On faith

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I have a lot of complicated feelings about faith lately.

 

 

There have been a few changes. It all started, I think, at the end of 2013, when Brigadoon started to consume my life. I went to shul infrequently, pushed aside everything apart from the show. Rehearsing 3x a week was exhausting but fulfilling, exhilarating but stressful. And when the show was over in early 2014, I just needed a break. From most things in life, other than my (almost) husband and my bed.

 

 

I’d been feeling a bit detached already. After months of no activity, I realised that my feelings associated with shul were not 100% positive. I was a little turned off by some of the attendees, and by the fact that after attending for 6 years, I still felt a bit like an outsider. The people I enjoyed seeing were my age (with a few exceptions), and I continued to be involved and engaged because of them (and services with the wonderful Rabbi), rather than anything.  My studies/group participation was minimal, and it was so easy just to drift away.

 

 

I started to feel resentful, and tired, and excluded, even if it was of my own making. This year, I didn’t go to High Holyday services – the first time since 2009.  I reflected and acknowledged these important days at home, but I couldn’t shake the feelings of guilt. I still have these feelings now. But do I want to go out of guilt? It shouldn’t be guilt and obligation that drive you to do anything (unless it’s from your mother on her birthday, amirite?), and us Jews? We’re amazing at guilt.

I realised that my only reason for attending this year would be to be seen to be attending. And the spiritual/religious elements of it would not be the sole purpose. And for me, they are the purpose.

 

 

The tough thing for me about Judaism, and particularly Liberal Judaism, is also one of its strongest selling points: belief doesn’t matter.  Belief in a God that has any involvement in our lives is not a requirement to be a good Jew, a good person, a good member of the community. Many do not believe in anything other than the elements of the Torah that tell us to be the best person we can be: be involved in your community, be good to others, help those in need, and give to charity.

But for me, it’s lonely.  I don’t necessarily feel that God is moving us around like pawns – in fact, I don’t believe that at all. But I sought out a community because I was tired of being Jewish on my own. And I get that connection with other Jews when I go, but I don’t get that connection of belief. And I sometimes struggle with that.  Sometimes Christianity seems easier and more fulfilling – a community of people who all so strongly believe in something and feel that joy in their hearts when they worship together.  This is most likely a carry-over from my days as a Christian, but I miss that joy. I miss that communal excitement and love and happiness. And sometimes I can’t help but listen to my old Christian music, just to feel that love for God swell through me (ignoring the Jesus ones, still!). Celebrating that joy of belief isn’t really the Jewish way.

 

 

I still think Judaism is the right fit for me, religiously. But it has been a struggle for a long time and I don’t know where to go next.  I feel like I wish to step up my home observance, but I’m not sure where it puts me in the community (I don’t think this is the end of my time with them just yet), and I’m not sure how it will affect my family and children in future.  One thing that is always weighing on my mind is our limited time left in Scotland, which I’ll explain at a later date..

 

 

Another big change as that I slowly but surely decided not to keep kosher anymore.  It wasn’t sudden, and it was a bit weird – my brain was telling me I had no good reasons to continue, but my habit/sentimentality was telling me that to hold on to my decision from years ago.  I started keeping kosher at 19 as a way to bring more Judaism into my life, as an element of it that I could control, but. That doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is my intention and my heart.

 

 

I can’t bring myself to eat bacon in a fry-up, that seems like a step too far, and I probably won’t be mowing down on any pork chops anytime soon. But I’ve been having things like carbonara with a bit of pancetta, chorizo in basically everything (that’s the best so far), sausages without checking for pork contents, etc. Small changes.

 

 

One thing that hasn’t changed is my strong belief that beliefs are personal. You do what’s best for you, what feels right to you, and what honours your gut instinct.  Even if that sometimes means stepping away for a while.

 

 

Have you been in this struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

…xxx

swhite

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Oh, my God.

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It has come to my attention lately just how many of my friends, online and off, are Atheists.

Which is awesome, by the way.   I respect Atheism as much as I respect my Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Baha’i and Muslim friends.  Freedom of religion and tolerance are awesome, awesome things.

But something I’ve come up against lately on Twitter, through either Tweets or RT’ed Tweets, is this perception/assumption/prejudice that implies that those who believe in a God are of a lower intelligence.  This “oh poor silly them not knowing the truth” smugness, or “I’m glad you believe in some mystical glowing thing in the sky that helps you sleep at night” attitude.

