My story is pretty normal, I guess.
I grew up in Reform Judaism. I had two Jewish parents and we observed holidays like Hanukkah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We often lit candles at home on Friday night. At age thirteen I had a bar mitzvah and at sixteen I was confirmed.
But it’s probably fair to say that, from the beginning, I had some pretty unusual ideas about God.
On Rosh Hashanah after my bar mitzvah I chanted the Torah portion Akeidah Yitzchok. My interpretation of the story was one in which the God who asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, and the angel who stopped him from doing so, were really two sides of Abraham’s own personality.
In eighth grade, I wrote a paper for science class about the connection between seasonal events and religious holidays. I noted that some aspects of Jewish ritual suggested that the Jews had been nature-worshipers at one time in their history.
And once in tenth grade Confirmation Class, without really meaning to, I asked our rabbi a pretty pointed question: “Was the Torah and the rest of Jewish tradition essentially just a ‘common myth’ for the Jewish people?”
In college I found it becoming more and more uncomfortable attending worship services. Before long I stopped going altogether.
Then in the fall of 2014 I discovered something called Humanistic Judaism.
Humanistic Judaism, founded in the 1960’s by Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, defines Judaism as “the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people.”
This seemed to be exactly what I had been looking for: a way to remain connected to Jewish culture and history, while embracing reason, skepticism, and critical thinking, and not having to say things that no longer held meaning for me. I began to emerge as a nonbeliever with a strong feeling of connectedness to Jewish history and culture.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s room at the table for all kinds of people who may or may not believe in a god. But wherever we fall in the spectrum of the various religious and philosophical traditions available to us today, I think we all have a responsibility to learn the right lessons from our respective traditions.
Among these I would include:
We have a responsibility to one another as fellow human beings.
We have much more in common than we may want to think.
We all have something positive to contribute.
We are all in this together.
So welcome to my blog. I look forward to learning, arguing, and growing with you over the years to come.
Whoever you are.