What did I mean when I said I was religious in this post? As Mike wants to know, what is “the correct definition of religion” anyway?
When I said I was religious, I meant that that seemed like the only reasonable way to describe someone who regularly goes to Friday night services and sometimes Saturday morning ones, who spends all day most Saturdays at the University of Chicago Hillel, who studies Gemara weekly for fun with a rabbi, who is in regular text and gchat communication with this rabbi, who proudly reads Torah in front of congregations of people, who studies the weekly parsha with friends, who has read no fewer than four books on the intersection between Orthodoxy and feminism (can’t remember the fourth on), has halachic arguments with her friends, taught Jewish Sunday School and seriously considered kashering her kitchen. There is no escaping the fact that I engage seriously with religious practice and am firmly embedded in a religious, and indeed largely Orthodox, community.
Paul asks, “Do you think religious is the best word to use to describe yourself? For most people that word probably includes some sort of belief. Are there any better ways to characterize your affection for religious rituals and practices?”
Not that I know of, to be honest. I think ‘cultural Jew’ doesn’t denote the kind of practice I have, nor does ‘Orthoprax’ since I don’t observe shabbat or keep kosher. It might be ambiguous for now, but I think it’s a valuable endeavor to separate the concepts of religiosity from the concept of belief, especially as the world becomes more and more secular. There will be ever more of people who vaguely believe in god but don’t care, those who remain committed to family rituals maintained for hundreds or thousands of years but are proudly atheist, or humanists who invent their own rituals, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If anyone has any other suggestions for language or identification, I would gladly welcome them. For now, I’m stuck with ‘religious atheist.’
The next question, of course, is “why?” Why do you do all these things, Chana? Are you just “moonlighting as a religious person,” as Andrew likes to say? Or maybe you aren’t really an atheist? Why do you waste all this time, effort and intellectual investment on something that isn’t true and doesn’t matter? Answers to all these and more in the next post.
Put how you identify, religiously, atheistically whatever, in comments, and explain why!