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I guess that I'm deconstructing. (That sounds like such a cliche.) 

I think I'm to the point where I believe the dogma associated with religion is largely man-made. I believe in some kind of a higher power because it appears that humans have always had spiritual beliefs. 

But I don't think that's very important. I think what's most important is being a good person and learning to live with each other other in peace and harmony. 

I've never been a Bible literalist but was still shocked when I realized how little proof (like no proof) there was for the history laid out in the Old Testament. I had some familiarity with the theories about how the OT was written by multiple authors. I've also been exposed to the theories about the authorship of the Gospels and the existence of different Gospels. I never thought it really mattered until I began to think about it. 

Then I thought that Judaism might be the answer. I went down that path in my 20s. But I don't think that I believe in the Exodus or Mt. Sinai. 

It seems to me (heresy alert!) that people keep trying to figure out the big questions and come up with ideas which are discussed enough that they become dogma. People come up with rituals because that's what humans do. It makes people feel important and gives meaning to their lives. That sounds condescending but I think it's actually very important. I think some of these rituals and other actions are very healthy. Like I've read about how priests are taught to address scruples in the confessional. It's very consistent with how it would be addressed by a trained therapist. 

But it's not always good. 

We studied ancient history last year and I prepared by reading about Buddha, Hinduism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. I only skimmed the surface so my understanding is very shallow. But I was struck by the similarities (in particular Zoroastrianism) with the religion that I know, Christianity. Humans are humans and have the same concerns no matter where they live. 

Where do you find a faith or philosophical tradition that is based on living in this life and trying to make it better for everyone? I think humans do this better in a community. 

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Idk. Round here the Quakers are the ones doing that.

Humanism is the philosophical tradition you're talking about, I think. But humanist groups suffer from the same group dynamics as religious groups, in my experience, as do atheist groups. 

I have to say, it's quite nice being decades past deconstruction and happily agnostic, experiencing the numinous when it arises, and otherwise just trying to do my best. Failing and trying, but having self compassion. 

I hope you find a good path for you. 

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Posted (edited)

I'm not a Christian but I'm reading Francis Spufford's book 'Unapologetic - why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense'. I think you might like it. It touches many things that you mention. 

Eta he's Church of England,  which may be the broadest of churches.

Edited by Laura Corin
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Buddhist philosophy has been wonderfully helpful to me since deconstructing a couple of decades ago. I don't claim to have anything close to deep understanding, but I don't think I would have made it through the past several years w/o the little that I do grasp in my toolbox. If I really felt the need for community I'd visit a UU church.

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7 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I guess that I'm deconstructing. (That sounds like such a cliche.) 

I think I'm to the point where I believe the dogma associated with religion is largely man-made. I believe in some kind of a higher power because it appears that humans have always had spiritual beliefs. 

But I don't think that's very important. I think what's most important is being a good person and learning to live with each other other in peace and harmony. 

I've never been a Bible literalist but was still shocked when I realized how little proof (like no proof) there was for the history laid out in the Old Testament. I had some familiarity with the theories about how the OT was written by multiple authors. I've also been exposed to the theories about the authorship of the Gospels and the existence of different Gospels. I never thought it really mattered until I began to think about it. 

Then I thought that Judaism might be the answer. I went down that path in my 20s. But I don't think that I believe in the Exodus or Mt. Sinai. 

It seems to me (heresy alert!) that people keep trying to figure out the big questions and come up with ideas which are discussed enough that they become dogma. People come up with rituals because that's what humans do. It makes people feel important and gives meaning to their lives. That sounds condescending but I think it's actually very important. I think some of these rituals and other actions are very healthy. Like I've read about how priests are taught to address scruples in the confessional. It's very consistent with how it would be addressed by a trained therapist. 

But it's not always good. 

We studied ancient history last year and I prepared by reading about Buddha, Hinduism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. I only skimmed the surface so my understanding is very shallow. But I was struck by the similarities (in particular Zoroastrianism) with the religion that I know, Christianity. Humans are humans and have the same concerns no matter where they live. 

Where do you find a faith or philosophical tradition that is based on living in this life and trying to make it better for everyone? I think humans do this better in a community. 

I'm curious what movement (denomination) of Judaism you were looking at?  In Reform Judaism there are no literal interpretations unless you want to look at them that way.  There is no reason to actually believe in the Exodus, Mt Sinai, etc.  This is a good summary:

https://reformjudaism.org/learning/answers-jewish-questions/can-reform-jew-believe-torah-word-god

 

 

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6 hours ago, fraidycat said:

You might find the community aspect you are searching for in a UU Church.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism

 

I also harbor non-specific belief in "something" because I seem to be wired to do so while being unable to believe in a literal interpretation of doctrine of any faith tradition I've explored. I am drawn to certain aspects of Judaism, but there is something in me that resonates on the Jesus frequency, even though I absolutely do not believe that he was divine or that he literally rose from the dead. (I have cycled around to an understanding that the Jesus story works on a metaphorical level for me.)

I stopped attending our local UU church for personal reasons when our family had a conflict with the local leadership. However, my heretical beliefs and I were quite happy and welcomed -- and far from the most radical in the congregation -- at several UU churches in various states over a few decades.

It sounds like it might work for you, Ordinary Shoes, too.

https://www.uua.org/

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Thirding or fourthing the suggestion to explore a UU church. It's not the right fit for me for various reasons, but they'll happily accept you wherever you are on a spiritual or religious path, and both the ones I've been to--on the east and west coasts--have been great communities. (We used to call it the NPR social hour.)

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Another suggestion to check out UU, here.

Dear IRL friends are very involved, and even founded one and got it started in an area without a UU. The running joke is that they are atheists who helped found a church.  I attend here and there sporadically, and am what you’d call a friend of the church, but not a member.  I join in when the UUs go to marches or for events that make the world better through action or activism  (so, so many of those events, that’s a big focus).  Once in a while, we go to a service if a topic is of interest or their kids are doing something we want to see. There is a focus on ethics and social justice at the one near us, so it sounds like a good fit for you. I understand they can vary widely, though. 

