Holy Cow!

I don’t understand religious people.*

I can understand how a person could believe in God(s).  But I don’t understand how a person could be so sure that his/her religion is the true interpretation of God’s actions/desires.

What do I mean by ‘God’s actions/desires’? I mean that God did what religion X’s book said It did, and that the way religion X dictates that its followers pay tribute to God is what God really wants.

Just how the hell does it make sense to think you’re right and 1 billion other people got it wrong? If God were God, why would It have only revealed Itself to a certain group of people during a certain moment in time?**

Oh, I see. Who are we to know God’s motives? Right. Well with that excuse, people get away with everything. And I refuse to accept that.

It’s true that religion inspires people to do great things both personally and publicly.  But religion also inspires people to do pretty horrible things like homicide and genocide, vandalism, rape and torture. And for those people who commit such acts in the name of their God, they are agreeing to put their faith above the life of someone else.

Because when you believe you are right, you lose sight of your own humility. Suicide bombers are an extreme example, but what about the Jews who make snide comments about other Jews eating cheeseburgers? Who really cares?

How can a person be so confident in his own beliefs when he/she is well aware that they are not shared by most people in the world?  What makes more sense: that you’re right or that the majority of the world is right?

How about no one’s right? Unfortunately religion doesn’t work that way. You see, a religion wouldn’t really catch on if one of its premises was that it might be a whole load of bullshit.

People can believe whatever they want, but don’t judge me for disagreeing with you. Nope, sorry, I can’t wrap my mind around Jesus being God, no wait, the son of God, wait, what?  Who the hell is the Holy Spirit!?

If you believe that you are ‘impure’ when you’re menstruating, by all means, go to the mikvah…but just realize that you’re a little crazy.

I mean, really, we’re all a little crazy. But it’s so easy to lose perspective and think the world is the problem instead of yourself–and I’m guilty of this, too.

We’re always going to believe what we believe, but we should be realistic about what beliefs we should share (murder is bad) and which ones are optional (72 virgin-jackpot for martyrs).

*When I say religion, I mean one that has a definite God or Gods concept.

**And why would God have seemingly done so multiple times with drastically different messages each time? Schizo, perhaps?



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5 responses to “Holy Cow!

  1. Benjamin Epstein

    Hmmm – good points. I guess I feel like the way I view Judaism is, if we’re talking in God language, as that which God revealed to my ancestors as that which *we* should do – not everyone. I mean, it wouldn’t even make sense for, say, Native Americans to celebrate Pesach because…I mean, they don’t have a cultural tradition of having come out of Egypt as slaves.

    So yeah – I agree that I don’t connect with the idea that God spoke only to one people at one time and tricked everyone else or something. I tend to stick to a personal-communal model when I think in terms of God (perfectly possible not to do that, also) – namely, that this God communicated something to my historical-cultural forebears that is relevant to us, historically and culturally – but not necessarily the only and correct way for the whole world! Which is why I like the Talmud’s notion that “The righteous of all nations have a place in the World to Come” – all those who do those things we agree we should share 🙂

    (But yes, I definitely like the comment that we’re all a little crazy…it’s the only explanation for running around in circles waving palm fronds and odd lemony things….)

    • throwinginthetowel

      Ben, so good to hear from you! your comment is very appreciated…I like hearing where people agree/disagree with me. I’m really not trying to sound snarky here and am just asking out of curiosity–how do you reconcile your religious relativism? Why is something right for you cause you were born Jewish?

  2. Benjamin Epstein

    Ariela – good to hear from you, too! It’s been a while since the good ol’ days 🙂

    Good question. Preliminary comment – no need to worry about being snarky with me if you’ve got a real challenge or point to make! And I’m glad you are making them 🙂

    Hmmm, it’s a good question. Some of it is easy, like the example I gave above. Like, why are you ok with celebrating the Fourth of July if you don’t think the Chinese in China should? It’s a strong tradition, of course, but one that is culturally contingent. Same with many Jewish holidays, etc.

    I guess I’ll back off and say I’m a little more imposing on other people than that, but on the more fundamental level – i.e., the underlying values. For instance, I don’t think everyone in the world has to observe Jewish Shabbat, but to the extent that a lot of Shabbat is about preventing oppression of the poor and economic injustice, I do think that all cultures should be addressing those core values. Everyone doesn’t need to avoid cheeseburgers, but everyone should have a system of thinking about their food choices in a serious way.

    So a lot of it is that Jewish practice is one particular way of manifesting those values, and it’s right for me, I guess, because…well, just because I am Jewish. I suppose it doesn’t need to be what I choose to do, but I feel like for some things, implementation doesn’t work as well when scaled down to the individual level – it’s designed to have the communal support and impact.

    My preliminary thoughts 🙂

  3. Benjamin Epstein

    Oh yeah – there’s also the idea of the seven Noahide laws – the laws that Judaism believes all other nations have to follow. Ahhh, here comes our imposing imperialist streak! They’re:

    1) No multiple gods
    2) No murder
    3) No adultery
    4) No theft
    5) No eating flesh/a limb from a live animal
    6) No cursing God
    7) Set up some court system of justice for maintaining your laws

    …which is pretty darned universal. Leaving aside number one, we’re left with our universal religious demands of all mankind being: (2) respect for human life, (3) respect for human relationships, (4) respect for property, (5) respect for animal life, (6) no *disrespect* for religion at the very least, and (7) establishment of a justice system.

    I actually like this better than straight cultural relativism, I guess – legitimate expectations that do not feel like they are tied to one interpretation of God but hit at pretty fundamental human things.

    (Also – I don’t mean to be snarky either in the beginning of this – just ironic or humorous or something 🙂 )

    (Also, do feel free to challenge whatever I throw out there, of course – I won’t be offended, and I’m not even necessarily the fiercest defender of everything I say…but I really do like having conversations 🙂 )

    • throwinginthetowel

      yes all this makes sense…but these are such basic, universal things. There are times when religious beliefs do impede on other people’s points of view or freedoms. For example, the religious/biblical/historical claim to Israel…clearly creating a lot of conflict. Yet people die over it, kill over it, ignore fellow humans over it. It’s not so simple as you say.

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