Religion & Beliefs

What about Jews for Jesus???

The comments from Acidkore and Joey are really interesting to me, and I want to talk about Spinoza at some point soon, but not until I've read Rebecca Goldstein's new book about the man.  I don't know enough to get into … Read More

By / November 9, 2006

The comments from Acidkore and Joey are really interesting to me, and I want to talk about Spinoza at some point soon, but not until I've read Rebecca Goldstein's new book about the man.  I don't know enough to get into a discussion on him right now myself…

But this idea that it is meaningful to observe/participate in the rituals of a faith we do not actually believe is fascinating.  I think in some ways we all (by which I mean all us contemporary secular types) do this all the time, with the trappings our own culture… and with other cultures as well.

My question:  Does this process devalue the faith itself? Is our skeptical reasoning a judgement on the simpler faith of the "true believers"?  

In some sense, it feels like that idea turns our religious culture into a plain old ethnic identity, like Italian Americans, or Irish Americans… based in food and music, or something…  because while Acidkore may be rooting his non-spiritual religious identity in the practice of faith, for most people with a non-faith-based Jewish identity, there's a lot less content and work involved. Seinfeld Judaism. A slippery slope.

And what about converts, Jews by Choice?  While I'm generally willing to accept that atheistic-Jews are Jewish, I feel pretty fucking strongly that people shouldn't convert to Judaism for reasons other than faith (and I say this as one who is often confronted with the debate over "encouraging" conversion in non-Jewish spouses).  Is the desire to participate in the Jewish culture enough to make you a Jew? If so, shouldn't we allow all the latke-loving, Streisand-listening, Potak-reading gentiles into the fold?  All the people who enjoyed a semester abroad in Israel and are now doing a PhD in Jewish Studies?

And to take it a step further, if we allow for a range of definitions of "Jewish faith" how can we say that Jews for Jesus are NOT Jews?

It gets sticky…