“NPR social hour” made me snort coffee, @jrichstad … totally stealing that!  We used to call it anti-church.

 

 

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I've really enjoyed doing a daily reading in 365 Tao and The Daily Stoic. They're not a deep study of either tradition, but they're short and easy to fit in to your day. They're also geared to Western readers so I think they're more accessible to someone starting out or not committed to adopting a new cultural context. 

I'd also recommend Why Buddhism is True by Richard Wright. The title is a bit misleading, it's more an exploration of how psychology supports the same conclusions as the Four Noble Truths but without the cultural framework that provides the ritual elements of Buddhist practice.

I'll third or fourth the suggestion of visiting a UU congregation. It's part of my post-homeschooling plan for the upcoming year. I don't know if I'll like it or stick with it because it's a bit of a hike, but I think it's worth trying it out. 

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10 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I guess that I'm deconstructing. (That sounds like such a cliche.) 

I think I'm to the point where I believe the dogma associated with religion is largely man-made. I believe in some kind of a higher power because it appears that humans have always had spiritual beliefs. 

But I don't think that's very important. I think what's most important is being a good person and learning to live with each other other in peace and harmony. 

I've never been a Bible literalist but was still shocked when I realized how little proof (like no proof) there was for the history laid out in the Old Testament. I had some familiarity with the theories about how the OT was written by multiple authors. I've also been exposed to the theories about the authorship of the Gospels and the existence of different Gospels. I never thought it really mattered until I began to think about it. 

Then I thought that Judaism might be the answer. I went down that path in my 20s. But I don't think that I believe in the Exodus or Mt. Sinai. 

It seems to me (heresy alert!) that people keep trying to figure out the big questions and come up with ideas which are discussed enough that they become dogma. People come up with rituals because that's what humans do. It makes people feel important and gives meaning to their lives. That sounds condescending but I think it's actually very important. I think some of these rituals and other actions are very healthy. Like I've read about how priests are taught to address scruples in the confessional. It's very consistent with how it would be addressed by a trained therapist. 

But it's not always good. 

We studied ancient history last year and I prepared by reading about Buddha, Hinduism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. I only skimmed the surface so my understanding is very shallow. But I was struck by the similarities (in particular Zoroastrianism) with the religion that I know, Christianity. Humans are humans and have the same concerns no matter where they live. 

Where do you find a faith or philosophical tradition that is based on living in this life and trying to make it better for everyone? I think humans do this better in a community. 

There are lots of traditions that don't tether to "belief."   It's really hard to express, to anyone on the "creed" end of the Christian creed v deed spectrum, how much that specifically Christian focus has forged an American conflation between "belief" and "religion" that simply does not translate to *many* other traditions.

Starting with Buddhism, and many other Eastern traditions, that focus on compassion and conduct.  Within traditions a bit closer to how you've said you were raised/are coming from now, both UU and Quaker communities lean much more into ethics / actually walking the walk, less into "dogma."  There is a strand of Judaism literally called Reconstructionist that is also very much organization around ethics and metaphoric treasure within the tradition, not at all around "belief" -- a service within that movement is very much like a Quaker meeting.

 

(Lots and lots of Jews don't "believe" that the Exodus/Sinai story literally happened, any more than Eve in the garden or Noah's ark or Balaam's talking donkey or etc.  What matters in our reading of those stories is *the insight and teaching and shared values we extract from discussing the stories,* not their literal historicity.  Just as there is truth in Pandora's insatiable curiosity, or Psyche's doubt, or the blood that Lady Macbeth could not get out.  The insight in that truth is the treasure; the treasure is what we're going for and learning from; the literal historicity is Seriously Not the Point.  At All.)

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Posted (edited)

Have you looked into the Universalist Unitarians?  I think if you want a group committed to ethics, and the community that a congregations provides, but without all of the bible stuff, they may be what you're looking for.  They also have the most comprehensive children's sex ed program I've ever seen.

Edited by KungFuPanda
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Here's a link to the seven principles that UU congregations follow https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles?gclid=Cj0KCQjwzYGGBhCTARIsAHdMTQzL1wMyn2s4g998jo4djoX3GpRIhat8FZSypcbWza3G7Gn1PjoK7NMaAr2NEALw_wcB

and the six sources of inspiration for the tradition https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/sources 

In my congregation the seven principles are front and center in teaching and decision making. 

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6 hours ago, Library Momma said:

I'm curious what movement (denomination) of Judaism you were looking at?  In Reform Judaism there are no literal interpretations unless you want to look at them that way.  There is no reason to actually believe in the Exodus, Mt Sinai, etc.  This is a good summary:

https://reformjudaism.org/learning/answers-jewish-questions/can-reform-jew-believe-torah-word-god

 

 

I haven't looked much. I looked into this years ago because of a Jewish boyfriend. He was Reform. I never got past the reading stage but have always been "Jew-curious." 

2 hours ago, KungFuPanda said:

Have you looked into the Universalist Unitarians?  I think if you want a group committed to ethics, and the community that a congregations provides, but without all of the bible stuff, they may be what you're looking for.  They also have the most comprehensive children's sex ed program I've ever seen.

They have a church in our town but they are still 100% online. I feel completely *done* with Zoom, IYKWIM. But it might be worth looking into when they are back in person. 

As someone who spent so many years in "traditional" religious circles, I can almost hear the condemnations of the UU and Episcopal churches. 

3 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

There are lots of traditions that don't tether to "belief."   It's really hard to express, to anyone on the "creed" end of the Christian creed v deed spectrum, how much that specifically Christian focus has forged an American conflation between "belief" and "religion" that simply does not translate to *many* other traditions.

