Link to a new post on Medium

If you’re not at your wits end keeping up with what I’ve already sent out, you can find a new post I just put on Medium. It’s about what, if anything, it means to be Jewish. And an atheist. In Cornwall, where I’m not likely to find another Jew for miles in any direction, including up, down, and out to sea.

As an aside: The contrast between the British and American attitudes toward atheism surprised me when I first moved here. In the U.S., before I called myself an atheist I tended to stop and ask myself whether I had enough energy for the reaction it might cause. I’m happy to talk about religion and the lack of it, but I don’t have a lot of energy for tense, over-emotional discussions, and they can get that way. I don’t enjoy upsetting people. It’s also, honestly, not the topic I find most interesting in life. So I tended to say “I’m not religious,” which as far as I can figure out means the same thing but didn’t shock people in the same way. In Britain, though, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal, which I love.

If you haven’t discovered Medium, it’s an interesting–I’m not sure what to call it. How about phenomenon? It sounds more specific than thing, although it’s not really. It’s a place to post essays and stories, and it structures in a way that helps people to find them–or tries to. Punch in a topic that interests you and it should call up a range of posts. Many of the ones I’ve read are very good. Within it are several magazines, which if they accept your work can give it a bit of an extra boost. And if they don’t accept it? You just post it anyway.

59 thoughts on “Link to a new post on Medium

  1. As a general rule I don’t think the English talk much about religion. It’s a bit like asking someone what political party they vote for, you tend to keep it to yourself unless really pushed. Could also be because if you are Church of England which is/was the most prevalent religion in England it’s not a very ‘sexy’ religion, no dressing up, waving stuff around or lighting candles. The nearest most of us get to religion is a Christmas Eve visit to church to sing carols, a desperate clutch at feeling something other than retail burn out at that time of year. At least you feel you have a heritage worth hanging on to, even if not religiously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting comment. I think when you’re a member of a minority group, you either try to put it behind you or you stay aware of it and carry a sense of heritage. The majority group doesn’t often seem to have that awareness. The heritage is there, but it’s too widespread to notice (or that’s my best guess).

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  2. I think there should be an all inclusive Universal Church of Benevolent Reciprocity. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would be the only tenet. It is the only tenet of any religion or social philosophy that is worth saving. All the rest form walls of dogma that crush this greatest tenet beneath.

    Of course, if you’ve read my lead post at http://thebenevolentthou.com, you already know my position.

    Thanks for the heads up on Medium. I signed up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Medium does ask you to sign over access to who knows what electronics, but as far as I can tell they haven’t done anything questionable with it. Not that I’d be likely to know if they did.

      I’m with you on the benevolent part and the do unto others, but I’m not convinced we need a church for it except maybe out of habit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I should have been more specific. I was thinking of something similar to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that resides only in Cyberspace. I agree that the word “church” don’t strike a great cord with humanists such as you and I, but it seems to for most folks, at least in the U.S.

        Anyhoo, it was more of a passing thought not likely to draw much attention.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “C of E” is filled in in thousands of forms by people who feel a certain uneasiness in being non-practising religious but were brought up to believe it is “proper” to admit to their Church of England heritage. I’m a firm believer in the “do-as-you-would-be done-by” school of thought. That has helped to sustain me through the unspoken “you’re a foreigner” vibes that come my way more often than I’d like.

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  4. Knowing a person’s religion holds no interest for me. Knowing how it works for them and how it works for their community is another matter. I like what PorterGirl said about manners. When it comes down to it, much of what works with religion is manners.

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  5. When I was a kid, my best buddy was a black kid named Reginald. My parents had no problem with his race – but when they found out he was a Baptist, that ended that.

    People now have no idea how dividing religion used to be. In many communities, it defined everything. The very first thing a realtor asked a prospective client was, “What church do you go to?” It told them everything about ethnicity, race, class and religion. They then knew which hole to stuff the peg into.

    I shudder to recall those days but after reading your post On Being Jewish, I reflected again on what it means to live in a place of many cultures. It is certainly getting to be that way down here in Southern Minnesota, where little towns like Austin, Faribault and Owatoona are gaining substantial immigrant population from exotic places like South Sudan, Somalia, Burma, Laos and Ethiopia. I imagine that after melting together for a generation, all we will be left with is a wide choice of good food.

