IT’S THE CAUSE OF ALMOST ALL THE TROUBLES IN THE WORLD!”
young Jewish guys who were staying at my place, on their way around
our country, were most emphatic about the problems of ‘Religion’.
They were quite surprised that I agreed with them! So we discussed
why and how this seemed to us to be true. It certainly seems to be
true, whether you look back at ancient history, or even more at the
world in these last 100+ years!
It doesn’t seem necessary to list the religious ‘disasters’, and especially the wars in the Middle East even since 1948 and right up to the first decade of the 21st century. ‘Religion’ sure seems like another word for trouble and tragedy!
What ‘Religion’ is.
Well, you can look up a dictionary, just as I can, but probably in the end we all have got our conclusions fairly set. However as this web site being a place for sharing our conclusions for you to grab on to - or ditch, we’ll describe it the way we see it. [Thinking as widely – or ‘laterally’ as possible, in an effort to be totally fair.]
you check you will find these 6 regulations in most Religions.
We don’t know how much time you have ~
but you could take names like Hinduism or Buddhism, or Islam or
Christianity or Judaism or Communism or Humanism, you’ll
probably find each one will fit these or similar definitions of
Even within a main Religion there are usually many ‘branches’ of the original Religion.
There are hundreds of ‘main’ Religions, and almost all have many divisions, sects or ‘denominations’. As this web site is for honest, secular Jews, we could point out the ways Judaism can be divided into three MAIN divisions, [though our description of the third one may be harder to find or not even recognised!]
We also use the term ‘modern’ (mainly Hasidic/ Talmudic) Judaism, [from the 16th C.] as this well-known form really only developed during the ‘Common Era’, well after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, (especially 200 –500 CE). It changed and developed over several more centuries, especially with influences in Europe, from the 18th Century, after the ‘Revolutions’.
Comparing Judaism with the definitions of the 6 points above,
A. Orthodox Judaism, also called ‘Hasidic’ (also spelt 'Chassidic’) is well known about by all Jewish people. (This describes about 22% of all Jews, called the ‘Haredim’). Using the above criteria, these are some points we can see.
1. Recognised patterns of thoughts written in the Tanakh, the Mishnah and the Talmud.
2. These patterns are called regulations and rituals [Mitzvot] for keeping the ‘Law’- ‘Torah’. [There are actually 7 other Hebrew words for what are usually called ‘Commandments’.]
3. There are many formulas or rules, [Halakha/ Halacha] “patterns of actions” applied to food, dress, and behaviour, and all of life.
4. The followers, (especially the men) are expected to subscribe by intense study of Torah, Talmud and Mishnah, and the writings of their accepted sages/ rabbis of the past. E.G. Rebbe Rashi, 11th Century.
5. Every member of a Congregation/ Yeshiva/ and family are to live by these patterns/rules.
6. Even though ‘Ha Shem’ is the God of Judaism, the religion has been shaped by respected prophets and rabbis over many centuries, especially since 325CE, by various Leaders and revered teachers - ‘Rabbis’. [Rebbe.] Sadly, this has been responsible for many divisions among Jewish people.
‘Conservative’ [Masorti] Judaism is
actually very similar to the above. There are about 33% of Jews
in this branch. As noted, there are many forms of ‘Hasidic
Judaism’, that are similar to those that existed before the
so-called ‘Days of the Enlightenment’ which started in
Europe and spread to the Americas. Some are Breslover, Lubavitcher,
(Chabad), Satmar, and Vizhnitzer.
B. Reform or Liberal Judaism
There are various branches of modern Judaism, which you will know about. Most of these have only arisen since the time of ‘Jewish Enlightenment’ 1789, or happening from when the worldwide changes around1840 when the ‘new lands’ were being populated, especially Nth America, but also Canada, Australia and even New Zealand. They have adapted practices to modern, even secular, lifestyles.
