When I say I'm an atheist, the very next question most people ask is: “Well, what were you raised? What were your parents?”
Somehow that answer isn't good enough. They’re looking to place me in a spiritual box and lock me into a religion and all the stereotypes that go along with it.
All my life I've been told I'm a Jew—by my parents, by my relatives, by society at large, simply because my parents professed to be Jews. But if I don't believe in god, or any supreme being, or higher power; if entropy is what rules my universe then am I still Jewish?
Jew's believe in one god.
I believe in none.
Some would argue I am culturally Jewish, a product of my parentage. But it’s ludicrous I’m considered Jewish solely because my parents were (and technically just my mother need be, according to Jewish law). Let’s get one thing straight. Judaism is NOT a race. It is practiced globally, from members of our Supreme Court, to jungle tribes in Africa that pray to one God with ancient Hebrew texts. The thread that holds them together is not racial, or even cultural, but spiritual—a belief system. There are no cultural similarities between the African tribes and our Justices. Take away the religious string and there’s really nothing left of their Judaism.
I adhere to no religion, don’t celebrate any religious holidays, believe passing on fantastical mythologies that promote intellectual laziness is dangerous at best, yet most people still see me as a Jew. Growing up, my family celebrated the major Jewish holidays, though I never cared for the antiquated rituals. Their parables were too often warped tales filled with praising their solipsistic god instead of people for their hard-earned achievements. I didn't like the whining, breast beating nature of my elders. I don’t like brisket, noodle koogle or most deli foods. And as holidays go, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving always meant the most to me culturally, and the food is far better.
If I’m culturally anything, it’s white, middle-class, American. Like most of us, I grew up with people of my socioeconomic status. I was raised in a relatively safe, suburban neighborhood— religiously, even racially diverse, but everyone made around the same amount of money. More fine grain, I’m culturally Californian. We have a whole other way of thinking than the rest of the world out here. Level of intelligence would be my third greatest cultural influence. I find I gravitate to thinkers—those who explore and question.
So how does this make me a Jew?
Liking bagels or preferring salmon to ham doesn’t define one culturally. Nor does espousing the virtues of education, or denouncing violence, or promoting charity. These ideologies are widely held by most of our modern age. I’m not a Taoist because I believe in living a balanced life. And I’m not a Christian because I think Christ, or his myth, had a lot of wise ideas.
What does it mean to say you are Jewish, or Christian, or Mormon if you don’t embrace their belief system? If you were raised Christian and you didn't believe in god, or Christ, would you still be considered a Christian? Hell, if you believed in god, but NOT Christ, could you still be a Christian?
What religion are you?
Most of us would simply state what are parents are or were, and we practice the rituals they bestowed on us. But the more important question is: What do you believe?
Think about it.
Don’t let others, not even your ancestry, define your spirituality. Take the time and invest the energy to find what resonates with you. Then live it.