Personal beliefs are just that: personal.  They are something people usually hold close to them, and only the most vocal will debate.  I generally keep very quiet on Twitter when it comes to politics and religion, as I often have a differing view to that being expressed, but some of these words hurt, and it’s not as popular it seems to fight, taunt and belittle Atheists on the internet as it is for the religious to be targeted and put down.

 

 

Because you know what? Those perceptions people may have of religion just don’t apply to normal, Liberal, modern day Christians and Jews.  He who is looniest, shouts the loudest, so of course we hear plenty of vitriol from those who take the Bible literally, hate homosexuality, etc, and generally cause trouble and/or are affiliated with hate groups.  In so many circumstances these days, religion is seen to be the bringer of all evil and something to be simply scoffed at.

 

There is an assumption that:
All religious people are anti-abortion and the rights of women.  Er, I’m a woman.  A modern, free-thinking, feminist woman.  And religious.  I can’t speak for all religions, but in Judaism, even the most Ultra-Orthodox of Rabbis would approve of an abortion where the mother’s life was at risk.  There’s this fantastic concept of pikuach nefesh:  that human life is more important than anything else (which also allows killing in self defense, and all sorts, which is another discussion!).

In more Liberal streams, and amongst many Liberal Christians, life starts when the baby leaves the birth canal, so it’s not an issue.  Whether or not you personally agree or would personally have an abortion is an entirely different thing from being pro-choice and would differ from person to person, but that’s the same with anything.  Women can make this choice if they wish to, and birth control is not denied.

All religious people hate the gays.  Sure.  Tell that to my gay Rabbi and his gorgeous Barbadian boyfriend.

All religious people want to convert me.  Nope, I’m not allowed.  Nor would I wish to, even if it was kosher.  There’s this fantastic concept of being a Noachide, or someone who follows the “laws of Noah”.  Which basically means, if you’re not a raping, murdering asshole, you’ll be fine, Jewish or not.

It’s all about getting into Heaven or avoiding Hell.  Don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, as such.  It’s all about being the best person I can be right here and now to benefit myself and others.

 

 

And I understand that there has been a shift.  That more and more people are Atheist and making their voices heard, and I appreciate and agree with that.  Pushing back against religious extremism is important and debate is healthy.

But.

Telling someone they believe in “some fairytale to make [them] feel better about the world” isn’t helpful.  You don’t believe in God, and yet internally you tell yourself plenty of things about how and why you believe this world works the way it does, and that makes you feel confident/satisfied, right?  Many scientists believe in God and also in science, y’know!  These things are not mutually exclusive, just like being gay and being religious.  Which is more common than you think.

 

 

God, to me, is not some booming dude in white robes up in the clouds with a lovely glowing finger.  God works, in a sense, through our own conscience, and I read and discuss issues and concerns with my peers when I need guidance.  I don’t think the good and the bad in the world is something created by a superior being, who is pushing us around like pieces on a chessboard, allowing massive natural disasters, good people to die, and bad people to get away with it all.  We have free will, whether given to us or naturally evolved, and that is just how things play out.  Millions of factors go into a planet/universe/galaxy, and any one event can be caused by a myriad of things.  So yes, good things happen to bad people, and good people die before their “time”.

And. Well.

 

If you truly, honestly believe that I am somehow less of a person than you because I believe in God, walk away now.  I don’t think we can be friends.

If you truly, honestly believe that my faith makes me a person of lesser intelligence than you, walk away now.  I don’t think we can be friends.

If you truly, honestly believe that a world where being tolerant of and respectful to those of other beliefs is a load of shit, walk away now.  I don’t think we can be friends.

 

Cause I refuse to feel smug or arrogant because I believe differently to you, so why do you act that way around me? And my future kids won’t make your (future) kids feel like shit because they see the world differently.

And what you believe?  is not some “truth” that you need to teach us or free me from some kind of brainwashing.  It is your truth.  I don’t believe because I actively make a choice every day to believe in something.  I believe… because I believe. That’s what my faith is.

So stop and think before you offend.  Open your mind.

And like Wil says… don’t be a dick.

 
 
 
 
 
 
…xxx
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