So we are just telling you what you already know. Many religions were undergoing great changes about the same time! Where there is wider or ‘new’ or deeper thinking, divisions often follow!
But we would like to introduce you to – not a ‘Religion’ – but a concept, or an idea we think is great!
C. Ancient, True, Biblical Judaism.
What you may not have thought about is, that there is a genuine – largely unrecognised Jewish Faith -which could be called “Biblical Judaism” based on the original Tanakh, (but not on the Mishnah or the Talmud, or writings after the year 100CE (of the Common Era.)
It can lead to a wonderful life-style. Some great Jewish Rabbis and other Jewish leaders found this. You may never have heard of this or thought about it, but it is specifically for individual, Jewish people, and above all it explains a most wonderful future for all Jewish people, after centuries of suffering! We will be looking at this concept and reality in other papers. This could be something special for you who read this, and call yourselves ‘non-religious traditionalists’ – or just honest, plain –‘Secular Jews’!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
JEWISH ~ not based on Religion.
To some Jewish people, practicing ‘Judaism’ is essential to being Jewish, and in articles (on the web) where the subject of “who is a Jew” is discussed, this aspect is brought out very clearly. See: www.beingjewish.com/#identity by Mordechai Houseman of USA. He is emphatic about it.
[See our articles about ‘who is a Jew’ in separate articles. “I’m Glad I’m Jewish, but…” here.]
But at this point we are simply accepting that those whose family background is known to be from at least a Jewish parent or grand-parent, are true, ethnic Jews, quite apart from their religious practices. Sometimes we feel that anyone from either a Jewish mother or father, who would have found themselves hounded and ostracised in the various inquisitions, pogroms or the Holocaust, can be called ‘Jews’.
Most human beings are fairly convinced by their adult years of what racial group they are part of, and rightly proud of. Language, place of birth, education, patriotic allegiance (e.g. doing time in the IDF in Israel, or families involvement in the Nazi holocaust), or some other war or struggle, all contribute to each persons understanding of what race they are part of, and belong to. It does not and should not depend on ‘religion’.
However, it probably needs to be recognised, that through-out the more distant years of the Diaspora, say, more than 200 years ago, it was some form of Judaistic religious practice that helped to preserve Jews as a distinct group of people. It was at least based on shared cultural traditions. The fact these cultural traditions have always been ‘Family based’ has helped to preserve the Jewish race.
SOME ASPECTS OF RELIGION.
~ Religion can be dangerous – even something to be
There are those who honestly feel all religions are dangerous, even to the point of being the cause of most of the tragic wars, racial hatred and even ‘ethnic cleansing’; (also many family divisions), do have a point. Therefore, based on that general awareness, it is no surprise that many people are quite right to dislike ‘religion’, as they understand it.
Somehow, while this is seen as a rather judgemental and an unfortunate conclusion, yet in order to be honest, people feel they must be truthful within ourselves, so people often feel they just have to accept it. Also since they cannot change the situation - they simply want to separate themselves from any form of rigid dogmas or involvement in any religion, so it seems best to be a ‘secular’ Jew, with no religion. Sometimes this is the result of a bad personal experience. That is quite understandable too, even reasonable.
However – separating from all recognised religions can be dangerous, too.
Yet, just as it is honest for us to recognise that ‘religion’ can be bad and sad, for some people – it is just as true for some people, that by separating themselves from any religion - it is possible that those people can unconsciously fall into another big problem, especially in these days.
BEWARE! The world is coming closer to a time of compulsory agreement to a ‘world religion’.
People may soon become part of another, perhaps unrecognised ‘religion’, which is very common today, called ‘Humanism’ which is a form of ‘Atheism’ (no belief in ‘God’).
It is also called ‘New Age’ beliefs. Although it isn’t thought of as a religion, in many ways it is, a real and developing religion. Atheism has a more prominent following than many people realise, (it may not have a specific ‘book’) but these days the general accepted ideas are encouraged by the Internet, and numerous web sites, - even one is for ‘Jewish Atheists’!
