Tag: Religion

Do You Believe in Fate?

 

Abraham_Lilien By Ephraim Moses Lilien אפרים משה ליליין.

In my most recent post, I shared my life-changing experience of sharing the beginning of Pesach with the iWe family. As part of that special time, they invited a rabbi — iWe’s study partner — for lunch one day. A Chassid with a twinkle in his eye, he sat across the table from me, and his wit, intelligence and humor were evident from the start.

At some point during lunch, the rabbi asked me if I believed in fate. I told him that I didn’t, that I believed in free will which would contradict the concept of fate. Then he asked if G-d knew what choices I would make and I said that I felt G-d could know those choices, if He wished to know. He then pointed out that if G-d knew what my future held, how could I have free will? Was my life not pre-destined? I was silent. He assured me warmly that we didn’t need to pursue that discussion, but I realized it was something I wanted to give a lot of thought.

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It was a total immersion into the experience of the Passover. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Baltimore and was picked up by iWe#2 son, then entered the iWe home, I stepped into a different world. In one sense, Orthodox Judaism was a foreign and unfamiliar world. This past week-end I did […]

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Reconciling Faith and Politics

 

shutterstock_197666240I’ve recently discovered a little conflict going on between my religious beliefs and political ideology. Obviously I’ll find a way to reconcile the two because both are core to who I am as a person, so I cannot withstand such a bipolar condition for long. The first problem is one of charity. As I commented in the PIT yesterday:

So I’m conflicted between religion and politics. My church has an outreach where once a month or so they go to Seattle and distribute needed items to the homeless. I’m sure the homeless love getting new socks, clean water, and especially some of the other things like pre-stamped envelopes and writing material, but I have trouble seeing helping people in their condition as being more appropriate than helping them out of their condition.

As a heartless conservative I find some works of charity to be more like casting one’s pearls before swine. It can seem like a waste of resources to do things we know won’t change outcomes one way or another. However, this is approaching the matter all too materially. As has been discovered by my fellow church members, the homeless they reach out to are much more moved by the things that confirm their humanity than by items which merely meet physical needs. Making that real connection is, in my estimation, vastly more valuable than the reasonably small cost of the items, and it is the best way to actually fulfill the goals of ministry.

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I hold to a very important theory: the theory that we get knowledge from experience. I call this theory empiricism. In doing so I depart (a little) from some common uses of the word “empiricism,” such as this one from Wikipedia, which is more specific than my own; and I admit that none of the uses from the dictionary […]

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I would define a miracle as a divinely-caused suspension of the laws of physics. I believe in the possibility of miracles and in the historicity of some very important ones. My approach to the question whether the laws of physics are ever suspended is empirical. I think we can let experience tell us what the […]

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Why Are You Here?

 

shutterstock_347085554No, I don’t mean on Ricochet. I mean here, on this Earth. That might sound like an esoteric question, but it comes from a very grounded (no pun intended) belief that we live a richer life when we know — in our hearts and minds — what we are placed on this Earth to do. And you don’t need to be religious to explore this life issue for yourself.

Over 20 years ago, I began to explore this question and found I was actually asking myself the meaning of having a personal mission statement. I had already begun my Buddhist practice, and I realized that one of the goals of Buddhism was to relieve suffering. More than that, I suddenly knew that my goal was not just to relieve my own suffering, but the suffering of others.

Now, before you roll your eyes, there were lots of ways to relieve the suffering of others. It didn’t mean fixing people, solving their problems, or telling them what to do. It meant being present to their issues, to be a good listener, to be helpful when asked, and to be a comfort when available. It also meant being a hospice volunteer, teaching my various students, giving my husband a shoulder rub, and making people laugh at something amusing. I’d acknowledged a versatile and satisfying mission.

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It’s generally accepted among Christians I know that Judaism is today a faith not limited to bloodlines. But in the Torah (Old Testament) Jews seem to be clearly described as descendants of Abraham competing with various other tribal peoples. Even at the time of Jesus, enmity between Jews and Samaritans — who were circumcised and adhered […]

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Can Religion Be Empirical?

 

JamesLet empiricism once become associated with religion, as hitherto, through some strange misunderstanding, it has been associated with irreligion, and I believe that a new era of religion as well as of philosophy will be ready to begin. — William James

Empiricism is the theory that we get knowledge through experience. As James notes above, it’s usually associated with things like science, reason, skepticism, and irreligious attitudes. Religion is more often associated with faith (usually thought to be separate from reason), dogmatism, and Rationalism, the view that knowledge comes from reason rather than experience. Are these associations accurate?