Starting with Buddhism, and many other Eastern traditions, that focus on compassion and conduct.  Within traditions a bit closer to how you've said you were raised/are coming from now, both UU and Quaker communities lean much more into ethics / actually walking the walk, less into "dogma."  There is a strand of Judaism literally called Reconstructionist that is also very much organization around ethics and metaphoric treasure within the tradition, not at all around "belief" -- a service within that movement is very much like a Quaker meeting.

 

(Lots and lots of Jews don't "believe" that the Exodus/Sinai story literally happened, any more than Eve in the garden or Noah's ark or Balaam's talking donkey or etc.  What matters in our reading of those stories is *the insight and teaching and shared values we extract from discussing the stories,* not their literal historicity.  Just as there is truth in Pandora's insatiable curiosity, or Psyche's doubt, or the blood that Lady Macbeth could not get out.  The insight in that truth is the treasure; the treasure is what we're going for and learning from; the literal historicity is Seriously Not the Point.  At All.)

I think my current dilemma with Judaism is how that does not seem to justify a decision to convert. It would be joining a people who define themselves based on their relationship to a God who gave the Torah at Mt. Sinai. If I believed that, I could join and promise to keep all of the 613 commandments. (613, right?) Lots of Jews don't believe that but they're members of that people by ethnicity or culture or perhaps through intermarriage. But it's not my culture or ethnicity. (I'm obviously over-thinking this.) 

I saw this on Twitter today. 

 

Can Christianity be rescued from this garbage? I see a picture like this and think that maybe it's not worth saving. 

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Also, I am so beyond tired of the games that are based on bad faith like "look at what this obscure psychiatrist said in a private setting!" or "doesn't AOC love her grandmother enough to fix her house?" This is endemic in the Christian world. It's so insincere and is intended to distract us from real issues. People are hurting and need more than "women can't be priests because they talk too much!" 

But we don't get anything deeper than that. The Catholic bishops are about to vote on whether our Catholic president (who was supported by a slight majority of Catholics) should be barred from communion. This is where we are today. 

 

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So….you sound like where I was 8 or so months ago….trying to find the “right” place. If you were to fast-forward from there three months you would find me at the conclusion that there is no perfect place for teachings, fast forward another month and I realized I don’t need a formal church home. I want community, but I don’t need a church. I am entirely capable of being a good person and of teaching my kids to be good people without someone else telling me how to do it.
 

Don’t fear the deconstruction process. Part of that work for me has been really examining all of the “shoulds” and “warnings” from where I came from. It’s work, but it is worth it.

 

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I have two thoughts. One is that the type of ethical focus you're looking for is one that I see with friends in a variety of settings - Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, UU, Episcopalian, Quaker, even some other Protestants... I also know people who are involved with the Ethical Society. I think what you're talking about is in a lot of churches that are focused on the story and the lessons you take instead of the literal interpretations and the dogma. I've personally been involved in Baptist, Quaker, and UU churches and organizations where that's been the case. Dh has been involved with Hindus in that context. I think that's more about being on a path with people who can make you think, are open to disagreements and not tied to dogmatic interpretations, and are the right people for you to be in community with while you're on that journey. 

Two, in my experience, my friends who came out of Christian churches where they felt victimized by narrowminded interpretations of Christianity they were surrounded by - and who sometimes are not at peace with the person they were when they were deeply involved in those churches or by the ways that a spouse or parent used Christianity against them in some way - have not been able to find that in Christian churches.

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BTW—I know deconstruction can feel lonely and that one of the early steps is separating culture from doctrine.

These two articles helped me realize I wasn’t alone and that the journey is worth it:

https://medium.com/backyard-theology/evangelicals-faith-deconstruction-4f08ef0a9d61

https://www.premierchristianity.com/home/deconstructing-faith-meet-the-evangelicals-who-are-questioning-everything/267.article

As far as ethics go, I have been musing on the tenets of the Satanic Temple (which is not about worshipping satan but about using satire and imagery to bring discussion and thought): https://thesatanictemple.com/blogs/the-satanic-temple-tenets/there-are-seven-fundamental-tenets

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I really wouldn't count Milo Yiannopoulos as an exemplar of what Christianity is.  Or what any other group of people is either, for that matter. That is one Cheese who Stands Alone, LOL.

 

What is fueling what seems (?) to be a sense that you/your family need to "join" a religion, as opposed to just... showing up and seeing how it goes?  In my synagogue there are tons of folks who just fellow-travel, for years/decades.  Some eventually formally join, some through conversion; but plenty others don't.  Similarly I know several women who regularly "attend" Quaker meeting but have not "joined."  There's no need to plunge first; shopping, it's a thing.

 

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You seem to be conflating Christianity with Republican Evangelicals.  Which is normal if that’s your background.  But that world is completely foreign to many Christians in America.  It’s fine if you want to make a clean break with your religious past, but you don’t have to leave Christianity to get away from that stuff.  (But hey, I’m in a wildly blue urban area YMMV.)

My take on biblical historicity:  I don’t know if Jesus was resurrected, but God resurrects all the time.  I see it in my own life and in the lives of others.  

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Posted (edited)

Throwing in another quick pitch for a UU.  We have been members of one for many years.  

https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles

The only thing I would say about UU's is that they are very representative of their members and they vary super widely.  So if you are in an area with a few options, if one isn't a fit, another may be.  You may not like Sunday service, but their weeknight programming or online book club or mindfulness meetings or kids programming (just random examples of stuff that I've seen at ours) might be a fit.   I would also encourage shopping.  You're looking for a community that will work for your kids, etc.  

Edited by FuzzyCatz
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Just another thought - one thing I actually needed to work through (and it took about 15 years) was the thought that I needed to find a religious or philosophical community. 

Letting go of that need allowed 1. Less pain when I couldn't find it and 2. allowed my own relationship with Whatever Is to emerge. 

