Atheist Jew Meets Churchy Jesus Girl: a discussion

Steve is a non-religious Jew, and I am an observant Episcopalian, but we both value irreverence. Recently, Stevie wrote this to me in an email:

“As you might guess, the only thing I know about Vestry is that the word ‘rector’ is hilarious. I would love to sit down and discuss religion with you at some point. Religious discussions in this country are all about ‘me versus you, and I’m right.’ People who are religious genuinely fascinate me. I often envy them their beliefs. However I tend to infuriate the believers, with my rampant joke-laden atheism.”

Steve drafted a list of topics, and we both promised not to get all huffy. What follows is a transcript of our virtual “sit down.” I hope we don’t offend, and that maybe you’ll share your take on God, Life, and Whatnot, too.

ON ONE’S RELIGION:

STEVE:
I call myself very Jewish and not religious. That’s what I like about Judaism. It’s à la carte. My Bar Mitzvah was in a Unitarian church because my temple was still under construction. I call myself a “Jewnatarian.” If I were Christian, I’d go with Unitarianism. It’s hip to say “I’d like to be Buddhist,” but that requires meditation, and there’s stuff on TV.

BRITT:
I like Jewnatarian. Unitarians don’t subscribe to a divine Jesus, seeing Him more like a moral Michael Jordan: a bit super-human in his awesomeness, and thus, someone to emulate. Being Jewish is a birthright you cannot escape… but God gifted His chosen people with good bagels, Yiddish-spewing grandparent hilarity, and irrepressibly sexy teenage girls. Adding the “religious” component of Being Jewish with all that Hebrew-learning and rule-following is exhausting, and gets in the way of a good bacon cheeseburger. So although Zealot Sister will balk at your à la carte approach to religion, as… well… not very religious, I understand being choosy. I found all of the beauty and tradition of the Catholic Church over in the pews with the Episcopalians. But this crowd of Christians aims for the broadest interpretation of Scripture to include all of us… especially our fabulous gay friends.

LOVE

We believe in One Holy Catholic (meaning everyone) and apostolic Church. It’s right there in The Creed… and I wear a cross to remind me of The Big Picture. Being a responsible “religious” person also means a perpetual auditing of Bible 101. Only by attending Church and Bible study sessions can we learn what God’s teaching means in this world. The Bible was never meant to be studied in isolation. Faith needn’t be blind, and for thoughtful people, “religiousity” will likely wax and wane.

STEVE:
I followed your first paragraph, but you lost me on the second. Why must one attend a given building and the meetings therein to relate to meaning in the world? It’s true, Judaism has the whole Talmudic tradition. But even there, the goal isn’t to find answers – it’s to ask more questions. It’s nice to be part of a faith where a perfectly good “answer” ends with the suffix “-ish.”

BRITT:
I don’t want to lose you. One mustn’t do anything to know God! However, to understand how Bible teachings relate to today (or to your life), that is most responsibly done with some sort of guidance– maybe from someone with a PhD and a snazzy white collar? An example: with sufficient smarts and determination, one could possibly learn everything a medical student learns… but would you go to the “homeschooled” doctor? Why should the study of a religious practice be any different?

ON FAITH:

BRITT:
Faith is the sticky wicket. For those of us who claim to be religious, it would seem that Faith should be as constant as a heartbeat. But, it’s not. The religious people I relate to (drink with) tend to work on this part the hardest. On the other hand, those with the arrogance to dismiss Faith entirely sound sadly unenlightened to me (this article in particular drives me bonkers “Why I Raise My Children Without God“) Those with no Faith at all should be a great deal funnier about it. Also, many of these same people sanction Santa and tooth fairy lies with a near religious zeal. Admittedly, if you think they’re all fiction, you gotta go with the ones that deliver iPhones and cash.

STEVE:
I don’t know if we’re funnier, but we do have more fun. Why is religion so full of rules against fun? Plus they are so anti-women. The Catholic Church won’t allow female priests– or contraception. No premarital sex. And as anyone who has had post-marital sex will tell you, if you can’t have premarital sex, there’s not much left on your horizon. Jews kept the women upstairs in the sanctuary before they realized “Hey– there’s women here. Maybe get them a seat we should?” Then there are the religions that, well, you know, kill the women for behaving like women and… why isn’t Britt making this argument?

BRITT:
The topic here is Faith, not Religious Rules. So, here’s a quote from a rabbi: “Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there is even the slightest chance that there is a God. Then wouldn’t learning about Him be the most important thing to do?” The key here is learning. That’s why I go to Church: to learn, even if what I take away on any given Sunday is something-ish.

