Religion ala carte

January 22, 2011 at 8:39 am | Posted in Atheism, Beliefs, god, hypocrisy, Jesus, Religion | 7 Comments
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Freedom From Religion Foundation

Freedom From Religion Foundation Image via Wikipedia

I have, recently, on a several occasions heard someone I have known for a very long time refer to herself as being half Jewish.  I am puzzled by this new identification because this person is an atheist who was raised by atheist parents – no religious upbringing, training, or indoctrination whatsoever.  I’m stumped, especially since the basis for Judeo-Christian religions is a belief in the big G.  If you don’t believe in the invisible man in the sky, STOP right there, you are NOT a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim, PERIOD.

I think it’s quite strange when people who have been raised in religious homes, with parents of different religions, refer to themselves as half this (pick a religion) and half that.  I’ve heard this declaration from both those who are and are not religious.  How can this be?  If you consider yourself to be a member of a religion you either subscribe to its set of beliefs and rules or you don’t.  The duality of being half one religion and half another must make life complicated and full of contradictions, which may be a bonanza for a shitload of shrinks.

Am I missing something?  Has some new study found that religion is in our genetic code, as is our eye color, hair color, race or ethnicity?  This question is, of course, rhetorical because the answer is NO, NO, NO, and NO!

I’m sure I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  Though one may or may not be born into a religious family, one cannot be born with religion.  We are born as blank slates.  Religion is a fairly complex system of beliefs and as such can only be learned, developed, and adopted over time.  The religion one is born into may teach (as most probably do) that all offspring are automatically members of that religion.  This is the religious catch 22.  In reality, it’s just another religious belief and if you do not believe in a god or reject religion then you reject this belief as well.  I cannot stress this enough, one cannot be born with a religious belief system any more than one can be born with a knowledge of physics, world history, or the ability to play a musical instrument.  If you go through your entire life claiming to be a member of a particular religion simply because your parents are members, and you have never questioned those beliefs, or consciously decided to accept them then you are, in my opinion, dumb.

The fact that we, as humans, are at the top of the evolutionary chain makes us one of the most complex organisms on the planet.  It is for that reason we have longer gestation periods, and once born are more dependent (on our parents) for much longer periods of time than most other animals.  We come out of the womb knowing nothing other than what instinct dictates, which doesn’t go much beyond getting our basic needs for food and comfort met.  Everything else is learned, even religion.

We also learn to think, at least some of us do.  We can and should be able to be critical of everything we are taught and have the ability to decide either to accept or reject what we learn.  If one decides to accept religious teachings, then accept them.  How can you call yourself a member of a religion if you don’t actually believe in, live by, or practice the tenets of that religion?  How can you call yourself a member of a religion if you choose only the parts you like and reject those you don’t?  This philosophy seems more secular than religious.  And do you know what else it seems like?  Hypocrisy.



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  1. Religion ala carte « Honjii's Harangues…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  2. While I see your point on this subject, I think there is a basic flaw in your argument. While we accept that there is a “Jewish” religion, there is much more evidence for a “Jewish” tribe. Just as there are acknowledged tribes on all continents so there are in the Middle East. The Jews have, through their strict family structures, been able to keep their tribal (I won’t use the word “racial”) identity even though they have been dispersed for many centuries. By contrast, my own Celtic tribal origins have been blurred by “out-breeding” for just as many centuries.

    The key point with the Jews is that you need to be accepted as a Jew (the tribe) to be a Jew (the religion). A member of the tribe who becomes (remains?) an atheist is a source of confusion for us poor Gentiles. He is STILL a Jew. He may become a Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim or a Hindu, yet he remains, and forever will remain, tribally, a Jew.

    • Sorry, Archie, but I have to disagree. There are Jews of all races and ethnicity. They are Jewish because they subscribe to the Judaic beliefs, not because of any racial or ethnic identity.

      I don’t claim to be an expert on Judaism (or any religion), nor have I done extensive reading (because religion just doesn’t interest me much), but here is what I do know: As far as the Jews being a tribe, there were actually twelve tribes of Israel; though somewhere along the way they somehow misplaced ten of them (the lost tribes of Israel). They should have put their pictures on milk cartons, but they’ve been missing so long it’s probably too late to have any hope of finding them.

      The concept of the “Ten Lost Tribes” originally began in a religious context, based on Biblical sources, not as an ethnological idea. Some scientists have researched the topic, and at various times some have made claims of empirical evidence of the Ten Lost Tribes. However, religious and scriptural sources remain the main sources of the belief that the Ten Lost Tribes have some continuing, though hidden, identity somewhere.

      The two tribes that exist today are the Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews. These tribes were probably led by women who were not afraid to ask for directions and that is why they too are not lost.

      Ashkenazic Jews are the Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and their descendants. Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants. Sephardic Jews are often subdivided into Sephardim (from Spain and Portugal) and Mizrachim (from the Northern Africa and the Middle East)

      I think this could be a chicken or the egg argument. I believe the members of these tribes are members because they are Jewish, not that they are Jewish because they are members of a tribe.

      • @Archie
        I have traveled all over the world and met many kinds of people. I have met black Jews, Asian Jews (even some nomadic Mongolian Jews), Italian Jews, Arab Jews, even Native American Jews. I have to agree with Honjii, a person is a Jew if they believe the teachings of the Jewish religion, thus they are a member of one of the Jewish tribes, which tribe they belong to I think is more a matter location than anything else.

  3. They should have put their pictures on milk cartons, but they’ve been missing so long it’s probably too late to have any hope of finding them.

    The two tribes that exist today are the Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews. These tribes were probably led by women who were not afraid to ask for directions and that is why they too are not lost.

    LOLOL Honji, girl you crack me up. Only you would think up something like that. 🙂

  4. I’ve read a few of your blog posts and agree with about 95% of what you say. While I don’t have the half-religion confusion of your friend (which I agree is absurd and incompatible – either Jesus is the messiah or not), I think one should use care in separating cultural customs from religious aspects. To give some background, my grandparents are all Jewish and vary from pretty conservative to orthodox. My parents, on the other hand, have told me that they don’t believe in God (albeit probably unwillingly and hope there is some sort of Heaven waiting for them). They still, however, went through the half-assed Jewish rituals of attending services on high holidays and putting their children (me) through Hebrew School and B’nai mitzvahs. My Dad’s rationale was that if he ever met one of his ancestors (which he won’t) they wouldn’t be able to communicate by their native languages and they wouldn’t have anything in common culturally, but they could say a prayer or something together in Hebrew.

    I am a 100% atheist. I can’t believe any notion of Creator is plausible and that won’t change, because I have the reasoning capabilities of an intelligent being like yourself. I’m not quite sure what amount of Judaism I’ll impart on my children, though.

    The main point I’m trying to get at is that if we ever are going to move to a fully atheist and reasonable society, I think you have to leave a generation or so to part from the cultural pseudo-rituals that have lasted for millennium. It’s easier, in my opinion, to get rid of the mental belief in God than the physical actions that you may feel guilt-ridden about your parents seeing you shed. I guess I just want to have my cake and eat latkes too.

  5. Is there something in man s make-up that sways him to be religious or to reject religion? The ready answer offered on the basis of both science and reason is that belief in a religion is not genetic…It is something that we choose for ourselves influenced by various factors no doubt but there is nothing in our make-up to make us lean toward a particular religion.

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