 

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

Just another thought - one thing I actually needed to work through (and it took about 15 years) was the thought that I needed to find a religious or philosophical community. 

Letting go of that need allowed 1. Less pain when I couldn't find it and 2. allowed my own relationship with Whatever Is to emerge. 

 

I went through this process, too. Mine was only a year or two though, and possibly could have gone quicker if I had discussed it openly in a place like WTM.

Of course a large part of my deconstruction started with the question of WHY I needed to be in a building on Sunday morning, listening to another person blather on about boring stuff when "God" could be found in the birds, butterflies, and beauty of my back yard. I was never deeply religious, and always had questions that held me back, even as a kid - especially about certain rules that seemed very arbitrary to me  (I don't like to follow rules unless they make sense to me!) so it was a fairly quick jump from believer with some big question marks, to anti-church, to spiritual-but-not-religious agnostic.

That said, while I don't feel a need for a specifically religious/philosophical community, I also think it might be nice to have a thought-provoking, ethically focused community, where deeper discussions take place such as a UU congregation.  There is nothing close to me though so I carry on without it and find community in other ways. 

Edited by fraidycat
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24 minutes ago, fraidycat said:

I went through this process, too. Mine was only a year or two though, and possibly could have gone quicker if I had discussed it openly in a place like WTM.

Of course a large part of my deconstruction started with the question of WHY I needed to be in a building on Sunday morning, listening to another person blather on about boring stuff when "God" could be found in the birds, butterflies, and beauty of my back yard. I was never deeply religious, and always had questions that held me back, even as a kid - especially about certain rules that seemed very arbitrary to me  (I don't like to follow rules unless they make sense to me!) so it was a fairly quick jump from believer with some big question marks, to anti-church, to spiritual-but-not-religious agnostic.

That said, while I don't feel a need for a specifically religious/philosophical community, I also think it might be nice to have a thought-provoking, ethically focused community, where deeper discussions take place such as a UU congregation.  There is nothing close to me though so I carry on without it and find community in other ways. 

I guess I had to move away from the fantasy of the 'right' group. All groups are complex, have similar processes and cycles. 

But anyway, that's just me. I'm sure it's different for others. 

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Also, I am so beyond tired of the games that are based on bad faith like "look at what this obscure psychiatrist said in a private setting!" or "doesn't AOC love her grandmother enough to fix her house?" This is endemic in the Christian world. It's so insincere and is intended to distract us from real issues. People are hurting and need more than "women can't be priests because they talk too much!" 

But we don't get anything deeper than that. The Catholic bishops are about to vote on whether our Catholic president (who was supported by a slight majority of Catholics) should be barred from communion. This is where we are today. 

 

Ordaining women might actually be a good proxy for the kind of church you’d feel at home in.  Or celebrating same-sex marriages. There’s a great deal of variation even among denominations that do those two, but it would weed out a lot of the places you want to avoid.

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5 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Also, I am so beyond tired of the games that are based on bad faith like "look at what this obscure psychiatrist said in a private setting!" or "doesn't AOC love her grandmother enough to fix her house?" This is endemic in the Christian world. It's so insincere and is intended to distract us from real issues. People are hurting and need more than "women can't be priests because they talk too much!" 

But we don't get anything deeper than that. The Catholic bishops are about to vote on whether our Catholic president (who was supported by a slight majority of Catholics) should be barred from communion. This is where we are today. 

American Republicans don't define Christianity. Thank God. 

I'll be honest and say I'm sad to hear that you are considering (or have already?) walked away from the faith. I hope that if you are still open to it, you will continue to seek Jesus Himself earnestly during this time and in the days to come. 

I wish you all the best. 

Edited by MercyA
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4 hours ago, prairiewindmomma said:

So….you sound like where I was 8 or so months ago….trying to find the “right” place. If you were to fast-forward from there three months you would find me at the conclusion that there is no perfect place for teachings, fast forward another month and I realized I don’t need a formal church home. I want community, but I don’t need a church. I am entirely capable of being a good person and of teaching my kids to be good people without someone else telling me how to do it.
 

Don’t fear the deconstruction process. Part of that work for me has been really examining all of the “shoulds” and “warnings” from where I came from. It’s work, but it is worth it.

 

I think there is something to the idea that we help to make ourselves better people as part of a community. 

Also, I have no idea how to find a community without a church. I'm sure that sounds strange. I have co-workers. Some co-workers become friends but work is what we have in common. DD's friends are from her former/future Catholic school. We are acquainted with some of those parents but not friends. 

We lost almost all of our relationships when we left our church last year. 

I visited the Episcopal church about a month ago. I told DH that the people there felt like us, Biden voters who are getting the COVID vax. It felt nice to know that no one was going to tell me that women who put their kids in daycare don't want to raise their own kids or I need to boycott Target because they allow transgendered people to use the women's dressing room. I think I've spent the last 5 years feeling like I had my dukes up at church, waiting for the next offensive thing to be said. 

4 hours ago, Lawyer&Mom said:

You seem to be conflating Christianity with Republican Evangelicals.  Which is normal if that’s your background.  But that world is completely foreign to many Christians in America.  It’s fine if you want to make a clean break with your religious past, but you don’t have to leave Christianity to get away from that stuff.  (But hey, I’m in a wildly blue urban area YMMV.)

My take on biblical historicity:  I don’t know if Jesus was resurrected, but God resurrects all the time.  I see it in my own life and in the lives of others.  

I know they're not the same. That's actually not my background. I grew up Catholic. My parents are life-long Democrats. In fact, neither of my parents has ever voted for a Republican. No one in my family votes for Republicans. 

 

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Deconversion is hard. Be kind to yourself. My own was quite traumatic, and I hope it goes easily for all who face it. 

We will spend some time with the UU in Huntsville when we move in order to be involved in some social justice programs, but I do not see us being regular attenders.

