Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm Jewish But...

 I grew up believing in God. We weren't religious and for most of my life I didn't know what the inside of a synagogue looked like, but I believed in God simply because I was told he existed. Just like many young children grow up believing in Santa. How does that work? How come most children outgrow Santa, but not God? Both are fictional magical characters our parents tell us exist. Well, not mine as I'm Jewish, though my mother did actually have a little Christmas tree every year as a habit from growing up in Russia. We tell kids that God and Santa exist and then we patronize their silly childish behaviour when they tell us about a monster under their bed or their new imaginary friend. Regardless, Blake isn't going to grow up believing in Santa simply because I don't want to lie to him about stuff I don't believe in and more importantly, I want his parents to get all the credit for the gifts he's getting, not some old fat guy with red fur fetish.

Regardless,  the point is that I did believe in God. I'd try imagining what he looks like, what he's doing right now and what does he think about me. Do I stand out to him from all the other kids? Does he have anything special in store for me?

Then one day when I was about ten I chatted to one of the older kids in school who told me God didn't exist. I was amazed by his stupidity, but couldn't come up with any counter argument other than the fact that I thought God existed because I was told so. To demonstrate his point the kid said that if God exists He should strike him down with thunder right now to prove it. Nothing happened. Obviously God was either too busy, couldn't care less or simply had a rule against smiting stupid young boys. But it made me think. I haven't stopped thinking since.

I don't know if God exists. If he did have a plan for me and it included becoming Blake's father, then high-five, God. Well played. But I don't know. So many horrible things have happened under His watch to good people who believed in Him. For my family it was the holocaust where we lost lots of family members both on my and my husband's sides of the family, including many children. So if God does exist, I'm not sure I like him very much.

When Blake was born we were faced with an interesting situation. He wasn't technically Jewish as neither his biological mother or surrogate carrier were Jewish. The "proper" type of Judaism, the one recognized by the state of Israel, is the Orthodox type. For a baby to convert, it's really his parents who need to go through the conversion process by proving to be dedicated Jews which we're not. We'd fail it even before we start just for being a gay couple. So Blake isn't Jewish. What does it even mean? Who cares?

I used to care. I used to think that it was important that my kids should be Jewish, but for the love of Ann Heche's post-Ellen career I can't think why.  I guess because I was told so.

Blake was baptised so he's technically Christian. The only reason I went for it was because I like the idea of Godparents, especially the fact that his biological mother became his godmother.

If people ask me for my religion (and thankfully most people aren't that nosey and rude) the answer will usually be "I'm Jewish, but...". If Blake will asks me what religion we are (or more correctly, when he does) I'll tell him the truth in simple terms: we have Jewish background and he was baptised, but he can be whatever he wants.

Giving your child a choice regarding religion rather than shove your existing one down their throat. Now there's an idea!



With my luck he'll become a scientologist.


Jon said...

Good post. Chris and I are not religious either (not welcome in any organized religion!) but we are very spiritual people and embrace all sorts of different thinking on the unknown. Whether we buy it or not is another story. We are currently grappling with the issue of religion in the lives of our twins. On the one hand, we don't want them stigmatized in life or as adults if they lack any alignment with organized religions and want to see them be as comfortable with the mainstream as with the fringe, but we also don't want them receiving instruction that will ultimately turn them against us. We recently attempted to have them baptized (due to heavy pressure from family) but were rejected by three priests. Talk about hypocrisy. All stated that they "embraced everyone, especially children" but when it came time to set dates they reneged. It is very sad to think about. Like you, we tell people that we and the babies have "Christian consciousness" but will probably never belong to any organized religion.

Ironically, I think that in 5-6 generations medical science and technology will have evolved to the point where humans will have discovered ways to regenerate organs and repair the body at the cellular level to prolong death indefinately. It is starting to happen already. This is the proverbial "immortality" that all religions seek but it won't come through some divine being's judgement once we die, instead it will be realized by the unfettered imagination and critical thinking of lowly human beings who are not trapped by the fear and paranoia that most religious thinking engenders.

Good to know that there are other like-minded people out there.

Mark said...

Mickey, too late. I've already told everyone that I have a cool Jewish Pen-Pal. So if anyone asks, just play along. m.

lovesmukiwa said...

I love this post. Although my background is very different from yours it is also a religious one. Spirituality and religion and raising our children is something I think about often but I haven't figured out yet what to do about it all.