What Religion Are You?

When I say I’m an atheist, the very next question most people ask is: “Well, what were you raised? What were your parents?”

Human beings.

Somehow that answer isn’t good enough. They’re looking to place me in a spiritual box and lock me into a religion and all the stereotypes that go along with it.

All my life I’ve been told I’m a Jew — by my parents, by my relatives, by society at large, simply because my parents professed to be Jews. But if I don’t believe in god, or any supreme being, or even higher power; if entropy is what rules my universe, then am I still Jewish?

Jew’s believe in one god.

I believe in none.

Some would argue I am culturally Jewish, a product of my parentage. But it’s ludicrous I’m considered Jewish solely because my parents were (and technically just my mother need be, according to Jewish law). Let’s get one thing straight. Judaism is NOT a race. It is practiced globally, from members of our Supreme Court to jungle tribes in Africa that pray to one God with ancient Hebrew texts. The thread that holds them together is not racial, or even cultural, but spiritual — a belief system. There are no cultural similarities between the African tribes and our former or current Chief Justices. Take away the religious string and there’s really nothing left of their Judaism.

I adhere to no religion, don’t celebrate any religious holidays, and believe passing down to our children fantastical mythologies that promote intellectual laziness is dangerous at best. Growing up, my family celebrated the major Jewish holidays, though I never cared for the antiquated rituals and sexist roles we all played. Jewish parables were too often warped tales filled with praising their solipsistic god instead of people for their hard-earned achievements. I don’t like brisket, noodle koogle, or most deli foods. And as holidays go, the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving always meant the most to me culturally, and the food is far better.

If I’m culturally anything, it’s white, middle-class, American. Like most of us, I grew up with people of my socioeconomic status. I was raised in a relatively safe, suburban neighborhood — religiously, even racially diverse, but everyone made around the same amount of money. More fine grain, I’m culturally a native Californian. We have a whole other way of thinking out here than the rest of the world. Level of intelligence would be my third greatest cultural influence. I find I gravitate to thinkers — those who explore and question.

So how does this make me a Jew?

Liking bagels, or preferring salmon to ham, doesn’t define one culturally. Nor does espousing the virtues of education, or denouncing violence, or promoting empathy. These ideologies are widely held by most of our modern age. I’m not a Taoist because I believe in living a balanced life. And I’m not a Christian because I think Christ, or likely his myth, had a lot of charitable ideas.

What does it mean to say you are Jewish, or Christian, or Mormon, if you don’t embrace their belief system? If you were raised Christian and you didn’t believe in God, or Christ, would you still be considered a Christian? Hell, if you believed in God, but NOT Christ, could you still be a Christian?

What religion are you?

Most would respond with whatever religion we were raised. We practice the rituals our parents bestowed upon us. But the more important question is: What do you believe?

Think about it.

Have you let your parents define your spirituality? Beyond what you’ve been raised, have you considered what religious ideologies you actually believe in, if any? ‘Be kind. Work hard. Love your family and neighbors.’ These cultural beliefs began 200,000 years ago when we were still living in caves, and aren’t exclusive to any particular religion. They may have been adopted as Christian, or Jewish morality, but the truth is ‘Be kind’ stemmed from our need to be social. Humans are social creatures, and greedy, ungrateful, thoughtless behavior does not win friends, or attract lovers.

Omitting how you were raised, what do YOU actually believe in?

If you don’t believe the bible stories, Old or New Testament, are real — a recounting of historic events — then it’s likely you understand these books were written by literate MEN — the highest echelon of society at the time — to control the masses of illiterate layman with parables that instilled fear. You also likely know that these powerful men imposed rules and roles to maintain the social structure they created, and assigned the administration of this order to an almighty [jealous and vengeful (Nahum 1:2–8)] God whose authority could not (as an ethereal being), and must not be questioned. If you do not believe in this God, or that his adventures in these bibles are real, then you are likely an agnostic or an atheist.

ag·nos·tic (a la Google); noun

  1. a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

a·the·ist (a la Google); noun

  1. a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

You don’t have to subscribe to a religion to be spiritual. You can feel connected to this earth and all that’s here without being a Buddhist. You can believe in charity without being a Christian. You can encourage education without being Jewish. You don’t have to pass on horrific tales to frighten children into adhering to rules handed down from men on high thousands of years ago. You can practice and teach values — choose to live a moral life: be kind, generous, honest, empathetic, loving, compassionate, without religion. Why would you choose to do so without a vengeful God threatening Hell if you’re ‘bad?’ You are advanced enough to understand each of us must continually contribute to humanity, and this planet we inhabit, for our race to survive, and thrive.

One response to “What Religion Are You?”

  1. Great piece, as usual! People retain weird artifacts of their upbringing, that they feel imply some sort of religious affinity. These are not rational, thinking that an enjoyment of bagels and lox implies cultural Judaism, for example. People re-define religion because it brings them comfort, and perhaps an association, without having to put in the effort, or have the belief, behind that association.

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