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When I was deconstructing, and left my original church, we attended a liberal Presbyterian church for awhile. It ticked a lot of boxes for us, and I thought about joining at first, but really wasn't sure where I was going to end up on the whole doctrine thing and decided to just attend and see what happened. What happened was I ended up as a non-believer (joining my dh who got there a little faster) and we eventually stopped going. It served a purpose for a season though, and I have warm memories of the place. 

I understand what you mean about community. That was important to me, too, but we had that in our homeschool group at the time. Not so much later, but the kids didn't really find it at church either and were balking about going as they got older, so I pulled the plug.

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3 hours ago, Danae said:

Ordaining women might actually be a good proxy for the kind of church you’d feel at home in.  Or celebrating same-sex marriages. There’s a great deal of variation even among denominations that do those two, but it would weed out a lot of the places you want to avoid.

I would agree with that. A lot of cradle Catholics find a home in Episcopalian or ELCA churches. Both ordain women and perform same sex marriages but maintain liturgy and Eucharist.  

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1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I think there is something to the idea that we help to make ourselves better people as part of a community. 

Also, I have no idea how to find a community without a church. I'm sure that sounds strange. I have co-workers. Some co-workers become friends but work is what we have in common. DD's friends are from her former/future Catholic school. We are acquainted with some of those parents but not friends. 

We lost almost all of our relationships when we left our church last year. 

I visited the Episcopal church about a month ago. I told DH that the people there felt like us, Biden voters who are getting the COVID vax. It felt nice to know that no one was going to tell me that women who put their kids in daycare don't want to raise their own kids or I need to boycott Target because they allow transgendered people to use the women's dressing room. I think I've spent the last 5 years feeling like I had my dukes up at church, waiting for the next offensive thing to be said. 

I know they're not the same. That's actually not my background. I grew up Catholic. My parents are life-long Democrats. In fact, neither of my parents has ever voted for a Republican. No one in my family votes for Republicans. 

 

I’m sorry I got that wrong.  I’m Catholic and I just don’t see whatever Milos Whatshisname is up to as having anything to do with me.  I also don’t pay any attention to the US Bishops.  But I guess I came pre-deconstructed. My mom left the church, raised me mostly atheist and I came back, but with a proudly cafeteria approach.  I never had the “this is all real” experience as a kid like she did.  (She hates that we are part of the church!)

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I’m a cradle Catholic who left as a young adult, identified heavily with atheism for awhile which gave way to agnosticism.  I’ve recently returned to regularly attending the Catholic Church but I’m quite comfortable with disagreeing with the church.  As a child and young adult I read the Bible a lot but never regarded it as historically factual.  In fact, I think a lot of the meaning is lost if it is taken as literally true.  I can learn something about life from the story of Jonah without thinking that a man lived in a whale for 3 days.  

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21 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Where do you find a faith or philosophical tradition that is based on living in this life and trying to make it better for everyone? I think humans do this better in a community. 

Um, I just live my life with my like-minded family and friends and we all try to make things better. I don’t happen to know anyone who isn’t an atheist beyond some distant family members and a couple agnostic Quakers. So we’re not members of a particular faith tradition or group and AFAIK none of us feel the need to be. I personally feel that religion does far more bad than good. 
 

What is important to you? How do you think you can best serve humanity, if that is your goal? There are plenty of good people who do good without getting tangled up in religion. If you care about the environment, join an environmental movement if you need community. Participate in politics. Volunteer. Be the change you want to see. 

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My first thought was UU. I don't feel the need for a spiritual home so I haven't looked into it but one of the homeschool moms from when ds was young is a UU minister. I learned a lot about it from her. You do have to research each individual church though because it's really the congregation (?) of a UU church that determines the general bent. Though there are UU principles, some churches have a Christian bent, some lean agnostic/atheist, and some are just a hodge podge of people who don't fit in the religion they grew up in but don't want to give it up either.

The other one that came to mind is Quakers. Again, the little I know is from a homeschool mom I once knew. 

Both do seem to be ethics oriented.

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14 hours ago, Library Momma said:

I'm curious what movement (denomination) of Judaism you were looking at?  In Reform Judaism there are no literal interpretations unless you want to look at them that way.  There is no reason to actually believe in the Exodus, Mt Sinai, etc.  This is a good summary:

https://reformjudaism.org/learning/answers-jewish-questions/can-reform-jew-believe-torah-word-god

 

Indeed, I actually know Reform Jews who see no conflict whatsoever between being an observant Jew and also being an atheist. You can be both. They figure that God doesn't care if you believe, just if you do what you're supposed to do.

(I admit, I think the one I know who actually converted as an atheist took an odd approach with their life choices, but it's their religion, not mine. Why should I care?)

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Well, I'm still a Christian, although I went through a serious deconstructing and then reconstructing in the past 12 years.  The first five years of those I gave up on any faith altogether...it's just what I needed to do.   It really didn't have much to do with the church...  I mean, yeah, the church seemed pretty twisted in a lot of ways, and that was even before 2020!   But at least for me, the American church never equaled God so I didn't have that expectation.  My main issue was that I really didn't think I believed in God at all anymore, and although I felt a little sad about it, it felt okay, too.

Maybe it had to do with the 6 brain surgeries my dh had, but I eventually became kind of obsessed with existential thoughts.  Like, what's the point of all this?  I knew that something had to be true.  It couldn't be just whatever you want it to be.  I mean, at the end of the day, something is true, right?  So began my journey.  

I eventually came back around to a church that actually encourages people to think and ask questions and disagree, even if it means walking away for awhile.  In fact, our main pastor has written a book on why doubting is not only okay, but is healthy and necessary.  I've come to really despise the word "religion" because I think it's mostly man-made.  I think ethics (and its more judgy friend -- legalism), is mostly the result of not truly understanding self-sacrificial love, or simply being willing to give up things in order to help another person.