I have little faith in a community that scorns Faith: even a faith-less community is more agreeable one that is all shout-y and against it. Religion attempts to access Truth as much as science does, just with fewer t-tests and, unfortunately, more than a handful of loud, unreliable reviewers.

But please don’t caught up in arbitrary rules of religions you don’t study! The Catholic Church, at times, leans more heavily toward tradition than Scripture. So what? You’re not Catholic. Leave them be to have all of their married sex and gazillion babies. It’s not your religion. In our country, women have the luxury of finding a religion that honors their participation. I cannot explain why Zealot Sister chooses to follow such difficult rules any more than I can explain why Jason (our favorite Orthodox Jew) has two sets of plates. I don’t know enough about any religion to criticize people who follow them, but I have great respect for Zealot Sister and Jason who study their religions and try their best to honor their guidelines.

The rules are easy targets for dismissal of Faith, so let’s be clear: The Bible is not a rule book, but a record of God’s presence and the life of Jesus. Paul offers this regarding strict adherence to dietary guidelines (e.g., arbitrary rules): “eat the food or not, as you please, but give no offense to others and do all for the glory of God.” You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and let there be no quibbling. I like that.

ON LIFE:

STEVE:
A considerable improvement on the alternative, but in need of a rewrite.

BRITT:
Really, Stevie… On Life? All I know is that those Life Is Good products are more irritating than people who can’t shut up about politics. I have no idea why this condescendingly simple message delights the masses… and yet a God is Good coffee mug would have people giving wide berth around your cubicle. And isn’t there all sorts of “life” that is no good at all? Mushy brain on a ventilator? Not so good. No stick figure t-shirt for that.

This is so, so wrong... so obviously I think it's oddly funny.

I imagine Jesus is wicked funny, totally has this t-shirt, and looks great in yellow.

I also tend to think a little God infusion wouldn’t hurt when someone’s Life seems empty, sad, broken, ill fated, unfairly difficult, or about to end. I don’t believe prayers are answered, exactly, but moments of real humility on my knees asking for guidance have been instructive to me. And if you feel it, the Holy Spirit is fantastic at reminding you of the beauty and connectivity of the Life in all of us. What makes this worldview palatable (and you and me friends) is admitting that people who talk like this sound utterly insane.

STEVE:
OK, even I should have been less flip. Life is pretty great. Neat stuff. Arrogant to think that we’re the center of it and that we’re the only ones who invented the sandwich. For every billion planets, I bet there are thousand variations on corned beef. Some may be silicon based, but even a, well, sand-based sandwich could work.

There are still religions that insist that you take literally that we are the center of the universe. Or – again – they will kill you. Just try to get corned beef then. Even dry corned beef.

A sandwich-eating alien is only ever one click away.

On her planet, she’s the Queen of Sandwich… and a Lutheran.

ON DEATH:

STEVE:
The end. Game over. Not to happen again. Like being asleep, except without worrying about forgetting about finals. Kind of the ultimate final, actually. Terrible invention. That’s what I mean about needing a rewrite.

BRITT:
Oh, Steve. I hate that I agree with you here. But then my Faith creeps in (and also C.S. Lewis with The Great Divorce) with the slimmest possibility of something more. Scientist Britt can’t argue it well, though.

ON GOD’S LOVE

BRITT:
Cathy George, our rector (hee hee) advised us at Lenten time not fixate on trying to be holy. “You are already holy.” God’s love makes us holy, and God loves all of us. A Ma often cites evidence of God’s love for our family, but I don’t think that way. Good luck is not God’s love. There’s no such thing as circumstantial confirmation that we’re in good with The Big Guy. God’s love is constant, and the proof we’re looking for when our Faith is flagging. For me, it’s something I actually feel. Unfortunately bad writers have been making believers sound stupid and corny for ages (like this nonsense).

STEVE:
I don’t like it when people shoehorn “God” as a metaphor into things. As in “‘God’ is really about the love you feel when…” or “You see God in the face of a newborn child.” I don’t see any such thing. I see beauty, yes. I see something wonderful and amazing. But it seems that calling that “God” is stretching the original description rather than admitting it’s a different concept.

BRITT:
But it’s not entirely different. I’ll admit it’s an easy explanation to a complicated theological question. But as a small child, those giant cloth banners embroidered with God Is Love put an earthly tag on something indescribable. Moments of beauty aren’t God, per se, but they do summon the teeniest essence of Him… and are, thus, divine!

STEVE:
I need to throw this back at you as a question – how do you feel God’s love?