James provides us with a useful name for the view that they are notRadical Empiricism. He uses the term as a technical name for his own version of Pragmatism, but it’s still the best name for the theory I wish to propose: that we can get moral or religious knowledge from experience.

The Future: More Religion in Scary Places; Less Religion Everywhere Else

 

shutterstock_340682378When did demographics get so depressing? It really has replaced economics as the “dismal science.” But at least with economics, you get market-based prices and (often) a tax cut. Demographics, as this recent study shows, is pretty much endless bad news:

People who are religiously unaffiliated (including self-identifying atheists and agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular”) made up 16.4% of the world’s population in 2010. Unaffiliated populations have been growing in North America and Europe, leading some to expect that this group will grow as a share of the world’s population. However, such forecasts overlook the impact of demographic factors, such as fertility and the large, aging unaffiliated population in Asia.

Meaning: People in North American and Europe — in other words, us — are gradually becoming less “affiliated” with a religion. People everywhere else — in other words, them — are going in the opposite direction:

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Spotlight is a remarkable film, and a remarkably well-crafted one. It tells the story of how the Boston Globe exposed the scope of child molestation by Catholic priests in Boston, that the Church hierarchy moved known molesters from parish to parish, and that high-level Church leadership knew it was happening. The movie’s power, however, comes […]

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Preface: This is likely tl;dr even though it doesn’t seem to be at first glance. This is going to be a strange little post. I seem to be compelled to share a snapshot of what’s rumbling in my mind these days, and this seems to be the place to do it. Rather than filling paragraphs […]

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Over 20 years ago, I was a Jew in name only and Zen Buddhism “found me,” and I loved the practice. Ironically, my meditation practice brought me to experience G-d’s presence in my life. So I thought it might be a good idea to re-explore my Jewish roots. After trying to make that emotional and […]

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Religion and Republicans

 

shutterstock_295810463About 15 years ago, on Christmas Eve, our family departed from the traditional American Jewish observance of the holiday (ordering Chinese take-out) and elected to find an open restaurant. We drove to the local city center (or what passes for it in suburbia) and were stunned to find that not only were all of the restaurants open, they were packed.

I had pictured my Christian friends and neighbors at home, gathered around the table Norman Rockwell-style, eating goose or ham or whatever Gentiles eat, bathed in the twinkling lights of decorated trees. In fact, I liked to think of them that way, and finding crowds treating Christmas Eve as just another night was almost a sacrilege.

Americans have long resisted the secularizing trend of Western Europe. In many Western European countries, churches stand virtually empty on Sundays and few profess belief in God (37 percent in the United Kingdom; 27 percent in France; 28 percent in The Netherlands). In the United States, according to Gallup, 92 percent said they believed in God as recently as 2011, which was down only 4 points from the 1944 response.

A Happy Jew on Christmas

 

I’m not sure what it is that makes it so magical. Perhaps it’s the silence, or even the desolate streets, but being a Jew in the Galut on Christmas is a strange and unexpected blessing.

I do the same thing, every year, and I have it down like clockwork. I take a lengthy morning walk in my cold, abandoned city and cook myself burgers before watching all three Lord of The Rings movies in a row. I know, it may sound like any old Sunday, but I guess that is the point and just what makes it so special.

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Tired of talking about Trump all the time?  Join the conversation on reincarnation!  This is the third in an ongoing multi-author series. With Plato, it’s complicated!  Plato never tells us directly what he believes, and it takes some work to figure out what he thinks based on what the characters in his dialogues (especially Socrates) […]

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The Conservative Buddhist: Is Buddhism a Cult?

 

zenrockgardenThat’s not exactly the question that Naomi asked me several weeks ago. To be precise, she asked me how one could discriminate between a legitimate Buddhist group and a cult. I’ve explored the question before, and I’d like to address two questions: (1) What is a religious cult; and (2) What would make a Buddhist community a cult?

In my research for defining a cult, I found there are several different kinds, e.g., political, social, cultural. Although these areas overlap with religious cults, I’m limiting my focus to a religious cult.

What is a Religious Cult?

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One of the most important tenets of Buddhism, one that I embrace, is the practice of wisdom and compassion. Although the Buddha called for both to be applied in a balanced way, the Buddhist Left has chosen to focus primarily on compassion for others and relegates wisdom to a lesser position. The consequence of not […]

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6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your […]

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