    Modernism, or let’s just say globalism, has a leveling effect on culture. It grinds down both the good and bad with commercialism, media culture and immigration. To be truly diverse, we all have to be different and it is the difference that we are losing. To become different, we have to be insulated and isolated from each other. In a global community, I am not sure how we can enjoy diversity once all of our root cultures, for better or worse, have been sanded away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I moved to Minneapolis in the sixties, I was floored by how homogeneous it was. My point of reference was New York, so I won’t offer this as objective truth, just my impression. A waitress I worked with had grown up in small-town northern Minnesota and was shocked when she found out Jews weren’t Christians. The idea that someone could not be a Christian and still be part of the human race was mind blowing. One of the things she said was, “I always wondered why no one liked them.” So I’m all for diversity. Not to mention good food. I don’t know how much our cultural differences will get sanded down. Somewhat, definitely, but I think those of us who come from identifiable communities do carry–and usually value–something of the original culture, even generations later. But there are always losses. I’m reminded of an American poet–damned if I can remember who this was–who wrote in a poem about his father, “I too have lost [either two or three] children to America.” That immigrant generation must feel a huge sense of loss.

      Liked by 1 person

    • People now have no idea how dividing religion used to be.

      Ah, you pushed my button. :-O

      In many cases, religion is still divisive, and in some cases, more so, both within society and on the international front.

      On the family front, my brother, a few years back, sent me the book, “The Language of God,” by Francis Collins, and asked me to give him my thoughts. He knew my sentiments on religion and knew that I base my social philosophy on ethics, science and history. He told me that Francis “is a scientist,” that he used to be an atheist, but now accepts Christianity. My brother’s purpose was obvious to me.

      I read the book, making notes as I went. In a few days, I sent him a thoughtful and honest critique. I don’t recall most of my criticisms, but I do recall that Collins’ basis for becoming a Christian was that he “felt” an “emptiness” inside. His major argument, then, was completely subjective and the rest was an attempt to add junk science to prove his belief.

      My honest and civil critique angered my brother. He didn’t really want my honest opinions, he wanted a conversion.

      I offered to send him “The Case Against Christianity,” by Michael Martin, and asked if he would give me his thoughts. He refused. After finishing my philosophical novel on religion, I asked him if he would read it. He refused in a rather condescending manner.

      Every day I frequent religious blogs and make attempts to inject a bit of reason, facts and logic into their arguments (as John Stuart Mill advocated). I’ve had very few successes over the years and I am frequently the target of hostility. I don’t return the incivility, but I feel that I have, at the very least, planted seeds of Reason.

      Too, I keep up with the religious right’s (conservative fundamentalists) attempts (and successes) to breach the Wall of Separation between church and state, and I find them still to be relentless and very deceitful. The sad part is that our government is becoming more seeded with them (or those who use them for votes), and thus more religious laws are slipping through, mainly funneling taxpayer dollars to private, Christian schools and discriminating religious organizations.

      I note, as well, that religion is the main problem in the upsurge of divisive politics–a rancor that exceeds anything I can remember. Still, I continue to make my attempts to persuade.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m old enough not to go around quoting my mother as the ultimate authority on everything, but I could do worse if I’m looking for someone to quote. When I was a kid, she told me not to argue with anyone about religion and not to tell anyone there was no Santa Claus. I’m 68, and I don’t tend to argue religion. What I do argue is any attempt to impose religion–or the lack of religion–on anyone else. I don’t want laws passed, or behaviors judged, on the basis of religious belief. I feel strongly about the separation of church and state, although now that I live in the UK, where they’re not separate, I’ve noticed that having an established religion means a lot of people are bored silly with it and are relaxed about religious issue. Not the planned outcome at all, and I’m sure it’s not a universal rule, but if anyone out there is advocating a theocracy, you might want to think about the unintentional consequences.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve noticed that having an established religion means a lot of people are bored silly with it and are relaxed about religious issue.

          I think that is pretty much true across the board.