Obviously the main point of agreement is ‘that there is no god’. It seems to offer a nice free, ‘laid back’ lifestyle, yet many people could find themselves trapped by it The lifestyle that goes with it is probably only possible in a western-style democracy, where individualism is possible and generally accepted. (In some nations, ‘religion’ equates with nationality – to deny it is seen as being a traitor = death!)
WHAT ABOUT ‘FAITH’?
This is where again; we must be truly honest with ourselves.
A problem for many thinking people is the idea of accepting anything by ‘faith’ – ‘blind faith’ - ‘just believing’ – perhaps with no logic or reason or ‘proof’ that the beliefs of a religion (as presented by their teachers/gurus/priests) are actually ‘real truth’. This is especially true regarding the idea that there is a ‘God’ Who exists and is real - even though invisible.
Yet, in some cases it takes far more ‘faith’/’trust’ to believe, (as Atheism does) that there is no God, and therefore no obligations to anyone but ones self. Atheists demand visible, palpable proof in a positive way. The awkward thing is that just as it seems difficult to ‘prove’ there is a ‘God’, it is harder even, and it cannot be proved that there is no ‘God’ or Spiritual, unseen ‘Force’. Even “Star-wars” had to include ‘The Force’! So the challenge is ‘to prove that there is a God’ – but either way, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ - it must be accepted by ‘faith’ – or ‘trust’. No one can prove there is no Spirit Reality in the universe, so it must be accepted ‘by faith’.
The apparent benefits of being ‘Secular’.
1. First, the attraction of being ‘secular’ or atheistic is that it can seemingly free up people to ‘be themselves’. ‘No regulations, dictates, or rituals’, can be freeing, - to a degree! Yet ‘freedom’ brings responsibility. If you want what you call ‘freedom’ – you are obliged to grant that to everyone else; even people not as good as you are! It seems like a kind of ‘freedom’ to be able to do “what I think, I believe, I know and what I want”.
However secular humanism doesn’t provide a good platform for relationships with other people – and that can create problems just like some religions, do! Every action or relationship will have consequences, good or bad. If an extreme example of personal ‘freedom’ means – I can lie, steal, murder, indulge in bad sexual activities, or drugs or gambling or anything I like or want without any reference to anyone else in Heaven or on Earth, sooner or later it could lead to the opposite – a prison of some kind! Apart from the government (and the laws of a country) “who’s gonna stop me?”
2. Secondly, because we all want acceptance by other people, thankfully most people set their own standards of behaviour. Atheists, agnostics or just plain secular believers can be very nice people! The reality is that there are other factors that govern these desires, some from within a person, – probably that awkward thing called ‘conscience’ or even background ideas based on some religious thought, that we got from somewhere, (even if we don’t like to confess it!)
3. A third aspect is that gradually, in order to create ‘a better world’ or ‘to save the world’ –a powerful group of world leaders are planning to use religious concepts to force people to accept a dangerous plan of action.
This needs your own research to understand that what we are writing is absolutely true.
you will understand it is a serious trend, though not so new, as in
its modern form it goes back to the ‘70’s. (The roots
of this idea started in the time of the first book of the Tanakh!)
So, soon, it seems everyone in the world will be forced into a
global religion, taking away any free choice in the matter. Many
Jewish people would find that that kind of religion is not what they
would want. Gatherings or discussion groups to explore ‘Inter-Faith’
concepts, are all leading up to a One World Religion, which will
become compulsory… One day the only choice will be ‘accept
SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE ME?
Most people value the truth, especially as a basis of our philosophy of life.
My happy contacts with normal, friendly, honest, thoughtful ‘Secular Jews’ tells me that they are exactly that, because they do want to understand what is true and what is not. Being intelligent, sensible human beings, they do not want to be taken in by doubtful ideas.