BRITT:
Brace yourself for the crazy, but remember that you know me to be a smarter than average blond girl with all sorts of science degrees and a good degree of skepticism. I also love to make fun of just about everything. But you asked, so here goes. God’s love is unsullied belief in your own worth. For me, ironically, it means getting on my knees and admitting my complete incompetence to understand anything. Regarding God, we’re all idiots. But in those moments of prayer (meditation? begging for impossible things?), God’s love feels warm, calm. Do you know deep down– in spite of school shootings and war and Kardashians– that people are inherently good (that you are inherently good)? That’s God’s love. It’s omnipresent and free, but in our busy, angry world, it’s easy to overlook. Plus, there’s stuff on TV.

ON SCIENCE AND RELIGION

STEVE:
“The wonderful thing about science,” said Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “is that it’s true whether you believe it or not.” You may have seen this quote floating around Facebook. He said it on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in response to someone saying he didn’t believe in something scientific. I love this quote and it summarizes my relationship with religion perfectly.

BRITT:
I loathe Bill Maher. He argues so smugly (and so poorly) against religion, and also thinks people like me are loons. Picking through the Bible or highlighting any number of religious beliefs out of context is just poor journalism. Back in college I thought science and religious beliefs were at odds, so I dismissed the latter to embrace what I could see and prove. Now I realize that they can co-exist. And now, I might even put forward this: “The wonderful thing about God, is that He exists whether you believe or not.”

I'm right... you crazy!

I’m right… and you crazy!

STEVE:
OK, Bill Maher is a dick. Given. Atheist zealots are every bit as irritating as religious door-knockers. But we’re talking proof, not faith. A star cluster exists, demonstrably. Life evolved – and did so over millions of years. This is not up for discussion. I can look in a sky and see such wonders that the founders of religion couldn’t have imagined.

“There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5. Great line, but dammit – he had to put “heaven” in there.

If “God” and his scribes knew all His wonders, surely He would have thought to include them in his teachings: “Not only is man an amazing creation of Mine – but whoa! You have got to see the work I do with galaxy clusters, quasars, collapsing stars, dark matter, and – oh yes – a few planets right near by.” He might have gone on less about fish.

BRITT:
Laughing too hard to comment. And God in quotations is killing me.

ON COMFORT:

STEVE:
I take no comfort from otherworldly things. That’s scary. That’s something I envy in religious people. I can find comfort in my children, loved ones and friends. But I gather it’s not the same comfort.

BRITT:
God isn’t otherworldly. He’s right here.

STEVE:
You’re not mentioning comfort.

BRITT:
The comfort: I’m never, never alone. Strip away Bernie, my kids, my pretty stucco life and ask me if I still have the Comfort of God? I dunno. But last year, when there were moments when I didn’t know if I’d be here to have this discussion, my sole comfort came from God. You can’t knock that.

ON FANATICISM:

BRITT:
Blech. Religious fanaticism always excludes, hurts, even kills.

STEVE:
I love people who have faith and kindness. (Although I don’t see why you need faith to be kind.) I do dislike fanatics – those who say their way is the only way. When you go from belief to fanaticism, that’s when the Holy Hand Grenades tend to come out. Fanaticism also leads to hooligans and tedious, low-scoring soccer games.

In these hats, we trust.

In these hats, we trust.

BRITT:
I completely agree that Faith has little to do with kindness, or even human decency. Faith is a personal matter. Kindness is a public one.

ON THE BEAUTY OF THE UNIVERSE

STEVE:
Oh God, it fucking rocks. Wait – I just invoked God. Maybe there’s something there.

BRITT:
Of course there is. Make fun all you want (I insist!), but there are other Jewnatarians out there just waiting to set up folding chairs with you in some temple basement. In the meantime, I’m going to drag you to the Redeemer. There’s a whole Bible study group of women who have been praying for you. (Can you feel it?)

STEVE:
I like that. Can they pray for me to have less back hair?

Half atheist?

Results may vary.

(DP Challenge)

 

196 responses

  1. Okay you two; I seriously didn’t need to find you guys and fall in love. The last thing I need is another authentic, serio-comedy blog to read. As I write my own blog and work on a book, teach college english and raise three kids, take care of a home and exercise, pray and meditate, I DO NOT have time for this kind of nonsense. And yet, I read your discussion and then your blogs and thought, I have to make time for it. Thanks a lot! No seriously, thanks a lot.

