Religion has never been a very big part of my life. Yes, I was raised (loosely) Jewish, I spent four years in Hebrew school, and I was Bat Mitzvah-ed. I have every intention on taking my Birthright trip after I graduate, and I love spending Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah with
latkes my family. I identify as Jewish by blood, but I don’t really know if I’m religious enough to identify as Jewish by faith. I don’t know if I truly believe that there’s a big omniscient being watching over us, or if that lie I told about doing my homework when I was 12 will come back to bite me in the ass when it’s my time to go. Part of me wants to cringe a little when people tell me that something horrible happening is “all in God’s plan,” and it can be really difficult to believe in someone that’s supposed to be all-powerful and loving when they’ve let innocent people die and let Donald Trump get this far in the presidential race.
Adonai aside, I understand and love being Jewish. We’ve been around forever. We’re certainly not Hinduism, but we’re pretty ancient. I may not practice Judaism very, for lack of a better word, religiously, but never in my life would I want to erase that part of my identity. Erasing my Joots (Jew roots) would erase my people’s history and culture, and we’ve done some pretty cool shit (סלח לי). Name one time you had a candle last you eight whole days. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Fortunately, last week I was given the opportunity to do some on-site religious research and visit a Sikh Gurdwara in Southall with my classmates:
I can’t really say that my stance on religion has changed much. I may have a better understanding of Sikhism, by which I mean, I now know what Sikhism is, but nothing life-changing clicked in my head. However, I will say that as a non-practicing outsider, Sikhism seems pretty great. Sikhism is one of the youngest religions in existence, only founded a few hundred years ago, and it is accepting of every religion. Gurdwaras are Sikh places of worship, but you don’t have to practice Sikhism to go there. They have “langar,” which is essentially free food for anyone who wants it, and their whole shtick (that was me being Jewish) is that they will accept (and feed) anyone. While I suppose it isn’t wildly uncommon for a religion to be accepting, it isn’t wildly common. I don’t know everything about the faith, or their beliefs on homosexuality and abortion, but hearing the word “acceptance” in a religious building made me feel oddly reassured that these people knew what they were talking about.
I think that if I really learned anything from this experience, it was that I need to learn more about religion. Maybe I’m just a little lazy, or maybe I’m just really ignorant, but my views on religion really don’t go past the views I’ve picked and chosen and tailored out of the minds of the people around me. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll wake up and decide to become a born-again Jew, dedicating myself to my synagogue (which, ironically, was once a church). For now, I’m just Jewish by blood, and agnostic by choice.*
*Subject to change.
“Honestly, I think I found my people. I was raised in a church, where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell. If I was good, I’d go to heaven. And if I’d ask Jesus, he’d forgive me, and that was that. And here y’all saying ain’t no hell, ain’t… sure about heaven, and if you do something wrong, you got to figure it out yourself. And as far as God’s concerned, it’s your job to keep asking questions and to keep learning and to keep arguing. It’s like a verb. It’s like… you do God. And that’s a lot of work. But I think I’m in, at least as far as I can see it.” -Black Cindy on converting to Judaism, Orange is the New Black