Sunday, December 28, 2008

Freedom & Religion

Today, while sitting in the drive-thru of the Taco Bell on Sandy Blvd, I looked up and saw a giant billboard that read FREEDOM FROM RELIGION, illustrated in stained glass. Something about our right to have a religion-free holiday.

Man, I need more religion, not less. I miss the absence of myth and ritual and God in our secular culture. Tolerance and religious freedom has cost us our shared spiritual identity. I miss sharing a What for.

Tonight was nice. We celebrated Hanukkah at a friend's house. There was a blend of people from different religious backgrounds. The hosting couple are Jews who hang buddhist prayer flags in their bedroom.

I was feeling socially awkward, so while people ate and drank I hung out with my sons and a handful of other boys, all under 10, building legos in the son's bedroom. Sam, our friends' seven-year-old, ran up after a while and shouted "we're lighting the candles!"

We all went downstairs and crowded into the living room and dining room, maybe 50 of us, and listened as Sam told us about the lighting of the menorah. He showed us the menorah his family made from the branch of the 50 year-old cherry tree they had to cut down in their backyard. Each candle holder was bolted through pieces of pottery - from King David's time - that they had excavated on their trip to Israel this summer.

Then Sam's dad told us about Hanukkah's connection with the Maccabees and the battle with the Romans and was corrected by Sam.

Sam's dad explained that Hanukkah is not the most significant Jewish holiday, but given its timing with Christmas, it has taken on increased importance.

"The simplest way to think about Hanukkah is that it is a solstice feast, celebrating more light entering into the darkest time of the year."

Then all the kids crowded around and each lit a candle. The third or so in the room who knew the words sang a song in Hebrew and everyone else swayed along. Celebrating the return of the light. Yes it's dark, but everything's going to be okay.


trh said...

thanks. t

Anonymous said...

I think we could all benefit from religion in one way or another. I recently watched a TED talk discussing the education system it's lack of success. The speaker explained that frequently in school, we are taught to think in terms of formulas, numbers and bottom line figures, rather than incorporating personal and social ethics and morals into our path of thinking and decision making.

I don't subscribe to a specific religion; however, because of my parents' background as well as the religious community in which I was raised, I have had a decent exposure to Judaism, Greek Orthodox, Christian, LDS and Catholicism. I do not fully agree or disagree with any of the groups; however, I believe religion holds quite a bit of power to influence and if leveraged responsibly, can have an extreme impact.

Mathew said...

"The absence of God in our secular culture?"

I can't seem to see this at all, even here in supposedly Godless Portland. Seems that religion is permeating most of the folks I encounter, either in their struggle to embrace reason or by clutching to the myth.

Perusing your very awesome posts here Jelly, and in regards to Obama, I remember one of the first things I thought after "Holy Shit Yes my Black President" was, "When will we have an atheist in the White House?"

Hank Hosfield said...

I was fully exposed to religion as a youth. I went to Sunday school, sang in the choir, and was even an acolyte for three years, meaning I listened to a lot of sermons and got a good look at the church and the congregation. I didn't particularly mind my time spent in church, but it never spoke true to me. So when it came time for me to join the church, I declined. My folks were okay with this decision. I don't think my mom was happy about it, but she believed that was my choice to make. I've never looked back. I don't feel any spiritual emptiness. I live my life ethically--pretty much by the golden rule--and also believe that religion offers great comfort and fulfillment to many people; but I don't think that morality or ethical behavior is sole province of religious inculcation. Faith just never took with me. Religions are constructs of man. The common recurrent myths throughout different religions suggest to me that man has universal needs to explain his existence and deal with the unknown, not some greater truth about the existence of god. By the way, I'm not out to prove there is no god. I don't know. It seems like there is some sort of life force, and a natural interconnectedness of things, but religious attempts to explain the world offer a lot of heat but little light. But I'm not posting here to argue with you. I've heard you're very spiritual. That's cool. You're a thinker, and I'm sure you've asked yourself all the same questions about the existence of god that I have. So what I'd like to ask you is: Why do you think it is that you believe and I don't?