  2. This discussion had me laughing out loud! I fully identify with Steve, as I am a thoroughly Reform Jew, confirmed and everything. However, vis-a-vis God? Don’t know. My dad was “spiritual”, yet my mom, 95 yrs old now, and in her “twilight time” (yet, she’s a tough ol’ bird!) wavers between being agnostic and atheist. But Jewish, nevertheless. It’s not easy being a Reform Jew. One gets picked on by the other, more observant Jews, then from those fanatic fundamentalist Christians who want to convert us, en masse.

    I agree with both of you on so many points, and do so very strongly. I think that study of holy texts is important, in order to make them relevant to one’s own life. To me, that’s the only way to go when dealing with religion. I also believe what I’ve been taught, and that is “Judaism doesn’t demand FAITH; it demands DEEDS.” Yet, on the other hand, our congregation has always been closely involved with All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, CA, the church upon which the right-wingers love to sic the IRS, for “preaching politics”. All I can say is “Oy”. And Steve, to you I’ll just add one thing I figured out during my life, and that is that “Judaism isn’t a ‘feel good’ religion.” I gleaned the same thing from what you said!

    I’ll just end this by saying that I come from a “background” most Jews I knew when I lived in NYC for 16 yrs. ” just didn’t get”: My mom was born and raised in Westwood, NJ and my dad, born and raised in Bainbridge, Ga., in the real Deep South.

    Keep the discussion going. I’m going to follow, even if it does cut into my time watching old “Criminal Minds” episodes!

  3. Thank you for making me laugh and think! As a parent, I want my offspring to do what’s right without a reward or a threat. That’s the hopeful final outcome, not always the path to getting there, right? Taken too far, coercion cancels free will, doesn’t it?

    I believe in God, in fact I’m totally addicted. I’m a Christian. I pray and stuff like that. But sometimes I imagine that if I were God, I’d be trying to get people to treat each other right without the trappings of religion, without rewards or threats of torture, and ultimately without even suspecting that I existed.

    I don’t know, if Someone went to all the trouble of making a universe that could be understood by intelligent people as having created itself, I’d think there might be a profound reason for doing it that way. I think the very phenomenon of honest, smart people seeing this place as a “self-created Universe” might be evidence that God prefers us to be decent people in the absence of religious and faith-based motivation.

    When I was thirteen, I “got religion,” quit my rock band, and had to leave all my friends. All of them but the bass player thought I was crazy and worthless. They walked out my front door shaking their heads. Gone! The one guy who stood by me was the only atheist I’ve ever know well. I’ve never gotten over how he saw me as a person and a friend even after I’d deserted him. To this day he’s an evangelist for atheism, and a vociferous critic of faith. I listen respectfully to him and don’t argue because in my misguided and tiny mind, it seems that the God I’m addicted to looks at him with the ultimate in parental pride. I suspect that this kind of person, even without a bass guitar, is near the top of human moral development in God’s eyes.

    Sometimes it seems to me that the Universe was created this way to make atheism possible, so that a few faithless champions could exemplify God, a Person who does what’s right without threats or rewards from a higher power.

    “Brother Maynard, bring out the holy hand grenade.”

    • I enjoyeI enjoyed reading that.
      I enjoyed reading that.

      I have experienced this from the other side. I used to run a local community newspaper. We were a “collective” each member bringing their own journalistic contributions. One member was the “thinking powerhouse” behind everything we did. He was far better educated than us, and had a sharp mind. He made us bolder. Then one day, after five years of him being at our house almost every day, he announced that he had discovered Christ and that he could no longer work with us. He considered our lifestyle incompatible with his new faith. He said our activities were trivial and shallow.

      Wow! That was quite a thing. With that he left us and we never saw him again. It was a shame. I could never understand why he couldn’t have stayed and brought his discovery to what we were doing. I thought if that is what happens when you meet this saviour – then something is very wrong with the narrative.

    • Dr. Morehead! What a wonderful perspective you have brought to the discussion. Believers and non-believers, the religious and not… we’re all loved by God. And there are examples everywhere of how to be a better human; but we might not notice them in the name of “religion.”

      • Mr Hayes: I’m a journalist of more than 20 years. I would have felt terribly hurt in much the same way you did. When someone renounces your lifetime of hard work that he himself led, it is a betrayal. I’d get into a rant about this being one of the things I dislike about “finding God,” but it’s more like quitting smoking. Once you quit, you suddenly feel superior to those who are still smoking, and say things like “I wonder how ANYONE could suck on those death sticks” as you annoyingly spray water on their cigs. Make your own choices But don’t crap on mine. It’s bad enough I can’t smoke in the newsroom anymore…

      • Thanks. It’s difficult to have these conversations because we Christians use language that assumes God exists, and in doing so we are subtly saying, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” But it’s also difficult for us to start out by saying, “If God exists…” because that is not an honest expression for us. In fact, just saying those words feels a little wrong for me, personally.

