Sunday, November 01, 2009

Faith & YOU

A friend of mine is doing some research that I've found interesting to participate in (outlined below, as quoted text). I've answered her questions and offered to spread the word further, as she's most likely to encounter right-wing Christians and Mormons in her neck of the woods (you can guess where!). She's very interested in atheist, agnostic and questioning viewpoints. If you're interested, post your responses as a comment, or email me (bilbulatsia[AT]gmail[DOT]com). You can even email me to ask me for her email address, if you prefer me not to see your replies. I'm going to post my responses as a comment, so you can answer the questions without reading my answers, if you wish. If this became a meme I don't think she'd complain, but let me know if you repost, so I can direct her to your blog/site.

I have recently taken on the task of doing a research project as an assignment for the writing group I belong to. The subject I've chosen is faith. It's something that has always interested me, and is a subject of great diversity and passion for many people. It's my hope to "interview" folks from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds in order to look not for differences, but for common threads. At this point I have no concrete ideas about how to correlate the information, but I've been personally very enriched by the few that I've already done.

I'm feeling my way here with the questions, trying to get an idea of what's important to me and what just muddies up the subject. If you're willing to be a guinea pig, I would ask for three pieces of information to accompany your answers: gender, age, and a name (doesn't have to be your real name) for purposes of tracking the questions only.

The questions are:
1. If you had to define faith, what would you say it is?
2. Do you consider yourself a person of faith -- one who practices a particular belief?
3. If so, how do you call that faith, and why is it so important to you? If not, why do you feel that way?
4. Where has your faith journey taken you so far? (Or lack of it?)
5. Do you think a person can be faithful, doubtful, even fearful in turns and still be a person of faith?
6. In your place of faith, how do you envision the end of this life?

Special thanks to Billie Jean for helping out by posting this to her blog. She's a sweetheart!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bringing up baby

We've blogged about our daughter before, but not for a while. She's old enough now that we need to put some thought into what we say to her. If we don't want the world to know something, we can't tell her, because she can talk (and she sure does).

We have ideas about her getting a Jewish education that's open and informative, and that allows her to participate in Jewish activities with confidence, but when she comes up with a "whyyy" question, we're often forced to wing it. So far, no disasters. We focus on shabbat and chagim and go light on kashrut and brachot and tefila. For me, I guess this reflects my growing feeling that I want the cultural attachment to Judaism without all the God stuff, and without the ludicrous stringency.

When she asks a question, I try to answer it as honestly as possible without saying anything that could get us into trouble if she repeated it. Practically, that often means getting her to think about it and answering the question herself. She's still very young, but you'd be surprised what she comes up with.

For me, the best moment so far has been when she said, pretty much out of the blue, "I think Hashem is pretend". When questioned why, she said, "I just think so". We don't talk much about Hashem to her, but she does get it from family, so I was intrigued. And impressed.

I know that when she's older she'll continue to come to her own conclusions, and later on they might not please me quite as much. But for now, I think we're off to a pretty good start.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Been a while.

Well, if anyone cares, I am back. Not sure how long it will last, but I find myself with things to say, so here I am. I have at least three (3) ideas for posts, but I thought I'd start in the obvious place -- the impetus for returning to the skeptoblogosphere at all. It has a bit of a ghost town feel about it, from what I've seen... but maybe I just haven't met the new kids yet. In any case, that feeling only amplified the thought that I should post again.

Here's what happened. In conversation with some skeptic friends (yes, we have some! In real life!), a mutual acquaintance came up. It's clear to us that this friend is Off the Derech. I've seen him online on shabbat (while I'm covering my tracks being invisible in Gmail chat), for example, and he's dated non-Jewish girls. But for some reason, with us, he claims to still be keeping shabbat and kashrut. My personal theory is that being old family friends, it's too close to home to admit the truth. None of us have ever called him up on it, but I've been considering it.

Not to be mean, of course. But because it's obvious that he's confused, and I think he could use the support. We know where we stand, but we are still secretive about it. He's more open about some actions -- the dates haven't been a secret from his family, for example. In his situation, sorting out his philosophies might make it easier for him to come clean about his actions. Or reconcile them. And work out where he wants to be in life.

So what's that got to do with the blog? After long enough as a skeptic, it's easy to fall out of the habit of thinking about it actively. (Does anyone else see the parallel with religion?) But if I can make it easier for anyone to wrestle with any stage of the journey, I'd like to help. So even if I don't blog all that much, I will check in to my email -- bilbulatsia AT gmail DOT com -- sporadically, and will answer questions if anyone has any. Free counseling. If anyone wants it. If not, so much the better.

Oh, and for those wanting an update on how our secret skepticism is going. I can't remember how much detail I went into about why we're keeping it secret for now, but it's temporary. But behind closed doors, we're happy atheists. We eat what we want and do what we like on shabbat, but we're still mainly kosher at home and we still go to shule on shabbat.

