FAITH, HOPE AND CLARITY

When last we met – if we met – the subject of illusory pursuits was left dangling.

On that occasion, my (admittedly) arbitrary nomination for illusory pursuit #2 was popularity. Now we come to my choice for #1: the pursuit of religion, which is doubtless (pun intended) even more arbitrary. So I will amen(d) my nomination in order to make it more exact: the pursuit of a specific religion is, in my view, illusory.

Let us be clear what we’re talking about here. My Webster’s New College Dictionary defines religion as follows: 1a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power accepted as the creator and governor of the universe. 1b. A specific unified system of this expression.

If you suspect that this is leading up to a defense or advocacy of atheism, think again. I lump both atheism and specific religions in Webster’s 1b., in the sense that both become settled acceptances of assumptions or theories which in reality are far from settled. We can believe with all our being that there is no supernatural power. We can believe with all our being that scripture is the word of God. Neither of these convictions is more than the assertion of a human conclusion. Period.

It is said that one should never argue religion because such arguments are fruitless. Precisely. Hope and believe what you wish. Just don’t expect to convince me, based on faith or what is humanly knowable, that you know God’s will or that there is no God. You know neither such thing. I may consider (so-called revealed) religious faith blind, but far be it from me to try to persuade you to venture beyond where you’re prepared to go. That beyond is a dark and scary place, you know?

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9 comments on “FAITH, HOPE AND CLARITY

  1. mistermuse, I have read again your essays on religion, deism, and who or what is God, I now am going back to my Reform Judaic faith. You almost persuaded me to stray from my beliefs with all your words. I like to pray, was always a religious person and have had other experiences that you would not believe. Some of us poor souls just cannot think the way you do. I respect your right to believe in what you may. I hope you will respect my right to have this faith.

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  2. mistermuse says:

    Like the Ten Commandments, religious beliefs are often assumed to be written in stone, but why, I don’t know. Among other things, life is a search for truth. To me, not being open to examining beliefs is tantamount to giving up the search….a search which I concede is beyond many a person’s comfort zone, because sooner or later, we come to realize that ultimate truth is unknowable.

    That said, I respect you and your search, Michaeline – and I commend you for being true to yourself.

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  3. Thank you, mistermuse. Please remember I chose this Faith and had to take classes with Rabbi Solomon before I was accepted by my temple.

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  4. Also. we Reform Jews know that the truth is unknowable. We are allowed to be agnostic or even atheists. I choose to believe in the Master of the Universe.

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  5. mistermuse says:

    The more you tell me about Reform Judaism, the less distance seems to separate it from Deism (as I’ve remarked once before). Perhaps one difference (tell me if I’m wrong) is once a Jew, always a Jew (for example, many celebrities, such as Woody Allen) are or have become atheists, but remain “Jews.” Judaism is therefore both a religion which you can disavow, and an ethnic group which you cannot, right?

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    • Good question, mistermuse. First of all, Jews do not usually disavow their religion because for many , unlike me ( a convert), they have been brought up into Judaism as a part of their daily lives. Especially if it is the Orthodoox Jew who closely follows the Torah and the Conservative Jew who may follow certain practices, such as eating Kosher food. The Conservative and Reform men can shave and don’t have to refrain from cutting their beards. The women are more than just housewives and bearers of children. The women are respected and may drive, have a career, etc. As long as the children are cared for.

      Jews come from many different ethnic groups and countries and can have different skin colors; they can be blond, red headed, brown haired or have black hair. I was told that even though I had been a Catholic, once I was converted, I was considered to be a Jew from birth.

      I may have given you the wrong impression. Even a Jew who may think like an agnostic or be an atheist in his thoughts about whether there is a God or not, he/she is still a Jew in the Reform tradition. We are allowed to use our minds and think about certain theories regarding theology.This is not considered a casting away of our moral identity as a Jew. We just keep this to ourslelves or discuss these thoughts with family and close friends. We do not shout out our views from a soap box. We can go to Temple and be active there (as we did while raising a Jewish daughter) but there are no laws saying we MUST do this or that. The main tenet is to respect others and folow the Ten Commandments. It is a religion not confined to a building or place but rather a way of daily life in which we try to lead good and moral lives.

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  6. mistermuse says:

    I’m still not sure how one can be a Jew and (literally) an atheist at the same time – it strikes me as trying to have it both ways. I assume even a Reform Jew believes in God, so the moment one no longer believes there is a God, he ceases to be a Jew other than in an ethnic or tribal sense, by my way of thinking. However, no one ever said humans aren’t contradictory creatures, so it’s no skin off my nose (or other part of my anatomy)!

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    • I know it is hard to understand. My brothers in llaw are atheists. I also questioned their position as Jews. Hiowever, Reform Jews can discuss whether God is a person or not. That does not erase the fact that these men were raised as Jews and still retain the basic morality of our religion. They right way we live shows that our beliefs are still the same regarding how we act and how we treat other people. If we act badly, we must atone and make apologies or restitution. That is reserved for the Day of Atonement (or Yom Kipper) when we confess silently and directly to God our lapses and sins and pray for forgiveness. We have to make restitution first. We just celebrated Rosh Hashanah or our new year according to the Jewish calendar of 13 months.
      I know it must seem strange to a deist and to someone who was a former Catholic. However, this is why I chose this religion. It shows respect for the individual who can pray directly to God, or not and yet still live an honest and admirable life.

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  7. mistermuse says:

    In a sense, that reminds me somewhat of my former Catholicism – when something contradictory or illogical could only be “explained” by saying that God is a mystery, it eventually became apparent to me that that is the response of a religious justification which has painted itself into a corner and has no other way out. I don’t doubt that God is a mystery, but that is the only thing about God I don’t doubt. To me, everything else supposedly known about, or “revealed” by, God is a fairy tale written by man.

    Which leaves us, I presume, with agreeing to disagree….but not disagreeably. Peace!

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