        Imagine that a scientist found hard evidence for bigfoot. In a discussion intended to pursuade his peers of the existence of this creature, he uses language that already assumes it to exist. “Bigfoot came to America in 2,000 BC riding a bicycle. Here are the tire tracks. Bigfoot seems to like banannas. Here is the evidence for that.”

        As someone who doesn’t believe in bigfoot, I’m constantly tuning out everything. “No, no, no. Let’s get back to the issue. Tell me again, how do you know this thing exists?”

        I have no solution, but I love what you are doing here. Laughter is truly common ground.

    • I didn’t know we had atheist evangelists. How does one evangelize that which one does not believe? I don’t believe in Ghosts. Do I run around insisting everyone else not believe as well? If you don’t believe something, there’s really not much to evangelize. But at least the conversations are shorter.

      I believe we can agree on at least this much: The number of the counting shall be three.

      • You’re right. The term “atheist evangelist,” isn’t fair, accurate or logical. I should have said something to the effect that whenever religion comes up, my true friend, the atheist, lectures passionately for quite a while, saying there is not the slightest possibility of God’s existence. He hits it from every reasonable angle, not holding back honest feeling of disgust for religious people, individually and collectively. I don’t fault him, I credit him for speaking his mind. And I don’t argue because, as it turns out, I’m one hell of a good listener. For example, I may have said ten words in the space of a half hour last time religion surfaced.

        In any case, the last thing this righteous man deserves is some wingnut using a pejorative term like “atheist evangelist” on him. I take it back. Sheepishly.

        Here’s my big point: I think God has a better opinion of him than of me because my friend does what’s right for the same reason God does what’s right. I try to do what’s right because God is sort of with me or watching me, however you want to say it. My motivation is childish and selfish, unlike my friend’s. I’d like to think I would be a wonderful person if I didn’t believe that God was watching, but I’ll never know. Perhaps God will never know either. That’s kind of sad, to me.

        Incidentally, I do feel guilty for turning my back on my childhood friends when I “got religion.” The analogy to that sanctimonious feeling of turning one’s back on cigarettes is perfect because this bass player is the very dude who inspired me to quit smoking. I, of course, have credited God for it all my life, but now think God would prefer I give credit to his star representative, over here on bass.

        Yeah, I feel appropriately guilty, but things are rarely clear-cut. The sudden bolus of Christian adults in my life told me to quit my band if I wanted to attend the local fundamentalist Christian school. So I did. I never wanted to quit the band. I didn’t think it would be an issue until the last minute when it came out of left field. But I was so excited about becoming “a better person” (in my own eyes) that I would have quit wearing pants if they’d suggested it. In fact I may still do that if it makes me a better person.

        Fortunately I don’t have three buttocks.

        I was 13, and the rest of the band members were 16 and 17. When I got religion I didn’t tell them they were crazy, inferior, or beneath me. I hardly got a word in. I stayed in the same town for two years. They all drove cars, I didn’t. I could have asked my mom to drive me over to see them, I guess, but they’d stormed off calling me crazy. True, I should not have deserted my friends. But it was a two-way street. None of them came by to see me, none, that is, but the Good Samaritan, the only atheist I’ve ever really known.

        It was all his fault that we still hung out, went diving and catching waves and digging clams. It was my fault that it was not as fun as before I got religion. My fault because I was already putting on that hideous plastic personality of a “salesman for God.” I didn’t know any better. My whole personality changed. As Zimmerman said, “Instant inner peace and every step you take has got to be approved.” And, God bless bass guitars, my friend immediately began lecturing me on my stupidity for believing in God. He took the whole thing personally. That means a lot. I listened patiently right from the start, thankful to still have one close friend. One true friend.

        It took me years to appreciate the God-like purity of an atheist’s goodness.

        Yikes, long comment. Sorry.

        “…that with it thou mayest blow thine enemies to tiny bits.”

      • Oooh… I totally want to delve into the “certain subjects!” Go ahead.

        For the record, I’m quite politically incorrect. I’m forever saying the wrong thing and offending and apologizing. There was nothing careful about this exchange, and Steve and I fully expected to get tarred and feathered. This is the first time I’ve been accused of being cheesy, though. Perhaps you’ve gone to previous posts where I’m all moon-y over my Prince Charm-y husband? Total cheese.

