balmofgilead: (Default)
"Pious Encounters": on how such horrible bigotry and racism goes on in otherwise intelligent (in this case, Orthodox Jewish) people who are skilled at logic and reason:

The answer lies in the fact that they both have areas of discourse where reason, however strong, doesn’t penetrate. They were indoctrinated from childhood with certain ideas being a priori truths. These ideas cannot be questioned and are accepted unequivocally. This, I can only speculate, creates a spot in their minds where logic is superfluous and even harmful. And since they have certain topics that are off limits to logical scrutiny, they will say things that seem absurd to those who lack the same indoctrination.

We are all guilty of faulty reasoning at one time or other. But the total breakdown of reason among intelligent people who are indoctrinated in fundamentalist faiths goes far beyond the simple failures of logic we might experience day-to-day. And they produce the kind of bigotry and indifference to other humans that we so often witness.

Emphasis mine. And I entirely agree.
balmofgilead: (Default)
Allow me, for a minute, to express some frustration.

The fact that when one assigns a number value to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the numerical value of the Hebrew name "Ruth" is 606--and that if you then add 7 to that, for the 7 Noahide laws she would have kept before converting to Judaism--that those add up to 613, number of commandments that Jews consider themselves obligated to observe...this is not proof that God exists.  This is not proof that God wrote the Bible.  This is not proof that Ruth existed. 

It may be fun or entertaining--in the same way that reading my Free Will Astrology horoscope is fun.  It is innocuous and impotent, and if you tell me with a straight face that you believe otherwise, I will laugh at you.  It's not that I know with certainty that God does or does not exist, wrote or didn't write the Bible, or cares or doesn't care about you.  I don't think anyone knows, and you're free to believe what you want.  But for Pete (or Ruth, or God, or Christ)'s sake, don't believe in it because of things like this.


May. 18th, 2007 11:17 am
balmofgilead: (santahat)

My mom's cousin R., who lives in Israel, has always said "I don't need to be observant: I live in Israel [and that's enough.] "

I think that for me, for a long time, it was "I don't need to have a Jewish identity: I'm observant."

(Now it's just "I don't have a Jewish identity. That's odd.")

There was shrimp on a buffet table at the wedding, which put some Aunts in an uproar.  These are people who eat shrimp.  And ham.  And lobster.  And squid. And those weird sea animals (prawns?) that look like giant cockroaches. And milk with meat. But-- (apparently) you shouldn't have shrimp at a Jewish wedding, goddammit!

*doesn't get it*

balmofgilead: (dudley pippin)
It seems illogical to atone for things I don't believe are sins.
Sure, I've made mistakes this year--too many to list, probably--but they're mistakes based on my internal value system (which is cobbled together from many sources), based on who I want to be and where I want to go in life, not based on Judaic law.

Most Jews, even secular/non-religious Jews, do something to mark Yom Kippur: they fast, they go to synagogue, they pray. I don't understand. To me, it's a charade. You want to be forgiven for doing things wrong during the year? Then try not to f*cking do them! Put your money where your mouth is. You don't believe these things are wrong? Don't believe Jewish law is valid? Don't spend a day fasting and praying for breaking it!

Orthodox people (or perhaps anyone that's affiliated with a movement or has a formal code of religious conduct), much as I may not see eye to eye with them, at least they're being sincere. At least they're not being hypocritical. The atonement is for your little (or big) slip-ups that occurred while you were living a life structured around the laws. Everyone slips up. It's inevitable. But there's a difference (to give a mundane example) between "I missed the bus because I had to stop and tie my shoe," and "I missed the bus because I decided last night not to set my alarm clock to wake me up in time." Now, maybe if you tell your boss that you're sorry you missed the bus and got to work late, s/he won't know which scenario occurred. But God, well, if you believe in God, presumably you believe that God would know what your intentions have been all year. And you know.

I'll admit that I've felt awkward all day, knowing that I'm not doing anything to mark Yom Kippur, while tens of thousands of other non-religious Jews are. Why am I being different? Why am I being stubborn and difficult?

Sure, I believe in atonement. I believe in apologizing and trying to right one's wrongs. I believe in trying to better oneself and one's behavior. But I don't believe in asking God to forgive me. I don't believe in afflicting my soul (the Bible's words, not mine) or my body for 25 hours once a year to get God to like me more.

