to him of his family’s love. He is perfectly capable of going to Christmas Mass and badmouthing the Pope on the way home, all the while challenging his family on the Church’s anti-gay and anti-woman policies. It has been a real eye-opener to me, and a great learning experience.
    Just because we oppose irrationality and belief in things that aren’t true, doesn’t mean we want or need those cultures to disappear.

  12. a fellow from Spain says

    Trekkies “know that “Star Trek” isnÂŽt real, unless they are certifiably mentally ill.” Are you sure about that. I think most trekkies have a pretty foggy notion of reality (joke, of course).
    There are no jews among my acquaintaces, the jewish community is virtually non-existent where I live (northwestern Spain), but I have read a few things about secular judaism and find it fascinating. I am an ex-catholic atheist and some of my friends share my (lack of) beliefs. We usually go to christenings, weddings, funerals and the like, but for us this is just a social duty. It doesnÂŽt have the deep meaning some jewish atheists apparently attach to their religious rituals.
    Your idea of a future when all religion is like that of secular jews is attractive, but I donÂŽt think it would work. The problem is this: if you are atheist/agnostic, in order to get comforting feelings from religious rites, you need to share them with genuine believers. Imagina a future when all jews were non-believers. Would religious rites still provide the “warm” feelings they want to get from them? Would the sense of “belonging” still be there? I doubt it. Most of them would probably feel they take part in something empty. To establish some kind of “bond” with a community of believers, you need a community of real believers.
    But it is a lovely dream, anyway.

  13. John McPherson says

    You can’t be a “secular Jew” in the sense that you don’t believe in God or that the Torah is divinely inspired yet you are a Jew. You may call yourself a Jew, but by definition, you are not a Jew. Jews are not a racial group. It’s a religion. You simply become a semitic atheist. All the rest is eye wash.
    As for perceptions, the Nazi result is extreme. But Jews who had, generations before, completely left the community were not regarded as Jews if their grandparentage was mixed. It is true that whether or not they were practicing Jews, they were considered Jews (but that has more to do with bogus Nazi racial theory than perception elsewhere).
    The reason the Jews were consistently persecuted over the centuries was their failure to assimilate. Fail to assimilate and you will be marginalized and persecuted. It’s a universal truth, in every society in human history. The great, ongoing, American experiment is to see if that trend can be changed.

  14. says

    John: If you are unaware of the fact that secular Jews were put into concentration camps just as much as religious Jews, you need to study your history more.
    But more to the point: If you are going to blame thousands of years of anti-Semitic persecution on the Jews’ own failure to assimilate, then you have branded yourself, not only as a reactionary, but a repulsive bigot.
    I am now no longer going to respond to anything you say. Please do not comment in my blog again.

  15. John A. says

    Right. Comparing believes to Trekkies. That is okay. We forgive you. Unlike you, we will not say crap and call you names because we are hurt by some comment. We forgive you, and urge you to follow in the same example to make the world more peaceful. Clearly, adding gasoline never put the fire out. I guess some people just forget that all the time. I think they need to go back to grade 5 or something. Sorry if you find this offensive, I was not namecalling, only pointing out the failing SECULAR education system.

  16. John A. says

    John MacPhearson you’re giving everybody a bad name. You’re probably not even a believer. Whatever fool takes this as example of believers, will obviously hate other believers. Perhaps this is the reason why many atheists think believers are stupid. Well I guess a select few are, but then it is also stupid of you (not all, just the ones who judge) to base this image for all other believers. Fools I tell you. To all others, if you are not fools, I respect your atheistic point of view all the same, so no need to start yelling if you are not one of these fools I speak of.

  17. says

    Saying religion is “just” a metaphor trivializes the power of language. And it is not that religion is a metaphor but that many of the stories, legend, and tales which religions incorporate may be considered metaphors. But if there are metaphors they must stand for something. Otherwise, what is a metaphor for?

  18. eric stone says

    I have to disagree with you on this point. I’m opposed to sectarianism in any form because I think it is a major source of hatred and war. I think calling oneself a Jewish atheist is a form of sectarianism that sets one apart from the rest of the movement and weakens it.

