Robert's Random Ravings

Religion and its effect on all of us

Religion is so complicated!

By birth, I am a Jew. Both my mom and dad are Jewish, as are both of their parents (and so on and so on). When I was a young child (about 7), my parents became Christians. For a number of years, we were part of a church in the St Petersburg area (it was associated with the Church of G-d). A few years after this, we became what is called “Messianic” Jews. Messianic Jews believe that Jesus (Yeshua) is the Messiah of the Jews. They celebrate Christianity, but with the Jewish aspect of the original Christians (who of course were all Jews as well). Jewish holidays were celebrated, as well as Christmas and Easter. My mom and dad are still involved with Messianic Judaism, however I am not.

So why am I telling you this? Because “Religion” (yes, with a capital R) is an important part of our identity (whether we participate in it formally or not). Both of my parents became ordained Messianic Rabbis, so my brother and I were raised in an extremely religious way (our upbringing was similar to that of a fundamental Christian). I am intimately familiar with the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament. I am familiar with many streams of both Christian and Jewish thought. Where this has left me is very confused.

I mentioned that religion is an important part of our identity. Though I am no longer practicing any kind of organized religion (and have very little tolerance for it), my religious upbringing is still a part of me. Both Christianity and Judaism are monotheistic religions. They also both share a trait common with many other religious credos – the belief that their way is the one true and correct way. Christianity tends to take this to more of an extreme, though, with their belief that anyone that does not believe in Jesus Christ is doomed to eternity in hell.

Here’s where my problem comes in. A lot of these teachings were drilled into me growing up. And now, even though I no longer believe that way, I still find myself hesitating. For example, I love Asian statues, particularly Buddhas. But Buddha is a “false god” according to my upbringing. The same would apply to Ganesh and other Asian deities. So in the back of my head, I still get a little uneasy when I look at these statues.

Halloween is another example. I was taught that it is a celebration of evil spirits and Satan, and therefore should not be observed. To this day I still have trouble participating in Halloween festivities.

I wish that I could just shed all of this baggage, but it is not that easy. Even though I do not attend services of any kind, I still strongly identify as a Jew, and that still has meaning to me. But I just cannot fall in line with any belief that has at its center the idea that our way is right, your way is wrong and will lead to eternal damnation. How can that possibly be? What kind of a G-d is that?

I think the kind of fundamental Christianity that we see so much of today in the United States is the religion that I have the most trouble with. There has been an ongoing debate for some time now on whether same sex couples should be given the right to marry. Opposition to same sex marriage is almost completely on a religious basis. The Bible says….. But what does the Bible really say? I am not going to get into that discussion here, because I think it would be a waste of time. But what I do find interesting is the ability of modern Christians to pick and choose the parts of the Bible that they want to follow, forget the rest, and maintain that they follow the Bible completely. The same book that is used as the basis for not allowing same sex marriage also talks about the animal sacrifices that are required on a regular basis. It prescribes “eye for an eye” justice for things such as stealing, lying and adultery. It instructs women to be outside the town for 7 days during their period of uncleanness.

I see it as all or nothing. If you say you believe and follow the Bible, it has to be the whole thing. If you do not follow every part of it, then you may as well not follow any of it – it becomes a free for all with each person deciding what to include and what to exclude.

I would love to hear from anyone that reads this post about their own experiences with religion.

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09/21/2009 - Posted by | General | , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. I can relate to nearly every word that you’ve written, including identifying very strongly with the Judaism, not attending services, and wanting to shed the baggage. Hugs. It’s very hard for me now trying to decide how to raise my son, as the product of a mixed marriage as it is, with a husband who doesn’t really dig religion at all.

    Comment by Jamie | 09/21/2009 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment. It is difficult. That is why I felt compelled to write this.

      Comment by rkurzweil | 09/21/2009 | Reply

  2. hey robert,

    i was raised catholic all the way, baptism, communion, confirmation, ccd classes, you name it. However, none of the beliefs ever “took” with me. Yet, even though i didn’t believe in any of it, the guilt of it all still plagued me. After all, being raised Catholic is all about guilt, whether you buy into the mythology of it or not. There’s guilt for not believing, there’s guilt in enjoying things, there’s guilt in sex, there’s guilt in every aspect of being fully human. It’s the constant never-ending self degradation of being unworthy. If we were not indoctrinated as children none of these beliefs would hold any sway, they’re just not rational. Finally breaking free of religion and all its baggage is liberating. Being a good person and treating others well is all you should worry about. The rest is all nonsense. I live my life free of guilt, shame, and superstition. I have read an enormous amount of literature on the subject and knowledge is power. If you’d ever like some good books to read just let me know and I’d be happy to mail them to you. I wish you luck in whatever conclusion you reach.

    Comment by Greta | 09/21/2009 | Reply

    • And here I was thinking that I was alone in feeling this way. now you (and another friend previously) confirm that it is not just me. Thanks for your comment!

      Comment by rkurzweil | 09/21/2009 | Reply

  3. I wrote a piece some seven years ago about my experience about becoming “saved.” Yes, I actually had a “born-again” event in 2000, and I wrote about it, all nine pages. Today, after much soul searching and realization that Christians are no better informed than anyone else, I decided that all religions are a joke, especially the ones based on Judeo-Christian origins.

    But I was born a Jew, and it’s a part of my identity. I worry for my children who will likely never know their heritage because they are raised by a non-Jew. I cannot escape it, but I have lived a life trying to.

    It’s all myth and bullshit, with a nugget of useful rules. The Old Testament has been used to justify slavery (specifically where Africans are concerned), persecution of homosexuals, and xenophobia. The New Testament has been used to perpetuate a fear of God by refining the look, voice, and modus operandi of the ultimate troublemaker himself. And let’s not forget the Book of the Apocalypse.

    So I think of the traditions and not the dogma, the intention and not the missteps. But sadly, I no longer believe in the God of the Bible. I think He created Everything, and then just said, “I’m done. It’s up to you. Make it work. See ya.”

    When someone tells me about God’s protection, I recall the fate of 6 million Jews. When someone tells me about God’s mercy, I think about 800,000 Rwandans. When I am told about God’s love, I think about the tortured women in fundamentalist Muslim nations. God isn’t here, but He gave us each other. It’s up to us from this point out.

    Comment by Neal Klein | 09/21/2009 | Reply


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