I do know people from all walks of life who seem to get that.  So, I don't think it has to do with a particular faith as much as an understanding that at the end of the day, everything else can be taken from us but self-sacrificial love.   And that can change everything.   I do believe in Jesus as the Messiah who brought that love to a level that we can understand.  

The church I attend now believes we're never called to judge others, and we're to accept everybody.  It believes love is the motivating force behind anything lasting, and we're either propelling that force one way, or the other, no matter what our faith beliefs are.   It welcomes disagreement and everyone is loved.  We have both men and women pastors, and sometimes they even call God "She."  🙂  

It teaches the Bible as a story (both true and symbolic) that slowly reveals God's pure loving nature.  It's probably the most Gospel-oriented church I've ever attended.  

I certainly get why you might want to walk away though.  If you're not part of any faith organization anymore, then I'd say support your local work -- take part in whatever helps your local community.  I agree with you that serving and living in a community is important and energy-giving.  (I personally think we were created to live in community, so that makes sense to me.)

If you're still considering faith in Christianity, books that were helpful to me:  The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey; The Jesus Legend, Benefit of the Doubt, Myth of a Christian Nation and God of the Possible by Greg Boyd; The Slavery of Death by Richard Beck.  Also, the organization Red Letter Christians.  (https://www.redletterchristians.org)

(I'm a little embarrassed that some of my posts here have probably sounded preachy lately!  I'm not like that so much in real life.  :D) 

 

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9 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I think there is something to the idea that we help to make ourselves better people as part of a community. 

Also, I have no idea how to find a community without a church. I'm sure that sounds strange. I have co-workers. Some co-workers become friends but work is what we have in common. DD's friends are from her former/future Catholic school. We are acquainted with some of those parents but not friends. 

I don’t think it sounds strange.
I haven’t “believed” in I don’t know how long. I haven’t belonged to a church in 26 years, give or take.  Today, I’m comfortable with my non-organized and overlapping communities of atheists, agnostics, and kind people of all sorts of faiths. That wasn’t always the case, though. For a long time, I did miss and want a community that “fit”. I wanted some sort of pre-set baseline that gave some definition to where everyone involved was coming from.

By the time I settled on UU, I no longer wanted it enough to drive 45 minutes each way and deal with parking.  😆 I really do think we’d be involved if it were closer.  In the meantime, my social circles had evolved and developed a little area in which the discussions and connections I was looking for were pretty strong.  It was much more complicated than joining a well-defined group, but I’ve found something extra special (to me) in building something organically.  Harder, but special.

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10 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

 

Indeed, I actually know Reform Jews who see no conflict whatsoever between being an observant Jew and also being an atheist. You can be both. They figure that God doesn't care if you believe, just if you do what you're supposed to do.

(I admit, I think the one I know who actually converted as an atheist took an odd approach with their life choices, but it's their religion, not mine. Why should I care?)

I think this post and Ordinary Shoes post is combining denominations in a way.  Reform Jews are usually not observant meaning that they do not literally follow the 613 commandments and usually are not kosher.  Yes, literal interpretations of the Torah are not necessary or common but that it because they are being seen as a guide to teach moral lessons on how to be a better person.  

I think this point is important to me because I often see posts here with people saying that they know someone Jewish but they are not very religious because they aren't kosher or don't appear to observant.  Basically more like how Orthodox Jews appear.  To be honest it is sort of offensive to me as a Reform Jew.  I feel I am religious because of my faith, my views and my religious education.  Being similar to a completely different denomination of my religion does not make me more Jewish.  It is like saying a Protestant isn't very religious because their mass isn't in Latin.

 

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14 minutes ago, Library Momma said:

I think this post and Ordinary Shoes post is combining denominations in a way.  Reform Jews are usually not observant meaning that they do not literally follow the 613 commandments and usually are not kosher.  Yes, literal interpretations of the Torah are not necessary or common but that it because they are being seen as a guide to teach moral lessons on how to be a better person.  

I think this point is important to me because I often see posts here with people saying that they know someone Jewish but they are not very religious because they aren't kosher or don't appear to observant.  Basically more like how Orthodox Jews appear.  To be honest it is sort of offensive to me as a Reform Jew.  I feel I am religious because of my faith, my views and my religious education.  Being similar to a completely different denomination of my religion does not make me more Jewish.  It is like saying a Protestant isn't very religious because their mass isn't in Latin.

 

Yeah, especially the bolded.

Although to be fair, I recognize that because Judaism as a whole is such an unimaginably tiny fragment -- there are more Muslims in Egypt, or Christians in India, than there are Jews on the earth; which affects everything -- that it's not very realistic to hope that most fellow Americans have any meaningful insight into the distinctions between the movements within that whole. 

And also to be fair, an awful lot of Jews don't know or care about distinctions between Latin Mass Catholics vs Methodists vs Quakers vs LDS vs non-denominational evangelists.  We all tend to focus on our own particular circuses, LOL.

 

[I may delete this because it's kinda cranky, which isn't QUITE how I actually feel MOST of the time, but...]

For me (also Reform, though had I started with a clean sheet of paper and picked out a movement that best fit my worldview / personality / approach to text and quest, I probably would have attached to Reconstructionist), it's not exactly that I am offended by the Christian conflation of kosher-keeping or family purity laws with who is a "real" Jew. (God knows we play that game within the house as well, le sigh.)

It's more a recognition that that very trope loops back to "legalism," which has its own Phariseean storyline that lays its own groundwork for its own Very Bad Seeds.  The integrated implication is that Jews who lean into the full observance side of the tradition are "legalistic" in a way that Jesus revealed was not what God whats; and Jews who lean more toward the prophetic/ethical side that is also part of the tradition are "watered down" and not "real" which is ALSO not what God wants, and again, le sigh.

Just tend to your own circus, LOL.  

 

 

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I would not dream of saying that a Reform Jew isn't observant simply because their observance is different than that of, say, an Orthodox Jew. Unless they said themselves that they're unobservant, which of course is different.