A yearly or even monthly day of reflection sounds like a good idea, sure. But is Yom Kippur the day to do it? Are the typical Yom Kippur activities good catalysts for that, in me?
balmofgilead: (Default)
Probably old but interesting: point-by-point answer to that stupid "letter to Dr. Laura" that's been floating around the intarwebs for so long.

I have Issues with traditional observance just as much as the next guy, but I'm informed about this stuff, and so many people aren't. And an addendum to j: no one's ever interpreted the mixed fibers thing to include fibers other than wool and linen.
balmofgilead: (Default)
It's funny how many things I was taught in a methodical, uninspired, pro forma way when I was younger, without enough attention being devoted by the teachers to the real meaning and significance and how many of those things are now suddenly seeming...better/more worthwhile/more logical to me.

Many of these are religious things. A nine-year-old, simply because of his/her lack of life experiences and perspective, can't really understand the value in aphorisms like "It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it" (IMHO a statement about one's life-work on a grand scale) or a prayer expressing gratitude that everything's working O.K. to be recited after going to the bathroom. To be taught those things by rote, to be taught that, say, you need to say a prayer like that because you have to, because it's a rule, a commandment, ruins it. Uttered spontaneously (and I can imagine a mindful adult sort of having that thought, gratitude, spontaneously, each time they use the bathroom), it's a pretty cool thing, (though, granted, I am not into the heavy God- and God-service stuff: "it would be impossible to stand before You, God, if everything wasn't working alright," but put that aside for a minute) but by rote it's meaningless, and for me it's always been anger-inducing ("goddamn someone's screaming at me to make sure I followed the rules again" was a frequent thought when I was living in a religious environment).
balmofgilead: (Default)

This is for my reference. I found this article awhile ago and then I couldn't find it again, so I've eliminated such issues by pasting it in here! But in case anyone's interested...

whoo hoo! a scathing criticism of what's pretty much the relationship I've built with religion--painstakingly and satisfyingly )

balmofgilead: (Default)
I keep on pledging to stay away from this stuff, but it's just so bizarre that I can't help myself. It's all true, by the way.
Reasons Why I Never Fit In Well In The Orthodox Jewish Community )
balmofgilead: (christmas)

I was going to make an eloquent but probably verbose rant about the Christmas season, but then I got lazy and decided instead to summarize my key points in this less eloquent but still verbose list:

  • It's December
  • Tinsel and trees and fake snow and pictures of Santa Claus are everywhere
  • A lot of stores and other establishments play Christmas music
  • Some people wish others "Merry Christmas"
  • Many non-Christian people complain bitterly about this

  • During the winter, it gets dark and cold, and people get lonely
  • I believe that a major reason for the celebration of winter holidays is to gather together, connect with other people, and stem the loneliness and coldness and darkness with light and food and music and togetherness
  • Most Americans do this with Christmas
  • Some Americans have never heard of your particular winter holiday, or it may not occur to them that you might celebrate that holiday
  • Therefore, they may say "Merry Christmas" to you
  • This is most likely not an attempt to convert you or bash your religion, and it won't do you much good to assume that it is
  • It is probably an attempt to connect with you and be friendly, unless the person is a cashier whose manager is making them say it
  • Sometimes, it may be necessary to re-word the greeting in your head so that you are hearing the message that the person meant to convey ("I hope you are warm and happy and have people to connect with during this cold and dark winter")
  • [insert cheesy story about bus driver giving me an all-day pass (because I had made a mistake and thought they still gave transfers and had no more change with me) and saying "Merry Christmas, this is your lucky day" here.]

  • Many Christmas songs were written by Jewish people, and those songs certainly aren't an attempt to convert you or bash your religion
  • Personally, I enjoy Christmas music, though of course you're free to dislike it
  • The character of Santa Claus is based on various nice/good/generous guys
  • Materialism and commercialism, annoying as they can be sometimes, are not religion

  • Quit whining
  • If you want to be upset about someone trying to push religion on people inappropriately, go beat up on George Bush or Fred Phelps
  • Santa hats have slowly invaded livejournal
  • Modding icons to add something out of place is fun
  • Modding an icon and getting to make a rant about it is even more fun
  • For these reasons and also in recognition of my personal attitude (which seems to differ from most Jews' attitude) toward the winter holiday season, I hereby adopt this new icon

  • santahat1

(at the time of writing, my default icon was this)


balmofgilead: (Default)

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