I'm hoping to blog about how we're bringing up our daughter next time. Until then...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New skeptic group

Because there can't be too much support for secret skeptics and the formerly frum.

Exorthodox Jews

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kids change everything

For me, skepticism coincided with having my first child. I never gave this much thought in the past. Not that I thought of it as a coincidence; I just didn't think about it at all. Looking back, however, I can see that impending parenthood definitely affected my journey into skepticism.

As a single or even when married and childless, it's easy to just go with the flow. Once you have kids, though, things can get complicated. Suddenly, there's a person whose safety and wellbeing you're responsible for. You love her, it seems, more than anything else in the world. And, depending on your background and your outlook, you may also be responsible for her "spiritual growth". If she "goes off the derech", it's your fault for not being strict enough/being too strict/ having a TV/ etc. And woe betide you if her sexual preferences are outside the mainstream.

As a parent, when your child bakes out of the cookie cutter mould, essentially you have two choices: accept her for who she is, or disown her. It all comes down to what comes first for you, religion or your children.

Our daughter is a little young for rebellion (apart from not wanting to sleep when we want her to) but given that we planned to have her, we had the discussion beforehand. What would we do if she married out or came out? Once I was pregnant, my vague Khalil Gibran-esque ideas about parenthood crystallized and I knew my own answers: my children would always come before my religion.

I think that many religious parents make this choice and it doesn't automatically lead to skepticism. But it certain circumstances, it can pave the way. Because once you've made that choice and put God second, you've already made a pretty big statement, whether you meant to or not. Once God's not first on the list, it's easier for him to tumble further down the ladder. And that's what happened for me.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

One year on

Hi to anyone who is still reading (or still has us in RSS)!

I know most of you are wishing that TO would write a new edition of his parsha commentary, but in the meantime you'll have to settle with me. It's been just over a year since I started this blog and I figured it was time to reflect a little. I've come a long way since then. When I look at my old posts, it seems to me like I was clutching at straws, desperately trying to hold onto my belief that Judaism was right. In the scheme of things, it didn't take long for me to make the move to atheism. But when I think about it, in some ways I was always in that camp anyway...

So often I would end up in a conversation and find myself on the non-believers' side. I like to think that part of me knew all along that science has a lot more going for it than religion. I compartmentalized, certainly, and never really thought about whether the Jewish creation myth really happened, but doing a biology major definitely convinced me that evolution did.

I credit my parents for bringing me up, or allowing me to develop, an open mind. I never fooled myself into thinking that secular Jews were secular because they were evil. I always understood that if a Jew doesn't practice, it's because they don't believe, not because they're lazy or rebelling against God. And I never held that against them. I guess it was tinok shenishba extended a little more liberally than usual.

While I accepted Judaism as a whole, the Jewish values that were most important to me still are now. I have always been liberal and I guess I interpreted concepts in Judaism to suit: in Judaism I saw (and still see) social justice, honesty, environmentalism, and others.

I still don't know if I'll stay connected to Judaism at all. Part of me wants to draw out the good and keep a hold of it. The other part wants to leave it all behind. In some way, it hurts too much to stay in it. But I don't feel like I need to plan for that. We are gradually moving away in any case and can just see where we end up (literally and figuratively). Whatever feels right.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Parshas Korach

Korach: Moses, I have decided to challenge your leadership. For simply asking why you get to be the leader I may eventually be made into a major villian in the midrash and rabbinic literature, but anyway we want elections or something.
Moses: Look this isnt a democracy. We settle this the old fashioned way. With pans. God has already given you Levites a sweet life. You dont have to get a real job, and you get to live off the donations of the rest of the people while you ostensibly perform some vital spiritual service. In the future, this will be known as "Kollel".
God: Can I annihilate them? Please can I annihilate them? Come on, I wanna kill someone today!!!
Moses: Remember we talked about your anger issues? Youve got to control that temper.
God: Thank you once again. You would think that being God I wouldnt need your advice and/or it wouldnt be able to sway me, but you are seriously better than Dr. Phil. Im going to miss you when we enter the land and you're not around...
Moses: Wha...?
God: Did I say that? just kidding...he..he...(phew).
Moses: Dathan & Aviram, you guys are so evil that you definitely deserve to die...and even though i have the influence to sway God, I have no moral objection your wives, children and even young babies dying too.
God: Yes! I knew I got up today for a reason.
Dathan & Aviram: Oh no! The ground is opening and swallowing us along with our households and possesions!!!
God: OK, want fire in those pans? you want fire? heres some fire...(burns them)
I crack me up. This day is just getting better.
Moses: This incident has shown me that we need a more transparent and open system of God choosing who he desires. So we will leave a bunch of staffs in a place only I have access to and see what happens to them. I will go in and bring them out and that will prove beyond doubt that I am not rigging this. (Staffs grow almonds) Looks like Aarons family will be the priests and our family will all be Levites. Incidentally, God has just told me that you all have to give lots of money and donations to the Priests and Levites.