          A few years ago, I read a review of an Iranian film where a (comic) prisoner escaped from jail by stealing an Imam’s cloak. Once outside the prison he tried to hail a cab but the taxis just flew by. Iranian audiences loved scene because they know that Imams are so despised that no taxi would pick them up.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Well I liked this post, but I LOVED the one on Medium. That was really good. You write so well. (And other obvious things, okay?)
    My community has the big-city diversity which means you can’t grow up here without being invited to a Seder, or knowing they will not serve you a ham & cheese sandwich at Shapiro’s, or trying to understand that some of your friends need to eat all the Girl Scout cookies in the world before Passover.
    Still, it would be years and years before I encountered any Orthodox Jews, and truly come to understand that being really, really Jewish is a lifestyle. I marvel at their dedication, and the beauty of ritual and tradition.
    They never seek to convert me, and truth be told, this is why Jews (and Atheists) are some of my favorite people, lol — although the Jews are quick to Oy over my lack of kosher detail. “Did you seriously just serve challah with a pork loin?!” or “Joey, no cheese with the pastrami on rye, that is so not kosher!”

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  7. Excellent read, Ellen. When discussing Jewish identity, it only brings out more questions than answers when Jews try to define the whole group. It’s a quagmire to say the least.

    I can only speak for the Reform movement where it accepts the child of either parent being Jewish as Jewish. So to us, our daughter is Jewish, even though our daughter is technically not according to the Conservative and the Orthodox communities. But does that mean that all her Hebrew and religious studies should be negated? What about all the holidays we celebrate and the traditions we have? Don’t those count toward her being Jewish?

    Only the individual can define what being Jewish means to himself/herself, and it does not have to be reactionary to anti-Semitism. There are other aspects of the culture…literature, food, crafts, etc., that can be included in one’s life and made meaningful without having to believe in God or celebrating holidays. Being a Jew is also about how you feel and what comes from within. And that is the way it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I may add one more point, there is also the matter of religious law vs. legalities. We have the Law of Return in Israel to make things even more confusing. The Law of Return basically addresses “Who is a Jew?” as far as living in Israel and gaining citizenship. Feel free to Google that, if you want to make your brain hurt even more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve never investigated that, just assumed it was the traditional if-your-mother-is. Or if you convert under a rabbi in the approved tradition–I seem to remember hearing that it was a fairly narrow band. There’s a wonderful novel by Peter Ho Davies, The Welsh Girl, that hinges on the difference between the Jewish definition of Jewishness and the Nazis’ and casually anti-Semitic British officers during WWII. All set against the backdrop of the Welsh-English conflict. Well worth looking at. Point (not its but mine at the moment) being that there’s no single definition of Jewishness, although lots of people would be happy to tell me there is and it’s theirs.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That sounds like a great read. Jeez, all of these blogs are just adding to my reading list. If there is an afterlife, I hope there are bookstores and libraries.

          The Israeli Supreme Court has really expanded the Law of Return, but of course, you have to consult your rabbi, provide proof, and jump through the necessary hoops.

          The law was for the traditional definition of Jews only. However, In 1970, an amendment was put in stating, “The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh under the Nationality Law… are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew.” It was a great workaround to catch those people with whom the Jews in the diaspora were assimilating.

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  8. I don’t know if I’ve ever had anyone ask me my religion (there was no need to ask when I was a child–the entire school, the entire neighborhood, the entire town was Catholic. As an adult, I’d be suspicious of the motivations behind someone asking me that question), and I don’t think anyone who knows me at all thinks I’m taking communion every Sunday with the gang down at Our Lady of the Rosary. I’m an atheist, but I grew up Catholic, and that experience shaped me into the person I am today, and I consider it part of my being, if not my soul. There are lots and lots of cultural aspects to religion–the traditions, the history, the rituals–that are separate from this belief in an omnipotent deity.

    But I guess to some people I sound like I threw out the baby but kept the bathwater, and maybe I have.

    Anyway, Jewish-Atheist makes sense to me. I think there are lots of folks who don’t feel the need to relinquish their cultural identity, just because they don’t believe there is a God.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The whole question of what makes a culture fascinates me. The further away you are when you think about it, the simpler it looks. Then you move in closer and see all these fascinating pockets of subcultures–specific but very much part of the whole. Okay, I’ll shut up. I could go on all day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • When you put it like that, who could disagree? In the process of publicizing that post, I discovered all sorts of strange discussion groups and found out that some people assume atheist equals angry, ranting, and campaigning against religion. If you’re more laid back about it, they figure you’re agnostic. That makes no sense, but once people get these definitions in their head they’re hard to shift.

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