A Jewish friend rang me this morning to ask what she could do about a situation in Indonesia where a Catholic Church has been attacked by local mobs. We were both made aware of this from a circular newsletter from an Indonesian Catholic whom we met at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. I said that there does not appear to be much that we can do, and that the locals appear to be handling the situation. I recommended however that we need not be “bystanders” – “Write back to him and say that you will keep the situation in your prayers”, I advised, since praying is often the most affective thing we can do in cases like this.
“But what if you don’t believe in God?” she answered. I was not aware that my friend was what is called a “secular Jew”, that is, a person who follows all the Jewish religious laws and cultural traditions, but is, in fact, an atheist. It may come as a surprise to readers of this blog that in fact the category “secular Jew” is one of the dominant kinds of Judaism represented in Australia. Another friend told me that there are even synagogues for secular Jews now…
So I was not particularly surprised – in fact, I guessed when I saw the title on my igoogle news widget – that this article “Why we need religion, but God is optional” was written by a secular Jew.
Which is proof once again that the word “religion” is used so very many ways, that it is practically impossible to come up with a “one size fits all” definition. Oddly enough, even Zwier puts forward a rather standard definition of religion “as being represented by God, Revelation and Truth”. But this simply isn’t the case. It is well known that Buddhism does not have a deity (properly speaking). And as this article demonstrates, it is quite possible to be an observant Jew AND an atheist. I have heard of “secular Muslims”, but they usually don’t go as far as the secular Jews in rejecting faith as such. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there is strong 20th Century “tradtion” of Christianity which rejects “religion” in favour of God.
Just an observation.