A Troubled Man wrote:
That was one opinion among several at that link, and that -- once again -- comes back to how one wishes to define "religion." Obviously Ms. Oko, who made those remarks, defines "religion" as "belief in God." That's a valid enough opinion, but there are others that are just as valid.
What other valid opinions as to the definition of religion are there? Why do we not see them contained within the standard definition? What I usually see as a definition for religion is the belief in a supernatural deity that controls human destinies.
How is it that we can define religion as we wish?
As I said:
If one insists that "religion" MUST entail a belief in a personal God -- well, then some, even many, Jews cannot be called "religious." If one assumes that "religion" entails a belief in a personal God with all the usual characteristics -- omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, wholly good, and so on -- then very many more Jews would not be "religious." Of course, very many Jews ARE "religious" in that conventional and familiar way.
Funny you didnâ€™t get the point of that, even though you quoted it below. You can define â€œreligionâ€� any way you like.
Neither I, nor Jews in general, are obligated to define it in the same way as you or anyone else, including any â€œstandard definition.â€�
As Iâ€™ve said many, many times here, There is no such thing as â€œreligion.â€�
There are only religions,
and there is no single characteristic, belief, practice or attitude that is common to them all. That is an objective fact.
Insist on a â€œstandard definitionâ€� if you like; no one else is required to buy into it, and there will always be many religions, and not only Judaism, that do not fit it.
As I also said,
However, if one wishes to make a distinction between styles of belief, and between belief and absence of belief, and redefine some categories as "religion" and exclude others, one must deal with the fact that we Jews ourselves make no such distinctions, either between Jews who hold different kinds of beliefs about God or between Jews who hold some such beliefs and those who hold none at all, and have not done so for thousands of years. We don't even know who holds what kinds of beliefs, in practice; we just don't bother to talk about those issues. They are of little to no importance in our "religion," you'll excuse the expression.
Again, you quoted that without getting the point. If you donâ€™t wish to regard some varieties of Jewish belief and practice as â€œreligious,â€� thatâ€™s fine with me. Knock yourself out. I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s going to matter much to many other Jews, either; we donâ€™t make those distinctions.
Weâ€™re rather used to being judged and found wanting by others, in many ways and for many reasons. Itâ€™s never mattered much; we do what we do. If thereâ€™s a problem there, itâ€™s your problem, and not ours.
Let me make something clear to you: Iâ€™m trying to tell you how these ideas work in the Jewish tradition. Thatâ€™s all. Iâ€™m not trying to justify it or make it palatable to you or show how it fits your assumptions and stereotypes. The Jewish religion is qualitatively and practically different from other religions, whether you accept that idea or not. Iâ€™m trying to show you HOW itâ€™s different, and nothing more.
If youâ€™re here to argue that Iâ€™m wrong or that Judaism shouldnâ€™t be what it is or that Iâ€™m thinking about these concepts in the wrong way, youâ€™re wasting your time. Iâ€™m not interested in that conversation.
The idea in that book is that "religion" is a category which did not exist for Jews before the Enlightenment, since for us, culture, heritage, belief, practice and community were all pretty much the same thing. They still are, and one emphasizes the parts of the whole that one chooses; but before that time, the distinctions did not matter, because were were, through no choice of our own, almost entirely isolated from the Gentile world. We lived in separate communities, either shtetls, separate villages, in rural areas, and ghettos (often walled) in towns. The distinction between "religious" and "secular" did not exist for us, and Jews who did not believe were still embraced by the community as a matter of solidarity and survival; they had nowhere else to go. Further, the kind or style of a "proper" belief in God has never been defined in the Jewish religion. My own belief in God, for instance, would hardly be recognizable as such a belief by one who holds supernaturalistic and literalist views -- but both are well within the spectrum of acceptable Jewish belief, as is no belief in God at all.
Sorry, but isolation from other cultures or communities does not preclude ignoring, rejecting or changing definitions.
Like I said -- problems of â€œdefinitionâ€� are yours, not mine. If we choose to call it a â€œreligion,â€� WHATEVER we believe or donâ€™t, that doesnâ€™t mean you are obligated to agree. If you donâ€™t, that bothers me and other Jews not at all. If it bothers you -- well, like I said...
I still see a major contradiction there with Jewish beliefs in God or no God at all and have yet to see any explanations.
We donâ€™t see any contradictions, as Iâ€™ve been trying to show you. Do you think someone owes you an explanation -- especially one that you will agree with and sign off on?
If one insists...[already quoted above]...
It does not appear that the word "personal" is a requirement for belief in God.
That would be correct.
However, if one insists...[already quoted above)...