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38 minutes ago, Pam in CT said:

Yeah, especially the bolded.

Although to be fair, I recognize that because Judaism as a whole is such an unimaginably tiny fragment -- there are more Muslims in Egypt, or Christians in India, than there are Jews on the earth; which affects everything -- that it's not very realistic to hope that most fellow Americans have any meaningful insight into the distinctions between the movements within that whole. 

And also to be fair, an awful lot of Jews don't know or care about distinctions between Latin Mass Catholics vs Methodists vs Quakers vs LDS vs non-denominational evangelists.  We all tend to focus on our own particular circuses, LOL.

 

[I may delete this because it's kinda cranky, which isn't QUITE how I actually feel MOST of the time, but...]

For me (also Reform, though had I started with a clean sheet of paper and picked out a movement that best fit my worldview / personality / approach to text and quest, I probably would have attached to Reconstructionist), it's not exactly that I am offended by the Christian conflation of kosher-keeping or family purity laws with who is a "real" Jew. (God knows we play that game within the house as well, le sigh.)

It's more a recognition that that very trope loops back to "legalism," which has its own Phariseean storyline that lays its own groundwork for its own Very Bad Seeds.  The integrated implication is that Jews who lean into the full observance side of the tradition are "legalistic" in a way that Jesus revealed was not what God whats; and Jews who lean more toward the prophetic/ethical side that is also part of the tradition are "watered down" and not "real" which is ALSO not what God wants, and again, le sigh.

Just tend to your own circus, LOL.  

 

 

RE the bolded, I remember telling a Jewish co-worker that I'd attended Episcopal church camp when i was a kid. He had just seen the movie Jesus Camp and assumed that meant I was just like those kids. I recall thinking how strange it was that he had no idea how different the Episcopals were from the Jesus Camp types. 

In the same conversation, I remember this guy and another Jewish co-worker asking me if there were Jews in Oklahoma. (This was in Chicago, BTW.) Granted there aren't that many Jewish people in Oklahoma but there are some. 

I remember an online discussion with some other Orthodox Christians. This was probably in the early aughts. I mentioned that I had seen a car with a bumper sticker that said something like, "I am religious and I'm pro-choice." I saw the car in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and the man who got out of the car was wearing a yamukah. The other people were appalled. I remember being told soundly that it was not possible to be "religious" and pro-choice. Most conservative Christians seem to believe that the "real" Jews completely agree with Christians about morality except for the Jesus part, i.e. "Judeo-Christian." I googled and tried to educate them about about what Jewish law actually says about abortion but I doubt I made much impact. It's common to hear conservative Christians claim that the "real" Jews (Orthodox) are the only ones who are going to survive. It's all strange when you look at the anti-semitic language in Orthodox and Christian liturgies. 

Speaking of abortion, I remember asking an Orthodox Jewish woman about her views on abortion. Her response to me was a question about whether the mother was Jewish. She said that if the mother was Jewish that it was a terrible sin because it was killing a Jewish soul. I was genuinely shocked at her response because it was so exclusive. In Christianity, morality is the same for everyone. I was surprised that she didn't see it that way. 

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1 hour ago, Library Momma said:

I think this post and Ordinary Shoes post is combining denominations in a way.  Reform Jews are usually not observant meaning that they do not literally follow the 613 commandments and usually are not kosher.  Yes, literal interpretations of the Torah are not necessary or common but that it because they are being seen as a guide to teach moral lessons on how to be a better person.  

I think this point is important to me because I often see posts here with people saying that they know someone Jewish but they are not very religious because they aren't kosher or don't appear to observant.  Basically more like how Orthodox Jews appear.  To be honest it is sort of offensive to me as a Reform Jew.  I feel I am religious because of my faith, my views and my religious education.  Being similar to a completely different denomination of my religion does not make me more Jewish.  It is like saying a Protestant isn't very religious because their mass isn't in Latin.

 

 

1 hour ago, Pam in CT said:

Yeah, especially the bolded.

Although to be fair, I recognize that because Judaism as a whole is such an unimaginably tiny fragment -- there are more Muslims in Egypt, or Christians in India, than there are Jews on the earth; which affects everything -- that it's not very realistic to hope that most fellow Americans have any meaningful insight into the distinctions between the movements within that whole. 

And also to be fair, an awful lot of Jews don't know or care about distinctions between Latin Mass Catholics vs Methodists vs Quakers vs LDS vs non-denominational evangelists.  We all tend to focus on our own particular circuses, LOL.

 

[I may delete this because it's kinda cranky, which isn't QUITE how I actually feel MOST of the time, but...]

For me (also Reform, though had I started with a clean sheet of paper and picked out a movement that best fit my worldview / personality / approach to text and quest, I probably would have attached to Reconstructionist), it's not exactly that I am offended by the Christian conflation of kosher-keeping or family purity laws with who is a "real" Jew. (God knows we play that game within the house as well, le sigh.)

It's more a recognition that that very trope loops back to "legalism," which has its own Phariseean storyline that lays its own groundwork for its own Very Bad Seeds.  The integrated implication is that Jews who lean into the full observance side of the tradition are "legalistic" in a way that Jesus revealed was not what God whats; and Jews who lean more toward the prophetic/ethical side that is also part of the tradition are "watered down" and not "real" which is ALSO not what God wants, and again, le sigh.

Just tend to your own circus, LOL.  

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Library Momma said:

I think this post and Ordinary Shoes post is combining denominations in a way.  Reform Jews are usually not observant meaning that they do not literally follow the 613 commandments and usually are not kosher.  Yes, literal interpretations of the Torah are not necessary or common but that it because they are being seen as a guide to teach moral lessons on how to be a better person.  