  4. Any ability to apprehend the divine must add another dimension, or quality to a person’s life, just as an ability to respond to the beautiful, or a talent in creating and feeling music does. Those other ‘extra dimensions’ don’t require denying reality, even the narrow version of it that is relevant to the pragmatic sciences. The issue is rather than the pragmatic sciences, having no need in their view of the world, for such sensitivities, want to argue that since ‘musicality’ can’t be seen, or touched, or described in three dimensions therefore it doesn’t exist. In a sense, maybe not. Same with apprehension of the divine, I think.

    • Diane, I suspect you’re smarter than all of us. But I wanted to note your use of the word “apprehend” here, which is fascinating. Of course, you might have only meant an ability understand the Divine, but I read it as lassoing the Divine, or arresting it and taking it into custody– which happens, indeed, when we’re moved by beauty and music.

  5. Hello Britt,
    When I mention about political correctness I was thinking about so promoted now in the media such combinations: Arabic and Jewish activists/women talking together about peace what goes nowhere after flashy beginnings and now atheist Jew discussing with an active Christian. It seems also to be political as it masks long-standing and consistent attacks of the MSM (main stream media) on religions and traditions portrayed as the main source of wars/social frictions. Steve is nice, but the discussion/dialog would be much deeper/religious and ‘juicy’ if he was a religious Jew. In this way, and in the best scenario, such blog would have a chance to show possibilities for reconstruction of the Palestine from XVIII and the first half of XIX century where people with different religions/nationalities were coexisting so peacefully. This topic I signalized yesterday at 2:37am (the last post in older comments) with request for hearing your eventual views, but it looks as being carefully omitted.

    • Sorry I didn’t comment on your last post. But yes, a discussion including a religious Jew would be fun. My dearest friend from college is an Orthodox Jew and we get along swimmingly. You might find all of us irritatingly nice, Slawomir.

  6. We don’t carefully omit anyone. Carelessly, sure.

    Let me ask you: When you go to a party and you see two friends talking, do you interrupt them and yell at them to broaden their conversation to talk about larger, more untenable topics that are clearly outside their scope?

    I knew there’d be a “but” after “I’m sure Steve is nice…” We weren’t shooting for juicy. We were shooting for how Britt and I actually talk. We’re not starting a worldwide dialogue. We just wanted to see what happens when two friends who respect each other’s viewpoints share them. We’re the opposite of sensationalist. We’re… anti-sationalist? Boringist?

    It’s an interesting time when the non-hysterical articles are criticized for being too agreeable. It used to be readers would demand equal time and fairness. Now they want a fight. Not me. TV and sandwiches. TV and sandwiches.

  7. Hi there – I quite get atheist Jews – or humanist Jews for that matter, as for me Judaism is a tribe and blood link (literally) not a religion. I can never stop being Jewish even though I don’t believe. My blood goes back to the Bible – probably anyway, as on both sides of my family I am linked to the priests and their helpers which is handed down by family. So I am by blood part of a tribe but as for the Bible and believing what it says – which version would you like to read? And in which language? If you can’t read the original then you are reading someone’s interpretation of it and we don’t know which is the original – yet – so, I’m not going to follow someone else’s ideas I’m going to make my own life up and my own rules and my own morality. That’s my ‘religion’. Any my view too… let’s have a cup of tea together sometime to discuss further, as Lois Eldon says – after all I’m English!

    • It sounds very true what you say, ukgardenfiend: “I can never stop being Jewish even though I don’t believe. My blood goes back to the Bible – probably anyway, as on both sides of my family I am linked to the priests and their helpers which is handed down by family. So I am by blood part of a tribe …”.

      I felt inspired by your spontaneous statement and this reflection came to my mind; Displaced/marginalized/prosecuted etc. people are more prompt to become religious as in this way they recover so missing in their lives alienation from the lost families/culture/traditions/nations etc. Yes, people are ‘social animals’ and need maintaining strong social bonds. You, ukgardenfiend, can feel stronger as being very proud of your traditions with not contested tribal bonds. It creates an illusion of being above others with the impression/temptation of making “my own life up and my own rules and my own morality”. It sounds very attractive, but it is also very dangerous. This trap experienced many dictators with their increasing with the age/power ‘divorce’ from own religions (Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hussein, Gaddafi, Mubarak etc) and ‘smaller’ people claiming to be above religions can also land on the ‘devilish side’ (from the perspective of people around them) on their micro-scales.

      In this perspective, the ruling manipulative circles make big mistake by ridiculing/eradicating at the same time religions with the mentioned above aspects determining our social lives/structures for ages. Yes, we see now emerging flashy substitutes in Nike/Rolex/Apple/Madonna/Greenpeace …. fans/supporters, but it is not only short lived and ….. ….. …. .