And yet, God is of primary importance to the Jewish faith even though many Jews have differing opinions as to how they express their faith. Their opinions do not preclude that primary importance that there is one God and that He is present in their everyday activities.
Not so fast. First, we donâ€™t have â€œdiffering opinions on how [we] express [our] faith.â€� We have differing opinions on what the word â€œGodâ€� means.
What do you mean by â€œthere is one Godâ€�? A personal
God? A universal Force? The quality of Rationality itself -- the thing that makes the Universe make sense?
The quality or power of Life? Consciousness? All
of those have been proposed, and none denied or forbidden. Those, and more, all all options for Jewish belief -- and so is the idea that the word â€œGodâ€� is metaphor entirely,
a mental construct
that we use to think about these matters, but which may or may not have an objective, existent referent.
Are you getting this?
The same goes for â€œpresent in their everyday activities.â€� What do you mean by that? I believe that God -- whatever that word means -- shared, or gave, or IS, the power of rational thought and the sense of right and wrong, and that thought and a moral sense are "present in my everyday activities;" if that qualifies, fine. If thatâ€™s not what you meant -- well, our concepts of how God might be â€œpresentâ€� arenâ€™t so limited and defined. Those words also have no clearly defined referent.
Sorry if you want to make it simple and plain, up/down, yes/no. It isnâ€™t, for us, and thereâ€™s no rule nor law nor definition
that says it has to be.
Again; you may certainly disagree. That is no concern of ours. And, yes, on this matter I can speak for all Jews.
Sorry, but that doesn't necessarily follow. We don't even talk about these things within the family; they are not that important to us. Even there, one is "allowed" to believe as one chooses. I doubt that my wife, who was born Jewish, could tell you what her parents believed on that score. She herself holds a rather more conventional belief in God than I do; on the other hand, she does not hold any belief in the "Afterlife" at all. We don't argue about it. What would be the point? Can either of us PROVE to the other that our approach is the "correct" one? Judaism is a very practical religion, and we don't waste our time on issues that can neither be finally and conclusively determined -- nor have any practical real-world significance. We don't even argue with each other about the right way to "keep kosher" or whether to keep kosher at all (I and my wife do not). Freedom of thought and practice is the rule. The only restrictions on belief are against following the tenets of OTHER religions, e.g. worshiping multiple gods, or Allah, or of course a divine Jesus (as discussed in the rest of this thread).
Ah, now we're getting somewhere. If there is no importance held in God and some Jews consider themselves atheist, there is no reason why they can't follow the tenets of other religions.
Of course there is; but before we get to that, youâ€™re misquoting. The NATURE or DEFINITION of God is of little or no importance; that is not the same thing. Further, the passage you quote above is in response to your remark that parents are going to make sure that their children believe in the same way they do. Jewish parents make sure their children understand that they are JEWS; what they specifically believe within that broad spectrum is left up to them. As Iâ€™ve also said many times, Judaism is more a matter of IDENTITY for us than of a specific set of required beliefs,
as is the case in most, if not all, other religions. That's just the way it is.
When it comes to â€œfollowing the tenets of other religions,â€� there is also TRADITION. It has been said that Judaism IS tradition. We honor that tradition and that heritage, and affirm ourselves as members of that community. We are not bound by abstract definitions, or lists of beliefs and doctrines, or rules concocted by others; but there are limits nevertheless. As Iâ€™ve often said; there are no PRESCRIBED or REQUIRED beliefs in the Jewish religion, but there are some that are forbidden.
Thatâ€™s been our way for three or four thousand years. Weâ€™re not going to revise things because you donâ€™t agree. We do change our practices and perspectives over the centuries, but we do it as WE choose, as a people. If youâ€™re not Jewish, you donâ€™t get a vote and your opinion is irrelevant.
Like I said; Iâ€™m not here to satisfy your standards or definitions.
LOL! If one does not BELIEVE in God, that "authority" obviously doesn't apply; but even if one does, God would only be the "central authority" in theory. In practice, the idea is meaningless -- and again, Judaism is a very practical religion, in that it concerns itself with real things in the real world, most notably ethical behavior and community. Without prejudice as to whether God ever spoke directly to humans in the past, he certainly does not do so NOW; and since we do not regard the Torah itself as finally authoritative, and since NO ONE is acknowledged as speaking for God, what's left? Just us.
Then, the entire premise of God and His commands are irrelevant to Judaism...
I never said that nor hinted at it. The stories in the Torah are our LITERATURE and our HERITAGE. Whether God ever actually spoke directly to anyone is not important; the laws stand on their own, because they have been reaffirmed by rational human thought and debate in every generation for centuries on end. Thatâ€™s what â€œtraditionâ€� means.