  19. says

    I am leaving this comment looong after this blog was posted, but I just came upon it and agree with your basic premise…
    In fact, the desire for religious experience without the need for faith is one of the main reasons I became a SubGenius minister. This wacky cult of weirdness satisfies something in me I can’t quite explain, but I think you might just get it…
    The Church website: http://www.subgenius.com/

  20. cosmopolite says

    Go to any Romance language country and you will find cultural Catholics. Likewise, most northern Europeans are cultural Protestants. I can readily tell the two apart, because of turns of phrase, little likes and dislikes, on right and wrong, and so on. It is possible that 100 years from now, there will be little difference between the cultural Catholics and Protestants. Belief in God is not an issue. Most of these “cultural” Christians are polite agnostics, or simply don’t want to think very much about the immanent. A big giveaway is conversion: cultural Catholics are privately disappointed when one their own becomes Protestant, and vice versa.
    I believe that North American Judaism is very attached to circumcision precisely because it is seen as the last defense of Judaism against secularism and assimilation. I definitely agree that the Jews are more of a tribe than a faith. Following the Law is more important than any doctrinal “faith”. Judaism is surprisingly tolerant of theological disagreements. “Jewish atheist” is NOT an oxymoron. You are seen as a fellow Jew if you were born of a Jewish mother, and you desire to circumcise your sons. That way your sons cannot deny their origins. Judaism is patriarchal in that a woman’s denying her Jewish ancestry is not seen as a threat. And the children born of a Jewish mother are accepted as Jews, no matter what the Jewish mother believes and no matter what kind of household she runs.

  21. Karellen says

    @John McPherson: Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Having railed at Jews (alongside Christians, Muslims, etc…) myself at various points in the past, and being described as a racist for doing so, I looked into it to prove my accusers wrong. I then found out that Jews are a racial/cultural group, entirely determined from being descended from a particular group of Israelites, irrespective of their religion.

    You can believe in Judaism, practice Judaism, follow all of its observances, and enact all of its rituals; but if you’re not descended from the right people, you’re not a Jew, you’re a “righteous gentile”.

    Similarly, Jews can absolutely commit apostasy, becoming atheists or even converting to another religion, and still be Jews, because they are still descended from the right people (and probably still maintain some of the non-religious cultural observances of that group).

    The word you are looking for to describe the group of people who believe in the religion of Judaism, no matter who they are descended from, is Judaist.

    (Yes, it is a bit of a WTF. That’s language for you.)

  22. Karen S. says

    Love your writing, Greta Christina! Great insights, good presentation, delightful humor and excellent analysis. Thanks! :-)

  23. Ruth Ellen says

    I just found this post (I hadn’t been reading your blog, yet, when you wrote it.) I know at least two people who “converted” to secular jewishness. We would welcome you, too. There will be a secular jewish humanist conference in the Bay Area in August, 2012. If you’re interested, let me know.

  24. Maggie says

    You have apparently never been accused of heresy for watching Deep Space 9 because “Star Trek on a space station is just wrong.” And I’m fairly certain that insisting that Star Trek is “just a story” would result in a major freakout. Just sayin’..

  25. pipenta says

    Sacrilege comes in all forms.

    I’ve lost friends when I’ve said that I thought that Star Wars was crap or that Robert Heinlein wrote some amusing space operas for kiddies, and his political thinking was about as sophisticated.

  26. ahad2k11 says

    Two points: 1) I had identified this phenomenon (without realizing it) of self-professing Catholics who, on the surface, gave no indication of being anything other than secular. My girlfriend (many years ago) was ostensibly Catholic, yet she never went to church, never talked about or mentioned God or religion, and typically engaged in non-catholic-approved activities (pre-marital sex, condom use, etc). However, on Christmas, it became somehow VERY important that she attend midnight mass. I called her (and others like her) “Christmas Catholics”.

    2) In Japan, everyone is Shinto AND everyone is Buddhist. (Even if they’ve “converted” to Christianity!) Most of them don’t really believe in any of it, but the cultural trappings are very strongly ingrained. They’ll pay big money to have a Shinto priest bless their house, and then book an appt in a catholic church to have a western style wedding. They see no incongruities in any of this.

  27. saelpalani says

    I’m a Jew. Reform to be exact.

    This comment
    “You can’t be a “secular Jew” in the sense that you don’t believe in God or that the Torah is divinely inspired yet you are a Jew. You may call yourself a Jew, but by definition, you are not a Jew. Jews are not a racial group. It’s a religion. You simply become a semitic atheist. All the rest is eye wash.”

    That’s incorrect. Jewishness is a nation, a people. I’m not an atheist so I do believe in G-d and I do love the Tanakh but many of my tribe members are atheists. We’re modern in the sense that there’s no patriarchal stuff involved in ritual/practice. Our greatness as a PEOPLE comes from our ability to question everything and make arguments. We don’t just cut stuff out we don’t like. We interpret it in a myriad of ways.

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