I think this point is important to me because I often see posts here with people saying that they know someone Jewish but they are not very religious because they aren't kosher or don't appear to observant.  Basically more like how Orthodox Jews appear.  To be honest it is sort of offensive to me as a Reform Jew.  I feel I am religious because of my faith, my views and my religious education.  Being similar to a completely different denomination of my religion does not make me more Jewish.  It is like saying a Protestant isn't very religious because their mass isn't in Latin.

 

 

1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

I would not dream of saying that a Reform Jew isn't observant simply because their observance is different than that of, say, an Orthodox Jew. Unless they said themselves that they're unobservant, which of course is different.

 

14 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

RE the bolded, I remember telling a Jewish co-worker that I'd attended Episcopal church camp when i was a kid. He had just seen the movie Jesus Camp and assumed that meant I was just like those kids. I recall thinking how strange it was that he had no idea how different the Episcopals were from the Jesus Camp types. 

In the same conversation, I remember this guy and another Jewish co-worker asking me if there were Jews in Oklahoma. (This was in Chicago, BTW.) Granted there aren't that many Jewish people in Oklahoma but there are some. 

I remember an online discussion with some other Orthodox Christians. This was probably in the early aughts. I mentioned that I had seen a car with a bumper sticker that said something like, "I am religious and I'm pro-choice." I saw the car in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and the man who got out of the car was wearing a yamukah. The other people were appalled. I remember being told soundly that it was not possible to be "religious" and pro-choice. Most conservative Christians seem to believe that the "real" Jews completely agree with Christians about morality except for the Jesus part, i.e. "Judeo-Christian." I googled and tried to educate them about about what Jewish law actually says about abortion but I doubt I made much impact. It's common to hear conservative Christians claim that the "real" Jews (Orthodox) are the only ones who are going to survive. It's all strange when you look at the anti-semitic language in Orthodox and Christian liturgies. 

Speaking of abortion, I remember asking an Orthodox Jewish woman about her views on abortion. Her response to me was a question about whether the mother was Jewish. She said that if the mother was Jewish that it was a terrible sin because it was killing a Jewish soul. I was genuinely shocked at her response because it was so exclusive. In Christianity, morality is the same for everyone. I was surprised that she didn't see it that way. 

I'm so glad my fellow Jews chimed in about the philosophical differences between belief and action in the various streams of Judaism. I come from the Orthodox Jewish perspective but even there is a pretty big tent as far as theosophy and theology (orthopraxis and orthodoxy).

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I'll toss in one more vote for trying a UU church.  Or maybe even UCC.  My church is affiliated with both (see, we really can't make up our minds...)  Neither the UUs nor the UCCs have a creed, and both are congregationally organized churches (as in, there's no hierarchy, so one congregation can be quite different from the next - each congregation manages itself).

A lot of UU congregations have 'refugees' from strict religions who are looking for a spiritual community but don't want to hear the words 'God' or 'Jesus'.  It's like that's the one religion that Shall Not Be Mentioned.  That's one thing our church is different in (the UCC part).  There's no requirement to believe anything in the Christian bible - you can be a full-blown atheist and we're still good. We have at least one Jewish member (mixed marriage - it's a place they can come together).  But along with readings from other religious traditions, the New Testament is still in the mix, and we have Easter and Christmas services.  Weirdly, we seem to follow a more liturgical calendar than the fundie Evangelicals.

Both the UUA and the UCC are welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, have female ministers (seems like they're the majority these days), and have a strong social justice mission.

On 6/9/2021 at 11:00 AM, chiguirre said:

I'd also recommend Why Buddhism is True by Richard Wright. The title is a bit misleading, it's more an exploration of how psychology supports the same conclusions as the Four Noble Truths but without the cultural framework that provides the ritual elements of Buddhist practice.

I'll also second this.  I thought this was an absolutely fantastic book.  As Chiguirre says, this is not actually about spirituality as much as how the Buddhist theory of the mind mirrors what modern science currently knows about how the mind works.   But I also think I'm leaning ever-more Buddhist-y in my actual thinking about spirituality (though Buddhism has no God/power behind the universe, and that's one thing I still kind of want to hold on to -  but in more Hindu/Eastern way of thinking of it than Abrahamic/Christian).

Edited by Matryoshka
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Oh, um, I'm not a Jew in any way shape or form. I'm a non-Jewish atheist. I just have a lot of Jewish friends. (And one Jewish cousin, but I never liked her and anyway she died of old age a few years back.)

But I like to think that good manners are universal! Telling people they're Doing Their Religion Wrong is just... who does that?

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14 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

Oh, um, I'm not a Jew in any way shape or form. I'm a non-Jewish atheist. I just have a lot of Jewish friends. (And one Jewish cousin, but I never liked her and anyway she died of old age a few years back.)

But I like to think that good manners are universal! Telling people they're Doing Their Religion Wrong is just... who does that?

Narrator: And yet: people do that.

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17 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

Oh, um, I'm not a Jew in any way shape or form. I'm a non-Jewish atheist. I just have a lot of Jewish friends. (And one Jewish cousin, but I never liked her and anyway she died of old age a few years back.)

But I like to think that good manners are universal! Telling people they're Doing Their Religion Wrong is just... who does that?

I know you aren't Jewish but too bad for you you got swept up in the quotes because....

Good manners aren't universal. Plenty of people including Jews have something to say about other people's beliefs and (religious) actions.  We Jews are good at telling other Jews that they're doing something wrong. But sometimes it's not arrogance; rather it's more like a nudgy grandparent telling you to put on a coat because THEY think it's cold.  Doesn't even have to be about religion; anything will do!

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But to go back to the original post and Judaism. You could convert to Reform Judaism, Secular Humanistic Judaism or Reconstructionist Judaism. Or Reform Judaism's close cousin the Society for Ethical Humanism.  All have community, all have strong (liberal) ethical tendencies, all have some/more/less emphasis on ritual elements from Judaism which may be pleasurable to you. If you convert to one of these groups you can fight with me as a Jew! 😁

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