Not even ‘Jewish’ – or more correctly ‘Judaistic religious ideas’ - which are more like dogmas and regulations and rituals, than related to personal freedom, genuine kindness, scientific facts and real hope for ‘my’ future.
Yet again, could it be faintly possible that some form of Judaism could be based on absolute truth?
Yes! Because, “there is no religion, higher than truth.”
So, it could be very helpful to ask ourselves some really straight questions.
As a Jewish person, am I totally disconnected from my history, or from my culture, and even more - ‘do I matter’? Or am I a ‘blob of connective tissue’ - an accident of evolution?
Is there no meaning to even the recent historical restoration of what some people call the “Third Israeli Commonwealth” – the restoration of Modern Israel as a nation-State, (or many people call it ‘Zionism’)? There must be some hope for Jews to be united and happy in their own Land, with no one to hate or threaten them, don’t you think?
Surely, there must be some bright light for the future for most Jewish people – and me! It can’t be endless ‘gloom and doom’ can it? – There must be some sort of goal, or reward, or solution to all the problems? I need some ‘hatikva ~hope’!
Is it even possible that some sort of reality, some really good Leader or Person can add to the vague concept of a ‘Jewish destiny – fulfilled’? (Jews have had it bad for a very long time, didn’t you know!)
Is it possible to discover ‘absolute Truth’? – Someone real, giving us a real, certain hope?
just has to be ‘HOPE’!
Even John Lennon’s poem holds out some hopeful (if unrealistic) ideas, for this world of 7 billion people:
there’s no Countries. It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too.
Imagine all the people, living life in Peace!”
can’t speak for you, but that peace, freedom, harmony, is what
we would wish for all Jews. A joyful, successful, hope filled future
for individual Jews as part of a nation.
The puzzle is ‘HOW’? Can it be better than just ‘imagination’? Dare we suggest it maybe in a Person? A great powerful, truly trustworthy Leader with feeling?
A ‘Messiah’ ~ even a Jewish Messiah might find a way ~ without ‘religion’?
Could there be a reality in these ideas – beyond ‘religion’ to an amazing ‘relationship’?
In every Jewish heart, there is this Hope. Maybe a ‘Someone’ who could truly inspire goodness, serenity, freedom, security and a sense of destiny and purpose in every Jewish person?
NO! There is no way this inner HOPE - can be stifled. – (Yes ‘Hatikva’!) It is always there! The problem is – how could there be a way for the whole race of 15 plus million Jews to find it and actually enjoy it – in this world like it is? And even more – how can I, one secular Jew, find it?
The alternative of having no hope doesn’t bear thinking about!!!
As the writers of this site, we truthfully believe there is real Hope.
Individually and for all Jewish people, who love the truth – all of them!
Our family are privileged to know an intelligent, attractive, vibrant, atheistic Jewish Israeli lady. When she commenced working at her current charity organisation in Israel, she made it very clear, she would be totally honest and she would not contribute to anything that was not based on the truth. Would you believe it? It wasn’t long before her senior wanted to completely dismiss and cancel a very good extension to the services this charitable public service organisation was about to run.
In addition the dilemma for our friend was that it was being cancelled after a huge amount of research and work that our friend had put in, to develop it, knowing it would help another large section of the society. But then - the boss went on to suggest various ways the service could still be advertised (untruthfully), yet not actually exist! A strange kind of deception you would agree, I’m sure! She expected our friend to agree to this. Of course she said, “No way!” Because she values truth, as a secular/atheistic Jew. We think you are like that too.
In most so-called ‘secular Jews’,
there is an honesty that is not only refreshing.
It will become a life-giving factor in the bright future,
yet to be discovered by honest, thinking, ‘secular Jews’.
This is why we invite you to look at more of our discussion papers,
~ to try to find the Truth. ~ Even without ‘religion’!
Please go to our next article about being glad you are Jewish, here.