Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adventures of an Agnostic Jew  


There's a lovely thread going on at That Is So Queer involving how to cope with being both Jewish and Agnostic/Atheist. As an Agnostic Jew, I felt compelled to offer my two cents, and I thought it'd be great to spread the conversation across the blogsophere. Here are my answers to the questions Faith asked on her blog, and I hope all of you can provide your own experiences... whether they be with Judaism or any other faith.

What do you do to maintain your culture?

I celebrate most major Jewish holidays with my family, like Passover and Yom Kippur. Part of our celebrations is to attend synagogue. As a kid, celebrating Jewish holidays and going to temple were obligations to me. Keeping our Jewish culture alive is extremely important to my father, so he would sort of "force" it upon us. I would always complain and drag my feet and beg to leave services early, but now I realize that children aren't really supposed to understand religion. Any children who claim to understand religion are simply regurgitating what their parents shove down their throats (see: "Jesus Camp"). I believe that if religious parents raise their children properly, their daughters and sons will not fully understand their religious culture until older. That's how it went with me.

Now, I'm an adult and my dad can no longer force synagogue upon us, but I still attend on holidays out of respect and love for Judaism. Each holiday, I try to remind myself why I'm celebrating this holiday and what it means to the Jewish people. Each holiday is a chance to learn more about Judaism and develop new found respect for my people.

Have you found a community that welcomes you and makes you feel included?

The synagogue I attend now is the same one I attended Sunday school in and the same one I was Bat Mitzvah'ed in. My family and I have been with this temple for so long because the community within it is made up of extremely supportive and welcoming people. When my grandmother passed away, my rabbi, who had never even met her before, traveled to Brooklyn to deliver a heartfelt service for her. I haven't discussed my Agnostic views with my temple's clergy, but I think that if I did, they would be nothing but understanding and open.

Do you attend synagogue? If so, how do you deal with the God stuff?

Because of all the "God stuff," I don't attend weekly; only on holidays. But in order to get past it, I try to read deeper into our prayer books and find the true meaning behind the words. "All people make mistakes but God is perfect" doesn't have to mean exactly that - it can mean that all people are united by their tendency to inevitably make mistakes, but we can always strive to be a better person. "God" doesn't have to be a big man in the sky - it can mean a variety of things to a variety of people. Also, because my temple is so progressive, they have been filtering in gender-neutral prayer books. Words like "Him" and "King" have been eliminated, so that makes it much easier for me to read them.

What other questions need to be asked?

I'm going to let all of you handle this one.

What next?

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