We take the Torah seriously,
but not necessarily literally.
...which of course is not the case at all.
Of course it isnâ€™t, and I have just given you the reason.
Sorry, I just don't buy that contradiction.
For us, there is none.
In the Jewish religion, humans, through the collective consensus of the wisest in the community, who are also identified by consensus, are the ultimate authority.
LOL! So much for God then, at least, for those who are supposed to follow His commandments and the tenets of Judaism. Humans speaking for God.
You are pretending that there is no tradition of debate and thought that reaffirms all these things, going back for thousands of years. We donâ€™t get to start from scratch in every generation; thatâ€™s part of the tradition, too. We continue the conversation that started with our ancestors, and it continues to this day. Jewish thought is a living conversation, consisting of many different voices, between past and present, and open to the future; it is not a static set of unchanging concepts and beliefs and definitions that must be swallowed whole. The conversation within the community continues, and a Jew may participate whether he believes that the Torah was given by God or figured out by men. BOTH perspectives are permitted.
You seem to be having a hard time grasping what Iâ€™m telling you Again, it seems to me that you want to simplify everything and make Judaism into some sort of crypto-fundamentalism: believe THIS way or it isnâ€™t â€œreligionâ€� -- and if it doesnâ€™t fit that simplistic paradigm, then itâ€™s nothing at all.
Sorry. We go our own way. No one says you have to see things as we do, and no one particularly cares if you donâ€™t. Weâ€™re not out to make converts. Think as you like; we donâ€™t claim to have the Only True Truth. (That we donâ€™t is an old Jewish tradition, too.)
â€¨This is not a matter of human arrogance; Jews believe that we were, and are, commanded to do this in the Torah itself.
We are to work out the meaning of the Law in every generation, while never turning our backs on the tradition--the cumulative wisdom and judgment of the generations of the Wise who came before us.
So, the Torah has nothing to do with gods and everything to do with what men have contrived about gods.
Isnâ€™t â€œcontrivedâ€� a rather polemic choice of words? How about â€œconceivedâ€� or â€œunderstoodâ€�? In any case, some actually do believe in that way (excepting the rather precious little gibe of â€œgods,â€� of course). But then, some also believe that the Torah WAS dictated by God Himself; most are somewhere in between; and very many donâ€™t bother to think about it at all, because the Torah, the TRADITION, is what matters, not coming to some rigid conclusion about where it came from and enforcing that belief -- which is just another clumsy human attempt to define God and His role in the world, and thus limit Him and put Him in a nice neat little intellectual box where He can be fully understood and controlled. That canâ€™t be done, and itâ€™s a waste of time to try. Who says that we have to set up these absolutely irrelevant and impractical and meaningless hoops, and then force each other to jump through them?
Sorry. Like I said -- Judaism is a PRACTICAL religion. If you expect us to waste a lot of energy determining, or pontificating on, things that canâ€™t be proven or verified, and establishing whether they fit this or that definition, and doing likewise on exactly what â€œGodâ€� is and what everyone is supposed to think and believe about Him -- well, you are knocking on the wrong door. Youâ€™re not the first, and you wonâ€™t be the last to try; but you donâ€™t get to tell us how to think about our religion, or even whether or not we have the right to call it that. We go our own way. In that way, we are STiLL separated from the Gentile world. The standards of other religions or philosophies are for those who follow them. We have our own, thanks.
Let me remind you now, once again, of something from an earlier post on this thread, and your response to it:
This post is also not addressed to atheists. I have spoken on the radically different theology (insofar as it exists) of the Jewish religion elsewhere, and many times noted the fact that very many Jews ARE atheists; but all of those issues, and the debates and discussions connected thereto, are not for this thread, and I will not be dealing with them here.
Your reply, again, in your first post to this thread, begins with: "That's fair..."
This thread is on the very specific issue of why Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah. If you want to go farther into the issues you keep bringing up here, I suggest that you do so on another thread, as I implicltly requested in my OP.
In the interest of returning to the topic, if anyone is still interested in pursuing it, I will ask you directly not to continue in this vein on this thread, and I here inform you that I will not respond further to your remarks here.
I think Iâ€™ve made myself clear anyway. You may define any word you wish any way you wish; you may view Judaism in any way you like. As I say, we are rather used to being judged and found wanting. But somehow, we seem to keep on doing what we do without paying much attention to the prescriptions and objections of others.
If you donâ€™t get it, or if you donâ€™t like it, or if you donâ€™t agree -- well, thatâ€™s okay with me. Iâ€™m just trying to show you that we think differently. I donâ€™t need your approval.