      Tell more and share with us , Ukgardenfiend, about your “own rules and (your) own morality” as it can be also interesting and inspiring what I say very honestly from my heart after reading your post. I accept your invitation “let’s have a cup of tea together sometime” and wait for your visit in Montreal. Be my guest and I will pay. :-)

  8. Dear Britt and Steve,

    I am not against your being “irritatingly nice” and “respect each other’s viewpoints”. It is great and it should always be like that. However the title of your blog is sensationalized. Do not tell me that such wording used for your discussion “atheist-jew-meets-churchy-jesus-girl” sounds ordinary. On top of that it was strongly promoted/advertized by the wordpress.com. So, the lured readers can expect something more.

    Today, when so many people are ready to blow their bodies for killing more of others after experiencing earlier an extreme violence in their lives/countries people want to see peaceful dialogs addressing such problems honestly. Yes, they want firstly seeing/finding real solutions for big problems instead of “TV and sandwiches”. Instead, our media promote consumerism and report firstly sex, crime and very brutal killings. At the same time our journalists, politicians and promoted moral authorities (or websites in the reference to our discussion – haha!) carefully avoid to address the real reasons of problems. In my view it is greed combined with the mastered art of human manipulations that reach its apogee today when we deal with monopolized politics/media/finances (what are your views?). It reminds me times of living in my previous country occupied by parasitic ‘communists’ when instead of addressing fundamental problems in the media were also promoted “irritatingly nice” and “respect each other’s viewpoints”. Don’t you feel being used by the wordpress.com’s Politburo? – haha!

    • Slawomir… I’m American to a fault and have this rosy worldview that we can all share Cokes and stuff. I don’t think my (poor) attempts to explain my faith (to a friend) have any large, political agenda for anyone– certainly not WordPress! As for the title… well… that’s all me, my friend. I exaggerate. I AM sensational, always the overdressed girl at the party putting her expensively adorned foot in her mouth. (And I’m sure I’ve never used the word “apogee” in any sentence.)

      • How about “perigee”? Sorry, I’m quite often the “cheekiest girl” at the party!

        But seriously now, I jumped into this conversation because of the injection of humor, which is one of the most important ways to convey an idea, thought, or yes, even a “belief/non-belief”. As a some-time “atheist Jew” or “agnostic Jew” (Y
        yes, I reserve the right for me to be a flip-flopper; or anyone else’s right, for that matter.)

    • I’m not sure a critique calling us out for being sensationalist should invoke “The Politburo.” It signed off on the deaths of dozens of millions of people. WordPress offers free blogs. I don’t feel particularly used, no.

      • Dear Britt and Steve,
        I liked your sentence from the very beginning Steve; “However I tend to infuriate the believers, with my rampant joke-laden atheism.” What is wrong with me substituting your word “atheism” by my “social activism”?

        Why are you so serious with my joking reference to the Politburo? At the same time you remind me that “WordPress offers free blogs” what is quite scary as the majority of people participating in this discussion use this service. Maybe, dominating spheres above prefer paying a little bit and have all more active people under its own wing. Who knows it/why? Among my points was also included recognizing that behind the biggest conflicts/murders in today’s world are definitely not religions and your example proves it well as can provide more good examples/proves if your dialog will evolve!!! So, go ahead and invite active representatives/extremists from other religions.

  9. This was quite simply phenomenal. As a fellow Episcopalian, I appreciate the open, honest dialogue (and wonderful dashes of irreverence and humor). I am also so glad that this was Freshly Pressed – I seem to find so few blogs on the topic of faith or religion that get that kind of visibility. I hope that this served to show people who may be a little (or a lot) disillusioned with the church that not all Christians are uber crazy, judgmental, and/or close-minded.

  10. Humor, open minds and smooth talks are good for short interactions with frequently changed topics. However, in longer perspective, we need to have in our life journey something truly solid and consistent from the point A, as born with a lot of projects/hopes, to a final walk after reaching the point B that marks our noticed aging with an accelerated approach of the END (memento mori). At stake is maintaining our dignity and conviction that human lives are parts of an extremely Big ‘project’ – worth of pains and hard work, as appreciated and contributing to its realization when seen, for example, from another dimensions. We need God and He needs us. That is why I am so interested to hear from one of our atheist Jews about his “own rules and (your) own morality” as it shows the possibility of seeing similarly powerful alternatives to religions. Let us see fruits of your Big work.

