Religion & Beliefs

Jews by Choice, and the rest of us

Your friendly neighborhood Faithhacker is in San Francisco right now, to participate in a Jewish Book Festival (November is Jewish Book Month, dontcha know?) and I've met a lot of wonderful people here, and run into some friends too. But … Read More

By / November 6, 2006

Your friendly neighborhood Faithhacker is in San Francisco right now, to participate in a Jewish Book Festival (November is Jewish Book Month, dontcha know?) and I've met a lot of wonderful people here, and run into some friends too.

But since I was on my "faith" tear last week, and I'm still thinking about this issue (Joey's comments brought up some food for thought, and I'm still chewing) I was particularly interested to hear what Robin Chotzinoff had to say. Robin is the author of a new book, Holy Unexpected, about her experiences as a secular/atheist Jew, and then her conversion. Her Jewish conversion.

Listening to her, I wondered how many born-Jews make conversions. I mean, how many people who grow up Jew-ish decide they want "more" from their religious experience? And then too, of those people, how many make a shift in lifestyle, and go orthodox, and how many end up back at the synagogue where they grew up (or one like it) but with a stronger sense of faith.

And THAT got me to wondering something else…

If you really REALLY don't believe in the spiritual/religious part of Judaism… if you really don't buy the whole God thing, what is the experience of synagogue like for you?

I'm not certain what I believe. For me, faith is a lot like dieting, which is to say that I'm always working towards it. But I do want to believe. And so for me, synagogue is practice. I figure that exposing myself to the faithful is like going to a health food store– it's getting me ready for "someday."

But when someone who REALLY doesn't believe in God goes to Yom Kippur Services, what does that feel like? What is it like to hear that particular kind of noise around you? Is it about nostalgia, or music, or history? Is there a meaningful atheist Jewish prayer experience? Or do you, maybe, think those people are foolish?