Thursday, November 03, 2011

I'm A Believer (But Not in the Right Things)

During a wonderful conversation I had this morning it struck me (once again) why I have such trouble fitting in even with interfaith groups: I am not a believer.
I don’t believe religions are of divine origin; I don’t believe theologies tell us anything about God (though they may tell us a lot about the humans who invent and adhere to them); I don’t believe scriptures are written or revealed by God; and I don’t believe the claims a religion makes about itself are anything more than self-serving marketing slogans.
I do believe all beings are manifestation of a singular Reality I call God; I do believe that we can realize this Reality in, with, and as ourselves through a variety of contemplative practices found in all of the world’s religions; I do believe that when we realize the Divine this way we move beyond religion to a state of open-hearted compassion and hard-headed justice and reason; and I do believe each of the world’s religions and all of their sacred texts contain timeless truths, but that these truths have to be culled out from a lot of time-bound bias and religious propaganda.
My beliefs make it impossible for me to hold “the Jewish line” on anything. Certainly I can challenge misinformation about Jews and Judaism, but I cannot personally assert that the Jews are the Chosen People or that the Torah is the one true revelation, or that Israel is the Promised Land (though I can explain why many Jews do believe these things). As the only rabbi in an entire county, however, I am expected to believe things I have long since abandoned. And when I don’t it is very confusing to people.
I love Judaism as a civilization of argument and doubt; I love its iconoclasm; I love its capacity to hold multiple and conflicting meanings on issues of doctrine, practice, text, and life; I love that Judaism is at home with paradox; but what I love about my people and our civilization is so very hard to get across to those who expect all faiths to be fundamentally creedal: We Jews believe “X;” I’m a Jew therefore I must believe “X” as well, and if I don’t I am no longer a Jew.
It is difficult, perhaps impossible,  for a Christian or a Muslim to deny the divinity of Christ or the authenticity of the Qur’an and still be a Christian or a Muslim. But Jews have been denying the truth claims of Judaism for centuries and still cling to being Jews. I refuse to abandon my people or our civilization, but I wish it were easier to explain the nature of the Jewish mindset. 


Raksha said...

I wish I could say something more profound than "I know what you mean!" But I can't.

No One Special said...

Ah yes.... I can assure you it is not impossible for a Christian to deny the Divinity of Christ because that's just what I have done; albeit via the back door. I don't deny Christ's Divinity; rather, I affirm ALL of humanity's Divinity. It is why I feel so incredibly alone in my faith; going to church makes me cringe and yet I long for community.

Finding you through Spirituality & Health magazine has been an incredible blessing.

Thank you!

Soul Level said...

Love this post, thanks for it. I believe as No One Special, below. I'd like to go to church too, for the ritual and connection to traditions that I grew up with. I can't get past the words in the hymns and creeds, though. So I stay home on Sunday and play with my dogs.

Denucho Attarian said...

I feel alone along with 'No On Special'. It's so easy to find an enemy with expressing what I believe that I have long ago abandoned the attempt. Thanks for expressing what some of us have been living with.

No One Special said...

Perhaps we should start a little community of our own?

I'd love to engage others who feel similar. :-)

Unknown said...

My wife and I urn for a community of like minded folks. But most of all we look for ways to practice lovingkindness and justice in our lives. We believe that everything is an expression of Divinity, so how do we respond to the seeming injustices in this country. How do we listen and talk with a right-wing, tea bagger who believes everyone is on their own? How do we acknowledge the Divinity that we are and confront the politician who protects the wealthy at all costs? We feel we are in Lovingkindness 101 and we thank you Rami for being our tutor.

Frank Lockwood said...

I can identify with that. In my case, I am a Pentecostal, or am I a ... what is that you said you are?

Frank Lockwood said...

No One Special said: "It is why I feel so incredibly alone in my faith ..."

My reply: You are not alone. Should I say, "We are legion?" But no, that is quoting a pack of demons. So let's just say, there must be a lot more of us out there. We are a new faith but not a new religion. We are spriitual humans ... or we are trying to learn to be.