    P.S. To Steve, Czy mowisz dobrze po polsku? Dopiero teraz zauwazylem Twoje pytanie o ser. W moim rozumieniu to ‘ser’ mial znaczyc ‘przeslodzenie’.

      • Steve, Twoj polski jest super dobry i blyskawicznie wychwyciles, ze ja uzywalem to slowo w zlym znaczeniu. Tak, nigdy go nie sprawdzalem slyszac czesto w mowie studentow i az za czesto odrzucajac to smierdzace starym serem pierwsze oczywiste znaczenie, bo mile mlode osoby mowiac cheesy byly radosne i usmiechniete. Mowily to tez miedzy soba a ja mialem czyste skarpetki – haha! Napisze sorry dla Britt w tym miejscu gdzie uzylem ale chyba ona intuicyjnie dobrze to wyczula (jako kobieta) oraz z kontekstu mojej spokojnej wypowiedzi wtedy i nie obrazila sie.

        Jestes dobry w takich szczegolach ale ja chce pobudzic Ciebie do wiecej ogolnych wypowiedzi, bo polska krew do tego zobowiazuje. Polacy i Wegrzy nie sa lubiani w tym nowoczesnym swiecie dominujacego pieniadza z globalna wladza, bo zamiast poddawac sie, to pokazuja tego nicosc w obliczu wiary w Boga oraz swych tradycji. Ty zas jako polski Stasio/Stefan to mozesz byc jeszcze silniejszy ze swoja bogata zydowska wiara i tradycja. Wielka pomylka ludzi jest sluzenie wiecej pieniadzowi niz Stworcy. Mieszkalem ponad rok w NJ Williamsburg i bardzo polubilem ich ortodoksyjnych przedstawicieli. Tak, sa zdoktrynowani, uciazliwi, nudni ale czysci duchem co jest tak rzadkie teraz w swiecie. Jestes z pewnoscia dumny ze swych polskich korzeni, bo z tym sie spotkalem znajac blizej to srodowisko i ci co byli z Polski uwazaja sie wewnetrznie za intelektualna elite, bo w Polsce mogla sie rozwinac najwyzej zydowska kultura. Ja sie smieje z tej czesto zacieklej antypolskosci wyglaszanej zewnetrznie przez wielu zydow, bo to zwykla rywalizacje ‘rodzenstwa’ – trudno strawic, ze polacy maja tez dobra intuicje w sprawach obecnych manipulacji swiatowych i stwarzaja problemy szczegolnie teraz. Wegry zostaly skazane na finansowa kleske 3 lata temu za pielegnowanie tradycji rodzinnych, narodowych oraz religie ale wciaz trwaja i maja sie lepiej. W Polsce zas wciaz jest silna opozycja tego samego rodzaju co zwyciezylana Wegrzech na przekor planom EU rzadzonej przes swiatowy pieniadz.

        Steve, Ty jestes dobry czlowiek ale bedziesz jeszcze lepszy gdy staniesz sie religijny. Musze naslac na/do Ciebie dobrego Rabina lub Mulla albo Misjonarza – haha! Moje haslo for New Revolution is: All Religious People of The Corrupted by Money World, Unite! :-)

  11. It’s good to see other people who can have relaxed, casual, and hilarious conversations about religion besides myself and my boyfriend. I’m really intrigued by Steve’s views too. My posts on religion aren’t so humorous, but then again it’s just a narrative, and mostly fueled by more serious conversations. You two have a great system of conversation here. Keep up being awesome, both of you! ^_^

    • It’s easy for Britt – she started out as awesome. I’m merely basking in her reflected awesomeness. It’s a great honor any time someone reads your work and it provokes a thought. Thank you for that honor.

      • Thanks for this, Stevie. I just braved the bus stop wearing jammies under a gigantic down snuggie: an outfit that conveys many things, but not “awesome.”

  12. I’ve really enjoyed this post, and now I’m going to have to add you to my blog roll. I wouldn’t want to miss further discussions. Thanks for your engaging writing.

  13. Dear Britt, Steve and previously more active participants,

    It seems that this blog lost its previous dynamics (after being advertized last week by the WordPress.com) and now we see only exchanges of polite/enthusiastic opinions. In Polish we use for such developments this joke: “We are now famous and they congratulate us. Really? Who are they? You and me.”

    I am missing continuation of deeper previous discussions about religions and claimed virtues of atheism.
    Let me try to stir ‘more life’ into this wonderful blog by this ‘provocation’ that I have already used in my dialog with Steve in Polish some minutes ago, and my slogan for a New Spiritual Revolution is:

    All Religious People of The Corrupted/Controlled/Manipulated by Money World, Unite! :-)

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